Konami’s new microconsole, the TurboGrafx-16 Mini (also known as the PC Engine Mini), recently launched in Western territories following a Japanese release earlier this year. We asked Jun Yoshimuro, the project’s development director, about the challenges of making the system, the virtues of the PC Engine and… that one display filter?
Graham Russell, Siliconera: Could you tell our readers a bit about your role in the TurboGrafx-16 Mini project?
Jun Yoshimuro, Konami: I served as development director for the PC Engine Mini. Through my career here, most of my focus has been in game planning and directing primarily for PC and mobile games.
What is it like to bring back the TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine all these years later? What does the system mean to you?
Yoshimuro: For many of the customers, it’s been around 30 years since they last touched this console. I was very surprised to get such a huge reaction of people commenting on how nostalgic or fun it is.
What lessons did you learn from the release of other classic mini consoles? In what ways did you want the TurboGrafx-16 Mini to be different?
Yoshimuro: From the release of other classic mini consoles, I learned that there are considerable demands for retro titles.
Despite the fact that we already were aware that there were eager customers requesting the PC Engine, it gave us confidence that this was indeed a good business opportunity.
M2 is known for its passion and dedication to replicating and enhancing the classic game experience, and there’s a lot of evidence of that in the Mini (like how it handles CD games). What was this collaboration process like? How were decisions about adding features and secrets made?
Yoshimuro: We have been working with M2 for a long time and we know the quality of service that they bring, so it was natural choice to partner with them. We made the decisions on features to add and secrets to include together.
Did any of the games give the team any trouble when preparing them for the TurboGrafx-16 Mini release? What sorts of issues popped up during development?
Yoshimuro: Porting Snatcher was the hardest part, since we had reworked the graphics to match the PC Engine specifications. We didn’t overwrite it with an emulator, but rather it was almost as if we had developed the ROM for the PC Engine once again.
Though some Konami games (like Castlevania and Snatcher) show up in the lineup, much of the Mini — and the TG-16 itself — is part of the Hudson Soft catalog. What’s the relationship at Konami like with the Hudson legacy? How were pre-merger Hudson staff involved with production of the Mini?
Yoshimuro: This project was driven by the support and advice from the veteran creators who worked on game development at Hudson and Konami at that time.
What challenges led to the system’s delayed, staggered release?
Yoshimuro: We had challenges with timing, first and foremost. The manufacturing and shipping facilities in China encountered an unavoidable suspension due to Coronavirus. As a result, the delivery of all region mini products was delayed.
What went into the decision to sell exclusively on Amazon?
Yoshimuro: We decided to partner with Amazon and utilize its large user and distribution base as an opportunity for a wide variety of users to enjoy the product throughout the Japanese, North American and European markets.
In Japan, the PC Engine enjoyed a lot of sales success, but most players in America and Europe are unfamiliar with its library. How did you consider that during development? What should Western players discovering the system for the first time know about it before playing?
Yoshimuro: PC Engine was the first console that used the CD-ROM, and in order to utilize its large storage capacity, game developers experimented with various features that have become a staple in games today, like voice audio and cutscenes. It was through their efforts that those features are implemented in the games we play today. I hope people can experience the passion and energy that was poured into these games by those creators, who were young at the time but are still active today.
What game on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini do you personally feel has aged most gracefully? Is there one on the system in particular that you think players will enjoy more in 2020 than they would have at its initial release?
Yoshimuro: I think Snatcher, in the way the gameplay, narrative, and animations were set, have aged the most gracefully.
With the PC Engine Mini I also think people will enjoy Salamander, Fantasy Zone and Gradius even more. Along with their original versions, we’ve also included the “near-arcade” versions of those games, which more accurately play like the arcade versions.
The TurboGrafx-16 Mini, in all regions, sports a huge lineup of games from both Japan and the West. Still, there’s a very small number of titles not included in all versions. Considering some text-heavy titles still appear worldwide, what was the reasoning behind this?
Yoshimuro: We know for a fact that at the time, people living overseas imported Japanese games and enjoyed playing the non-localized versions. We hope that this will bring back memories for those who used to do that.
We did consider localizing those games, but it would mean that we would have to cut down the number of games in the lineup. Our goal was to provide as many games as possible for people to enjoy, therefore, we went though and included every game that we could confirm we had to rights to.
Of all the games on the system, which was the last one you were able to confirm for the platform? Or was the entire lineup decided at once? How did you handle licensing?
Yoshimuro: Seirei Senshi Spriggan and Spriggan Mark 2 were the last games that we manage to add to the list. We got a lot of feedback from the fans to include those games, and we were able to confirm the rights to them and add them to the lineup. During development, we were checking the rights and adding as many games to the list up to the very last second. For licensing, we were able to gain the cooperation from all the stakeholders, and properly got confirmation on everything.
Though the TG-16 heavily used its multitap accessory, much of its library was designed for solo play due to its default one-controller configuration. With the Mini releasing now when many are spending more time alone in their homes, do you feel it’s a particularly strong option for those players?
Yoshimuro: Yes, I think so, but if you happen to meet up with your old buddies I sure hope you can enjoy playing it together.
Be honest: how much do you expect people to actually use the TurboExpress display filter?
Yoshimuro: I have no doubt that everyone will use it. Or at least give it a single try! I thought it would be a nice, silly feature for people to get a good laugh out of it as they remember how difficult it was to play and see the games on a TurboExpress.
Thanks to Jun Yoshimuro for taking the time to answer our queries! This interview was lightly edited for clarity. For more on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, check out our full look at the system and our guide to playing its import lineup.