Sega Saturn Appreciation and Emulation Thread

cireza

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I have been continuing my playthrough and so far so good. No problem encountered. Really enjoying the game a lot in these conditions by the way. Saturn version on CRT feels like the right way to play it for me. I had tried on Vita but was really missing the softer picture of my CRT.

I also tried on PS1 some time ago, but this version really is less crisp and missing many details.

The game is actually very impressive for the console and uses quite a lot of its features. For example you have a lot of transparency that is actually full transparency, applied to both the 3D backgrounds and 2D sprites at the same time. This is not something you see often on Saturn, because of how transparency is handled separately by each VDP.

You also have impressive water effects, and shadows that are cast on the sprites. There is really a lot of great stuff as far as graphics are concerned. The game is packed. So many different textures on a single map too (in towns).

Grandia is definitely one of the most ambitious game of the console, with Panzer Dragoon Saga and Shining Force III to name a few.
 
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I have been continuing my playthrough and so far so good. No problem encountered. Really enjoying the game a lot in these conditions by the way. Saturn version on CRT feels like the right way to play it for me. I had tried on Vita but was really missing the softer picture of my CRT.

I also tried on PS1 some time ago, but this version really is less crisp and missing many details.

The game is actually very impressive for the console and uses quite a lot of its features. For example you have a lot of transparency that is actually full transparency, applied to both the 3D backgrounds and 2D sprites at the same time. This is not something you see often on Saturn, because of how transparency is handled separately by each VDP.

You also have impressive water effects, and shadows that are cast on the sprites. There is really a lot of great stuff as far as graphics are concerned. The game is packed. So many different textures on a single map too (in towns).

Grandia is definitely one of the most ambitious game of the console, with Panzer Dragoon Saga and Shining Force III to name a few.

I always love how Grandia uses VDP2 to create those cool water effects. It reminds me a lot of the Panzer Dragoon Trilogy and Sonic R. It really was a shame that Sega of America passed on a domestic release, but Bernie Stolar was notoriously unfriendly to Japanese RPGs, both during his tenures at Sony and Sega. Then again, not to sound like a broken record, but Saturn was all but dead in the US by 1997 and it likely wouldn't have made any difference which Japanese hits were brought over.
 

DT MEDIA

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A quick update: I have been redesigning and updating my DT Media website, which is my indie book publishing label. I have just released my latest batch of street photography ebooks, and I have also been revising the Sega Saturn reviews from this thread that I posted there as well. Feel free to visit the site and take a look around.

As for the Sega Saturn book project, that's still ongoing. I have told myself to evaluate things once I've reached 100 reviews, and I have told myself to write about all the major software titles as well as some more obscure classics, and my check list still has a long way to go.

Oh, and pick up some of my books while yer at it.
 
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Blayzedblue

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The Saturn looks beautiful with a Retrotink 2x and HD Retrovision custom component cable. Just waiting for those wireless Bluetooth Saturn pads from Retrobit now.
 
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Whenever I pull out my Sega Saturn, Worldwide Soccer is always there in the tray ready to go. I've always been a great fan of this game. It's a perfect arcade-style soccer title that looks terrific (those glorious hi-rez Saturn graphics) and plays like greased lightning. And, of course, it has some of the best "Sega Rock" music ever. They must have all been diehard Sammy Hagar fans back in the day.

I always felt this was one of the standout hits of the Saturn launch lineup, alongside Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA and Panzer Dragoon. Two things that I never understood: why this videogame didn't receive more attention in the gaming press, and why didn't Sega use this graphics engine for more sports games, like American football?

Worldwide Soccer is the videogame equivalent to comfort food. It's not anybody's idea of the "perfect meal," but when it's two in the morning and you're feeling hungry and slightly buzzed, it's absolutely hits the spot. Now I'm hungry for beer and chips.

Any fans out there? You can find WWS on Ebay for peanuts, like most sports games. You should definitely add this to your Saturn library if you haven't yet done so.
 
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cireza

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There is also a pretty great arcade soccer game by Tecmo that was released late on the console. I heard good things about it and should try it one of these days.
 

Kazza

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Whenever I pull out my Sega Saturn, Worldwide Soccer is always there in the tray ready to go. I've always been a great fan of this game. It's a perfect arcade-style soccer title that looks terrific (those glorious hi-rez Saturn graphics) and plays like greased lightning. And, of course, it has some of the best "Sega Rock" music ever. They must have all been diehard Sammy Hagar fans back in the day.

I always felt this was one of the standout hits of the Saturn launch lineup, alongside Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA and Panzer Dragoon. Two things that I never understood: why this videogame didn't receive more attention in the gaming press, and why didn't Sega use this graphics engine for more sports games, like American football?

Worldwide Soccer is the videogame equivalent to comfort food. It's not anybody's idea of the "perfect meal," but when it's two in the morning and you're feeling hungry and slightly buzzed, it's absolutely hits the spot. Now I'm hungry for beer and chips.

Any fans out there? You can find WWS on Ebay for peanuts, like most sports games. You should definitely add this to your Saturn library if you haven't yet done so.
I believe this one was known as Victory Goal in Europe. I seem to recall it getting pretty bad reviews at the time, so I avoided it in favour of getting FIFA (which I always wanted, ever since seeing the 3DO version). The sequel in Europe was called Worldwide Soccer (there was both a 97 and 98 version I think). Those ones actually got very positive reviews, and I bought, and really enjoyed, the 97 version. Was the original Victory Goal/Worldwide Soccer really that different from Worldwide Soccer 97 and 98?
 
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I believe this one was known as Victory Goal in Europe. I seem to recall it getting pretty bad reviews at the time, so I avoided it in favour of getting FIFA (which I always wanted, ever since seeing the 3DO version). The sequel in Europe was called Worldwide Soccer (there was both a 97 and 98 version I think). Those ones actually got very positive reviews, and I bought, and really enjoyed, the 97 version. Was the original Victory Goal/Worldwide Soccer really that different from Worldwide Soccer 97 and 98?

There are a few differences, but not as great as one would think. WWS 97 featured a new graphics engine (with some terrific player animations), a whole stash of gameplay modes, three stadiums and player edit mode. The gameplay was still arcade-like at its core, but the players had a host of new moves and tricks, including a number of moves that weren't put in the instruction manual.

Basically, WWS 97/98 is the more "serious" attempt at soccer, while WWS/Victory Goal is pure arcade action, complete with chirpy Sega Rock music and bright graphics. It plays very well but doesn't have the sim-oriented subtleties of FIFA or Konami's soccer games.
 

Kazza

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There are a few differences, but not as great as one would think. WWS 97 featured a new graphics engine (with some terrific player animations), a whole stash of gameplay modes, three stadiums and player edit mode. The gameplay was still arcade-like at its core, but the players had a host of new moves and tricks, including a number of moves that weren't put in the instruction manual.

Basically, WWS 97/98 is the more "serious" attempt at soccer, while WWS/Victory Goal is pure arcade action, complete with chirpy Sega Rock music and bright graphics. It plays very well but doesn't have the sim-oriented subtleties of FIFA or Konami's soccer games.
I remember not being happy about Victory Goal having rock music. I guess we in the UK take football/soccer more seriously and wanted a more simulation type of game (such as FIFA). It sounds like the UK magazines may have been a little overly harsh on Victory Goal.
 
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I'm finally sitting down and playing through Tomb Raider and loving every moment of it. It's easy to forget just how groundbreaking this videogame was in 1996, and how brilliantly designed and executed it remains. Here are some screenshots from my 13" Sony Trinitron w/composite.

Back in the day, the Playstation version got all of the attention and accolades, while the Saturn version was either dismissed or derided as second-rate. In fact, I find that this version holds up extremely well and is far closer to its rival than anybody remembers. Visually, the only knock against this TR is the frame rate, which drops from 30fps to 20fps in large open areas or during animal attacks. Beyond that, the graphics feel more "solid" (none of that crazy glitching and warping you see on PSX) and even have a few cool touches like the water distortion effects.

Like everybody else, I love TR for its wonderful sense of mystery, exploration and isolation. It reminds me a lot of Minecraft but with a far stronger Indiana Jones vibe. The controls will probably put off a lot of modern gamers who would expect Super Mario 64 controls, but the tank controls work perfectly for this world and after a little practice becomes second nature.

Has anybody played Saturn Tomb Raider lately? Any fans out there? I would definitely put this on the Saturn Top 20, or even Top 10. It's crazy how I have more fun with this system today than I did 20+ years ago. I don't know why we were all so harsh on Sega back then.
 
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Toe-Knee

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I'm finally sitting down and playing through Tomb Raider and loving every moment of it. It's easy to forget just how groundbreaking this videogame was in 1996, and how brilliantly designed and executed it remains. Here are some screenshots from my 13" Sony Trinitron w/composite.

Back in the day, the Playstation version got all of the attention and accolades, while the Saturn version was either dismissed or derided as second-rate. In fact, I find that this version holds up extremely well and is far closer to its rival than anybody remembers. Visually, the only knock against this TR is the frame rate, which drops from 30fps to 20fps in large open areas or during animal attacks. Beyond that, the graphics feel more "solid" (none of that crazy glitching and warping you see on PSX) and even have a few cool touches like the water distortion effects.

Like everybody else, I love TR for its wonderful sense of mystery, exploration and isolation. It reminds me a lot of Minecraft but with a far stronger Indiana Jones vibe. The controls will probably put off a lot of modern gamers who would expect Super Mario 64 controls, but the tank controls work perfectly for this world and after a little practice becomes second nature.

Has anybody played Saturn Tomb Raider lately? Any fans out there? I would definitely put this on the Saturn Top 20, or even Top 10. It's crazy how I have more fun with this system today than I did 20+ years ago. I don't know why we were all so harsh on Sega back then.
I loved this back in the day.

The main difference I remember between the Saturn & psx version was the save crystals were a nice transparent blue on psx but a dull grey if I'm remembering right on the Saturn
 
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I was playing a little Duke Nukem 3D this weekend and snapped some screenshots from the Trinitron. I really love that little TV set, still can't believe that I scored it for free. If you ever get a chance to pick up one, do so immediately. In fact, you should probably store away several Sonys for long-term use.

Duke Nukem rocks on Saturn, especially with the 3D controller. Even on the easiest difficulty setting, it's very tough and relentless. Lobotomy did an outstanding job and their work continues to impress all these years later. Sega really should have bought them out like Visual Concepts or Nintendo's second-party studios. Can you imagine what they could have done with Dreamcast?
 
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Here are some cool Trinitron screenshots of Last Bronx in action. I hadn't touched this game in a while, as I usually prefer to play the other major 3D brawlers, but I really had a blast this time. Maybe I just finally "found" my character, or maybe I was just in a receptive mood.

Like all the Sega fighting games of the era, LB has a tremendous amount of depth while still being fairly accessible. It does offer a few interesting changes to the VF formula that adds to the offense, things like tech rolls, hopping off off fences and some really nasty "on the bounce" combos.

I still think that Soul Calibur seriously raised the bar for weapons-based fighters, especially the ability to parry attacks and move to the side. But LB is all about fast action, quick strikes and sudden violence.

One thing about Saturn that has always fascinated me is its "480/60" high resolution, which was double the standard of Sony and Nintendo. Why wasn't this a bigger deal with gamers in the '90s? Every 5th generation console had its strengths and weaknesses, but people only seemed to remember Sega's weaknesses, and often blowing them out of proportion, all while ignoring their strengths.

Today, 480i and 60fps stands out more, especially on modern digital displays. A lot of the graphics from that era have aged, and it's something you just learn to live with, but the 480/60 visuals really stand out. A lot of these Saturn games could pass as budget Dreamcast titles.
 
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Goiken Muyou: Anarchy in the Nippon is one of my all-time favorite Saturn games, so I thought I'd waste my entire day playing and practicing and finally writing down all of the menu options. I even managed to see the ending sequence which looks pretty cool (it's the color/monochrome shot above), even if I had to cheat with the life bars to pull it off. This videogame is crazy hard at the end.

Anarchy is still very cheap. You should be able to buy a copy for $10, which is a steal given how good it is and how well it shows off the Saturn's powers. This is the best Virtua Fighter fan tribute you could hope for, and even though Dead or Alive and Last Bronx look a little more polished, this one has the better gameplay, tighter and more intense and perfectly honed for VF junkies.

Honestly, I'll rank this game near the very top of Saturn fighting games, just behind VF2 and maybe Megamix. It's certainly the one I reach for when I need to get my brawler fix.

Best. Fighting. Console. Ever. It's not even close.

Update: After some digging, I finally found the name of the software studio that created Anarchy: Mediamuse. It was a small studio best known for the Mujunto Monogatari series for Playstation in Japan, and was active from 1994-2001. Toyohiko Yoshimine was the director of this game and its 1998 PSX sequel. He's also best known as Ikebukuro Sarah, one of the "Tatsujin" Virtua Fighter tournament champions who also appear in Anarchy as bonus characters.
 
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DT MEDIA

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I got two questions.

What's the best Gundam game on the Saturn and is Groove on Fight worth buying?

I haven't played all of the Gundam games for Saturn, but I would highly recommend the Gundam Side Story trilogy. You can either buy each title separately or in a box set called Blue Destiny. Checking Ebay, I found that you can get the separate discs for $30 total, while the box set is well over $100.

Groove on Fight is really terrific, another quality 2D fighting game for Saturn. It features excellent character designs with a strong anime style and some terrific tag-team action. The game uses the 1MB RAM cart, and my Action Replay cart works perfectly fine. Highly recommended.

I wrote essays on both of these in this Saturn thread a few pages back. Feel free to scan through this thread if you have any Saturn-related questions.
 
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Kazza

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I'm finally sitting down and playing through Tomb Raider and loving every moment of it. It's easy to forget just how groundbreaking this videogame was in 1996, and how brilliantly designed and executed it remains. Here are some screenshots from my 13" Sony Trinitron w/composite.

Back in the day, the Playstation version got all of the attention and accolades, while the Saturn version was either dismissed or derided as second-rate. In fact, I find that this version holds up extremely well and is far closer to its rival than anybody remembers. Visually, the only knock against this TR is the frame rate, which drops from 30fps to 20fps in large open areas or during animal attacks. Beyond that, the graphics feel more "solid" (none of that crazy glitching and warping you see on PSX) and even have a few cool touches like the water distortion effects.

Like everybody else, I love TR for its wonderful sense of mystery, exploration and isolation. It reminds me a lot of Minecraft but with a far stronger Indiana Jones vibe. The controls will probably put off a lot of modern gamers who would expect Super Mario 64 controls, but the tank controls work perfectly for this world and after a little practice becomes second nature.

Has anybody played Saturn Tomb Raider lately? Any fans out there? I would definitely put this on the Saturn Top 20, or even Top 10. It's crazy how I have more fun with this system today than I did 20+ years ago. I don't know why we were all so harsh on Sega back then.
For me, and I trust many other Saturn owners, Tomb Raider was my "Mario 64" experience. Although I had played other 3D games already, TR was my first large, "open world" 3D platforming/adventure experience. I was blown away by that tutorial level in Lara's mansion. It felt like a real, solid 3D world, not just a level in a game.

I remember being at an outdoor market with my mum and unexpectedly coming across a games stall with a copy (most of the stalls were clothes and bric brac, plus I didn't expect TR to have been released already). Because I didn't expect to buy any games that day, I didn't bring much money with me, so had to ask my mum for £10. Once I went back to the stall I realised I had miscalculated and had to go back to my mum and ask for more money! (probably a lucky mistake in retrospect, as she might not have given me all the money if I hadn't asked for it in two separate instalments).

Sega Saturn Magazine seem to have been impressed too, having a 6 page feature plus a 2 page review in a single episode:






I haven't played it since the 90s, and am I little put off due to the flak the "tank controls" get. However, as you said, the controls work perfectly for what the developers want you to do in the environment. Event the delayed jumping (which gets a little criticism in the magazine review above) is perfectly suited to the game, allowing you to live up jumps very precisely.

While I'm not inclined to replay the first game, I would be interested in giving the sequel a try. Along with RE2, TR2 was the missed port which hurt the most in those mid to late Saturn days. It's on Steam, but many people seem to have problems running it. How does TR2 compare to TR1?
 
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Kazza

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Although I preferred Exhumed, Duke Nukem 3D was a lot of fun too (although I missed the more metroidvania aspects of the former game). I've never heard of Goiken Muyou: Anarchy in the Nippon. With so many great fighting games on the Saturn, I guess it got overlooked a bit.
 
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DT MEDIA

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This would be a good time for Sega America to apologize for that terrible US Saturn controller and the stupid balloon font, and for Sega Japan to apologize for the May 1995 surprise launch that all but killed the console out of the gate.

Saturn is a great system, but Sega made a ton of stupid unforced errors and did almost everything possible to sabotage themselves.
 

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Played through "The Lost Valley" stage in Tomb Raider today and shot some photos with the iPhone. This was a terrific stage to play through, although that big dinosaur really gave me problems until I found a small cave to hide inside. Also, finding those missing gears was a pain, but in a good way.

Visually, this level is a bit dark and the textures appear a bit blocky, but I find the lighting to be very effective. The underwater segments just look gorgeous to my eyes. I actually prefer the natural lighting and heavy contrast of this Saturn Tomb Raider versus the PSX and PC versions, where everything is more balanced and smoothed out.

IMO, these screenshots don't really do the game justice. The iPhone tends to sharpen the image, and you can see composite dot-crawl where it's virtually undetectable with human eyes. But that's the eternal challenge of shooting pictures against a CRT display. For professional-quality photos, I would probably use the Bravia HDTV instead, which does an excellent job upscaling and smoothing the images.

I don't think anybody actually played Saturn Tomb Raider. The PSX version just stomped it at retail, and I still can't find any professional reviews from the era aside from dedicated Sega magazines. It really deserved a much larger audience.
 
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Here are a few new Asuka 120% photos I snapped today, playing on the 13" Trinitron w/composite.

When I think of great Japanese Sega Saturn games, Asuka 120% Burning Fest Limited is always near the top of my list. It may be my favorite 2D fighter on the system, although that probably says more about Street Fighter fatigue more than anything. It's probably just because this one feels more fresh, while I've already played all the marquee franchise brawlers a gazillion times.

There is a comprehensive player guide on GameFAQs, and I highly recommend that everyone download and study it. All of the gameplay elements are covered in great detail, and the author does a terrific job detailing all the mechanics of the fighting system. You can do pretty well just by mashing buttons or using quarter-circle turns for special attacks, but knowledge will raise your game to tournament-level.

The Asuka series has always had a bit of a cult following, and I do think fighting game fans should embrace it. If you're going to attend any fighting tournaments in the future, bring your Saturn along and get everyone hooked on this game. They'll thank you for it.
 
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Kazza

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This would be a good time for Sega America to apologize for that terrible US Saturn controller and the stupid balloon font, and for Sega Japan to apologize for the May 1995 surprise launch that all but killed the console out of the gate.

Saturn is a great system, but Sega made a ton of stupid unforced errors and did almost everything possible to sabotage themselves.
I'm quite impressed with how many likes and comments that twitter thread got. It shows there are still many in NA who like the system. It'll be interesting to see the reactions in Japan for the 25th anniversary later this year.
 
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cireza

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Good CRT you got there. I have pretty much the exact same thing at home, except bigger in size.
 
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Some Trinitron shots of Virtua Fighter Remix in action. If you purchased and registered a Sega Saturn during its early 1995 launch, Sega of America would send you a free copy by mail, which was a wonderfully generous move. I'm not sure if Remix actually replaced the original VF as the pack-in title, but it certainly should have. I also remember seeing this game released as a stand-alone title, but it appears that only happened in Minnesota and Canada, and that long-box edition has become extremely rare. The smaller CD cardboard cover and Japanese jewel case versions are more common.

It's a little hard to go back to the first Virtua Fighter after playing its sequels and spin-offs. The timing is much more strict and precise, no doubt owing to its 30fps frame rate. Once you get the timing down, it's just as exciting and addictive as ever. It's really a shame that this videogame couldn't have become more popular in the States, but most gamers wanted button-mashing fighters, not a strategic chess match that required weeks of study to master.

I often wonder how things would have been different had Sega released Saturn in September instead of May, and if Virtua Fighter Remix replaced the original, glitchier version entirely. It certainly would have made for a much stronger impression on the public, certainly when compared against the massively overrated Battle Arena Toshinden. And, of course, AM2 would have had another four months to work on Daytona USA to improve it further, which might have made a difference.
 

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Here are some Trinitron screenshots of Fighting Vipers, the JP version with Pepsiman as a bonus player. It's worth picking up the import just for this.

This is such a fast and fun fighting game, and it should be more popular to casual players thanks to its emphasis on fast attacks, breakable armor and finishing moves that send opponents smashing through walls. Sega's use of gouraud shading and realtime light sourcing is highly impressive, especially in Jane's stage where different colored lights shine from the corners. You can also knock the other fighter on top of the fence, which is especially cool.