Friday, April 16, 2010

The 32X 15th Anniversary Collection Album

The 32X. The power glove of consoles. Certainly not as big a failure as the contemporary consoles it was trying to compete with, like the Jaguar and 3DO, especially for a console add-on but due to poor communication between hardware development teams in Sega ended up being hard to program for (thanks to having 2 32-bit Hitachi SH2 processors but no dedicated graphics chip, very limited memory, and a fairly tenuous connection between it and the main Genesis processors), redundant (thanks to the Saturn having similar hardware which was easy to use -- not that that's saying much given that it, too, was hastily developed at times), and maybe just a little ugly.

I love the damn thing so much. Got one for $24 with the express purpose of using it for testing out independently coded projects for it (think like the Amiga or Commodore demoscenes) but did end up greatly enjoying the ports of games like Space Harrier, After Burner, Virtua Racing, and NBA Jam (T.E.), as well as taking an interest in the games made specifically for it like Knuckles Chaotix (pretty good), Shadow Squadron (actually quite nice indeed), Kolibri (it's all right but not amazing), Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 (a nicer idea on paper than in execution but it's not without merit) and Tempo (probably not going to pick this one up).

The system ultimately has a high ratio of at least pretty-good games to bad ones, which is admittedly not surprising because it's a programming behemoth, and thus not friendly to shovelware. It also helps that the port of Virtua Fighter is damn good and there are only like 35 games on the system total.

The music, on a 3-disc set, comes from -- in this order -- Space Harrier, Stellar Assault [Shadow Squadron here in the US], Virtua Racing Deluxe, Parasquad (not "Pallas Code" as a number of sites foolishly trusting Google Translate) [Zaxxon's Motherbase elsewhere], Metal Head, and Virtua Fighter.

Now, most of the music here has been released in other remix or gotten superior cover versions; a number of these games got Saturn ports that were able to take advantage of a more powerful sound chip (able to take advantage of several-channel sample playback, for example) or used actual CD-audio. Further, the games in question -- except for Shadow Squadron, which got a superior Saturn port/follow-up of sorts instead -- originated on the arcade anyway, making tying them so closely with the 32X almost silly.

Again, soundtracks for games like After Burner and Space Harrier exist in other forms, probably superior, elsewhere. Do check out the S.S.T. Band recordings if this album interests you, before you bother with this. Furthermore, WHERE IS THE CHAOTIX SOUNDTRACK? That one was excellent, 32x-exclusive, and probably the best of all Sonic soundtracks even to this day (Sonic Rush is pretty close in awesomeness though).

As a result the collection seems not entirely without merit but ill thought-out and largely redundant.


(Oh, by the way, if you'd like to see what the album looks like and view the tracklist so you can make your own off your own 32X hardware recordings like I *might*, you can find them over at

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