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The Sega 32X: Not As Bad As They Say
When the 32X was first announced I looked forward to what the new add on could do for the Genesis. My first impression was it would increase the graphics performance of my existing games, even though common sense told me that would be impossible. I was excited to see the previews of the upcoming titles for the 32X. The games had way more colors, they had sprites that could scale and rotate, and some of the games could perform simple 3D operations. Although the Saturn would eventually be released not too long after, I felt the 32X would be a more affordable option for myself and most gamers alike, as it was an upgrade rather than a new system.
Not too long after the 32X was unveiled did Sega showcase two games that caught my attention – Sonic the Hedgehog and Ecco the Dolphin. Those two games alone were in my mind the killer app of the 32X. Sega could not go wrong releasing a new Sonic or Ecco as the previous games were well polished, and fun to play. Unfortunately both games would be a tease, never to be released with the exception of Sonic 32X which eventually became Knuckles Chaotix. Sega dropped the ball by not releasing new versions of their hit games for the 32X, and they would continue to do the same with the Saturn. In my mind both the Saturn and 32X failed because of a lack of a killer app. Sure the Saturn had a few great games, but none of them wow’ed players like the original Sonic the Hedgehog would. When the Sega Genesis first arrived on the market, I had no interest in the console even though it offered arcade quality games geared toward an older audience. It wasn’t until Sega introduced Sonic the Hedgehog that the Genesis would grab my attention. Sega would eventually get it right by releasing a new Sonic the Hedgehog, and Ecco the Dolphin for the Dreamcast, but by then it was too late as Sega’s fan base wasn’t falling for their antics a second time.
Why would anyone want the 32X over the Sega Saturn? When analyzing the technical specs, the 32X made more sense. The 32X had the same processors as the Sega Saturn; two SH-2 32-bit RISC processors running at 23 Mhz (slightly slower than the Sega Saturn). The main difference between the Saturn and 32X was the dual video display processors (VDP), which allowed the Saturn to display a wide array of texture mapped polygons. If the 32X were to display polygons it would have to sacrifice performance from one of it’s processors to achieve it. Although the 32X lacked dual VDP’s it would not be at a disadvantage. Combined with the power of the Sega Genesis and Sega CD, I felt the 32X could have achieved more with the two extra 16-bit 68000 processors at it’s disposal. Multiple processors didn’t necessarily mean more power, as was the case with the Sega Saturn. The Sega Saturn was doomed in a large part by developers not knowing how to utilize it’s multiple processors. We’ll never know what the 32X CD could have achieved unless some homebrew developer creates a tech demonstration to prove my point.
The 32X was a financial failure for Sega, as gamers and developers alike looked to the Saturn for their 32-bit experience. Sega had high hopes for the 32X as there were plans to release an all in one Genesis 32X console called the Sega Neptune. The 32X managed to deliver a small library of decent games, some of which are pretty hard to find. To prove my point, lets take a look at a few of my favorite 32X games with a little bit of information about each.
Knuckles Chaotix began life as Sonic Crackers, a prototype initially developed for the Sega Genesis. Sonic Crackers was one in many prototypes Sega worked on in hopes of producing the next big Sonic the Hedgehog game. After Sonic and Knuckles was released, Sega had a hard time trying to recapture the formula that made the previous Sonic the Hedgehog games great. Knuckles Chaotix is an example of what happens when Sega deviates from the traditional formula.
A great game in it’s own right, Knuckles Chaotix defeats the fast paced game play of other Sonic games by tethering the player to a second character – whom you must assist through the level. As a single player game Knuckles Chaotix lacks, but with a second player it’s somewhat better than any other Sonic game, as the second player becomes more involved. Each level is filled with puzzles that must be solved by taking advantage of the tethering system. The player will constantly make use of their tethered teammate, working together to unlock passages and fight bosses.
Visually, Knuckles Choatix is one of the best looking games on the 32X, taking full advantage of the 32,000 on screen colors. What I love about the game is how characters and enemies will scale in and out of view, and how some platforms burst into small particles after jumping on them. There are a lot of characters to play as, each of which have some sort of special ability. The reintroduction of Sonic CD’s Metal Sonic makes for a great boss players can looking forward to defeating.
I don’t know how, but for some reason when I first seen the box for this game I had a feeling it was linked to Ecco the Dolphin. Kolibri was created by Ed Annunziatta who also created Ecco the Dolphin. Kolibri is one of the last games developed by Novotrade International (before they became Appaloosa Interactive). The game is about a hummingbird who must shoot his way through an invasive insect swarm that seek to destroy the entire planet. The game has been hailed by Penny Arcade as “arguably the finest hummingbird based shooter on the 32X“. Unlike other games in the classic shooter genre, Kolibri can roam around freely, acquiring power ups that extend his weapons capability. The game shares many characteristics with Ecco the Dolphin, including great music, and visually stunning level and character artwork.
Spider-man Web of Fire
Spider-man Web of Fire was one of the last games produced for the 32X. With a rumored 1,500 cartridges in circulation it’s extremely hard to find. Developed by Blue Sky, Spider-man is a frustrating game with graphic visuals that will keep the player going. It is notorious for having a first level boss that is nearly impossible to beat. The goal of the game is to help Spider-man through 6 stages, each protected by a member of the New Enforcers. When all of the New Enforcers are defeated, the electrical grid over the sky will cease to be, freeing the people of New York.
A group of alien prisoners stranded in space fight over a space pod, which one of them must reach to survive. Cosmic Carnage is a fighting game that’s rich in color and strong in special effects. It’s the only 2D fighting game I can think of that makes use of scaling and rotating sprites.
Virtua Fighter 32X
Love it or Hate it, Virtua Fighter for the 32X was a surprise when I first learned of it’s existence. I was impressed by the graphics, which spoke for themselves as to what the 32X could produce. Many people will argue that the graphics in this game are awful, but some could say the same about the graphics in StarFox for the SNES. Given the system StarFox was designed for it was a technological feat, which is why Virtua Fighter 32X deserves some credit. Strange to say, this has to be one of the better ports of Virtua Fighter, with Levi Buchanan of IGN proclaiming it as better than the Sega Saturn version…Wait What?!