The PC-FX held the promise of more shmups in the Soldier serie, PC Denjins and other Bombermans… Back in 92′ when The Tatsujin/Iron Man project was announced, it looked ground breaking, 3D graphics, morphing effects, bigger, better… Pictures (mock ups) of Super Star Soldier 3D, Kuma Soldier and Winds of Thunder flooded magazines, I was hooked.
Then came the announcement of the Saturn, PSX and other 32-bit (ish for some) of CD based consoles. It was the best of time, it felt like new systems were popping up everyday, 3D was the new buzz word, Virtua Racing/Fighter changed the arcade landscape, SEGA and Sony were leading the 3D pack.
Obviously I was expecting NEC and Hudson Soft to come up with a similar system, but instead the PC-FX was announced to launch without 3D capabilities and with a focus on Full Motion Video… So I passed and so did most people… It wasn’t until 2004 that I acquired my first PC-FX and then a few years later the PC-FXGA DOS/V.
So how does the PC-FX displays 3D graphics?
Well it doesn’t but the PC-FXGA does thanks to the HuC6273 chip present on the GA board. Now there were rumours that PowerVR were to design a 3D chip for the PC-FX and that Rave Racer from Namco was to be released. Well given the existence of the HuC6273 it’s obvious that NEC and Hudson Soft weren’t going to graft a new different tech to the PC-FX, especially since the HuC6273 was already included, tried and tested to work with the PC-FX architecture.
The Huc6273 (Aurora) was designed by Hudson and Kubota Corp, a tractor and heavy equipment manufacturer based in Osaka, Japan. In the 90s Kubota was cash rich and saw an opportunity in making workstations aimed at 3D graphics applications. Kubota joined forces with companies such as Stellar and Ardent, calling the company Stardent which later became Kubota Pacific, then Kubota Graphics and much more some of its staff morphed into a company called ATI 😉 (see: The History of Visual Magic in ComputersHow Beautiful Images are Made in CAD, 3D, VR and AR by John Peddie for more details on Kubota’s foray into 3D graphics)
A patent filed by ITAGAKI FUMIHIKO from Hudson Soft about this particular chip, I believe can be found here. The filing date of 22nd May 1995 seem to coincide well with the release date of the PC-FXGA which raises questions about the age of the chip design. Is it Tetsujin era or not? The mystery deepens.
So here it is in its full glory:
Performance: 100,000 polygons/sec, 10 million pixels/sec
Features: Flat shading, Gouraud shading, texture mapping
The 3D GPU that equips the FXGA (and should have equiped the PC-FX 3D Adapter) is a HuC6273, a custom chip developed by Hudson and Kubota Comps. Its technical specs are roughly in the same league as the N64 — about 100.000 polygons/s, 10.000.000 pixels/s, flat shading, Gouraud shading, texture mapping, 320×224 in 512 colours
Rumour has it that a 3D adapter that would plug into the bottom expansion slot was planned for the PC-FX. More rumours that Nec/Hudson would produce an adapter based on the PowerVR and that a port of Rave Racer would be produced. The PowerVR and Rave Racer rumours for the PC-FX are untrue. The PowerVR 3D adapter was released on PC and while a RaveRacer for PC was planed it was eventually cancelled.
Now regarding the existence of a 3D adapter for the PC-FX, my view, on the side, it’s only rumours and I’ve never seen a picture of a prototype. However the Huc6273 is very real thanks to the PC-FXGA, which led to to the question what would happen if I pop PC-FXGA software into a retail PC-FX?
Well the results were surprising… The console boots normally, the games start (SameGameFX and Nnyu) and you can hear sounds and even start a game but the screen remains black. I’ll probably need to do a video for proof. But it works!
It’s surprising and unsurprising that these games works, after all, why would they built/formated PC-FXGA differently to a PC-FX game if these are intended to run on a PC-FX with an extra chip? Surely the architecture is the same it just calls off a different chip to generate 3D graphics that doesn’t exist on a stock PC-FX hence the black screen.
It still begs the question could that rumoured 3D adapter be real? Could we build one? Dream on?