The 2 April 2020 of Weekly Famitsu includes an interview regarding the PC Engine Mini with development director Yoshimuro Jun of Konami Digital Entertainment, in which he discusses the work that went into making the PCE Mini happen.
Also see: PC Engine Mini – Hardware Review
Yoshimuro says that development on the PCE Mini began in 2018, when mini consoles and retro games were getting more focus. Konami had inherited the rights to the PC Engine, and the PCE Mini was born because they wanted people to find out more about the great games on it, many of which were made by Konami and Hudson.
The decision to make different versions for North America and Europe came early on, and when the first mock-ups for the console were made via 3D printer, they did all three versions.
The PCE Mini is 85% the size of the original PC Engine, and when the interviewer asks Yoshimuro why they went with this size, he says that it was to make it fit perfectly in the palm of one’s hand. They could have reduced it to 50% the original size, but Yoshimuro says that that would have made it look more like a toy than a game console, and also out of place alongside mini consoles made by other companies.
The interviewer points out that at its current size, pulling on the controller might have the console move, and Yoshimuro says that Hori, which manufactured the console, made the controller cables longer than usual to accomodate for this. Most controller cables are 1.5m long, but the PCE Mini’s are 3m. This is far longer than what is shown on the front of the console’s box: They prioritised having the box look like the original PC Engine’s.
Next, the interviewer asks Yoshimuro what difficulties they encountered in development. Yoshimuro says that while they did already have some knowhow on how to run emulators on existing platforms, designing a new console from the board up was a first for them, and they had trouble figuring out how to design the board and get emulators running on them. They did not have blueprints, and so talked to the PCE’s original developers and looked at the original hardware while working on the PCE Mini.
It is pointed out how while the HuCard lock exists on the PCE Mini, the slot doesn’t, and Yoshimuro says that while some thought that they ought to include the slot, this would have resulted in the console being less durable, and it would also result in dust buildup. He also says that the click of the HuCard lock did not initially feel right, and they put a lot of work into making it do so. Yoshimuro says that they also put effort into replicating the original PCE’s colour: Not pure white, but slightly cream-coloured.
While they put effort into making the console looking as close to the original as possible, however, the controller is made to be different on purpose. Hori originally measured the feel of the original PCE’s buttons and made a controller that felt exactly the same, but people who are used to contemporary game console controllers felt uncomfortable with it. In the end, Hori used their latest knowhow and technology to make a more contemporary controller.
When asked about how they decided on what games should be included in the console, Yoshimuro says that it was done based internal discussions, opinions from old PC Engine developers, and customer surveys. The number of titles kept going up, and there were a few that were added at the last minute due to survey results.
Initially, they were going to include different lineups entirely for each version of the console, with each region getting its own games. However, since many Japanese players had never played the non-Japanese versions of the games, and many foreign players had not played the Japanese versions of the games, they felt that they wanted players to be able to try out games from other regions.
The interviewer points out how some games have two versions included, and Yoshimuro says that this was based on popularity, rights, space on the console, and time. He also notes that the two versions of Ys I・II (Ys Book I&II) are very different, with the game balance and boss difficulty made harder, and says that he wanted Japanese players to have a chance to try out the overseas version of the game as it had won many awards.
Yoshimuro is asks if there were other titles he wanted to include, and he says that if limited to Konami titles, he wanted to include Martial Champion, Detana!! Twinbee, and Parodius. Parodius in particular was not included because it required things to be changed, but is one of the shooting games using the biggest 8MB HuCard, and he says that if there is a next time he would like to include it. From Hudson, he lists Tengai Makyo ZIRIA, Tengai Makyo Fuun Kabuki-den, Momotaro Densetsu, as well as Final Soldier which was a title used at Hudson’s All-Japan Caravan competitions.
When working on the games, they looked at footage of the originals and did their best to make the games work like the original versions as much as possible, including issues such as flickering sprites due to insufficient processing power.
There are a few exceptions where they had to make changes, but these were mainly due to rights issues or current standards regarding photosensitivity. Yoshimuro says that they did their best to include as many titles wanted by everyone, developers included. as possible.
The PCE Mini also uses five different emulators for the five different kinds of games it runs: HuCard, SuperGrafx, CD-ROM2, Super CD-ROM2, and Arcade Card. Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire is the only game on the PCE Mini that used an Arcade Card, meaning that the emulator is for it and it only. Though the five types of games may all run on the same base PCE, they have different memory management methods and used different regions of the system.
Another change made was with pressing the run and select buttons at the same time, which calls up the menu on the PCE Mini but was a reset function on the original PCE. They had to make modifications to all of the games on the PCE Mini to remove this function, and in cases where games had cheats making use of the reset function, make substitute versions of the cheats.
Yoshimuro says that they basically remade each game for the Mini, and while they did consult the original developers in some cases, in most they broke down and analysed the programs and graphics and and remade them based on how they worked on the PCE.
In the case of Ys I・II, the game’s original developers requested that they make changes to things such as the area displayed, which they had wanted to do with the original but could not.
They had to make numerous other adjustments to games as well: For example the original PCE only had one controller port, while the PCE Mini has two, so they had to make adjustments to games to accomodate for what happens when the player plugs the controller into the bottom port, or when they use multi-taps to connect six controllers to the console. This meant that they could not simply just add a game immediately just because they got the rights to it.
The interview concludes with Yoshimuro being asked for a message for PC Engine fans. He says that the PCE Mini is filled with the memories from 33 years ago, and that he hopes that fans are able to experience them again with their own hands. Also, some of the titles included on the Mini have successors to this day, and he says that this is a good chance to compare the current and original entries. Finally, he says that while this depends on the needs of the fans, they hope to be able to make a second Mini console with more games.
The PC Engine Mini was released in Japan on 19 March 2020. The Turbografx-16 Mini and CoreGrafx Mini, which were scheduled for releases in North America and Europe respectively on 19 March 2020, have been delayed due to influence from the coronavirus pandemic. New release dates have not been scheduled yet.