Game Opinion Summaries: Sega 32X & 32X CD

Introduction

I started this list in 2010, and continued it in 2013, updating it with some thoughts on the games I’d gotten since making the original list.  Now I’m posting it here too, with one more review and some expanded thoughts for most of the games.  Even though the list is now longer than the old version, this is still by far my shortest of these Game Opinion Summaries lists; I have few games for the system, there aren’t many to get, and I didn’t write as much in 2010 in these lists as I would now. I expanded some of the reviews out, but others are still pretty short. But it’s the small collection, and small library, that are the main reasons, and also the main things that push people to not buy a 32X — the system has very few games for it. There are good reasons to get one anyway, though.

US box


System Overview

The 32X is the second, and final, major addon to the Sega Genesis. The Genesis is Sega’s best and most successful console, but its addons were not as popular, the 32X particularly. The last, and most powerful, 4th-gen video game console, the 32X was released in late 1994, and was a complete disaster. Perhaps one of Sega’s worst ideas ever, the 32X helped ruin Sega’s reputation when they abandoned it in favor of the Saturn only barely over six months after its release. The system only lasted 13 months, and has about 40 games total, a quite small library. However, despite this, Sega released some pretty good first-party titles on the system, and for the Sega, or Sega Genesis, fan, it’s almost a must-have, really. It is worse overall than the Sega CD, but actually might have more good action games from Sega itself than the SCD does.

The original idea for what became the 32X came from Sega of Japan, who wanted to make a Genesis that allowed for more colors than the Genesis’s too-limited palette. Sega of America heard about it and convinced them to instead work together on a more powerful addon that did not only add more colors, but also some fairly powerful processors as well. Contrary to some beliefs, the 32X actually was designed in probably one of the last moments where Sega of America and Sega of Japan were actually working together. Their divisions would soon help ruin them, but neither side realized how bad an idea a second, short-lifespan addon would be. Sega thought that the 32X would be a somewhat short-lived system that would last for a couple of years for people who wanted next-gen power but didn’t want to buy the expensive next-gen consoles yet. However, at $180 at launch, the 32X was somewhat pricey too, and it didn’t even initially come with a packin game. Generally, Sega believed that it was better to charge people once for an expensive addon than to put enhancement chips into every cartridge, as Nintendo was doing with the Super FX; only one Genesis game uses an enhancement chip. Unfortunately for Sega, Nintendo, while perhaps charging consumers more overall, proved to have the more successful strategy; consumers look first at the sticker price, rather than the total cost, and Sega’s addons were expensive. Nintendo made a point of saying how Donkey Kong Country didn’t need an addon to have “next-gen” graphics, and this was a winning argument to many people.

Interviews on Sega-16 (see Joe Miller’s, for example) have also said that the 32X was also supposed to help ease developers into dual-CPU development, because like the Saturn, the 32X has two processors. However, the 32X actually released shortly AFTER the Saturn first launched in Japan, so it was probably of limited use at best as a stepping stool for dual-CPU development. And anyway, even on Saturn, many developers never used the second processor, The 32X also has some enhanced audio capabilities that were virtually never used in its games. Graphically, 2d 32X games can look like Genesis games with more colors, but games which use its dual processors for polygonal 3d or sprite scaling and rotation show off what the 32X can really do. 32X 3d and sprite manipulation are easily the best of the generation! It’s all done in software, though; the 32X CPUs are just CPUs, and don’t have hardware polygon or sprite manipulation features for whatever reason. It all needed to be programmed in. In its short lifespan games did not max out the system’s capabilities. Of course, given that the 32X released after most of the 5th gen consoles, it should be expected to be powerful. It is.

Overall, despite its problems, I’m glad to have a 32X, and like some of the games. The colorful graphics of 32X games are great compared to the Genesis and Sega CD’s often dithered, color-poor visuals, and some of the polygonal and scaling-sprite games are good as well, and would be far worse on any other 4th gen platform, if they could be done at all. However, when thinking about the system, I can’t avoid the fact that it never should have been released. Releasing and then abandoning the system badly hurt Sega’s reputation in the US, and I don’t think they ever fully recovered from it. Sega made many mistakes between 1994 and 2000 that forced them out of the industry as a first party, but the 32X episode is near the top of the list. Sega (of Japan, particularly) abandoned the Sega CD a bit too soon, and scaled back Genesis support while it was still very successful in the US and Europe, while also releasing this new addon that they gave up on after only six months. Sega needed to either never release the 32X, or to support it solidly for a couple of years. What they did was the worst option by far, compared to either of those. I know Sega had stretched itself too thin in 1995 (they were supporting far too many consoles at once!), but abandoning the 32X, and the Genesis and Sega CD too, hurt Sega more than it helped it, because the decision hurt Sega’s standing with gamers, and also failed to get many people outside of Japan to buy Saturns.

Ah well, though, the 32X does exist, and that means that these games exist. And you need a 32X to play quite a few of them legally, too — Sega has never re-released any 32X games anywhere, not even in emulated collections, Virtual Console, or anything. That’s unfortunate, but owning an actual 32X might be worth it.

Favorite Games

1. Space Harrier
2. Shadow Squadron
3. V.R.: Virtua Racing Deluxe
4. Star Wars Arcade
5. Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000

Worst Game: Supreme Warrior

Changelog

2010 – List first posted online.
2011 – Knuckles Chaotix, Motocross Championship, and Virtua Fighter reviews added.
2013 – Cosmic Carnage, Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator, Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000, Slam City featuring Scottie Pippen (32X CD) reviews added.
2014 – Shadow Squadron review added, and I also reread and expanded most of the previous reviews, so they’re all at least somewhat better now.  I also wrote the new System Overview section and added at the beginning.
Notes

Table of Contents

Sega 32X Cartridges:

After Burner
Cosmic Carnage
Doom
Knuckles Chaotix
Metal Head
Mortal Kombat II
Motocross Championship
Shadow Squadron
Space Harrier
Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator
Star Wars Arcade
Tempo
Virtua Racing Deluxe
Virtua Fighter
Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000

Sega 32X CD Titles:

Fahrenheit (32XCD) (game is CD + 32XCD two-in-one)
Slam City with Scottie Pippen
Supreme Warrior

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Summaries: Cartridge Titles
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Notes: I list the cart games first, and 32X CD games second. 32X CD games require both the 32X and the Sega CD; there are only five or six games ever released for the format, and all are enhanced Sega CD FMV games. I have 15 carts and 3 CD games. Review formatting is the same as in all of my Game Opinion Summary-series lists.

Additionally, for 32X CD titles, “has saving (to system only)” means that the game does support saving to the Sega CD’s internal memory, but does not support saving directly to a Sega CD Backup RAM Cart. Unfortunately, all three of my 32X CD games are like this. Support the Backup RAM Cart, come on! The internal save memory is tiny!


After Burner

One player, no saving, 6-button controller support.  This is a good port of the arcade classic scaler-style rail shooter, the first good port of the game.  It does run at a lower framerate than the arcade game and is a little blockier, but it looks and plays great.  Now that there are perfect ports on the Saturn, Dreamcast, and PS2 this one doesn’t matter as much as it did when it came out, but still, it’s a very good port and it’s great to have — the Genesis scaler games were almost all awful.  As for the game itself, I do find After Burner to be somewhat annoying.  It’s just too random, you get hit by missiles that you couldn’t even see coming far too often.  I did manage to beat the game on Easy (when you get game over in this version you get sent well back, though, so the game is beatable.  The game is challenging, but fun more often than it is frustrating.  One reason to get this version over the later ports is that most newer versions of After Burner just have infinite continues from the stage you’re on, but on the 32X you have to go back to the last of the few checkpoint stages when you get a game over.  This makes the game harder and increases the replay value.  Still, the deaths are just too random for me to beat it on Normal.  I like Space Harrier more, in that game deaths are clearly your own fault, unlike After Burner.  Even so, overall After Burner Complete for the 32X is fast, smooth, and great looking.  It’s a very fun game, and despite the frustration factor because of how hard the missiles often are to dodge, the great sense of speed, constant action, and great graphics keep this game fun.  It’s too bad they didn’t make a 32X scaler racing game like Power Drive, Outrun, Turbo Outrun, or Outrunners, it’d have been just fantastic to have…  why only two rail shooters, and none of the racing games?  Both of the rail shooters are amazing, they should have continued this series!  Also, on a 6-button controller, you can use the Z button as a fire button.  That’s awesome, it’s kind of like a trigger. But beyond that, you want a 6 button controller for this game, it makes controlling your speed much easier.  After Burner is available on many platforms, but this was the best home version available at the time of its release.  Newer ports like the Saturn and Dreamcast versions are better, though.


Cosmic Carnage

Two player simultaneous, no saving, 6-button controller support.  Cosmic Carnage is a 2d fighting game from Sega.  This clearly wasn’t from one of Sega’s better teams, though, as Cosmic Carnage is a poor game.  This is a 2d side-view fighting game, but it makes use of the 32X hardware with scaling limbs galore.  Almost every time either fighter attacks, their arm or leg flies around in scaled ‘3d’, in order to show off the 32X’s sprite-scaling powers.  However, the gameplay of this somewhat Mortal Kombat-esque futuristic alien fighter’s not any good, and I’ve still only rarely played it.  This is a simple button-mashing-heavy fighting game.  Too simple.  I like that you can choose the light, medium, or heavy armor, customizing your character’s speed, defense, and look, and that armor pieces can be knocked off too, but the game doesn’t have anything else going for it unfortunately.  The fighting is kind of simplistic and lacks depth, controls are not great, and character designs are weird and also not great either.  Cosmic Carnage has a few fans, but I’m very much on the other side on this one.  32X exclusive.


Doom

One player, no saving, 6-button controller support.  32X Doom looks decent graphically and has a fairly smooth framerate, but features-wise is quite disappointing.  I like the SNES version, but this one… yes, the graphics are better than on the SNES, but some other things are seriously lacking.  First, 32X Doom has the fewest levels of any released version of Doom — it only has 17 levels.  The original PC game had 27.  The Jaguar version, which the 32X version is a port of, had 24, two of which were new, so it had 22 levels that were modified, geometry-reduced versions of the PC levels and two new ones.  The 32X version drops the whole third episode, all five levels of it, so it ends at the end of what would be episode 2 on the PC and SNES.  SNES Doom had 22 levels, though the five levels removed from that version are completely different from the five removed on the Jaguar and its ports — play both versions and you play all the PC version levels. In comparison to the Jaguar, the SNES version actually uses almost unmodified versions of the original levels, which is one reason I like it.  The PC game is from 1993, the Jaguar and 32X versions in 1994, the SNES and Playstation in 1995, the 3DO in 1996, the Saturn in 1997, and the GBA in 2001; except for the SNES, all of these console ports are conversions of the Jaguar version.  SNES Doom also has a fantastic soundtrack — the developers did a great job making SNES versions of the music.  On the 32X however, music is one of the game’s greatest weaknesses, While it does at least have music, unlike games like Jaguar Doom or Doom 64 which only have atmospheric sounds, the 32X version’s music is so pathetically awful in comparison to the PC or SNES music that it’s really sad and makes a big negative impact on the game.  The controls are as good as you can do on a 6-button Genesis controller, but the SNES does have better controls due to the shoulder buttons for strafing; normally I prefer the 6-button Genesis controller to the SNES controller, but in this case the shoulder buttons do make a difference.  Still, it works on a 6-button Genesis pad (not so much on 3 buttons though, but that’s common in 32X games).

So yes, the resolution is higher than SNES Doom, the visuals clearer, and the framerate better, but the levels are less accurate, the music is much worse, and the game isn’t a straight port of the PC game like SNES Doom is — Jaguar Doom and all its ports drop the level map between stages, the episode breakdown (so it’s just one “episode”), the between-episode story texts, and more, all things the SNES has.  Both versions only have a single facing for enemies, so they are always facing you and can’t turn and shoot at eachother and things like that, for space reasons on the carts. In 32X Doom you just have a level select at the main menu — you can start from any of the 15 main levels, flat out. The only ones you’ll have to work for are the two hidden levels.  SNES Doom had a somewhat annoying episode select system, and also had no saving, but the 32X’s solution is kind of lame really. The biggest problem, though, is definitely the lack of levels. Why is Episode III completely missing from this version?  It’s pretty sad, and really hurts the game a lot.  With the last third of the game this might be good, despite the terrible music.  Without it, it’s unacceptably broken.  Even so, 32X Doom does have two or three levels in it that are not in SNES Doom, which is nice, and the smooth gameplay is fun.  Also this cart is extremely common and cheap, probably the second most common 32X game after Star Wars Arcade, so most people with a 32X will probably end up with a copy at some point. It’s worth a try, even if it is disappointing — but don’t expect anything from the music!  Of the two 4th-gen console versions, though, more people seem to prefer this 32X version, but I definitely like the SNES version more.  On many platforms – PC, Mac, Saturn, SNES, PS1, GBA, Jaguar, 3DO, PS3 PSN, 360 XBLA, Xbox, and more.


Chaotix Bonus Stage

Knuckles Chaotix Bonus Stage

Knuckles Chaotix

Two player simultaneous, on-cart saving.  One of the most prominent games on the 32X, Knuckles Chaotix is a tough game to review, really.  On the one hand, Chaotix is a very disappointing game thanks to its barren and unfinished-feeling level designs.  But on the other hand, it has some of the most fun bonus stages in any Sonic game!  But first, the bad.  Levels in Chaotix are pitfall-free and enemy-light, and you will only very rarely actually die in a level in this game.  This is a somewhat slow-paced game, and has a full 25 stages, with 5 worlds of 5 levels each, so it’s longer than other classic Sonic games, and less fun.  To make things worse, you play through each group of levels in random order, so there isn’t much of a difficulty curve between the five worlds, only between the levels within each world.  You start with the five level 1 stages in the randomizer, and as you beat levels later ones replace the completed levels.  So, you will bounce around in difficulty based on random chance, and there are a full five long levels at each difficulty tier.  If the game was actually fun and even remotely challenging at the beginning this might work, but it is neither, unfortunately.  No game this easy and empty should have actually shipped!  How could you actually publish a game where many levels take 5-10 minutes to get through, but in all that time the only actual challenges that can damage you are a couple of very easy enemies and maybe a spike trap or two somewhere?  It’s ridiculous!  Also, Chaotix is mostly an entirely 2d game.  The bonus stages are polygonal 3d tubes, and look and play great, but in the main game, it’s very Genesis-like, but with more colors and occasional sprite scaling.  The main game probably could have been done on Genesis, with some cuts.

Central to Knuckles Chaotix are its unique controls, but they definitely take getting used to.  Perhaps the levels were designed as they are in order to make the controls less frustrating, but if so, perhaps they should have changed the controls too, as well as the level designs.  Chaotix is a much slower paced game than the 16-bit Sonic games due to the unique two-characters-connected design; at all times in the game, two characters are tied together by a bungie ring thing.  The game can be played co-op, but probably actually is more fun alone.  You control one, and drag the other around as an AI-controlled ally, though you can swap at will.  Having to constantly drag around the other character is the main thing which slows down this game.  You do have some abilities, though.  In addition to normal jumping, you can charge up and go flying around the screen in a direction you initially control.  This can be fun, and occasionally is useful in puzzles as well, though not often enough.  Also, far too often this just slows down the game even more.  You will often have to charge one of the characters for a few seconds just to get up a ramp.  All this really slows down the pace compared to the Genesis Sonic games, so levels will take quite a while to get through even if they probably aren’t actually longer than Genesis Sonic levels in actual size.  Another very poor decision is that you cannot select your partner, only the first player; your partner is randomized, just like the levels are.  You can try to get the partner you want, but it will take luck, and level selection is completely random.   The flat, and low, difficulty curve is the worst thing about this game.  It’s not all bad, though.  Enough 16-bit Sonic is in this game for it to be fun for a little while, and it certainly does look nice in that Genesis Sonic way.  Once you get used to the controls, flinging yourself around on the spring that connects your two characters can be pretty cool.  You really can toss yourself around, and exploring the levels is fun even if the challenge is quite lacking.  By far the best thing about the game, though, are those polygonal 3d bonus stages.  You run down a tube, collecting chaos emeralds and avoiding obstacles.  It’s a bit like a very early railed tube 3d platformer!  These levels are just awesome, and almost are worth playing the game just to see.  They should have made an entire game of just the bonus stages, and abandoned Chaotix’s main game for the batch of flawed ideas that it is.  Overall I do think Knuckles Chaotix’s negatives outweigh the positives, but the game’s not a total loss, and it is original and unique; I don’t know of any other games with the two-characters-connected design of Knuckles Chaotix.  32X exclusive.


Metal Head

One player, no saving, 6-button controller support.  Metal Head is a textured, 3d first person mech shooting game.  This is a simple game, but it is reasonably good for the time.  You walk around in a mech shooting enemies.  Each level is a mazelike web of streets, and you have to kill all the badguys and save the day with a variety of weapons.  The graphics are maybe the most impressive thing about this game — it is the only US-released 32X game with textured polygons, and is one of only two on the platform.  This game is well worth getting just to show off that the 32X can indeed do textured 3d!  However, while impressive for the system, the graphics definitely have aged a lot, and the gameplay is really only average. You walk around, shoot enemy vehicles, walk more, shoot more, and that’s about it.  Your walking speed is slow, but there is a run button to speed you around more quickly.  You do have mission objectives to accomplish in each stage, so you sometimes have to do something other than shoot, but usually the missions just involve going somewhere and killing the enemies along the way.  Still, it’s something.  The game can be a challenge, too; enemies quickly get tough, and there are a lot of them.  In the rectangular and somewhat mazelike levels, you travel on streets and corridors between the buildings, walls, or what have you that form the maze.  The on-screen minimap makes it easy to navigate.  I consider a good map to be pretty important to many kinds of gamers, and Metal Head’s is good.  It is great that it has a map, it makes it more fun than it would be otherwise.  Beyond that, do remember that run button.  Also, this is one of many 32X games that benefits greatly from the 6 button controller, and uses the buttons well.  You don’t want to play this on a 3 button controller if you have a choice.  Overall, Metal Head is okay, but not great.  It’s fun for a while, but has little depth or variety, and is quite dated.  Still, it’s cheap and decently fun, so get it if you have a 32X.  32X exclusive.


Mortal Kombat II

Two player, no saving, 6-button controller support.  MKII is a good game, and is my favorite game in the Mortal Kombat series.  This is a fine version of the game, on its own.  However, it’s just not that improved from the Genesis, and it’s debatable as to whether it’s even as good as SNES MKII.  And because of that, it is a little disappointing — people got the 32X for a sort of next-gen experience, but the games that didn’t use polygons often struggled to look much better than Genesis games, greater color use aside.  That was particularly true for games like this one that are quick ports of Genesis titles.  The developers of 32X MKII did add some things — there are more colors used in the characters than on the Genesis, there’s more blood in the backgrounds,  and a few more things, so this is the superior version of the game compared to the Genesis, but somehow, I’d expect more.  Still, MKII for the 32X is a fine version of a classic arcade fighting game, so it’s well worth having, particularly if you don’t have the Genesis or SNES versions of the game.  I’ve never liked actually playing Mortal Kombat games all that much, and am quite terrible at all of them, MKII included, but MKII has always been my favorite game in the series, and still is.  When I got the 32X I definitely wanted this, and it’s great to have it.  Also on many systems, including the Arcade, PC, Saturn, PS1 (Japan only), SNES, Genesis, Master System (Brazil only), Game Gear, and Game Boy.


Motocross Championship

Two player simultaneous, password save.  Motocross Championship is one of the three racing games on 32X. Unfortunately, while Virtua Racing Deluxe is an incredible game, the other two aren’t nearly as good.  Motocross Championship isn’t the worst game ever, but it’s not great.  The game is a subpar, repetitive game that few people truly like. I wasn’t expecting to like this, and I don’t really, but I really do like it more than I thought I would. Indeed, I was a bit pleasantly surprised with Motocross Championship; while the game is boring, it’s not nearly as bad as I was expecting.  Motocross Championship has sprite-based characters in 3d-ish tracks.  This game sort of feels like a semi-3d attempt at a linescroll game, because the tracks smoothly curve, and do not really seem to exist as a real 3d course like a true 3d track would.  I do like linescroll racing games, though, so that’s okay, and the obstacles are much bumpier than they would be in any 2d linescroll game.  The graphics are blocky, but do look okay.  Loaded with sprite scaling, this game could never run on the Genesis.  The game shows its age for sure, but for a 1995 game it’s not terrible, just a bit subpar.  The game’s also kind of fun, in a simple and repetitive way — all you need to do in the game is drive forward, make the turns, avoid obstacles that make you spin out, attack other drivers, and win.  It’s an easy game, as long as you don’t mess up; make a mistake and you will quickly fall behind, but learn the courses — this won’t take long — and you’ll do well without too much effort, in the easy difficulty at least. Obviously, it gets harder in the harder settings, but I’m not sure if the game is fun enough to be worth it. Still, for a simple, straightforward motocross racing game, there are plenty of worse options out there than Motocross Championship. Just don’t expect much depth or complexity, it doesn’t have it. It’s mindless, but I find it entertaining, even if it isn’t very good objectively.  Give it a try, you might be surprised too.  32X exclusive.


Shadow Squadron

Two player simultaneous, no saving, 6-button controller supported.  Shadow Squadron is Sega’s own attempt at a 3d space game, and sort of feels like a better followup to Star Wars Arcade (below).  Easily one of the best games on the 32X, Shadow Squadron is an absolute must-play for 32X owners!  The game really has only one negative, and that’s that it is a very short game, and doesn’t save.  Instead of having the long campaign that is standard to flight combat games, in Shadow Squadron you have a short but challenging series of missions to get through with limited continues.  Yes, this game is very arcadey in design, as expected from Sega.  Also, you have only one main weapon this game.  You’ve got a laser… and that’s about it, really.  Despite this, because of the various functions of the ship, a 6-button controller is very highly recommended!  This game would NOT be much fun without one.  The gameplay is great, though, so this issue really doesn’t matter much.  Shadow Squadron has good graphics, great controls, and great gameplay.  Graphically, as in Star Wars Arcade, the game is made up of shaded polygons.  Ships can be large, which is pretty cool.  Even better is that you can destroy everything!  Shoot at any enemy enough and they’ll blow up.  Enemy capital ships have many gun emplacements and sections to destroy separately, too.  Destroying enemy ships piece by piece is very satisfying and fun.  Perhaps the best thing about Shadow Squadron compared to Star Wars Arcade, though, are the controls.  While in that other game your ship controls like a barely-mobile flying brick, in Shadow Squadron it feels like you’re in a real fighter.  You can move around in 3d space with ease, flying around wherever you want.  It’s nothing like Star Wars Arcade’s incredibly restrictive nearly-railed flight that barely lets you move up and down in space.  Shadow Squadron is a challenging game, too.  It may be short, but this game can be tough, and you do have those limited continues!  And anyway, any game this incredibly fun has great replay value.  Anyone with any interest at all in flight combat games MUST play Shadow Squadron, as should anyone wanting to see one of the more impressive games on the 32X.  Never mind the 32X element, though; this game would be a lot of fun on any platform.  With good graphics, controls, and gameplay, Shadow Squadron has it all!  Very highly recommended.   32X exclusive.


Space Harrier

One player, no saving.  Space Harrier is a true classic, and one of my favorite rail shooters ever.  Space Harrier is a really cool, very Sega game with crazy environments and enemies, great ’80s Sega art design, fast and smooth gameplay, and rock-solid design.  In this game, when you die, and you will die a LOT, it’s your fault; you just need to be better next time.  With practice, those obstacles, and bullets can all be avoided.  Like After Burner, Space Harrier is a mid ’80s scaler game which finally got its first good home port on the 32X.  However, like After Burner, Space Harrier is also a game which isn’t arcade-perfect on 32X, but does have arcade-perfect releases on Saturn, Dreamcast, PS2, and Wii.  The Wii Virtual Arcade version even has motion-control aiming, which is awesome.  This 32X version is still really great, though.  It looks fantastic and plays really well; I’ve spent more time playing Space Harrier on the 32X than on any other platform.  This is a beautiful, and very addictive, game!  Also, like After Burner 32X, the game does make itself worth playing for fans because of the tough continue system.  Both games use a limited continue system where, when you get a game over, you can only continue from two or three points in the game, so you must beat six to eight levels without getting game over.  This is VERY challenging.  None of the later home ports of the games work like this, so it makes the 32X versions both harder and well worth a try.  And 32X Space Harrier is great, a near-perfect port of the game.  This really is a fantastic game, with a lot of levels, a difficulty level that is very high but is doable as you memorize the levels, bright, colorful visuals, that great art design, and more.  Space Harrier is a great game that is a lot of fun to play.  It’s hard, but worth it as you zoom along the color-filled stages, shooting a wide variety of crazy creatures and avoiding obstacles.  Just get used to hitting that fire button a lot, you’ll need to mash A (or B, or C, they all do the same thing) as fast as you can pretty much the whole time you’re playing. 🙂  This is my favorite 32X game.  It took a lot of practice, but I finally beat the game earlier this year!  It’s tough, but so, so worth it.  Outstanding title.  Also on Arcades, PC, Famicom, TG16, various other computers, Saturn, Dreamcast, etc.


Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator

Two player simultaneous, password save, 6-button controller support.  Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator is a version of Interplay’s first 3d Star Trek space flight sim.  No, not the later PC game Starfleet Academy, their little-known SNES one of this same title.  As the title suggests, you play as a Starfleet cadet, and the game takes place entirely in the Starfleet Academy’s training simulators.  It’s kind of odd that you never actually fight real battles in this game, but overall the concept works well enough.  It certainly gives the designers a good excuse for the constant combat, despite Star Trek’s somewhat less violent universe (most of the time) versus, for instance, Star Wars.  And yes, that JJ Abrams Trek ignores this is one reason I dislike those movies, but that’s another question.  This 32X version of the SNES original entirely redoes and enhances the graphics, and adds a few other features too.  In addition to the improved graphics, for instance, a pool (billiards) minigame has been added in the academy, accessible from the menus between missions.  It’s actually pretty fun; Interplay was good at making pool games, as their great Virtual Pool series showed.  The SNES version doesn’t have anything like that, and it’s a good, fun extra.  In-game, the SNES version was also a  polygonal game, as this one is, but the polygon models definitely look much better on the 32X.  Unfortunately everything is much darker than it was on SNES, so it can be harder to see things.  Increase the brightness on your TV or something, if you want to be able to see; I had trouble completing the first mission at first because I couldn’t see the buoys.

Apart from that though, this is a pretty good simple space combat game somewhat in the vein of Wing Commander.  Interplay’s Star Trek flight games never were all that complex, as even the later PC-only Starfleet Academy and Klingon Academy titles had simple, Wing Commander-esque gameplay, and this game is no different.  It’s somewhat disappointing that Interplay never tried to make a Star Trek answer to Totally Games’s exceptional Star Wars space sims, but still, for consoles in the mid ’90s, this is a solid effort.  While the combat system is simple, there is a bit more to this than Wing Commander outside of combat.  The game does have some variety, so you aren’t just shooting things all the time, appropriately enough for a Star Trek game.  The starship has various systems you control via menus connected to the various bridge stations.  These allow you to change radar ranges, hail other ships, change engine and weapon power, and more.  The game will take some getting used to, so take time to learn how the various stations work.  One key is the radar — set the radar mode for the one most appropriate for the current engagement.  While you’re not fighting all the time, combat is the main focus of the game, as you’d expect from a videogame, and having the right radar range for each engagement is vital if you want to see where the enemy is on the radar map.  Long-range radar will be utterly useless at finding things right nearby, for instance — this tripped me up for a while in the first mission, until I figured out how to switch modes.  Overall, though, this is a good, and quite under-rated, game.  It will take a bit of time to learn, but this isn’t a full sim, so stick with it and you will get the hang of it.  Combat itself is quite simple stuff, and the additional bridge systems add a nice level of depth.  The gameplay and missions are pretty good.  The game has a two-player splitscreen versus mode, too.  Each player chooses a ship, and then you fly around and try to shoot eachother down!  There is no bridge command element here, just fly around and shoot the other guy.  It’s great that there is a two player versus mode, because neither of Sega’s space flight combat games have that — they only do co-op stuff where player two just has a second cursor and that’s it.  Overall, Star Trek Starfleet Academy: Starship Bridge Simulator is a decently good game.  It’s not perfect, but try it out.   Enhanced SNES port.


Star Wars Arcade

Two player simultaneous, no saving.  Star Wars Arcade was a 32X launch title in the US, and it was the primary system-seller that system had in its first holiday season in 1994.  The game sold very well, almost 1:1 with the system in the US in holiday 1994.  As a result, it’s very common and cheap.  This is fortunate, because despite some flaws, Star Wars Arcade is a great game well worth getting.  I loved Star Wars, and this is Star Wars, playable in 3d!  Star Wars Arcade is an expanded port of the Sega arcade game of the same name, and is a 3d, shaded-polygon space flight combat game.  In addition to the original arcade game, there is also a mostly-new, and longer, Original mode available as well, so there are two missions to try to complete.  The additional content is welcome, because this would otherwise be a very short game with even less variety.  You control an X-Wing (single player) or a Y-Wing (2 player co-op, one player flies and the other shoots), destroying TIE Fighters, going over the Death Star surface, going through the Death Star trench and blowing it up, and more.  In TIE fighter missions, you have to shoot down a set number of TIEs within a tight time limit.  This can be difficult, but that’s as it should be.  Trench-run missions have you trying to get to the end.  These missions I like less.  There are several missions of each type, so the game has a little variety, even if most of the game is similar gameplay just in different settings as you progress… if you progress.  This is a hard game!  Despite that it’s a lot of fun.  However, it’s not perfect.  There are two major flaws in the game.  First, turning is very slow and stiff, and you have extremely limited up-down movement — for the most part you just turn left or right and fire.  It feels almost like you’re on a flat plane, not in space.  This is a little disappointing, space fighters do not handle like this.  The later 32X title Shadow Squadron had a vastly improved 3d flight system which did allow for full, acrobatic 3d flight, but Star Wars Arcade doesn’t have that at all, sadly.  Second, the trench missions are incredibly hard and frustrating.  To date, I haven’t managed to get through either the trench or “flying through the Super Star Destroyer’s superstructure” missions yet; the framerate seems lower, and the controls just are not good for flying through tight spaces like those.  I love this game despite its faults, but I wish that I could beat these missions!  It’s annoying.  They are some of the few places that the 32X really has framerate issues in games.  Despite the issues, though, Star Wars Arcade is a great game.  The Star Wars theme is great, with the classic music and setting, and the gameplay, through annoying at times, is mostly good.  Overall I like the game despite its flaws.  Arcade port, 32X exclusive on home consoles.


Tempo

One player, has password save.  Tempo is a Sega, 32X exclusive 2d platformer from the creator of Bonk that was published by Sega.  This is a very, VERY ’90s game where you play as an anthropomorphic bug who has to save the day from some evil villain guy, naturally.  You don’t have to rescue the girl at least, though; she helps you out once in a while, when you get an invincibility powerup.  The game has a “funky” theme which dates it even more.  It is a good, but not great game overall.  The game is a conventional 2d platformer in gameplay and design.  It’s a bit too slow-paced and simple, but is otherwise solid.  However, but as with many 2d 32X games, doesn’t really look like something that HAD to be on 32X.  The game does have cool-looking animated spinning and bouncing backgrounds, and more colors on screen than the Genesis can do, but otherwise, it’s pretty much a Genesis game.  Tempo has varied, colorful levels and settings for Tempo and his girlfriend to explore.  I’m not sure if the “funky” theme is painful or amusing, but it’s one or the other, for sure.  For gameplay, this is an average platformer; explore around the levels, jump on enemies, and find your way to the exit.  Unfortunately, Tempo is slow-paced compared to many other platformers, Sonic particularly, so don’t expect to be blazing around in this game; instead, you need to take your time and explore to find the many secrets and hidden items in each level.  Sadly the game does not have a save chip on the cart, so you need to write down passwords, which is pretty lame for a first party release.  Oh come on Sega, why were you so cheap?  At least it has the passwords; many Genesis games have no saving at all; but still, this should have had on-cart saving.  Overall Tempo is a decent platformer, worth considering. It’s not a great game, and I do think it’s a little disappointing as the game can get boring a bit too quickly and I don’t like the rap-ish musical theme much at all, but it’s alright.  It would be more fun with a faster pace, but is one of the better 32X platformers despite that.  Its sequel, Super Tempo on the Saturn is better than the first game.  It’s too bad that that game was Japan-only and is very expensive.  There’s also a Tempo Game Gear game, but it’s an incredibly simplistic and brain-dead easy kids’ game.  The 32X game is better than that one; see my review of that game for more on it.  32X exclusive.


Virtua Racing Deluxe

Two player simultaneous, no saving (US/EU), has on-cart saving (JP).  Virtua Racing Deluxe is a great polygonal 3d racing game, and one of the best games on the system.  The game uses shaded polygons and has a nice, stylistic look.  32X V.R. Deluxe is a vast improvement over the Genesis version, with more tracks, more cars, and much better graphics.  The game has five tracks, two of which are new and 32X exclusive (that’s right, they do not return in the Saturn or PS2 versions of the game), and three cars, two of which are new, and again don’t return in exactly the same form.  The game is very fun to play and challenging, and it does have a two player splitscreen mode too.  The framerate is solidly playable, the graphics look nice, it’s really fun.  The framerate is usually solid, but does drop a bit at certain points, particularly in the two new tracks.  Still, it’s entirely playable by any standard.  V.R. Deluxe is a great game.  All five tracks and all three car types are great.  The three cars handle quite differently, so playing the game with all three is rewarding — you have to relearn each track with each one.  That’s important in a game with content as limited as it is in this game.

On that note, content is the main downside to V.R. Deluxe.  The game doesn’t have any circuit or championship modes, only single races against the AI or a second player in two-player splitscreen.  Even worse, the American and European US and EU versions of the game do not save anything!  This was a terrible decision, to say the least.  This means that there’s little reason to play the game for any reason other than what you can invent in your head, because nothing is saved and all you can do is play single races, setting best times which will vanish when you turn the system off.  The Japanese version does have a save chip in it and will save your times, but it’s region-locked so you’ll need a modded Genesis, or a Japanese Megadrive, to play it.  Argh.  If/when I get such a setup I’ll definitely get a Japanese copy of the game, because it’d be fantastic to play a version of this game with saving!  That would make this game much better.  As it is it’s an outstanding game, but with that it’d be really great.  Still, this is my second favorite 32X game after Space Harrier.  The controls are as good as d-pad racing game controls will get, the graphics are great, and the gameplay’s even better.  Just get a modded system and import the Japanese version, or otherwise write down those times.  V.R. Deluxe is fantastic and one of the best games on the 32X.  Other versions of Virtua Racing, each with somewhat different feature sets and tracks, are on the Arcade, Genesis, Saturn, and PlayStation II.  Of the home ports, only the Genesis has just the arcade content; the 32X, Saturn, and PS2 each have exclusive tracks and modes not present in the other two.  The 32X version is the most popular one, though I do also like the unpopular Saturn version.


Virtua Fighter

Two player simultaneous, no saving, has 6-button controller support.  Virtua Fighter is a solid port of the popular Sega arcade title of the same name.  This game was Sega of Japan’s last first-party title for the 32X, and they went out with a port of one of their most popular games of the time.  I’ve never liked the first two Virtua Fighter games very much, though.  I find them boring, limited because movement is only 2d since there is no 3d movement, and dated.  The only 3d movement in this game are shifts done by certain attacks, a system I quite dislike; let me just move around my opponent already!  I didn’t have any interest in the Virtua Fighter games in the ’90s, and my interest is even lower now.  VF4 and VF5 are okay, if a bit boring, but the first two games have not aged well, in my opinion.  Also, I’ve always preferred the more over-the-top style of games like Street Fighter, so the more realistic style of Virtua Fighter doesn’t attract me either.  I miss fireballs and such, here…:)  As far as Virtua Fighter goes, though, this is a decently good port.  This version is often compared to the first Saturn version, and it does compare decently to that release, even besting it in a few ways, but in fact this 32X version released after the Remix version for Saturn — this released in the second half of 1995, and was in fact Sega of Japan’s only internally-developed 32X release in the second half of the year.  Yeah, they abandoned the 32X quickly.  Still though, Sega did know a popular one to go out on, and Virtua Fighter for 32X did well, considering the state the 32X was in when it released.  The graphics are good, first.  The resolution is lower than on Saturn, but it’s quite playable, and the framerate is fine.  The game speed and playability are about the same as ever, so it holds up there compared to the other versions.  The graphics are a little weaker, but still, it looks good.  My main complaint is that this game doesn’t support saving, so your scores and such aren’t saved unless you write them down.  All of the other versions of VF1 have saving, so that is unfortunate.  Oh, this is a 3-button game of course, but it supports the 6-button controller for a mode where you use A, Y, and Z for the controls, to mimic a layout more like the shape of the arcade cabinet’s buttons.  Overall, Virtua Fighter is a fine version of a game I find slow, boring, and incredibly dated.  It can be amusing for a short while, though, anyway, and it is a good show of the hardware.  Also on Arcades, Saturn, PC, and PS2 (Japan only).


Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000

Two player simultaneous (versus only), no saving.  Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000, titled Motherbase in Europe and Parasquad in Japan, is an isometric 2.5d shmup that plays like Viewpoint with an enemy-takeover feature.  BlaZeon on the SNES, from a few years before this game, also had an enemy takeover ability.  Unlike that game, though, in Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000 you can take over most enemy ships, not only specific ones.  Graphically, this game has polygonal ships flying over pre-rendered 2d backgrounds.  Just like in Zaxxon or Viewpoint, the game plays at an isometric angle.  However, this game is 2d in gameplay.  Even though Zaxxon was put in the title for the US release, apart from the isometric viewpoint and general genre, this game is nothing like Zaxxon.  Zaxxon was a 3d game, most notably, with height as well as depth; Motherbase, however, is played on a 2d plane.  I’m okay with that, myself.  I really love both Zaxxon and Viewpoint, so I was hoping to like this game, and I do!  Really, this is a pretty good shmup.  Motherbase is an oft-criticized game, but I think that it is better than the criticism suggests.  While this is certainly not one of the best shmups ever, it is a good game that shmup fans should try.  Motherbase may be the second-best of the 32X’s two shmups, behind Kolibri, but it’s not nearly as bad as you sometimes hear.  Motherbase is a challenging game, loaded with enemies, obstacles, and waves of bullets to dodge.  The enemy takeover mechanic keeps things interesting, and trying out the different enemies can be quite fun.  The game has multiplayer, too, though it’s a somewhat odd versus mode, instead of the usual co-op.  Still, it’s worth a try.  The game does have issues, though, such as some slowdown, and those polygon ships do stand out from the prerendered backgrounds; you can tell that it’s not an entirely 3d game.  The game is also very, very difficult — getting even a few levels into this game is a real accomplishment, and you have limited continues, unlike the Genesis version of Viewpoint (on Easy).  Also, some people might dislike how long the levels are, though I don’t mind, as long as I stay alive that is.  Overall, however, Motherbase is a good game that I come back to.  The enemy-takeover mechanic is a good one and works well; it’s fun to take over the various enemies and use their weapons.  The game is hard but somewhat fair, too, as memorization will pay off richly.  The waves of enemy fire, particularly in boss fights, can be borderline unfair sometimes, but you can get through them with practice.  Overall, I like Motherbase.  It’s a good shooter.  This game is particularly recommended for Viewpoint fans!  32X exclusive.


Summaries: 32X CD Titles

Fahrenheit (32X CD version)

One player, has saving (to system only).  Fahrenheit is a live-action video FMV game which includes both Sega Cd and 32XCD versions in the box. The 32XCD version has much better video quality and many more colors in the video, as you’d expect. The six 32XCD games are all FMV titles that use the 32X for better video, and it makes a real difference — the Sega CD’s tight color limit was a big problem, and the difference is huge. As for the games though, they’re still live-action-video FMV games, so don’t expect much.  Of my three 32X  CD games this is the best one, but it is a very frustrating game I have never managed to stick with for long. In Fahrenheit you are a firefighter going into burning buildings, trying to find people to rescue and dangerous objects to remove. You have a time limit based on your air supply, and lose air when you trigger dangers or gain it when you rescue people. The game is first person, and you go between screens with the arrows then look around and choose what to interact with. Now, as I said, some things will damage you, while others will help you.  Sometimes you should be able to guess which things you should interact with and which you should avoid because in a fire they are dangerous, but other times it’s pretty much just chance and memorization that might get you through.  It’s kind of frustrating and random, the game involves a lot of memorization. The levels are mazes which are pretty confusing to navigate.  The later levels are huge and extremely complex, but even the first, simple level can be a little confusing because of the first-person perspective and how it can be hard to remember exactly what is in each direction at all times.  There are maps of all three stages in the manual, and looking at them in the pictures makes it seem like they should be easy to get through, but in the actual game it’s very difficult and frustrating!  This game is very, very memorization-heavy in where you should be going, as well as what you should be interacting with (or not) on each screen.  The second and third levels increase in size on the higher difficulty settings, so at least they do make it a little easier to deal with if you play on Easy.  Despite the frustration though, for an FMV game, Fahrenheit’s not bad. Hard, but not bad.  Also on Sega CD; both are included in the case.


Slam City with Scottie Pippen

One player, has saving (to system only).  Slam City is an FMV basketball game from Digital Pictures.  This game comes on four CDs, but it’s four CDs of awful gameplay.  Slam City does look nice; the 32X CD’s color is great, this is a huge improvement visually over regular Sega CD games!  However, while Slam City is more playable than Supreme Warrior (below), it’s also a bad game and is not worth your time unless you’re looking for some great examples of how unplayable and lacking in fun FMV games really were.  In the game, you can move your player around the court.  Unlike Supreme Warrior, you do actually have control over your movement in this game, which is great.  Actions are somewhat limited by the FMV, though — you can’t just play basketball, of course, it’s puzzle and memorization-centric as usual from Digital Pictures FMV games.  Your opponent is a video clip in the background, sort of like Supreme Warrior.  The challenge is that trying to figure out when you should shoot, block, or move around is incredibly hard.  You need to memorize what buttons work with the opponent in each state, pretty much.  Don’t bother shooting unless the right enemy animation is playing in the background, learn to block when they’re showing signs of making a shot, and such.  It’s very frustrating and feels nothing like actual basketball, or a normal sports game either.  After a few minutes of this FMV “basketball” and I pretty much had enough.  This is a bad, bad game, but at least it’s not quite as awful as the next game…  Also on Sega CD.


Supreme Warrior

One player, has saving (to system only), has 6-button controller support.  Supreme Warrior is an utterly abysmal, atrocious two-CD FMV fighting game from Digital Pictures that’s so bad that even by the incredibly low standards of Sega CD FMV games, it’s a bad game.  The high-quality colorful video of the 32X CD gives the game a good first impression, but as soon as the actual gameplay starts and what the game actually is is revealed, that quickly fades away.  Supreme Warrior is, as the name might suggest, a fighting game.  The game is a first person fighting game where your opponent moves around in front of you while you try to use your attacks to hit them.  You cannot move yourself, only watch the enemy move around, and try to memorize when they are vulnerable to one of your attacks, and when to block one of their attacks.  It’s miserably annoying to actually play.  If you do want to play it have a six button controller, the game uses all six face buttons and is even less playable without one.  You’ve got a block and various different kinds of attacks.  Reading the manual is absolutely essential to learning how to play the game.  The moves are not listed in the game and you must know them well, so read the commands in the manual and practice them if you want to get anywhere, because the enemies are brutal.  Honestly, I haven’t beaten the first fight yet, and I don’t know if I ever will.  The learning curve to figuring out how to not lose is high, and the game is so incredibly unfun that it doesn’t give me any kind of a reason to want to even consider spending that time.  It’s a very frustrating game where the enemy moves around in front of you doing stuff while you press buttons trying to figure out what in the world you’re supposed to be doing… and supposedly, even if you do figure it out, it’s still not fun.  Don’t bother with this game, it’s very, very bad.  This is one of the worst games I own for the Genesis or any of its addons.  Also on Sega CD, PC, and 3DO.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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