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%% The Amiga CD32 Reviewed!                       By Jeffrey J. Peden II %%
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Amiga CD32 Commodore's Kill-all-or-be-killed CD System

I can't express in words how great it is to be one of the very
fortunate few in  North America to have received the Amiga CD32 before 
it's official roll-out here.  I have  never been what I would call a 
hard core video-gamer, but when I read about t he CD32  I just knew I 
needed to have one.  When I read that NTSC/North American ones were 
being sold at the Toronto World of Commodore Amiga, I called up Amigaman

and ordered one, on the slim chance that I might be lucky enough to 
receive one of the units slated to come in before Christmas.  Well, it's
Sunday, December 26, and I am one of the few, the proud, the ecstatic. 

I am now an owner of a Commodore Amiga CD32!

First Impressions

Even though I knew what it was, and I had paid for half of it, I was
not allowed to even look at the box until Christmas Eve.  The first
thing I noticed was that the box was in 4 languages.  English, German,
French and Italian.  Also, the English texts are denoted with a British
flag, meaning that this is a box from the earlier European release.  I
expect that the machines released here in the U.S. next month will  have
a different box.  Also extremely interesting was the fact that the
whole back of the box was split up into 4 sections (one for each
language) telling about the Full Motion Video (FMV) module.  (It even
said that the release for the FMV/MPEG module was to be Fall '93)
Opening it up, you find the CD32 in the middle, being supported by foam
braces on the sides (which look like they were shaped for the A1200),
and in the front of the box, a container for the controller and cables. 
The cables are extremely low-cost.  The audio cables which come with
the A4000 and A1200 are pretty good quality cables (but they are by no
means professional quality).  These cables are cheap, and are
inflexible.  Also, while the CD32 supports S-Video output, no such cable
comes with the un it.  For RF output, it comes with a very old-style
Game/TV switch.  I believe it is the same one that came with my
ColecoVision!  I hope that Commodore does away with this style of 
switch in favor of the SuperNES style auto-detecting switch.  It does
come with a power-brick, but this one is smaller than the ones that come
with the A1200 (by about  25%) and it does not have a fan. Also, the
power switch is on the back of the CD32, not the power supply, which
means that the black/grey brick can be put out of sight.  The 
controller was set in the box in a way that took me a minute or two to
get out, but  that's nothing. :-)

"The World's First 32-BIT CD Games Console"

I pulled the thing out of it's box, and started connecting right away.
Ididn't  even look at the "Getting Started" instructions until half an
hour after it was running.  We had just gotten a new RCA 27" ColorTrack
Plus, which had a S-Video input, so I went digging through our
Video-Room's "snake drawer" - our own miniature version  of Radio Shack
(we run a small video production business here, out of our home) and
found an unused S-Video cable. I plugged it in, and turned it on, and
jumped about a foot when the TV blared at me. I was actually pleased  to
see an attractive boot up/intro  screen with soothing music.  An 
animated CD spinning with plasma lights float ing out of the top and 
bottom of the screen (a Northern Lights type of thing) and Amiga CD32  
at the top.  From this screen, you can hit the RED (Select) button to go
to the Non-Volatile RAM control screen.  From here you can Lock
(protect  from being over written) or Unlock the entries in RAM.  There
are 100 units available, and when they are all filled up, the oldest,
unlocked, items are  overwritten first.  This i s a very nice  touch,
because it means that you  could save your Pinball Fantasies 600 Million
Points score forever, and let  something else be overwritten first. 
The interface has a scrolling list of  all the entries, and on the side
of what I suppose you could call a window,  there  is an animated golden
key.  This key turns when you hit the select  button to  lock or 
unlock an entry.  Also from the boot up screen, you can  hit the BLUE
(Stop) button to  bring up the language selection screen.   There are
between 15 and 30 language s you  can select from. Mine came  defaulted
to American (as opposed to English).  I would assume that this  is like
Locale prefs on WB 2.1+ machines, and that any progr am that can  use
the locale.library can use these languages.  If there is a CD in the
machine  when it is booted up, most of the intro is skipped.  When a CD
is  dropped int o the  top-loading mechanism (A whole lot nicer and
quicker  than the tray machines and the CD caddies), the CD of the Amiga
CD32 begins  to spin, moves over to the right, smacking the 32 off the
screen, and then  moves across the screen wiping away the  Amiga por
tion of the logo.  It is  all very nicely done.

Inserting a music CD brings up the audio interface.  This is just as
creative as the rest of the machine. From the intro screen, it fades
into a blue screen, with a 4x5  matrix of track indicators, and the
control panel, which has buttons for Play /Pause,  Stop, Forward
Search/Skip, Reverse Search/Skip, Shuffle Play, Loop, and the b utton to
switch the counter between Total Elapsed Time, Elapsed Track Time,
Track Time  Remaining, and  Total Time Remaining.  The interface and the
track matrix are connected by  a multi-colored bundle of wire, making
things look all the more interesting. Then a track counter drops down
from above, and a CD slides in from the left. The counter hangs over the
CD, and a laser spits out pulses of light from the counter, to the CD,
and bounces it back up to the counter.  The counter moves from time to
time, keeping the beam of light on the spot where it would actually be
on the CD, a nd the  CD itself spins!  This is _THE_ best CD interface
that I have ever seen.  Almost every  function can be controlled by
dedicated buttons on the controller (making it  unnecessary to even have
the monitor on, although you may want to) or by using the directional
buttons on the pad, and using the select button when the flashing curs
or is over the on-screen gadgets. Stop the playing, and open the lid,
and the track cou nter lifts back off the screen, and the CD shoots out
to the left of the screen.  All th e text on the  screen is done in a
quartz clock type of font.  Hats off to the software engi neers for this
one!  I only wish they could read the name of the CD and/or the Track
title o ff of the CD.  It does have CD+G support though, for any of
those types of CDs (rare). 

And don't even ask how it sounds!  It is great!  It has almost
convinced my  father/boss to buy one for our video business (considering
our $200 ADC  player is on the fritz).  The first CD to drop in was a
collection of  Christmas music (somebody else's present), and you could
just about see  the full orchestra encircling you on every side.  And
Nirvana never sounded  as good as it did later, when I moved the CD32 to
it's final resting place. The  audio alone is worth almost 3/4 of the
total cost of the machine, in  my not so humble  opinion.

Gaming.  This IS what it's for, isn't it?  I got a bonus disk (well,
they had better ship it with something... I don't really think they
should call it a bonus though) with  Pinball Fantasies and Sleepwalker.
Pinball Fantasies CD Edition is not really worthy of being a CD game. It
still has only 4 boards (they have 600 megs to split with Sleepwalker,
Ireally think they could have whipped up another table or two) and it
still has the crude, less than a MOD quality, music for the tables. 
They did put one, fairly good, CD track into the game, but that's only
on the table selection screen.  I find myself  turning off the music
every time I play.  Hopefully the next in the Pinball _____ series will
take advantage of the media.  I know for a fact that this version of
Pinball Fantasies takes up just over 4 MB of space.  

Sleepwalker is a completely different story.  I was expecting some cute
little  platform game, with Super Mario World type graphics.  Boy, was
Iwrong!  That game is a tough sonova_____!  It took me a full day  to
get past the first level, and left me wanting to throw the controller 
out the window after each of my gaming sessions.  The graphics are
great, and the scrolling backgrounds are nice.  It is definately not for
the simple  minded.  I couldn't even finish the training level.  I love
putting Master  Lee in some place where he can't hurt himself, and go
off and try everything  I can.

One of the greatest things I've found so far is having the vampires
make you a bat and going off to God Knows Where.  Ocean really knows how
to make a CD game!  There are about  10  tracks of really great CD
music.  You can even access the Sleepwalker CD inte rface by  hitting
the BLUE button, while the game is booting, at the Ocean logo screen.

I think that a really good CD to come with the machine would be
Sleepwalker and Oscar or Jurassic Park.  And then, if space permits,
throw  on Pinball Fantasies.  Possibly James Pond 2 or 3 as one of
included platform games, but then again, if you give away everything,
then there  won't be anything to buy.  I have already ordered
Liberation, a game that  I know nothing about, except that it is massive
(4,000 computer generated  plots, 36,000 possible locations in each
city, multiple cities), and that everybody says that it is awesome. 
(Well, that and the fact that it is $5 more than the rest of  the
titles)  That will be here either tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on
whether AmigaMan got the game out Thursday or is waiting until Monday.  

Will it survive?  It depends.  If it is going to compete initially, it 
will have to be by merit alone. It is already doing great in Europe,
and  every unit that made it to the U.S.  before  Christmas has been
sold.  It is getting press, although not all of it is correct.  A friend
of mine tried to convince me earlier today that it was 12.5 Mhz, .2 Mhz
slower than the  Sega.  He also tried to tell me that the Sega was
32Bit, because the Sega itself was  16Bit, and the CD portion was 16Bit,
so together they are 32Bit.  He says that all this he read in a
magazine. The clerks at Electronics Boutique tried to tell a few of us
that the  CD32 was made by Atari, and that they most likely would not be
carrying it, as they  were going to sell the Jaguar, Atari's higher end
gaming machine.  It is ignorance and wrong information like this that
could kill the CD32.  But, there are some brighter  people who do know
what they're talking about when they talk about the CD32. (Other than
the run-of-the-mill Amiga user who reads Fidonet or Usenet)  Commodore
has stated that they will be advertising the CD32 starting the first
week of January.  I hope  they get they're first ad during SeaQuest or
Viper on NBC, ST:TNG on all the  syndicated stations, talk shows like
Letterman or Leno, and MTV.  This is the crowd they should try and snag,
in my opinion.  It's an uphill battle, but it's entirely possible.