The Amiga CD 32 was an attempt at capturing a sector of the home gaming market
The Amiga CD32 was released roughly twenty years ago (gulp!) in September of 1993.
The console was Commodore's attempt to corner a sector of the gaming console market - which was really beginning to take off at the time.
Despite the unit being a reasonably impressive piece of hardware (and laying claim to being the first true 32-bit console), it never reached the heights of other consoles of the era and finally signalled the end of Commodore along with the lower end Amiga models.
Let's look back with a tinge of sadness at an ill fated machine that just did not have quite enough about it to compete with the more established technology of the era...
The Amiga CD32 Hardware
The Amiga CD 32 is widely regarded as the first 'true' 32-Bit gaming console. The hardware was based on the technology of the 'top end of the bottom end Amigas' the A1200.
The console was basically a unit containing a CD drive.
It was fitted with ports to allow you to attach game-pads, and all games for the machine were on the compact disc format. Using the CD format was a giant leap forward from floppy disks in terms of storage and access speed.
Commodore created this console with a view to establishing themselves in the home gaming console sector.
For years the Amiga range of computers had been streets ahead of anything else on the high street, but come 1993 the competitors had managed to catch up.
The Commodore Amiga no longer commanded the lead in terms of graphical and musical capabilities that it once had.
They made a vain attempt to stay ahead of the pack with the CD 32 console - but it just was just not quite good enough to do so.
The Commodore Amiga CD 32
Using the A1200 technology in the CD32 console
In fact, if the A1200 had been given a faster CPU and 4MB RAM as standard (instead of 2MB) then the Amiga 'home range' may have stood up to the competition more readily.
I only wish Commodore had put more into the A1200 and not bothered with the CD 32.
Perhaps a new A1200 (the A1200 plus maybe?) in the mid-nineties could have re-established the brand as a leading home computer, which perhaps could have fended off competition from lower end PC's and Macs. But hindsight is a wonderful thing...
The funny thing about the CD 32 was that it was possible to upgrade a CD 32 to be similar to an Amiga 1200!
You could do this by adding a keyboard, mouse, hard disk and so on - turning it into a personal computer. But really, why would you want to do that?
Surely it would have been easier to just buy a standard A1200 machine and an external CD drive!
But let's look at some positives about the console...
The Amiga CD32 Logo
Amiga CD32 features
One excellent feature of the CD 32 console was the built in MPEG decompression (a bit like a CODEC of the day) which allowed it to play video which was held on a CD. This was quite a remarkable feature and at the time was very impressive.
It was also kitted out with Commodore's AGA (Advanced Graphics Architecture) chipset which allowed for a 24-bit colour palette - giving a total of 16.7 million colours available. Not bad!
The CD drive fitted was of the double speed variety, which was also pretty good for the year. The games were accessed quickly enough by it anyway.
The console also had a nice start up 'splash screen' to greet you if you switched it on without a CD in the drive.
This then gave you the option of selecting a language and to also look inside the flash ROM for any saved game data.
Again, this was a nice feature and was pretty cool at the time.
Another Commodore Amiga Logo
CD 32 Startup
Alien Breed 3D on the CD32
The sad demise of Commodore...
Despite selling roughly 100,000 units the CD 32 came at a time when Commodore where in real financial trouble (which is mind boggling considering the excellent hardware they had pushed since the late 1970s such as the VIC 20, C16, C64, C128 and the Amiga).
As Commodore slipped away, the CD 32 unit struggled to compete against new gaming consoles that were released.
Many of the games released for it were re-hashings of older Amiga titles (in some cases with no improvements at all which did not go down well with many gamers) and little in the way of new titles were developed to showcase the consoles capabilites, which did exceed those of an Amiga 500 computer.
A few notable titles such as Microcosm, Liberation (which had a fantastic game intro), Gloom, Alien Breed 3D and Super Stardust prevented the CD 32 from falling into complete oblivion, but the dire situation with Commodore basically ensured the demise of the console.
This is a real shame as it was not a bad machine at all, it was a victim of Commodore's situation as well as market competition.
Few CD32's were sold in the USA due to legal wranglings - and the European sales were not enough to keep Commodore and the CD32 afloat.
The CD32 console has became a bit of a cult item in recent years (in a similar way to the likes of Astro Wars and Astro Blaster), and is less well remembered than machines from Nintendo and Sega (such as the Master System).
Plenty of Amiga fans enjoy watching Amiga Longplay videos - there are plenty that feature the CD 32.
Many second hand models can purchased online by enthusiasts who want to play those Amiga games on the real hardware.
I have one thanks to Ebay, but I have to say I still prefer a good old Amiga 1200...
It is even possible to play some of these games online these days, but you can't beat the real hardware in my opinion.
Gloom on the CD32
Ringing the death knell of the Commodore Amiga
It must be said that the rapid evolution of PC technology in the mid 1990s quickened the pace of the CD-32's demise, as well as the Amiga 1200.
WIth the likes of Castle Wolfenstein and especially DOOM appearing on PC, people really wanted to get into this new 1st person type of game.
The poor CD-32 just could not quite manage games of this graphical intensity.
Despite brave attempts to compete with the likes of DOOM and DOOM II with titles such as Alien Breed 3D and Gloom, the CD-32 and the Amiga brand in general was falling behind the PC rapidly as a gaming platform.
Gloom was a programming marvel and really pushed the limits of the hardware, but unfortunately DOOM it wasn't.
By this point the Amiga CD32 was living on borrowed time and the Amiga 1200 was also beginning to feel the strain of PC technology.
The CD32 Version Of The Chaos Engine Got A Nice Intro Scene
Alfred Chicken on the Amiga CD32
Alien Breed Tower Assault CD32
Arcade Pool on the Amiga CD32
Guardian on the Amiga CD32
AGA gaming on the Amiga CD32
This AGA chip-set gave the display a crisper, cleaner look and many older A500 games were re-released for the CD32 console with upgraded graphics.
The gameplay remained essentially the same as the original A500 versions though - the only noticeable difference was visually.
Some notable AGA CD32 titles include:
- Alfred Chicken
- Alien Breed: Tower Assault
- Arcade Pool
- Black Viper
- Body Blows Galactic
- Chaos Engine - which also featured a nice enhanced introduction sequence
- Desert Racing of BarDos
- Exodus: The Last War
- Fightin' Spirit
- Pinball Fantasies
- Pinball Illusions
- Rise Of The Robots (Still laughably sooo bad it remains on of my favourite ever unintenionally Funny Games)
- Shadow Fighter
- Sixth Sense Investigations
- Super Stardust
- Surf Ninja's
- Zool 2
These games are well worth playing if you pick up a CD32 console and I consider the pinball games as must have titles.
If you are a fan of pinball these games still play superbly even today and the physics, music and visuals are perfect.
On a side note please play Rise Of The Robots for pure comedy value only!
The Awesome Pinball Illusions on the Amiga CD32
The Extremely Playable Super Stardust AGA
Ultra Hard Shmup Project X on the Amiga CD32
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