Review by leeko_link
Reviewed: 12/23/08 | Updated: 08/03/12
A 32-Bit Upgrade of a Failure
The Sega 32X is one of the most powerful (unsuccessful) 32-Bit hardware to ever disgrace the hearts of videogaming. For one thing, it was the first cartridge based 32-Bit hardware to be able to handle 3D animations, special effects, and enhance graphics. It was one of Sega's most promising hardware to deliver the 32-Bit arcade videogame experience home. The only problem was, like the Sega CD before it, the Sega 32X itself is not a standalone hardware but an add-on itself and not surprisingly, it requires a Sega Genesis console in able to plug the add-on to it making the console itself, the Sega Genesis 32X. Now before I get into much of what the Sega 32X is all about, remember that I am treating this review as a product of its own and will be compare to other videogame add-on or product similar to it.
What You Are Getting and How's the Setup?
When you first bought your Sega 32X and open it out of its box, you'll realize several stuffs you'll need to do in able to start the 32X. First is the hardware itself which is in a blackish mushroom shape style design with a cartridge slot at the top and a Genesis connector at the bottom. Not only did you get the add-on but also a power adapter and a Genesis video connector cord which needs to be plug from the 32X add-on to the Sega Genesis console. One of the main complaint with the 32X setup is that despite it required the Sega Genesis console to run it, it would also need to use its own power adapter in addition to the Genesis own power adapter as well to make it work. That means that if you play the 32X from your Genesis using only your Genesis power adapter, only your Genesis console works but not the 32X; however, if you are to play the 32X with its own power adapter but not using the Genesis power adapter, only your 32X works but not your Genesis and without the Genesis power on, you can't power on the 32X anyways, so to be able to use the Sega 32X with your Sega Genesis, you had to plug in both hardware's power adapters otherwise the setup won't work.
How's the Visual Look using the Hardware?
If you had played any of the games in the Sega 32X library, you'll notice a few visual upgrades from either its 16-Bit counterparts or any similar games that comes close to them for example Mortal Kombat II for the 32X features more frames of animation, no more sprites limitation, some very sharper and more contrast color, and look cleaner in presentation. In the 3D side of things, it does handle its job fairly well, Virtua Fighter on the 32X though look a bit downgrade from its arcade counterpart but play just as good as the arcade game and it surely looks better than the rushed out Sega Saturn port. Unlike the Sega CD, the 32X is all about the games, so you'll likely never see any of those FMV stuff in a game unless if it required them such as Night Trap and Corpse Killer for the Sega CD 32X and load times are non-existence since it is still cartridge based.
How's the Sound System of the Hardware?
Not much if you are interest in stereo quality sound and music. Many of the soundtracks and musical tunes in some of the games for the 32X are down sample or had minor improvements from a 16-Bit Genesis title for example MKII on the 32X still used the Genesis MKII musics and sounds even though a few more were added to the 32X version, Doom on the other hand had music quality that can't even surpassed those featured in its 16-Bit SNES version. If you are looking for CD-quality musical scores for your Genesis, the Sega CD is still the only way to go despite having minor visual loss.
Does it Control Very Well?
Since it is play from the Genesis console after all, a Genesis controller (3-buttons or 6-buttons) is required so if you own the hardware and the Genesis console, there is practically no problem of not having a controller for play. There are no on-rail light gun games like Virtua Cop so you don't need a light gun for any of the games, also games that required steering wheels, paddles, mouse, power gloves, keypad, etc., are all non-existence here. The Genesis controller is the only control you'll use for the 32X and it's the only controller that works with the 32X and nothing else.
How's its Library of Games?
Not much of a massive number, the Sega 32X gaming library only reach about thirty plus games and not all games took advantage of the 32X hardware except for a few. Also if you love RPGs or on-rail shooters, than the Sega 32X might not be for you.
The Goods Things That Come Out of This Hardware:
If you bought a Sega 32X, then you had your wish of getting 32-Bit for your Genesis fulfilled. Just like what the box said, it's a 32-Bit upgrade for your Genesis. It had four times the power than a full 16-Bit console and it could be compare to those similar games you played at the mall. Mortal Kombat II, Virtua Racing Deluxe, After Burner Complete, Virtua Fighter, Star Wars Arcade, Doom, Primal Rage, and Space Harrier are all perfect examples.
The Really, Really, Bad Things That Come Out of This Hardware:
The truth is, the 32X is its own entity, the games that are available in its library are no difference from the rest of those already existed. For example Doom on the 32X had few less levels, features, and a weaker musical scores from the 16-Bit SNES version which had more levels, better music and sound despite the pixelated graphics. The other bad point is that despite the hardware is backward compatible with Genesis cartridges, one had to wonder why none of the 16-Bit cartridges got any minor or major improvements when plug into the Sega 32X. Some more contrast colors for Space Harrier II would have being nice, minor new frame of animations could have being added in some levels in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, heck the 32X could of at least add some sort of 3D special effects like a rotating camera or polygonal presentation for Virtua Fighter 2 but no, the 32X did nothing for the Sega Genesis games except for the purpose of just plugging the game there for play when you don't want to play the 32X games anymore. That's just not a good sign for the expensive add-on.
What Could This Product be Compare to?
If there's one product (from a competitor side of things) that I could compare this hardware to, it had to be the Super Game Boy. Just think of it, the Super Game Boy is an add-on just like the Sega 32X, for one it had the cartridge connector on the bottom for connecting to the SNES just like 32X had to connect to the Sega Genesis. Secondly, the Super Game Boy required a SNES console in able to use it just like the 32X required a Genesis console in able to use it and both add-ons are compatible with their console's main controller. Lastly, both add-ons had a cartridge slot at the top for playing their system's specific games. The only main differences are that unlike the Sega 32X, the Super Game Boy act as a cartridge and not another piece of hardware despite it had its own small cartridge slot for playing portable Game Boy games. Since it's in cartridge form it cost just as much as a regular SNES cartridge game which unlike the 32X cost as much as another console, it also required no separate power adapter as it share that with the SNES console and it took full advantage of all the Game Boy games that are compatible with the Super Game Boy unlike the 32X which only upgrade its own library but not the Genesis ones despite being backward compatible with all the 16-Bits games even though you could play them without the 32X on the same console.
It depends on if you really love to have those extra thirty plus games add to your Genesis collection. If you really want everything your Genesis could offer, then I see no reasons to not own a 32X for the games. Every 32X games plays the same way you play on the Genesis and most games like Space Harrier, Virtua Racing Deluxe, and After Burner Complete are actually worth it just for the 32X alone and they all offer great replayabilites value as well.
Is it Worth Buying?
Considering you got a Genesis console, then yes the Sega 32X might be worth your while. If you own a Genesis but hate the mushroom like design or the poor upgraded improvements or the expensive high prices (though they are rare and cheap nowadays) then you could probably skip it. The only thing that makes this 32-Bit add-on fail like it did is not the consumer but Sega, had the consumer not be waiting for the Sega Saturn or be tricked into buying the Sega CD, then the Sega 32X might be more of a success, also had it be its own standalone console would also help but as of today the Sega 32X is now another failure in the legacy of Sega's consoles history.
Product Release: Sega 32X Hardware (US, 11/21/94)
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