HuC6273 (Aurora)

HuC6273 (Aurora)

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 and it would launch without any 3D capabilities and with a focus on FMV based games… 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 display 3D graphics?

Well, it doesn’t but the PC-FXGA does thanks to the HuC6273 chip on the PC-FXGA board.

Now there were rumours that NEC+PowerVR were to design a 3D chip for the PC-FX and that Rave Racer from Namco was to be ported on the PC-FX. True or False?:

  1. Given the existence of the HuC6273 it’s obvious that NEC and Hudson Soft weren’t going to graft a different tech to the PC-FX, especially since the HuC6273 was already developed, tried and tested to work with the PC-FX architecture.
  2. The rumours were half true, actually something came out of NEC+PowerVR namely the PC 3D Engine Card. That card is simply a PCX-1 PowerVR chip slapped onto a PCI Board for Windows PC. Nothing really exciting as many similar cards came out in the mid-90s.
  3. A PC port of Raver Racer was in development and even demonstrated in 1996 but was later cancelled.

pc3debox

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 who was then acquired and the name disappeared. Rumour has it that some of its staff later founded a company that would become ATI!!! Small world… (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 patent 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 is HuC6273 aka Aurora in its full glory on PC-FXGA DOS/V and PC-FXGA PC-98:


HUC6273

HuC6273_01A

Huc6273 Specs:

Some say, 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. The existence of such a 3D adapter for the PC-FX in my view, is only a rumour. I have never seen any pictures of a prototype or evidence of a release date.

(source: The Vanamo Online Game Museum)

The Huc6273 however, is very real, we know that thanks to the PC-FXGA.

In my research on this mythical card, I did a little experiment, based on the fact:

  • The PC-FXGA is at the end of the day a PC-FX with extras.
  • All PC-FX games are compatible with the PC-FXGA

I presumed that PC-FXGA games released on CD should work on a stock PC-FX albeit without any graphic display.

Well, the results were interesting… The console boots normally, the games start off (both 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/unsurprising that these games works on a normal PC-FX, after all, why would have NEC/Hudson built/formatted PC-FXGA games differently to PC-FX games if these were intended to run on a PC-FX with an extra chip aka PC-FXGA. Surely the architecture is the same? Games would just call off a different chip to generate 3D graphics? HuC6273 being absent from a stock PC-FX, I get a black screen.

It still begs the question could that rumoured 3D adapter actually be real? Could we build one out of a PC-FXGA? Dream on?

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