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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
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Wipeout is one of the true classics of Generation 5, a fantastic techno-futurist racing videogame featuring thrilling roller coaster track designs across multiple alien landscapes, challenging opponents aiming to blast you off the road, a tremendously blazing sense of speed and an unforgettable electronica soundtrack. It was developed by Psygnosis for the Sony Playstation in September 1995, quickly establishing itself as the standout title from the system’s launch lineup, and Australian studio Tantalus provided the Sega Saturn translation in early 1996.

This videogame was such a revelation for me. Its winding, twisting courses that hurl drivers in all directions, the sudden corners and sharp turns, the darkened tunnels and massive drops and winding hills, it all provides such a thrilling sensation of speed and danger unlike anything seen to that time. The previous standard-bearer for the genre was F-Zero on the Super NES, for goodness sakes. The “next generation” had well and truly arrived.

After spending an evening playing several rounds, mostly winning but sometimes losing, and watching gameplay videos of both versions of the game, here are some quick observations on Wipeout:

1. PSX Wipeout runs more smoothly than Saturn. According to tests, the game is locked at 30 fps, which is quite an accomplishment. The motion is extremely swift and smooth despite all the twists and turns being thrown your way. In comparison, the Saturn version runs somewhere near 20 fps, possibly more when there is less action on the track. Despite this, the speed remains just as fast and the controls are highly responsive. I don’t feel as though the game is slowed, more like some frames have been skipped, if that makes any sense.

2. The billboards on Saturn Wipeout are in lower resolution and notably pixelated. I had trouble reading most of them even when up close, while everything could be easily seen on the PSX version. This was a bit surprising, as it does appear nearly all the art assets are identical to both versions, including vehicles, tracks and roadside details such as buildings or stands. I’m not sure why this was done, presumably either to save memory or maintain the frame rate.

3. Saturn Wipeout replaces Playstation’s famous half-transparency effects for mesh patterns on shields and smoke trails, and polygon models for the rockets and missiles. Everyone is well aware of this, and it’s the most cited issue of this videogame. An article in Mean Machines Sega with Perfect Entertainment (UK-based software publisher who owned Tantalus at the time) noted that transparent sprites were possible on Saturn but would have used far more system resources and slowed the action down, and so they were removed.

Personally, I don’t mind very much, since I’m always using composite cables on my Saturn which smooths everything out nicely, and to be perfectly frank, you jokers are far too obsessed with transparencies. Whenever the subject of Saturn comes up, the same two questions always appear: why did Sega fail and where are the transparencies? You people are out of your damned minds.

4. Wipeout on Saturn drives better. The handling is much more forgiving than the PSX original, especially when your vehicle bumps or scrapes into the side walls or fences. On Playstation, hitting the side grinds your car to a halt, punishing you for not racing a perfect line. On Saturn, the experience is more like steering a canoe over rocks in shallow water. You scrape by but can easily steer away. Indeed, there are many moments on the tougher tracks where you need to bounce off walls in order to escape difficult hairpin or snake turns.

To this day, there are a small group of diehard gamers who insist the Saturn translation is superior to the original just for the controls. It’s notable that Psygnosis modified the vehicle handling for the sequel Wipeout XL, which strongly suggests that somebody at the home office agreed.

5. Playstation Wipeout is glitchy as hell. Funny how Sony always gets a free pass on that. There are many instances of polygons dropping out or warping at the fringes of the screen, and visible polygon seams that flicker in and out all over the place. This is most notable on the winter track as you fly through the tunnels, and there are times you’d think the roof was about to collapse. And, of course, the game features pop-in of distant objects, certainly not at the level of Daytona USA, but very viseable all the same. Fortunately, the notorious zig-zagging is nowhere to be seen, so kudos to Psygnosis on that point. I really can’t stand those stupid zig-zags.

It’s fascinating how the Saturn version suffers from the exact same polygon dropouts, most notably in the mine and winter courses. There are no polygon seams, which I always assumed that was a triangles-versus-quads issue. Programming issues aside, from a pure artistic viewpoint, quads looked better in Generation 5. There, somebody finally said it.

6. Tantalus ported the PSX Wipeout code. The visual snafus demonstrate that the same source code was being used, and this would also explain the lower frame rate for Saturn, which at that time struggled with C as opposed to Assembly, which is where the system’s true power lies. This also demonstrates the system’s steeper learning curve. We can see the studio’s greater mastery of the console in Manx TT, Wipeout XL (reportedly ported with the Manx engine) and House of the Dead (Minecraft textures aside).

7. Both versions of Wipeout are equally good. There, that wasn’t so damned hard, now, was it?. The Playstation version has a higher frame rate and lightey-glowey effects, but Saturn version plays better and suffers fewer graphical screwups. On the whole, they balance out, and the visual differences are very minor. Everybody gets to enjoy a stone-cold classic that inspired a generation of videogames.

There is also the issue of licensed music which appears in Sony’s version but not Sega’s. Most of the tracks in the game were created by Psygnosis musician Tim Wright, aka Cold Storage, whose hard driving beats and electronic melodies fit Wipeout’s futuristic themes perfectly. Sega fans aren’t missing anything. Besides, every good gamer knows the real knockout music appears in the sequel, Wipeout XL.

Speaking of which, the Wipeout XL soundtrack album was released on LP in 1997 and is now out-of-print. Used copies appear on Ebay for $125 and it’s highly unlikely it will ever see a reissue. Yes, it’s true that you can score the CD for three bucks these days, but what good is that? There’s no panache in that. But scoring the LP edition, lemmie tell ya, that’s panache. You should immediately be allowed into any techno club in the world for pulling off that feat.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com









I have no idea how Tecmo pulled off the graphics in J League Go Go Goal. This soccer game runs in 480/60 high resolution with fully polygon players and stadiums, without any slowdown, pop-up, or glitching of any kind. These may be the finest 3D polygon graphics on Sega Saturn, or any Gen-5 system, for that matter. And what's really astonishing is that hardly anybody outside of Japan ever knew about it.

For a console cursed with such a technological inferiority complex, it boggles the mind that so many 3D showpiece titles were never brought to the West: Radiant Silvergun, Wipeout XL, Dead or Alive, Zero Divide, Anarchy in the Nippon, Grandia, Sakura Wars, Shining Force 3 Scenarios 2 & 3, Wachenroeder, Dungeon Master Nexus, Baroque, Shin Megami Tensei, Psychic Assassin Taromaru, Deep Fear, World Cup '98 France. Heck, toss in the European-exclusive World League Soccer 98 and Jonah Romu Rugby while you're at it. Am I forgetting something? Most likely, yes, and that's the whole point.

We won't pile on the suffering by listing all the fantastic 2D Saturn videogames, adding frustration upon frustration. The point is made: Sega, the industry and the public dropped the ball. Yes, every games console has its share of overseas exclusives that missed the domestic radar, names like Sin & Punshiment, Seiken Densetsu 3, Mother 3, Segagaga, LSD Dream Simulator. But those games didn't constitute half the system library, filling every conceivable genre demanded by the market. Yet nothing was done and Saturn withered on the vine and died three years too early.

All of which brings us back to Go Go Goal. If nothing else, it secures its status as a defining show-off game, the one you pop into your Saturn when you wish to silence all the critics, win friends and influence your uncle. "Can't Doo Three Dee?" Wanna bet? Wanna put some money into that proposition? Cash up front, please, no checks.

I will say one thing in honest criticism of this videogame. Like so many too-beautiful-to-be-true types in the world, Go Go Goal is dumber than a bag of rocks. The players on your team just stand around like nimrods. Your offensive line just stares at their shoes, the defenders stare into the sun. The opposing players are relentless bastards who are almost impossible to shake off, and nobody on your squad has any idea how to stop them, and even on easy difficulty, you're in for a rough ride. Remember that part in the Daria opening where the volleyball hits the ground and Daria does nothing but point? Those are your teammates.

It may be that there are depths to be discovered over time, and I remind myself that this is a purely arcade sports game with all that entails. But it doesn't always fully click the way it should. The action is fast and immediate but lacks that tightness and precision found in Sega's Worldwide Soccer: International Victory Goal. It would also help if I could start scoring goals or, heaven forbid, actually win a match. But at least I only lost my last match by one goal instead of the usual six.

Whatever. You date models because they're gorgeous and send your pulse racing, and not because they hold deep insights on Renaissance literature or abstract art. You're investing in arm candy. Make your peace with that fact and enjoy the ride.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com












Everybody is familiar with Sega's highly successful Worldwide Soccer series on Saturn, especially the WWS 97 & 98 editions. In Japan, the series included more releases, including this final June 1998 installment called World Cup '98 France: Road to Win. It is essentially WWS 98 with World Cup teams, some new crowd chants, two-man color commentary and widescreen mode. It also features official licensing from FIFA and Japan Football Association, resulting in actual players being represented on the field.

There isn't much more to say. It's more of that great Sega soccer action, striking a perfect balance between arcade and simulation. If this title were released in the West, it would most likely have been criticized for recycling the same game three times in a row, with only minor tweaks and alterations. EA's FIFA and Konami's International Superstar Soccer had significantly raised the bar for soccer videogames by '98, establishing themselves as the kings of the genre. All other contenders to the throne, including Sega, were quickly swept away.

Fortunately, Saturn collectors will be thrilled to have another top-notch sports game in their library, and I still say the gameplay is fantastic. The JP manual and case for World Cup '98 even include all the "secret" moves that were notoriously missing from the US manuals, and I'll wager some of you would be surprised at all the cool moves you could perform, instead of just pass, shoot, run and tackle. Best yet. this game is very affordable and easy to find, often as little as $10 for a complete package. That makes it a must-have, in my opinion.

At the time of Dreamcast's Japanese launch, Sega restructured the entire company, and its many software studios were either consolidated or renamed into the semi-autonomous studios we all know and love like Hitmaker, Smilebit, Sega Rosso and Sonic Team (who kept their old name). Unfortunately, this meant the teams responsible for Worldwide Soccer and World Series Baseball were disbanded and its employees moved elsewhere, and that meant the end of these wonderful sports series. Their omission from the Dreamcast library was enormous, and Sega never really recovered. Their only remaining sports division was Visual Concepts, who would eventually leave Sega and become 2K Sports.

So, in a sense, World Cup '98 is the final hurrah, one last victory goal before the party ends and the long goodbyes begin.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com















Next Generation Saturn Reviews, Part V

The next episode of our ongoing series of Sega Saturn reviews from the pages of Next Generation Magazine, covering the March to Jun 1996 issues. Videogames featured include D, Mortal Kombat 2, Skeleton Warriors, FIFA 96, Hi-Octane, Guardian Heroes, World Cup Golf, Earthworm Jim 2, Nightwarriors: Darkstalker's Revenge, Worms, Shining Wisdom and Iron Storm.

At this point, third-party software titles are beginning to flex their muscles. EA makes its debut with FIFA 96, which was warmly received. Next Gen surprises everybody by handing out a five-star review, and to be completely honest, I think that's a bit overrated. We can see how easily they were swayed by presentation and polish, and while the 3D polygon stadiums looked great, the pre-rendered sprite players and motion of the field was somewhat choppy. There was also an annoying half-second lag to the controls. It was something that you tried to live with, but once Worldwide Soccer 97 arrived, FIFA was immediately sent back to the store, and its two sequels were increasingly worse on Saturn, thanks to EA's declining interest in the console.

D gets a recommendation from me purely because of Kenji Eno, one of the true artistic mavericks in the videogame world whose work was always compelling, unique and slightly off-beat. The game's use of interactive FMV feels much more fluid than the likes of Digital Pictures or the still-shot photography of Myst. The resolution and color depth take a hit, no thanks at all to Saturn's lack of hardware video encoding (Playstation dominated in this arena), and because of that, everything is a little bit dated. But you should give it a chance and add it to your library.

Mortal Kombat 2 was a dreadful port, missing music and audio, animation frames and plagued with load times. It was inexcusable in the wake of Mortal Kombat 3 on PSX, doubly so when you realize that Ultimate MK3 would arrive just a few months later. This is probably Acclaim's worst Saturn title and its failure only helped to put another couple nails into the coffin.

Guardian Heroes is a true Saturn classic, often cited by gamers as a visual masterwork of pixel art and 2D videogame design. The remastered edition for Xbox Live Arcade, released a decade later on vastly more powerful hardware, looks nearly identical to the original. And so it makes perfect sense that Next Gen would dismiss it with a passive-aggressive three-star review. "What's perhaps most disappointing, however, is the underuse of the hardware." What? Have these fools lost their damned minds? There are many times when I openly wonder if the prozine critics ever played the games they reviewed. This time, I'm wondering if Next Gen even did that much.

My condolences to anyone who bought Hi-Octane instead of Wipeout. You took the wrong date to the prom and got stuck with a lemon. Bullfrog threw the PC original together in five weeks to pay the bills and it shows.

I have no idea what Earthworm Jim 2 is doing on Saturn. It's the exact same videogame from the Genesis aside from more on-screen colors and CD sound. The music has that tacky "multimedia" style that was pushed heavily on Sega CD and it just doesn't work.

Skeleton Warriors has a nice 2.5D presentation that combines sprites, pre-rendered CG and polygons, and it was championed by Diehard Gamefan. I can't personally comment but I did play a little long ago and found it very repetitive and drawn out. It lacks the charm of Clockwork Knight, Astal, Shinobi and Bug, but if you're a fan of the genre, ehh, who knows? This game is very "ehh."

Capcom's support of Saturn continues with the excellent Nightwarriors, and it's at this point where Saturn's domination of fighting games is cemented. I enjoy this title more than X-Men and even Street Fighter Alpha, thanks to its wildly colorful monster designs and cartoon nightmare landscapes. You can see where Capcom is moving the genre and if you felt burned out from far too many SF2 upgrades, this is the perfect time to return. The best part? This still looks and plays great after the spectacular Vampire Savior dropped. Once again, Next Generation shuffles out yet another half-written three star review, which was probably put together by Mad Libs. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

Worms is one of the all-time multiplayer party games, a true classic that has appeared on every computer in the known universe. Its gameplay is extremely simple, founded in the 1983 classic Artillery Duel and later reimagined as Lobotomy's Death Tank. You can control groups of cartoon worms armed to the teeth with guns, rockets and bombs, then proceed to blow one another to bits in endlessly satisfying ways. This is the perfect game for anyone who played Lemmings just to watch those annoying bastards die.

Shining Wisdom was originally designed as a Sega Genesis title but was bumped up to Saturn in order to bolster the new system's post-launch software library. Taken in that context, it's pretty decent fun and a nice spin on the classic Legend of Zelda formula. There's a nice amount of color and polish to the pre-rendered sprites and everything zips by quickly enough so you won't get bored. The design is purely 16-bit and while that was a major turn-off for a 32-bit platform, today's audiences will be far more forgiving.

Finally, we close with Iron Storm, Sega's masterfully complex World War II simulation. Its design is far closer to the Avalon Hill military board games than Nintendo's Advance Wars, with all the complexity and management skills that entails. You can reenact most of the major battles of the war and play any side, so if you just finished watching The Plot Against America on HBO and are in the mood for historical revisions, here ya go. Special note goes to the battle sequences, which are presented in 3D polygon landscapes. It's all very thrilling to see, if a touch slow, but I've been horribly spoiled by Advance Wars' brisk pacing, so bear that in mind. Kudos to Working Designs for bringing this great game to our shores. It's a niche game for a niche genre and they were probably lucky to break even. Bless their hearts.
 
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SpiceRacz

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Guardian Heroes is a true Saturn classic, often cited by gamers as a visual masterwork of pixel art and 2D videogame design. The remastered edition for Xbox Live Arcade, released a decade later on vastly more powerful hardware, looks nearly identical to the original. And so it makes perfect sense that Next Gen would dismiss it with a passive-aggressive three-star review. "What's perhaps most disappointing, however, is the underuse of the hardware." What? Have these fools lost their damned minds? There are many times when I openly wonder if the prozine critics ever played the games they reviewed. This time, I'm wondering if Next Gen even did that much.
That review is hilarious. GH is not only one of the best games of that gen, it's arguably the best beat 'em up ever made. This is probably the best example so far of how dismissive Next Gen was of the Saturn.
 
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Al3x1s

Cores, shaders and BIOS oh my!
Nov 24, 2018
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To be honest Guardian Heroes can look quite ugly and feel slow and clunky and stuff. While not the greatest game (or I can't play it for shit myself yet, I dunno) Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru blended 3D with 2D much more successfully art wise, even if it's less chaotic and busy without multiple planes and multiplayer of course, also more modest. It's not my favorite beat 'em up/hack and slash of the type, that probably goes to Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara even if it has more traditional (but it's not often you can do stuff like block in such games) and arcadey (duh, it's an arcade game) and not physicsy mechanics. But I certainly wouldn't rate it that badly based on my preference. That same magazine has a lot of good ratings for Saturn games based on your scans though so I don't think there was any malice there however. Or did they have tons of SEGA dissing?
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com


Since Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru (Psychic Killer Taromaru) was mentioned, I thought I should post a gameplay video of this legendary 2.5D action game in full. This is one of the rarest and most expensive titles in the Saturn library, due to its extremely short production run in Japan. Prices are now hovering in the $900-$1,100 range, which is absolutely ludicrous. Just download a copy, burn and enjoy until somebody obtains the rights to the game and reissues it on modern platforms.

Taromaru is absolutely fabulous, one of Saturn's legendary 2D-based videogames, but it's also extremely challenging, in that 1980s arcade and NES sense. I highly recommend playing with two players armed with arcade joysticks. Rapid fire is your friend.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com


Continuing on this 2D Sega Saturn thread, I just had to post a gameplay video of Astal, one of the system's most memorable early titles. Watching now, I'm amazed at the game's production values, from the animated sequences to the character designs, musical score and clever use of 2D pixel art. I like these heroes and their surreal storybook world, and am reminded that Sega could once match Nintendo for successful world-building.

Sega really ought to bring back Astal for modern audiences, who would be far more receptive than the kids from 1995. If only somebody could inform the company's current owners of all the properties they're hiding away in their vaults. One of Nintendo's greatest strengths is the skillful protection of their IPs and franchise characters, and Sega's current bosses really ought to follow suit.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com



Here's a great Fighters Megamix video to show off to friends. It shows an amazing multi-part throw sequence called the "Super Washington Treaty" and basically involves the attacker throwing his opponent back and forth like a rag doll, Droopy Dog style. I doubt more than a handful of diehard players have ever pulled off this move or seen it in a match. It can be only performed by Kumachan/Pandachan and Meat.

Sega really needs to bring Megamix back. What are they waiting for? What's the holdup?

Update: Aw, what the heck. Here's the Youtube video that shows all the characters in Megamix, including the super-secret bonus characters, Meat and the AM2 Palm Tree.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com

















Next Generation Saturn Reviews, Part VI

Time for the latest episode of our ongoing series of Sega Saturn reviews from the pages of Next Generation Magazine. In this installment, we will look the July-September 1996 issues. Games featured include the following: Congo The Movie: The Lost City of Zinj, Ghen War, Wipeout, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, Alone in the Dark, Golden Axe: The Duel, Shellshock, NHL Powerplay '96, Frank Thomas "Big Hurt" Baseball, Striker, Virtual Open Tennis and Legend of Oasis.

This period shows a very uneven swing from excellent (Panzer Zwei, Wipeout, NHL Powerplay, Oasis) to average (Ghen War, Golden Axe, Virtual Open Tennis) to terrible (Congo, Alone in the Dark, Striker). The stronger titles provide Saturn with much-needed support on the 3D polygon side, while the weaker ones continue to leave the console in a bad light. Sony Playstation may not be reaching the same heights at this period, but it's much more consistently solid, and it's this quality that will lead that console to success.

Panzer Dragoon Zwei is a technical masterwork for Saturn and arguably the system's finest 3D videogame by this point. Its performance is a dramatic improvement over the original in every respect: 30 fps, immersively detailed environments, a constant stream of enemies from all directions, a thrilling variety of vistas, and most of all, a young dragon who grows and morphs into a multitude of forms over the course of the game.

There are a number of wonderful set-pieces, like the first stage where your young dragon first takes flight while leaping off an enormous cliff. Notice how the moment is allowed to breathe, without any threat of danger. You take a break from fighting and just enjoy the beauty of the moment. Another such scene occurs later when you are walking along a platform that slowly rises to a vast chamber that leads to an underground lake. Fossilized creatures hang from above and a strange mutant creature swims underneath. Notice the rolling waves in the translucent water, a signature VDP2 effect that has yet to be recreated anywhere else.

Sega Saturn needed more games like this one. But that's the curse of greatness: very few are blessed with its gifts. By all rights, every entry in this series should have sold millions. Should have, but didn't.

Wipeout was magnificent on Playstation, and it's just as good on Saturn. Fans of either version will debate the finer points of presentation and gameplay. One version has a smoother frame rate, the other has smoother controls, both offer a thrilling spectacle of speed and danger with some of the wildest racetrack designs in videogame history.

NHL Hockey defined the Sega Genesis as much as Sonic the Hedgehog and John Madden Football, yet Sega of America failed spectacularly to continue that tradition with NHL All-Star Hockey. NHL Powerplay '96 delivers a crucial sports game that Saturn so desperately needed. Visuals are extremely fluid and detailed, using 3D polygons for players and arenas, and it all works very nicely. In the technological arms race, it moves ahead of Sony's NHL FaceOff, which used 2D sprites for players, without sacrificing speed or controls. Radical Entertainment crafted one sequel, NHL Powerplay '98 on PSX and NHL All-Star Hockey '98 on Saturn, but the series strangely died after that, and it's a damned shame. With a little more time, they could have rivaled the EA hockey series.

As always, when discussing any Gen-5 hockey game, you must make your peace with one inevitable fact: nothing will be as good as NHL 94 on Sega Genesis. The best one can hope for is "good enough...for now."

Congo is one of those videogames that sounds good on paper but fails in execution. The graphics engine is choppy, prone to polygon warping and a short draw distance. The jungle landscapes are populated with trees, foliage and animals rendered in 2D pixels that are too pixelated and blocky. The frame rate is too slow, yet the speed is too fast. The whole enterprise feels sloppy, half-baked, as though the programmers could not realize the designers' ambitions. And if you really want to see a shock, compare this title to Lobotomy's masterful Powerslave.

Ghen War was created by the same studio responsible for Congo, and while it's an earlier title, it feels slightly more polished and focused. It's not very good and doesn't compete against the other FPS or mech titles on Saturn, but at least it's better than Congo, which suggests the programmers' skills were actually decreasing. These guys don't deserve to tie Dreisbach's shoelaces.

Alone in the Dark is a dreadful, pitiful mess whose only reason for existing is to inspire you to turn off the television, quit playing videogames and take up a more productive hobby, like licking stamps or hitting ketchup packets with a hammer.

Legend of Oasis is a sequel to a Sega Genesis action-adventure called Beyond Oasis, both created by Ancient, a small Japanese studio founded by the family of famed videogame musician Yuzo Koshiro. It features solid art design and music, a compelling world of puzzle-filled dungeons and monsters to destroy. Its overhead view may draw comparisons to early Legend of Zelda, but this game lacks the epic scale of Nintendo's classic series. It feels much smaller in tone and scale, and if there's a real criticism to lay at this sequel, it's that it doesn't feel much different from the original. That said, the boss fights are memorable and highly impressive. Pity we Americans were stuck with that wretched box art. The JP cover design is so much better, just thinking about it makes your head hurt.

The remaining games--Ultimate MK3, Golden Axe: The Duel, Shellshock, Frank Thomas Baseball, Striker, Virtual Open Tennis--are all decent, fairly passable when in the right state of open-minded intoxication but rarely memorable and easily surpassed by many of its peers. They existed almost purely for the sake of video stores and would keep you occupied through a rainy afternoon, then returned and forgotten. Ships passing in the night.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com

















Here are some scans from an eight-page article in Sega Saturn Magazine JP on the sensational 2D adventure game Nanatsu Kaze no Shima Monogatari (Seven Winds Island Story). It was published by Enix and created by Givro Corporation (formerly Almanic), whose early work included Mazin Saga on Sega Genesis and Cosmic Carnage on 32X. They are best remembered for their unique adventure games like E.V.O. and Wonder Project J on Super NES and Wonder Project J2 on Nintendo 64.

Givro's visual style involves wonderfully illustrated 2D sprite characters who are animated in a manner reminiscent of Yuri Norstein's wonderful animations. Nanatsu Kaze raises this art design to its peak, crafting a storybook world unlike anything ever seen. It feels like a fusion of Norstein, Dr. Seuss and L. Frank Baum's Oz books, steeped in early 20th Century Western children's stories and imbued with a sense of serenity and innocence.

Gameplay is very similar to graphic adventure games from the Atari ST/Amiga era, in that you control a large green bipedal dragon who walks around a large island landscape, meeting friends, finding objects and solving puzzles. Controls and menus are easy to navigate, but all the text is in Japanese and drawn in a rather challenging font. No English translation currently exists, but a GameFAQs guide is available.

Nanatsu Kaze remained exclusive to Japan and Saturn. The game was not a commercial success and Givro disbanded shortly after its completion. Copies can be found easily on Ebay for $40-$60 and includes a second premium disc of artwork and illustrations.

The videogame industry's shift from 2D to 3D resulted in a great shakedown of so many talented software studios, as their considerable talents were deemed "obsolete" in the face of flashy polygons and multi-million-dollar production values. So many great artists were left behind, unable or unwilling to adjust to the new paradigm, but it was the industry itself and the gaming public who failed to adjust. There was always room for classic videogames, chiptunes and pixel art, if only we are willing to embrace it.
 

Kazza

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PandaMonium has now reached North American Saturn release number 19, and this time it's a sports title:



This was one of the first games I bought for my Saturn. It may seem strange for a British person to be so into a baseball game, but I had a great experience earlier on in the Megadrive's lifetime playing Super League (aka Tommy Lasorda Baseball) that buying this was a no brainer for me (I think there was also a bit of nostalgia involved even then - wanting a Sega baseball game as a first purchase for my Saturn, as it was for my MD). I haven't played it recently, but I had a good time with it back in 95/96.
 

cireza

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One of my favorite games ever, and one of the very few 10/10 I would give to a game. This game is pretty much perfect in its genre, visuals are beautiful, soundtrack is a masterpiece, gameplay is fun and varied, puzzles are clever and the game is full of possibilities, as well as being quite long.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
626
871
485
Chicago, IL
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Youtube channel Landail devoted three episodes of his RPG Quest series to Blazing Heroes, aka Mystaria: The Realms of Lore, aka Riglord Saga. This Tactical-RPG was released to the US Saturn in late 1995 and created by Micro Cabin. The game was successful enough in Japan to spawn a sequel, Riglord Saga 2, which unfortunately was never released in the West.

For an early Saturn game, this was very impressive. It's visuals are certainly dated to the mid-1990s with its heavy use of pre-rendered sprites and slightly choppy frame rate, but the polygon graphics and visual effects are very solid and combat is very engaging. Fans of the genre will have a very good time, and given how few T-RPGs were released in the USA, they will quickly embrace Mystaria as one of their own. Just don't expect the supreme level of quality seen in Shining Force 3 and you'll be fine.
 
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Batman Forever: The Arcade Game was created by Iguana Software, best known for their Turok: Dinosaur Hunter series and various contract titles for parent company Acclaim. It certainly fits well into the trashy, over-the-top style of Acclaim's software titles, as though they were deliberately aiming for a "Midway" look. If nothing else, they deserve credit for style and panache, to say nothing of sheer guts for releasing a 2D side-scrolling beat-em-up in 1996, when 3D polygon mania was in full bloom.

This game received harsh reviews from all the gaming magazines, who cited the loose controls, chaotic gameplay and steep difficulty. As always, everything depends upon your expectations. If you're looking for the next Virtua Fighter or Tekken, you're going to be sorely disappointed. If you're looking for the next Streets of Rage or Final Fight, or something that provides quick and easy thrills for five minutes a pop, you're going to have a pretty good time.

Batman Forever does look pretty good and is a nice showpiece for Saturn's 2D superpowers. And now that beat-em-ups are back in style, today's audiences are far more willing to give it a go. It's unfortunate that prices for used copies are so monstrously expensive. I just checked Ebay for prices and found one copy...for $319.99. Ack!! The Japanese release was slightly cheaper...at $265.00. Double ack!!

In all defense, this really is a case of a rare title. Batman Forever tanked with critics and public alike and most likely sold very few copies, and today's demand is almost certainly greater than what it was in '96. Funny how widely the winds of fashion change.
 

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Radical Entertainment had a good thing going with NHL Powerplay 96. It was the first Gen-5 hockey title to bring the sport into the 32-bit age, fully embracing polygon graphics while also retaining the speed and fluidity of the legendary NHL Hockey series on Sega Genesis. And it was better on Saturn than Playstation.

The Bernie Stolar-led Sega of America saw that a sequel was in the works, and dutifully snapped up the rights for their Sega Sports brand under the name NHL All-Star Hockey 98. This installment features new motion capture animation, improved computer AI and strategies, oh, and Sega logos painted all over the ice.

Both games are brilliant, and I can't say which one is better. I've heard it said that the '96 edition is smoother but the gameplay in '98 is more advanced. They both look as good as hockey could get on the 32/64-bit consoles. Neither can hold a candle to NHL 94 on Sega Genesis*, but I'm contractually obligated to write that whenever the subject comes up.


(*Note: We'll also consider NHL Slapshot on Nintendo Wii as runner-up, but that's because it plays just like NHL 94 with motion controls, and few things in life are more satisfying than smacking down players in pee-wee league mode.)
 
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Scotty W

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I just found the Lao from Virtua Fighter video portrait disc in a used bin in Tokyo for 300 yen. I am no collector. Is such a thing worth buying?
 
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I just found the Lao from Virtua Fighter video portrait disc in a used bin in Tokyo for 300 yen. I am no collector. Is such a thing worth buying?

If you're a diehard collector and the prices are low, sure, why not? The CG Portrait Series was a cash-in on the Virtua Fighter craze and didn't really offer much beyond rendered images of your favorite Virtua Fighters set to music. There are no interactive segments or playable demos. At least everything looks very nice and runs in Saturn's high resolution 480/60 mode.

Here's a Youtube video of the entire series, courtesy of iPlaySega:


 

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Formula Karts: Special Edition is a 1997 Saturn racing game that was released exclusively to UK and Europe that captures the professional kart racing circuit. There are eight tracks and a two-player mode, but no bananas or turtle shells. Visually, the game looks solid enough, not up to the standards of Sega Rally or Daytona USA Circuit Edition but smoother than the likes of Touring Car Championship.

I had a copy many years ago but grew frustrated very quickly by the steering controls, which were far too easy to spin out. Mind you, I was playing with the digital joypad, so I would expect the analog 3D Controller and arcade racing wheel to be much better. This gameplay video looks very nice and certainly makes me wish I could play right now.

Sega Saturn Magazine UK reviewed the game in their December 1997 issue. Critic Gary Cutlack praised the game's graphics but criticized the controls, and in the end recommended it for its 2P racing and gave it a score of 80%. "Saturn Formula Karts is actually a pretty decent game, but the slightly tricky controls stops it from being a must-have."

Again, I haven't played this game in ages, and I suspect the racing wheel improves things, as many Saturn driving titles were made specifically for that controller. Remember Hang On GP? Ugh, on second thought, scratch that.
 
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Bulk Slash is Hudson Soft's 1997 arcade-style shoot-em-up that features a transforming robot engaged in combat missions over cities, skies and space stations. It's one of Saturn's most beloved shooters and an excellent showpiece for the system's 3D powers. Action is fast and furious, there's always something to destroy, enemy ships and tanks lie everywhere, and it's all highly satisfying.

As everyone knows, one unique spin on this game is the addition of female co-pilots, whom you must not only add to your crew but also romance and win over. They'll be impressed by your heroics, scream when your mech gets hit, and offer basic directional advice on your next primary target. There are multiple endings depending on which girl you keep.

The first video is a complete play-through of the game, the second features all the different endings. Enjoy!
 

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Friday Night Vs Fight Stream devoted their latest Youtube episode to the always excellent Zero Divide: The Final Conflict. These are all two-player matches and all the playable characters are featured, even Zoom's cat mascot, which makes for a fun "joke" character. Gameplay is purely set in the Virtua Fighter style, like most of Saturn's 3D fighters, so if you're a fan of Sega's classic, you'll have a blast with this one.
 
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Sunday's the perfect day for sports, and what better time is there to enjoy Jonah Lomu Rugby on Sega Saturn? This title was created by Rage Software, the Liverpool-based studio best known for their quality sports titles since the 16-bit era. Their work is defined by sharp visuals, fast arcade play and solid coding. The studio collapsed in 2003 and they are sorely missed.

Jonah Lomu Rugby features teams from the 1995 Rugby World Cup, including 16 finalists and 16 qualifying teams. Gameplay modes include Friendly, World Cup, Tournament, Territories Cup and Classic Matches. Four player support is also included.

This game was released on Sony Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC. The Saturn and PSX versions are functionally identical, aside from the inclusion of waving flags in the stands on the Sony version. Everything breezes by with confidence, the 3D polygon arenas and 2D player sprites gel together convincingly and gameplay is fast and immediate. Everything zaps by at a quick pace and you really feel the excitement and tension of the sport. Best of all, the controls are easy enough for anyone to join in without understanding the nuances of the sport.

An excellent sports title overall, and another example of third party games that give Saturn the respect it deserves.
 
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Chacranajxy

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Hey, man. I just wanna say that I respect the hustle with this Saturn stuff - it's super interesting.
 
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World League Soccer 98 appeared late in Saturn's life in mid-1998, courtesy of Silicon Dreams. They were founded as the in-house development team for US Gold, later striking out on their own. They're best remembered for their soccer simulations, particular this title. It was released exclusively in UK and Europe, which is very unfortunate, but Sega certainly took notice and later handed the studio the Worldwide Soccer franchise for Sega Dreamcast.

This game was highly praised and endlessly hyped by Sega Saturn Magazine UK, and when those guys championed a videogame, they held on for dear life. They declared WLS 98 to be the system's best soccer game, citing the high resolution visuals, impressive animation, remarkable audio including dynamic crowds and play-by-play commentary, and a host of teams, leagues and play options.

Copies are available in short supply on Ebay (as always, most gamers bought FIFA 98, regardless of quality), and you'll expect to spend $40 for a complete package. I don't personally own a copy right now, but I'm hoping to change that one of these days.
 
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Hey, cool thread. Saturn was actually one of the first consoles I ever owned, and to this day I wish I was a little older and more cognizant of good video games than I was when I first got a Saturn. Such an underrated console (ditto Dreamcast, but that's another thread for another day).
 

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Since I'm on a sports kick at the moment, I decided to show Konami's J League Jikkyou Honoo no Striker, released in March 1998. This soccer title is very similar to the highly successful International Superstar Soccer series, perhaps with more of an arcade bent than the more realistic sim style of ISS Pro on the Playstation, to say nothing of the later Pro Evolution and Winning Eleven franchises. It does not appear to have been a success at retail and there is very little information about the game found online. An official guide book was published, and Sega Saturn Magazine JP reviewed the game, awarding a combined score of 8-8-5.

I don't have a copy of this game and have yet to play it, so I cannot comment on the gameplay or controls. Based on the Youtube videos, it does look very nice, comparable with Saturn's stronger soccer titles. Player animation is very good, not as fluid as World League Soccer 98 on Saturn or FIFA 98 on PSX. Audio of the stadium crowds is suitably rich and stereophonic, play-by-play commentary is adequate by the standards of the time.

For comparison's sake, I'm adding a gameplay video of Konami's J League Perfect Striker on Nintendo 64, which appears to be very similar yet slightly more refined, with player icons to aid gameplay, better polygon models for the athletes and waving flags in the crowds. But both versions are strikingly similar.

Honoo no Striker was developed by Konami's Sapporo studio, which was founded in 1997, the same time as their Nagoya and Yokohama studios. In 2000, it was merged with Yokohama, but in 2001 was acquired by Hudson Soft after Konami purchased 5.6 million shares of stock, becoming the company's largest shareholder. Sapporo was renamed Hudson Studio and would remain until the building was sold in 2015, three years after the final merger between the two videogame giants resulted in the liquidation of Hudson.
 
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Ah., what the heck, might as well post videos for Sega's masterful Worldwide Soccer 97 and 98. These are the premier soccer games for the system, and still remain as exciting and engaging as ever. Every Saturn owner should have copies of these two games in their software library. In my book, they're just as essential as Virtua Fighter 2, Sega Rally, Panzer Dragoon and World Series Baseball 98.

WSB 97 was a revelation when it was released and raised the bar for 32-bit sports games. Next Generation raved with a five-star review, one of the few they handed out to Saturn, and that feeling was echoed across all the gaming magazines. The gameplay strikes a perfect balance between arcade and sim, matches are always highly competitive and players have a wide arsenal of moves at their disposal, including a number of "secret" maneuvers not listed in the instruction manuals. You always feel in control of the game, and this is a quality that is essential to great sports videogames. Far too many soccer titles play at a slow or sluggish pace, almost as though they were deliberately trying to slow everything down in the name of "realism." Thankfully, Sega did not follow that lousy trend.

Great matches always feature a mixture of fast action, thrilling scores and saves, questionable calls by the refs (who love to hand out yellow cards), and even a touch of random chaos now and then. It reminds me a lot of the NHL Hockey games on Sega Genesis, which is the highest praise I can offer.

WSB 98 never received as much attention as its predecessor and was never as popular, arriving as Saturn was in terminal decline. It was also criticized for being too similar to the 97 edition, while EA's FIFA 98 and Konami's International Superstar Soccer were taking the lead in realism and content. I do understand the criticisms (the lack of players' licenses is a sore point), even though I don't entirely agree with them.

Changes to WSB 98 include the addition of two more stadiums (five total), one or two new player animations, a second play-by-play man (who sounds gloriously drunk off his ass, but I understand he's like that in real life), the loss of the scoreboard animations, and, most famously, the addition of club teams. Unfortunately, for reasons no one could comprehend, Sega chose to restrict use of English, French and Spanish clubs to your choice of language. That means if you wish to play Madrid, you have to play in Espanol. Why? No idea. That's Sega for you.

In terms of gameplay, the goalies are harder to score against, and the cheap strategy of charging the net in WSB 97 is gone. Computer teams also appear to be tougher, although they still follow the same strategy of running down the sidelines, then lick towards the middle to set up a headshot at goal. Headers and bicycle kicks always seem to be easier in this version, but that might just be me. Overall, the entire experience has been tweaked and refined here and there.

WSB 97 can be found for peanuts these days, and copies are widely available in all regions. WSB 98 will cost you more, usually around $40 for a complete US package. I bought my copy as "disc only" for only $10, so consider that option as a cost-saving measure.
 
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If you want pure classic arcade sports, you can't do much better than Taito's Hat Trick Hero S. Released on Saturn in 1995 exclusive to Japan, this game is a refined version of Hat Trick Hero '95 which hit arcades. It features digited 2D sprites, glorious pixel art and a variety of stadiums. Action is laughably fast, strategy is almost nonexistent and the focus is always on relentless pulsating action. This is a soccer videogame meant for hockey fans.

On offense, your moves are limited to passing and shooting, players sprint at all times, and on occasion can unleash a "super attack" that blasts the ball through the net, knocking the goalie back in the process. On defense, you have almost entirely free reign to punch, kick or tackle opponents. You can even knock the referees out with a well-timed jump kick.

There's a fair amount of humor and the game doesn't take itself too seriously. It understands that video aracdes have always been amusement machines, something for people to do while at the mall or state fair or boardwalk. You plop in a couple quarters, play a quick match for five minutes, have a good laugh and then be on your way. The best example of this are the "happenings" (there's a 60s word you never hear anymore), where the action is interrupted by a dog running across the field, or a woman who tears off her dress and scampers across in high heels. It's silly and all in good fun.

If you're expecting a serious sports simulation ala FIFA or Pro Evo, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Hat Trick Hero S doesn't even try to go that route. It's a lot closer to NBA Jam or NFL Blitz in spirit. The 2D graphics look terrific on Saturn and feel like a perfect time capsule of that era before polygons took over and killed arcades for good.
 
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If you want pure classic arcade sports, you can't do much better than Taito's Hat Trick Hero S. Released on Saturn in 1995 exclusive to Japan, this game is a refined version of Hat Trick Hero '95 which hit arcades. It features digited 2D sprites, glorious pixel art and a variety of stadiums. Action is laughably fast, strategy is almost nonexistent and the focus is always on relentless pulsating action. This is a soccer videogame meant for hockey fans.

On offense, your moves are limited to passing and shooting, players sprint at all times, and on occasion can unleash a "super attack" that blasts the ball through the net, knocking the goalie back in the process. On defense, you have almost entirely free reign to punch, kick or tackle opponents. You can even knock the referees out with a well-timed jump kick.

There's a fair amount of humor and the game doesn't take itself too seriously. It understands that video aracdes have always been amusement machines, something for people to do while at the mall or state fair or boardwalk. You plop in a couple quarters, play a quick match for five minutes, have a good laugh and then be on your way. The best example of this are the "happenings" (there's a 60s word you never hear anymore), where the action is interrupted by a dog running across the field, or a woman who tears off her dress and scampers across in high heels. It's silly and all in good fun.

If you're expecting a serious sports simulation ala FIFA or Pro Evo, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Hat Trick Hero S doesn't even try to go that route. It's a lot closer to NBA Jam or NFL Blitz in spirit. The 2D graphics look terrific on Saturn and feel like a perfect time capsule of that era before polygons took over and killed arcades for good.
Bought.

Looks incredible. I can't wait to play this with my kids. They love many of the "arcade" sports games, even (to my surprise) 8-bit stuff like Super Dodgeball, Baseball, and Slalom on the NES.

How many players does it support?
 
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The EA Sports '98 lineup for Sega Saturn was a train wreck, and it was all too obvious that they had already checked out. But they still put their full effort into Madden NFL 98 and it shows. It's identical to its PSX cousin, which is always a win for Saturn fans, and still plays a good game of football.

It's a pity that EA couldn't be bothered to put in any effort on their FIFA, NHL and NBA franchises, all of which are embarrassments compared to not only Sony Playstation, but Sega's own sports titles, which were finally hitting on all cylinders by the end of 1997. Unfortunately, that was too late to save them, and nearly everyone had abandoned the console by that point.

Fortunately, for today's Saturn fan, that means you can score all those great sports games for very little money. You'll have some killer titles that show off the machine's powers and will also impress your friends.

I'm including a video of the PSX Madden 98 for comparison. I can't tell if this was running on real PS1 hardware or a later PS2/PS3 or even emulator, all of which bump up the resolution and smooth out the graphics. If you want the original Playstation look, you're going to have to use the original console. Oh, and don't forget the early models with audio output, which is highly prized by audiophiles as a CD player.

P.S. Sega of America's bosses all deserve to be beaten with Whiffle Bats for never producing a US football videogame. Absolutely inexcusable on their part. Just look at the Japanese soccer titles and tell me Saturn couldn't knock out a fantastic NFL game.
 
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Visual Concepts earned their street cred by working as a contract studio for the Super NES version of Madden NFL 94, a really fantastic football game for the platform that exceeded everyone's expectations. EA eventually rewarded them with the franchise crown itself: the main developers for the Madden franchise, beginning with Madden 96 on Sony Playstation. Unfortunately, the project was deeply troubled and was eventually cancelled, a shocking surprise for the venerated series. EA continued to struggle against Sony's NFL GameDay series for the rest of the PS1 era. As for Visual Concepts, they were soon kicked out, while Tiburon took command of Madden.

In 1997, Bernie Stolar and Sega of America quickly snapped up VC's sensational new basketball game for Sega Sports, publishing under the title NBA Action 98 for Saturn. Midway picked up the Playstation rights and published under the title NBA Fastbreak '98. Both versions are identical in terms of content, with only a few minor differences. The PSX version shows reflections on the floor, while Saturn version has audio commentary by the late Chick Hearn, the play-by-play announcer for the L.A. Lakers.

For all intents and purposes, this is the original 2K basketball videogame. Sega quickly bought VC and put them to work on Sega Dreamcast, which resulted in NFL 2K and NBA 2K. The rest, as they say, is history.

I absolutely love this game, it's the best basketball title of Generation Five and sets the stage for the legendary 2K franchise to come. Gameplay options include team-specific playbooks, stats tracking in 16 categories, player trades and season mode. The graphics engine is excellent, packed with animated crowds in the stands and motion-capture animated players on the court. Controls are not overly difficult and most players can come to grips fairly quickly.

I found a sealed copy for $1.99 many years ago, which was an absolute steal. I just checked Ebay to see how prices stand today, and...holy cow! Did I mention that Kobe was on the cover? Yeah. This was the first videogame to feature Kobe on the cover, and collectors' prices shot through the freakin' roof. You'll be lucky to find a complete copy for under $50, and sealed copies are going as high as $700. Ouch.
 
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Decathlete and Winter Heat are two of Sega Saturn's finest sports games, an absolute must for everyone who grew up playing Konami's Track 'N Field in the arcades, and everyone who wished they could. These are brilliant showpieces for the system, featuring excellent character designs, solid polygon modeling, extensive use of VDP2 planes (Decathlete), inspired event and course designs (Winter Heat), all being displayed in high-resolution 480/60 wherever possible.

I do enjoy how the gameplay doesn't always follow the usual "bash buttons or shake your joystick until it breaks" approach. The more involving events in Decathlete involve precision timing to succeed, and Winter Heat expands this to even greater success. They retain that "pick up and play" simplicity while expanding the palette and it's all very engaging and fun. And it feels like Sega honestly tried to push the genre forward, which, let's face it, never really evolved beyond the original Track 'N Field (The Epyx Games series was the only variation, but their results were far more uneven).

Both titles are easily available in all regions. The US version of Winter Heat is a bit harder to find, but you should be able to score retail copies without much difficulty. The JP versions include bonus characters that are unique to that region, which added to their lower prices make them more desirable to collectors. You'll be fine whichever region you choose.

I can never understand why this series didn't continue on Dreamcast. We already have two solid collections of Olympic events with a colorful cast of characters. Why mess with a good thing? No, no, no, what Sega chose to do was release the tepid and half-finished Virtua Athlete 2000, a game with no charm, style or panache and couldn't even be bothered to come up with ten events. Even its character models look simple and crude when compared to the Saturn classics. Yes, I know Mizuguchi's crew had moved on to Space Channel 5 and Rez, but surely somebody could have kept the franchise alive.
 

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World Series Baseball 98 is the greatest baseball videogame ever made. Full stop. End of line. The end. What more needs to be said? You should own a copy. You should stop whatever you're doing right now and grab a boxed copy from Ebay. Prices are creeping up and it's becoming harder to find, so you better hurry up before it's too late.

Definitely in my Sega Saturn Top 3, and my second all-time favorite sports videogame after NHL 94 on Genesis. Even if you're not a fan of baseball, you'll love this one. Get it.
 
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Tennis Arena arrived on Sega Saturn in 1998 courtesy of Ubisoft and UK developers Smart Dog, who previously created Break Point Tennis in 1996 and later would follow with All Star Tennis 99 and 2000. This is generally considered the best tennis videogame on the system, featuring eight characters, five distinct arenas, and a variety of surface types, swings and gameplay modes for up to four players. It was also released on Sony Playstation and is identical in every way.

It's not a fantastic game by any stretch, and its appeal is largely because it stayed in Japan, but it is very good and well worth tracking down. It received a warm reception from Sega Saturn Magazine UK, who awarded it an 86% in their review. Sega Saturn Magazine JP was less generous, giving the title a combined score of 7-5-5.
 
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Tennis Arena arrived on Sega Saturn in 1998 courtesy of Ubisoft and UK developers Smart Dog, who previously created Break Point Tennis in 1996 and later would follow with All Star Tennis 99 and 2000. This is generally considered the best tennis videogame on the system, featuring eight characters, five distinct arenas, and a variety of surface types, swings and gameplay modes for up to four players. It was also released on Sony Playstation and is identical in every way.

It's not a fantastic game by any stretch, and its appeal is largely because it stayed in Japan, but it is very good and well worth tracking down. It received a warm reception from Sega Saturn Magazine UK, who awarded it an 86% in their review. Sega Saturn Magazine JP was less generous, giving the title a combined score of 7-5-5.
Do you have any information why it stayed in Japan despite being published by a French Company and created by a British one? It doesn't seem to make any marketing sense to not release it at least in Europe.
 

Kazza

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Another update on that excellent looking homebrew FPS:



New things here : 4 players deathmatch (I don't have a multitap, so I can't really show it properly, but people who tested with a multitap said it worked fine), new sun flare effect using the framebuffer as a pseudo-zbuffer, new rendering technique (polygons are tiled in realtime), and some gameplay. I took some inspirations from Unreal for more flare effects. If you're wondering, the last room with 20+ enemies run at 12-15 fps. But that's in hard and nightmare mode, in easy it runs at 30 fps and at normal it runs at 20-30 fps (less enemies). 4 players deathmatch runs, depending on the scene, at 12 to 30 fps. It's mainly the CPUs holding back the framerate, so it's not about the VDP1. Smarter map design might help a lot. And yes, I am using the SCU DSP. I also added mouse support... but I don't have a Saturn mouse.
Also, some interesting info in the comment section:

My question is: keep on working with the DSP inside SCU, have u found a way to improve its usage? in the last video it seemed u have not (initially?) discovered how to improve its "contribution" to the overally 3D computing (btw, can u define a percentage of 3d workload currently executed by the DSP? maybe 5-10%? I remember Jon Burton stated most of 3D calculation for Sonic-R was made using the SH2 master in conjunction with the Dsp, where the one SH2 slave managed game AI, I/O command and so on )

No, I found better techniques to save ram and increase performances a bit. Processing vertices with that technique is quite cheap, so the DSP is only good for the 3d models (enemies and all), but not for the world geometry
How much would the performance improve if you use 2d sprites for enemies like Duke Nukem 3d?

It would help the CPU for sure as a 2d sprite is only 1 vertex and you just need to scale the size with the 1/z result of that vertex. Really cheap and easy on the CPU. For the VDP1, it wouldn't make a huge difference.
 

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I've never played Zwei and am looking forward to the remake. SLX does a nice review here:



And an impassioned Saturn video from the SSG:

 
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Kazza

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Saturn variants (the presenter speculates that maybe Sega weren't planning to release the Saturn in Japan themselves, hence the early licencing deal (sounds a little far fetched to me):



Plus a new Sonic Z-Treme homebrew video:



I found the code from the Sage 2018 demo of Sonic Z-Treme on my hard drive, I also found the map compiler I had. I just felt like adding some effects I didn't have time to add to the Sage 2018 demo, such as RBG0 layers, snow, etc. Here is what it looks like. While I did have later versions, I experimented so much that it killed several effects (gouraud shading vs fade in). Unlike what my engine is now at, this version still uses SGL for rendering, which is kind of slow in comparison and creates several memory management issue (it wastes ram in other words). I also just put my frustum culling code from Project Z-Treme, which is way more accurate, but it also means less stuff gets culled out, so it impacts the framerate a little bit in some maps. Getting rid of SGL should be enough Before anyone asks, I don't intend to do much more with this, it was mainly for fun. My main project is still Project Z-Treme, which is obviously much more advanced than what's here.
Without a proper map editor, adding stuff like loops, doors and plateforms would be hard. Not impossible, but hard. And what I did for Project Z-Treme wouldn't work here, since I am using brushes+bsp (well, ironically Sonic X-Treme also used brushes, but in a different way). The only way I would really consider finishing this game would probably be if I had access to a full editor, allowing to manualy place all the tiles, the loops, etc. I don't plan to write one. And the original SONCBOOM editor is way too hard to use! I could probably find workarounds and do something with my map converter, but it wouldn't be pretty at all, so I prefer to not touch this
It looks impressive from a technical perspective, but I don't know whether it would actually be fun to play as a full game. Looks somewhat similar to Bug in terms of level design.
 
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Kazza

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Of all the Saturn games that could get a port :messenger_tears_of_joy: . Still, it looks quite intriguing.

Don't knock it. Baroque is fantastic, particularly the original Saturn/PSX version. The PS2/Wii version took away much of the spooky atmosphere and jump scares and isn't quite in the same league, although it does make more sense from a story standpoint. But I've always argued that the sense of disorientation and confusion is one of the game's strengths.

In any case, if Sting really is reviving the original Baroque, it's one to watch for. Until then, pick up a copy of the Saturn or Playstation version and have a great time. Oh, and play at night in the dark.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
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EXCLUSIVE ANNOUNCEMENT!

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on Sega Saturn now has a performance hack that uses the 4MB RAM expansion cartridge to reduce slowdown from the game. You can download a patch and burn to disc. All of the instructions are available on this Chinese web forum.

This announcement was posted on May 9. There may be updates to the patch, but at this time, it appears to be the final version. Pass along and share with the Saturn community! Somebody get Sega Lord X on the horn immediately!

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night 4MB RAM Hack (Google Translation to English)

Update: I'll post some early reports on the Saturn Castlevania hack from Twitter:

"Works perfectly with my official Capcom 4MB ca. Loading times are not that faster BUT the one to the menu is 2x faster I'll say, which is a already great. Slowdowns are sometimes the same and sometimes really improved (but still here)."

"Only seems to work with unffocial Action Replay Plus RAM carts. Slowdowns are still a thing, loading times are supposedly faster, it's hard to tell without a side by side comparison. The map shortcut (B + R when playing Alucard) works great."

What this hack does is pre-load onto the 4MB RAM cartridge, which allows for faster loading as well as reduced slowdown and improved performance. There are some additional improvements such as a shortcut to view the map. Specific features can be viewed via the link above.

Update #2: Here is a Youtube video that shows the Castlevania hack in action. It does appear to show dramatically reduced slowdown in the early corridors, as well as quicker loading times and the ability to view the map with a simple button press.


 
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