Translations from Game Lab Vol. 205 -- September 2012 Issue

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Mana caption: Good Design! Mana-Sama's Nostalgic Game inferno

~Part 18~

Mana's Hardware Collection

PC Engine DUO
(left)

Company: NEC Home Electronics
Release Date: September 21, 1991
Retail Price: 59,800 yen

PC Engine DUO R
(middle)

Company: NEC Home Electronics
Release Date: March 25, 1993
Retail Price: 39,800 yen

PC Engine DUO FX
(right)

Company: NEC Home Electronics
Release Date: June 25, 1994
Retail Price: 29,800 yen

The Change that Turned the DUO From a Toy to a Luxury Item

Continuing on from last time, let's introduce a PC Engine series console that I had an extreme emotional attachment to.

At that point in time I really enjoyed playing games and using the PC Engine CD-ROM² (From now on it will be CD-ROM²) as my main console. However, there was a particular game console that I received quite a shock from.

It was the PC Engine DUO! (From now on it will be DUO)

The DUO's appearance had been thought out as an Adult-type Model.

I had already talked about it before (June 2011 issue); how stylish and cool the CD-ROM² was because it could be folded up to look like the cover of a suitcase. The DUO appeared to look like a comet. I was shocked how the stylish design was created so business men wouldn't feel embarrassed when carrying it around as they went to the office! Well, I've never been a business man but thats the kind of image that comes to my mind, and up until this point game consoles didn't have a glamorous feeling about them like the DUO did.

Speaking of which, there is a stereotype that "Game consoles = toys", but there are stylish items transformed for adults to enjoy when playing games too. So, this design raised the curtain of a new era. The appearance of the DUO had to have created a cross road in the game console industry.

It was shocking to see that the outer cover of the DUO was mat black. It was special because things like the Famicon and PC Engine were white consoles, so it felt more like an adult color. You could put it next to AV machinery and it wouldn't look out of place; it was the most stylish hardware design yet. Moreover, In proportion (?) it was priced at 59,800 yen making it even an adult price! With the price at 59,800 yen at that time it likely created a particularly large barrier for light users. This was honestly a weakness of it, but since the CD-ROM² was 57,800 yen and you still had to buy a Hu card in order to even play 1 game on the CD-ROM², you could also say the DUO had its benefits.

Let's go back to the face design. The DUO had a circular, light purple button on it. This was an original color scheme never seen before until then. In some respects you might even think it looks like a notebook computer with its black body and light purple color scheme, and you can't help but think of the SONY VAIO (Did they use the DUO as a reference?).

Then again, the CD-ROM² also made an impact with its green power switch, meaning they were constantly thinking about the direction of their design flow.

With such an extremely wonderful model, in 1991 the DUO received the Good Design award in the trade industry. Thats probably why I love talking about it so much. At that time it was a ground breaking design to some degree. Speaking of now days, doesn't it seem like we're turning into an Apple generation with simple yet beautiful designs?

The Shocking DUO R
The Inferiority of the DUO RX

By March 1993, one and a half years had passed since the DUO was brought out into the market, and following the trend the popular DUO R was released with a fresh white body. It resembled an iBook with its pure white design in an age where black PCs were at the height of prosperity. Even now the DUO closely resembles Apple. Speaking of which, the DUO R also received a Good Design award.

Then in June 1994, the even cheaper DUO RX was designed and brought out into the market! ……But it seems it didn't received a 3rd Good Design award. Maybe its because this is aimed at NEC, but honestly the first generation DUO concept was shocking, then in comparison when the contrasting pure white DUO R was released it also made an impact, so you can't deny the grey DUO RX was an unfavorable comparison. But in the first place, just as one would expect they were overdoing it by continuously running it, but essentially I guess thats something light players wouldn't have understood.

Enthusiastic fans like myself could buy a specialized PC Engine magazine every month to read a column about "Core ideas" so we could get a firm understanding. Naturally this is something that kept the DUO in the market.

Besides game consoles, there was no mistaking the NEC DUO series presented future design hints for future Notebook PCs. Concerning hardware design sense, it had to have been a big influence.

Footnote:

To my digression, in November 1994 when the popular version of the 3DO, the 3DO REAL 2 was released by Matsushita Electric Industrial, but when I saw its design I thought "They definitely stole from the DUO". Also, I announced it in the last issue, but its about half a month now until 「Fragments of Philosophy Chapter 5 Sacred Abyss Deep Sanctuary III」. I'm looking forward to everyone who is coming to Akasaka BLITZ on September 2. (Mana)

Translations by: Sarah @ Mana-Sama.net