The Sega 32X, codenamed Project Mars, is an add-on for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis video game console which allows the user to play 32-bit games. Its aim was to increase the lifespan of the aging Mega Drive/Genesis system, which was facing increasingly stiff competition from the SNES. While connecting it to Mega Drive/Genesis did increase its capabilities, reluctance to adapt due to the previous failure of the Sega CD and the upcoming Sega Saturn system led to low sales and a short lifespan.
It was distributed under the name Sega Super 32X in Japan, Sega Genesis 32X in North America, Sega Mega Drive 32X in the PAL region, and Sega Mega 32X in Brazil.
The Sega 32X can only be used in conjunction with a Mega Drive/Genesis system. It is inserted into the system like a standard game cartridge, although it does require its own separate power supply and a cable linking it to the Mega Drive/Genesis. Without the cable to the Mega Drive/Genesis, the sprite layer is invisible. Besides playing its own cartridges, it also acts as a pass-through for Mega Drive/Genesis games, so it can be used as a permanent attachment.
The 32X was released in Europe on November 14, 1994 for £170 / DM400, North America on November 21, 1994 for US$159 and in Japan on December 3, 1994 for ¥16,800.
Sega Mega-CD 32X
In addition to regular cartridge-based 32X games, there were also a very small number of CD-ROM games for the 32X. These games were labeled with Sega Mega-CD 32X (Sega CD 32X in North America). As the name suggests, these required both the 32X and Mega-CD/Sega CD add-ons. Only five of these games were released in North America, only one of which was developed by Sega.
List of Sega CD 32X Games
- Processor: Two SH2 32-bit RISC processors with a clock speed of 23.011 MHz, approx 20 MIPS each, 40 MIPS total
- Video RAM: Two linear framebuffers with support for RLE compression and an overdraw mode to simplify compositing objects with transparency. All scaling, rotation, and 3D operations are performed in software on the SH2 processors.
- ROM (BIOS): 3 kb
- Color depth: 32,768 simultaneous colors on screen at standard Mega Drive/Genesis resolution. Video output can overlay Mega Drive/Genesis graphics or vice versa. Mega Drive/Genesis video effects such as shadow or highlight do not affect 32X video.
- Memory: 256 kB (2 MBit) program RAM and two 128 kB (1 MBit) framebuffers.
- Audio: Stereo 10-bit PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) mixing with Mega Drive/Genesis sound for a total of 12 audio channels of varying capability, 20 with the addition of a Mega-CD/Sega CD.
- I/O: Same as Mega Drive/Genesis.
- Storage: 32X cartridges are fundamentally the same as Mega Drive/Genesis cartridges with some small differences in the plastic casing. A few CD-ROM games were developed that also required a Mega-CD/Sega CD.
- Compatibility: Compatible with Mega Drive/Genesis models 1 and 2. The 32X does not work with the Genesis 3 which lacks some of the necessary interface logic.
- Dimensions: 107 × 205 × 110 mm (4.2 × 8.1 × 4.3 in)
- Weight: 495 grams (17.5 oz)