NEC made gaming history in 1989 by releasing the first CD add-on for a gaming console. The CD-ROM2 would plug into NEC's popular PC Engine console and give developers the option to create games using the larger storage space of CDs. The combination was a hit in Japan, but would meet a different fate in the U.S. The TurboGrafx-16, the American version of the PC Engine, managed to sell fairly well early on. But at $400 the Turbo CD, the U.S. equivalent of a CD-ROM2, flopped hard.
NEC made gaming history again in 1991 by releasing the PC Engine Duo in Japan. Combining the PC Engine and CD-ROM2 into one unit as well as adding extra RAM, the PC Engine Duo became the first stand-alone gaming console that could support CDs. It could play both the CD games already out as well as a new line of Super CD games.
Gamers who already owned a PC Engine and CD-ROM2 setup could purchase a System Card to play the Super CD games, and those who only owned the base PC Engine unit were supported with a Super CD-ROM2 add-on that would play Super CD games without the use of System Cards. The PC Engine Duo only had one controller port and could not use PC Engine controllers, however. Instead, gamers had to buy Duo controllers that were functionally equivalent to their PC Engine counterparts and a Duo multi-tap for multiplayer gaming.
The PC Engine Duo was released in the U.S. as the TurboDuo in late 1992. American gamers with a TurboGrafx-16 and Turbo CD setup could purchase System Cards to play Super CD games as well. Sales of the Japanese PC Engine Duo were brisk, but U.S. TurboDuo sales languished due to a series of problems. The original TurboGrafx-16 saw only limited success, and the extravagantly priced Turbo CD saw no success at all.
As a result, NEC had a very difficult time convincing gamers to purchase a TurboDuo instead of the Sega Genesis or the newly released Nintendo Super NES. NEC had also jointly formed Turbo Technologies Incorporated with developer Hudson. TTI's advertising scheme was aggressive. So aggressive, in fact, that gamers saw it as being over confrontational and responded by not buying the TurboDuo. By the end of 1993, support for the TurboDuo had disappeared.
Japan, on the other hand, received the PC Engine Duo with enthusiasm. Gamers could purchase a battery pack and a PC Engine Duo monitor to make the Duo portable. But the monitor was very expensive and the Duo system itself fairly heavy, so portability wasn't very practical. After its short experiment with portability, NEC redesigned the Duo to be less costly to produce and released it as the PC Engine Duo R.
The Duo R sported a more streamlined white case design that also removed battery pack support as well as the original's headphone jacks. Shortly thereafter, NEC also released the PC Engine Duo RX. The unit itself is exactly the same as the Duo R except for slight cosmetic modifications, but it also included a more ergonomic six-button controller. The basic design of the Duo RX controller would later find its way to NEC's 32-bit PC-FX, released in 1994.
NEC's entire PC Engine line, including the PC Engine Duo and its variants, enjoyed a long and successful life in the Japanese marketplace. The new Arcade CD format was introduced, with games featuring more sounds and better graphics. Owners of the Duo or its variants could purchase an Arcade Card to upgrade their Duo units to the amount of memory necessary for those games. In 1997, a full ten years after the introduction of the original PC Engine, support for the Engine and Duo units finally died. ~ Kyle Knight, All Game Guide