The Sega CD flopped for a number of reasons, but at the very least it showed some forward thinking - Sega clearly knew that cartridges were likely to be phased out soon and that the multimedia capabilities of the CD medium were going to add a lot to the world of gaming, and they wanted to get on the bandwagon early even if the tech wasn't quite there yet. Which is why it's especially baffling that, rather than simply cut their losses and focus their efforts on a strong showing with the next generation of consoles, they made another Genesis addon that went back to using cartridges in a last-ditch effort to outdo the Super Nintendo. The idea at least wasn't totally wrong-headed - it may have worked if it came out in early 1992 or thereabouts and was integrated into the console for a reasonable increase in price (a la the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X), but being pushed out the door six months before the Saturn launched gave it no chance of getting a foothold whatsoever. Simply put, it's one of the dumbest things Sega has ever done; even moreso when one remembers that Sega also botched the Saturn's launch by pushing it out the door four months ahead of its originally scheduled debut (and for $100 more than the Playstation), which meant that you only had six lackluster launch titles to play while you waited at least four months for ANY third party titles to arrive. However, being a fan of obscure and comically wrong-headed hardware, the Sega 32X has always held a bit of a special place for me. So, let's count down what I consider to be the best games on the platform and see if we can find some redemption for this mostly-neglected piece of tech.
10. Cosmic Carnage (Almanic Corporation, 1994)
9. Tempo (Sega/Red Company, 1995)rap to introduce you to the character. If Tempo played as good as it looked and sounded it might just have been a new flagship franchise for Sega, but sadly it never really got much tailwind even with three games under its belt.
6. Virtua Fighter (Sega AM2, 1995)
5. Kolibri (Novotrade International, 1995)
4. Knuckles' Chaotix (Sega, 1995)
3. Virtua Racing Deluxe (Sega, 1994)
2. Blackthorne (Blizzard Entertainment, 1995)well, mostly), and Blackthorne on the 32X is no exception.
Sega touted the 32X as an upgrade that would turn the Genesis into a "home arcade system." While that claim was met with ports of varying quality (mostly falling on the "mediocre to bad" end of the scale), Space Harrier managed to deliver a truly arcade-perfect experience. Buttery-smooth, sprite-based action in a surreal universe that combined flying stone heads, dragons, robots and vast fields and caves full of stone pillars and spinning orbs for you to crash into and blow up with your giant flying cannon-rocket. And then you get to ride on Falkor and blow up trees for bonus points. Great fun, and one of the few truly worthwhile games for the ill-fated add on.
And now, my thoughts on a few of the many games that were planned for release but canceled owing to the platform's quick demise:
Clayfighter 2 - This could have been pretty cool, with higher-res graphics and more animation frames than the SNES version and maybe restoring the cut character of Lucy the Gorilla. Sadly it didn't get far into development before it was canned, though an early prototype was dumped to the internet some time ago.
Ecco the Dolphin - All that's been seen of this one is a Cinepak demo showing Ecco leaping through the logo. Was it to tease a port? A remake? A third entry in the series? We may never know.
Elite - Presumably a port of the classic PC game, but with shaded 3D models instead of wire frames? That could have been neat. A next generation upgrade a la Silpheed on the Sega CD.
Garfield: Caught in the Act - This one was on Genesis and Game Gear, and even saw a version on the Sega Channel that added in some new levels; however, they were never given a standalone release (or even included in the later PC ports). Maybe they would have been in the 32X version; no way to know for sure, though.
Legend of Oasis - This one did eventually get ported to the Saturn, though its animation quality and gameplay could have worked on either platform. Still, it would have given the 32X a bit more competitive edge against games like Zelda, Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma.
Rayman - This would have been a perfect fit - Tempo already proved the 32X could do colorful backdrops and smooth 2D animation flawlessly. It was later released on the Saturn, of course, but to see it on a cartridge in 1995 would have been pretty mind blowing.
Segasonic the Hedgehog - Presumably a port and/or remake of the arcade game of the same name, which would have been a good fit given the fluid 2D animation that game had. Would it have kept the 3-player co-op too? Maybe!
Sonic X-Treme - Probably the most infamous of all the canceled Sonic games, beginning as a 32X title, stringing fans along for years with promises of a Saturn release (even teasing some 3D gameplay in Sonic Jam) and then being abruptly shut down so they could focus on the Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure instead - an entire year before the system was even set to launch, no less. A Saturn prototype has been leaked in the years since, but the fans have never really forgotten the sting of betrayal that accompanies the words "Sonic X-treme".
Star Control 2 - Another solid choice; Star Control 2 is a DOS classic, and seeing a faithful port on the 32X would have definitely been a good alternative for those who couldn't afford a PC (or a 3DO) in that time period. It's not a particularly complex game to control, either - you could easily make it work on a Genesis controller!
Virtua Hamster - Probably the most famous canceled game for the 32X, it was touted by some as a contender for the platform's breakout game. Even the box art is eye-catching, showing rocket powered hamsters on skateboards blasting their way through colorful tubes a la STUN Runner. Sadly it was just one of many casualties of the 32X's abrupt demise, though an early prototype is floating around the internet so you can get a rough idea of what it would have been like.
Wild Guns - Another SNES cult classic that would have been very welcome on the 32X. Gallery shooting, shot-dodging fun in a robot-invaded wild west. Alas, it was mentioned by Natsume once or twice as being planned for a 32X port and then never heard from again.
Worms - Ported to the Saturn, but the 32X could have benefitted from a good, solid multi-player artillery combat game, no?