Wednesday, 23 June 2010


Just when you think it's gone away, it comes back to make us suffer some more. Yes it's another Sega 32X game - Darxide. This one's notable for being the only Europe-only release (aside from FIFA Soccer '96... which didn't have any region protection) for the console. It was a much hyped 3D shoot-'em-up, one of the first of its kind and supposedly won several awards.

Why I can't say.

Darxide is more of a tech demo than anything else. It's one of the few 32X games to be both 3D and make use of textures rather than flat shaded polygons. The stuff that all early Saturn and PlayStation games would thrive on. But this was a 32X game, an add-on to the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive console - this stuff was unthinkable for 1995.

Unfortunately despite the hype it falls down for a number of reasons. The game has you pilot a ship (clearly inspired by Star Wars) which must destroy all the asteroids and enemy ships within a very short period of time. It's a practically impossible feat to achieve, and unlike games such as Star Fox on the SNES, there isn't any more substance to it than that. But the concept was still fresh and exciting and anything "3D" was considered great at the time.

The 32X has its limits, and Darxide goes out of its way to show them to you. The framerate drops quite a lot, and the draw distance means it's very difficult to see what's coming. You have to rely on a small mini-map which depicts every object as a pixel, and the enemy ships which can fire back at you are usually too small to hit. You can't do much other than move and fire (and speed up/slow down), and as the game is so tricky it's unlikely you'll see any other stages past the first.

And don't get me wrong, it's not tricky because the gameplay is difficult, it's because the time limit is short. Having to destroy every asteroid (which you won't be able to see) and every enemy (which you won't be able to hit) cannot be done quickly, and hence why I think it's more suited to being a tech demo. Yes it's nice to see textured polygons, but that's all that's really nice about this game. The music is only mediocre and it's certainly not worth the high price tag that was put around its neck at the time of release.

And even though the graphics are nice... they're nothing amazing. The game cops out by being set in space (just like the shooters in the early 80s used to do to hide the low colour counts), and whenever a detailed background image comes into view the game slows down. It's not a fault of the game - it's the fault of the hardware, because the Sega 32X is a terrible, terrible machine that should never have existed. I like the choice of colours and, who knows, the game might not have been so bad had it been 2D. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time I guess.

But I suppose what I'm trying to say is this isn't half as good as the press of the day made it out to be, and I'm not just saying that because the game is fifteen years old. It's good to see that the 32X can handle these sorts of things, but it's perhaps better viewed on the shop floor rather than taken home for keepsies.

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