One look at the 32X box tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the system. “40 times faster than 16-bit!” “32,768 simultaneous colors!” “50,000 polygons per second, and enhanced scaling and rotation.” Wow! Impressive! Along with all this techno mumbo jumbo come no shortage of hyperbole. “This is true 32-bit gaming power!” “You get the total 32-bit experience!” And worst of all: “Full library of NEW 32-bit 32X games!”
To give an idea of how bare the 32X’s cupboard was, there are 18 screenshots of games on the 32X box. Nine of them are of two games. Of all the 32X’s eventual 34 titles, only a handful delivered on Sega’s promise: An enjoyable 32-bit gaming experience at home. Probably the best of these, and one of the very few reasons to ever even consider owning a 32X, is Star Wars Arcade.
The 32X version is an extremely faithful version of the game that could be found contemporaneously in arcades. Even better, the 32X version had several extra levels, arguably making it the definitive version. Each stage has you piloting an X-Wing (or Y-Wing in two-player mode). A pre-internet-meme Admiral Ackbar orders you to shoot down a preset number of enemy TIE fighters in a given time limit in order to proceed to the next level. The first two levels (an asteroid field and Star Destroyer-filled area) are fairly simple, but the time limit can be a factor for inexperienced players. The third level is where the game’s arcade roots shine through. This level has you assault the Death Star and the difficulty shoots straight through the roof. The level itself is harder than the previous two and a cinematic sequence at the beginning of the level eats into your precious time, so most players die by the clock during this stage. Those who make it through must endure a brutally difficult “trench run,” where a dizzying amount of walls obstruct your path and turrets fire a massive amount of lasers at you. After this level are the new levels that were added to the 32X version, including an assault on the second Death Star. Unfortunately, most players never make it that far thanks in part to the limited continues.
Bland, somehow-worse-than-Genesis-sounding versions of classic Star Wars themes are looped during each level. Voice clips are sparse but the sound quality is surprisingly clear for a cart-based game. The game looks nice enough for its time—certainly better than anything the Super NES’s vaunted FX chip could churn out.
Star Wars Arcade’s main flaws revolves around the fact that it’s a completely unaltered port of an arcade game. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t satisfying. Hunting down the last TIE fighter with only seconds left on the timer is still a thrilling experience. It’s oddly cathartic to see a TIE fighter blip on your radar bouncing around and then disappear once you finally get a bead on it.
It’s probably not worth investing in today unless if you’re a gaming or Star Wars collector, but for those of us who foolishly invested in a 32X at the time, this was one of the few titles we could point to and proudly say, “Hey, this is kinda fun!” For the 32X, that’s as good as it gets.
Article by Scott Lowe
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