When you spend as much time looking through gameplay footage and screenshots for your reviews as me though you tend to notice things every now and then.
One of those things I noticed was that an awful lot of Mega Drive games made their way onto the PC Engine and Turbografx and vice versa and I was interested in seeing what would be the more detailed, colourful port. This obviously doesn't take into account things like frame rate or layers of parallax. This is just a comparison in detail and colour. Also note that for all screenshot comparisons PC Engine is always on the left while Mega Drive is always on the right.
A staple in Sega's line up since its release Afterburner 2 should be better on the Mega Drive. You'd think. However, looking at these two shots here you notice that a horizon has been forsaken for floating status displays. Colours are also richer on PC Engine.
As for the resolution. I will ask you to bear in mind that if you were to hook either console up to a television and play them the difference would be negligible. I am chalking this one up for the PC Engine.
The two shots here for this great little shooter tell a couple of things. The first thing to do is notice that the buildings are larger on the Mega Drive. I quite like the effect. The buildings in the PC Engine are smaller and the horizon is tighter though. I feel that the effect is pulled off better on PC Engine. Now, look at the two bosses. The shading and colouring on the boss is much richer and defined on the PC Engine. It's like something out of a Super Nintendo game.
This one is a no-brainer. Not only are things more detailed on the PC Engine but colours are richer. They are more vibrant on the Mega Drive but it's to the point of being garish.
If you ever wanted something to make you say: "What the hell happened?" over then look no further than Altered Beast on the Mega Drive. Comparing the two shots you not only see that the background is more detailed, more vibrant and with richer colour but the props are also packed with detail too. Compare the two buildings: Although the Mega Drive features a relief on the temple it draws your eye much more on PC Engine. Also, the character models are richer and more defined on the PC Engine. There is also texture to the ground where it is missing in the Mega Drive port.
Here it is immediately obvious that the temple is much more detailed in the PC Engine port than the Mega Drive. Not only is the detail bigger and grander but it is much more eye catching. For the sake of comparison here is the same shot from the arcade game:
Now, look at the texture of the ground, enemy design, boss design, detail in the sky gradient, the detail in the temple. The PC Engine version is much more faithful. How could this have happened? It was released only a few months later on comparably weaker hardware but still manages to look and play better than it does on Mega Drive.
Cadash is an interesting port story. For some reason it was released faithfully on PC Engine and then Mega Drive game ended up getting a darker colour pallet. That is to say that it looks nothing like the arcade game. It doesn't look bad but the PC Engine immediately pulls in front by being more faithful.
Even with the more lighthearted art style the detail in the bricks, background elements, enemies and HUD all favour the PC Engine. It's easy to chalk this one up for NEC's console.
Devil's Crush (Dragon's Fury on Mega Drive)
In my opinion this is one of the best games ever made. It's a fast paced supernatural themed pinball game and it's exciting, adrenalin pumping and has an amazing soundtrack. It was released by Tengen (technically Atari) on the Mega Drive in North America and Europe and NEC themselves on PC Engine and Turbografx.
It's a beautiful game in any form for various reasons but if you look at them it is plainly obvious which looks better. The PC Engine. The Mega Drive port just looks like someone rolled a flash bang grenade into proceedings. It is way too bright.
The perspective is also slightly different on the Mega Drive and if someone was to ask me what looks more like I was leaning over a pinball table from hell it'd be the PC Engine port. Cleaner, more detailed. Overall, a better looking game.
It might seem immediately obvious which looks better. The one that doesn't look like you're looking at the game through a picture frame, right? Well, look a little deeper. Colours are much better on PC Engine however it's kind of hard to get past the fact that everything is tiny. The Mega Drive is looking like it's in front here.
Yep, I am happy giving this one to Mega Drive.
A very unique game Exile as seen here plainly looks better on PC Engine. There is no mistaking the richly coloured sand, the detailed character sprites, the subdued HUD versus the garish one on the Mega Drive.
Interior areas of the game are harder to judge. Character sprites and environments are richer and more colourful on PC Engine but look slightly more defined on Mega Drive. Without a clear winner I would be happy to call this one a tie.
Bomberman 94' (Mega Bomberman)
Yes, that is a legitimate, honest to god PC Engine game. That is not a Super Nintendo game you're looking at on the left. There's no point in even analysing this as it is abundantly clear to even the untrained eye what the winner is here. Even the little Bomberman sprite in the HUD looks better on PC Engine.
What happened during the development of Mega Bomberman that made it look so washed out and ugly? It's like Hudson used 5 colours total to make Mega Bomberman while Bomberman 94' on PC Engine looks like something you'd see in a late generation Super Nintendo game. PC Engine is the clear winner here.
It's Outrun. How could Outrun look better on PC Engine when it is one of Sega's most enduring franchises? Are you looking at these screenshots? This is the same point in the game on both. Rich, vibrant colour, detailed lettering on "START", more defined environmental objects. The Mega Drive has a slightly bigger car and more sprites on screen but that's about it.
Sega also did that awful grain thing in the Mega Drive port again. The horizon is better on PC Engine, the clouds look better, the sky is better - basically everything is superior on PC Engine.
Rastan Saga 2
To begin with; does this remind anyone else of Gods by the Bitmap Brothers? Anyway. There is much more detail packed into the PC Engine shot than in the Mega Drive shot. The character model stands out a little too much on PC Engine but look at the trees, the bricks, the mountains, the sky is brighter.
There is much more detail in the PC Engine game and with the PC Engine's now standard richer colour it ends up looking better and more catching.
Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition
I bet you didn't know that Street Fighter 2 got ported to PC Engine. Well, you should have just assumed seeing as Capcom have a history of porting to every single working piece of electronics imaginable. Let's look at these shots. More detailed sky,water and bricks. Colour is richer and more detailed. The Mega Drive shot just looks washed out.
Here we are in Vegas. Home of sumo and boxers alike it seems. This one is easy if you look at the colour. Capcom did a better job of giving everything more natural colour while in the Mega Drive port things seem really garish in some places and washed out in others.
For comparisons sake this is the same level being played on the SNES port of the game which is generally considered to be the best looking and most arcade faithful port. Look at how the PC Engine and SNES ports are almost indistinguishable. Just think about that. They're almost indistinguishable. PC Engine wins.
They're basically the same, aren't they? That's the conclusion I came to as well. Look, this is kind of a redundant addition to be honest because this port of Turrican is notorious for its poor music and the fact that Accolade used barely 16 colours to make this. The PC Engine is capable of displaying 400 colours on screen at once for reference.
If I was going to mention anything it'd be that the colour of the sky is more faithful in the PC Engine port of the game. Other than that...hey, it's Turrican.
Valis 3 is another one of my favourite games and when it comes to whether it looks better on PC Engine or Mega Drive you will have trouble finding differences between the two ports (apart from Godzilla - look at the PC Engine screenshot carefully). This is one that comes down solely to personal preference.
Basically look at the colour. Do you like darker colour as opposed to the lighter colours in the Mega Drive port of the game? That will be the deciding factor.
So, what have we learned through this comparison. Well, for one thing generally the PC Engine produced better looking ports when compared directly to the Mega Drive. We didn't even look at the quality of the graphics in games that were exclusive to the PC Engine and Turbografx as well. That's for another article though.
This doesn't mean the games play better though. Some people don't like the Turbografx and PC Engine controller. If they don't then they will naturally like the Mega Drive port better regardless of graphics. To that I say good, that is how it should be. You should be enjoying games based on the way you like to play them. Graphics are great but when good graphics come at the expense of quality gameplay that is inexcusable.
I love the Turbografx and PC Engine and have played all of these games. They all look, sound and play really well. That's why I like to do these showdowns. It gives me a chance to really scrutinise great games and see which ones edge out just that little bit to be the better port. That's the reason for this article and I hope you enjoyed it.