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Zenki FX - an amazing game on a failed console...and other examples

VGEsoterica

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Clearly the PC-FX (the successor console to the PC Engine / TurboGrafx) was a total market failure and killed NEC / Hudson's entire home hardware ambitions...but that doesn't mean it doesn't have some legit amazing games that are 100% worth checking out.

Zenki FX is one of those games. Even if NEC leaned hard on Hudson to JUST make FMV Anime games, luckily somehow Zenki snuck onto the platform to show us just what the PC-FX was capable of. Awesome and fluid 2D sprites and art, a super creative art style, solid beat em up gameplay and an actual interesting and sparingly used FMV and pre-rendered 3D mix of graphics. Honestly it's a game that makes the PC-FX worth owning even if for a single title. Sure it's expensive to own an original copy but you really don't need to own an OG disc just to play Zenki on the original hardware.

Plus it's one of those games that I am sure 90% of people have never heard of, let alone played. Which always makes it extra fun to talk about. It does work perfectly in Mednafen too which is a huge bonus.

But it's on the level of Alien vs Predator on Jaguar or Virtual Boy Wario Land; a single game that makes wanting to own the hardware it runs on seem worth it!

But I am curious what other people would say when it came to games on failed consoles that you think make the hardware worth buying just for that ONE game?
 

SirTerry-T

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and if you have zero idea what I am talking about; mmmm those delicious 32 bit 2D graphics. Could hold its own against Saturn for sure

I'm not sure about the last bit, I think the only clear advantage the NEC machine had over Sega's was probably it's FMV playback and transparency support? Easier to code for too I imagine...though that wouldn't be difficult when we're talking about Sega's box full of silicon :)
I remember wanting the NEC machine when I saw it turn up in the import pages of Computer And Videogames...I was young and naive though!
 

VGEsoterica

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I'm not sure about the last bit, I think the only clear advantage the NEC machine had over Sega's was probably it's FMV playback and transparency support? Easier to code for too I imagine...though that wouldn't be difficult when we're talking about Sega's box full of silicon :)
I remember wanting the NEC machine when I saw it turn up in the import pages of Computer And Videogames...I was young and naive though!
I mean visually Zenki is VERY close to something like Guardian Heroes and its really a gen 1 game for the PC-FX. Sure the Saturn had a bit more ram but the PC-FX has a legit appearance for a 32 bit 2D console to me. Plus the intermixed FMV and pre-rendered FMV CGI that can be mixed into the presentation give it a super interesting and unique look
 
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Could hold its own against Saturn for sure

Hardly, it's barely anything better than the Mega Drive could do, never mind the Neo or Saturn IMO

If I were to pick some games on a console that really sold poor in would be

Killing Time 3DO - Awesome and such a clever FPS

Dracula the undead Atari Lynx - Brilliant adv game
 

VGEsoterica

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Hardly, it's barely anything better than the Mega Drive could do, never mind the Neo or Saturn IMO

If I were to pick some games on a console that really sold poor in would be

Killing Time 3DO - Awesome and such a clever FPS

Dracula the undead Atari Lynx - Brilliant adv game
at least you have good tastes lol

I own some of the original art that hung on the 3DO office walls from Killing Time, some betas, etc etc. Legit amazing game

Dracula the Undead as well. Did a video on that when I did a video series about Dracula games haha. It really is a hidden gem

But barely anything better than the Mega Drive could do? Nah! :)
 

Hawks Eclipse

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But I am curious what other people would say when it came to games on failed consoles that you think make the hardware worth buying just for that ONE game?
Splatoon on Wii U, though you HAD to be there when the population and game was growing and Miiverse was still operational.
 

belteshazzar

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Yeah, this is one of the few PC-FX games I would be interested to play, but the price is absurd. Maybe I will emulate it someday.
 
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at least you have good tastes lol

I own some of the original art that hung on the 3DO office walls from Killing Time, some betas, etc etc. Legit amazing game

Dracula the Undead as well. Did a video on that when I did a video series about Dracula games haha. It really is a hidden gem

But barely anything better than the Mega Drive could do? Nah! :)
I'll be truthful. I never owned Zanki just my import shop had it. It did nothing for me and the Super Grafx chipset inside the FX , was hardly going to cause the Neo Geo issues, never mind Saturn

I was more impressed with graphics in Adv of Batman on the Mega Drive to be honest and really that's not trolling
 

VGEsoterica

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I'll be truthful. I never owned Zanki just my import shop had it. It did nothing for me and the Super Grafx chipset inside the FX , was hardly going to cause the Neo Geo issues, never mind Saturn

I was more impressed with graphics in Adv of Batman on the Mega Drive to be honest and really that's not trolling
but those 2X VDC chips (with expanded ram) were paired with a handful of other chips giving the system 9 layers of 2D, one of which could use Motion JPEG and four of which had scaling/rotation/other effects via the KING chip.

So just because it had parts from the SuperGrafx inside doesn't mean it was limited to just those chips :)
 
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but those 2X VDC chips (with expanded ram) were paired with a handful of other chips giving the system 9 layers of 2D, one of which could use Motion JPEG and four of which had scaling/rotation/other effects via the KING chip.

So just because it had parts from the SuperGrafx inside doesn't mean it was limited to just those chips :)
All limited to 128 sprites? Sure the FMV was amazing mind and I mean a world part from all the system on its launch , but I was more impressed with the scaling and rotation in Batman Returns on the Mega CD than any game I watched at my Import shop on the FX I'm not trolling, but the FX just never impressed me that much.
 

VGEsoterica

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Yes the 64 sprite limit per chip did hold over from the Supergrafx but apparently per japanese SDK's this was not a hard limit...so it functioned more like Saturn in the way there was "no limit"?

It's confusing as its a japanese translation over to english when it comes to SDK docs.

There is some command that can remove the sprite limit but I am not a coder so I really can't 100% determine what it's up do when its doing it
 

VGEsoterica

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I mean comparing Guardian Warriors to Zenki...thats a REAL CLOSE comparison
 
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I mean comparing Guardian Warriors to Zenki...thats a REAL CLOSE comparison
True, but they're also two different types of beat-em ups. Guardian Heroes has more RPG-style elements and was designed with multiplayer co-op from the start. They also intentionally went with a more garish art style but again that might've been informed by the rest of the game design and features it had.

Also not sure what the team sizes were on the two, or the budgets. We know Treasure were developing multiple games during the time period Guardian Heroes came out, like Mischief Makers and Silhouette Mirage (and Alien Soldier). Hudson Soft were pretty much a 1P developer for PC-Engine and PC-FX, and going by their 1994 & 1995 release schedules on Wikipedia it looks like most of their releases were (likely reprogrammed) ports of games from other developers like SNK and ADK, probably meaning they had more budget and manpower to spare for Zenki compared to Treasure for Guardian Heroes.

That said tho, I really like the visual style of Zenki and prefer it a lot to Guardian Heroes, circumstances of development between the two notwithstanding. A sequel or follow-up in similar vein for PC-FX (or also follow-ups to games like Team Innocent) would've been a great way to flex its 2D and JPEG FMV abilities for some unique games on the system.
 
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I mean comparing Guardian Warriors to Zenki...thats a REAL CLOSE comparison
I don't think it's that close, to be honest. You saw much better on the Neo Geo before one even moved up to the Saturn or PS No doubt even the Jaguar offered for better 2D. I can't belive how NEC thought the spec of the FX was good enough myself
 

Celine

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Even the Amiga could beat the MD colour pallet. I didn't think Zenki looked better than Adv of Batman and Robin on the Mega Drive myself, before one even looked at Neo Geo games
I actually think the Amiga standard (not the one with the AGA chip) could display less colors on screen (32 from 4096 available) than the MD (61 from 512 available).
Anyway my point is that the PC-FX could display 16.77 million colors on screen that is a number much much higher than MD could, so just by taking a glance at games that use it properly it's easy to infer if it's a PC-FX game or a MD game.
 
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I actually think the Amiga standard (not the one with the AGA chip) could display less colors on screen (32 from 4096 available) than the MD (61 from 512 available).
Anyway my point is that the PC-FX could display 16.77 million colors on screen that is a number much much higher than MD could, so just by taking a glance at games that use it properly it's easy to infer if it's a PC-FX game or a MD game.
With respect you said Colour pallet, not actual number of colours on screen. I also highly doubt any PC FX game is pushing 16.9 colours on screen in real time
 

VGEsoterica

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With respect you said Colour pallet, not actual number of colours on screen. I also highly doubt any PC FX game is pushing 16.9 colours on screen in real time
I mean all the specs for the PC-FX state the same number of colors on screen as the PS1 so I tend to believe it
 
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I mean all the specs for the PC-FX state the same number of colors on screen as the PS1 so I tend to believe it
I was replying to Celine. But I highly doubt there was any Saturn or PS game pushing 16.9 million colours on screen in real time, let alone the PC FX
 
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Celine

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With respect you said Colour pallet, not actual number of colours on screen. I also highly doubt any PC FX game is pushing 16.9 colours on screen in real time
Both parameters have an impact on the colorfurness shown on screen (one for the number of colors on screen, the other for what colors could be on screen).

The 16.9M colors is theoretical and I also don't think there was any game on PC-FX (or Saturn or PS1) that displayed that many colors on screen.
Just like the Neo Geo theoretical max color count on screen was never reached on a game.

The argument I was making is that nobody, with a hint of what MD is capable of, would think, looking at the screenshot below, that it belong to a MD game due to the image quality of the background.
 
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VGEsoterica

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Both parameters have an impact on the colorfurness shown on screen (one for the number of colors on screen, the other for what colors could be on screen).

The 16.9M colors is theoretical and I also don't think there was any game on PC-FX (or Saturn or PS1) that displayed that many colors on screen.
Just like the Neo Geo theoretical max color count on screen was never reached on a game.

The argument I was making is that nobody, with a hint of what MD is capable of, would think, looking at the screenshot below, that it belong to a MD game due to the image quality of the background.
I agree. In motion especially. Team Innocent looks amazing for what it is when playing the game
 

Redneckerz

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The PC-FX remains such a wonderful machine. I truly wish it had the PC-GA accelerator that would bring 3D graphics to the machine.

But even on its own, in 2D, its great. Only PC98 out-do this machine in my eyes.
 

VGEsoterica

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The PC-FX remains such a wonderful machine. I truly wish it had the PC-GA accelerator that would bring 3D graphics to the machine.

But even on its own, in 2D, its great. Only PC98 out-do this machine in my eyes.
I’ve been trying to get a DOS compatible PC-FXGA card for the series but as of yet no luck
 
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Both parameters have an impact on the colorfurness shown on screen (one for the number of colors on screen, the other for what colors could be on screen).

The 16.9M colors is theoretical and I also don't think there was any game on PC-FX (or Saturn or PS1) that displayed that many colors on screen.
Just like the Neo Geo theoretical max color count on screen was never reached on a game.

The argument I was making is that nobody, with a hint of what MD is capable of, would think, looking at the screenshot below, that it belong to a MD game due to the image quality of the background.
I love the way you try and twist what ones says, yet again. I doubt any 32-bit console system would be able to handle 16.9 million colours in-game in real time, the most I remember on the Saturn was 256,000 with Sol Divide and even that could be wrong
it also wasn't hard to be able to out do the Mega Drive for colours on screen or colour pallet so many systems could.



Also, I simply said that I didn't think Zanki looked that impressive and one could say that Adv Of Batman Returns on the Mega Drive is pushing more fancy effects on screen to that of Zenki. That's before one even looks to bring the Saturn or Nee Geo into it I never owned the FX and only go on what I saw in the import shop. But given it was meant to be a State of the Art next-gen console coming in at a higher price than even the Saturn it was crushing disappointment all the more so give the power and beauty of the original PC Engine.
 
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manzo

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I owned a PC-FX from 2004 until 2014. Played pretty much everything the console had to offer that was worth spending time with. Zenki FX was absolutely the best. Chip Chan Kick was also fine. Zeroigar was trash but the only shooter on the machine. Zenki FX was definitely the best looking game the system had to offer IMHO. That's not much though. We never really got to see what the system could be capable of in the long run.

About the visuals. The system was definitely designed to be a 2D powerhouse, but the IronMan spec was already outdated when compared against the Saturn and PS1. PC-FX can hold on it's own against the 2D of Saturn, but the smaller RAM amount shows in animations.

The biggest issue that NEC did was underestimating home 3D at the time. They thought FMV was the next big thing as Iron Man development was just around the peak FMV time. This shows with a very good MJPEG hardware decoding capabilities, just like the Playstation. Like the PS1, you could overlay MPEG video in a background pane and unlike on PS1 (where the framerate was tied to the video along with triangle rendering, remember those Square RPGs like FF7 and FF8), the overlapping lanes could run at a different framerate. You could have the rest of the panes and sprites running at 60fps while one pane runs 15fps MJPEG video. Team Innocent shows the "sprites on MJPEG still backgrounds":

Both parameters have an impact on the colorfurness shown on screen (one for the number of colors on screen, the other for what colors could be on screen).

The 16.9M colors is theoretical and I also don't think there was any game on PC-FX (or Saturn or PS1) that displayed that many colors on screen.
Just like the Neo Geo theoretical max color count on screen was never reached on a game.

The argument I was making is that nobody, with a hint of what MD is capable of, would think, looking at the screenshot below, that it belong to a MD game due to the image quality of the background.
As this shows, the palette is pretty muted because it's a MJPEG FMV background. This was nothing special as the PS1 could do this too, but not Saturn as it relied on software decoding of video.

But MJPEG hardware decoding doesn't take you far when your biggest competitor is doing exactly the same. Nor did it help to have a requirement to have either mandatory anime sequences or CGI in your game. That was a production problem to most 3rd party vendors. Doing animation costs a lot, even when it was the heydays of OVAs and mass anime productions. That was the most stupid requirement ever made and drove nearly all 3rd party away from the machine.

Also, additional memory card with fucking AAA batteries. Imagine having your memory card saves deleted when you run out of batteries. Jeesus.
 

manzo

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I love the way you try and twist what ones says, yet again. I doubt any 32-bit console system would be able to handle 16.9 million colours in-game in real time, the most I remember on the Saturn was 256,000 with Sol Divide and even that could be wrong
it also wasn't hard to be able to out do the Mega Drive for colours on screen or colour pallet so many systems could.



Also, I simply said that I didn't think Zanki looked that impressive and one could say that Adv Of Batman Returns on the Mega Drive is pushing more fancy effects on screen to that of Zenki. That's before one even looks to bring the Saturn or Nee Geo into it I never owned the FX and only go on what I saw in the import shop. But given it was meant to be a State of the Art next-gen console coming in at a higher price than even the Saturn it was crushing disappointment all the more so give the power and beauty of the original PC Engine.

The PS1 displayed a 15 or 16-bit palette, the Saturn and PC-FX both had a 16-bit palette on-screen (32k colours) out of a full 32-bit palette on all systems. I'm not sure if the systems COULD display in a dev mode or such the full 32-bit palette (VRAM limitations), but no game ever showed more than 16-bit palette on any of the 32-bit systems.
 
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The PS1 displayed a 15 or 16-bit palette, the Saturn and PC-FX both had a 16-bit palette on-screen (32k colours) out of a full 32-bit palette on all systems. I'm not sure if the systems COULD display in a dev mode or such the full 32-bit palette (VRAM limitations), but no game ever showed more than 16-bit palette on any of the 32-bit systems.
Thanks for all the info
 

Celine

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I agree. In motion especially. Team Innocent looks amazing for what it is when playing the game
I found disappointing that in Team Innocent the developer never bothered to code a software based scaling algorithm to smoothly scale the sprites.
Due to commercial reasons PC-FX never had the chance to be pushed to the max of what was capable.

Four backgrounds layers (or was it only one of the King processor's layers that could?) could be transparent, rotated and scaled but how many PC-FX commercial games really display such features?


it also wasn't hard to be able to out do the Mega Drive for colours on screen or colour pallet so many systems could.
Yes, that's the whole point I was making.
I agree with you that PC-FX, outside of the FMV capabilities, was disappointing compared to the Saturn and PlayStation.
 
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I mean visually Zenki is VERY close to something like Guardian Heroes and its really a gen 1 game for the PC-FX. Sure the Saturn had a bit more ram but the PC-FX has a legit appearance for a 32 bit 2D console to me. Plus the intermixed FMV and pre-rendered FMV CGI that can be mixed into the presentation give it a super interesting and unique look
Yes, but I believe that I saw sprite flickers in the video... The graphic look clean tho.
 

Holammer

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GTV just made a video on the system. He mentions how they held back the system for two years before they released it because of lack of games & the PC Engine still going strong. It could have had a considerable head start on the PS1 & Saturn.

 
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Four backgrounds layers (or was it only one of the King processor's layers that could?) could be transparent, rotated and scaled but how many PC-FX commercial games really display such features?

To be honest I was more impressed with Snes shooters before one even looks to the Saturn. That said it's being harsh since we never really got to see the system pushed.