A PC Engine To TurboGrafx-16 Converter

The PC Engine was pretty popular in Japan, but only the coolest kids in America had the US edition, the TurboGrafx16. These two systems weren’t exactly the same; the TurboGrafx-16’s data bus was flipped so the games were made to be incompatible, and the US games have a region lockout. [Kaz] looked at the existing hacks for running Japanese games on US systems, and every single one of them required modding a console. Thinking he could do better, he came up with the PC-Henshin, an adapter and CPLD that allows Japanese game to run on US consoles.

To take care of the mixed up lines on the PC card connector between the US and Japanese variants, a few adapter cards are available. That’s great, but they only solve one part of the compatibility problem. The region lockout routine found on nearly every American title mean PC Engine consoles can’t run TurboGrafx-16 games. [Kaz] used a small, cheap CPLD to read the data bus, patch everything as it is read out, and turns a Japanese console into something that can play American games.

Video below.


23 thoughts on “A PC Engine To TurboGrafx-16 Converter

  1. Last line:
    “..and turns a Japanese console into something that can play American games.”

    Should read:
    “..and turns an American console into something that can play Japanese games.”

    1. It’s right. USA consoles can play Japanese games with the data bus flipped, nothing else. Japanese console however needs one more thing done to play USA games as the games were region protected and Japanese didn’t have the protection. A simple mod solves this or using the CPLD to fix the game on the fly so it works on Japanese console without needing region mod.

  2. i would make the pcb so it would fit in the space where the card would go and stack the holder on top off it – just enough space to make it a clean looking adapter – add some black mask and presto consumer-grade adapter.

    1. Except the console brings out the power switch over the edge of the card slot when the console is powered, so you can’t remove the cards. There’s no way to make it flush with the console. Trust me, we thought about various possibilities, and this is what we ended up with. Some adapters exist that put the connector facing the console, but then you have to flip a bunch of signal lines (far more than just the data lines in the middle), leading to more potential signal integrity issues.
      The packaging is still being worked out, by the way. What’s most important at this point is that a working solution exists.

  3. Just one problem: compatible cart connector is as rare as hen’s teeth. You either need to get lucky with some new old-stock that got lost in electronic warehouse, an existing adapter to sacrifice for the connector, or a console to sacrifice for the connector.

    On top of finding a good connector to use for this adapter, some of the TG-16 and PCE games can go for an arm and a leg on eBay. Air Zonk and Devil Crush for example aren’t cheap and are among must-have to play.

    Turbo-Everdrive by Krikzz would be much cheaper and still uses original console (either USA or Japanese). The may be 2 reason not to get the flash carts: 1: you refuses to touch rom and 2: you prefer the look of original TG16 or PCE card (or case art or manual)

    1. The connector we used to make this is hand-made by db Electronics, which is why I collaborated with them on this project. Indeed, the HuCard slot uses a goofy connector, and I made some prototypes using chopped up PCI card slots, but db’s solution is far more elegant, and much easier to reproduce reliably.

  4. Reading the guy’s website seem to indicate that no CPLD is used:

    The PC-Henshin is a passive converter like the Master System Converter. Earlier versions of the converter relied upon bus transceivers to reverse the databus but this proved to be unnecessary. There are provisions to add a CPLD (EPM3032) on the current design for future upgrades but this is currently not in use – the PC-Henshin is designed to work without it for the time being.

    1. “PC Henshin” is actually passive, but only works the one way (playing PC Engine titles on a TG16). “PC Henshin Turbo” does indeed make use of a CPLD to patch the game’s data in real-time, allowing bidirectional conversion. Hope that helps :)

  5. I’d like to see more hacks and projects using cpld’s, personally. I shudder to think of the tediousness I had to endure in college making up circuits with 74xx series logic chips. The more modern chips are a lot easier to use than one might think – I just did a half adder on the Digilent Xilinx starter board and it took less than 30 minutes to get up to speed on using the tools. Of course, finding online examples to get that initial design into the chip wasn’t very easy since there are so few examples from the community, from what I could see in my online searches.

  6. That’s neat, but you reinvented the wheel kind of. Back in the day circa early 90s and the mgd2 console scene , one could copy US TG cards and play them on Jap condoles like PC engine or core grafx , with a converter too. There was also a utility tto run on the dumped US image that would bit flip the data and patch the magic bytes on the header of file to make it work.

    1. If you Google “PC Henshin Turbo” (the trade name for the solution), Tototek and some others still sell this adapter. (We’ve opened the VHDL code up to everyone, so anyone can make them now, given access to the appropriate parts.) It works both ways (TG16 -> PCE and PCE -> TG16) without a mod.
      Going PCE -> TG16 does not require the additional hardware on the PCB (just one pad needs to be shorted). For that, you just need to fabricate the PCB and find the HuCard connector. TG16 games on PCE need the CPLD chip to be populated.

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