The Mega32x is sometimes declared to be the dumbest move that SEGA ever made. But was it really? If you look back on its subjectively in terms of the system it was a great move, just poorly planned.
The Megadrive had been for the SEGA their biggest selling console (and probably still is) and it was also their most popular console. It was the first time that SEGA was actually winning in the console war with Nintendo and so their decision to try and extend the longevity of it makes sense. They first tried with the Mega-CD which was a limited success and then they updated the look of the Megadrive with the slim-lined Megadrive 2 and then finally they pulled out their last card: The Mega32x.
This was an adaptor, affectionately dubbed ‘The Mushroom’ due to its shape, that slotted onto the Megadrive. By doing this it allowed you to play 32-bit quality games. Its main purpose was to bridge the gap while SEGA prepared for the release of the Saturn. Instead it became an industry joke and was looked at as a ‘poor man’s entry’ to the 32-bit gaming world. Few games were developed for the system and despite initial orders of over a million consoles, SEGA could not produce them to meet the demand and once players discovered that few games would be available the interest tailed off, price was slashed repeatedly until only around 600,000 units were sold. This was still pretty impressive for what was essentially an ‘add-on’ but compared to the Megadrive (Estimated at 29-40 Million) and Saturn (9.5 Million) it was hardly a drop in the ocean.
When I got my Mega32x it was probably as cheap as it could be. I got it mainly because I couldn’t afford the proper upgrade, but also because many of the games that were released were games that I was interested in. It is true that most games for the system were either Arcade conversions or sooped up versions of Megadrive games, but then we could say the same about most consoles. Among these games available was a pretty decent version of Doom and the game that I bought the system for: Mortal Kombat 2. I had already been stunned by the game on the Megadrive and it was about to do it all over again! Other than in the Arcade, I think this was possibly the greatest version of Mortal Kombat 2 released. It is also one of the best examples of the pure power of the Mega32x. The game looked and felt richer; the inclusion of the original arcade intros and cutscenes made the game that much better that if I did not buy another game for it, it would have been fine.
The other area Mega32x really excelled in was bringing Arcade games into the home. Ports of SEGA classics like Afterburner and Spaceharrier just blew me away like they did when I first played them in the Arcade. It is odd that with all the ‘retro’ or ‘classic’ collections that one of the systems has not released a SEGA Arcade pack with these games and others such as Outrun, Virtua Fighter and Daytona Racing.
Sadly the Mega32x was never given the time to make the impact that it should have. Very few games were developed for it and games were so expensive that even I only had four of them the entire time I owned it! Though we could argue this would be normal today with PS3/360 games still clocking in around the thirty-forty level for a new release. If the system had been released a few years earlier instead of the Mega-CD it could probably have given SEGA the dominance they lost with the Saturn and were finally finished off with the Dreamcast. A Megadrive/32x combo codenamed ‘Neptune’ was developed, but was scrapped in favour of the Saturn and once the Saturn was released the Mega32x faded into gaming obscurity. Instead of being the last great stand of the SEGA Megadrive, it became just a whimper of the machine being put out of its misery. A damn shame!