PC Engine Mini review: Forget the SNES and Mega Drive, this is the BEST retro console

Back in the 90s Konami were one of the biggest names in gaming, a dev who was synonymous with producing cutting edge, ground breaking titles.

From 2D arcade gems such as Turtles in Time, to revolutionary 3D titles like Metal Gear Solid – which defined what we expect from a cinematic adventure.

If you saw the Konami logo appear when you booted up a game you knew you were in for a quality experience.

We’ve come a long way from the Japanese gaming giant’s heyday, with the Tokyo-based firm shifting output in recent years to focus on other avenues.

But when Konami put their minds to it, they’re capable of something special – and we’ve just got a reminder of this.

However, it’s not a new Metal Gear Solid game or a Silent Hill revival that has shown this, but the upcoming PC Engine Mini.

Konami announced they were entering the retro console marketplace during a surprise announcement at last year’s E3.

Three different versions of the hardware have been produced – the PC Engine Mini for Japan, the TurboGrafx-16 Mini for the US and CoreGrafx for Europe.

And ahead of the UK launch of the PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini we’ve been putting the little console through its paces.

And it is arguably the best retro mini console ever made, eclipsing the offerings from Nintendo and SEGA in a number of key ways.



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Straight out of the box the hardware is impressive, with the console sporting a cute and fun-sized design.

This is to be expected of a SNES and Mega Drive Mini rival, but there are plenty of nice finishing touches which show attention to detail.

The detachable flap at the rear of the console is a prime example.

In the actual console this serves a genuine purpose, opening up to show where the PC Engine CD connects.

Whereas on the Mini console it’s just a nice extra touch to give it an additional authentic detail.

Elsewhere the PC Engine Mini controller, which is manufactured by Hori, feels sturdy and long lasting.

It doesn’t feel cheap like other joypads that come packaged with some retro mini consoles – if you bought it on its own you’d be perfectly happy with it.

The turbo fire toggles on the controller are a nice addition too which provide a genuine useful tool to turn to in games.

They were an absolute lifesaver for me (and my thumbs) in Gradius and was a nice reminder of how this long-lost feature was useful in old school gaming.


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Unlike the SNES Classic Mini which had different games lists for each region, the PC Engine Mini has virtually the same selection across the board.

So Japanese, European and US markets will be getting an almost identical range of bundled-in titles.

This is thanks to the in-game menu letting you toggle between the English language Turbo-Grafx games and the Japanese PC Engine titles.

While this is a barrier for some titles, such as Hideo Kojima’s cult classic Snatcher, it isn’t for the non-text heavy titles – which there are plenty.

A large number of the games included on the PC Engine Mini are hard-as-nails shooters, so your lack of Japanese won’t have a big bearing there.

Fans of titles such as Ikaruga, Gunstar Heroes or more modern takes like Enter The Gungeon will be in absolute heaven with these games.

The PC Engine Mini offers a number of all-time great shooters, which otherwise would be extremely hard to get hold off.

Well-known games like Darius, Gradius and R-Type are included alongside rarer titles like the brilliant Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire.

This is a 2D vertical shooter which, considering when it was made, looks great and is a technical marvel that it could be made for the PC Engine.

While the pint-sized console also comes loaded with Star Parodier – an absolutely joyful cute-em-up that had me grinning from ear to ear.

If you were to buy either of these games on their own you’d have to fork out a fair bit.

A quick glance at eBay shows Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire selling for at least £600 with Star Parodier listed for the much more reasonable £60.

And that’s before the cost of forking out for an actual PC Engine console, making the price of the Mini version well worth the entry admission.

Elsewhere more well known games such as the lovely Parasol Stars and the less lovely Splatterhouse are other great additions on the PC Engine Mini.

One of the most eye-catching games included is Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, which prior to getting a PS4 port was extremely hard to get hold of.

And it lives up to its reputation as one of the best Castlevania games out there, packing bags of style and great level designs.

In total the PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini is loaded with 26 PC Engine games and 24 TurboGrafx-16 game.

There is, however, some games which have versions that appear in Japanese and English so the number of unique titles is less than the overall total of 50.

However, it is still a big selection of games that gives you your money’s worth.

Elsewhere there are other nice little touches that elevates the PC Engine Mini above other retro consoles.

I loved the little pixelated animations that appear when you choose a game – either showing a HuCard being inserted or the PC Engine CD loading a disc.

And the sound of the CD drive whirring around as a PC Engine or Turbo-Grafx CD game gets ready to play is an especially nice touch.

It’s little things like that which help give the illusion you’re actually playing a classic retro console as opposed to a machine loaded with ROMs.

Elsewhere the emulation is top touch, with different visual settings that actually make a difference.

The CRT filter that appears on the PC Engine Mini is best in class, offering a lovely hazy imitation of old school tube TVs.

Not only does it provide a noticeable difference but it also looks great.

Elsewhere, like with other retro consoles, the PC Engine Mini offers a range of screen sizes and backgrounds.

But I especially liked the PC Engine GT background, showing games playing on a huge version of the now super rare PC Engine handheld.

It’s a charming little touch which die-hard fans will love.

Overall, the PC Engine Mini is a great retro console – in terms of the quality of the hardware and range of games.

It offers an easy and affordable way to play super rare games that are very hard to come by these days.

Which is one major advantage over the SNES and Mega Drive Mini, which are loaded with games that in the main you likely know inside and out.

The big selection of Japanese games and shooters means the PC Engine Mini won’t be for everyone.

However, those that do pick one up will be treated to an absolute gem of a console that gives an insight into one of the forgotten greats of 90s gaming.


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