Sega Saturn Appreciation and Emulation Thread

DT MEDIA

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It is necessary to play the PD game to understand the story of the second?
Not really, because both stories (1 & 2) are very similar and very little is ever revealed. You won't be missing very much. If anything, the world in Panzer Dragoon Zwei is more fleshed out, as you are introduced to at least two different human nations battling for control, in addition to the mutated monsters lumbering around. The plot to the first game was pretty straightforward: a chase against a rival dragon to reach a mysterious tower that holds...something, something.
 
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For many years, Zero/Alpha 3 was near-universally regarded as the greatest Street Fighter ever made
No it wasn't. The whole alpha series kind of left a bitter taste in people's mouths. There was a lot of controversy over the art style. The original SF2 is still the most highly regarded of the entire franchise.

the Saturn version uses the 4MB RAM cartridge which enables a nearly pixel perfect translation of the arcade
I'm really glad that emulation has given us the ability to finally and definitively clarify the situation on this. It doesn't run at the same resolution as the arcade, but no one ever brings this up.
 
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I was spending some time today playing Panzer Dragoon Saga, which is absolutely magnificent. One of the things I really enjoy are the many subtleties in building this fascinating and mysterious world. When playing through a desert, I came across this series of stone arches and pillars (if you fly through the arches, a large sand worm crashes through a tunnel, opening a bonus area to explore). This area reminds me of the first stage from the original Panzer Dragoon, which also has a similar arrangement of arches and pillars.

Are the two locations one and the same? Panzer Saga never fully establishes a timeline, only that it takes place thousands of years after a lost civilization collapsed. There are rumors that dragons have ravaged the Empire in the past, but it's never stated if these events came from the two previous games. It is possible that all three games occur in short succession, but it's equally possible that they are separated by long spans of time, perhaps even centuries.

Any thoughts?
 
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I think if you looked at Panzer Dragoon only through the lens of the shooters (Panzer Dragoon, Zwei, and Orta) you could stretch the lore across several centuries, but Saga adds so much detail to the world that I think it was more-or-less established that it takes place over a span of about 100 years.
 
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Nekketsu Oyaku (1995, Technosoft)

Nekketsu Oyaku is a martial arts beat-em-up in the style of Final Fight and Streets of Rage and a hundred other contenders. Its style reminds me a lot of early Neo-Geo games, bright and brash and cheerfully overconfident. It's not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it has charm and personality in spades. It grows on you. This is one of those videogames where two minutes of play time can suddenly become two hours.

Your heroes, a family trio on a quest to rescue Mom from the clutches of an evil crime syndicate, are about as generic a roster as you can imagine: kung-fu hero in blue jeans, perky anime girl in pigtails, and a lumbering, desperate Mike Haggar wannabe with Freddie Mercury mustache. You face off against one of the more bizarre street gangs, including bomb-throwing girls in skimpy animal costumes, street punks wearing helmets and boxing gloves, giant squids who wear slightly more fashionable boxing gloves, large blobs of water (they even have "H2O" on their bellies) and large hockey-masked heavies that remind me of the arcade Ninja Gaiden. Who knows? Maybe you can think of this as a parody of the genre, like a lost 1970s Shaw Brothers flick.

The stage designs allow for some interesting moments, such as large cars that stretch and squash when they turn around, and can be smashed to pieces in a series of fireball explosions (again with the spoofing thing). At the end of one boss battle, the bridge below your feet collapses and you find yourself in the belly of a giant whale. In another stage, you fight while riding a roller coaster. The environments allow for many destructible objects that you smash just for the sheer fun of it, like lampposts and fire hydrants and statues.

Your heroes have a surprisingly robust number of attacks, including several special attacks that require joystick rotations ala Street Fighter 2. The three characters are entirely different from one another, so you may find yourself sticking with one hero as your favorite. I do wish that there were at least a couple more throws, and that the father could pick up and throw those cars, but I'm probably getting greedy. A number of power-up weapons can be picked up, including a bazooka that only Dad can use. That's my favorite weapon in the game for sure.

Nekketsu Oyaku was first released as part of the Sony Playstation's Japanese launch in 1994, and then migrated to Saturn the following year. Both versions are nearly identical, but there are a number of notable changes to the presentation and pacing. The Saturn version features some improved graphics on some stages, including a cool warping background scrolling effect inside the whale. There are a lot of "faked" transparencies (the notorious mesh pattern effect that blends on RF and Composite), but the overall speed seems to be a touch faster than on Playstation. I thought the flames in the underground volcano stage looked better on Saturn, employing large scaling sprites instead of Sony's transparent effects.

Visually, this game looks garish and a bit rough in the color design. The color palette is much too small, as though the game was conceived as a Genesis or Super NES title before being bumped up to another platform. The images are a bit soft and fuzzy as well. Character animation is adequate but could use a few more frames, and some of the poses are just awkward. I am once again reminded of early Neo-Geo. On the upside, the music is simply spectacular, pure Technosoft sugar through and through, with catchy synth-rock melodies that would be perfectly at home in Thunder Force 4 or Herzog Zwei.

The action is fast and furious, with enemies that know how to fight back and keep you on your toes, and it's that gameplay that keeps me glued to my television far longer than I have any right to expect. This is one of those videogames that you would rent on a Friday night with the intention of playing for five minutes, only to keep playing with friends for the next three hours. Nekketsu Oyaku is better than it has any right to be. I'll give this one a solid 7/10 and file it under "guilty pleasure."
 

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Astal (1995, Sega)

Sega Saturn was originally conceived as a 2D powerhouse that would continue the arcade tradition of Sega Genesis, and Astal demonstrates that perfectly. It looks and plays like a "next generation" of the side-scrolling action games that were common in the 16-bit era, but with the lavish presentation and stylized polish of 32-bit. If only the winds of change hadn't swept through the videogame industry so quickly, this title would be remembered as a minor classic. Instead, it became overshadowed by the flashy new world of polygon graphics and immersive 3D worlds.

There's no denying that Astal looks and sounds glorious, with richly painted backdrops that would fit into a 1940s Walt Disney cartoon, and smoothly animated characters that run, dance and weave about. Saturn's 2D sprite scaling and rotation abilities are put to the test, as we can see when enemy crystal warriors attack you, or when you pick up a large tree to throw at your opponents. The screen itself will zoom in and out at times, which was something of a signature effect on Neo-Geo in those days. Several stages showcase some highly impressive background distortion and warping that would put the Super Nintendo to shame, and you can tell that Sega's software developers had a terrific amount of fun in pushing the envelope in 2D videogames.

In this game, you play as the title character who is on a quest to rescue a princess from the forces of evil, which was the setup to 95% of all videogames made after Super Mario Bros. He has a number of very powerful attacks, including throws, two-fisted punches, and the ability to smash the ground to stun enemies. After rescuing a small bird, he joins your party and performs special attacks when needed. You even play as the bird in one of the boss fights, which is a nice twist. Your opponents, however, are somewhat simple to defeat and can be dispatched with ease. It would be nice if the villains also had some cool superpowers to even out the contest, and this only reinforces the idea that you're playing a "kiddie game."

The character designs are wonderfully surreal in the style of classic fantasy novels, and everything appears as though richly painted in watercolors. You will encounter a purple sea creature whose neck stretches and distorts, strange birds made of one large eye and two beaks, a large man-eating plant straight out of Little Shop of Horrors, swarms of one-eyed bats with crystal tails, creatures of diamond and rock that fall from the ceiling, lava dragons that can be blown away by Astal's mighty breath, and a gigantic walking creature that fills up several screens. The final boss battle is especially impressive and seems to pull every visual trick in the book, from scaled and distorted sprites to transparent clouds, a flying blue dragon and a large floating monster who must be dispatched by throwing trees at him. A number of animated storybook scenes move the story forward in between stages.

I rented this game back in Autumn 1995 and enjoyed the experience, but felt a slight disappointment with the easy difficulty and short length. Seasoned players will reach the ending fairly quickly, probably in a single evening. My recent playthrough has only reinforced this belief, although I now have greater respect for what Sega was trying to achieve. Their vision for "next generation" sprite graphics still feels fresh and innovative, especially since the entire artform was thrown into a meat locker sometime between the launches of Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. Today's indie videogame developers would be wise to study Astal for inspiration, instead of merely copying the 16-bit style that is currently in vogue.

Astal is a videogame that feels ripe for rediscovery. Players should give this one a fresh look. And that goes double for Sega.
 
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If there is any complaint about Decathlete, it's that only two human players can compete together. There is absolutely no reason why four players can't be present, especially when only a few events show all the competitors together. Thankfully, AM3 fixed this issue with Winter Heat, but they also had to cut the frame rate and resolution to "standard" 240/30. So perhaps that was the necessary tradeoff. Oh, well. I remember playing Track 'N Field on the family Atari 800XL long ago. By that standard, I have no reason to complain today. This is paradise.
The complaint is legitimate from a gameplay standpoint, but not technically. The game ran at 60 fps in hi-res with up to two detailed characters (almost as detailed as VF2, more like DOA levels) with rudimentary 3d backgrounds. This was as far as you could push 32-bit systems back then.

Winter Heat could do more characters because it dropped the resolution and ran at half the frame rate.
 
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Rudolf

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Hi, everyone. I need some assistance, because I'm "desperate" ! :-(

I'm playing Tengai Makyou The 4th Apocalypse. First, I played with uoyabause emulator. Everything was ok, until a saloon in Tomb Stone in Arizona : a blonde girl is taken by fat men to the bottom of the bar, she screams, and... freeze !

I tried many times to reload my save just before this moment, but nothing changes.

Then, I decided to play again since the very beginning with another emulator : SSF. But... same problem, the game freezes in the same saloon in Tomb Stone !

I tried another iso, but nothing changes.

Am I the only one to have this problem ? I looked for information on Internet, but I couldn't find ANYTHING : Zero information !

Have you an idea, please ?
 
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Hi, everyone. I need some assistance, because I'm "desperate" ! :-(

I'm playing Tengai Makyou The 4th Apocalypse. First, I played with uoyabause emulator. Everything was ok, until a saloon in Tomb Stone in Arizona : a blonde girl is taken by fat men to the bottom of the bar, she screams, and... freeze !

I tried many times to reload my save just before this moment, but nothing changes.

Then, I decided to play again since the very beginning with another emulator : SSF. But... same problem, the game freezes in the same saloon in Tomb Stone !

I tried another iso, but nothing changes.

Am I the only one to have this problem ? I looked for information on Internet, but I couldn't find ANYTHING : Zero information !

Have you an idea, please ?
My experience with saturn emulator (mednafen) was terrible. Shit framerate, compatibility and worse of it all, don't work with original disks, only rips. So chances are that the emulator is at fault here.
 
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Princess Crown Fan Translation

Princess Crown is a side-scrolling Action-RPG that has become a cult classic among gamers since its release on Sega Saturn in 1997. It was never released outside of Japan, but its creator went on to found Vanillaware, whose hit videogames include Odin Sphere, Dragon Crown and Muramasa.

Former IGN staff writer and critic Anoop Gantayat wrote his own fan translation to Princess Crown and posted on his website, complete with boundless numbers of screenshots. A Microsoft Word document was promised but was never completed, but thankfully, the website has been preserved by The Wayback Machine.

According to his notes, Gantayat admitted that he "purposely strayed from from making a direct literal translation of the dialog...Also, the story and characters are very familiar to Western audiences, so it seemed appropriate to take some liberties." One should note that this translation was made sometime in the late 1990s, so this attitude is very much in keeping with the era. I also suspect that the English script retains the meaning of the Japanese script, but takes liberties to allow for more flowing and natural dialog in its translation. Such things are perfectly normal in translations, as I can personally testify from my experience with Horus, Prince of the Sun.

Anyway, enjoy this English translation of Princess Crown.
 

DT MEDIA

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Groove on Fight (1997, Atlus for Saturn)

Groove on Fight appeared on Sega's Titan arcade system in 1997, which was soon followed by a flawless Saturn conversion later that year. It is the fourth entry in Atlus' Goketsuji Ichizoku series, known as Power Instinct in the West. The early titles remained obscure, lost in the deep shadow of Street Fighter 2. With this title, Atlus successfully carved out a little space all to themselves, and the result is a highly competitive and enjoyable fighting game with a great sense of style.

While the character designs in Power Instinct were large and bulky, Groove on Fight features svelte, elegant designs, clearly inspired by anime and with a keen sense of irreverence. I like these fighters, many of whom resemble rail-thin rock singers like Iggy Pop or Scott Weiland. Many other character are quite odd, such as a Frankenstein-ish beast, a magician who wields a walking cane and bowler hat, a large samurai who sports 1980s "rock dude" hair, a pair of elderly women who are tied together at the waist, a witch who attacks with giant musical notes and scales, and a futuristic female cop who also moonlights for the Yandy Halloween cataloge. Their attacks are impressive, stylish and bounding with an offbeat sense of humor. This videogame has a real rock n' roll spirit in its bones; you almost expect Lou Reed or Johnny Ramone to crash the party while Guns N' Roses blares in the background.

This brawler features two-on-two teams similar to Capcom's "Vs" series. Fighters can be swapped in and out, or brought together for combination attacks. When one fighter is knocked out, their body is left on the floor where they can be picked up and thrown at opponents. That's a really inspired bit of demented humor and I wonder why it's never been tried before. Fighters have the usual assortment of attacks and special moves, and there are a number of impressive surprises such as a giant man-eating plant, a large moon that falls from the heavens, or a giant organ that summons the Grim Reaper. One stage even features an animated baby doll head that is fused to a steampunk furnace. You can tell the software developers had a lot of fun coming up with crazy ideas.

Groove On Fight uses the Saturn's 1MB cartridge upgrade, although the Pro Action Replay will work perfectly fine. The animation is solid and the key drawings are impressive, but lacks the miraculous fluidity as seen in Capcom's 4MB fighting titles on the Saturn. The matches are fierce and fast, attacks come from every direction and players must employ a great amount of skill to succeed, especially against the computer. It received mixed reviews from the Japanese videogame magazines, but I suspect genre burnout was the true culprit. For today's fans, there can never be such a thing as too many good fighting games.

Is Sega Saturn the greatest videogame system for fighting fans? Absolutely. Here is another one many examples.
 

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Hyper Duel (1996, Technosoft for Saturn)

As a lifelong fan of Sega Genesis, I have always held a special place in my heart for Technosoft, the masterminds behind Herzog Zwei and the Thunder Force series. These were genre-defining masterworks pushed the 16-bit generation forward and raised the bar for everything that followed. When the 32-bit era ushered in the age of 3D polygon graphics, the studio attempted to adapt with the times but continued to stick with the arcade shoot-em-ups that made them famous. Thank Heaven they stuck to their guns.

Hyper Duel first appeared in the arcades in 1993. It was Technosoft's second coin-op title after Thunder Force AC, but failed to become a hit and quickly disappeared into obscurity, known only to diehard fans. I played it many years later on MAME and came away slightly disappointed. The legendary science fiction designs were still there, but the stages too short, the pacing too streamlined, the challenge too light. Worst of all, the graphic design had an abnormal obsession with lime greens and tomato reds, which just seemed out of place. I blasted my through to the end in less than an hour and never returned again.

In this game, one or two players fly a spaceship that also transforms into a robot at the touch of a button. You can also choose between three different spacecraft that have their own unique weapons and abilities. Power-up icons can increase your firepower, but the most valuable upgrades are additional ships or robots that join in the battle. They don't follow after you as in Gradius, but fight on their own like the soldiers in Herzog Zwei. You battle over eight stages through space stations, colonies and alien worlds before reaching the enemy's home base and win the war.

There are many examples of classic videogames that required multiple drafts before they could fully blossom into greatness. Contra, Tecmo Bowl and Ninja Gaiden on NES are three examples. Here lies another.

In 1996, Technosoft brought Hyper Duel to Sega Saturn where, in addition to a perfect translation of the arcade, they created a new Saturn Mode that made several key improvements. First, the graphics have been completely overhauled. Gone are the low contrasted colors and garish greens, replaced with rich hues of red, blue and beige. Explosions large and small are highly satisfying in their warm tones. Many of the spaceship designs have been redrawn or newly animated. Many backgrounds are rendered in new artwork that builds on the original ideas, such as a supernova in the distance as you fight in a furious space battle. Even the title and character select screens have been overhauled and make for a significant improvement. Now it looks like a proper Technosoft videogame.

Secondly, and more important from a gameplay point-of-view, your robot can lock its cannon in one direction. Previously, your guns would turn as you moved up and down, which is good for sweeping large areas but impossible for precision firing. It also makes the mechs nearly useless as they are much larger targets for alien invaders than the spaceship. With Saturn Mode, you can continue to fire ahead or at an angle while moving, which makes a world of difference. You will appreciate this ability most in boss fights, where you will need to quickly change forms and switch from distance and short-range firing.

Third, the difficulty has been raised. A "ranking" system will make enemies more dangerous as you collect power-ups, and bosses put up a much tougher fight. I was pleasantly surprised to see these battles run longer than the original arcade. Indeed, some of the end-stage fights are quite tough. The giant robot at the end of stage three is especially pernicious for me, and I won't even get started on that robotic spider tank in stage seven.

Finally, the soundtrack has been entirely remixed and newly recorded, taking advantage of Saturn's highly impressive audio hardware. The sound composer was Hyakutaro Tsukumo, who would go on to create the spectacular music for Thunder Force 5. He does a terrific job and once again demonstrates just why this studio is so beloved by classic videogame fans.

With these revisions, Hyper Duel finally comes into its own. It is a finely tuned and highly intense experience that never gets old or loses its shine. I also find it to be highly challenging which is very welcome. Does it transcend its 16-bit roots? No, not really, but that's an unfair comparison. This project is more like a streamlined side project created as a labor of love, or a b-sides collection released to keep the fans happy until the next proper studio album drops. It's nowhere near the scale of intensity and brilliance that is Thunder Force 5, but it's a great ride in its own right.

Hyper Duel has become one of Saturn's most expensive and desired titles. It's not really a rare game, it's just monstrously expensive thanks to greedy Ebay sellers and collectors who are willing to oblige. Personally, I'd much rather just download a copy until Sega (who now owns the entire Technosoft library) comes to their senses and gives us a proper reissue on modern platforms. If and when that happens, pony up the cash immediately to help support the scene. But please don't hand over seven Benjamins to those damn leeches. The world has enough problems as it is.
 
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I recently discovered Cotton Boomerang for the console, and thought that it looked very good and made good use of the hardware.

However, when I checked the prices on ebay (250$) I gave up on the idea of playing this game.

I love my Saturn and have many great games, games that became absurdly expensive today, but I am not going to put that much money in a game.
 
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Thunder Force 5 (1997, Technosoft for Saturn)

What a sensational thrill ride! I can't think of a better or more exciting roller coaster ride for the Fifth Generation than Thunder Force 5. Like a great rock band at the peak of their powers, Technosoft demonstrates a true mastery of their craft while making it look easy, leaving everyone else in their dust. This is probably my favorite arcade shoot-em-up on Sega Saturn.

As with the previous entries in the series, you fly a futuristic spaceship that can be equipped with a variety of weapons that can be switched on the fly. You also have rotating orbs called "craws" that add to your firepower. In TF5, the craws also enable a second-level attack for each weapon, at the expense of draining their power. The ever-reliable hunter cannon returns once again, along with a forward shot and reverse shot. New to this series is the free range gun, which locks lasers onto any targets that fall within its sensor range, as well as an updated wave shot that functions like an infrared ray.

The story is presented in a stylized, fragmented opening sequence, involving a captured alien technology called Vasteel and an artificial intelligence called Guardian's Heart that achieves consciousness and rebels against humanity. Most of the details are cryptic, emerging in bits and pieces during boss fights, and are almost deliberately mistranslated "Engrish" that only adds to the charm. In layman's terms, you fly a spaceship and shoot everything that moves.

Now here's what I think Technosoft does better than anyone: they are masters of the set-piece. Their stage designs are not built around endless waves of identical enemy spaceships or flowery bullet patterns, but in constructing dramatic showdowns against enemies of varying sizes and strengths, threats that come from every conceivable direction, and even environmental obstacles. Sometimes there is a slight break in the action before the next frantic assault, a momentary pause before you are hurled into the next attack.

In the first stage, you begin as the camera sweeps around your spacecraft in three dimensions. You then settle on the standard linear waves of opposing targets and chances for weapon power-ups. Then new enemies appear from the distance as you descend, dropping missiles from aircraft as you fly past giant icebergs. Then an enormous fish-like creature charges through the water at you, almost leaping out of the screen. You descend to continue pursuit, where you face sunken ruins, seacraft and even organic creatures who attack you. You fly into the air as waves of guided missiles chase you from behind. Finally, the stage boss appears, an enormous creature that appears to be an amalgamation of bird, fish and machine. I am reminded of the brilliant creature designs from the Panzer Dragoon Trilogy, which was no doubt an inspiration here.

The first three stages can be selected in any order, true to series tradition, and I am pleasantly surprised by how challenging they are. I'm surprised how tough things can get, especially when I crash and lose my precious weapons. Memorable moments include a journey through a fungal forest (practically lifted wholesale from Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind), an attack by an angular creature that moves like a great ape, the appearance of giant motorcycles that skid and turn and make chase, and a futuristic city that is constructed in multiple layers on top of one another.

Much like Thunder Force 4, the game's first act is only the warmup, and the action truly comes into its own on the fourth stage. The colors shift from metallic monochrome to richly textured, multi-hued rainbow tones. Your environments include mountains covered in rolling waves of fog (a nice recreation of the spectacular flames from TF3), a chase through an underground tunnel tripped with alarm systems, and a titanic battle against a transforming robot named Guardian's Knight that has to be the greatest boss fight in the series' history. But then I can also say the same about the epic showdown after that, and the one after that.

Stage five takes place among a giant space battle, where your ship is connected to a giant spacecraft that completely changes your weapon arsenal. The biggest surprise -- spoiler alert! -- is the appearance of the spaceship from TF4, which has been captured by the alien computer intelligence. The resulting battle takes a number of rounds and results in significant destruction (and rebirth) to both ships as the TF4 theme plays in the background. Thank Heavens nobody told Metallica how Technosoft just completely stole the Master of Puppets riff when they weren't looking.

Stage six takes place in a realm that almost resembles the Matrix, only with far more colors that just melt off the screen. The backgrounds include geometric shapes and mathematical code, as though you are hacking into a giant computer brain (in a sense, that's probably what you're doing). A hexagon background shifts and changes shape, and a new world is "loaded" into view, including new enemies and threats that become ever more abstract. The boss showdown...well, I would not dare to spoil that sequence. I will praise its inspired mad genius and marvel at the sight of an artificial brain being born in front of your eyes as the entire world fractures and spins apart.

The seventh stage consists of the final showdown against the intelligence. This lengthy sequence plays like a cross between TF4's finale and the Seven Force from Gunstar Heroes, as your opponent changes shape and attacks multiple times before everything collapses into flames. Everything then ends on an ambiguous note, at least until you beat the game on the hardest difficulty level, which results in the "good" ending. Needless to say, it's well worth the effort, so I strongly advise players to practice, practice, practice.

Thunder Force 5 is a sensational visual showcase for the Sega Saturn, with that unique combination of 2D and 3D graphics, of sprites, pre-rendered CG and polygons that seems to age like wine. Many consider the graphics to be "dated" but I think it looks terrific. It helps if you appreciate the squarish, sometimes chunky look of Saturn 3D, and it especially helps to play on a CRT television display with RF or Composite cables, which results in a crisp, clean display whose rough edges are properly smoothed out. I also marvel at the overall visual design and the many ways this roller coaster climbs, dives, twists and turns in all directions. And the future city just looks astoundingly good, incorporating parallax scrolling, VDP2 planes and 3D polygons that swoop and dive in unison. Saturn may have been a programmer's nightmare, but in the right hands, it was every players' dream.

That TF5 was never released in the US is criminal negligence (the fault of an infamous meltdown between Working Designs and Sega of America at E3 1997). A Sony Playstation version was released in 1998, and this is the version that most players know. Unfortunately, it's a much more austere experience, stripped of much of the visual charm and simplified to fit within the hardware. Whatever. Thunder Force had one true home and that was Sega. Any other destination is sacrilege and a waste of time.
 
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For Halloween, I wanted to share some photos of Baroque, the masterfully creepy and unsettling "Rogue-like" RPG that was released in 1998. This is one of those videogames that you must play in the dark to fully appreciate. There are some genuine jump scares, but the overall mood is one of dread and foreboding. The language barrier only seems to add to its very perplexing and unknowable post-apocalyptic world. This is one of my favorites and definitely goes on my Saturn Top 20. Enjoy and feel free to steal these if you wish.

(Source: 13" Sony Trinitron CRT, Saturn w/RF cable)
 

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Shining the Holy Ark (1997, Sonic Software Planning)

Now we come to one of Sega Saturn's marquee titles, and one of the great fantasy role-playing games of its era. Yes, Final Fantasy 7 stole all the thunder and Panzer Dragoon Saga has the most devout fans, but Shining in the Holy Ark offers a rich and enchanting experience that is the equal of any of its peers, and long enough to keep players engaged for a very long time.

Sonic Software Planning began with Shining in the Darkness in 1993, a Sega Genesis "dungeon crawler" that incorporated many elements common to Japanese RPGs, and thus helped to raise its stature above the genre (I write this as someone who has never been fond of first-person dungeon crawlers). They followed up with the seminal Shining Force series, which moved into the realm of Strategy-RPG, a genre that plays out more like a chess match than the traditional dungeons-and-dice fantasy games. In 1995, the studio created Shining Wisdom, an overhead adventure game ala The Legend of Zelda that was rather cooly received (It began as a Sega Genesis project and was moved to Saturn late in development). In 1997, the series returned to its roots while continuing the continuity of the overall world, as well as serving as a prequel to the Shining Force 3 trilogy that soon followed.

Shining the Holy Ark begins with a trio of mercenaries hired by the king of Enrich to capture a rogue ninja for unknown reasons. They meet at the mouth of a mountainside, and proceed to explore the mines inside. After the confrontation with the ninja, the roof suddenly collapses and all the parties are either knocked unconscious or killed. A group of strange alien beings revive all four, inhabiting their bodies. One of the characters, however, is taken by an evil spirit and vanishes into the darkness. The remaining spirits implore the remaining three to join together to defeat a malevolent force before it revives a lost thousand-year kingdom and plunges the world into darkness. As the story progresses, allegiances and loyalties are questioned, the true state of the kingdom is revealed, and many new characters are brought together for the quest.

All in all, this is standard fare, but I enjoy the characters and the pacing of the writing, which is brisk and engaging without becoming overly complicated or self-absorbed, thankfully avoiding the bloat that was already consuming the Final Fantasy series.

The graphics are rendered in a first-person view, a combination of 3D polygons and 2D sprites in fine Saturn tradition, with pre-rendered CG used for the characters. This was a common style during the 32/64-bit era, as limited resources forced software developers to combine the technologies and make compromises whenever possible. The use of pre-rendered graphics would all but disappear after this generation, which certainly dates it for some but nevertheless retains a certain charm all its own. I like the way these characters and creatures look, with their richly painted colors, smooth animation and geometric shapes.

This world features a wide variety of environments, including castles, towns, churches, dungeons, cemeteries and elaborate cave systems. I was expecting the usual array of squarish dungeons that all look alike, as was typical of dungeon crawlers since the very beginning. I was very pleasantly surprised to explore open-air spaces, curved underground tunnels, hills and stairways. One dungeon even featured multiple levels of pathways, with deep ravines below and winding bridges overhead. Another region features a frozen lake above a mountain cave, where one wrong step sends you falling through holes. You'll even explore a haunted mansion that clearly pays homage to Resident Evil. Two words: mine cart.

An especially novel feature in the game is the addition of fairy sprites who join your party on your quest. These tiny people will attack monsters at the start of battle, causing damage and sometimes even defeating foes for you. They are divided into five classes, and are selected depending on which direction the enemy monsters appear. There are 50 fairies hidden throughout the world in all, which adds a great incentive to explore every nook and cranny. You might even find yourself going back to a previous area to find them. As your quest progresses, these will prove to be invaluable friends, so you are strongly advised to seek them out.

Overall, Shining the Holy Ark is highly polished and brilliantly executed. It's always challenging in the tradition of classic RPGs, which means that you'll spend much time grinding out experience points in battles, and you are always in danger of being overwhelmed in the larger dungeons by dangerous monsters. The level designs are superb and tightly structured, with more variety than I was honestly expecting. And the musical score by Motoi Rokuraba is especially solid, full of catchy hooks and infectious melodies in the classic chiptune tradition. One of Sega Saturn's finest. Highly recommended.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com






Saturn Bomberman (1997, Hudson Soft)

It goes without saying that every videogame system needs at least one good Bomberman title in its library. The series has long been a mainstay for parties and casual gatherings, where family and friends can enjoy an afternoon or evening hurling cartoon bombs at one another. The gameplay is very simple and accessible, its goals are easily understood, and just about anybody can win after a couple rounds of practice.

I am speaking, of course, of the hallowed "Battle Mode" of which Bomberman is most famous. This is a multiplayer contest where everyone chooses a character and a series of maze-like stages and then set about clearing pathways with bombs, revealing crucial power-up icons such as faster speed, increased firepower and a dinosaur to ride (which gives you an extra hit before being defeated). The basic formula has been in place since the days of Turbografx-16, Sega Genesis and Super NES, and Hudson has made only gradual evolutions to the gameplay over the years.

Saturn Bomberman is widely praised as the peak of the long-running series. Released in 1997, it was a crucial 2D showcase for Sega's console as well as a desperately-needed multiplayer party hit. Its Battle Mode features extensive customization options, including time, number of rounds, whether players can hurl bombs into the arenas after being knocked out, and the number of players. In addition to the black and white bombermen, you can play as any number of classic Hudson game characters: Master Higgins (Adventure Island), Bonk (Bonk's Adventure), Milon (Milon's Secret Castle), Yuna (Galaxy Fraulein Yuna), a quartet of Manjimaru, Kabuki, Kino and Manto (Tengai Makyou), and Kotetsu and Miss Honey (Hudson mascots).

Seven battle arenas are available, each with four seasonal variations that offer slight tweaks and changes. These stages are widely varied and offer unique challenges such as trap doors, transporters, conveyor belts and other obstacles. My personal favorite arena is the soccer field, where you can launch a giant flaming explosion when you kick a bomb into the net. For many fans, the true star of the show is the "wide" stage, where ten players compete on a giant playfield rendered in Saturn's "480" high resolution mode. Modern players with large HDTVs will appreciate this stage the most. It's a terrific opportunity to show off your Sega Saturn.

I must admit that I am nowhere near the world's best Bomberman player, and if I win more than one or two rounds it's usually out of sheer luck, or that I managed to survive long enough. It can be challenging to trap opposing players in chained bomb explosions, and I'm just as likely to get caught in my own explosions. But the great joy of this game is that anybody can join in and play well. You only need to bomb a few key blocks and grab some power-up icons, such as the glove (which lets you pick up and throw bombs) and the kick (which lets you kick away bombs). If you see an egg, grab it immediately. It will hatch into one of several dinosaurs who each have unique abilities, such as sprinting, kicking or jumping over bombs, a roar that stuns opponents, or a shock wave that detonates nearby bombs. Dinos can also grow to three sizes if you collect more eggs, and this enhances their powers.

You'll notice that I've written mostly about the multiplayer modes, and it is a tradition of sorts that Bomberman's single-player modes are far less compelling. Saturn Bomberman is a welcome exception to that tradition, with a "Normal Mode" that sends you on a journey across five themed worlds to bomb obstacles and enemies while searching for the next power-up or exit. You will even face bosses at the end of the worlds, and they're quite the challenge. You will especially enjoy the animated clips that play every now and then, featuring the efforts of the comically villainous Hige Hige Bandits, who have since become part of Bomberman lore including animated series in Japan.

Finally, "Master Mode" sends you on a speed run of twenty stages, where you are graded on your performance at the end. These levels are simpler and more puzzle-oriented and remind me of the Golden Era of Videogames of the early 1980s. It's a fair challenge, but you're really competing for the high score table, which means killing multiple enemies in a single or chain explosion. Think of this as the practice mode for all those late night multiplayer sessions.

Saturn Bomberman looks and sounds terrific, with wonderfully bouncy music and bright, colorful graphics. There's nothing here that really pushes the system's 2D superpowers, but the presentation is highly polished and refined and the sprites are smoothly animated. You can tell that Hudson Soft wanted to create the definitive "classic" Bomberman, while also moving the series into new directions on Playstation and Nintendo 64, trying to adapt to the era of 3D polygons and away from 2D arcade videogames. This game stands as their crowning masterwork for the series, the summation of everything they achieved and wanted to express.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com





Akumajo Dracula X: Gekko no Yasokyoku (1998, Konami)

Alright, let's get this out of the way: Dracula X on Sega Saturn is nowhere near as bad as you've heard. Modern gamers are a bunch of whiny little crybabies.

Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight (to use the Japanese translation), better known as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in the West, was released to Sony Playstation in 1997 to universal critical acclaim and commercial success. It is remembered as one of the all-time great action-adventure videogames and the inspiration for countless sequels, spinoffs and wannabes. Konami continued to refine the "Metroidvania" formula with six Castlevanias on Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS, arguably perfecting the formula with Dawn of Sorrow in 2005.

In this game, you play as Alucard, the estranged son of Count Dracula, who ventures into his father's haunted castle after friend and vampire hunter Richter Belmont (the hero of Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, the series' previous episode) disappeared mysteriously. Soon after entering, he is stripped of all his powers and items by the Grim Reaper, and must explore the vast, labyrinthine castle with nothing more than bare fists. New weapons, armor and items will have to be found or stolen from defeated monsters, and new areas of the castle will be revealed as new abilities are acquired.

Nocturne/Symphony builds upon the arcade roots of the early Castlevanias by adding adventure and role-playing elements. Konami's software team famously used Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link and Super Metroid as reference points, but one can also detect the influence of Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest. Your character builds experience points with each defeated foe, raising health and stats as levels are raised. Key items are won after defeating powerful bosses or discovering hidden rooms. You will even find a shop vendor in one room where you can purchase items.

Monsters in the castle include zombies, skeletons, armored knights, bats, medusa heads, large wolves, giant winged creatures, dragons, mannequins, ghostly books, fish men, ghostly skulls, haunted horsemen and oversized man-eating plants. One of the joys lies in discovering all the enemies on your quest, as well as spotting the references from previous Castlevania games like Rondo. Konami would reuse every single one of these creatures in later episodes, as well as the many varied environments in and around Dracula's castle.

Playing as Alucard is different from the traditional whip-weilding Belmont. His weapons of choice are swords, and you can accumulate a vast array of weapons in the course of your quest. You also have an assortment of magical maneuvers such as changing into mist or a bat, unleashing fireballs from your cape, or launching ghosts that attack enemies like homing missiles. Kudos to Konami for taking a real risk with the basic gameplay; it's a bit like turning on the newest Super Mario game to discover that you're actually playing as Mario's cousin Harpo, who doesn't play anything like Mario. If it doesn't work, you've sunk the whole enterprise. Thankfully, it works masterfully.

I am also greatly impressed by how difficult Dracula X becomes. After several hours of playtime, I find myself with three or four open areas to explore, all of which are guarded by extremely hostile beasts and ghosts that just kick my hide six ways from Sunday. After playing through all the latter sequels that were embarrassingly easy (I conquered Aria of Sorrow on GBA in one weekend), I was happy to experience a real challenge. Castlevania is supposed to be hard, after all, and this is the one fatal flaw with the Metroidvania formula. Your character reaches experience levels high enough where everything becomes a breeze. That doesn't happen this time, and thank goodness for that.

On Playstation, Dracula X looks wonderful, packed full of smooth animation and luscious color design, yet doesn't really push the boundaries of 2D videogames. Refinement and skillful restraint is the key, knowing just what the hardware is capable of achieving in 2D and knowing just when and where to push. You won't find the wild crazy graphics as seen in Silhouette Mirage or Astra Superstars or the Capcom 4-Meg fighters, but what is here clearly works and feels like an extension of Castlevania's glory days on NES.

Now to the Sega version, which is where all the crying begins. Konami handed the translation to a different internal studio who didn't seem to understand the hardware, resulting in occasional slowdown and excessive load times. The common consensus is that they simply ported the PSX program code without wisely using Saturn's hardware to its fullest. You can see examples of slowdown at the very beginning as you enter the castle and fight the wolves and zombies, as well as some of the boss fights. This is frustrating because it's so unnecessary and easily avoided. The slowdown is a problem and there's no getting around that. There's also no getting around the pauses that occur when you pull up your menu screen, which is required in order to look at the map screen (the map can be viewed with a single button press on PSX).

Oh, and I nearly forgot. The opening cinematic has the top and bottom cut off in order to create a "widescreen" effect. It's unbelievably stupid. Konami just chopped up the picture for no good reason. What a bunch of jerks. No wonder they included a formal apology on the game disc.

Is this the end of the world? No, of course not. These issues are comparable to what you'll experience on Genesis and Super NES. Certainly an unforced error but not worth bawling over. And I'm not going to bring up the issue of "mesh transparencies" which is a non-issue. Just get a CRT television and use RF or Composite cables. You'll be fine. Any further whining and your Playstation 4 will be replaced with a Commodore 64 for a month.

To be completely honest, I think the biggest barrier to enjoying this videogame is the language. There is a lot of Japanese text for items, weapons, armor and magic, and if you're not familiar with Dracula X or have a passing knowledge of Japanese, you're going to have a tough time. I know that's the reason why this disc sat in my collection for many years, only being touched once or twice just to make sure it still works.

To Sega's credit, this version of Dracula X features three playable characters, including one (Maria) who has never appeared on any other release. I realize that playing Maria is like playing Atari 2600 games in "teddy bear" mode, but it's fun to completely tear up the place with a massively overpowered character. In addition, there are two new castle zones and nearly a dozen new enemies, and several musical tracks have also been remixed. So there's quite a bit of new material for diehard fans to check out.

For the record, the Playstation version of Castlevania is the definitive version. It also happens to be widely available in physical and digital formats for pocket change, while Saturn Dracula X sells for the price of your child's kidneys. But don't discount this version, which retains all the gameplay and atmosphere. Don't believe the hype. This is like having to chose between listening to the same classic album on CD or Cassette.
 
Likes: pramod

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com







Panzer Dragoon Saga (1998, Team Andromeda)

And so we come to Sega Saturn's crowning masterwork, the most beloved and revered title in its vast library, and a magnificent demonstration of the system at its absolute peak.

Team Andromeda's Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Zwei were magnificent experiments in world building, in crafting a strange alien world filled with human tribes, mechanistic empires and strange hostile creatures. They transcended their arcade roots, offering more than Space Harrier with flying dragons. These games gave us hints at the vast world that lay just beyond the horizon. Panzer Dragoon Saga breaks free from the rails and brings us to those horizons, and the experience is everything you hoped it could be. It is not a shoot-em-up, but an RPG that takes the foundations of its predecessors and runs with it.

Panzer Saga was created by programmers and designers who were not fans of role-playing games, and so their work is infused with their own arcade sensibilities and a burning desire to stretch the genre's boundaries. They had little interest in cliched plots about 1,000-year villains and kingdoms in peril and magic-empowered teenagers who look like they're going to a rave party. They could care less about Tolkein-inspired fantasy tropes or conventions that go back decades. Their inspiration leans more towards dystopian science-fiction, of Moebius and Blade Runner and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. The mood is somber, grim, disillusioned. This videogame is running with Soundgarden in its veins.

The story does not involve a hero who must "save the world" or conquer some ancient evil force, but instead must struggle to live with the world as it exists. The main character, Edge, is a hired soldier for an empire that is excavating ancient ruins and mountains in search of relics and technologies from a lost age. An advanced civilization created vast machines and bio-engineered creatures and weapons of unspeakable power, but they vanished from the earth. What became of their society? Did they destroy themselves in a nuclear war? Did they victims of a climate-induced catastrophe? Or did they simply fade away slowly over centuries? Such questions are never answered, and this mythic past hangs over everything. The present world is caught in a struggle for survival between nations and empires, to say nothing of the deadly creatures, to think about such matters.

Edge and his superiors guard an excavation site. After an attack by giant hard-shelled crabs in the caves, a mysterious woman is found embedded in stone, frozen in a suspended state. Who is she and how did she get here? Before such questions can be answered, the camp is suddenly attacked by a renegade imperial faction led by a man named Crayman. His henchmen shoot Edge's superior officer without warning, and then shoot Edge, knocking him into a bottomless ravine. They escape with the entombed woman in their armored airships.

Then an interesting thing happens. An unnamed spiritual force assigns you as the avatar for Edge, and then revives him by lowering him into a pool of water far below the surface. There has been some debate among fans whether Edge has been fully revived and you are assisting him, or if he truly did die from his wounds and you are animating a corpse. This question will hang over the story's ambiguous ending like a shadow over a tomb, and it is one that was deliberately left open to interpretation.

That subtlety, that willingness to avoid simple good-versus-evil melodrama and embrace moral complexity, lies at the heart of Panzer Saga, and it is that quality that I admire the most. As the story progresses, we meet tribesmen, merchants, soldiers, Crayman and the mysterious woman Azel, and loyalties, motivations and desires are rarely fixed. These are not "heroes" or "villains" but frail humans who are motivated by a morality painted in shades of grey. These people are not conquerers but simply struggling to survive. Everyone has their reasons.

When Edge is revived and you begin play, you explore a small cave area and are soon rescued by an armored flying creature, a dragon. We have seen this play out before in the two previous Panzer Dragoons. You then take command of the creature and fly through the mountains and mining caves, the skies adorned with banners and flags, rail lines and mine cars, trees and waterfalls, caves of brown and lakes of green. You are not running on a rail but flying freely around the environment, and you are encouraged to explore your surroundings. You can acquire needed items from obelisks and crates, and can even knock automated rail cars off their tracks or send banners swaying in the breeze.

Here is where the battle system is introduced. When you engage enemies in random encounters, your dragon can maneuver around your opponents in a full 360-degree circle. This surrounding area is divided into four quadrants; most opponents have quadrants marked in red where they are most dangerous, unleashing their most powerful attacks, and quadrants marked in green where they cannot detect you. As you fly, a series of three power meters fills up, and when one or more are full, you can unleash an attack. This includes your hand pistol which fires on a single target, the dragon's homing beams that fire on multiple targets, or the dragon's bezerk attacks, which cause the greatest damage but drain your "berzerk power" meter. All of the combat takes place in real time, which means your enemies are also moving and repositioning themselves for the ideal attack.

This is a masterstroke of innovation for the genre. RPGs have nearly always followed the same formula since the very beginning, which is derived from pen-and-paper role-playing games. The heroes line up on one side of the screen, the enemies line up along the other side, and each party takes turns rolling 20-sided dice to inflict damage. Rinse, repeat. This move into real-time action opens everything up, allowing for some genuine tension and excitement, forcing you to be engaged in every battle and not merely mash buttons (or worse, set your characters to "auto" so you just zone out entirely). Again, we see the fusion of arcade shooter and adventure games, and the possibilities for further innovation remain vast.

The world of Panzer Dragoon is vast, encompassing four discs, but the story is surprisingly short. You are not burdened with side quests or asked to deliver some neighbor's groceries or help some farmer catch his runaway chickens. You are not sent hopping across multiple kingdoms in an effort to pad out the play time. The story runs long enough to say everything that it needs to say, and while you explore many regions in your journeys, you will travel through them fairly quickly. Skilled players who explore all the areas and search to uncover all the secrets in this world should expect a playtime of 12-15 hours.

By RPG standards, this is scandalously short, but I find this refreshing. I don't wish to commit months to a single adventure videogame, especially one that has been cynically padded out. At one point in the game, your dragon evolves into a higher form and can morph into a variety of shapes and forms, each with different attributes and powers. Not only is this a spectacular visual effect (you'll spend a lot of time just morphing your dragon for kicks), but it adds to the replay value, encouraging you to play through the complete adventure multiple times. This is not something that happens with most adventure and role-playing games. Most of the time, once you've reached the ending and you walk away, you're gone for good.

Panzer Dragoon Saga looks absolutely sensational, as Team Andromeda pushes the Sega Saturn to its limits. They were one of the few software developers to understand the system's multi-processor hardware designs, and they take advantage of the dual CPUs, the two Video Display Processors, and even use the SCU Digital Signal Processor to crunch extra polygons and visual effects. There are some truly spectacular moments, such as rolling ocean waves and forest fires and sand worms in the desert. There are subtle lighting effects for morning, daytime and evening, such as when you visit a trading caravan beyond the deserts. Polygon models are highly detailed and feature subtle lighting and shading effects. The monster designs are a wonderful mutation of organic machines, like giant bugs melted into stone.

The musical score is also worthy of distinction. Its songs consist of romantic melodies played in minor keys and evoke lost memories and conflicted emotions, matching the autumnal visuals perfectly. In 2018, a 20th anniversary soundtrack album was released on LP, newly remixed and recorded by the composer Saori Kobayashi. Very few videogames are solid enough to justify their own soundtrack album, but this is one that is absolutely worth a purchase.

Panzer Dragoon Saga features an extensive collection of CG animation scenes, which is the reason why it takes up four discs. These are highly involving and sophisticated by the standards of the time, and I found myself equally engaged in my recent playthrough as I was when I first experienced it in 2000. In addition, all of the dialog has been voice-recorded, including during gameplay, which was something of a milestone at the time. The presentation is highly professional and clearly meant to compete against the mighty Final Fantasy 7. Most audiences never had a chance to compare the two, as Saturn's fading fortunes doomed this title to cult status.

Several retrospectives have been written on the making of Panzer Saga, which was being created as Sega suffered financial turmoil at the hands of Sony (in Japan, Saturn competed evenly until 1997, and still managed to wrestle second place from Nintendo 64). The mood surrounding Team Andromeda was grim and gloomy; here was a proud company with a tradition of innovation and success, and yet everything was crumbling around them with seemingly no salvation in sight. In addition, two members of the software team died during production, one to suicide, the other to a motorcycle crash. This spirit of loss and decline marinated into the bones of the game, and it's as though we are playing through a lucid dream about the decline and fall of Sega itself.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com





Princess Crown (1997, Atlus)

From the annals of "What Were They Thinking," we have the absolutely gorgeous and innovative RPG Princess Crown, which was released in Japan in 1997 but never considered for a US release. Sega Saturn was struggling to survive in the West and all but forgotten in the wake of Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. Time was running out but it wasn't too late to make some gains. Why would Sega leave such a strong title on the sidelines? Why would they choose not to release strong videogames that play to the system's strengths? Imagine a Christmas 1997 where American Sega fans could play Thunder Force 5, Bulk Slash, Dead or Alive, All Japan Pro Wrestling, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, Grandia and Princess Crown. Now that is a stellar lineup. Unfortunately, fans would have to wait many years before having a chance to enjoy these modern classics.

Princess Crown is a fantasy role-playing game presented in a 2D side-scrolling format, similar to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Its visual design consists of beautiful painterly sprite art and characters that are large and move with a wonderfully fluid grace. They remind me of the animations of Yuri Norstein and Terry Gilliam. It's a joy to watch and unlike anything yet seen in the 32/64-bit era. If this title were released on a digital platform today, you'd think swear it was a brand new game and not one from 1997.

The story involves a young teenage princess named Gradriel who has ascended to the throne. Her late mother, the warrior Queen Elfaran De Valendia, defeated an evil demonic force 25 years ago, and that threat has now emerged once again. It falls to the untested princess to assume her mother's role and save her kingdom from destruction. Upon completion of Gradriel's quest, you can then play three new scenarios, reenacting the same events in the roles of three supporting characters, which enriches the overall story and expands the replay value considerably.

The combat scenes eschews the traditional turn-based models for real-time fighting. It plays out a little like Street Fighter at half speed. You use the d-pad to move forward and backward, up to jump, and back to block attacks. Your attacks consume a power meter, which is replenished while standing still. You can deliver a series of sword strikes or magic attacks as long until the meter is drained, after which you'll have to fall back and wait. Blocking attacks will also prevent the meter from rising, and this adds a bit of tension to the fights, as well as punishing "turtles" who crouch into a back corner like so many cheap bastards at the arcades. Its slower pace is likely meant to mimic the pacing of traditional RPGs without offending the genre's fans who fear they've been suckered into playing a fighting game.

I really love these battles, since they remind me of classic Zelda and similar adventure games like Golvellius and Simon's Quest and Battle of Olympus. The scope of this world is vast and there are a great number of locations to visit and explore. Your quest will be long and involving and you'll love every minute of it. The language barrier will pose a problem, but an English-language translation created by IGN writer and videogame critic Anoop Gantayat is stored at The Wayback Machine. I strongly recommend that you reference that translation as you play. I also strongly recommend that the fansub community could create a patch for this game, so that we can enjoy without having to consult a script.

Princess Crown was created by George Kamitani, an artist who worked on Capcom's Saturday Night Slam Masters and Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom. He pitched the project to Sega who were eager to have more RPGs available in their battle against Sony and Nintendo. After Kamitani's software studio collapsed, third-party publisher Atlus stepped in to help complete and publish the project with assistance from Sega. The title was released in December 1997, with a Sakatore budget release the following year. While not a commercial success, the game was praised by videogame critics and has retained cult status ever since.

After the dust had settled, Kamitani went on to create the software studio Vanillaware, which has achieved commercial and critical success with Odin Sphere, Dragon Crown and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, all of which retain the same graphic art design and 2D structure. The highest praise I can offer is that Princess Crown stands as their equal. Oh, and the final boss battle is absolutely spectacular and must be seen to be believed. A Sega Saturn classic.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com






Soukyugurentai (1997, 8ing/Raizing)

Among Sega Saturn fans, Soukyugurentai sits at the absolute top of the system's long library of spaceship shoot-em-ups. It is compared favorably to the mighty Radiant Silvergun and the two are often mentioned in the same breath. It is a tremendously exciting arcade thrill ride and a gorgeous visual feast that shows off the system's 2D superpowers. Just try and see Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64 top this.

The game is the creation of Raizing, who also gave us Battle Garegga on Saturn. One or two players control a trio of spacecraft each equipped with laser cannons and two different sets of homing missiles. The homing weapons are dispatched via a polygon "web" that searches out targets above and below, similar to
Galactic Attack (aka Layer Section) and the Panzer Dragoon series. Each ship has different abilities, as is expected for the genre, and this also includes different weapons. You battle space aliens across five long stages that take place over cities, across asteroid fields, through desert canyons and through the alien military bases.

The action is extremely fast and furious, with enemy targets diving in from all directions. Many targets will rise from below or drop from above, adding to a sense of depth. Spaceships large and small put up a furious fight, and you always have to be on your toes to dodge the steady stream of bullets. Small ships float by and drop power-up icons (a nice homage to Compile's classic Aleste series) that increase your firepower and the range of your homing gun, but this will also make the enemy fleet more dangerous. The bosses in particular will become extremely nasty if you become too strong, and this "ranking" system strikes a key balance of power between both sides without ever becoming punitive, as seen in Battle Garegga. The challenge is fairly high but never unfair, and seems to reward high-score players the most. If you're the obsessive "1CC" kind, you'll have a blast.

The graphics in Soukyugurentai are a mix of 2D bitmap sprites and 3D polygons for the backgrounds, 2D sprites for the explosions and bullets and pre-rendered CG for the spacecraft. Everything looks magnificent, with brilliant use of color tones and flashy visual effects. The opening stage takes place over a futuristic Tokyo, and you see skyscrapers, buildings and bridges moving far below you. Another stage features a series of enormous space stations in planetary orbit, rolling out waves of flying tanks and samurai mechs. My favorite stage involves a long descent through stratospheric clouds as you battle aircraft and mid-bosses. Eventually, the clouds begin to thin and you see the surface far below. You descend further and can see tiny rows of tanks on the surface. You continue to descend and finally land of the surface itself, driving on the ground on wheels. What a terrific ride!

The boss battles are probably the star of the show, featuring massive machines that fill up the entire screen and must be dismantled piece by piece. They will hit you with everything but the kitchen sink, hurling massive waves of bullets, thick laser cannon and heat-seeking missiles. Unleashing your smart bombs will help you defeat them more easily, but at the cost of wrecking your score multiplier. Skilled players who want the highest scores will have to be very careful and memorize all the different attacks.

The controls are supremely tight and responsive. Analog control is even supported, and it's absolutely sublime. There are a few other Saturn shooters that use the analog controller, but I feel that this game gets it just right, not too sensitive or twitchy with just the right balance between fast and slow speeds. It's absolutely essential for avoiding the massive bullet assaults, especially on those boss showdowns.

I should also praise the excellent music, which aims for a dramatic cinematic style instead of the more traditional synth-rock you hear in most Japanese spaceship shooters. The same composer who worked on Radiant Silvergun worked on this project as well, and it's bloody terrific. Raizing worked their tails off on Soukyugurentai and it shows. They clearly meant to prove that this aging genre could still remain relevant in the 32/64-bit age, and they succeeded admirably. Sega Saturn fans will have a fantastic amount of fun with this videogame.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com





Madden NFL 98 (1997, Electronic Arts)

That Madden 98 is the best American football game for Sega Saturn goes without saying; it wins the contest by default. The real question for gamers today: how well does Madden NFL 98 play two decades later? The answer: surprisingly well.

We really shouldn't be surprised by this. The dirty little secret about sports videogames is that all of the major franchises have perfected their gameplay formulas years ago. Want to play a full season, own a franchise and enable player trades? Perhaps you'd like to play classic Super Bowl teams? How about offensive and defensive plays taken from real NFL teams? Do official league and players' association endorsements interest you? Motion-captured player animations? Authentic recreations of all team stadiums? Fantasy draft? "If it's in the game, it's in the game," as the saying goes.

Madden 98 feels like a culmination of everything the series had built to that point since it the Sega Genesis glory days (Madden 92 is still my series' favorite). The controls are still somewhat simple and are still based on that old A-B-C control scheme. Players can sprint, spin, jump and dive with a single button press. Plays are selected by formation and grouped in thirds. Audibles can be selected on the fly. Kicks and punts are performed with the classic dual-bar system. Tackles play out like car crashes where knockdowns are instant. And, yes, you can perform late hits for cheap thrills, one of those silly guilty pleasures that never gets old.

The graphics feature 3D polygons that faithfully recreate all NFL stadiums, while all players are rendered as 2D sprites -- "dynamically loaded, light sourced super-sprites" to quote the back cover. This would be the final year before EA finally caved in and switched to polygon players, but let's be honest to ourselves and admit that polygon football players didn't begin to look great until NFL2K exploded onto Sega Dreamcast. The super-sprites in Madden 98 can hold their own against their peers, and perhaps they have aged more gracefully. The animation is more natural and captures more exciting moments like toe-dragging catches or one-handed grabs.

The computer intelligence is exceptionally tough and defenses will punish you for trying the same moves over and over. You might pull off a successful slant run or play action pass, but if you try those same moves again, the linebackers will beat you like a gong. The balance of power is tiled more towards defense, and successful offenses really have to work for their yardage. You have to know your formations and your opponents very well. Mind you, my passing game is mediocre at best, but that's always been my cross to bear. I really need to practice on the "touch passing," which allows your quarterback to lead passes, much like the "maximum passing" in NFL2K. Until then, I tend to rely on my running game and hope my defense can knock out some turnovers.

In terms of gameplay modes, you can play an exhibition game, a full or custom season, play a tournament or fantasy draft, or work the front office. Over 120 NFL teams are available, including the Madden All-Stars, the Pro Bowl teams and all Super Bowl teams. John Madden and Pat Summerall provide play-by-play commentary which was very good for its time. There are nice little touches like the first-down markers that are brought onto the field to measure the ball's position, which adds a bit of drama.

Compared to Madden 97, the animation here is much more fluid, the graphics are more refined and the AI is much more sophisticated. There are also no cheap "money plays" that you can exploit for easy touchdowns. This was the final Madden to appear on a Sega system, as Electronic Arts famously boycotted Dreamcast after Sega purchased Visual Concepts, the creators of NFL2K. They demanded a monopoly on the sport, and after Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001, Sony and Microsoft were bullied into killing their football franchises. In 2005, EA secured their exclusive licenses with the NFL and NFLPA, killing the NFL2K series. They have had a complete monopoly on football ever since. And the Madden franchise has been a steaming turd pile of mediocrity ever since. Gain the world, lose your soul. That sort of thing.

Oh, well. Time for another game of Madden 98? I've got the Vikes and the pizzas. Bring nachos and sodas.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com






NBA Action 98 (1997, Visual Concepts)

It is a cruel twist of fate that Sega Saturn was so widely criticized in the US for a lack of quality sports titles (NHL All-Star Hockey, NBA Action and NFL 97 were unmitigated disasters), yet by the time the system was dying in 1997, the Sega Sports brand was firing on all cylinders. World Series Baseball 98, Worldwide Soccer 98, NHL All-Star Hockey 98 and NBA Action 98 stand as the strongest sports titles for the system. Add in Madden NFL 98 and you've got everything sports fans would ever need. But most of those fans had moved on to Playstation and Nintendo 64 and never looked back.

Sega of America struggled to find skilled software studios for their Sega Sports brand, but their fortunes famously turned around when they discovered ex-Electronic Arts developers Visual Concepts, the brains behind the excellent Madden NFL 94 on Super NES. They were groomed to bring the Madden series to Playstation, but when their best talent left to form Tiburon, their fortunes collapsed under the weight of expectations and unattainable promises, leaving Madden 96 as the only title in the famous franchise to be cancelled before release. The relationship between VC and EA soon collapsed.

In 1997, Sega turned to the studio to create their latest basketball game, and the results are nothing less than sublime. NBA Action 98 offers smoothly detailed polygon graphics, a dynamic camera system that includes some highly impressive instant replays, an elaborate play-by-play announcer, and a richly complex gameplay system. Key features include pre-game player introductions, team specific playbooks, offensive and defensive formations, player creation and trading, and a rock-solid frame rate that never chokes, stutters or slows. This is a technical marvel for Saturn that also happens to play an excellent game of basketball.

The arenas feature varied floor patterns (based on the actual stadiums), rotating side billboards and animated crowds in the stands. Player models are rendered in 3D polygons and are thick and squarish and chunky in that classic Saturn manner. The animation is quite excellent for the time, as you can see impressive motions for various passes, shots, alley-oops, and dunks. The players do somewhat resemble their real-life counterparts' height and weight, which means that Shaq is an enormous beast and Dennis Rodman has wildly colored hair (which is randomized every game), and the jerseys look very good, even if the names on the back are just garbled text.

Controls are fairly extensive and will require some practice to master, but once you master the learning curve, you'll be passing and setting up alley-oops with the best of them. Offensive and defensive plays can be selected on the fly, and the ability to pass to specific players is very helpful. Free shots are performed by careful timing in a cross-meter icon, which can be pretty challenging and requires a lot of practice.

As always, it's the little moments that make NBA Action 98 so much fun, such as the varying ways the basketball will bobble around the rim before bouncing off or swishing into the net. I cheered the first time I successfully pulled off a post-rebound dunk, which was a completely unexpected surprise. Watching a player crash into an opponent while attempting a layup always adds a moment of drama, because you never know who's going to be fouled.

Visual Concepts used this game as the foundation for their hugely successful NBA2K series, debuting on Sega Dreamcast and continuing to the present day. That's right, kids, NBA Action 98 is the original 2K Basketball. And it's a very impressive debut. The core essentials of the game are already here, only waiting to be refined and honed to perfection over the years.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
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192
290
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Virtual On (1996, Sega AM3 and CRI)

Virtual On is a fairly simple premise: you control one of eight giant robots who battle one another in enclosed arenas and fight to the death. It plays like a combination of Street Fighter 2 and the classic Atari games Battlezone. It's an extremely simple premise that holds a stunning amount of depth and strategy to master. This is the sort of videogame that has "diehard cult classic" written all over it. And it's yet another brilliant example of everything that we love about Sega.

The game is the creation of Sega's AM3 studio, the same wizards behind Sega Rally Championship and Last Bronx. The arcade was a massive beast, featuring a dual cabinet design for two-player matches. The robots (or "Virtualoids") can run, dash, jump and rotate in any direction, and each is equipped with three unique weapons and a short-range attack such as swords or hammers. There is a short recharge time for the weapons which requires you to be strategic with your attacks. More advanced strategies involve "dash cancels" and combinations of jumps and dashs, as well as learning to hide behind buildings or hills from enemy attacks, and knowing which weapons can cancel out or repel others.

The gameplay is simple enough that anyone can learn the ropes after a couple games and have a terrific time, but the impressively deep gameplay system will reward practice and patience. Battles are extremely fast and fierce, and if you're not paying attention, you will find yourself cut down in mere seconds. In that sense, Virtual On is very much like the Virtua Fighter series in that experience is rewarded over everything else. If you're a rookie, be sure to play with other rookies so you don't become discouraged. Even playing in arcade mode against the computer will prove challenging after the first couple battles.

Virtual On looks spectacular on Saturn, capturing every nuance of the Model 2 arcade. The arenas feature the usual combination of 3D polygons and 2D backdrops, with a number of buildings or hills in the arenas. The explosions are mighty impressive and cool and the game employs a transparent effect for objects that lie between your character and the screen, which is a very cool touch. Robot designs are excellent and impressively varied in size, color and abilities. They follow the standard fighting game tropes of "strong but slow," "weak but fast" and "balanced." Some fighters are better at close combat while others are best at long-range attacks. They have a bit of personality, such as the female Virtualoid who attacks with pink hearts and the blue tank who launches his arms at opponents. I think they're slightly more interesting than the robots in Zero Divide.

This videogame was a hit in Japan and inspired a number of sequels, but never gained more than cult status in the West. A bit like the Saturn itself, when you think about it. I don't know why it wasn't more popular, but it was certainly respected by gamers and critics. Sega released a dual-stick controller for Saturn in Japan, but it was only made available via mail order in the States. Both versions are now increasingly rare and well over the $100 mark. Thankfully, there are a number of joypad configurations that work very nicely (I wish I could say the same about the Dreamcast sequel), so don't have any worries. In addition to the original retail release, a special Netlink edition was released later which enables two players to compete online. The crazy part? You can still use Netlink because it uses a direct-dial across telephone lines. Take that, modern online servers.

Virtua Fighter was always seen as the face of Sega Saturn, but maybe the system's true mascot is Virtual On: a visually dazzling and fast-paced arcade hit that yet remained just off the radar, ignored while the dummies chased after whatever squeaky squirrel Sony was offering that month.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
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Gungriffon (1996, Game Arts)

Gungriffon is a spectacular smash-em-up thrill ride that reminds you why Sega Saturn is so beloved by fans of arcade videogames. You control a giant mech robot armed to the teeth with machine guns, cannons, anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades and find yourself dropped into a series of Eastern European battlegrounds in order to turn the tide of a 21st Century war. The action is fast and relentless in the style of classic arcade shoot-em-ups, the kind where everything blazes by in endless explosions and sounds of crashing steel. All that's needed are hapless foot soldiers to stomp on just for kicks.

The controls require a bit of a learning curve, and modern gamers will really wish they could play with a dual-analog controller. But play through the game's two practice modes and you'll be fine. In addition to basic movement, you can adjust your speed from walking to driving, strafe sideways, or jump into the air where you can hover for several seconds. You have access to four different weapons, and resource management is crucial as your supplies are limited (you can refuel if you find and protect the supply helicopter). The gun and machine gun will be used the most, but those grenades are great for taking out groups of targets at once, and the anti-tank missile works wonders on larger enemy mechs roaming around.

You fight through eight scenarios across Ukraine and Russia, each with varying objectives and specific targets. You must hurry as you are on the clock, however, and time does run out if you find yourself in pitched battles with all of the enemy's units. You have to learn to focus on your main objectives and not get bogged down in heavy fights. Later missions become more challenging and require more nuanced strategies beyond "shoot everything in sight." You will face aircraft, tanks, supply trucks, trains and mechs of various shapes and sizes. Those giant robots are the toughest foes, as they have the same heavy weapons as you.

I really enjoy the variety of landscapes and missions in this game. One battle takes place at night and you can use night vision lens to see in the dark. It's an especially cool effect and adds to a sense of claustrophobic tension as you must march through crowded city streets while the enemy lies waiting to ambush around every corner. Another cool bit is that you can hop up onto the buildings to gain a better view, which, naturally, also makes you an easier target, especially for those copters that are dropping bombs everywhere.

Other campaigns include fighting through green forests and valleys, marching through a winter landscape in a snowstorm, battling through thick green fog, and fighting through mountains and hills. Visibility is varied which only adds to the atmosphere. I appreciate the variety and was honestly surprised to see large castle walls in one battle, and tall mountains in another. The final mission requires you to battle inside a large metallic compound in order to destroy a rocket before it launches. You almost expect the face huggers from Alien to pop out of the shadows at some point.

Game Arts really nailed the little things that build to create the experience. The weapons give off a highly satisfying recoil effect when fired. You have the sense that you're moving an enormously large and heavy machine and enemy units are smashed in wonderful fireball explosions. Trucks and tanks are blown into the sky, copters spin and crash from the air, and plumes of heavy smoke rise and billow in the distance. Your mech jerks back and forth when hit with heavy fire, and tilts and lumbers as it moves. It all adds to the sense of realism and you can really appreciate the attention to details great and small.

Gungriffon presents some terrific color design and visuals combine 2D and 3D to great effect. The many explosions are drawn in classic pixel art and never get old, while the enemies and buildings are rendered in polygons. I really enjoyed seeing the many varieties of trees in this game, and you'll notice how they force you to slow down when marching through. I do wish I could set the forests on fire like I could in Magic Carpet. Maybe I just want to see the whole world burn. Your heads-up display is suitably crowded and will confuse you at first, until you realize that much of those icons and dials are there just for style points. The only criticism is the choppy scrolling at the end of missions as the camera pans around your mech. I'm not sure why that happened, most likely a programming bug that wasn't squashed.

Gungriffon was followed by a sequel in Japan in 1998, which streamlines much of the action and improves the visuals, offering a faster and more intense experience. The explosions are even better and even include some light sourcing in the fires. There are also many intense racing mech battles that play like wild car chases through the desert. Two players are supported by the Saturn link cable (an accessory that was only rarely used), and the Virtual On twin-stick controller is even supported. If you love the first, you'll go gaga for the second. I highly recommended that you grab both titles, which are guaranteed to win friends and influence your uncle.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com







K-1 Fighting Illusion Shou (1997, DAFT and Xing)

This excellent fighting game comes from a little-known Japanese software studio called DAFT. They specialized almost exclusively in martial arts fighting games based on the K-1 league, which combines a number of martial arts disciplines that begin with the letter "K", including Kickboxing, Karate, Kenpo, Kung-fu and Kakutogi. Its athletes appear from around the world, including Europe, Asia and Australia.

Sega Saturn is blessed with an immense supply of quality fighting games, and there's a great diversity among these titles. K-1 Fighting Illusion is really a boxing simulation at heart, and reminds me a lot of Savaki and even the original Virtua Fighter with its realistic martial arts moves and measured, logical pacing. Each fighter has a similar roster of standard punches and kicks, as well as a few specialized attacks activated by a third attack button. They can also dodge to the side via shoulder buttons, crouch down or duck below high attacks.

In addition to your health meter, a second meter shows your stamina which is depleted whenever you perform a punch or kick. Simple jabs will deplete the bar slightly and more powerful attacks will drain the bar more quickly. Attack combos are present but somewhat limited to a few quick moves, depending on the fighter. If you step into the ring bashing buttons, you're going to find yourself tired and winded very quickly, where a more patient opponent will chew you up and spit out your bones.

Some attacks can knock an opponent down with one or two strikes, and this can lead to a quick TKO if you're lucky. Most of the time, you'll have to balance offense and defense, knowing when to dodge to the side or get out of the way. Blocking is extremely simple, just leave the joypad neutral for high- and mid-level attacks, and press down for low attacks. This is another reason why charging ahead and pounding buttons will get you killed.

All of the fighters in the game are based on real-life athletes from the K-1 league, including Ernesto Hoost, Jerome Le Banner, Sam Greco, the late Mike Bernardo (who passed away in 2012) and the late Andy Hug, who tragically passed away from leukemia in 2000. All of these were superstars of the sport in real life, and they're equally tough and intimidating on Saturn. Personally, I consider myself lucky if I can last through two or three bouts.

The presentation in K-1 Fighting Illusion is simply superb. We see highly detailed polygon fighters rendered with Gouraud shading, fully 3D arenas including bitmap fans in the front row seats, flashy fireworks at the beginning of each bout, some really rocking guitar music, an opening movie highlight montage that desperately wants to be included in the next Rocky movie, and a surprisingly impressive ending where you are rewarded with swimsuit models bearing trophies and giant checks. There is even a bonus stage set at a karate dojo that I swear looks just like Akira Yuki's stage in Virtua Fighter 3.

Once again, we see that skilled Japanese programmers can achieve more with Sega Saturn than almost any Western developer. This videogame looks, sounds and plays great. There are even multiple viewing angles, including a transparent behind-the-fighter view ala Mike Tyson's Punch-Out. Why couldn't Sega of America publish this title in the States? Why couldn't any third-party publisher do the same, for that matter? I'm beginning to sound like a broken record on this subject, but the people in charge royally screwed up. Thankfully, you can purchase a copy of K-1 for the price of a cheap pizza, which is money well spent.

ProTip: Select an alternate costume for your fighter by pressing the Left Trigger on the character select screen. What a cool surprise!
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com






Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter (1998, Capcom)

Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter is a spectacular buffet of 2D fighting mayhem and frantic action. It has the finest and most fluidly animated 2D graphics ever seen in a home videogame to that point, offers enough depth to keep hardcore veterans engaged, yet simple and accessible enough for even the clumsiest of beginners. It is a Sega Saturn masterpiece, yet it was never released in the United States because Sega of America hated money and wanted to die.

This game is the second of four Capcom arcade translations that requires the Saturn's 4MB RAM expansion cartridge, and the direct sequel to X-Men Vs Street Fighter. Where the previous title felt like a very conventional mashup between their fighting game franchises, this title strides boldly into new terrain and forges a unique identity for itself. The "Versus" series comes into its own: faster, more fluid, more chaotic than the standard Street Fighter descendants. It doesn't take itself quite so seriously, which is a welcome relief for a genre that by this time was increasingly focused squarely on the professional tournament circuit.

Saturn was often praised for its 2D powers, even as Western publishers obsessed with 3D polygons treated it as a curse. Japan had no such inane hangups, and we were blessed with so many wonderful videogames that continued to push the limits of sprite graphics. Here, Capcom aims to recreate the pulpy look of comic books, with bold black lines and splashes of bright colors, richly drawn backgrounds and superbly posed fighters. That the animation is astounding goes without saying, but also notice the poses and key animation drawings, which could be copied directly onto the pages of Marvel.

The player roster includes 18 characters, split evenly between Marvel and Street Fighter. From X-Men Vs Street Fighter, Cyclops and Wolverine return, and Cammy and Charlie are replaced by Dan and Sakura, and Chun Li sports her SF2 outfit. New Marvel characters include Blackheart, Captain America, Cyclops, Hulk, Omega Red, Shuma-Gorath and Spider-Man. Seven additional hidden characters can also be accessed, mostly variations of the existing cast like Armored Spider-Man and Mech-Gouki.

The final addition is one of the all-time great "joke" characters: Norimaro, a scrawny little man who looks like a fanboy and moves like a panicky Japanese Jerry Lewis. The creation of Japanese comedian Noritake Kinashi, this player wears a loud suit and carries a satchel around his shoulder. He stumbles around timidly asking for autographs from the superheroes, flinging his arms in a windmill like a child when attacked. His special moves include an endless barrage of toys and swag thrown from his satchel, and another one where he dresses up in a Mega Man costume and rides a cardboard box car, then grills eggs and bacon while wearing an apron. His attacks have names like "Hyper Strong Miracle Treasure" and "Ultra Variety Private Memories."

Honestly, I wish Capcom would make a fighting game made entirely of wacky nerds like Norimaro. If you turn on this videogame at parties, he will become the most popular character. Be honest. He'll steal the whole damn show.

The fighting engine in Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter continues its predecessor, with tall vertical leaps that allow for longer float combos. The tag team feature returns, which allows you to swap out fighters so they can rest, then return for a devastating dual-attack combo that fills the entire screen and probably causes full-blown seizures. The returning fighters have seen their special attacks change, usually made louder and more extreme and allowing for over-the-top 15-hit combos.

One new feature that I absolutely adore is "easy mode," which assigns special moves and super combos to a quick double-press of a button. If you want to throw Ryu's fireballs, just tap "Y" twice, and if you want his dragon punch, tap "Z" twice. This addition is a miracle for novice players and anyone who doesn't have a joystick to play. You can still perform special moves the traditional way, so experts will still mop the floor with the rest of us. Capcom continued this novel idea with the excellent Tatsunoko Vs Capcom on Nintendo Wii, and I wish more software developers would follow suit.

Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter was released in Japan in October of 1998, weeks before the launch of Sega Dreamcast. It's fitting that Capcom would supply Saturn with two of its greatest classics just as its replacement was walking in the door. And as we've already discussed, Sega of America hated money and wanted to die, which is why they declared "Saturn is not our future," killed the console in the States two years early and then sat on their thumbs waiting for 9/9/99. That strategy obviously worked out well for them. Good plan, Napoleon.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
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NHL All-Star Hockey 98 (1997, Radical Entertainment)

NHL 94 on Sega Genesis is the greatest hockey videogame ever made, indeed, the greatest sports videogame ever made. NHL All-Star Hockey 98 on Sega Saturn is not that game, and you'll just have to make your peace with that unpleasant fact. Once you do so, however, you will discover a very solid and highly playable sports game that deserves to belong in your library.

This title is the direct sequel to NHL Powerplay 96, which was published by Virgin and received a very warm reception. Sega picked up the title to add to their 1997 Sega Sports roster, which proved to be their strongest sports lineup in years, including the spectacular World Series Baseball 98, Worldwide Soccer 98 and NBA Action 98. It has no connection whatsoever to the 1995 NHL All-Star Hockey, a rolling dumpster fire that stands as possibly the worst sports videogame ever made, and thank heavens for that. Gameplay features include all NHL teams and players, complete season, playoffs, an international tournament featuring 16 teams, players creation and trades, numerous offensive and defensive coaching strategies and support for up to eight players.

Compared to NHL Powerplay 96, this title offers a refined graphics engine with smoother frame rate, multiple viewing angles, smarter computer AI and the addition of fights, which were discouraged from the league for several years before finally making its comeback. The action is fast-paced and brisk, players slide and skate around convincingly and the controls are quick and responsive. Since my brain is wired to only understand Genesis hockey, it took a couple games for me to realize that I have to use more than the "B" and "C" buttons for everything. Once I found the right button for speed bursts and aggressive checks, I was on my way and quickly scoring one-timer goals with ease.

Everything is rendered in 3D polygons, and it all looks very solid, if a little on the rough side. It lacks that extra bit of polish that you would see from Japanese-developed games, and I find myself wishing that Radical's programmers made better use of the Saturn's multi-processors, such as using VDP2 for the ice and player shadows and maybe some reflections. The player models appear a bit chunky from the default view, but they do look really good when up close, and certainly look better than EA's NHL Hockey 97 and 98. There are some impressive animations, including the checks and knockdowns and watching players marching on and off the bench during line changes.

The audio includes organs that pipe in with a wide variety of songs and chants, and the crowds respond dynamically to the action, cheering and gasping as goalies barely stop your slap shots. Oddly enough, they're very quiet after goals are scored, even the home team crowds. For that matter, you don't hear any horns or sirens blaring, either, and I have no idea why those were omitted. In one game, I scored two goals before finally realizing what had happened, just because everything was so quiet. Why are my players celebrating on the ice? Oh, I see, I guess I have to supply my own horn.

I find that this game grows on me over time. The computer-controlled teams are highly competitive and I really have to work to score goals. I especially enjoy playing as the international teams, which means that I can recreate the Miracle on Ice whenever I want.

I do wish that Radical had continued with this series, because what they have created in All-Star Hockey 98 is extremely solid and only needs a few tweaks and additions to achieve perfection. For a short time, they really did give EA some solid competition, and you can only imagine what another season on Dreamcast could have achieved. Sega should have bought out this studio as they had done with Visual Concepts, instead of just letting everything just vanish into mist.

Like most vintage sports games, this title is very affordable, usually under $10. I highly recommend picking up a copy to fill out your Sega Sports 98 collection.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
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192
290
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Sonic Jam (1997, Sonic Team)

Sega made a number of crucial mistakes during the Saturn era, but none so immediate and damaging to their brand as the disappearance of their star mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. All throughout Saturn's life, gamers were always asking the same questions: "Where is Sonic?" "When is Sonic going to arrive?" "Did Sonic go into the Witness Protection Program?" "Seriously, did Sonic get hit by a bus or something?"

A proper 32-bit Sonic title never appeared on Sega Saturn. Yuji Naka and Sonic Team chose instead to work on original projects NiGHTS: Into Dreams and Burning Rangers, showing little interest in revisiting the old franchise. That left Sonic in the hands of Sega Technical Institute in the US, who infamously struggled for three years to bring their project to fruition. "Sonic Xtreme" was beset by the brewing civil war between Sega's Japan and US divisions, various political tensions, chronic illness and two entirely different graphics engines. The final game was being created by three separate teams and featured a highly innovative 3D graphics with a fish-lens perspective, but little footage was playable. In 1996, the unfinished project was finally scuttled, and the beta footage has since been leaked to the public.

Sega scrambled quickly to cover their rears for the Christmas '96 season. They commissioned Traveller's Tales to bring their Genesis title Sonic 3D Blast to Saturn, with new bonus stages created by Sonic Team. The following year, Sonic Team was brought back to complete a compilation of the Genesis titles for a Summer 1997 release. This package, titled Sonic Jam, includes the four Genesis cartridges (Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles), full-color scans of the Japanese and US manuals, new gameplay modes, the ability to play only the bonus stages (which were always the visual showpiece of Sonic games) and an art gallery that also includes video clips. These videogames are not emulated but programmed from scratch for the Saturn, and various gameplay tweaks and edits are made to refine the experience and present the "definitive" versions of these beloved classics.

I always felt a tinge of disappointment that Sonic CD was omitted from this compilation. I have no idea why it wasn't included, unless the digital audio files took up too much space to be included on a single disc. But why not release Sonic Jam as a double album? Imagine how Sega could have included both the Japanese soundtrack and the Spencer Nilsen-produced US soundtrack, which featured an entirely unique collection of synth-pop songs with a vocal trio. It certainly would have made for a more complete package and a proper tribute (or apology) to the fans. Alas, it was not to be.

For most fans, the main attraction is the all-new Sonic World, a 3D hub world that finally brings Sonic into the polygon age. It is a visual masterwork that demonstrates Saturn's full potential, featuring a green valley, several floating platforms, a waterfall with running river, and tall hills connected by wooded bridges. The graphics engine from NiGHTS appears to be used here, and Sonic Team puts on a clinic for how to combine Saturn's dual-CPUs and two VDPs to stunning effect. The frame rate is remarkably stable and smooth, graphics are highly detailed and colorful and it really does look like a worthy competitor to Nintendo's Super Mario 64.

Skeptics will correctly note that this world is more of a glorified tech demo or proof-of-concept than a complete videogame. The area is relatively small and enclosed, there are no enemies and only a few Flicky birds flying around. There are a number of mini-games to complete and some hidden surprises such as cheat menus for the other Sonic games, but skilled players will easily complete all tasks in twenty minutes or less. Once all goals have been achieved, there is really nothing else to do but wander around and marvel at the colorful graphics...and wonder why this demo couldn't be expanded into a fully complete Saturn Sonic.

Central to all of this lies a question that has haunted Sega for years: what, exactly, is a 3D Sonic the Hedgehog videogame? Does it try to continue the style of the Genesis titles, or does it evolve into a new style, ala Mario 64? Should it be fully 3D or on rails like NiGHTS? Should the viewing angle be overhead or behind Sonic? How do you maintain the sense of speed without losing control or becoming lost? Goodness knows Sega and Sonic Team have tried to make a successful transition from 2D to 3D. Oy vey, how they have tried. Yuji Naka was probably correct to create a new hero with NiGHTS, which is really the 3D masterpiece that Sonic would never be.

Sonic Jam can't help but leave mixed feelings. We waited for years to receive a new studio album, but in the end all we received was a glorified greatest hits package. We stayed around because we were promised great things, but at the end, all we were given was another handful of vague promises...maybe next time, maybe next year. For many videogame fans, I think this event marked the end of Sega Saturn. The jig was up, and Next Generation Sonic was never going to happen. At the same time, Sega of America CEO Bernie Stolar declared that "Saturn is not our future," and the gossip slop factory began tearing into overdrive on rumors of Sega's next home console. The party was officially over and it was time to scramble for the exits.

(Update 11/15 8:23pm: Made a couple edits because I can't tell the difference between 1996 and 1997. I'm smart.)
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
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www.dtm-arts.com
Great writeups as usual @DT MEDIA

Any games on the docket? I should contribute at least one or two.

Also, I wonder if the mods could split off the reviews into a separate thread. Is there a way to PM "the mods" and discuss this possibility? :pie_thinking:

Thanks for the kind words. I've been on a tear lately because I really want to complete this writing project. I was thinking of writing 100 Saturn reviews but the final number could be larger. For upcoming reviews, I need to write about Jonah Lomu Rugby and the Gundam Side Story Trilogy. Other upcoming titles: Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Silhouette Mirage, Shining Force 3, Bulk Slash, Psychic Assassin Taromaru, D, Enemy Zero, Capcom Generations, Vampire Savior, Riven (maybe), Elevator Action 2 (probably), Shinobi Legions (probably), Amok (probably). I definitely need to add at least a couple puzzle games, and will also need to include a few more Japanese RPGs. I'm still looking for sports games but I think I've hit the best ones. I'd also like to include a couple hidden gems or lesser-known games if possible.

When I write essays, I have to sit down and play the games for a while, so that's usually the deciding factor. If I play something and it's not much fun, I'll put it away for a while and move on to something else. I want my Saturn book project to me (mostly) upbeat, with only occasional criticisms. There's no point in wasting paper telling you that The Crow sucks.

If you're thinking of writing some Saturn essays, by all means, go right ahead. Just write about what you love, and don't worry if I already wrote about that videogame. After all, I'm only trying to inspire more critics and writers to create.

As for splitting Saturn reviews into a separate thread, I would advise against that. It's much better to have one place for Saturn fans to congregate than create a series of smaller threads. The content will continue to evolve and change over time, and I encourage everyone to contribute posts or discussions for all things Saturn here.
 
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DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com





Here's a quick comparison between Sega Saturn video cables. These screenshots show Winter Heat on my 13" Sony Trinitron via 1) RF and 2) Composite. I wanted to see how the two really compared to one another. As always, it is challenging to take good CRT screenshots via a digital camera without having manual control over the shutter speed and aperture, so please excuse the crummy lines and squiggles.

The differences between the two are minor but includes notable difference. Looking at the RF photos, you will clearly notice the color bleeding, especially with the reds. You see this on the red skater and the Chinese flag. You can also see a red halo behind the lead skater. In my experience, you don't see as much bleeding with other colorss. In addition, the numbers and text is slightly fuzzier in RF, or perhaps a little sharper in Composite.

What's interesting is how close the two outputs are. When playing and watching from a distance (at least one foot), the differences are very minor. RF appears a touch smoother and the reds bleed out. Composite puts out a sharper image, and I've had to turn the sharpness dial all the way down to keep the dreaded "composite dot crawl" at bay. What really surprised me is the audio, which is much louder and cleaner.





Here is another comparison. The differences aren't quite as notable as the previous example, but you can still see the red color bleed on the Chinese flag icon. The green "1P" shows a little bleed, and the black outline is more pronounced in Composite. Finally, it's a little hard to notice, but the blues on the athlete show more pixels and color gradiation on Composite, whereas they all blend together in one shade in RF like watercolors.

Unfortunately, my TV doesn't have S-Video output, so I cannot make any direct comparisons here. From my past experience, I can report that Saturn S-Video is superb and offers the best color separation and clarity. However, it also removes the blending effect from VDP1 transparencies, resulting in those notorious mesh-pixel patterns. In Composite (as in RF), the illusion is maintained, and since the image quality is nearly equal to S-Video (the difference between the two is slight), I prefer to use this output for playing.

For most kids who grew up playing videogames in the 20th Century, RF was the standard output for home systems. It's what we were used to seeing and on a picture tube display, it looks perfectly fine, with a good balance between clarity and smoothness. And for many classic systems (NES and Genesis are two examples), Composite output is just terrible and garish. It's much better on Saturn and Dreamcast.

Bottom Line, the differences between these video cables are minor, mostly a game of inches. Modern gamers tend to obsess over sharpness and clarity, because digital media has a natural bias for those things. Analog media, meanwhile, emphasizes smoothness and unity of the whole. Which one you prefer is really just a matter of taste.
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com









Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story: The Blue Destiny (1996-97, Bandai and Studio Orphee)

Sega Saturn was blessed with a large number of excellent mech videogames: Amok, Assault Suit Leynos 2, Bulk Slash, Cyberbots, Gungriffon, Mechwarrior 2 and Virtual On. Now we can add to their ranks the blazingly paced and masterfully executed Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story.

Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story is a videogame trilogy released in 1996 and 1997, first in three separate releases: Blue Fear, Those Who Inherit Blue and Those Who Are Judged. A compilation package of all three discs was later released under the title The Blue Destiny. Based on the seminal anime TV and movie series, you pilot a giant robot, you battle endless waves of enemy mechs across a wide variety of landscapes and battlefields. The difficulty gradually increases during the entire saga, so you are strongly advised to start with the first disc and work your way through the early missions.

The visuals in this trilogy are absolutely amazing, offering a silky smooth frame rate and blazingly fast action. Its design is very crisp and clean, set in open-space environments peppered with trees and buildings. Many stylish touches abound: mechs kick up dust clouds as they skate across the ground, rockets give off smokey vapor trails in their wake, buildings explode in fireballs and are reduced to charred remains when smashed or detonated. I love that you can stomp down buildings and leave wreckage in your wake. What's the point in steering a giant robot if you can't break things?

The action feels like a cross between Gungriffon's military missions with Virtual On's personal battles. Your mech is armed with machine guns, rockets and a sword for close melee attacks, and you can march, fly and dash at rapid speeds. Enemy mechs come in a variety of shapes and sizes and often require a number of sustained attacks to defeat, and they will also come after you with everything they have. By the time you've reached Part 3 in the saga, you've really got a tough fight on your hands, with sudden explosions of violence and mayhem.

The content is nearly identical across all three discs, and each disc continues where the previous one left off. Parts 1 and 2 end on cliffhangers that set the stage for the next episode. Parts 2 and 3 include support for the Virtual On joysticks, which definitely adds to the precision of the controls, but you should be able to maneuver on a standard controller.

Only two criticisms come to mind: each episode is fairly short, at less than thirty minutes before reaching the end of the episode, and a lack of multiplayer, which seems like a missed opportunity. This saga is just screaming out for online multiplayer battles, like Doom deathmatch but with mechs.

I discovered Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story a few years ago at a Minneapolis videogame store that stocked a large library of Japanese Sega games, and I was immediately bowled over. This is a pure arcade game that focuses entirely on speed, mobility and mass destruction. It's always a rush to discover another Saturn hidden gem, especially one that boasts such confident 3D graphics. Why was this game passed up for release in the West when we were stuck with the awful Ghen War instead? Saturn needed another feather in its cap, and here lies three.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Side Story is available fairly easily on the used games market. The Blue Destiny box set is much more expensive but also includes a fourth disc that contains high resolution photos of artwork from the television series, the Japanese TV commercials and a series of trading cards.
 
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Thanks for the kind words. I've been on a tear lately because I really want to complete this writing project. I was thinking of writing 100 Saturn reviews but the final number could be larger. For upcoming reviews, I need to write about Jonah Lomu Rugby and the Gundam Side Story Trilogy. Other upcoming titles: Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Silhouette Mirage, Shining Force 3, Bulk Slash, Psychic Assassin Taromaru, D, Enemy Zero, Capcom Generations, Vampire Savior, Riven (maybe), Elevator Action 2 (probably), Shinobi Legions (probably), Amok (probably). I definitely need to add at least a couple puzzle games, and will also need to include a few more Japanese RPGs. I'm still looking for sports games but I think I've hit the best ones. I'd also like to include a couple hidden gems or lesser-known games if possible.

When I write essays, I have to sit down and play the games for a while, so that's usually the deciding factor. If I play something and it's not much fun, I'll put it away for a while and move on to something else. I want my Saturn book project to me (mostly) upbeat, with only occasional criticisms. There's no point in wasting paper telling you that The Crow sucks.

If you're thinking of writing some Saturn essays, by all means, go right ahead. Just write about what you love, and don't worry if I already wrote about that videogame. After all, I'm only trying to inspire more critics and writers to create.

As for splitting Saturn reviews into a separate thread, I would advise against that. It's much better to have one place for Saturn fans to congregate than create a series of smaller threads. The content will continue to evolve and change over time, and I encourage everyone to contribute posts or discussions for all things Saturn here.
I've just discovered this thread and am really enjoying the Saturn reviews. Thanks, and keep up the good work!
 
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For most fans, the main attraction is the all-new Sonic World, a 3D hub world that finally brings Sonic into the polygon age. It is a visual masterwork that demonstrates Saturn's full potential, featuring a green valley, several floating platforms, a waterfall with running river, and tall hills connected by wooded bridges. The graphics engine from NiGHTS appears to be used here, and Sonic Team puts on a clinic for how to combine Saturn's dual-CPUs and two VDPs to stunning effect. The frame rate is remarkably stable and smooth, graphics are highly detailed and colorful and it really does look like a worthy competitor to Nintendo's Super Mario 64.

Skeptics will correctly note that this world is more of a glorified tech demo or proof-of-concept than a complete videogame. The area is relatively small and enclosed, there are no enemies and only a few Flicky birds flying around. There are a number of mini-games to complete and some hidden surprises such as cheat menus for the other Sonic games, but skilled players will easily complete all tasks in twenty minutes or less. Once all goals have been achieved, there is really nothing else to do but wander around and marvel at the colorful graphics...and wonder why this demo couldn't be expanded into a fully complete Saturn Sonic.

Central to all of this lies a question that has haunted Sega for years: what, exactly, is a 3D Sonic the Hedgehog videogame? Does it try to continue the style of the Genesis titles, or does it evolve into a new style, ala Mario 64? Should it be fully 3D or on rails like NiGHTS? Should the viewing angle be overhead or behind Sonic? How do you maintain the sense of speed without losing control or becoming lost? Goodness knows Sega and Sonic Team have tried to make a successful transition from 2D to 3D. Oy vey, how they have tried. Yuji Naka was probably correct to create a new hero with NiGHTS, which is really the 3D masterpiece that Sonic would never be.
I never bought Sonic Jam back in the day, but looking at the 3D hub world, it's pretty damn impressive. If Sega could have released a full Sonic game in that style when the Saturn launched in the US and Europe, I think everyone would have been blown away (in the same way Mario 64 did) and the whole trajectory of the system in those regions would have looked very different. That said, it wasn't released until 1997, and judging by the results of Sega's early releases such as Virtua Fighter and Daytona, they probably weren't yet comfortable enough with the system to have produced anything this polished at the time (although the excellent Panzer Dragoon somewhat counters this argument). Sigh, what could have been...

I think you're a little harsh on 3D Sonics though. Sonic Adventure was very well received upon release and still has many fans now, so I actual think the initial translation to 3D was pretty successful.
 
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I already posted this on the main gaming forum, but it seems fitting to post it here too, in case the hardcore Saturn people miss it.

With the imminent release of the Playstation Classic and rumours of an N64 Classic, I thought it might be fun to speculate on which games deserve to be included on any theoretical Saturn Classic. While not impossible, unfortunately any Saturn Classic is likely to remain theoretical for the time being, which is a shame as it has many great games still unavailable elsewhere. Still, Sega's been doing pretty well over the past couple of years, so maybe we'll get some ports or a collection at some point in the future.

The fact that it was so hard to narrow the selection down to just 20 speaks volumes about the quality of the system's library. I tried to maintain a balance between the following criteria:
1. Games that have aged well and are still fun to play today
2. Games which are unavailable elsewhere
3. Games that are so representative of the system that it seemed a shame to leave them out
4. A mix of genres

Here goes:

Astal



An early release that still looks great today. It really showed off the Saturn's 2D chops. Simple but fun gameplay.


Panzer Dragoon Zwei



While it might be controversial to leave the original Panzer Dragoon out, space is limited and this sequel has a higher framerate (30 fps as opposed to 20 fps), making it smoother to play.


Panzer Dragoon Saga



$400+ dollars on ebay and widely considered as one of the best RPGs of that generation. Need I say more?


Sega Rally



Along with Virtua Fighter 2 and Virtua Cop, this was the game that proved that the Saturn could do great 3D if programmed right. Still fun to play today.


Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition



I know some people think the gameplay of the original Saturn Daytona is closer to the arcade, I always thought this one controls great too. With two extra tracks, 7 extra cars and a much smoother framerate and less pop-in, this seems the right choice to me. Plus, an arcade perfect version was already released last gen, making the original Saturn port obselete.


Guardian Heroes



Even though a HD remaster was released on Xbox 360 (Xbox One BC), it hasn't been released on other platforms and is too good to be left off the list.


Radiant Silvergun



See above.


Virtua Fighter 2



Arcade perfect versions have been released on last gen consoles (as well as in Yakuza 5), but to leave VF2 off a Saturn collection just seems wrong. High res and 60 fps. Great port!


Dragon Force



Amazing real time strategy and tactical RPG with a huge number of sprites on screen at once. Was re-released on PS2 as part of the Sega Classics collection.


Shining Force 3



Highly regarded RPG. I hope Sega would finally translate scenarios 2 and 3 as a surprise inclusion (as Nintendo included Star Fox 2 in the SNES Classic).


Burning Rangers



Unique futuristic firefighting game from Sonic Team. The effects really pushed the Saturn hardware, and it shows in parts. Ideally, this would get a remaster, but until that happens it deserves a place on this list.


Baku Baku Animal



I wanted a mix of genres and needed a puzzle game. Baku Baku is fun, and was released by Sega, so it seems a good fit.


Exhumed



A FPS with strong metroidvania elements. This gen of consoles often struggled with FPS games, but Lobotomy Software were geniuses at squeezing the most out of the Saturn hardware, and this was no exception. Versions were released on PC and PS1, but they are inferior in design to the Saturn version. See Digital Foundry's excellent video if you're not convinced.


Athlete Kings/DecAthlete



Although not as strong as the Megadrive/Genesis in terms of its sports library, the Saturn still got some great games. Sega's World Series Baseball and Worldwide Soccer games would both be worthy inclusions, but I chose Athlete Kings for its high resolution and 60 fps gameplay (similar to VF2).


2D Capcom Fighting Game



I was a little too young when Street Fighter 2 hit the arcades, so I never got super in to the whole 2D fighting game craze. However, the Saturn was well known as the best way to play these games that gen, so I had to include at least one. While one of the X-Men games would be great, licencing issues might make one of the Street Fighters or Vampire Hunter more likely.


Fighters Megamix



A mix of VF2, VF3 and Fighting Vipers gamplay, plus a huge roster of Sega characters (including the Daytona car). What more could you want?


Saturn Bomberman



Although not a Sega game, this is considered by many to be the best bomberman game. Beautiful 2D graphics.


Sonic R



Not a platformer, nor a racer, I avoided this when it was released due to mediocre reviews, but I now think this is a little underrated. Plus, the collection needs a Sonic game, and this seems a better choice than Sonic 3D Blast.


Nights Into Dreams



Similar to Virtua Fighter 2, this too has already had better versions released on more modern hardware, but it feels wrong to leave it out.


Deep Fear



While the Saturn got a good port of Resident Evil, it seemed a shame not to give this Sega game a chance to shine instead. Although it has the same Resident Evil style tank controls, survival horror gameplay and cheesy voice acting, it would be unfair to dismiss this as a mere copycat. Improved controls (you can run and shoot at the same time), an air meter (you are underwater and the rooms run out of air) and its own story are enough to make this a good game in its own right.

That's it. What does everybody think? I thinkg this selection of games is realistic in terms of rights/licencing and compares favourably with the games on the PS1 Classic (and even the SNES Classic imho). I'm always on the lookout for new Saturn games and would welcome any alternative opinions.
 
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Panzer Dragoon Saga is probably the only game I stopped playing because I was afraid it would end. I know it sounds dumb but i think I'm gonna wait and finally beat it when I'm retired and old and gray. Saving the best for last, you know?
Hopefully Sega will eventually release some kind of sequel or remaster so you can finish it before then. :)
 

DT MEDIA

GAF's Resident Saturn Omnibus
Jan 7, 2018
259
192
290
Chicago, IL
www.dtm-arts.com
This video certainly gave me an appreciation for how challenging developing for the Saturn was back in the day:


I just saw this video, and it's the first time anyone had explained what the Saturn's DSP chip could do. It was only used by a handful of software developers in the system's final months, but those also happen to be the most technically accomplished titles: Panzer Saga, Shining Force 3, Burning Rangers, Quake, Sonic R, Zero Divide.

As always, nearly all Western software developers never bothered to learn how Saturn works. They peeked under the hood just long enough to realize it was hard to understand, then put the hood back down, shut off the second CPU, and then just dumped C code from the Playstation version of whatever videogame they were working on. Japanese developers were much more successful, especially those who worked with multi-processors.

Sega certainly did themselves no favors in making the Saturn as complex as it was. It has never been specified just what changes were made from the original Saturn 1.0 design, before they got wind of Sony's Playstation project, but you can see signs all over the hardware design. That said, I've always had a certain admiration for the machine and when all the parts are working, it's a sight to behold.
 
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As always, nearly all Western software developers never bothered to learn how Saturn works. They peeked under the hood just long enough to realize it was hard to understand, then put the hood back down, shut off the second CPU, and then just dumped C code from the Playstation version of whatever videogame they were working on. Japanese developers were much more successful, especially those who worked with multi-processors.
While I think that's true with most Western devs, it's certainly not a charge that can be levelled at Traveller's Tales (or Lobotomy, for that matter). In the video I posted earlier, the dev alluded to an earlier video about programming for the Saturn, and here it is:


I'e only just started coding myself (Python), so this may change at some point, but so far in my experience, modern coding just treats the hardware as some sort of inscrutable, magic black box. When coding I have never given any thought whatsoever to the make-up of the hardware, whereas GameHut seems to have been thinking about the architecture of the Saturn at every point in the development of Sonic R. Fascinating stuff.

I'm not sure if I should feel jealous to have missed out on that era of "to the metal" programming, or just be grateful that I don't have to worry about the hardware anymore.