A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Game Collection: Sega CD and 32X: The Path to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

Peripherals.  In the case of the IBM PC and the DOS machines based off it peripherals and add ons helped fix shortcomings of the original laughably limited machines, expanding its abilities and functionality as technology and reality dictated.

Yet on so many machines it has been the opposite.  In general the first model of a game console or a computer is all that was ever required.  Whenever a machine either had an improved model or made a new peripheral almost essential the peripheral has failed, in many cases just becoming another pricey oddity that was used by a handful of software.

You see, whenever you make a new required doohickey, there will be those who buy it and can partake of the new bounties, and a larger percentage who will not.  You have divided the market and are competing with yourself.  Not only do you need the original machine, you need the add on as well.

However on one console an expensive add on became the machine's reason for existence.  The CDROM drive for the Turbografx/PC Engine.  This component which itself had THREE improvements over it's lifespan (The system driver software with additional RAM in each of the versions.) somehow not only survived, but basically became THE way to get software for the machine after a certain point.

Sega wanted in on this action.  People constantly wrote in to Sega asking about it.  In the US, the Turbografx came out with the CDROM drive released at the same time (though not really heavily pushed in the US till the system was failing, and a revised all in one model with the second system driver card built in) and came out nearly concurrently with Sega's Genesis.

So Sega, which needed to beef up the machine now that the Super Nintendo with its overall superior hardware outside of CPU speed, could fix hardware deficiencies and be able to match the losing machine at its own game and be better than its main competitor.

Yet, they failed.  And bad.



Instead of using CDROM's improved data storage over expensive cartridges to make bigger and better games, the technology was mostly used to play bad interactive movie games.  You know, like Dragon's Lair.  Technology that was around a decade old when the Sega CD came out.

Did people really want to pay 300 early 90s dollars for non games where you got to see super grainy low color "games" mostly based on pressing a button when something on screen flashed?

The answer was largely HELL NO.

The RPGs and more enthusiast styled games that would have sold to the hardcore mostly stayed in Japan as we got garbage like Make my Video, and the Digital Pictures crap.

In other cases we got cartridge games with maybe a couple extra levels and a really nice CD Redbook audio soundtrack.

It wasn't enough.  More people stuck to the base Genesis unit, and those who got the CD attachment found less and less worth buying, and given the existing junk software were less and less likely to give some new title a shot.

Which was a shame as there are some good titles for the machine.

Like many titles in my collection:

Originally the Sega CD was a motor tray driven underslung device that fit under the original styled Genesis, looking like a VCR.  During this timeframe Sega CD games came in ugly long cardboard boxes, with the CDs in plastic normal CD cases inside the box ala the Sega CD2 pack in game Sewer Shark.  (One of those god awful FMV games.)  Cobra Command and Time Gal were conversions of early 80s Japanese anime FMV arcade titles.  I kind of like Time Gal but it may be my 90s weeaboo self talking rather than that the game is genuinely worth a damn.  Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective 2 is an interesting attempt to use FMV as part of gameplay to let one be the great detective I don't find works well.  Final Fight CD and Monkey Island are really just excellent ports of an arcade title that was inferior on the SNES, and a PC adventure gaming classic.  Batman Returns was a port of the Genesis movie tie in with said good CD audio and an entire bolted on game showing off the new technical tricks the Sega CD could do, a full bore combat racing game.  The racing game would be great if it wasn't so absurdly hard and the sidescrolling part isn't very good at all.

Chuck Rock 2 is basically just a cartridge/Amiga port.  Dark Wizard is a great but quite hard hex based SRPG.  Dungeon Explorer is an ok Action RPG that doesn't have a patch on the Turbografx titles.  Dungeon Master 2 is the sequel to the real time first person RPG genre it's predecessor founded on the Atari ST in the late 80s.  Jurassic Park is an.. interesting point and click adventure game like Monkey Island, though all in first person with a few ok action sequences.  Lunar is the reason anyone owned the Sega CD in Japan.  A full bore massive JRPG.  Silpheed is a sequel to Game Arts' computer polygon SHMUP.  It was sold on being a fully polygonal counter to the SNES' Starfox but most of the 3d graphics were just streaming video.  Amazing Spider Man is a pretty fun 2d platformer with hilariously bad video and an expansion of the cartridge title.

The Terminator was a massively expanded 2d platformer over its cartridge counterpart with some of the best game music ever.  Third World War is a Koei styled management/war sim albeit one taking place in the modern age and with real time combat.  AH3 Thunderstrike is an action sim with a helicopter.  One with the scaling and rotating sprites style of proto 3d that the SNES was sold on and the Sega CD replicated.  Vay is a decent enough JRPG.

My Sega CD was the 2nd model designed to be a sidecar to the 2nd model of Genesis.  It was much cheaper and removed the motor drive tray for a physical disk holder.  

I bought it for a silly reason.

See Sega wasn't done with expensive peripherals.  Fully 3d polygons were becoming the standard in arcades with Sega's Virtua series leading the way.  32 bit consoles were still a couple of years off in the west so as a stopgap Sega released the 32X for 160 dollars.

It.. did not do well.  It was claimed to be the next big thing and would even mesh with the CD for really amazing titles.  In general the machine sold horribly and there were very few worthwhile games, and all the CD and 32X combo gave was the same awful FMV titles but now with bigger video and more colors.

Add in having a full Sega Genesis/CD/32X system was a morass of wires and cables behind the machine and it required THREE outlets that were generally their own thing thanks to the big brick type plugs they used and it was.. not pretty.

And then a year/year and a half later everyone started making games for the better true 32 bit systems.  Which didn't look like the back end of a PC.  And developers knew there would be enough of a market to bother.

While I have a few games mine isn't even hooked up.

Metal Head is an underwhelming Mech Action game.  Space Harrier is a nearly arcade PERFECT port of the classic.  From the mid 80s.  On a 94 release peripheral.  Virtua Fighter was a great for the time port of the arcade game but these days there is almost zero reason to play it over its better looking sequels on better hardware.  Virtua Racing Deluxe has the same issues.  For its time it was great but it was still a downgrade over the arcade game even if it added in new levels and cars the arcade missed.  And polygonal racers have evolved leaps and bounds over the arcade original much less a lesser port.

And that was the problem with the 32x.  Its best software was mostly just nearly perfect arcade ports of 8-12 year old arcade games, or great FOR THE TIME ports of arcade games.  And arcade games really aren't designed to be played for hours on end, so why spend all that money?  And now its even more useless.

In fact the main reason I bought it, as to be a cheap way to play DOOM over upgrading my DOS machine with a faster CPU and more RAM was a bit of a failure.  It runs slower in a smaller viewing window with a ton of levels and gameplay elements cut out to make it work.  (Something the PS1 and Saturn ports wouldn't have to deal with.  Even the maligned Jaguar got a better port.  The N64 got an IMPROVED semi sequel!)

But.. we should probably go back to the good times, shouldn't we?

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