Fast forward to November of 1994. The Genesis was the hottest console around, and its 8-bit graphics were leaps and bounds better than the arcade-style graphics of the NES. However, it still lacked a certain segment of the hardcore video game community. In order to satiate those hardcore Genesis users, Sega went on to release the 32X add-on. Equipped with an 8-bit version of the Genesis’s sound chip, the 32X offered a great way to play Genesis games on a TV, without any of the blurry graphics and sound issues associated with the Genesis’s original, unified sound system.
The Sega 32X is an add-on card for the Sega Mega Drive that allows the console to play original Sega games, and add new games from the Mega CD. It’s a classic that’s been getting a lot of attention lately, especially on forums. But is it something you should buy, and is it as good as its reputation? Well, there are quite a few people out there who have one, so here’s my take on it.
Sure, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Nintendo (SNES) were the two best-selling video game consoles of all time. But they were also the two best-selling video game consoles for the wrong reasons. The NES was the best-selling console because of its simple, black and white graphics and its huge library of games, which came in the form of cartridges. The SNES was the best-selling console because of its expansive colors and advanced sound, which came in the form of the Super-Genesis cartridge. The PC-Engine was the only console that took those two features and combined them into one single platform, and that’s why it was the only console that combined the best of both worlds.
It is the month of January 1995. As electricity crackles through the air and the wind whips around the parked trucks, a ball of energy forms, and out of it emerges the Star Struck 800, sent back to find out what went wrong at Sega when the Sega 32x system was launched.
Is it more than simply an add-on?
The 32x was a Sega Megadrive add-on that connected directly into the cartridge slot, or rather, a metal plate was put into the Megadrive slot, followed by the 32x, oh, and a cable connecting the 32x to the Megadrive, and of course, it had its own power source!!
If you had the MegaCD connected, your electricity meter was probably spinning fast enough to cool down a small nation, and your Megadrive was emotionally pleading with you to let it die in peace, but Sega had other plans and were willing to prolong the agony of the once-great Megadrive.
You’ve got a system that’s devoid of games…
The Sega 32x console when released in Europe was £169.99 and was considered a cheaper alternative for people who wanted to play 32 bit gaming, now there was an issue with the price here it didn’t actually come with a game, where the Master system, Megadrive and even the MegaCD did. So a game would have to be purchased so this was going to cost you roughly £200-£210 in total considering the Mega cd came with a game at only £50 more not the cheap alternative Sega was offering really.
Was there a sufficient number of titles?
Another problem was the game collection, which included approximately 40 titles in total. Yes, you read that correctly, 40! We have redesigned versions of space Harrier, Afterburner, and Doom once again (Sega were literally clutching a straws for titles). Primal Rage, a classic arcade game with poor graphics and the worst controls ever, was poorly received, Doom, a game that should have ported seamlessly to the 32x, had control issues, and this was having a terrible effect on the add-on, and even Virtua Fighter, a game with a high polygon count (boy, were there some polygons), were all poorly received.
There was one game that could save the Sega 32x console from being discontinued, and that game was Star Wars. It had clunky graphics that were worse than the Megadrive, music that sounded like it was played by a school orchestra, and voice acting that sounded like the actors were chewing hard boiled sweets. Chaotix was highly received and was essentially a sonic game featuring the majority of the characters (with some new ones) from the series, but this was not enough to rescue this dreadful add-on.
So what was the issue here with lackluster titles, a small game library, and almost no third-party developers? The explanation is clear, if not incredible, and it still casts a pall over Sega’s marketing department. The Sega Saturn was launched in Japan in November 1994, and the 32x was released in Europe in January 1995. That’s right, there were just a few months between them, and the aftermath was as predictable as judgment day.
The Sega 32X system was doomed from the start.
The Sega 32x system was abandoned in 1996 and was dubbed a financial failure due to the fact that all developers shifted their attention to the Saturn, which doomed the 32x from the start, with just 665,000 units sold. Sega made a blunder by claiming that the 32x was a bridge between the Megadrive and the Saturn, making them appear greedy (in other words buy this while we work out how to sort this mess out).
Sega wanted to start hitting big and thought the Saturn would be the console to do it for them and replicate the success of the now-defunct Mega drive.
So, as our Star Struck 800 descends into the fiery abyss, carrying the MegaCD and 32x with him and all games for both systems tossed in after him to obliterate all trace of their existence, we gaze to the horizon, knowing that a storm is brewing once again for Sega.
The Sega 32X is now old news for many people in the gaming world, but in the summer of 1994, it was a hot topic. The 32X was the first console to provide an external add-on cartridge slot (piggybacking on the Genesis’s system design) and it was the first to offer true 32-bit gaming on a home console. It was also the last to be officially discontinued by Sega (it was sold until 1999 in Mexico).. Read more about sega 32x homebrew and let us know what you think.
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