|Developer||NEC, Hudson Soft|
|Type||Home video game console|
|Generation||Fifth generation era|
The PC-FX[a] is a 32-bit home video game console developed by NEC and Hudson Soft. It was released in 1994 and discontinued in February 1998, as NEC's final home video game console. Based on the NEC V810 CPU and CD-ROM, it was intended as the successor to the TurboGrafx-16. Unlike its predecessor, the PC-FX was only released in Japan.
Its form factor is like that of a tower PC, intended to be similarly upgradeable. The PC-FX was uncompetitive with its fifth generation peers due to lack of a 3D polygon-based graphics chip, high price, and limited developer support. It was considered a commercial failure.
In 1987, NEC partnered with game publisher Hudson Soft to create the PC Engine, released internationally as the TurboGrafx-16. The TurboGrafx-16 was successful in Japan, but struggled in overseas markets.
The success of the PC Engine created a strong relationship between NEC and Hudson, who began work on a true successor to both platforms as early as 1990. NEC had already released a successor a year prior, the SuperGrafx, which attracted little attention and was a commercial failure. Both companies designed a prototype system known as "Tetsujin" ("Iron Man"), a 32-bit console with full-screen video playback, 2 megabytes of RAM, and CD-ROM. NEC designed the console itself based on its previous experience with electronics, and Hudson provided the necessary custom chipset and co-processors. The prototype was announced in 1992 and presented to companies that expressed interest. To demonstrate the system's capabilities, Hudson created a version of Star Soldier displaying 3D objects over pre-rendered backdrops. When this presentation garnered considerable support, NEC and Hudson began to move forward with the project.
The Tetsujin was set to launch in 1992, but the lack of completed games pushed the launch date to early 1993. The console was not launched on this date either; publications speculated that the PC Engine's continued success in the market made NEC and Hudson reluctant to release a succeeding platform. The release of technologically-superior consoles, such as the Atari Jaguar and 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, made the Tetsujin's hardware look more dated by comparison. Publications grew skeptical on how well it would perform in the market due to its inferior hardware and the amount of competing platforms. The Tetsujin was scrapped in early 1994 as the two companies began work on designing an improvement that could compete with systems such as the Sega Saturn. While NEC and Hudson knew that the system's technology was unimpressive, time constraints prevented them from creating a new one from scratch, which was codenamed "FX". The system was redesigned to resemble a PC tower, with slots that allowed for future models to increase its capabilities. Very little of the hardware itself was changed from the Tetsujin prototype, although it added a new 32-bit V-810 RISC CPU. The system was renamed to the PC-FX, the "PC" believed to be a nod to the PC Engine brand. Unusual for a fifth generation console, the PC-FX does not have a polygon graphics processor. NEC's reasoning for this was that polygon processors of the time were relatively low-powered, resulting in figures having a blocky appearance, and that it would be better for games to use pre-rendered polygon graphics instead.
The PC-FX was announced in late 1993 and showcased at the 1994 Tokyo Toy Show in June. Presented alongside several competing systems—the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Neo Geo CD, and Bandai Playdia—its PC tower design was met with ridicule from commentators. Hudson demonstrated FX Fighter, a full-motion video fighting game created in response to Sega's Virtua Fighter, to showcase the system's capabilities. Its smooth-shaded polygonal visuals were met with praise from publications, which contributed to the anticipated launch of the console. The system's target audience was roughly five years older than that of the PC Engine, in hopes that PC Engine fans would be brought over to the successor console. The console was launched in Japan on December 23, 1994. In an interview roughly a year before the system launch, a representative stated that NEC had all but ruled out a release outside Japan, concluding that it would most likely sell poorly overseas due to its high price.
The PC-FX was discontinued in early 1998 with only 400,000 units sold.
The PC-FX uses CD-ROMs as its storage medium, following on from the expansion released for its HuCard based predecessor. The game controller is virtually identical to a DUO-RX controller, but the rapid fire switches have been replaced with mode A/B switches. Peripherals include a PC-FX mouse, which is supported by strategy games like Farland Story FX and Power DoLLS FX.
The shining quality of the PC-FX is the ability to decompress 30 JPEG pictures per second while playing digitally recorded audio, essentially a form of Motion JPEG. This gives the PC-FX superior full motion video quality over all other fifth generation consoles.
The PC-FX's computer-like form factor is unusual for consoles at the time. It stands upright like a tower computer while other contemporary consoles lay flat, and it has three expansion ports. Similar to the 3DO, it features a built in power supply.
Unusual for a fifth generation console, the PC-FX does not have a polygon graphics processor. NEC's reasoning for this was that polygon processors of the time were relatively low-powered, resulting in figures having a blocky appearance, and that it would be better for games to use pre-rendered polygon graphics instead.
NEC also released the PC-FX GA ("game accelerator") for PC-9800 and DOS/V computers. The PC-9800 version is a combination of two cards, while the DOS/V variant uses a single ISA card. Both cards integrate an additional 3D chipset (Kubota/Hudson HuC6273) over the regular PC-FX. Unlike most computer graphics accelerators of the time (and also the most comparable device to it, the Creative Labs 3DO Blaster) the PC-FX GA outputs over a separate video connection rather than from the PC's interface. This makes using the card somewhat difficult as games are still booted using the DOS prompt, therefore meaning that you would need to use either a second monitor or an input switcher. The relatively high price of the card alongside the state of the PC-FX itself led to the card selling terribly, selling even less than the dedicated PC-FX unit. The card has become somewhat of a holy grail amongst old PC hardware collectors due to the scarcity of it.
The library consists of 62 games. The launch games were Graduation 2: Neo Generation FX, Battle Heat, and Team Innocent on December 23, 1994 and the final game released was First Kiss Story on April 24, 1998. The system and all games were only released in Japan. A number of demo discs were released with publications which allow the user to play the disc in a CD equipped PC-Engine or the PC-FX.
NEC directed Hudson Soft, continuing their partnership over the PC Engine, to develop only games based on popular anime franchises and using prerendered animated footage. Though this policy played to the hardware's strengths, it barred Hudson Soft from bringing successful PC Engine series such as Bomberman and Bonk to the PC-FX.
Shortly after the PC-FX launched, Famicom Tsūshin awarded the console an 18 out of 40, one point lower than the score it gave the PlayStation. A writer for Ultimate Future Games in April 1995 said the PC-FX had impressively competitive hardware, but its game library relied largely on animation over gameplay, so readers should "[not] expect much just yet". Game Criticism writers believed the system was troubled by a weak software lineup and a lack of innovation and creativity from NEC, and served as an unsuitable and inferior follow-up to the PC Engine.
- McFerran, Damien (May 9, 2015). "Feature: What NEC and Hudson Did Next: The Disasterous [sic] Story of the PC-FX". Nintendo Life. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on April 2, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
- "NEC of Japan Reveals Specs on New FX 32-Bit Game System!". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 54. Sendai Publishing. January 1994. p. 66.
- "Next Wave". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 60. Sendai Publishing. July 1994. p. 110.
- "Overseas ProSpects: NEC PC-FX". GamePro. No. 64. IDG. November 1994. p. 268.
- "NEC Launches New PC-FX Game System!". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 66. Sendai Publishing. January 1995. pp. 172–173.
- "Yet One More 32-bit System". GamePro. No. 56. IDG. March 1994. p. 184.
- "Hardware Totals". Game Data Library. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "Next Wave". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 60. Sendai Publishing. July 1994. p. 110.
- Branagan, Nicole Caroline (November 20, 2020). "What did we do to deserve the PC-FX? (and the PC-FX GA)". Retrieved May 1, 2021.
- "Hudson Soft". Next Generation. No. 3. Imagine Media. March 1995. p. 81.
- Game Machine Cross Review: PC-FX. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.335. Pg.167. 12–19 May 1995.
- "What is the NEC PC-FX then?". No. 5. Future Publishing. Ultimate Future Games. April 1995. pp. 40–41. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
- "早期CD-ROMの導人による時代の先躯NEC. FXに対する本音はどこにあるのか. PC-FX" (in Japanese). No. 1–4. Micro Magazine. Game Criticism. 1995. pp. 30–33. Retrieved November 30, 2020.