Sunday, July 1, 2018

All 32 Sega 32X Games RANKED! (Part One - #032-#017)

Taking a look back at the much-maligned console's ENTIRE library ... and the number of games that DON'T suck might just surprise you.

By: Jimbo X

The Sega 32X is generally considered one of the worst home consoles ever released. Even hardcore Sega fanboys like myself have a hard time justifying its existence (a brand new 16-bit add-on released just months before an all new 32-bit console? BRILLIANT!) but by that same token, it's not like the 32X was totally devoid of quality software. In fact, the unit actually had a pretty respectable library, with only a handful of outright sucky games and quite a few titles I'd feel comfortable labeling as legitimately awesome.

Of course, considering the 32X's lifespan was barely a year, less than three dozen cartridges actually made its way to the system in North America. Factoring out the re-releases of such Sega CD "classics" as Night Trap and Slam City with Scottie Pippen and the Japan-only Sangokushi IV (don't worry, you didn't miss much ... it was just another Romance of the Three Kingdoms game), an ironically apt 32 games got released on the 32X. While we'll always lament never being able to play a treasure trove of planned games that got the axe when Sega pulled support on the 32X (including an original Castlevania, a whole slew of Sega Saturn ports and whatever the hell Virtua Hamster was supposed to be), at least we can take solace in knowing that the games the 32X DID get were, for the most part, not THAT terrible.

As one of our patented public services here at TIIIA, we've decided to go on ahead and rank ALL 32 games released on the 32X from worst to first. Part one of our special two-parter will examine the lesser half of the console library, as we slum our way through games #032 through #017 on the countdown, while part two takes a gander at the considerably better games on the console, as we waltz our way from game #016 to the absolute best title to be found on the much maligned system (and yes, it IS exactly what you think it will be. Sorry for the lack of drama, kids.)

So, with all of that out of the way, who's ready to party like its 1994? That's right … don't you kids raise your hands all at once!

Brutal Unleashed: Above the Claw (1995)
Developer: GameTek
Publisher: GameTek

This is easily the worst game available for the Sega 32X. Basically, it's a really poor-man's Street Fighter II clone, only replacing Ryu and Balrog with furries named Karate Croc and, sigh, Dalai Llama. No, for real, nigga. The controls are terrible, the move set is extremely limited and the sound and visuals are among the poorest you'll find on the platform — honestly, this game doesn't look or sound better than Brutal: Paws of Fury on the Genesis, and even worse, its loading times are aggravatingly long. That we got this instead of a proper Eternal Champions follow-up is an utter travesty.

Darxide (1995)
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Sega

This space shooter might just be the absolute fuggliest game on the console. With blocky polygonal graphics and a color palette consisting almost exclusively of black, grey, and dull blues and greens, Darxide feels like an old school arcade game in the worst way possible. The controls are stiff, the mechanics boring as shit and the gameplay is extraordinarily repetitive — and devoid of challenge, to boot. With virtually no replay value, there's not much of a reason to give this one a try ... especially considering the Sega CD was already home to VASTLY better genre offerings, such as Silpheed and the criminally underappreciated Soul Star.

Motocross Championship (1994)
Developer: Artech Studios
Publisher: Sega

Had the developers actually tried, this game could've become a classic. Structurally, the gameplay is one part Road Rash and one part ExciteBike, and to be fair, they did throw in quite a bit of content. The problem, naturally, is the execution: simply put, this game plays like absolute dookie. The sense of speed is way off and it is way too easy to find yourself skidding off-course. And if that wasn't bad enough, pretty much all of the levels look indistinguishable, which begs the question — what's the point of even including so many tracks if you can't tell them apart anyway?

NFL Quarterback Club (1995)
Developer: Iguana Entertainment
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment

Unfortunately, the only pro football game the 32X received was far from a gridiron masterpiece. The game looks and sounds practically identical to the SNES iteration of the game that came out a full year earlier, except it plays even worse, with molasses-slow gameplay and an aberrant number of glitches. The core gameplay feels like a really incomplete Madden beta and even the big draw of the title itself — those quarterback drill mini-games — feel stiff and unwieldy. It's not a totally unplayable game, but there's no denying there's plenty of 16-bit pigskin games that kick this one's ass all up and down the field.

Primal Rage (1995)
Developer: Probe Software
Publisher: Time Warner Interactive

Oh, Primal Rage — what a brilliant concept for a video game, Mortal Kombat with dinosaurs. Alas, as we all by now, the execution didn't quite live up to the lofty expectations of the concept, and the 32X port of the fighting game doesn't do anything to rectify the title's core problems. Both the graphics and the audio are underwhelming and the controls are mediocre, at best. Of course, the big problem is the half-assed combat system, which eschews the technique and finesse of Capcom and SNK's finer offerings for a fairly brainless button-mashing experience. But then again, how could you possibly hate a game that allows you to kill your enemies by giving them a golden shower?

Cosmic Carnage (1994)
Developer: Givro
Publisher: Sega

Contrary to what some people on the internet may tell you, no, this game was not originally meant to be an Eternal Champions sequel. Rather, it's a ho-hum 2D fighter that's way too reliant on a zooming camera effect gimmick ... which actually makes the visuals look even blockier, so who the hell knows what the developers were thinking when they dreamed that shit up. All in all, it's just another generic fighting game cash-in, complete with characters clearly ripping off properties like The Silver Surfer and the xenomorph from Alien, with a combat system that's, well, uninspired, to say the least. And to think: this mediocre offering was made by the same people who gave us the cult classic E.V.O. on the Super Nintendo!

Golf Magazine 36 Great Holes with Fred Couples (1994)
Publisher: Flashpoint Productions
Developer: Sega

Wait ... wasn't this that one game from The Simpsons? Well, even if you don't know who the fuck Fred Couples is, it's pretty much irrelevant, considering the game is pretty much just your basic, slower-than-Christmas golf simulator. To be fair, the graphics do look pretty good, but the core gameplay is just agonizingly slow-paced, with a dearth of modes or features. Unless you are a hardcore golfing fan who is also a fan of mid-1990s failed hardware, there's not much of a reason to give this one a try ... although Fred Couples soothing commentary makes it a perfect pick-up for you ASMR weirdoes.

Metal Head (1995)
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega

You just know you’re dealing with a game nobody cared about when the box art erroneously tells you it has a multiplayer mode. Essentially a very watered-down iteration of Virtual-On, Metal Head plays like a weird fusion of Mech Assault and Twisted Metal, albeit with considerably clunkier controls, crappier looking visuals and WAY less creativity being batted around. Still, the almost-open world dynamics and the halfway decent mech combat action keeps the title moderately entertaining, as long as you can tolerate the molasses slow gameplay, you might even unironically enjoy this one.

Toughman Contest (1995)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visual Concepts

A slightly churched up version of its Genesis sibling, Toughman Contest is basically a Punch-Out!! wannabe, only with less memorable racial caricatures and no guest appearances from all-time great pugilists/convicted rapists. By and large, the boxing system in the game is pretty ho-hum, with defense practically a non-factor. Compared to superlative genre games on the Genny like Greatest Heavyweights or the SNES version of Boxing Legends of the Ring, this is a pretty bare bones offering, but at least the visuals are pretty decent. That, and it’s scientifically impossible to thoroughly hate any video game that features Butterbean as an end boss, isn’t it?

WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game (1995)
Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Sculptured Software

WWF Raw (1995)
Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Sculptured Sofware

They both have their distinctive pros and their distinctive cons, but on the whole I’d say these games are pretty much evenly matched. Raw, the earlier game, has more game modes and a better roster, while WrestleMania — despite having fewer characters and lower replay value — does offer better overall gameplay, visuals and sound. Ultimately, unless you are a truly hardcore fan of the post-Hulk Hogan, pre-Stone Cold Steve Austin WWF era, there’s not really a whole lot for you take away from either title; non ‘rasslin aficionados, do not even bother with these two.

RBI Baseball '95 (1995)
Publisher: Time Warner Interactive
Developer: Atari Games

World Series Baseball Starring Deion Sanders (1996)
Publisher: Sega
Developer: BlueSky Software

Again, I feel as if these two games are more or less equal in terms of presentation and gameplay, so really, it comes down to a matter of personal preference. World Series Baseball certainly has more modes and moderately better audiovisuals, but on the whole, I’d consider the batting and pitching controls for RBI Baseball ‘95 to be significantly better. Basically, if you’re looking for a deeper, more sim-like sports title (albeit, one with some sketchy outfielding), opt for Sega’s ball game; if you prefer your video baseball more instant-gratification and arcadey, then R.B.I. ought to cure what ails ‘ya.

Shadow Squadron (1995)
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega CS

The unlicensed spiritual successor to Star Wars Arcade is a pretty big step down from its predecessor. All in all, the space shootin’ combat is decent, but the blocky, fugly polygonal graphics look significantly worse than your average Sega CD Star Fox imitator. The controls, however, are very manageable, and if you have a penchant for decidedly old-school, no frills, snail-paced, arcade-blastin’ action, you might actually get some fun out of the experience. Still, the way-too-basic gameplay means this one is for genre purists only, I’m afraid.

FIFA Soccer '96 (1995)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Extended Play Productions

This is actually an amazing-looking title that, at first glance, might even be mistaken for a Nintendo 64 footy game. You get a ton of different game modes and customization options to tinker around with and, by and large, the on-field mechanics — while nowhere near as polished as Sensible Soccer or International Superstar Soccer — are still quite solid. The problem, of course, is two-fold; the pace of the gameplay is annoyingly sluggish, and that pseudo 3D-perspective means the camera angles are going to be changing all the time. I’d consider this a very good sports sim that is critically hampered by choppy gameplay and some poorly thought-out design choices; still, it’s probably worth going out of your way to experience, pending you’re a big enough footy fan.

Star Trek Starfleet Academy: Starship Bridge Simulator (1995)
Publisher: Sega
Developer: High Voltage Software

I’ve never been a fan of the Star Trek license, but on the whole I’d consider this a pretty engrossing title that really defies any one genre relegation. Part flight simulator, part RPG and part micromanager, you can’t say the makers of this one didn’t give you plenty of stuff to do (although, if you’re like me, you’ll probably spend 80 percent of the game playing pool and shooting the breeze in the space-cafeteria.) Oddly enough, though, the game isn’t really that big of an upgrade over the original title on the SNES, in terms of audiovisuals … in fact, it’s pretty hard to differentiate the two, not only in screenshot form, but even while in motion.


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