System Love, Vol. 12: SEGA 32X

Ever dated someone extremely complicated?

I’m talking about everything from mixed messages, down to having to bend backwards to make things work, and temporarily pretending that it does until you ultimately come to this reality: it was not meant to be, and the entire relationship is going to eventually collapse under it’s own weight of complication.

Say “f*ck you” to the SEGA 32X.


I’m not trying to be facetious either.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

The system, on paper, was a pretty good concept. For those of you who do not have a good understanding of its concept, it was pretty ingenious (I repeat, on paper). The 32X attachment would link up to your existing SEGA Genesis model, and in turn upgrade it from a 16-bit console, to a 32-bit console powerhouse. Sounds splendid, doesn’t it?

And of course, at the time of it’s release, numbers mattered. To most gamers, more was expected from the product that laid claim to bigger and better processing power, and SEGA did not pull any punches in letting us know about how great of an investment it would be to make the leap into the add-on.


But just like any relationship that bases itself on mixed messages, eventually, expectations are going to creep in and arbitrate, and when this happens, you better believe your option in this fight or flight scenario is going to be a one way plane ticket to the next available console.

Let’s get to the full blown evidence, because of course, without evidence, we have no case.

I would love to start with the add-on’s library, but that would be way too easy. Let’s start with the more complicated nuisance it presents anyone who dares venture into a union with this paper weight: setting up.

Just like in any relationship, everyone comes to a “table”, and brings things to the table that benefit the individuals sitting in said setting. When your potential partner shows up to the table with irrelevant objects, such as lets say, WD-40 and a shovel, you already know you’re off to a bad start. In a sense, this is what the 32X did in it’s setup process. Electromagnetic plates. Conversion cables. Spacers. All things that in a sense, do not, and should never have hit the table to begin with. But of course, in every sense of hope, you try to make things work, in the spectrum of high hopes and promises of improving the table in which you sit around.

32X diagram
Looks simple, on paper.

All of these crazy and mysterious pieces had to be assembled and made to work in unison with your Genesis (in this analogy, the table). While it sounds doable, and it was, most people I knew in the 90’s, myself included, had a difficult time getting things to work properly, especially those of us with a model 1 Genesis. I still remember troubleshoot after troubleshoot, and phone call after phone call to SEGA in order to figure out exactly what I was doing wrong, and why nothing was working at all. Those metal plates still haunt me to this very day.


Of course, looking back at the situation, the answer was simple: WD-40 and a shovel don’t belong in a dining room setting.

This was the first strike in the 32X relationship. The effort it took to get up and running personally left me scratching my head about what I got myself into, but I’m a man of commitment, so after countless attempts at setting up, I finally got everything running the way it should.

Now that the table is magically set, we run into the biggest problem that reflects on the initial mixed message the add-on implies from the go (the “hook” if you will): the lack of actual supplementation of why you decided to get into a relationship to begin with: bringing something relevant to the table.

This brings us to the games.

You went through all the hassle, for this.

Embarrassing. Sure, there’s a few gems in the overall library (it’s why you decided to take a chance in the relationship), but in the grand scope of things, there’s nothing there past face value. You’ll enjoy games like Mortal Kombat 2, and yes, Virtua Fighter and Virtua Racing Deluxe would have definitely grabbed your attention at the time, but first and foremost, lets not pretend that Toughman Contest, Metal Head, and Star Trek Starfleet Academy- Starship Bridge Simulaton don’t exist. Worst yet, anything between the best and the repulsive the 32X offered up was at best, nothing special. And that’s the biggest issue with this relationship: continual promise of greatness, which does not reflect on the effort being put forth.

It gets worse.

You can REALLY complicate things by making the ultimate space shuttle and assembling what we now dub as the “spaceship”.  This setup combines the SEGA CD with the other two pieces of the puzzle, to (I suppose) give you even more horsepower to play games that were terrible.

This is actually where I checked out of this gaming relationship to better pastures. However, I heard the titles for this particular stage of the lifespan of the console add-on were among some of the biggest middle fingers handed out since Stone Cold Steve Austin made it trendy do throw them in the air.


Relationship advice: Pay attention to both the words and actions of the person coming to your table. It may sound like they are going to improve it to the point to where you’ll have Kobe Steak and Johnny Walker Blue Label every night, but if the talk is big, and the walk lacks a map with stern direction, all you have is Chef Boyardee being thrown at the wall to see if it sticks.

Here’s the sad, hard hitting conclusion: it doesn’t stick, and you can get that anywhere, without the figment of hype and boast.

This is the grand scheme of the 32X. Big talk, big promise of more power to improve the stable table you already had, only to create bigger problems than you should be experiencing.

Don’t fall for it.


Leave a Reply