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Sega 32X

The Sega 32X, codenamed Project Mars, is an add-on for the Mega Drive/Genesis video game console by Sega. Its aim was to add additional life to the aging Mega Drive system, which was facing stiff competition from the Super NES.

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. Without the cable to the Mega Drive, the sprite layer is invisible. Besides playing its own cartridges, it also acts as a pass-through for Mega Drive games, so it can be used as a permanent attachment. The Sega Virtua Processor-based Virtua Racing is the only exception – the game will not run on a Mega Drive with a 32X unit attached due to its processor (there was an enhanced version of the game, Virtua Racing Deluxe, available for the 32X, however). Also, Sega's Power Base Converter, which allows one to play Sega Master System games on a Mega Drive, could not be used with the 32X attached. This is because the Power Base Converter uses a specific grounding pin to tell the Mega Drive to enter Master System mode. The 32X itself does not pass through this pin to the Mega Drive, and therefore, the Mega Drive is unable to enter Master System mode with the 32X attached.

The 32X came with a spacer so it would fit properly with the Genesis II. It could be used with the Sega Multi-Mega/Sega CDX system, but according to the 32X manual the two consoles were not compatible. This is likely due to FCC regulations and the fact that the CD door cannot be opened with a 32X attached. The combined unit was also very prone to tipping over, risking damage to the unit and games.

Most 32X games cannot be played unless the distribution region of the game matches the region of the console. Two games, Darxide and FIFA Soccer '96, were only released for the PAL 32X. However, FIFA 96 is one of the few games with no regional lockout, meaning that it can be played on systems from other regions.

All but one of the games released for the Japanese market were released in the United States, albeit some had different names. The one Japanese-only game was Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire.

The 32X employs two PWM sound channels which are mixed through the audio lines of the main system's cartridge port. The size of the PWM width latch can be selected by one of the audio registers. Any sort of wavetable synthesis requires one of the two SH-2 processors to do this in software. This includes frequency scaling and mixing of software channels back into the two-channel output, though most 32X games used the PWM unit to play back fixed-frequency samples such as drum kits, voices, and sound effects, and have the main part of the music run from the YM2612 and PSG channels. The PWM unit in the 32X is also similar to the two PWM DACs used in the Game Boy Advance. Although the 32X could theoretically produce sound on par with the SNES, the difficulty of programming the sound system combined with the generally rushed nature of most 32X games meant that the system's improved audio capabilities mostly went unused.





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