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Games NeoGAF Official SEGA SATURN Community

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
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Why am I not playing Bulk Slash more often? This should be on my regular rotation alongside Daytona USA, VF2 and World Series Baseball 98. When I think about what I love about Sega Saturn so much, one word always comes to mind: excitement. The games on this system charge my excitement circuits more than just about anything.

Here's a terrific gameplay video that shows off Hudson Soft's 3D shoot-em-up in all its glory. It's the closest any 32-bit videogame ever came to capturing the colorful, over-the-top thrills of the 16-bit era. You are immediately reminded of all the great shooters on Turbografx-16 and Genesis. I read many years ago, although I cannot confirm it to be true, that the software team (CAProductions) was composed of former Technosoft coders, some of the same guys responsible for Herzog Zwei and the early Thunder Force games. That would certainly explain some of the design ideas such as the city layouts and tank squads surrounding major military targets. It does make me pine for a proper 3D Herzog Drei, that's for sure.

This videogame is fast, wildly colorful, packed with catchy synth-pop chiptunes, packed with endless explosions and giant boss battles and, best of all, features a robot that transforms into a jet. What's not to love? The 3D polygon graphics are extremely solid and blend nicely with 2D art assets (VDP2 planes on the ground stretch out to the horizon). The speed never drops or chokes despite all the action, which involves endless waves of attackers from land and air.

If there were any critiques, I'd say the draw distance is too short, and there are some polygon tearing in the indoor stages. I also never really saw the point to the dating sim element, where you pick up a female copilot and then impress her with your flying and shooting skills, but at least that adds to the replay value as you'll want to see all the different endings. Contemporary gaming critics would have probably whined about the lack of Gouraud shading, realtime light-sourcing or overall "lightey-glowey" effects, which was their obsession in those days, but who really cares?

Bulk Slash is an arcade roller coaster start to finish, and nothing more really needs to be said. All that's needed are pizza rolls and a two-liter of soda and you've got a perfect afternoon waste away shooting alien spaceships. And what more do you really need out of life?

Once again, with feeling: this game really should have been released in the West.
 
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Kazza

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Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei series has thrived for over two decades, and Sega Saturn was blessed with the brilliant and uniquely stylized Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner in 1995 and a direct sequel, Soul Hackers in 1997. These RPGs are heavily inspired by Japanese comics and anime as well as cyberpunk literature and perfectly fits the mood of the era.

This video offers a short "dummy's" introduction to the series and these two titles in particular. Neither Saturn title was released in the West, a decision that might have made sense in the '90s but appears baffling and tone-deaf today, especially when one considers how badly the system was starved for RPGs.

Fortuntately, Soul Hackers was released in the West on Nintendo 3DS, offering fans a chance to discover this classic in English. Devil Summoner was ported to Playstation Portable but remained exclusive to Japan.

It goes without saying that an English fan translation for the Saturn games would be fantastic. Let's hope that happens one of these days.
I spotted that game on the 3DS last week (just bought one on ebay) and was going to ask you about the Saturn version. Glad to hear it is a good game. It's only around £8 on the eshop, so the price is pretty reasonable. I'll buy it next time I'm on my 3DS.





John Carmack can go jump in a lake for sabotaging the Saturn version of Doom. If Sega's console was struggling to survive in 1997, this videogame drove the nails into the coffin and buried it under six feet of dirt. This title did as much damage as anything in the software library.

The story is now well-known: Rage Software programmer Jim Bagley was put in charge of the project. He built a custom engine that took advantage of Saturn's hardware processors that resulted in a Doom that played at full-screen and "full speed," meaning 60fps. When his work was sent to Id Software for their approval, Carmack flatly refused to accept it. He insisted that Bagley code the game entirely in software mode. As any PC owners will gladly testify, this has the result of crippling performance and reducing frame rates to a slow crawl.

Carmack insisted on pure software rendering because, hey, I'm John Freaking Carmack, that's why. His defense that he wanted to avoid unnecessary texture warping never held any water, as Alien Trilogy, Baroque, the Gundam Side Story trilogy and the Lobotomy Trilogy will clearly demonstrate. But he had a steady habit of putting his thumbs on the scales, pushing one console platform over another, and for whatever reasons, Sega always found themselves on his bad side. We remember that he personally coded the Atari Jaguar Doom that competed directly against the Sega 32X port only a few years prior.

Due to these complications and time restraints, the project ended up porting the Playstation code, which any good Saturn fan will tell you is a recipe for disaster. You can't dump C code onto this machine and expect anything to work properly. The final results speak for themselves: a dreadful translation of an all-time classic that runs chugs and skips at a snail's pace, suffers from sloppy controls and dreadful pacing. It is the worst version of Doom and one of Saturn's most shameful embarrassments.

By early 1997, most gamers in the US had already settled into a Playstation-Nintendo 64 world, and Saturn was abandoned and left to slowly fade away. Most kids never tuned in for Nights, Fighting Vipers, Virtua Cop 2, Dragon Force or Powerslave. But they tuned in for Doom, one of gaming's biggest blockbusters of the '90s. The wreckage they saw only confirmed their assumptions: Sega's console was a broken mess of computer chips. If this stupid machine can't even play Doom, how can it handle a post-Mario 64 world? Even the Super Nintendo could do 3D better than this. Hammer, meet nails. Shovel, meet dirt. Saturn is not our future. Game Over, Man. Game Over.

One interesting postscript to this story: years later, Bagley found himself at a computer conference where he met Id co-founder John Romero and they discussed the matter. Romero revealed that he was the person responsible for approving projects and at the time of the Saturn Doom's rejection, he was away on vacation. When he later returned, he was so impressed with the work that he not only wanted to approve the game as Bagley intended, with hardware acceleration, he wanted to release that version on the PC as well.

Wouldn't it just rock your world if one of these guys suddenly showed up with the gold disc for Saturn Doom? No, that's about as likely to happen as Yu Suzuki releasing the legendary gold disc for Saturn Virtua Fighter 3. But we can still dream.

For comparison's sake, I'm also posting videos of Doom on Atari Jaguar--because we could always use more Atari Jaguar in our lives--as well as the Super NES version, which doesn't seem quite so bad in retrospect.
I wonder what a Saturn port would have been like if it the 32X never materialised and the the people who made it had focused on a Saturn version instead? They would have had an extra 6 months of dev time (since the Saturn didn't come out until the next year), plus they would have had stronger hardware to work with. A good Doom port available at launch would have helped the Western Saturn a lot.
 

SirTerry-T

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I spotted that game on the 3DS last week (just bought one on ebay) and was going to ask you about the Saturn version. Glad to hear it is a good game. It's only around £8 on the eshop, so the price is pretty reasonable. I'll buy it next time I'm on my 3DS.



I wonder what a Saturn port would have been like if it the 32X never materialised and the the people who made it had focused on a Saturn version instead? They would have had an extra 6 months of dev time (since the Saturn didn't come out until the next year), plus they would have had stronger hardware to work with. A good Doom port available at launch would have helped the Western Saturn a lot.
Jim Bagley is one of the "good guys" of the UK Dev scene, I'm assuming it was Rage Liverpool that did the work? Don't think Jim was with the Birmingham studio.
He's done great stuff with the Spectrum Next machine.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
775
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515
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www.dtm-arts.com









Sega Saturn Magazine UK reviews Quake and rightly sings its praises. This third chapter in the celebrated Lobotomy Trilogy is a personal favorite of mine. I say it's a sensational translation by 1997 standards and its gameplay still holds up today. It plays better than many N64 corridor shooters, that's for sure. The wildest thing? This game plays better than Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament on Dreamcast, both of which are unbearably choppy.

Today, Saturn Quake is seen as "the impossible port," meaning that it's a remarkable technical feat but not worth playing in an age of 4K graphics, 60fps action and online multiplayer. I would kindly disagree, and find the slower pacing and spooky atmosphere highly appropriate for a game such as this. The original Quake works better as stealth horror than mindless shoot-em-up. The overpowering enemies, the constant scramble for weapons and health icons, the need to quietly sneak around corners without being ambushed, these are the qualities that make this game great. And it's all so wonderfully dark and gothic, filled with those wonderful Lobotomy dynamic lighting effects.

Powerslave has the Super Metroid stage designs and Duke Nukem has the speed. But Quake has the atmosphere. It has the heaviness of the first four Black Sabbath albums and it's fan-freaking-tastic.

Finally, if you think this game was an "impossible" feat for the lowly Sega Saturn, just wait until you see Hellslave in action, which looks even better with polygon transparencies, lens flare and 4p multiplayer.
 

Komatsu

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Wouldn't it just rock your world if one of these guys suddenly showed up with the gold disc for Saturn Doom? No, that's about as likely to happen as Yu Suzuki releasing the legendary gold disc for Saturn Virtua Fighter 3. But we can still dream.
I mean, we got plenty of Sonic X-treme leaks in the late 2000s that nobody was expecting. I'm sure that build is on a disc somewhere.
 
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Komatsu

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Why am I not playing Bulk Slash more often? This should be on my regular rotation alongside Daytona USA, VF2 and World Series Baseball 98. When I think about what I love about Sega Saturn so much, one word always comes to mind: excitement. The games on this system charge my excitement circuits more than just about anything.

Here's a terrific gameplay video that shows off Hudson Soft's 3D shoot-em-up in all its glory. It's the closest any 32-bit videogame ever came to capturing the colorful, over-the-top thrills of the 16-bit era. You are immediately reminded of all the great shooters on Turbografx-16 and Genesis. I read many years ago, although I cannot confirm it to be true, that the software team (CAProductions) was composed of former Technosoft coders, some of the same guys responsible for Herzog Zwei and the early Thunder Force games. That would certainly explain some of the design ideas such as the city layouts and tank squads surrounding major military targets. It does make me pine for a proper 3D Herzog Drei, that's for sure.

This videogame is fast, wildly colorful, packed with catchy synth-pop chiptunes, packed with endless explosions and giant boss battles and, best of all, features a robot that transforms into a jet. What's not to love? The 3D polygon graphics are extremely solid and blend nicely with 2D art assets (VDP2 planes on the ground stretch out to the horizon). The speed never drops or chokes despite all the action, which involves endless waves of attackers from land and air.

If there were any critiques, I'd say the draw distance is too short, and there are some polygon tearing in the indoor stages. I also never really saw the point to the dating sim element, where you pick up a female copilot and then impress her with your flying and shooting skills, but at least that adds to the replay value as you'll want to see all the different endings. Contemporary gaming critics would have probably whined about the lack of Gouraud shading, realtime light-sourcing or overall "lightey-glowey" effects, which was their obsession in those days, but who really cares?

Bulk Slash is an arcade roller coaster start to finish, and nothing more really needs to be said. All that's needed are pizza rolls and a two-liter of soda and you've got a perfect afternoon waste away shooting alien spaceships. And what more do you really need out of life?

Once again, with feeling: this game really should have been released in the West.
DT, I used my Terramode to play Bulk Slasher this evening and the game is incredible. Can't believe I had never heard of it. Thanks for that.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
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Wizardry VI & VII Complete is a compilation of what was then the two most recent entries in the highly successful and influential dungeon-crawling RPG series. Canadian studio Sir Tech, the original creators of Wizardry, handled this 1996 Saturn translation as well as the 1998 releases Wizardry Llylgamyn Saga and Wizardry Nemesis in 1998.

The gameplay remains identical to the PC versions, while the graphics have been given a 32-bit upgrade, including smooth scrolling and detailed polygon visuals. Characters and enemies appear as 2D bitmap sprites and match the style of the originals. All of the text is in Japanese, which makes importing highly difficult unless you are familiar with the series and can work your way around the menus.

Sega Saturn Magazine JP published this two-page spread on the game, showing off the visuals and gameplay. It received modest review scores of 6-7-5 from the three-panel review crew, consisting of "female users," "high rollers" and "guest writers."

There are a number of dungeon-crawling adventure games on Saturn, so if you're a fan of the genre, this might be one to check out. I would personally advise getting Llylgamyn Saga first, as that title is almost entirely in English and looks just a little better, but Wizardry fans will be happy to score both titles.

Here is a short Youtube gameplay video of the game in action:


 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
775
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515
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www.dtm-arts.com


The greatest RPG ever made. One of the all-time greatest videogames, a towering masterpiece of design, innovation and world building . It's as good as Final Fantasy 7 and Zelda Ocarina. Hardly anybody has ever played it. And Sega lost the source code years ago, all but guaranteeing no modern remake will ever be seen.*

If you've never played Panzer Dragoon Saga, what else is there to tell you? Forget about buying a physical copy, which is now more expensive than my first year of college. Just go online and find a copy to play on an emulator or your physical Saturn.

Here is a complete gameplay video of PDS. You'll notice that the running time is only 12 hours, and that's no typo. This is a very short videogame by the standards of role-playing games, which are considered "short" if they run less than 70 hours and fail to consume at least two months of your life. That such play times are always endlessly padded out with a million fetch quests is rarely mentioned. Panzer Saga cuts out all the fat and stays focused on the action and story, and if you search everywhere, uncover all the secrets, take time to enjoy the scenery, you'll reach the ending in under 15 hours, tops.

And thank goodness for that.


Update: Komatsu points out in post #959 that the source code and materials for Panzer Saga might have been recovered by Sega. If true, this will be an amazing development, and given this years remake of the original Panzer Dragoon (with PD Zwei scheduled to follow), our hopes remain high for a proper revival.
 
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Komatsu

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The greatest RPG ever made. One of the all-time greatest videogames, a towering masterpiece of design, innovation and world building . It's as good as Final Fantasy 7 and Zelda Ocarina. Hardly anybody has ever played it. And Sega lost the source code years ago, all but guaranteeing no modern remake shall ever be made.
Futatsugi hinted at GDC 2019 that the source code has been found, according to his sources at SEGA.

 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
775
1,136
515
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com







Here are some inspired articles about Panzer Dragoon Saga that are well worth reading. These feature in-depth histories of the game's production as well as extensive interviews with the surviving members of Team Andromeda:

The Ruinous Road of Gaming's Missing Masterpiece

Panzer Dragoon Saga: An Oral History

The Big Panzer Dragoon Interview: "It Really Makes Me Think Again How Incredible Sega Was at the Time"


I found these cool CRT screenshots online and decided to pass them along. Note the stunning rippling water effects in the first photo. That's a visual effect that only Sega Saturn could do, and it seems that it still can't be perfectly recreated on modern hardware. We also see those rolling waves in the two previous Panzer Dragoons, Shining Force 3 and Grandia.

Also, these articles like to think of Panzer Saga as a "lost" or "missing" classic that is now impossible to find. That's nonsense. It's available online and if you're so inclined, you can burn a copy to disc in less than twenty minutes. Obviously, the minute Sega announces a remake or re-release, hand them your money immediately. Until then, what else can I say?
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
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These page photos come from the EGM 1997 Show Guide to E3, a supplemental magazine that was (presumably) sent out to subscribers as an extra bonus. It featured highlights and photos of upcoming videogames for Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation. Here, we will be looking at the Saturn section, and what we see is very interesting.

Three takeaways from these E3 pages:

First, I don't care what anyone says, this is a fantastic collection of videogames. Can you imagine seeing all of these games on American store shelves by Christmas 1997 and early 1998? Seriously, how is Saturn not killing it against Sony and Nintendo?

Second, note the number of games that remained in Japan and were never released here. Their presence at E3 indicates that Sega of America was at least considering them for release, perhaps gauging reaction from attendants. So what the heck happened to Dead or Alive, Vampire Savior, Magical Drop and Riven? Bernie Stolar actually knew about Dead or Alive...and he passed on it?! Man, and this is on top of his infamous EGM interview that all but buried the console ("Saturn is not our future") and his feud against Victor Ireland that drove Working Designs away.

So, take all of these JP Saturn games, add in Lunar, Thunder Force 5, Thunder Force Gold Pack and maybe Grandia...Now how does the US Saturn lineup look in '98?

Third, note all the games that would never be released. This includes the following: Magic Battlemage, Colliderz, Core's Ninja, Aliens vs Predator, Wild 9's and NHL Breakaway Hockey '98. I wonder if any of these have been saved and can be recovered? It would be a terrible pity if they were all scrapped and thrown away.

All in all, this is a great showing, far better than I had realized. Most coverage of E3 '97 had only a handful of titles for Saturn on the floor, like Sonic R, Resident Evil and Marvel Super Heroes. This much larger collection looks so much better. Honestly, if I had to do it all over again, I'd be raging at the floor of E3, grabbing every person I could find to drag them to the Saturn area. "Look at this! This is fan-freaking-tastic! Why isn't everybody loving this?"

Seriously, what's the deal? Panzer Saga, Dead or Alive, World Series Baseball 98, NBA Action 98, Duke Nukem, Quake, Bomberman, Resident Evil...throw in Winter Heat, Steep Slope Sliders, Worldwide Soccer 98...I don't get it. I honestly don't get it. This was one of the greatest videogame software lineups in history, and Sega couldn't get arrested.
 
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cireza

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Sega Saturn Magazine UK reviews Quake and rightly sings its praises. This third chapter in the celebrated Lobotomy Trilogy is a personal favorite of mine. I say it's a sensational translation by 1997 standards and its gameplay still holds up today. It plays better than many N64 corridor shooters, that's for sure. The wildest thing? This game plays better than Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament on Dreamcast, both of which are unbearably choppy.

Today, Saturn Quake is seen as "the impossible port," meaning that it's a remarkable technical feat but not worth playing in an age of 4K graphics, 60fps action and online multiplayer. I would kindly disagree, and find the slower pacing and spooky atmosphere highly appropriate for a game such as this. The original Quake works better as stealth horror than mindless shoot-em-up. The overpowering enemies, the constant scramble for weapons and health icons, the need to quietly sneak around corners without being ambushed, these are the qualities that make this game great. And it's all so wonderfully dark and gothic, filled with those wonderful Lobotomy dynamic lighting effects.

Powerslave has the Super Metroid stage designs and Duke Nukem has the speed. But Quake has the atmosphere. It has the heaviness of the first four Black Sabbath albums and it's fan-freaking-tastic.

Finally, if you think this game was an "impossible" feat for the lowly Sega Saturn, just wait until you see Hellslave in action, which looks even better with polygon transparencies, lens flare and 4p multiplayer.
Article by Rich Leadbetter ? The one from Digital Foundry ? Pretty cool :)
 
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Kazza

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Article by Rich Leadbetter ? The one from Digital Foundry ? Pretty cool :)
The one and only! I was really happy when I put two and two together and realised that the guy I was watching on Digital Foundry was the same one I used to read in Mean Machines/Sega Saturn Magazine. I wish I had kept mine, but thankfully they have all been scanned and uploaded.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
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The Curious Case of Sega Saturn Football


And now we turn our gaze to the curious case of Sega Saturn football. The two biggest MIAs in the system's library have always been 1) Sonic the Hedgehog and 2) Sports, specifically, American football. The problems with the former are well known, but what happened to the latter? Why didn't Sega of America have a proper NFL title ready for Saturn in its first year? They had a successful franchise on Genesis that rivaled EA's Madden (and in the case of NFL 94 Starring Joe Montana, surpassed it). They understood what drove their success in Generation Four. And they understood perfectly how to succeed in Generation Five. They had a winning playbook, and only needed to execute. Yet, at the crucial moment, they fumbled the ball, lost the game and never fully recovered.

I found these page scans from the volume 4, issue 8 issue of Diehard Gamefan. It shows Saturn screenshots of the upcoming Prime Time NFL 96. According to the article, this game was originally planned for a late 1995 release, but was delayed a year to November 1996. According to Sega Retro, Prime Time Football was planned for Genesis, 32X and Saturn for a late '95 release. The Genesis version arrived on schedule, but the other two versions were scrapped.

One key reason behind Sega's struggles with its NFL franchise was the revolving door of software developers: Park Place Productions, BlueSky Software Double Diamond Sports, Spectacular Games, FarSight Technologies. Blue Sky was the most experienced and the most stable, creating three titles and culminating in the franchise peak, NFL 94 Starring Joe Montana. In addition, they also created College Football's National Championship and World Series Baseball, cementing their status at Sega's go-to sports developer. Yet the next three NFL titles were handled by three different studios, and the lack of focus and consistency became painfully obvious. By the end of the Genesis era, there was no clear successor for the next-generation platform.

I have to wonder: what happened between Blue Sky and Sega, and why were they not the ones to create Saturn's football games? The EA Sports brand was wildly successful precisely because of their reliable stable of software studios like High Score Productions and Tiburon, and their brand became unassailable as a result. Sega of America lost that momentum, like a rock band cycling through endless lead singers, floundering in the eyes of the gaming public.

Sega of Japan, incidentally, went through this exact same cycle a few years later, as its internal CS studio created the magnificent Victory Goal/Worldwide Soccer and Greatest Nine/World Series Baseball franchises on Saturn. With the restructuring of Sega's internal studios at the dawn of the Dreamcast era, Sega CS was closed and its staff scattered to other studios, killing their prized soccer and baseball franchises.

This brings us to the next important question: Who was responsible for Prime TIme NFL 96 on Saturn? The answer is surprising: Microprose, the legendary studio founded by Sid Meier and responsible for F-15 Strike Eagle and Civilization. Sports seems to be outside their jurisdiction. A little research reveals that they published two PC football sims under their label MPS Labs: Ultimate NFL Coaches Club in 1994, Ultimate Football '95 in 1995. One crucial caveat: these games are what were called "management simulations," not arcade. That means that you are in charge of team management and play calling, but the players on the field are fully automated and outside your control.

This makes for a rather strange choice for an arcade games console like Sega Saturn. Microprose was in no position to challenge the mighty Electronic Arts and its Madden juggernaut. The company's experience lay in home computer sims and strategy titles, not fast-paced arcade games. And unless they were lucky enough to find the next Scott Orr, Jim Simmons or Mark Lesser, such efforts were doomed to fail.

To be completely fair, the photos shown in the Gamefan preview look very good, showing a detailed 3D polygon stadium and 2D sprite players, a variety of rain and snow scenarios, a good play-calling screen, a series of CG animation scenes. Chip, the writer, notes that "Right now, the scrolling is a little bit on the choppy side, but Sega assures us that the game's graphics will improve as it nears completion." Since this is a preview in a videogame magazine, and especially since this is Gamefan--the trashy rock star groupies of the prozine scene--"a little bit on the choppy side" might mean exactly how it reads, or it might mean the preview build was choking at an unacceptable pace. Being a Western-developed Saturn game, we can assume the usual suspects: coding in C instead of Assembly, failing to use both CPUs, failing to use the SCU DSP, failing to use VDP2 for the ground.

Once again, I shall point readers in the direction of Tecmo's J-League Go Go Goal for the final answer on just how far Saturn could be pushed when in the right hands: an arcade soccer title with high-resolution 480/60 visuals (480 resolution, 60 frames-per-second), all polygon players and polygon stadium with VDP2 ground. It looks almost exactly like Sega's Virtua Striker and could almost pass for a Dreamcast game. And it absolutely obliterates any Saturn sports title created by an American studio.

At some point in 1996, Sega decided Prime Time '96 wasn't up to standard and the project was scrapped. The reasons for this remain unknown, but it is clear this decision was made late in the development cycle. This also explains why they scrambled so quickly to license the third-rate Jimmy Johnson VR Football that was being developed for Playstation. They already missed one crucial season, sending sports fans into the waiting arms of Sony, and could not forfeit a second.

And now for the final question: who is to blame? It says a lot about Sega of America's leadership that they struggled so poorly to provide quality sports games for Saturn. All the good titles by that point hailed from Japan: Worldwide Soccer, World Series Baseball, Pebble Beach Golf Links. The only sports game to come from the American side in '95 was the spectacularly dreadful NHL All-Star Hockey. The promising but ultimately lackluster NBA Action arrived in September of '96, courtesy of Grey Matter, the geniuses behind Wayne's World and The Incredible Crash Dummies on Genesis. And, of course, we have NFL 97, another contender for Worst Sports Videogame of All Time. By this point, Tom Kalinske was finally out the door and Saturn's fate all but sealed.

Bernie Stolar gets endless grief from Sega fans as the Man Who Killed Saturn--the words "Saturn is not our future" will one day be chiseled onto his tombstone. Yet he turned the ship on the badly abused sports franchises, published the spectacular World Series Baseball 98 and Worldwide Soccer 98, and added two crucial American-developed games to the fold: Radical Entertainment's NHL All-Star Hockey 98 and Visual Concepts' NBA Action 98. Add in two masterful winter sports classics, Steep Slope Sliders and Winter Heat, and the resulting Sega Sports '98 lineup was the company's strongest since the glory days of Genesis. It might stand as their all-time best.

Unfortunately, the one sport he could not salvage was American football. The damage had already been done. And the brutal irony is that, at long last, Sega had found the perfect studio that could equal and surpass Madden: Visual Concepts, the brains behind NBA Action 98. Stolar bought the studio, brought them into the Sega family, and set them loose to create the legendary NFL 2K and NBA 2K franchises. So in that sense, I guess he was wrong: Saturn really was the future after all. But never forget that it was Stolar who built the future that Kalinske so carelessly squandered.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
775
1,136
515
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www.dtm-arts.com







An amazing Halloween surprise gift to the Sega Saturn community: Castlevania on Sega Saturn is being translated into English! An alpha patch was just made available and "KnightOfDragon," the translation author is asking fellow gamers to assist in bug fixes and report any crashes.

The release notes from the SegaXtreme forum reads as follows:


V.081
Fixed items crashing game issue. Will display "Obtained." Need to update my text writing routine to handle
Obtained <Item Name>

V.080
Happy Halloween.
Thank you for trying out the alpha build of SOTN on Sega Saturn
This version has most of the items and enemies names translated,
as well as some of the story translated.
This patch is loosely based on the PSX translation version. The final version will contain the PSP version.
I currently need a lot of saves to go through the different aspects in the story line.
If you see an issue, please provide a save file (not a save state) with details as best
as you can as to what the issue is.

Known issues:
Later story and ending text not translated.
Alucard's name at the ending not translated.
Locations may be wrong and wrap. This requires an 8x8 font routine to be written.
Some gates messages may be wrong and wrap. This requires an 8x8 font routine to be written.
Entering a new area still has Japanese text.
Stat screen has Japanese text.
In game menu options are not aligned for English and may not all be translated.
Outer wall elevator switch still has Japanese text.
Title screen not converted to SOTN.
Speech pauses and text may not align in certain places.
Some speeches may have the last line cut off. (This requires a new patcher)
First meeting of Death has translucent effect.

Several forum members raised the question of the recently-released 4MB RAM cartridge hack for Castlevania, which speeds up loading times, adds a "hotkey" function to the map screen and simplifies Maria's special moves. KnightOfDragon has not yet endorsed this idea, but it is possible that he could be persuaded. This is only my own personal speculation, of course.

There are still a number of bugs and "known issues" to address, so don't expect this translation to be completed anytime soon. Let us hope the author is successful in his work and does not encounter any major hurdles.

Akumajo Dracula: Nocturne in the Moonlight, known in the West as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, is the blockbuster 2D action-adventure that first appeared on Sony Playstation in 1997. The Saturn version arrived a year later, but was notorious for being a rushed project, mostly involving dumping the PSX program code onto Sega's console without properly using the hardware processors. This results in semi-frequent bouts of slowdown and alterations in some visual effects. As a result, it has always been seen as the weaker version, although, to the game's credit, Saturn Castlevania includes new areas to explore, new monsters to battle, and a new playable character in Maria.

Is Saturn Castlevania as good as the PSX original? No, but it's not nearly as bad as you've heard. Diehard fans will enjoy the opportunity to see the new material and play as Maria, and who would pass up an opportunity to play Symphony once again? This is a stone-cold classic that remains as captivating and engaging as it was 23 years ago. What a great time to be a Sega Saturn fan!
 

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I'm currently playing through the PS1 version of SotN and having a great time with it. Maybe I'll try the Saturn version next Halloween (it would be nice to replay as Maria)

PandaMonium has released review 22 of his US Saturn release reviews:



Like many of his other videos, he has managed to get an interview with one of the devs of the game, which gives valuable insight on what early Saturn development was like in the US. He and his friends were newbies to game development, and were only hired by Maxis to port the game after they made a mech battle mod of the original PC release. Like many early Saturn devs, they were just given a half-translated Saturn dev manual in 1994 and had to work the first 6 months without a single dev kit (which they had to share between the whole team when it arrived, as Sega only gave them one). He regrets that they didn't have the time or expertise to bring in the second processor to help run the game, but given the circumstances it's hard to blame them.

It seems that Sega thought this game was going to be a big deal, so the team developing it got extra time to work on it. It appears to have come out a year before the PS1 version, so Sega were liely hoping it would be a bit of a system seller.

This was probably my most played Saturn game in terms of sheer hours played, so this review brought back a lot of nostalgic memories. I still remember having to delete my entire internal memory whenever I started a new city due to not having that memory cartridge.
 

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Screenshots of Diehard Gamefan's four-page profile of Nights: Into Dreams. As always, it's fun to look through the wild page designs at Gamefan and their blizzard of screenshots. They always had the cleanest and sharpest photos of any videogame magazine of its era. They were early adopters of using video capture equipment instead of the ancient method of, ya know, pointing a camera at a television screen, and the results speak for themselves.

Looking back 24 years later, it feels a bit foolhardy to imagine that Sonic Team's mascot would compete against Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot. Yes, it's a classic, a great videogame, a must-play. But it's too offbeat, too strange, too surreal for mainstream gamers, and it doesn't make a good first impression. Nights is a game that takes a good hour to fully click, which is why I'm a strong supporter of Christmas Nights as the ideal introduction.

Mario is supremely easy to understand: run and play around in a big garden. Crash is also easy to understand: a classic 2D side-scrolling game with linear first-person stages. But Nights plays like a mashup of genres: 2D platformer, 3D platformer, racing game, arcade score attack, virtual pet manager. All of these elements make for a brilliant experience, but only after you've learned how to integrate all of these varying elements.

In that sense, Nights is the perfect Saturn mascot: fails to impress players at the start, only to build and grow over time. Saturn is almost certainly more respected today than it one in the '90s, and there are various reasons why this is so. Most of them simply involve time. Time to get away from the Generation Five hype machine, time to wean off the obsession with Playstation's tacky-as-hell lighty-glowy effects (gaming's answer to leisure suits), time to rediscover classic arcade games, time to appreciate Saturn's strengths in 2D and 3D graphics, and time to remember just how good Sega used to be. we never realized a the time just how good we had it.
 
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I posted photos of this two-page review of Powerslave from Diehard Gamefan, but decided I should take larger photos so that you can read all the text. Yeah, I know, nobody ever read Gamefan for their articles (ahem), but it's still very interesting to see their take on this classic when it was new.

I'm also posting photos of the short reviews for Powerslave, first on Saturn with Playstation following a few months later. Interesting to note how the PSX version is given higher scores, but I think this is because the game had grown on the Gamefan crew by that time. At the beginning, they only really saw a "Doom clone" and little else. After some time had passed, they were able to more fully absorb its many innovations and departures from the strictly linear arcade format. I think this growing appreciation shows itself in the Playstation reviews.

However, I will strongly disagree with their assessment that PSX Powerslave is superior to the Saturn original. Obviously, I'm the Saturn cheerleader and my opinions should be taken with the necessary skepticism, but I do feel the scores on these two versions ought to be reversed. It is the Saturn version that is notably superior in terms of content and visuals.

I wrote down a few quick notes on PSX Powerslave's differences from the Saturn version:

- Red scarabs have been changed to blue scorpions. The Saturn version has more animation frames.

- Ramses' face doesn't move when he speaks. His head is slightly transparent, while it is solid on Saturn (of course, this is Playstation). There is no flash when his coffin rises as seen on Saturn.

- Energy orbs are slightly transparent, like Ramses' head. On Saturn, they are all solid bitmap sprites.

- The lighting effects are significantly reduced and simplified. You can see this with the priests who hurl fireballs at you. The multi-colored dynamic lighting effects are far, far better on Saturn, closer to what you'd see on Nintendo 64.

- Colors are flatter, slightly watered down. Contrast levels are slightly weaker, with fewer shadows and dark areas. This is just like Tomb Raider, and really is just a matter of personal taste.

- The usual PSX glitches: zig-zag textures, black line seams. The environments feel slightly wobblier and less "solid." Again, it's the Playstation 1 "look," and like Saturn's "mesh transparencies," it is something we learn to accept.

- Inconsistent frame rate. There are times where it hits as high as 60 fps, but then becomes choppy in open areas or when there's a lot of action. It's notably less stable than the Saturn version's solid 30 fps.

- The stages are smaller. Rooms and simplified or edited down. You can see this at the very beginning in your journey to Ramses' tomb. Two whole sections from the Saturn version are missing in the PSX version. There are many other examples of this throughout the game.

- Many wall textures are different. Sometimes they have been simplified or smoothed over, other times there are new details such as Egyptian figures in Ramses' tomb.

- There is slight polygon clipping when wading in the water. The water surface also lacks the animating patterns as seen on Saturn. On the upside, the water is fully transparent, while Saturn uses its "mesh transparency" instead.

- There are new loading screens on PSX version, along with "loading" text.

- The locations of the team dolls have been changed around, more balanced throughout the game world.

- I may be wrong on this last point, but I don't believe PSX Powerslave has the bomb jumps. This also resulted in moving around some of the team dolls, like that one in Ramses' tomb that's hidden above one of the pillars.

Obviously, I'm going to say that Powerslave is better on Saturn. But I have a very good reason for that, and it's because Powerslave is better on Saturn. The graphics are more advanced with stronger level designs, more sprite animation, fewer graphics glitches and more stable speed. What's really interesting is that the Playstation version was coded by Lobotomy themselves, and not farmed out to a contract developer. Given the pedigree of their team, especially programming legend Ezra Dreisbach, it's highly surprising that the Sony version wasn't better, and that it needed to cut so many corners in order to keep the frame rate steady.

As always, the differences between Saturn and PSX hardware means that games created from the ground up for one console won't translate easily to the other. You cannot just dump the program code from Platform A to Platform B, and the desire for software developers at this time to do just that--write one program and then "publish" it on multiple formats with as little tweaking as possible--is what drove the videogame industry away from largely incompatible platforms such as PSX, Saturn and N64 and towards streamlined platforms such as PS4 and Xbox One. Given the exploding budgets and time constraints as the technology advanced, it was becoming too expensive, and almost impossible, to create multiple versions of the same game that took proper advantage of each platform. And Gen-5 would mark the final days of console games being created by individuals or small teams.

In other words, the videogame industry was about to become very, very expensive, and this was going to have fundamental changes to the way software was created, and what kinds of software would be created in the future. Hello, endless first-person shooters and franchises!

Anyway, here are two complete gameplay videos of Powerslave, first the Saturn and then Playstation. Enjoy:



 
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It's great how much people are digging into the Saturn hardware these days. While these two videos might not contain any new insights for people very familiar with the hardware, they both provide a really nice overview for everyone else. It was a fascinating system, with all its processors etc, and I always like seeing people trying to explain how it all worked:


 

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A really nice little blog examining various graphical techniques used on the Saturn, as well as identifying the bottlenecks implicit in the hardware (with examples of the games using them). It comes in 5 long parts, so I'm posting it here so that I can continue reading it once I have the time:

 
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A really nice little blog examining various graphical techniques used on the Saturn, as well as identifying the bottlenecks implicit in the hardware (with examples of the games using them). It comes in 5 long parts, so I'm posting it here so that I can continue reading it once I have the time:


This is a really fantastic series of articles that goes into depth on Sega Saturn's hardware, providing examples of games that take advantage of its many abilities. Everybody should pore through them and share with others.
 

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A nice video from Simply Austin about the latest in Saturn emulation. The first part is him talking about the Saturn in general and has lots of fun Saturn ads that I've never seen before (including one bashing the N64), but the main course starts at around 18:46, when he talks about the Kronos emulator. In his opinion, this is the best one at the moment, due to it's high rate of compatibility with a large selection of games, as well as the fact that it allows you to boost the resolution to 4K (although he thinks a smaller boost to 480p is more suitable for the Saturn graphics). In addition to all that, it also allows you to swap out mesh for proper transparencies (mesh might look ok on a CRT, but they don't look so great on a modern TV).

 
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Every once in a while, I get the itching to play a few runs of my all-time favorite snowboarding videogame, Steep Slope Sliders. This still remains the standard of the genre for me, thanks to its spectacular course designs and superb trick system that is, essentially, a test run for Tony Hawk Pro Skater. I have to write a review of Twisted Edge Extreme Snowboarding for NIntendo 64 as part of the ongoing book project, so this is the perfect opportunity to make some comparisons.

One thing that I notice about this genre is that most snowboarding games are really just racing games, with the added gimmicks of stunt moves and far too much California Surfer Dude slang. You're never really seeing a representation of the boarding scene and subculture. You never get a sense of what makes this community tick or why it's important. For me, that's the genius thing about Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It captures so perfectly the rebellious punk spirit of the skateboarding scene, from acts of petty vandalism to trashing police cars to collecting videotapes. And it manages to fuse together multiple videogame genres to create something truly original and groundbreaking.

I think Cave achieves much of the same success in Steep Slope Sliders. You can tell that it was created by snowboarders and not just a bunch of marketing hacks trying to tap into the newest fad. The game is full of little details like graffiti on billboards and kids smashing up statues and hangers-on checking out the action at the park, fits and sparks of psychedelia in the music tracks, menu screens and especially the sound test mode. It also does something that I think is absolutely brilliant: it captures the sense of isolation and loneliness, that sense of solitude when you're going down a mountain. You're not racing against anyone, you're not trying to impress anyone, you're not in any competition, you're not out to win endorsements or money or fancier boards. It's just you and the mountain, you and the half-pipe.

I realize I am in the minority on this. Nearly everybody who has played Steep Slope has complained about the complete lack of any career mode or multiplayer racing. You run down a mountain, then you either make another run or hit the copter for the next site. You can easily unlock all characters and courses in as little as 30 minutes, and for most gamers, that means the end of the road. But that's because you're conditioned to slog through endless single-player modes that do nothing but grind you through endless hours of the same old junk. When something like that works, like Soul Calibur on Dreamcast, the journey is fantastic. When it doesn't work, well, have you seen half the racing games on N64? They're bloody awful.

You might have to be one of those kids who played a lot of videogames from the 1980s to appreciate Steep Slope's replay value, which lies in perfecting your runs, finding just that perfect spot to jump off for a trick combo, always searching for another location to hit some moves and raise your score. The game doesn't spell out anything for you. There are no arrows telling you where to jump, no surfer dude spewing out tired Poochie-isms when you land a cool move. You have to figure it out yourself, and then compete against your friends for the high scores. It's about as oldskool as it gets.

That said, as much as I love this videogame--definitely on my Saturn Top Ten list--there are a lot of additions I would make if I were in charge of the sequel. First and foremost, this game is sorely missing and desperately needs rail grinds. We already have the open-ended jump-grab-flip system, and all that's needed is to ride on the railings, cars and buildings. Again, this is another area where Tony Hawk was a flash of pure gaming genius. Heck, let's make this short and just add in everything from THPS like collecting tapes and letters to flesh out the courses. I'd certainly add a slalom option for all stages, as the single course in this game just feels like an unfulfilled promise. And maybe allow alternating multiplayer runs for courses.

Another great snowboarding game that gets everything just right: Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip on Nintendo Wii. It was dismissed by gaming critics as the "kiddie" throwaway in the face of the more simulation and story-heavy PS360 versions, but this was far more enjoyable and engaging, and it felt like a proper successor to Cave's Saturn classic. Ubisoft even had an unusually eclectic and noncommercial soundtrack, which is something I truly appreciate. I am so doggone tired of the punk/metal guitar riffs in late 1990s videogames, my head hurts just thinking about it.


Update: I wanted to come back and say a couple more things about Steep Slope Sliders. Heaven knows I could talk about this game until the end of time, but I'll stick to a few quick bullet points that I hopefully haven't used before:

- The course designs are spectacular. I still think these are the best mountain stages in any snowboarding videogame. It feels like a natural, lived-in world and not a safe, massively polished resort. There are always little bumps and rocks that stick out at odd angles, patches of trees and woods left untouched by human hands, small details like the log cabin ranch with rows of tall grass and a dog who loves to chase you. The "Extreme 03" stage has an especially nasty patch of sharp rocks and steep cliffs that feel so natural. You never see things like that in other boarding games and I've often wondered why.

- The player animation is sublime and very realistic. Notice how bodies will twist and contort when performing flips, how they bend at the knees slightly when jumping, the way they tilt and bend when in heavy turns (assisted by the L/R shoulder buttons). It gives everything a sense of gravity and weight that seems missing from rival snowboarding games.

- The color design is, again, spectacular and sublime. I think Cave knocked this out of the park. The variations in snow colors and textures perfectly capture the look of winter weather. You might have to live in a snow-heavy environment to appreciate such details, and coming from northern Minnesota, it's something that always jumps out at me. Most snowboarding games are far too slick and polished, and you rarely feel as though you're riding down actual snow, ice and slush. This points back to the lived-in nature of these environments.

- One of the four unlockable courses is the asteroid belt from The Fifth Element. How can you not love that? The other three bonus stages are very interesting, to say the very least, almost like sketches of ideas that were abandoned during production. The wire frame half pipe provides a trippy retro computer vibe. The "Death Star trench" stage is far more glitchy than necessary, thanks to the extremely narrow pathway and lack of any scoring opportunities. The arctic penguin stage is an interesting platforming challenge, where you must hop across a series of icebergs in order to reach your chopper. I still haven't completed this one without falling over the side, so I don't know what, if anything, happens if you make it to the end.

- The "time progress" mode is one of those charming little extras that I always enjoy. It uses the Saturn's internal clock to set the correct time of day for your location. Depending on when you're playing, you could find yourself riding at morning, daytime, sunset and night. You can also manually select different times via cheat codes, but there's a certain charm in playing at two in the morning just so you can catch Russia or Italy at the ideal time.

- The music is wonderfully haunting, slightly strange, slightly surreal. It adds to the slight sense of unease and isolation as you ride down the mountains. The Japanese manual credits the music tracks to six different artists: Channel X (Ryoji Ikeda), NEURON (Kouiti Ogama), SUO (Yosikazu Suo), White Wall (Kiyosi Hiramatu), Egg Tail (Heigo Yokouti) and Nap on Monday (unnamed). I'm not sure if these are Cave staff or local electronica DJs, as Google was not helpful.

- The replay mode is almost a complete game in itself. It's amazing that nobody else ever bothered to recreate the video recording aspect of skate/snowboarding culture. Yet here you have access to an entire suite of tools, allowing you to place cameras at multiple angles, shoot with color filters or strobe effects, rotate or spin images, even repeat key moments in rapid-fire succession. This enables you to shoot and edit your perfect run and show off to the world, and I'm puzzled why there aren't a hundred Youtube videos showing off everyone's personal creations. Heck, I ought to be doing this right now.

- Steep Slope Sliders is quirky, uncommercial and almost experimental. It takes a completely different direction from nearly every other snowboarding videogame, and that's probably why I love it so much. I don't think Cave ever fully understood their own creation. They ported the Saturn original to the ST-V Titan board and made some changes to the gameplay, attempting to win over a mainstream audience and never fully succeeding. They later created a spiritual sequel on Sony Playstation called Trick'N Snowboarder, where the studio seriously tried to copy the popular genre formula while dumbing down the entire experience and removing all the quirky, weird bits. The result is something far less interesting and memorable, doomed to be overlooked by the ever-popular Cool Boarders and SSX series. And the less said of the JP-exclusive Snowboard Heaven on Playstation 2, the better.
 
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Great news for Baroque fans! The 1998 horror classic has just been released on Nintendo Switch in Japan. Sting, the original software developers have reissued the title based on the Saturn original, even going so far as to include the option of mesh transparencies. Also included is the bonus promotional disc Baroque Report, which also originally appeared on Saturn.

There has been no announcement regarding a Western release, but we can always hope for the best. Remember that a fan translation of the Saturn version is also in progress, and we wish that project success as well.
 

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Konami's Vandal Hearts is now the latest Sega Saturn videogame to receive an English translation patch! According to project leader Garrett Greenwalt on Twitter, "The translation was ported over from the PS1 version, but it's undergone a review and edit to bring it closer to the original script."

You can download the patch here, or visit Greenwalt's Twitter feed here.

Randomized Gaming posted a video of Vandal Hearts, which I have posted above. The following text excerpt appears on the Youtube page and includes a complete description of the changes between the Saturn and Playstation versions:


Improvements over the PlayStation version:

1. New true motion intro (It's utter rubbish however and doesn't link with the game in anyway)
2. Extra battle maps and new items at the end of the game (Thanks to Hardcore Gaming 101 for this information)
3. Improved audio, better bass and overall quality (listen to drums and trumpet in first battle)
4. New and better looking loading screens with character artwork
5. Improved gameplay mechanics (including archers able to open treasure chests)
6. Higher resolution, benefits the map which are less obscured by the compass now in the top right corner
7. Text window has improved transparency and a cleaner rendering (Makes you wonder why Castlevania used a mesh effect for the window, as it's working perfectly in Vandal Hearts.)


Areas weaker than the PlayStation version:

1. 2D and 3D graphics appear stretched and distorted in-game
2. Original movies all have the bottom cropped off and the subtitles now appear in the middle of the picture, this includes the Konami intro.
3. All weapon, armour and item graphics have been totally removed from the menus and shop. (likely due to the new Saturn items not having them) There graphics do however still appear in battle when you discover a hidden item strangely????
4. Some transparency effects aren't working and are changed to mesh effects
5. Added slowdown, during some of the more intense spells
6. Some graphics textures are missing, such as the darken town texture during the Dover District battle, the houses look much brighter as a result and it kills the atmosphere of the scene
7. Slight more loading times between missions (not really noticeable)
8. The menu slide effect seen in the shop etc... as you swap menus has been removed.


Other tweaks and changes:

1. There is far more blood in the Saturn version, when you kill enemies
2. When Magnus approaches and touches the stone in the opening intro in the Saturn version it emits a 3D pulsing wave of light, in the PlayStation version it emits a small transparent glow.
3. The blue and orange icons at the feet of the player and enemy characters has had its design changed.
4. The design of the text boxes have been changed and they no longer use the speech bubble effect either during cutscenes.
5. Direction the scrolling background moves has been changed on some stages
6. Most transparency effects are working such as the cursor, text window, heal spell, rain and smoke on battle two. Some like the 3D whirlwind aren't, the flame dragon in the attract battle isn't, yet the flame damage that appears on the enemies after the dragon appears is. It's almost like one of the coding team could do transparency and another couldn't. Same happens in Castlevania where the Saturn exclusive areas have enemies like the ghost with working transparency, yet other enemies just use a mesh effect.
 

Al3x1s

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Is that a good game, I had seen it on PS1 but after playing FFT it seemed like a very crude game in comparison in all aspects, I didn't give it a second thought at the time.
 
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Wachenroeder, the magnificent 1998 Strategy-RPG developed by Westone and published by Sega, belongs at the top of any fan translation wish list. This game was released late in Saturn's lifespan and was blessed with a wonderful sense of design and storytelling. It could easily run alongside the Shining Force 3 trilogy and if you're a fan of the genre, you'll have a wonderful time.

Now that Vandal Hearts has been translated into English, hot on the heels of Valhollian and Sakura Wars, with Grandia in the beta-testing stage and Lunar: Silver Star Story and Princess Crown waiting in the wings, it makes perfect sense that Wachenroeder should be the next big project. The great thing is that an English language translated script is already available on GameFAQs. All that's needed is to plug that text into the Saturn program code.

Somebody please translate this game!
 
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Black/Matrix is another brilliant Strategy-RPG that was released on Sega Saturn in Japan. It's a late Saturn release, August 1998, and shows some highly polished production values and gameplay system. This title was later released on Dreamcast and, to be perfectly honest, you'd be hard pressed to tell which version was which. Sega Saturn Magazine JP reviewed the game and gave scores of 7-7-9.

A fan translation was published online way back in 2001, so you'll need to track that down if you don't understand Japanese. That would also make it easier to create an English translation patch. Wink, wink.
 
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Konami's 1995 Playstation Strategy-RPG Genso Suikoden was given a Saturn translation in 1998. This version saw a number of changes and additions, mostly for artistic or creative reasons, as well as some odd omissions with transparencies that will annoy Sega fans. It received a warm reception from Sega Saturn Magazine JP, who rated it a solid 7-7-7. Not magnificent, not a classic, but very good and a welcome addition to the popular genre.

Needless to say, I'd be thrilled to see Suikoden translated into English. The fact that the PSX original is widely available and generally considered to be the superior version makes any translation project unlikely. Then again, the Saturn fan community is working overdrive to provide English patches to as many JP exclusives as possible.
 
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I wanted to check up on the status of the Grandia English translation project. I'm very happy to report that the project lead, TrekkiesUnite118, has shared the download link for the latest patch. He states that he is continuing to work on updates and removing bugs. I haven't contacted him yet, so I cannot officially confirm if the project is essentially complete, or what still needs to be done. I am aware that the first disc was all but completed last year, and the latest work revolved around disc two.

In any case, here is the link to the latest Grandia translation patch. If you haven't yet enjoyed this all-time Saturn classic, then hop on the bandwagon.

Fun Fact: In the 2000 Sega Saturn Magazine JP readers poll of the greatest Saturn games, Grandia placed second, only behind Eve Burst Error.


Grandia Translation Patch version 0.8.5


Update 11/24: I found a complete gameplay video collection on Youtube. Now you can enjoy this adventure classic from start to finish. This is the original Japanese version, however. Somebody ought to upload a complete playthrough of the English translation. Hint, hint.
 
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Solo Crisis is a Strategy-RPG from Quintet, a Japanese software house best remembered for the excellent Actraiser on the Super Nintendo that famously combined Populous world building with side-scrolling action. Indeed, this title also takes heavy inspiration from Populous, where you must build houses that can evolve into larger structures like castles in order to build power to defeat your opposing army.

The real gimmick of this game is that the game world is a long flat slab, kind of like the Rubik's Magic Rings from the 1980s. One side of the world is the mirror side of the other, and special attacks that raise the land on your side will create depressions on the other. This adds an interesting wrinkle as you now have to think two-dimensionally in your strategies.

I could only find a couple gameplay videos on Youtube. Solo Crisis remains one of the more obscure Japanese Saturn games, lost in the shuffle of so many other big-name titles and perennial franchises. Fortunately, this means scoring a physical copy is relatively cheap, well under $20. You can also find the official guide book for another $20, which is always welcome. As always, your main obstacle will be the Japanese text, and without any guides or translations to help you, you're just going to have to muscle your way through until you learn the ropes.
 
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And now we come to a videogame that is considered an all-time masterwork in Japan: Chunsoft's 1998 sound novel Machi. This would fit into the interactive fiction genre that was extremely popular in Japan, yet completely nonexistent in the West. How popular was this title? So much that in a 2006 Famitsu readers poll of the greatest videogames of all time, Machi placed fifth. Number five. Wrap your head around that one.

Think of this as an interactive movie, where you follow the intertwining lives of various characters in the city. Most of what happens is presented in text with still photos, but there are also filmed scenes to watch.

As this is entirely in Japanese, its appeal to an English speaking audience is close to nil. Any potential fan translation project would need to create subtitles for the video clips as well as all the text, and this would prove a daunting task. I'd like to see that happen, but let's be realistic. Most Westerners are still recovering from the shock and horror of the Full-Motion Video games of the early 1990s, a popular staple that became about as hated and unpopular as 1970s leisure suits. That said, yeah, sure, I'd love to see Machi translated into English, if only to see what the fuss was about. I often feel that I'm missing out on the visual/sound novels, especially on Saturn. But that's probably just me.


Update: I thought I would reprint this 10/10 review on GameFAQs, which does an excellent job describing Machi and explaining what makes it a Saturn classic:

Shibuya, city of light and dreams. Many people live in Shibuya, facing their own problems every day. Machi follows the lives of 8 such people across five days. Keima is trying to stop a bombing plot. Umabe is an actor down on his luck. Ushio gets involved in a jewelry store robbery. Ichikawa wants to stop writing cheap TV drivel and focus on a literary masterpiece. Yoshiko needs to lose weight quickly or she will be dumped. Ryuji has deserted from the Foreign Legion and is now looking for his purpose in life. And Yohei just found out that he has a child. These 8 people don't know each other, but their actions influence everyone, however subtly, and however unknowingly. This is, after all, what it means to live in the same city.

Machi is a sound novel, a term coined by Chunsoft to describe a visual novel made without the usual staples such as character portraits and first-person point of view. Instead, Chunsoft opted for a big-budget approach: live actors and live scenarios are accurately crafted and filmed. Thousands of still have then been taken, plus the occasional video, and that's what constitutes almost the entirety of the visuals. it was a genuinely impressive effort for the time. And since they didn't just use live actors on CG backgrounds, like many western games did in the middle 90's, the graphics have aged a lot better. It's just like watching stills from a movie. A 50 hours long slice-of-life movie.

Yes, there's no epic plot and no big villain to defeat, these are five (almost) normal days. But in order to reach the end of every scenario, you absolutely have to play as all the characters concurrently. Otogirisou was the first visual novel to employ multiple endings dependant on the player's choices, but Chunsoft upped the ante immensely here: Machi was the first game to require the players to jump between characters, whose routes contain multiple choices that affect not just their own path, but also the other characters'. Often, a choice might look meaningless to the character who makes it - Ichikawa's story will be the same regardless of whether you leave the telephone card in the booth - but its effects will only be visible once another character is affected by it - Masashi, running away and finding refuge in the booth, will find the phone card ready for use (that actually leads to a bad end. It's complicated).

Chunsoft did everything to make the player feel a bit more welcome in this daunting task: the days are divided in 10-minutes sequences (seamless, so you won't notice unless you bring up the clock), and the game automatically saves at every sequence. All sequences already seen can be jumped to at anytime and played again, very useful to change a choice without having to go back to the main menu. The only thing missing is a chart detailing when every important choice takes place. The game stops giving you hints after the first half of Day 1. So if you don't want to get lost, and you will, I strongly suggest filling up a spreadsheet yourself. Hey, it's all part of the fun, really. It will make reaching the end that much more satisfying.

And satisfied you will be, as the scenarios are all very strong. They range from humorous to serious, from zany love comedy to almost X-Files territory, essentially the whole gamut is included. This could be jarring at times, but it all works out somehow. And what's more, the characters are all generally believable. Chunsoft has wisely reserved the most comedic roles to the side characters, while the main protagonists, even with their foibles, manage to stay relatable. And so you'll be happy for them when they reach their goals, and you will feel bad for them when things go badly. Reaching your first scenario end, after so many hours, will be a special feeling. And reaching all of the endings, after so many more hours, will be even more special. I dare people who have played the entire game to not tear up a little during the credits video.

A strong soundtrack, more than two hours long and with many unique tunes for each character (in fact there are very few shared tunes, to strengthen the idea that these 8 people don't know each other) accompanies the player throughout. As an extra touch, there are buttons to darken the backgrounds (to make the writing more readable) and to remove the writing entirely (good to take screencaps or better look at the stills). Often, little notes can be triggered to explain the setting, the characters, a difficult word, or maybe just a few jokes by the devs.

I cannot stress enough how much the visuals, music, characters and story come together to create a truly special mix. It's one of the best visual novels I've ever played. One of the best games I've ever played, indeed. It's a shame that it was never localized, though it certainly would have been a mastodontic effort. But a game like this really deserved a bigger audience. Even in Japan it wasn't a commercial success, though its cult status eventually led Chunsoft to create a pseudo-sequel in 428 many years later (it's not clear how successful 428 itself was, but with Spike Chunsoft now focusing on Danganronpa, it's unlikely that they will return to that universe anytime soon). If you can read japanese, and have enough guts for the daunting task ahead, you can do no better than Machi.
 
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The House of the Dead, Sega's Greatest Crime Against Humanity

The House of the Dead
on Sega Saturn has exactly one major flaw--the low-resolution Minecraft textures--and everybody and their pet dog won't ever, ever let you forget it. More reasonable people would simply learn to get past the block pixel look of the art design and appreciate everything else that is brilliant, but we don't live in that world, not in the year 1998 and certainly not today. In that sense, this game is a perfect mascot for a videogames console that was constantly harped upon for every minor flaw, while comparable or greater shortcomings on Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64 were given mulligans. It's unfair and stupid, but what can you do?

This is an excellent light gun game. I'll repeat that again for the balconies: this is an excellent videogame. As a translation of Sega's most visually demanding Model 2 arcade, Australian software studio Tantalus hit all the marks. The speed is intact, the relentless, endless waves of zombies and monsters are intact, the polygon architecture of the giant mansion, with its countless rooms, halls and corridors is supremely solid and faithfully reproduced. There are no warping walls or flickering popup, certainly not the kind that haunted Burning Rangers or Daytona USA. All of the branching pathways and locations are present. The difficulty is off the charts, and for those who could breeze their way through the Virtua Cop series, this is more than a welcome challenge. And when you consider that Saturn owners had gone without a quality light gun game for eighteen months, this was a most welcome arrival.

And yet I struggle to find a favorable review of this title anywhere, aside from Amazon reader reviews. Nobody could get past those Minecraft textures. And while such a sentiment is understandable 20 years ago, we should expect opinions to begin shifting around by now. After all, by any reasonable measures, nearly all of the 3D polygon graphics from Generation 5 are "outdated" and "terrible" in the eyes of those expecting the bleeding edge of technology. Have you seen Spider-Man on Playstation 5? It's astounding how good today's videogames can look. They're practically indistinguishable from Hollywood blockbuster movies now. As a result, we should expect gamers to feel more generous and forgiving with the retro consoles that are a thousand times less powerful.

This is where House of the Dead gets into trouble. Because it was among the final wave of US Saturn releases, the game was given a low print run, quickly sold out and is now selling for astronomical prices on the used game circuit. I just checked Ebay and prices run from $450 to nearly $700. If you're lucky, you can score a complete box for only $250. Japanese discs are far more reasonable, hovering around the $40 range and featuring all the English voices we know and love. But the more casual gamers won't know about that option, or be aware of the necessity of the Pro Action Replay cartridge for playing import discs.

Worst of all, Sega has long since lost the original source code for the arcade and Saturn versions of House of the Dead, which makes a modern HD remaster all but impossible (we could simply use the same ROMs and ISOs we're using, but that means playing in the original SD resolution, and gamers would endlessly complain about that). And that leaves us with--what else?--that Sega Saturn version and its wonderfully chunky, blocky Minecraft textures that nobody can ever excuse or forgive. Truly, this was Sega's greatest offense, a crime against humanity on par with the Spanish Civil War, Gengis Khan and Leisure Suits. Frankly, it's a miracle that we ever survived.
 
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Al3x1s

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Emulation based release can use higher res rendering, no biggie if there's no source code... And the problem was the frame rate more than the graphics imo (so using the original arcade version to emulate for any new release would be fine) but yes it was still awesome to have at home back then alongside Virtua Cop 1 & 2. Arcade games in general were getting panned most of the time because nooblets just played them with infinite credits and thought that's all they have to offer, reaching the end, rather than getting good and simply enjoying their fun and challenging action for what it is.
Ignore the mouse crosshair, guess the guy here didn't have a Sinden lightgun to emulate the arcade game with :p just showing what it looks like with its original framerate and graphics in HD.

Funny it uses the mesh effect for transparency, I thought Model 2 could do real transparency. Either it was in dev before the final specs or I'm mistaken (though searching for Virtual On Model 2 vids it shows real transparencies it could be improved in the emulation like SSF can do for the Saturn).
 
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DT MEDIA

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Continuing my theme of "Sega Saturn games with bad reputations," I found myself playing Sonic R once again and really having a good time. Most likely this is because I was able to get a better handle on the game's notoriously loose and slippery controls. The trick is to 1) use the analog 3D Controller, and 2) learn to let off the gas once in a while. I finally understood the purpose behind mapping running to "up" on the joypad: it allows for analog acceleration, and there are many times where you really need to turn corners or spin around at a slower speed. Simply blazing away at maximum will get you into trouble.

Sonic R is one of those games where the controls make or break everything. If you're having a good day and can make your way around the sprawling tracks, it's a terrific thrill ride, a true 3D version of the Sonic experience. If you're having a bad day, you'll find yourself bouncing and sliding everywhere and cursing Sega for unleashing such a colossal mess. Even among the most dedicated Saturn fans, this debate will probably never be settled.

I will confidently say that Jon Burton's Youtube videos explaining the technical side of Sonic R have given me a great appreciation and respect for what Traveller's Tales and Sonic Team have achieved. Visually, this game is spectacular by Gen-5 standards and a sensational showpiece for Saturn's powers. Polygon shading and light sourcing are present, as is the highly impressive "12-step transparency" effect of backgrounds fading into view. Once again, VDP2 is used to create gorgeous water effects that have never been copied anywhere else, and the environments have a great sense of solid mass, without tearing, warping or breaking apart. When you compare this graphics engine to Burning Rangers, a gorgeous videogame marred with constant glitching, the difference is quite striking.

I also really love the stage designs that aim for a fusion of racing and platforming. This is another element that has bitterly divided Sonic fans, most of which were expecting a proper genre title one way or the other. I find myself enjoying it greatly, and there's always a sense that something new lies just beyond the boundaries of the screen, some extra little area that awaits my discovery, if only I could find a way there on my next pass. If only there were a few more locations. This game is criminally short and a measly five courses is thin gruel, indeed. I never could understand why Sega couldn't create at least two or three more. In a perfect world, we would see an update/sequel that added a dozen or more zones, all based on the classic Genesis and Sega CD locations. Sonic R would benefit greatly from our modern age of endless updates to existing titles, ala Minecraft and Mario Kart 8.

Finally, I love the music. I think it's great. What else would you expect from a genre-mashing experiment like this? A conventional Sonic score would be sacrilegious.

So, quick recap: the controls require analog steering and a delicate touch, the music is deliciously catchy, the graphics are tremendous and the whole experience is far too short. I think the ultimate goal of this game is to collect all the chaos emeralds and Sonic tokens in a single run, which has to be the ultimate show-off to your friends. Sega should send you a trophy for such a feat.
 
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Continuing the theme of Sega Saturn Games With Bad Reputations, can we all appreciate the brilliance and sheer joy of Maria in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? Sometimes it's just good fun to play as a massively overpowered heroine who judo kicks the most powerful monsters with ease. And it's one of the few elements in this game where Saturn fans can boast.

That English language translation patch cannot arrive soon enough.
 
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Kazza

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Good timing, as I've been playing the DS version quite a bit these last few weeks. I wanted to get the Saturn version back when it came out, but I had already payed the Amiga one to death, so decided to prioritise other games. The game is still a lot of fun to play today, and the Saturn version seems to be a good port. I don't know why the Americans didn't like it much, whereas the European and Japanese markets went crazy for it. Surely designing, building and managing your very own amusement park is a universal desire?
 
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cireza

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Is Saturn Castlevania as good as the PSX original? No, but it's not nearly as bad as you've heard.
Still a perfectly playable version indeed.

There is an English version of Vandal Hearts it seems.

 
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Peter Malek at Sega Saturn, Shiro! has written an excellent essay review on the five hockey games released for the system, going into depth on each title's strengths and weaknesses. He chooses Radical Entertainment's NHL Powerplay 96 and NHL All-Star Hockey 98 as the top picks, and I heartedly agree, but there are some interesting points to be made for the EA Sports titles. Even if they're not as polished as Madden, they do have their charms and are worth checking out.

The great thing about sports games on classic systems is that they're always so cheap. You can often find these discs at the nearest retro gaming store for a dollar or two, and Ebay auctions will cost as little as five bucks. This all but guarantees that you'll get your money's worth and as long as you accept the limitations of the era, and accept that no hockey videogame will ever equal NHL 94 on Genesis, you'll be fine.

That said, avoid the 1995 NHL All-Star Hockey like the plague. It's the worst hockey game ever made.