How the SEGA 32X Could Have Saved the Saturn, and to a Greater Extent, SEGA’s Hardware Business

(Originally Posted April 21, 2019)

First off, I’d like to say that I would love it if folks from SEGA of Japan and North America could see this article.  I have been a SEGA fanboy ever since the Genesis was released in North America.  When I got my Genesis and Power Base Converter that Christmas, it was one of the most magical moments ever.  I had only owned an Atari 7800 before that, and the Genesis assaulted my senses and imagination.  Because of SEGA, to this day Mario, Link, and Samus mean nothing to be.  My home experience was a slightly scaled down arcade experience rather than the small screen made for home platforms.  Thank you, SEGA, for making my bedroom an arcade room.

Oh, and I am not a programmer.  Nor am I someone that works with computer hardware, professionally.  If I suppose or think that something could be done in this article and it cannot, please be kind.  This is more of a “love letter” to SEGA and what it meant to me a long time ago.

 

A lot of gamers think that the launch and support of the SEGA 32X was in the top three of SEGA’s mistakes that killed off their hardware business.  I think that how they handled the 32X was.  I think the 32X had great potential, and it’s success did not have to be exclusive to it’s big brother, the Saturn.  As some of you know, the 32X was SEGA of America’s baby.  The Genesis was still a hot success when talk of 32 Bit systems started, and SEGA of America saw it as a means to capitalise on both.  However, SEGA OF Japan wanted a truly next generation machine, and seemed to do everything in it’s power to make the Saturn as seperate and standalone from the 32X as fiscally possible.  However, the success of both the 32X and Saturn could have depended on cooperation rather than pissing contests and inhouse competition.

 

 

Really, the 32X wasn’t that bad!  Have you even played one?

 

First off, if what I heard was correct, one of the reasons that the Saturn had a RAM/Cartridge slot was the success and love of the Genesis/Mega Drive.  Is there any reason that they didn’t make the Saturn backwards compatible with the Genesis/Mega Drive?  True to both the legacy of SEGA and Atari, the Saturn’s sound chip was the main processor of it’s past generation machine.  This helped with the library of their machines because it meant an easy means for their new machines to play games from their predecessors.  The hardware was there.  All SEGA would have needed was to make the cartridge port the same as the Genesis/Mega Drive.  

How cool would that have been to play Streets of Rage 2 on the Saturn?  I’m not even sure if Genesis/Mega Drive backwards compatibility would have meant backwards compatibility with Sega CD, but I’m sure that was something might have been able to have been worked out.  The hardware power was definitely there, but that’s not even that important.  The important thing is that the Saturn would have been physcially compatible with the 32X.  I know, that probably sounds blasphemous to some of you, but keep an open mind and follow me for a few more minutes. 

The SEGA Saturn was already a superior machine to the PlayStation.  The only thing that the PlayStation had on the Saturn was an easier chipset design specifically made for a home console,  and better and easier transparency technology.  The Saturn’s progaming and chipset has been misunderstood and cursed with erroneous lore for decades.  It’s 3D prowess was believed weaker than PlayStation’s because programmers lazily made straight copied ports of PlayStation’s games, completely ignoring the power of the multiple chips sets in the Saturn, which were not just slapped together without thought, but was directly influenced by SEGA’s prolific legacy as an arcade giant. 

Yes, arcade machines’ motherboards used multiple chips to maximise power, efficiency, and performance.  The Saturn and Genesis/Mega Drive were actually at home heirs to that legacy.  Multple processors to lighten processing loads, plus the cartridge slot that made increases in RAM and a second direct access to the processors made for gaming experiences  far beyond that of the PlayStation.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the videos  below that compares PlayStation games with Saturn games that were built from the ground up, rather than being ported over.

(Video by VCDECIDE)

Notice the many objects on the field and how much more deail is in this.

While the PlayStation did have transparency effects, the Saturn has more

to offer visually and does it’s best to replicate the transparencies.

 

 

(Video by VCDECIDE)

Again in the video you can see how the Saturn is able to handle more

sprites and overall information at a time.

 

 

(Video by VCDECIDE)

The final example is Dead or Alive or DOA as the game and

the series has also come to be known.  The difference between

the Saturn and PlayStation was so profound that the creators,

Team Ninja felt that the Saturn was not only superior, but

was “the definitive version.”

 

 

Now imagine if that Saturn with the RAM/cartridge port shaped like a Genesis/Mega Drive was able to take advantage of the added power of the 32X.  Can you imagine how much more slack could be taken off of Saturn’s chipsets if yet two more Hitachi 32 Bit RISC, a VDP, and a 32X VDP were pumping out power? Not only woiuld the Saturn get more parallel processing power, but an addition of 4 Meg of RAM from the 32X. Of course, this would have required forethought in the production of the Saturn to have the interface outlets possible There is no doubt in my my mind that a Saturn 32X would be able to play a decently passable version of Virtua Fighter 3, not to mention decent versions of any other SEGA Model 2 arcade games.  Saturn + 32X + 4 Meg RAM cart > PlayStation. In fact, it might have even given the PS2 the same surprising competition that the SNES gave the 32X in graphics.

 

 

(Video by Top Hat Gaming Man)

Top Hat Gaming Man researched and found an attachment that might have been in the

works to give the SEGA Saturn that extra UMPH! that could have KOed the PlayStation

right out the box!  ‘Look familiar..?

 

 

(Video by Michael’s Retro Game Reviews)

In Michael’s Retro Game Reviews Channel, Michael uncovered that SEGA

almost released a Saturn version of Virtua Fighter 3.  it was speculated that

it might be possible with the latest development packs.  However, this was

more likely to be possible because of an add-on with technology from

Lockheed/Martin.  ‘Sound familiar, again?  Could this have been the 64X?

Do both of these technologies get inspiration from the 32X?

 

 

Now instead of being sold for $20 a pop in clearance bins, 32X machines would have been a hotly sought after accessory in the 90’s rather than a cult object of interest in today’s retro gaming world.  Who knows?  SEGA might have actually had to have made more, as well as Saturns.  Maybe it would have pushed back the timeline in video game generations, increasing the quality of all gaming consoles to come.

But for this to have been possible, like I said, it would have required cooperation between SEGA of American and Japan.  It would have required SEGA of Japan to see all of the possibilities of the 32X and all of it’s strengths suggested by SEGA of America.  If that failed, then SEGA of America could have also embraced the other side’s suggestion of the Saturn, and sought to find a way that 32X could have played support for it’s big brother, as well.  In the end while both sides failed, it ultimately falls upon the shoulders of SEGA of Japan to take the lion’s share of blame.  They were the ultimate authority, and should have been more open and mature about the rivalry, especially since thier bottom line is ultimately the international bottom line of SEGA.

So what do you think?  Did what I say make any sense?  Do you think the tweeks I suggested to the Saturn’s hardware and design were reasonable?  Would a 32X charged Saturn have made that much of a difference?  Comment below on that.  Share to perpetuate the debate.

I cannot think of all of the sources of information I have for this article.  Like I said, it is sort of a “love letter” to SEGA and the Saturn.  I can tell you the places that I do get my information from when I need it, and chances are that they are responsible to a great deal of what I do know and allowed me to write this article.

 

Thanks to The Top Hat Gaming Man and Sega Lord X.  Their YouTube channels are constants in my retro-love, and I don’t miss any episodes.

There are also a couple of Facebook groups that I am in that help tremendously when I have questions in real time:  Sega Saturn Collectors of America and The PS Junkyard (Planet Saturn Junkyard).

Thanks also to David Lee and Ke Kona, fellow members in many of my Facebook groups and hosts of SEGA SATURN, SHIRO Podcast.

All of you have helped grow my knowledge and obsession with SEGA.

‘See you next timie.

-HEREITCPRIME

How Are Video Game Companies Preserving Their Titles for Future Generations?

Over the last decade, we’ve seen publishers release a tremendous amount of remakes and remasters. Some have given us incentive to play an even better version of a beloved favorite. Others, ever so rarely, have left players with a bad aftertaste.

However, one can’t deny the importance of re-releasing classics. Not only have publishers given longtime fans a chance to replay a favorite. But they’ve also introduced their legacy to a new generation of fans. With that said, I want to list a few noteworthy game companies that have put some effort into preserving their video game library for generations to come.

Capcom

Known for their many re-releases of Street Fighter II throughout history, Capcom has remastered many of their titles over the years. They’ve maintained Mega Man, Street Fighter, and several more as household names thanks to their countless re-releases. Mega Man Legacy Collection, Mega Man X Legacy Collection, and Mega Man Zero + ZX Legacy Collection feature a massive chunk of their classic platforming series. Capcom even released the Beat ’em up bundle which features some titles never seen on consoles before.

Notably, you can find the entire Resident Evil series on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Plus, this generation saw the re-release of Okami HD, onto modern platforms, as well as Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen remastered for modern consoles. Capcom also released Devil May Cry 1-3 on Switch with DMC3 receiving some hearty new additions.

Perhaps even more noteworthy would be to consider Capcom’s remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3. Much like Resident Evil 1’s remake, 2 and 3 were completely built from the ground up. These new features incorporate modern-day enhancements, controls, and storytelling fitting for a game of the current era.

Absences

Despite releasing Darkstalkers, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Breath of Fire, and Power Stone for PSP, however, we have not seen these games in over a decade. Capcom did release several of their Marvel vs. and Darkstalkers titles during the last generation, but have not been seen since. Furthermore, we have not seen the likes of Viewtiful Joe since the 2000s. Capcom keeps some of these series alive, so to speak, as costumes in Street Fighter V. But we would love to play them as full games again.

However, given that Capcom does continue to release some of their best games every generation, new players will get to try Resident Evil , Okami, and many other classics. Perhaps we may yet see more long-missing names appear in this decade.

Square-Enix

The company’s habit of re-releasing titles dates back to the early 2000s. You could find Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI, on Game Boy Advance, all remade with extra content. Chrono Trigger, the 1995 SNES classic, also came out for DS in 2008. All of the aforementioned games would later come to mobile devices and Steam Despite coming out to various levels of reception, Square-Enix would continue to update and polish them for a new generation to enjoy.

Despite their noble intentions, the sprites could use some work.

One of the biggest walls Square-Enix smashed was when they announced the remaster of Final Fantasy VIII, in 2019, for modern systems. The new version of the game includes redone character textures, upscales the title to HD, and features other minor improvements. This came with a slew of other announcements featuring remastered games.

Among those included in the announcements, Square-Enix released The Mana Collection, which features the original 90s Mana trilogy. This includes Trials of Mana, previously known as Seiken Densetsu 3, which was never released in the west. Similarly, Square-Enix released Star Ocean: First Departure R, Romancing SaGa 3, and SaGa Scarlet Grace Ambitions on modern consoles. With that being said, expect to see the newly-announced remaster of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, as well as NieR: Replicant, within the next year.

Speaking of remakes…

Super Mario RPG

Despite the love Square-Enix has shown for many of their series, one particular game stands out missing in action. Due to the copyrights involved, Square-Enix owns the rights to many of the characters in the 1996 SNES classic, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Mario’s breakout RPG remains heralded as one of the greatest JRPGs of all time.

While it was released on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles, you would never see more than a passing mention from Nintendo’s social media accounts. However, it released on the SNES Classic along with Final Fantasy VI. Despite this, though, unlike many of the aforementioned titles, Super Mario RPG has never been re-released as more than a direct port without any updates.

Many fans want a remake or a true remake or sequel to Super Mario RPG. While Square-Enix has done well for preserving their most famous series, fans would love to see Nintendo and Square-Enix collaborate on another classic featuring its sorely missed characters.

Bandai Namco

Perhaps the single most impressive re-release Bandai Namco has published is Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. Once lost to history as the Japan-exclusive release, the Definitive Edition includes all of the story content, new characters, and battle improvements never seen in the west. Save for Troy Baker, voice of Yuri, it also includes the original voice actors reprising their roles for the newly dubbed lines.

Meanwhile, Bandai Namco has stayed busy reviving SoulCalibur in 2018 as well as maintaining Tekken 7. These include songs from their past respective entries which you can add to any stage. If you love SoulCalibur music, you won’t be disappointed.

Also, if you’re a fan of Pac-Man, you can download it on mobile apps and play newly released maps. Namco Museum Arcade Pac for Nintendo Switch also includes a number of their old arcade hits, like Galaga and Splatterhouse.

Perhaps one day, though, Bandai Namco might release more Tales games in the west. While we’ve never gotten Tales of Destiny: Director’s Cut, Tales of Destiny II, or Tales of Rebirth, hope never truly fades.

Sega

With each generation, Sega releases new Genesis collections. You may have seen them released as Sega Genesis Collection, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, or even Sega Genesis Classics. Let’s also not forget the release of the Sega Genesis Mini microconsole.

I’m a little sad knowing that the Sega Genesis Mini in America does not have Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyo Toitsusen.

Even though, for some reason, re-releases of Sonic 3 & Knuckles are apparently rare, Sega generally does a good job of keeping their Genesis games afloat. Sega even released a Dreamcast Collection, featuring several hits, on Steam, as well as the Saturn classic NiGHTS into Dreams…

As of late, it seems Sega has become more interested in releasing some of their classic series. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD recently came to modern consoles. Following that, Sega released the Panzer Dragoon Remake on Nintendo Switch. Also noteworthy includes not only the remaster of Shenmue I & II on modern consoles, but the release of Shenmue III, which released over 15 years after Shenmue II.

But one more thing I want to cover is how Sega has distributed their classic series to different studios to develop their games. They collaborated with Christian Whitehead and his team to develop Sonic Mania, one of the best reviewed Sonic titles of all time. Now, with April 30th around the corner, Dotemu is set to release Streets of Rage 4, the first official title in the illustrious beat ’em up series in over 25 years.

While we would certainly love to see the return of Skies of Arcadia and Billy Hatcher, Sega has done a surprisingly stellar job of releasing classic titles and new entries onto modern-day consoles and PC. Since they own the rights to Puyo Puyo and its characters, I would also love to see the Madou Monogatari series return.

With that said, I’m even more surprised that I didn’t have to name many absent franchises this time. Sega has done a surprisingly stellar job of releasing most of their classic entries into the current era. Well done!

Nintendo

Over the last decade, Nintendo has built up a bit of a resume remaking classics we grew up with. One example includes Fire Emblem Gaiden, for Famicom in Japan, which never came to America until it was released as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for 3DS. Nintendo has also released four Legend of Zelda remakes, three of which were developed by GREZZO. The latest remake includes Link’s Awakening for Nintendo Switch. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD was developed by Nintendo EAD, which built the GameCube classic from the ground up and added several upgrades.

Furthermore, Nintendo has released many of their unsuccessful Wii U titles – largely due to the failure of the console itself – onto the Nintendo Switch. You’ll find some amazing software like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Captain Toad: Treasure Trackers, Bayonetta 2, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, released with a visual update and some noteworthy updates.

However, I feel Nintendo still needs help when it comes to keeping some of their franchises alive. It goes without saying that we’ve seen more than a decade without the release of F-Zero or Golden Sun. The Nintendo Switch Online’s SNES Classics library misses a number of heavy-hitters such as Super Mario RPG and Donkey Kong Country. The lack of regular updates does not help its relevance who wish to see more titles. Even compared to the Wii Virtual Console from 14 years ago, Nintendo could do much better with the Switch online.

Puyo Puyo 2 imported on the SNES Classics libary? Now that’s a surprise.

In the past, Nintendo released the Ambassador Program for 3DS. Featuring ports of GBA titles digitally released for 3DS, this feature was only available for people who owned the initial release of the 3DS. They were not seen again until they were released on the Wii U eShop For 3DS owners who enjoy playing these games on a handheld, this did not help them at all. Also, as many players are aware, Nintendo still refuses to release Mother 3 in the west.

For Nintendo, it’s a mixed bag. They remake classic titles and the upgrades make them even better. The Switch releases of Wii U titles give players hope we could see more classics like Super Mario 3D World embraced by fans who didn’t own a Wii U. But Nintendo also seems finicky, even compared to the aforementioned companies, when it comes to keeping their abandoned series fresh.

Konami

Until recently, Konami seemed to completely neglect digital preservation. In fact, they seem to have completely ignored the console and PC gaming market entirely. After the unceremonious departure of Metal Gear creator, Hideo Kojima, and Castlevania Producer, Koji Igarashi, their studio had become bereft of classic titles.

During the 2000s, the company released amazing titles like Silent Hill 2, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Contra 4. The 2010s, on the other hand, saw the controversial reboot of Castlevania (Lords of Shadow) and what many deemed to be an unfinished title, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Even P.T. Silent Hills, a horror demo many players looked forward to, was scrapped completely.

The last few years, though, saw the release of Super Bomberman R, a return to form for the classic Bomberman series. Konami later updated the title with several free DLC releases as well as ports to the PS4, Xbox One, PC. In 2018, they also released Castlevania Requiem, which featured Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night (PSP version) for PS4.

But perhaps last year showed the biggest change in tide. Castlevania Anniversary Collection, Contra Anniversary Collection, and Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection included many releases from the 80s and 90s. These titles even featured Japanese versions of their respective games as well as exclusive interviews. Even more impressive was that these were the first official releases of Castlevania Bloodlines and Contra Hard Corps, both initially released for Sega Genesis, in over 25 years.

We don’t know if this means Konami is throwing a bone to their fans or if they’re pushing back into the right direction. We can only hope to see them return to form as the gaming giant they once were.

Final Thoughts

While it’s important for game companies to keep pressing forward, by creating sequels and new IPs, it’s also important for fans to know where they came from. Releasing older games creates praise from players who want to try a new experience or relive their past memories. Furthermore, it establishes a relationship between the developers and the fans by listening to their requests.

As long as video game companies set a precedent, it might encourage other publishers to follow. Let’s hope that we can see the best of old and new from this decade onward. Maybe one day Sony might even release a remake of the PS1 JRPG classic, The Legend of Dragoon. Just maybe.

Which games do you wish to see return one day? Let us know in the comments below!