What in the Sam Hill is going on with the US launch of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini?
THE STORY SO FAR:
Preorders for the TG16 Mini went up on Amazon.com in the summer of 2019, and while I was initially skeptical, I decided to place my preorder when the full list of games was revealed. It was July 21 of 2019, and the unit was expected to ship in March of 2020.
March 2020 rolls around, and unfortunately, so does COVID-19, which impacts manufacturing and shipping worldwide, but especially from China. We are warned to expect a delay in not only this, but other products as well (New Wave Toys’ mini Dragon’s Lair arcade cabinet, to name another).
HOWEVER: All three versions — the Japanese PC Engine Mini, the European CoreGrafx Mini, AND the US TurboGrafx-16 Mini — DO ship in Japan around mid-March. Those who pre-ordered any or all of them on Amazon’s Japanese site received them and immediately did unboxing videos and reviews, and quickly found the hidden Easter Eggs (more on that later).
Meanwhile, nothing but crickets from Amazon’s US website, as they still have no known ship date listed, even though the unit is clearly out and available in Japan. Amazon Japan’s website has US TG16 Minis available for around US$100, similarly priced to the PCE Mini.
On April 23, I finally receive an email from Amazon with an updated shipping date! …January 5, **2021**?!?!
UPDATE 4/29/20: It’s now December 31, 2020.
So at this point, I finally say screw it, I’m just going to order it from Amazon Japan and cancel my US order.
But, hang on — some of those YouTubers and reviewers have found some interesting hidden features in these units. As you may be aware, the only difference between the PCE version and the TG16 version, aside from their industrial design, is the inclusion of Tokimeki Memorial on the PCE, while that game is replaced by Salamander on the TG16. Well, hidden within TokiMemo is a secret shmup called Force Gear — a game which is actually unlockable in the original game itself by having your character join the computer club, but the PCE Mini makes it accessible in a much easier fashion, by pressing Select twice before you press Run to start TokiMemo. Well, I’d rather have access to Force Gear than Salamander, so I decided to switch to the PC Engine Mini instead of the TG16 Mini.
UPDATE: I’ve been informed that this actually works with Salamander on the US version as well! I wasn’t sure if that would be the case, as Force Gear and another hidden game, TwinBee Returns, were both originally part of TokiMemo. It’s great to see that they didn’t skimp on that feature.
Anyway, as I’m ordering my PCE, I notice something odd — Amazon Japan’s listing for the TG16 has changed. It’s no longer available shipping from Amazon JP at a normal retail price; instead, there’s only one unit available from a third-party seller at an inflated price of over US$500!
So what does this mean? Has Amazon Japan’s inventory of US TG16 Minis actually sold out, or did they finally ship to the US for distribution? And if they did, why did Amazon’s US site change the date all the way out to January 2021? Will we see that change to a sooner date? What the actual heck is going on?
(Incidentally, the Euro CoreGrafx is still available on Amazon Japan at regular price.)
UPDATE! Amazon US now has the TurboGrafx-16 Mini shipping on May 22! Maybe my theory was correct, and Amazon Japan shipped their inventory stateside.
Well, at any rate, as of this most recent update, I’ve had my PC Engine Mini for a couple weeks now and I love it. Could I have waited for the Turbo? If I had known it was coming this soon, sure. But the lack of announcements from either Konami or Amazon about the situation probably hurt them somewhat as many users canceled their US orders and went with Amazon Japan. However, I’m glad it’s finally on its way and everyone will soon be able to experience what could be the best mini yet.