What if the 32X were the last console ever made?

Or at least a successful one that really took off. Sometimes we do this thought experiment around here and also in the necrosoft games chat and generally on the show, but I was thinking about it extra much recently after seeing this prototype:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQNaRTxDWQU

Look at this wild thing. It's (visually) like Doom meets Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero. (It also looks like that Incredible Hulk game for Saturn which some folks theorize this became.) What does Skyrim look like if we go further this direction? Would we have more static camera, or protagonist-focused-camera games?

Those textures and that scaling is actually all super high res and smooth. Do we wind up with an extremely texture-forward but still pixel-reliant game world over blocky polygons of the PSX?

Now let's consider this one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwEih8efjVA

This isn't too unlike where early next (psx/3do/sat) gen went, but critically it's 60 fps, with big bitmaps for backgrounds, not really the skyboxes we're used to. do we lose that sense of depth we get from other platforms? Maybe not if we also look at this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtFcw2mYhNk

Soulstar eventually came out on mega cd, so maybe it's more fair to look at that (and perhaps assume that the MCD comes along for the ride with this).

https://youtu.be/rObi13jlNy4?t=1931

watch this for a bit and see the absolutely wild scaling that's going on here, and then we get inside the thing we're scaling toward. So maybe on top of everything we're leaning into superscalers.

Then there's this thing that I've watched like 50 times (lol):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOWZbydnlZE

These folks went on to make things like Amok on saturn. Look especially at around 4:25 where they combine voxels, high res ground textures, and some 3D to make something quite compelling. terrible draw distance, but you imagine they'd get that sorted out over time.

So what do we have?

  • - emphasis on high res textures
  • - protagonist-focused "flat" 3D cameras (for a while)
  • - high framerate
  • - voxels as a real possibility for the future. I do believe that if polygons weren't as viable voxels would've been the thing.
  • - superscaler tech evolving
  • - further emphasis on pixel work
  • - cd technology with the mega cd, decent disc space
  • - the enhanced weird soundchip of the mega cd, so we can play lots of samples
  • what we don't have:

  • - high polygon count
  • - transparency/alpha
  • - lighting (probably, though we have goroud shading)
  • - a big reason to move beyond the genesis controller/analog (maybe!?)
  • What kinds of worlds get created in this scenario? Panzer Dragoon probably still exists. Vagrant Story almost definitely does not. Resident Evil exists for sure, but maybe the environments are voxel-y? Do we get Sonic R? Maybe not. Do we get Crash Bandicoot? Probably! Guardian Heroes? Probably most of it!!

    What do y'all think about this mystery?

    We get Symphony of the Night I assume.

    The biggest thing is how much of a half step the 32X feels like. Even its model 1 conversions are struggling. When I had one back in the day. I loved the Virtua Fighter conversion and was really hoping for a Virtua Fighter 2 conversion. But how would you even bring that home? Keep the flat shaded polygons of 1? Its been run into the ground, but Sega KNEW that 3D was the future, but couldn't build hardware for it. I would have play the hell out of flat shaded Daytona now though.

    I've talked about it in another thread, but if Sega was just going to do a supped up Genesis with the 32x, I wish they had leaned all the way into that. They might have been technologically behind, but they could have carve their niche making a full blown Sonic on the Knuckles Chaotix engine. Maybe brought in all the Super Scaler games they missed. Still done the Capcom and SNK 2D fighters. Shoot just the game on cartridge with an audio cd bonus you can use to add CD music if you have the hardware. And if they could keep the price point low for an all in one 32X Genesis Sega CD (like a single unit no hodgepodge), maybe, maybe they coast those couple extra years until the Dreamcast. You're going to loose the teens to Playstation, but maybe you can keep the kids and budget gamers. Give us Streets of Rage IV in the 90s. Phantasy Star V. Run those IPs into the ground.

    The big losses are Panzer Dragoon, Nights (though maybe we get that in 2D), and Burning Rangers.

    The timeline doesn't add up, but you could still do maybe do a flat shaded Tony Hawk and have it be just as fun. Not even GBA style. Same game no textures.

    I think you do get panzer dragoon, though I think it comes later! By my thinking if you combine the 3D models of darxide, and the large scaling textures of soulstar, you can make a panzer dragoon. Or maybe it's voxels (not bad for a rail shooter). Either way I do think you get that. As for VF 2, maybe it winds up oddly as 2D prerendered sprites with proper 3D backgrounds (x-men style), a reverse of what the Saturn did?

    @“exodus”#p40245 so the big thing is if Sega CD is standard. If so we can do Resident Evil with models that look like Alone in the Dark. That could work but its still pushing in the direction of 3D.

    You could do a Sonic R like the Chaotix bonus stages. Or a pumped up Sonic Cd bonus stage. Need that Cd for the music though.

    You could still in theory do PC ports like Command an Conquer. The real question is with enough dev time can you get Duke Nukem on the hardware?

    I feel like there’s a trajectory that basically requires the CD. You get some of the 3do ports. And things follow in that Road Rash / Gex line of past 16 bit sprite work with audio video bells and whistles on top of 16 bit style games. More digitized fighters basically

    You get rhythm games. Honestly surprised there were none (that I'm aware of) on the Sega CD. They could do stuff like DDR or Guitar Freaks.

    I‘m absolutely including the mega cd in my “what we have” model here. it came out first and there’s already a precedent for 32x/cd games so it would make sense to include and integrate the two. The chaotix special stage is a good one to bring up as well, yeah.

    @“hellomrkearns”#p40249 if they get past the headspace of cd means digital video with limited input you get there. Like Parappa with sprites over looping video could work.

    That X-Men proto is exactly how I imagined “video games of the future” to look like. That and FMV integrated stuff like what was used in FF7 continued to have shaders and lighting that were ahead of what was contemporary until this generation. “What would Skyrim look like” reminds me that I've been playing Virtual Hydlide for the first time lately, and I fricking love it. Imagine instead of every franchise trying for better or for worse to make a 3D polygonal adaptation, that they all got more of this 2.5D stuff instead…. Or just keep thinking about Virtual Hydlide. Not a far reach to imagine an Elder Scrolls: Arena port, or something similar. Very interesting that you use Vagrant Story as an example, because the targeting system is hinged on the polygons? Is there another reason?

    The 32X is the worst console I have ever owned – and please keep in mind I have an Amiga CD32 somewhere at home. I only bought mine fairly recently (4〜5 years ago maybe?) and had never realized, until that fateful purchase, the device requires its own AC adapter. Which makes 32X CD-ROM games require three different AC adapters!? Also, the 32X cannot use the console’s AV; it requires the video signal to go through and exit from its monstruous fungoïdal body. Which means you need to parasite the Mega Drive’s AV with a connector cable, then connect the 32X video cable (which is different, and unique, and fuck you) to the TV or monitor. But once you have done all this, can you play a standard Mega Drive game on the 32X? No! You have to uninstall everything. ~apparently ~I ~remember ~this ~incorrectly!

    Gah! This is pretty much “The PC Engine evolutive ecosystem done wrong”. It is a miserable experience, for mostly terrible games and a few good arcade ports that got outshined by the Saturn immediately. Oh right! And the confusing messaging hurt the Saturn’s launch as well. Just grrrreat. If the 32X were a baby, I would punch it in the face.

    At least the Neptune would have been an interesting hardware solution, even if it failed to include the CD-ROM reader compared to an “all-inclusive” equivalent like the PC Engine Duo.

    [upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/q1vbuNC.jpeg]

    I think for something like the Neptune to come out, and generally your hypothesis of a successful 32X (heavens forbid...), you’d need both the PlayStation and Saturn to have never existed. In this alternative reality, I think the Nintendo 64 still comes out around 1996. The PC-FX probably fares a little better. The Jaguar and 3DO probably last a little longer? Does the M2 project ever exists? Dragon Quest either stays on the Super Famicom or jumps to the N64. I am not sure where Squaresoft goes. They clearly felt the need to jump to the CD-ROM. Maybe they partner with someone to release their own CD-ROM drive for the SFC? I don’t think they ever go to Sega.

    Yeah, virtual hydlide is a good potential skyrim direction for sure.

    I chose vagrant story because it's high poly count, full 3D, sophisticated lighting, animated textures, analog controls, just a lot of stuff that goes in another direction than the 32x would have. Though low poly characters with sophisticated textures *might* have been a thing.

    I can't find any real poly counts for 32x games but the max poly pushing specs (50k) are less than 1/3 the psx (180k). So I imagine them having to get real inventive.

    @"chazumaru"#146 I'm less interested in the conditions required for 32x to be the best, and more in what the game landscape looks like if games go this direction (btw you can play regular MD games on 32x, I do all the time. I think just have to clip some stuff, Japanese n64 style.)

    It almost feels like the question is what if we don’t go fully polygonal. In that case I can see a further Aladdin-ing of games. More touting Disney like animation. Or Nore Mortal Kombat style stuff. More DKC obviously. But you basically don’t really get racing games as we know them without full 3D. You do get Final Fantasy 7 but not Ff8.

    @“robinhoodie”#p40258 You get Viewtiful Joe a whole generation early.

    Instead of ICO or OoT we'd have more stuff like Alundra– sign me tf up!

    SotN was a good example. Rare full 2D game that throws polygons atcha

    Imagine a world of 2.1D games that are fully 2D, supplemented by polygons. Treasure kind of did this also.

    A game comes to mind where the player is a sprite dude surfing on a polygon board in bitmap environments. The game only pushes a single polygon as the centerpiece and the rest is highly detailed sprites.

    ICO and OoT build off existing genres though. So maybe we get them in 2d. Its really a question of what genres we just don’t get off the ground. Sim racing probably no. First person shooter hits a wall. Car combat no. Where do sports games go? Further NBA Jam-ification? Wrestling games don’t take off. You get GTA 1 and 2 but you don’t get Runabout.

    I think video fames stay smaller in culture for much longer if you don’t have a Goldeneye.

    I‘m sad in this hypothetical world scenario because I’m sure we never get any of the Wipeout games (or if we do, they aren't Wipeout games and are just more f-zero).

    I wonder if some of the stuff that was happening on the PC makes its way to the 32X land however. There was an early-to-mid 90's push to try doing a bunch of Cool Shit with voxels, like Comanche: Maximum Overkill
    https://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l/242955-comanche-maximum-overkill-dos-screenshot-voxel-space-rivers.png

    Judging from the 32X tech demo reel above, things like this still exist for sure.

    A Comanche port was planned (and prototyped) for snes so I imagine it would‘ve happened. I think you’d get wipeout but in a Laserdisc kind of way - polygon ships on fmv backgrounds, playing faster or slower depending on acceleration. Maybe fmv background games would actually get decent, expanding upon what silpheed did with the genre.

    >

    @“exodus”#p40255 btw you can play regular MD games on 32x, I do all the time.

    Really!? My bad. I remember running into trouble... Apparently only Virtua Racing isn’t compatible because of the SVP and that definitely sounds like the kind of game I would have used to try it out. Oops.

    >

    @“exodus”#p40255 I’m less interested in the conditions required for 32x to be the best, and more in what the game landscape looks like if games go this direction

    I get the idea and where you are trying to drive the discussion, but it’s just weird to consider it in a vacuum without how it bounces off the other stuff. Like, where do arcade games go? Stuff like Ridge Racer and Daytona USA is already in operation, Virtua Fighter 2 is about to release. These games will have to get a port somewhere somehow.

    I think we eventually get to the same games we got for the PS1/Saturn generation, just less conveniently. 32X games get their own upgrade chips like the SVP or SuperFX. Eventually the 32X gets its own 32X and we reach [MegaTower](https://www.play-asia.com/mega-drive-mini-tower/13/70crmd) nirvana, or more likely the 32X gets replaced with a 64X at some point.

    There is possibly more Resident Evil-style trickery with CG backgrounds traversed by low-poly characters. FF7 can still happen, from a technical perspective. Maybe that kind of games dominates over full polygonal stuff for a while.

    FMV gets a longer time in the sunshine. We get more stuff like the PC-FX catalogue from Japan. Maybe MPEG encoding progresses much faster in order to make due with limitations and we get much better quality encoding on a plain old 32X and maybe even regular Mega CD.

    Also, the Neo Geo CD thrives, possibly? We’re just on the cusp of its most mainstream year ever (Christmas 1995) and suddenly there is zero "Next Gen" competition for SNK at Christmas? If so, I wonder how these now mega popular Neo Geo games get ported to the 32X. What happened to the Mega CD (with Final Fight and Samurai Spirits) and the 3DO (with SSFIIX) would lead me to believe that CPS1, CPS2 and MVS ports would thrive on CD-ROM based 32X games rather than cart-based 32X games. The SNK juggling monkey becomes one of the most famous and hated video game characters in History.

    If so, maybe Yamauchi is proven right that CD-ROM can’t beat the cartridges due to the rest of the industry being stuck on 1x speed CD-ROM? I think Sega just releases another Mega CD with higher spec and faster speed. We just get more iterative upgrades and all-in-one solutions like the Neptune as time goes by. So eventually we can get to stuff like the Saturn and 1996-ish PC performance.

    I understand your theory. Does everything become Crusader: No Remorse for three years? Etc. But I really don’t think we get to such a divergent future. The 32X catalogue is what it is, not just because of the technology but also because of the developers involved. Like, I don’t think Treasure’s output on the Saturn would have dramatically changed if it were on the 32X instead. If the entire industry was effectively developing on the hardware, we just get to the same point but painstakingly and possibly with [different victors.](https://i.imgur.com/62Xt81M.jpeg)

    I guess one huge difference is Donkey Kong Country probably becomes a much bigger deal and influence on everything. What a frightening thought... Maybe [Project Dream](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Dream) ends up happening and becomes the Breath of the Wild of its era, an evolutionary masterpiece to which every game is insufferably compared for the rest of the decade.

    https://youtu.be/SId5ibTZIcU

    You don't have to give it too much thought, just take a gander at the GBA library and wind back the licenses about eight years.

    I never owned a 32X when it was contemporary but I have been researching it quite a bit as of late and I gotta say - I‘m actually pretty impressed by it. Seeing games like Shadow Squadron, Tempo, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Racing Deluxe and DOOM makes me think that if was the last system, we’d at least see most of the groundbreaking 2D games (SOTN, modern indie) that have been made and probably a decent collection of 3D games that might approach some N64 or PS1 games (thinking THPS, Crash, Panzer Dragoon, FFVII). Combined with the Sega CD to provide higher quality audio and additional storage should provide some more ambitious design as well. It had so much going against it that most people laugh it off, but put to its strengths I think the potential library (as the last console ever) would satisfy the expectations of people.

    Edit: Here is good series on cancelled 32X games (the first 5 videos at least before it gets into other systems)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trHNAbp21x4&list=PLwz8oWun2YRF_Z1W57PCFXMKoBD3fbXok&index=1

    I love thinking about this kind of thing. When I was a kid, I was always late to the party getting consoles; I remember getting a 32X back when they were on clearance for $20 but was still totally convinced that it transformed my Sega Genesis into a supercomputer and with the Sega CD, it had THE POWER COSMIC. Yeah, the 32X didn‘t have many good games but I’ve always wondered what would have happened if it had more developer support and stuck around long enough for people to really exploit the hardware. A lot of 32X ports are actually inferior to the Genesis or Sega CD versions of those same games in certain ways (eg Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure runs at a lower framerate) but I suspect that was more a result of rushed development than a problem in the hardware.

    So what Sega was most focused on was arcade ports; we'd probably see things like Daytona USA, Virtua Cop, and The House of the Dead. They might not be more janky than the Saturn ports, but still far and away better than what was on Genesis/SNES. If Sega's making Virtua Cop and House of the Dead (presumably with support for the Menacer, possibly The Justifier) I feel like we might see more lightgun games getting ported. Time Crisis could probably work on the system in a way. I can easily imagine something like Area 51 being a good fit. Maybe we'd see an American release of Policenauts, which would feel a little more sensible given that Konami would be supporting the system with its unreleased version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and already put out Snatcher on Sega CD (which probably would have been at least a little more popular if the Sega CD was a thriving market upon its release).

    I'm not sure what Sonic Team's games might be like: if nothing else NiGHTS wouldn't have the exploring-on-foot parts and I don't think we'd have gotten Burning Rangers.

    The late 90s RPG boom would probably be effected. Final Fantasy VII as a 32X CD game probably wouldn't have captivated the imaginations of as many folks - I'm imagining it looking like the X-Men game in the first post but with random battles. I feel like the RPGs on Sega hardware have such a different feel that I have trouble imagining the being as influential as it got, maybe JRPGs would continue to be a niche genre.

    I just this discovered about this game called Zenith into Maronarium and it extremely has that same energy as the X-Men prototype at the start of the thread.

    https://twitter.com/mousefountain/status/1425963857537867781?s=19

    Also agreed with treefroggy that this looks like something 3000 thousand years into the future.