Here’s a detailed glimpse of some of the 32 bit systems and their features. This guide will cover some of the early 32-bit systems.
System name: Sega Saturn
RF and AV output
2 Controller Ports (upgradeable to 12 with 2 multitaps)
Power and Reset Buttons
Cartridge Port for Backup RAM and Expansion RAM Cards
Internal Clock and internal battery back up for game saves
The original Saturn control pads featured a D-Pad and 9 buttons (X,Y,Z,A,B,C,L,R,START). Later in its lifespan sega released alternate re-designed versions of the pads which were more ergonomically sound and featured improved L and R button design. The first generation pads were plagued with L and R buttons breaking due to poor hinge design. With the release of Nights into Dreams Sega also introduced the first 3D analog control pad that featured one large Analog stick along with digital control. This control pad was also compatible with other late releases that featured “true 3D” gaming and control.
Japanese Version: Sega Saturn
Late in the life cycle Sega Released another version of the Saturn which was slightly different cosmetically and featured round power and reset buttons versus the oval shaped.
Funky Add-ons: RAM Cart, Light Guns, Arcade Sticks, NET Link adapter
The Sega Saturn was the first system to enter the 32 bit gaming era but was completely overshadowed by the Sony Playstation system which boasted better graphics, more widestream support, and a giant marketing machine. It’s still heralded today as one of the best gaming systems by hardcore gamers as it featured several fantastic games that were never released on any other system (Guardian Heroes, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Dragon Force, the list goes on and on).
System name: Sony Playstation or PSX, PS1
Company: Sony Computer Entertainment of America
RF and AV output
2 Controller ports (upgradeable to 4 with multitap)
2 Memory Card slots
Power and Reset Buttons
Expansion port for gamesharks and other add-ons
Sony made quite a statement with the design of their controllers which have since influenced the design and architecture of today’s next generation systems. The original Playstation pads were digital featuring a D-Pad and 10 buttons (Square, X, Triangle, Circle, L1, L2, R1, R2, select, start). Gone were the days of labeling buttons A,B,C…and many gamers (myself included) had to adjust to identifying where the heck the Triangle button was! Later Sony released the Analog control pads which featured two analog control sticks along with the digital buttons. The handles of the controls were also elongated. This controller was later replaced with the now household known “Dual Shock” control pads. These new control pads featured a “Rumble” Feature without the use of batteries and the handles were trimmed down in size to be more comfortable for gameplay. The introduction of the dual shock controller made a tremendous impact on the way we know and play games today. Many 3D gameplay features would not be as commonly accepted or familiar as they are today had it not been for the widespread acceptance and use of the Dual Shock controller. Sony had a good thing on their hands and several years later when the PS2 made it’s debut it came as no surprise that the design of the Dual Shock 2 was so similar to the original.
Japanese version: Playstation
In 2001 Sony released a smaller re-designed version of the PSX at a more affordable price point. About 1/3 the size of the original playstation, the PSone featured a white colour, no serial port, and a new default menu for the CD player and memory card management.
As many people know, the CD based systems were targets of the black market pirate community and it wasn’t long before “backup” or copied versions of the games became available for play with the use of a “mod chip”. The mod chip installation bypassed the protection and validation procedure for a legitimate game and allowed gamers to play illegal copies of their games on the system for a fraction of the cost. Despite having a huge impact on the gaming industry and albeit pirating is still rampant today, there’s no question that the gaming industry is still booming and has survived.
System name: Nintendo 64
RF and AV output
4 Controller Ports
Power slide switch and press reset button
Probably as influential as the Dual Shock 2 controllers, the Nintendo 64 control pads were introduced to the gaming community and created quite a stir in terms of how well the design and functionality would prove to be. Nintendo often known for their innovation introduced a strange, 3-pronged controller that was the first of its kind that could be held in a variety of different ways. The controller featured the customary D-pad along with a whopping 10 buttons (A, B, 4 C buttons, L, R, and Z, Start). The C buttons were promoted as being used primarily for camera control and were much smaller than the standard A,B buttons. The Z button was located at the back of the controller almost as a “trigger” button, the first of its kind. The Analog joystick truly had the opportunity to shine with the release of Super Mario 64 which was the first truly interactive open 3D based platformer that featured real analog control.The controllers also featured an expansion port to hold Memory Cards for game saves, Rumble Paks, and other add-on devices. These were the first controllers to feature memory card and expansion ports in the control pad versus in the system itself. The N64 was also the first system to have 4 controller ports built into the system which allowed for multiplayer gaming without purchasing another accessory.
Japanese Version: N64
Nintendo stuck with the original design for the N64 all throughout its longevity. It did however undergo somewhat of an identity crisis prior to its release with names such as Codename Dolphin, and Ultra 64 being coined prior to the decision on Nintendo 64.
Late in its life cycle Nintendo released the “Funtastic” line of systems which included a variety of translucent colours including Fire Red, Watermelon, Jungle Green, Grape Purple, Ice Blue, and Orange.
Funky Add-ons: Rumble Paks, RAM Expansion, VRU, Gamesharks, 64DD (only released in Japan).
The gaming community was a little shocked to hear that Nintendo would be releasing their next generation system as a cartridge-based unit. It was well known that cartridges had limitations due to storage capacity and were also quite more expensive to manufacture versus CD games. Nintendo managed to hush the nay-sayers by releasing a steady stream of million selling titles by reviving franchises that Nintendo managed to make successful for decades (Mario, Kirby, Yoshi, etc). Cartridge games were also more resilient to damage and were found to be a suitable choice for younger gamers of concerned parents.
Millions of gamers recognize the Mario Party Franchise as being one of the most successful franchises in gaming history. An interactive video game board game featuring Nintendo characters competing in mini games for coins and stars by navigating through interactive theme-based boards not only brought Nintendo great fortune, it also led to great controversy. Many of the mini games in the first Mario Party required gamers to rotate the Analog stick repeatedly to score the highest points. Gamers realized that in order to achieve the highest possible score, the proven method of success was to use your palm and rotate the stick frantically. It wasn’t long before parents were met with blistered, red, and raw palms of young gamers which led to litigation against Nintendo which forced them to invest millions of dollars into the production an free distribution of “Gamer Gloves” to protect the sweaty, raw, and broken palms of Mario Party fans across the world.