For more information on the North American version of the system, see: Turbografx 16. It was also distributed in Europe as the CoreGrafx.
The PC Engine used cards instead of cartridges to hold its games, and while its processor was 8-bit, its graphics could have up to 256 colors at once in different resolutions. It was the first console to have a separate CD system, for full orchestral soundtracks and full-motion video. The PC Engine was extremely popular in Japan, and started outselling the Famicom. At the time, the Sega Megadrive wasn't doing to well in Japan, especially due to the lack of a CD-ROM system. Many games in its popular Japanese library had not been translated to the North American Turbografx 16.
Several different versions of the system's CD-ROM drive exist. The first, version 1.0, had only 1 Mb of RAM; this version was only in production for four months and is extremely rare. The second, version 2.0 (or CD-ROMē), added another 2 Mb, while an expansion card (version 3.0, or Super CD-ROMē) brought the total amount of RAM up to 5 Mb, as well as increasing the CD buffer and adding an improved BIOS. In 1992, after the Sega Mega-CD came out, the PC Engine and its CD drive became combined into the Duo, with the Super CD-ROMē upgrades built into the system.
Despite the system's initial success, it soon lost ground to the Super Famicom. NEC made one final effort to resuscitate the system with the release of the Arcade Card expansion, bringing the total amount of RAM up to a then-massive 16 MB; many Arcade Card games were conversions of popular Neo-Geo titles. The additional memory even allowed the system to display 3D polygon graphics well beyond what the competing Super Famicom and Megadrive/Mega-CD could offer. By this time, however, it was too late -- only a relative handful of Arcade Card games were ever produced, and the expansion was never released in the U.S.
In 1994 NEC released a new console, the Japan-only PC-FX (a somewhat unusual 32-bit PC/console hybrid); it enjoyed a small but steady stream of games until 1998, when NEC finally abandoned the video games industry.
The PC Engine GT is a portable version of the PC Engine. It had a very crisp screen and an optional TV tuner was available. It could play all of the PC Engine HuCard games, yet had low battery life.
Another variation of the hardware is the SuperGrafx. This system is very nearly the same as the original PCE, except it has a duplicate set of video chips (and an extra chip to coordinate the two) and four times as much RAM. Since the CPU wasn't upgraded most developers were unable to utilize the extra graphics capability, the CPU just couldn't keep up. Only five SuperGrafx games (and one hybrid game - Darius) were released, and the system fell into obscurity.