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Most impressive 3D-Games for the Sega Saturn

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I think Tomb Raider and Resident Evil, if released on time and at the same time, were more than fair ports/versions compared to the PS1 Versions. Both hold up fairly well, the weakness being the mesh shading vs transparencies. Of course it took more effort to succeed on Saturn, even with updated tools/libraries. But honestly, their Sega/Mega-CD efforts were more impressive. i am not sure how much better they could have been on Saturn and if the sequels could have progressed much further.

I have always been under the impression that back then, Amiga/ST developers were far superior coders/creators than any North American gaming houses who didn't work on 68k machines (excluding Cinemaeware and Readysoft).

Core Design punched well above their weight on the European 16-bit machines. They released several notable games in a large quantity yearly. Same thing could be said about Magnetic Fields from Gremlin, Digital Illusions, Bitmap Brothers, Storm, Factor 5, Team 17 and Psygnosis to a smaller degree.
We all know what happened with Tomb Raider 2. We'll never really know how much better Ninja or Fighting Force would have been. Ninja on the Saturn was said to be doing wonderful stuff and really pushing on the Hardware and also leading development on the Saturn. I doubt Tomb Raider 2 on the Saturn would have looked better mind, it would have been nice mind to see how it would have turned out, more so since Jason Gosling said it was coming along nicely to the British press.

It's such a shame Waterworld on the Saturn was dropped that was said to have been a showcase for the Saturn VDP2.


I think a lot of the European coders were really pushing 3D polygons even on 8-bit microcomputers and some of their assemble skills was fab. To this day it amazes me how advanced the 3D in Elite, F1 GP, Starglider really was for the time. Its amazing how good the 3D was also in Tomb Raider more so from a tiny British team with like their 2nd next-gen game. Core really showed up a lot of the best American and Japanese developers at the time
 
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Deep Fear is a very under rated gem. Extremely late in the life cycle, but as far as 3D and presentation goes, it's somewhere between Resident Evil 1 and 2, maybe closer to 2. Fine effort and a shining example of what we could have expected on a consistent bases? maybe?
I still think the character models could have been better. It was a showcase for ADX mind with stunning music and high quality sound effects


I think these games show off some nice 3D sadly they just don't play great


 

cireza

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Good luck buying Sega Saturn games. The go for hundreds on eBay.
There are some good options to buy at a lower price, especially Japanese games.
There are also other means to play the games : emulators, IDE or Pseudo Saturn with backups.
 
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nush

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A long haul flight from wherever you are.
On zig zag I just can't get past SEGA fucking it up and somehow making the worst case of polygon warping ever seen in SEGA Touring Car Championship. On a system known for its lack. I bet that if it wasn't for that, far more people would have prasied the game. It deserved better, very playable.

The Japanese version released later than the western one has some minor improvements, at least to the control.
 

fart town usa

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Deep Fear is a very under rated gem. Extremely late in the life cycle, but as far as 3D and presentation goes, it's somewhere between Resident Evil 1 and 2, maybe closer to 2. Fine effort and a shining example of what we could have expected on a consistent bases? maybe?
Yea, Deep Fear is super impressive. RE gives you door opening animations....Deep Fear went all out and gave you CG animations for elevators and shit, lol.

It's a shame the VA is even worse than RE though but it's a really cool game, lots of mechanics that were forward thinking.
 

Alexios

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Deep Fear is a good game but I wouldn't call it impressive. It's competent, not ugly or anything, it's nice that it's more action based with being able to move and shoot despite the classic RE style, though I think it wouldn't hurt if there was ammo management instead of the refill stations.

Well, I think we've covered everything so far, lol (though it'd be cool if someone brings up some completely unknown game), but I'm sure many/I missed a lot in previous pages due to the off topic bs. We should have a 2D or tech agnostic thread too for more Saturn goodness :p

Towns and areas in Shining Force III can look great (the battle scenes and spells are also great but not so impressive being 1 on 1 scripted sequences), like Grandia, but it's hard to find footage and the sprites' compressed look holds it back. The Holy Ark looks nice too.

The Japanese version released later than the western one has some minor improvements, at least to the control.
I think it's a fine game. Great sense of speed despite the framerate, stylish cars, always cool to bump into others as you race shoving them out of the way. Even if it's hard to control it's not like it feels sluggish or boring to give up instead of learn. Tons of modes and content for an arcade racer.

I'd play it over any of its contemporary Ridge Racers (which aren't more technically proficient & though track design is fantastic, gameplay isn't) but each to their own. It's just that damn polygon warping, which is especially bad in the first person camera that would otherwise be even cooler.

I guess nowadays we can emulate the arcade versions instead but, everyone knows model 2, 3, earlier and later arcade machines are glorious (and much more so than other competitors, hence the easier to somewhat faithfully downport games that still suffered in the transition to PS1).
 
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Alexios

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The mentioned Dungeon Master Nexus looks and runs pretty good in motion (compares favorably to early King's Field, trashes Wizardry). The same goes for that Wachenroder SRPG and its great scene CG & art, FFT style visuals (no slopes though), awesome spritework and SFIII-esque specials.
 
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Alexios

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2 more Saturn games were recently (7-8 months ago) translated. The SRPG Vandal Hearts most know from the PlayStation (the Saturn version seems enhanced outside transparencies) and another SRPG, Valhollian (this one's only use of 3D and only ambition seems to be the SFIII style attacks).

Lots of neat hacks in that channel for those interested, for widescreen play or whatever. There's even a 2-disc Shining Force III collection dubbed deluxe with everything intact + a history video of the previous games, all done using a menu system from some demo disc. Not my thing, but cool too.
 
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Deep Fear is a good game but I wouldn't call it impressive. It's competent, not ugly or anything, it's nice that it's more action based with being able to move and shoot despite the classic RE style, though I think it wouldn't hurt if there was ammo management instead of the refill stations.

Well, I think we've covered everything so far, lol (though it'd be cool if someone brings up some completely unknown game), but I'm sure many/I missed a lot in previous pages due to the off topic bs. We should have a 2D or tech agnostic thread too for more Saturn goodness :p

Towns and areas in Shining Force III can look great (the battle scenes and spells are also great but not so impressive being 1 on 1 scripted sequences), like Grandia, but it's hard to find footage and the sprites' compressed look holds it back. The Holy Ark looks nice too.


I
Shining In the Holy Ark is an overlooked classic that supports great graphics too

It gets little credit but I think Die Hard Arcade shows off some of the best 3D graphics on the system with some wonderful textures and it's also a brilliant game to boot

 
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cireza

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Die Hard Arcade is by far my favorite beat'em up on the console. The game is so much fun. I know people tend to love Guardian Heroes the most, but I don't like the gameplay much. Enemies are sent flying too easily, and you eventually inflict very few damage in the end game, which makes battles incredibly long for nothing.

Die Hard Arcade is indeed very well done, with great animations, a ton of different moves and combos, and a huge variety of situations. You get move-sets that remind me of Virtua Fighter, with some nice projections to end the combos. Highly recommended !


On another note, popping was a big issue in early 3D games, on PS1 and Saturn, and sometimes it can really be a distraction. There are some games that handled this brilliantly, finding ways around the problem. Here are the ones that come to mind :

Amok :

Scorcher :

Sonic R :

Panzer Dragoon Saga :

I find these games very impressive and clean. Honestly, there was quite a lot of progress made in 3D on Saturn in a short amount of time, and I am certain the console could have produced even more impressive games, given a couple more years.
 
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Alexios

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Yeah, I don't care so much if draw distance is short but I really dislike when it's not smooth, especially common on Saturn. Idk if on PS they use transparencies or something Saturn can't do much to get objects smoothly into view, but on Saturn you often get a huge piece of scenery pop in, as if it can't do some smooth fog or something to hide its pop and then bring it in view in pieces, as if it can only bring stuff in view by huge quad chunks or worse the whole object in question at once, after its furthest point is in the pop in range. Or did some developers maybe think that the drawing distance was already too short to try and make it smoother by adding an effect like that which further reduces it as they'd have to render in out of view, within that effect, then smoothly come into the player's view? Or they didn't bother. Those games did it better than most on Saturn for sure.
 
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Die Hard Arcade is by far my favorite beat'em up on the console. The game is so much fun. I know people tend to love Guardian Heroes the most, but I don't like the gameplay much. Enemies are sent flying too easily, and you eventually inflict very few damage in the end game, which makes battles incredibly long for nothing.

Die Hard Arcade is indeed very well done, with great animations, a ton of different moves and combos, and a huge variety of situations. You get move-sets that remind me of Virtua Fighter, with some nice projections to end the combos. Highly recommended !

Yeah, spot on. I also thought these games had nice 3D graphics and were nice ports of the PS versions, just lacking when it came to transparent effects






 
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Alexios

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I found that rail shooter by searching iPlaySEGA's playthroughs, it's called G Vector. Apparently it's so hard he had to use cheats but I found an 1cc playthrough. It's okay, it's no Panzer Dragoon and doesn't seem to use many Saturn tricks cleverly, just brute force and some backgrounds.

Some of the early clipping made it look like they arbitrarily decided the level terrain/style after doing the enemy patterns and couldn't care less if they went through terrain unaffected. Weird. Anyway, it doesn't look like I've been missing much without this one. Still a great tribute video.
 
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stranno

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I found that rail shooter by searching iPlaySEGA's playthroughs, it's called G Vector. Apparently it's so hard he had to use cheats but I found an 1cc playthrough. It's okay, it's no Panzer Dragoon and doesn't seem to use many Saturn tricks cleverly, just brute force and some backgrounds.

Some of the early clipping made it look like they arbitrarily decided the level terrain/style after doing the enemy patterns and couldn't care less if they went through terrain unaffected. Weird. Anyway, it doesn't look like I've been missing much without this one. Still a great tribute video.
That homing laser style never gets old.
 
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celsowmbr

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Hardware-based UV Texture Environment Mapping on a stock Sega Saturn:



Sunday I was watching John Burton’s (Coding secrets – GameHut) video again on environmental mapping as seen in Sonic R. He mentioned in the video that it’s impossible to do environment mapping using the Saturn hardware, as it lacks textures coordinates. So the only known solution was to do some kind of work on the CPU side of things, either to generate a new texture with the effect applied or to fully software render the effect (as in Sonic R).

That sounded like a challenge!
-XL2
 

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Celine

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That's bloody impressive.

EDIT:
Was it? Try watching one of the Jenovi videos on Sega consoles, he provides data showing how Saturn was ultimately profitable for Sega from 1994 to 1998. Yeah, they did some "questionable" things (like intentionally limiting system production numbers for book-cooking purposes), but Saturn didn't lose Sega money.
Be aware that, whoever that Jenovi is, it's likely he/she looked at the non-consolidated statement of income, as Sega were used to report back then, which means it covered Sega Enterprise Ltd but not it's subsidiaries.
The reason Sega Enterprise Ltd recorded a huge loss in the fiscal year ending March 1998 is that they made substantial write-downs of investments in and advances to its subsidiaries SEGA of America and SEGA Ozisoft in consideration of their precarious financial conditions.
Basically they covered the accumulated losses of SoA over the previous years with one big write-down (to the amount of ¥42.8billion) at the end of the Saturn era to start anew for Dreamcast.

If you want to check for yourself read the 1998 Annual Report:
 
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Esppiral

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Sega Touring Car and Manx TT have really good graphics among others no one has mentioned yet
 

Alexios

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Sega Touring Car and Manx TT have really good graphics among others no one has mentioned yet
Both have been mentioned. Manx TT more than once, Touring Car Championship mostly for having the worst polygon warping on the system, not really something to show off (but imo an otherwise underrated port that deserved better, it's a really good and relatively unique racing game too).
 
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DT MEDIA

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That's bloody impressive.

EDIT:

Be aware that, whoever that Jenovi is, it's likely he/she looked at the non-consolidated statement of income, as Sega were used to report back then, which means it covered Sega Enterprise Ltd but not it's subsidiaries.
The reason Sega Enterprise Ltd recorded a huge loss in the fiscal year ending March 1998 is that they made substantial write-downs of investments in and advances to its subsidiaries SEGA of America and SEGA Ozisoft in consideration of their precarious financial conditions.
Basically they covered the accumulated losses of SoA over the previous years with one big write-down (to the amount of ¥42.8billion) at the end of the Saturn era to start anew for Dreamcast.

If you want to check for yourself read the 1998 Annual Report:


The financial state of Sega of America rarely, if ever, comes up in these discussions, but there's no doubt that the money burned through the Genesis era hurt them greatly. Tom Kalinske has always been charismatic and likable, but he was not a good CEO and his record is greatly overrated. IMHO, as always, but I do remember the videogame fanzine scene was brutal on him back in 1994.
 

Celine

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The financial state of Sega of America rarely, if ever, comes up in these discussions, but there's no doubt that the money burned through the Genesis era hurt them greatly. Tom Kalinske has always been charismatic and likable, but he was not a good CEO and his record is greatly overrated. IMHO, as always, but I do remember the videogame fanzine scene was brutal on him back in 1994.
More than focusing on Kalinske I would say the whole company was unprepared to manage the success they achieved around 1992-1993 with the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive.
Sega management spectacularly failed to grow the company stronger and make it more resilient to future adverse events when they had the chance, instead they were hell-bent to just headlessly compete with Nintendo (TerraDrive, 32X and to a lesser extent Mega CD were all short term fixes undertaken to try to remain competitive that in the long term hurt Sega's bottom line).
Sega's peak in the console business coincided with the beginning of the end for Sega as a console manufacturer.

The company itself admitted as much in the financial report linked above:

THE LESSONS
In fiscal 1998, SEGA posted special losses of ¥42.8 billion, which contributed to the Company’s first net loss since becoming a publicly traded company. In the U.S. home video game market, SEGA’s performance has slumped, squeezed by intense price competition among 32-bit machines. The 16-bit Sega Genesis, predecessor to the 32-bit Sega Saturn, contributed greatly to our spectacular business results from fiscal 1992 to fiscal 1994 and helped boost name recognition ofthe SEGA brand throughout the world. In hindsight, however, it was the very success of Sega Genesis in the U.S. market that ultimately resulted in the Company’s net loss in fiscal 1998. We placed too much emphasis on the then existing market and formulated what turned out to be an ineffective strategy for making the transition from the 16-bit SegaGenesis to the 32-bit SegaSaturn. In a sense, we became trapped by our own success.
 
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MikeMyers

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The financial state of Sega of America rarely, if ever, comes up in these discussions, but there's no doubt that the money burned through the Genesis era hurt them greatly. Tom Kalinske has always been charismatic and likable, but he was not a good CEO and his record is greatly overrated. IMHO, as always, but I do remember the videogame fanzine scene was brutal on him back in 1994.
The 32x was a massive drain of resources that they should have used to invest in some sort of Sonic game and a proper NFL game for the Saturn's first year in US.
 

Alexios

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Bulk Slash got fan translated, dubbed to fitting quality and made compatible with the Twin Stick, so crazy!
 
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Bulk Slash got fan translated, dubbed to fitting quality and made compatible with the Twin Stick, so crazy!

Looking forward to playing this hopefully soon! Seems like a pretty cool game. I'm also hoping the Saturn version of Linda Cubed gets its English translation completed within the year or so.

I find it hard to believe that anyone is actually impressed by those graphics.

We aren't all graphics whores for tech over style ;)
 

Scotty W

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I find it hard to believe that anyone is actually impressed by those graphics.

I have a Saturn. It’s neat. It is a nostalgia machine, and a dream of what could have been, and the despair of what almost was, but if we wish maybe we can call back some of that magic.

 

Alexios

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I found some nice footage of Drift King '97 after searching for it for another topic. I don't know if it's on original hardware as it was in the video here but it seems without emulator enhancements. It also shows a half decent player actually drifting and such so it doesn't look like a crap slow game.

I don't agree with all his complaints but I didn't get far (due to the Japanese). Traffic didn't seem out to get me, I just had to avoid drifting into them and pass when it's clear. I don't see why later tougher rivals would also make traffic more difficult but maybe that's the case. The drifting feels great!
 
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I found some much better footage of Drift King '97, after searching for it for another topic. I don't know if it's on original hardware but it looks legit/faithful without emulator enhancements. It also shows a half decent player actually drifing and what not so it doesn't look like a crappy & slow game.

I don't agree with all his complaints but I didn't get far (due to the Japanese). Traffic didn't seem out to get me, I just had to avoid drifting into them and pass when it's clear. I don't see why later tougher rivals would also make traffic more difficult but maybe that's the case. The drifting feels great!
Here's Drift King running on real hardware

 

Alexios

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Wing Arms is worth another mention, for an early title it looks very solid, runs very stable and has very good draw distance for most elements, at least polygon wise because objects/terrain seem to switch texture lod a bit too obviously close, I'd almost prefer to have just the lesser distant ones.

I wonder why they never made a sequel or anything else with this engine, you'd think both could have been further refined to get an Ace Combat series rival on their machine. There's also an early prototype around with tech differences like lower quality textures that did remain the same far away.
 
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Alexios

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The mentioned Dungeon Master Nexus looks and runs pretty good in motion (compares favorably to early King's Field, trashes Wizardry). The same goes for that Wachenroder SRPG and its great scene CG & art, FFT style visuals (no slopes though), awesome spritework and SFIII-esque specials.
Sweet, this one's getting fan translated as well, I had no idea. It looks like it's quite far along (but far from finished as well). I've always wanted to get a chance to play it (but I guess it's not exactly applicable to this thread with its only real ambitious graphical aspect being the SFIII style specials).

I've always like the FFTactics/Grandia/Xenogears/Ys/Trails 3D backgrounds with 2D sprites look when it's nicely done and it's definitely really good here too with expressive sprites and quality animations that remind me of the FFTactics great little sprites conveying epic story scenes/clashes.
 
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Alexios

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Need for Speed is worth mentioning without the earlier 3DO bs. The Nissan sponsored Japanese release, Over Drivin' GT-R, also brought features other systems enjoyed previously, like functional dashboard gauges and music. The game supports the 3D Control Pad for analog steering/gas/break.

It's a shame EA didn't do much better on Saturn, this early engine showed potential with its mix of 2D and 3D allowing for good details with large draw distances and smooth performance in a, blocky cars & collisions aside, nice rendering style similar to Road Rash that holds up better than many.

Edit: it seems there are different and/or bugged revisions of the US release so some people have a version with working dials and music and some don't, the Pal and Japanese releases seem to not have that issue for anyone (or at least nobody has reported results with any of it missing thus far).
 
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Fighting games were one of the strong suits of the system and stuff like Guardian Heroes, Legend of Thor, Dragon Force, etc. maybe were not great showcases for the 3D capabilities, but they are legitimately great games. I think especially in the 2D sector there is a lot to like about the Saturn. Also, the controller is amazing.

The lineup skyrockets when you have access to the Japanese library.
The Saturn is what got me into X-Men vs Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes va Street Fighter, and Vampire Saviour.
Amazing games.
 

DT MEDIA

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Need for Speed is worth mentioning without the earlier 3DO bs. The Nissan sponsored Japanese release, Over Drivin' GT-R, also brought features other systems enjoyed previously, like functional dashboard gauges and music. The game supports the 3D Control Pad for analog steering/gas/break.

It's a shame EA didn't do much better on Saturn, this early engine showed potential with its mix of 2D and 3D allowing for good details with large draw distances and smooth performance in a, blocky cars & collisions aside, nice rendering style similar to Road Rash that holds up better than many.


I wasn't sure what enhancements were made to this JP version over the Western Need For Speed. I guess this means I'll have to double dip and pick up the import. Yay!
 
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Need for Speed is worth mentioning without the earlier 3DO bs. The Nissan sponsored Japanese release, Over Drivin' GT-R, also brought features other systems enjoyed previously, like functional dashboard gauges and music. The game supports the 3D Control Pad for analog steering/gas/break.

It's a shame EA didn't do much better on Saturn, this early engine showed potential with its mix of 2D and 3D allowing for good details with large draw distances and smooth performance in a, blocky cars & collisions aside, nice rendering style similar to Road Rash that holds up better than many.
The Western version of Need For Speed on the Saturn supported analogue controls with the mission stick and it had fully working dials and in-game music. It was clear as day DF retro was using a ROM

 

xpresstuning

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I find it hard to believe that anyone is actually impressed by those graphics.

You appreciate them based on the time and system they were conceived for, not compare them to current standards but what was possible then and on the machine in question.

2 more Saturn games were recently (7-8 months ago) translated. The SRPG Vandal Hearts most know from the PlayStation (the Saturn version seems enhanced outside transparencies) and another SRPG, Valhollian (this one's only use of 3D and only ambition seems to be the SFIII style attacks).

Lots of neat hacks in that channel for those interested, for widescreen play or whatever. There's even a 2-disc Shining Force III collection dubbed deluxe with everything intact + a history video of the previous games, all done using a menu system from some demo disc. Not my thing, but cool too.

Vandal Hearts - Ushinawareta Kodai Bunmei is pretty damn nice. Not only is the original release a better version compared to the PS release - additional content and better graphics, but the english patch itself wen far and beyond to improve the game as much as possible:
  • Expanded the palette of treasure chests, crates, icons and menu frames.
  • Increased the internal resolution of the game to 352×240 (original 320×224).
  • Support for widescreen (you can switch on the fly from the game menu).
  • Increased video resolution up to 320×196 (original 320×144).
  • Supports 4 MB expansion card to speed up loading of level maps (almost double boost).
  • Support for Gouraud shading for static lighting (glare from the light of torches, altars and pictograms).
  • The size of the background images of the loading screens has been increased to 352×240 (original size 320×224).
  • Restored the size of the rest of the background images (size 320×240 - as in the version for PS1).
  • The PS1 script has been mostly ported over to this translation. But the script has been reviewed for accuracy and edited accordingly.
This a love project if i've ever seen one, they poured a lot of work and effort into this release making it far better than the PS version. It's also a really great game, would highly recommend. A no-brainer to have in your collection. I played around with Valhollian as well. Ain't feeling it. The translation is great and i respect the work ethic but i don't like the game. Feels like a low budget version of Shinning Force III, and the story isn't good.. at all. Wouldn't recommend it.

I really like how many projects saw completion in 2020 and 2021, the fanbase is mad dedicated to allow people access to the SEGA Saturn's japanese library of games.

But there are so many more still stuck because of the language barrier. For example, i'm contemplating putting effort into learning japanese just to experience Wachenroder, Terra Phantastica, Nanatsu Kaze no Shima Monogatari and Princess Crown. Any view on them would say they're fantastic games, and even by checking Youtube videos you can see that they do look amazing, but i can't fucking play them because i can't comprehend the language.