Street Fighter II’ – PC Engine

Street Fighter II’
PC Engine – 1993
Developer – NEC Avenue
Publisher – Capcom

While I haven’t surrendered my tennis questing just yet, I’d like to take a moment to talk about one of my favorite console ports of all time, Street Fighter II’ Championship Edition for the PC Engine. While it’s outshone on nearly level by SNES version Street Fighter II Turbo, which was released in the same year, it’s an impressive port in its own right, and well worth the consideration of any fighting game fan with the means to play it.Street Fighter II' Screenshot 2015-06-28 19-04-54

Street Fighter II and its countless iterations were hot commodities in the early ’90; the franchise was ported to everything from the Game Boy to the Commodore 64. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a TI-82 version of the game out there in the ether. At first glance, the PC Engine (what we knew in the States as the TurboGrafx-16) version of Street Fighter II’ appears to be little more than a slightly less impressive version of its SNES counterpart; there’s nothing on the surface of this port that would lead you to believe it’s worthy of any great praise. However, when one considers the specifications of the hardware that it is ran on, it’s somewhat of a technical marvel.Street Fighter II' Screenshot 2015-06-28 19-52-00

While whether the PC Engine/TurboGrafx qualifies as a “16-bit” system is a subject best reserved for another day, one thing is not in dispute: it had an 8-bit CPU, the same as the NES. Though the PC Engine came strapped with a dual 16-bit GPU, in terms of raw horsepower, it was still operating on an 8-bit level. If I might hazard a broad and clumsy car analogy, compared to the NES, everything has been upgraded but the engine – new coat of paint, new tires, front and rear spoilers – but it’s still not going to go that much faster. The PC Engine’s chief competitors, the Genesis and the SNES, were working with legit 16-bit CPUs. For the mathematically disinclined, that’s TWICE of processing power.

So, considering that raw power differential, take a look at this:

While astute observers will note that there are missing frames of animation, a lack of color depth, and other shortcomings, considering the hardware, the end result is almost unimpeachable: this is a full featured, smooth playing, and aesthetically pleasing adaptation of an arcade classic. While this port never saw a US release, I have to imagine that Japanese PC Engine owners were ecstatic with the quality of SFII’.

SFII’ pushed the PC Engine to its absolute limits. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the sheer size of it compared to a standard PCE/TG16 HuCard:HuCardComparison

Clocking in at a massive (for the time) 20 megabits, SFII’ could not be contained in a standard issue HuCard. It’s literally bursting at the seems with quality. It’s somewhat notable that the game was released on a HuCard at all, as the PC Engine had a well-established CD-ROM add on by the time SFII’ was released. I can only assume that it was released on HuCard so as to reach as wide of an audience as possible.Street Fighter II' Screenshot 2015-06-29 21-35-04

I’m far from an expert on the subject, but if you’d like to see some comparisons of the PC Engine version of SFII’ against its Genesis and SNES counterparts, I’d highly recommend you check out this excellent post over at Retro SanctuarySFII’ for the PC Engine is one of those select few instances where a little background information on a game makes it all the more enjoyable to an enthusiast – I’d highly recommend it to any fans of the console or the series.

World Court Tennis – The Legend Begins

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

World Court Tennis is just like any other Tennis game from 1989, save for two notable exceptions. One: it lets you play as a cat man named Grans:

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-22 20-39-16Two: it has a quest mode.

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-22 20-03-58Seriously! A quest! There’s really no point in talking about any other mode, is there?  I’d just be wasting our time. Now let’s go rescue Stefi Graf. Or Ivan Lendl. Or whatever it is you do on a Tennis Quest in the late ’80s. ROLE PLAYING TIME!

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-34-30Ahh, a king! And he’s been waiting for me! I must be the prophesied one, or maybe the descendant of Bobby Riggs. My legend precedes me.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-36-54So wait, you are just “a” king of Tennis Kingdom? Is this some kind of rotational constitutional monarchy? Are you some kind of regional warlord? So many questions. Anyway, sure, what do you need, Tennis King?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-40-15 Sounds like Connecticut.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-43-01Wait, I thought you were the Tennis King. Are you saying you wrecked everything, or do you have some kind of doppelganger? Something isn’t adding up here, pal.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-44-38I really hope this isn’t some kind of long twisting switcharoonie, where I learn that he’s some kind of Robin Hood figure, and that I’ve been working for the wrong side all along. Don’t screw with STEV, Tennis King.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-49-18Now how did he do that? Who is he, Carmen Sandiego? Is he going to steal the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center next? I don’t care if your kingdom was peaceful, Tennis King; you just can’t let things like that happen on your watch. Negligence, plain and simple.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-52-28Complaining. Can’t have that, no sir.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-53-25Again, are you referring to “Evil Tennis King” or yourself? Forget it, never mind. As I apparently have no choice in the matter, I will complete this task, and put an end to all this awful complaining.

And just like that, my legend began. No sooner did I accept “a” Tennis King’s challenge, than I was spit out on to the thriving streets of…

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-23 20-03-27CHICAGO? Good God, what did the Evil Tennis King do to this place? People are so busy complaining that the city has returned to the Earth and nature reigns supreme! Either that, or this game takes place in a post apocalyptic future where only the strongest tennis players survive. This plot is much more nuanced than anticipated.

Anyway, Chicago doesn’t have much, just four modest huts, a pro shop, and the Tennis King’s castle. The huts were filled with people who offered me all kind of useful information. Take, for example, this jolly citizen:

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-17 20-16-07And how could I forget all the laughs I shared with this guy?

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-17 20-15-49Anyway, as the Tennis King only saw fit to give me $500, and there’s nothing in the pro shop that isn’t less than $3000, I began my quest in earnest.

First things first: The Tennis King clearly stated – and I QUOTE – that “people can’t play tennis and are complaining.” That was clearly not an issue here. No sooner did I step out into the surprisingly verdant wastes of Tennis Kingdom, did some random yuppie challenge me to a match. I knew something foul was afoot.

Not only did he challenge me, he absolutely DECIMATED me. If you’ve only ever played modern tennis games – say, from about Virtua Tennis onward – you’ve probably never had much trouble making ball contact.  Today’s tennis sims tend to give players a little bit more leeway; you get with in stabbing distance of a volley or serve, and you’ll have no problem getting your racket on the ball. This is not the case in World Court Tennis: if the pixels of your racket do not make contact with the pixels that comprise the ball, you will miss. Horribly. Prophesied tennis hero or not, I had some practicing to do.

And by “practicing” I mean “losing.” At least the game gave me a nice assortment of randomly generated faces to lose to. BEHOLD:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-17-54

 BALD CAP WOMAN!World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-19-57
World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-21-23THE BEAST WITH TWO MOUTHS!World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-22-25
TENNIS JASON!World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-26-06

…and this character, who I fondly call the “Tennis Rapist.”

Each loss threw me back to Chicago, so my progress was incremental at best. After about an hour of scratching and crawling, racking up a record of roughly 5-12, I managed to venture over three bridges, two rivers, and miles of forest to encounter – at LONG LAST – a mysterious hut in the middle of the woods!

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-24-18

What could this hold? A new racket? A wise tennis sage who will teach me the backhand of Sampras? The secret of John McEnroe’s rage?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-24-52Ah, a doofus with a spit curl with one sentence of information. Great.

Overwhelmed by the futility of my endeavors, I copied down my password and decided to take a rest, silently vowing to return to the desolation of Tennis Kingdom and bring the racket of vengeance to its oppressors – for I am STEV, the PROPHESIED ONE.