Sega Genesis CDX

Gamers longing for a kinder, simpler system to replace the bulky combination of the Sega Genesis and Sega CD received their wish in April of 1994. First announced at the 1994 Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Sega Genesis CDX came as somewhat of a surprise. Seemingly to show the world "look what we can do" rather than "here is what you want," engineers at Sega came up with an all-in-one CD platform that could play Genesis cartridges, Sega CDs and audio compact discs. The appealing part of this equation was that the unit would be similar in size to a portable CD player!

As with most miniaturized technology, the Sega Genesis CDX (known as the Mega Multi-X outside of the U.S.) didn't come cheaply. Gamers who wanted the best of both worlds had to shell out $399.99 to own the hybrid system. This was a significant cost, especially considering both the Genesis and Sega CD could be purchased separately in 1994 for nearly $100 less than the CDX. And while the platform was compact and perfect for road trips, players could only listen to audio CDs using a pair of headphones, since the unit did not feature its own screen.

Perhaps the initial price wouldn't have been so hard to swallow if the bundled software was fairly substantial, but the unit didn't come with enough "must-have" titles to either lure consumers into upgrading their current setup or attract new users to the system. Part of the problem was the lack of killer-applications on the Sega CD platform. Most games fell into two groups: Genesis titles with added video clips and CD music or "interactive" full-motion video titles that had players watching the game more than playing. Few titles took advantage of the medium to deliver a unique, involving experience.

Those willing to pay the price took home the following components, all packaged within a blue box: the CDX unit, one stereo audio/visual cable, one six-button arcade pad, an AC adapter and the following CD games: Sonic CD, Ecco the Dolphin and Sega Classics Arcade Edition. The latter CD was a compilation of Sega's best-selling cartridge titles from 1989-91, including Streets of Rage, Revenge of Shinobi, Golden Axe, Columns and Super Monaco GP. It is important to note that games on the compilation disc were straight ports of cartridges without any enhancements for CD.

The actual unit itself was completely black (keeping consistent with Sega's product line) with the Genesis CDX logo in the center and the words "Multimedia CD-ROM Entertainment System" directly below. A small LCD screen appeared in front of the CD lid, allowing gamers to see the number of tracks playing on audio CDs (it would simply read "game" whenever a Sega CD was in the system).

On the left side of the LCD screen was a fast-forward button, rewind button and small button to open the CD lid; to the right was a play/pause button, stop button and a blue reset button. The power switch was located on the front edge of the unit, the AC adapter in the back, and the audio/video output on the side along with a stereo headphone jack and volume dial. Genesis cartridges could be loaded in the slot above the top-loading CD lid, while two controllers were supported via inputs on the front.

Although the subsequent release of the Sega Genesis 32X (November 1994) meant to support the CDX, potential emission violations with the FCC prevented Sega from pursuing the matter. This was a serious drawback for those who upgraded to the CDX only to find that a separate Genesis console was needed to play 32X games. Adding to the confusion was the instruction manual for the 32X, claiming the system was already compatible with the miniature CD system. The manual stated that players first needed to purchase a spacer before fitting the 32X into the compact unit.

This spacer adapter (Part No. 253-6924) was never released, however, and an addendum was printed with the 32X warning gamers to disregard information explaining the installation to a CDX. While there were reports of successful linkages between the 32X and CDX, the potential for overheating and danger involved with electric shock made attempting such a combination ill-advised. Of course, neither the 32X nor CDX warranty would cover damage resulting from such an attempt, as Sega did not endorse such activity.

Another problem for early-adopters was the potential for incompatibility with certain games. Some players experienced lock-ups and malfunctions while playing Jurassic Park on the Sega CD, for example, even though the game ran smoothly on the original CD system. Sega was swift to deal with these issues, explaining that the CDX was a new system and any defective CDs would be replaced free of charge. Owners simply had to call Sega's 1-800-USA-SEGA number or mail the CD with a description of the problem to Sega of America's office in Redwood City, California.

It is unclear whether the problem stemmed from earlier units or malfunctions in the software itself. At any rate, systems began to fade from the shelves without so much as a whimper, and after the 32X debacle, Sega gave up trying to create the ultimate compact unit for the Sega Genesis. Sega's Neptune was originally planned to be a complete system that could play Sega CDs, cartridges and 32X software. The project was canceled with the death of the 32X in the fall of 1995.

Some of the best cartridges for the Sega Genesis CDX include the following: Gunstar Heroes, Earthworm Jim, Jungle Strike, Sonic the Hedgehog, Rocket Knight Adventures, Disney's Aladdin, Castlevania Bloodlines, Phantasy Star II, Herzog Zwei, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Thunder Force III, ToeJam & Earl and Ghouls N' Ghosts.

Top CD titles include Dark Wizard, Snatcher, Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side, Shining Force CD, Lunar: Eternal Blue and Silpheed. Sports fans will also want to check out games in the following series: John Madden Football, NHL Hockey, World Series Baseball and FIFA International Soccer. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide

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