Many people who grew up during the time of 16-bit gaming never got to know what the PC Engine was. Though here in the West, those who were invested in gaming technology knew it as the TurboGrafx-16, while the rest of the world outside of North America called it the PC Engine. Despite the niche role that the console had during that time it still had a number of games released for it that people enjoyed playing. And like many releases of the time, box art was something that was a big part of the initial charm of getting into video games. PC Engine: The Box Art Collection from Bitmap Books (sent to us for impressions) gathers together almost all of the known box art for games released on the console. If you’re into playing Japanese or European game releases or know anything about the PC Engine, this book might be right up your alley.
Anyone who remembers the lost art that was video game box art will appreciate a lot of what the book is tackling. A lot of the artwork and visuals included here were only really seen in certain territories during the time of their original releases. In North America, when the PC Engine was known as the TurboGrafx-16, only a handful of titles were officially released that people could buy. So many of the games included in this book are being seen or heard of by many for the first time. For those unfamiliar fans of gaming, this is a gold rush of interesting visuals from a bygone era. For others already familiar with the console, it might retread some territory with some good visuals.
But an interesting addition to this book is how the box art for the games is accompanied by screenshots of the games and a written overview of them as well. This is a good thing because it gives readers an idea of how the artwork of the era was almost always an exaggeration of the gameplay included. Seeing classic 80s-style anime artwork paired with pixel art might sound funny, but it was the norm back then. But having the screenshots also adds more value to the book, as previous Bitmap Books, like the Super Famicom book, that covered box art didn’t include screenshots of the games. The focus was solely on the box art itself. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, the inclusion of the game screens is a welcome addition.
At the same time, you also get some history about the console in PC Engine: The Box Art Collection at the beginning. The majority of the book is filled mostly with box art themselves, but there are about 25 pages dedicated to detailing the history of the PC Engine. The section also has some shots of the console, along with some marketing material for various games that were released for it.
Unfortunately, you don’t get any deep technical specifications, schematics, or anything beyond the surface level. The book really isn’t focused on giving a complete view of the PC Engine, so not including stuff like this isn’t a huge deal, even for an overview of the console’s history. The images included in this part of the book also highlight some of the magazines and collectibles related to the PC Engine right up to the console’s end but never get into full detail about any of it. For a book that gives a more complete view of the PC Engine that would be more vital to include, not so much one about the box art of the games.
It’s because of this too that the book also doesn’t cover much about the TurboGrafx-16, despite the two being the same console. Some games that were released for the TurboGrafx-16 are also not included in the book as well, as they may have not been released for the PC Engine outside of North America. This means games like Darkwing Duck for the console are not found in this book, even though the game was released when the console was still actively being sold. There are possible other games as well that fall into the same category, but again their absence is more important for a book that would be a complete look at the console as both the PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16. As a book that is focused on the PC Engine and the box art of games for the console, none of that is important information that is missing, nor is any of it vital for the book’s overall value.
For collectors of gaming hardcover books, PC Engine: The Box Art Collection is a good coffee table book that can fit in any collection. It has great visuals and info to enjoy glancing through, as well as a bit extra than what it initially pitches you. If you’re looking for a more detailed and complete look at the PC Engine, this isn’t the book you’ll need, yet that’s not what the book is aiming to be. But if you wanted some insight into the visuals of the PC Engine library and an overview of games that weren’t around in North America during that era, you’ll get out of what this book has to offer.
Have you ever gotten to play any PC Engine games before? What do you think of the PC Engine: The Box Art Collection from Bitmap Books? Would you pick it up for your own collection? Tell us your opinions about everything in the comments below and let your voice be heard!
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