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Sega Saturn

TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
edited July 2012 in Games and Technology
SEGA SATURN, SHIRO!
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In the pantheon of failed video game machines, few remain as divisive and paradoxical as 32-bit super machine, the Sega Saturn. The Saturn, Sega's second, more-well-known yet somehow less-discussed 32-bit game machine, exists in a unique position in the history of video games. A paradox of expectations, average retro-gamer looking to get into the Saturn experiences many conflicting conversations when discussing the Saturn's legacy. While the Saturn was unambiguously a commercial failure - a very distant 3rd at 10 million world wide sales compared to the 40 million the N64 saw and the 102 million the PSX saw - it's critical reception has only gotten better with age. Similarly, while the Saturn remained a generally unexplored, niche gaming system compared to its contemporaries, given the context in which the Saturn was released (coming off of a monstrous 16-bit generation where Sega was a major player, and, at times, the majority player), by virtue of the name Sega being attached to the machine, it was still noticeably higher profile than, say, the 3DO or Atari Jaguar. And, because, despite their slumping market value in the mid-90's, Sega was still one of the premiere developers in the world, the Saturn is afforded a library that has more clout than a system of the Saturn's stature can normally muster up. What we end up with today is a niche console with relative mainstream awareness, a commercial failure with a critically successful library, and a legacy that, over 15 years later, is still fluid and changing, with the public conversation on the console being far from over. Of all of Sega's consoles, the Saturn is probably the console which is still the most interesting to talk about.

In the beginning...
As with all Sega consoles that followed the Genesis that were not named the Dreamcast, the development and launch of the Saturn itself seems to overshadow discussions of the merit of the console itself. The narrative of Sega's post-genesis succession is largely cemented in public consciousness today, but for the sake of this topic it still bares repeating, if only to give context into how and why the Saturn failed. To understand the conditions which birthed the Saturn, one must grasp the duality of Sega at this point in time. Going back to about 1993, Sega was very much a company divided. Sega of America and Sega of Japan were at odds with one another, while at the same time, Sega's home consumer market was shrinking in contrast to Sega's arcade division, which was entering a golden age for the company.

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The home consumer market belonged primarily to Sega of America, and years prior, this was the branch of the company, as well as the marketplace, which had saved the company from bankruptcy. While the Sega Mega Drive failed in japan, pulling a distant 3rd place finish to the Super Famicom (SNES) and PC Engine Duo (Turbo Duo), in the west, off the back of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega had managed the unthinkable - they had sustained over 50% of the home video game marketplace, dethroning Nintendo as the top video game producer in the world, even without Japan's support. And, though sales in this division were slowing by 1994, this was the division that was the backbone of the entire company.

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By contrast, the Arcade division belonged primarily to Sega of Japan, headlined by the spectacular AM2 division. By 1994, AM2 had clearly entered a golden period for the company, producing among the greatest hits in Sega's star-studded history. Commercial and critical smash hits such as Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter, both produced on Sega's legendary Model 1 board, only added fuel to a fierce rivalry between Sega's US branch and Sega's Japanese branch. The Japanese branch was incredibly frustrated by their position within the company. Their branch was responsible for the biggest hits in the company, yet the power lied overseas with the US Branch, who despite lesser output, still controlled the companies fate via marketshare. So long as the Genesis remained alive, Sega of Japan was doomed to play second fiddle.

At this point in time, it was clear that the Model 1 arcade board was a vision into the company's future, and thus plans were put into place to produce a home console equivalent that would bring the Model 1 feel home, similar to how the System 16 inspired the Sega Genesis (to a degree). And, much like the transition from System 16 to genesis, the transition from Model 1 to home console was expected to result in slightly downgraded visuals, as a compromise to offset the cost of expensive arcade hardware. And thus, the two branches of the company produced their own successors to the Genesis, each with a completely different goal in mind.

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The US branch produced, of course, the 32X. A spectacular failure that has been much discussed, the 32X was conceived with a very western-centric goal in mind - to extend the lifeline of the Sega Genesis, which still held over 40% of the marketshare at the time. The 32X, despite being a target for various Model 1 ports such as Super Star Wars Arcade, Virtua Racing Deluxe, and Virtua Fighter 1, was actually a fair bit closer to the Sega System 24 arcade board of the time (which allowed for spectacular arcade ports, like Afterburner).

It was a miserable flop.

Sega of Japan made little effort to support the 32X. The incentive for the branch to provide games for the machine just was not there - Japan resented Sega of America's success and saw little reason to keep the Mega Drive around. At the same time the 32X was in development, Sega of Japan had been producing their own 32-bit machine. Essentially a cross between the System 32 and Model 1 arcade boards, the Saturn, then dubbed Aurora, would be the system Sega of Japan placed all their bets upon. Utilizing 2 SH2 CPUs - twice that of the 32X - the Saturn was intended to be an arcade machine in a box. Incredibly powerful 2D hardware complimented similarly powerful audio hardware to produce a console that was to be the king of arcade ports.

Failure to Launch
By mid-'95, the situation in the west had dramatically shifted. Though the Saturn had already launched in Japan, it remained unlaunched in America and Europe as the 32X languished in sales. The Saturn, in truth, was not ready for world-wide commercial launch, as a few unforeseen instances had occurred between the Saturn's conception and the middle of 1995 that dramatically shifted the gaming climate. First, Sega's own arcade technology had progressed much quicker than anticipated. Upon it's creation, the Model 1 was earth shattering. It was well beyond anything else on the market. A year later, however, the Model 1 had been surpassed by the Model 2, which provided much better graphics. Suddenly targeting the model 1's output for the saturn made the machine look dated.

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To compound matters, the Saturn was a 2D beast at heart, and every aspect of the machine reflected this, even the 3D bits of the system. Unlike what would eventually go on to become the standard unit for anything built in 3D, the 3-point polygon, the saturn instead relied on quads - polygons made up of at least 4 points. This was done because the saturn's "polygons" were in fact just 2D textures that were warped, rotated, and stretched into the correct shape, and because the Model 1 arcade board used quads as well. As time would go on, 3-point polygons would become the standard, giving Saturn games a very odd, very unique look. Furthermore, since 3-point polygons became the standard, all tools made that would later make games creation easier were built around this standard - so none of them were compatible with the saturn. All sorts of modeling tools were the same way. Because of the decision to go with warped quads as the basic polygon, absolutely every tool had to be custom made for the saturn.

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Finally, Sony had shown its hand. At E3 1995, Sony showcased a machine with 3D capabilities which were much closer to Sega's Model 2 board in look than the Saturn. And they had announced a cheaper price than the saturn as well - $199 vs the $399 the saturn would retail for. Now, in actuality, the Playstation and Saturn were much closer machines than anyone really knew, the initial perception was that the Playstation was a full step ahead of the Saturn, which sort of set this per-conceived notion that the Saturn was much weaker, an image the Saturn never managed to shrug off.

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In an effort to turn the tides, Sega surprise-launched the Saturn in may of 1995 without many games, and only at select retailers. Outlets such as Walmart were so pissed that they never, ever carried saturn stuff. The port of Virtua Fighter which accompanied the Saturn - a model 1 game - was so flawed that many consider the 32X version to be superior, only slightly sacrificing graphics for a much better draw distance. One by one, the games on the saturn at launch were trounced by superior playstation titles - Daytona USA was a miserable port compared to Ridge Racer and Virtua Fighter was poor compared to Tekken. While these earlier games were closer to tech demos than actual games, they cemented the opinion that the Saturn was a much lower class machine. From launch, the Saturn was essentially dead in the water. The public paid attention to it only really during that one launch window, and wrote it off.


Commercial Disaster

Much has been said about Sega's initial public image with the Saturn - about how people saw it as premature, underpowered hardware - and how that turned the tide for Sony early in the format war. And, while that is true, what isn't discussed enough is Sega's reaction to this negative public perception. Sega left each region to their own devices to brand and market the saturn however they saw fit, and all 3 regions went with wildly different approaches.

Sega of Japan enjoyed the most success, where the Saturn is seen as a successful console. Compared to the rest of the world, the Saturn was downright mainstream in japan, far more so than any Sega console before. In this regard, Sega of Japan's strategy with the saturn was a success - Japan once again was producing the best games, and it had the best sales. The japanese marketing for the Saturn was superb. The branding of the Saturn, the actual Sega Saturn logo, is more elaborate, and more eye catching than in any other region:

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This logo adorned everything from the console to the cases themselves. Games came in jewel cases with elaborate spin cards attached:

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The Sega Saturn also had an absurdly popular commercial ad campaign revolving around a fictional character named Segata Sanshiro, a karate expert who has dedicated his life to all things sega, and forcing a decadent public into playing Sega Saturn. His name is a pun on the phrase Sega Saturn, Shiro! meaning "You must play Sega Saturn!" In Japan, these ads were popular enough to spawn a Segata Sanshiro game for the saturn itself. And years later, these commercials are probably the enduring legacy of the Sega Saturn in japan, as they've become synonymous with the system around the internet. A sample:



However, no matter how correct or appropriate the Japanese branding and marketing of the Saturn was for that region, the handling of the saturn outside of japan was so appalling that it virtually negated all the efforts of Sega of Japan.

To understand how big a role advertising played in Sega's history, all one has to do is look back on the days when they became the top dog. Aggressive, "I'm better than you are" advertising was Sega's bread and butter during the formative days of the video game industry. From the get go, Sega marketed their Genesis with a very confrontational series of ads aimed directly at Nintendo:



The choice of all the imagery in this early advertising was focused directly onto an edgy image. They aligned themselves with sports megastars, music icons, disney legends. They spat in the eye of the current champion, Nintendo, and screamed "I'm here!" And it worked. Sega built this entire brand off of this edgy energy they created. It ultimately personified itself as the Sega Scream seen in so many ads throughout the years:

Sega Scream Video

When Sega of Japan launched the saturn and effectively took control back of the company, they ignored the culture which had created the success of the Genesis in the west. Thus, with the launch of the Sega Saturn, the west saw a vast departure from the way Sega marketed itself.

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Sega's tone abruptly shifted from an edgy tone towards something a bit more art-crowd. The early launch-era advertising for the saturn featured surrealist print ads and promotional videos, along with bits of the grotesque:


Kinda gross

Europe faired a bit better in comparison. Europe had developed a sort of dark mystic about the Sega brand during the Mega Drive days, and their commercials reflected a darker tone, as seen in this Mega CD promotional video:

Mega CD video

Europe also had better branding. Saturn games came in cases that are roughly the same size and shape as DVD boxes, with a black spine:

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These hold up great and look fairly modern against Playstation and Nintendo 64 branding. They're also very sturdy. In all, Europe's handling of the saturn was passible. It certainly left a lot to be desired, but it didn't offend too badly.

The handling of the Sega Saturn in North America, however, was unacceptable. Beginning with the branding of the Saturn. Both Europe and North America share the same font and logo for the Sega Saturn. Europe branded the Saturn with black as it's primary color:

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While in the US, the main branding color for the saturn was goddamn white:

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That font, and that logo, look miserable on white. It's astounding that somebody could have looked at these assets and decided that it looked most appealing on white! This isn't to say anything about the actual logo and font themselves - they look amateurish and hastily thrown together. The font, when written on the sides of the boxes, looks almost like comic sans when set against a white background because of how thin the lines look. It's one of the ugliest visual designs I've seen in a long time.

Now, Sega also borrowed the branding mechanism from the previous line of games in America, where-in the spines of each case were striped with slightly darker shades of the branding color. This meant that Genesis games had ugly red and maroon stripes, Sega CD games had awesome blue and navy stripes, game gear games had alright purple and violet stripes, and 32X games had unique yellow and gold stripes. Now, given that the Saturn's brand color was white, this resulted in White and gray stripes. What a goddamn travesty:

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Another glaring problem with the branding is that they're still using those annoyingly fragile, unique-and-special-snowflake giant CD case that they used with the Sega CD. Anybody who has experienced one of these knows how fragile and difficult to replace they are. Throw all this together and you wind up with one terrible brand for a game console that already has a serious image problem.

After the still-birth launch of the Saturn, Sega abandoned their weird and disgusting advertising style and tried to force a hardcore image. These strange, slightly combative, yet still surreal advertisements did little for the saturn's image:


Commercial 2
Commercial 3

By around mid 1996 to early 1997, Sega had reverted back to it's earlier marketing strategies from the Genesis days. A slightly more refined style, with the classic sega scream, and a generally great bundling option is probably what made the few people who remember the final days of the saturn perk up:

Print Ad:
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Commercial 2
Commercial 3

The final US advertising was bizarre and centered around the SEGA: Hard Stuff ad campaign

Print Ad:
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Commercial 2



Sega's handling of the Saturn started off piss poor in the US and gradually grew to be merely terrible. It made zero impact in the public consciousness' opinion of the saturn, and that the most successful ad campaign for the system surrounded what was essentially a white flag for the console is all one needs to know to sum up Sega of America's commitment to the Saturn. Bernie Stolar's "The Saturn is not our future" comment sort of cemented any lingering thoughts gamer's had about Sega trying to turn the console's fortunes around. I believe the surprise launch of the system forced Sega to rush together an ad campaign that was unfocused and untested. Put up against sony's URNot(Red)E campaign, Sega never had a chance.

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Posts

  • SteevLSteevL What can I do for you? Registered User regular
    I got a Saturn rather late: roughly around 2002. Ended up getting two multi-taps and enough controllers to play a few 10-player Saturn Bomberman games. Good times.

    Also, Death Tank Zwei!

    Sadly, my system stopped spinning discs a few years later. I'm going to have to try and resuscitate it one day. It could be a laser issue.

  • GroveGrove Los AngelesRegistered User regular
    I remember being a kid a playing the Saturn at Epcot center. I think it was a Saturn. Whatever System Virtual On was, well on.

    I hope they eventually release more of these games on current systems. I'm still sad that the only Panzer Dragoon game I've played is Orta, which I loved.

    Selling PS3 & 360 Madcatz TE Stick
  • eobeteobet Registered User regular
    The quad thing is very interesting, but wasn't it also true that the machine couldn't handle transparency at all?

    Heard the proposition that RIAA and MPAA should join forces and form "Music And Film Industry Association"?
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    The Games

    Those of us that stuck by the saturn found that the other side wasn't that much greener, at least compared to what we were lead to believe. Sega followed up a very lackluster launch with an incredible port of Virtua Fighter 2 which showed just how capable the saturn was in good hands - high resolution (520p) at 60 FPS that, to this day, looks better than any playstation game of the era. As time went on, developers slowly abandoned the system and, today, Sega stands are pretty much the only AAA developer to devote time and money into the machine. But what a glorious world Sega created with their limited resources. There are tons of games deserving of mention, but the following are my picks for games which truly made the system worth picking up, and can stand up to anything from the N64 or PSX of the same era. These are the games which any serious saturn collector needs to own:

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    Panzer Dragoon Series
    The N64 had Mario and Zelda, the Playstation had Resident Evil and Final Fantasy, and Sega had Panzer Dragoon. This is the most realized universe on the system, the unquestioned star series of the saturn. Often with the best graphics, most sweeping music, best story, and most memorable world of just about any sega series. I compare the series a lot with Ecco the Dolphin, as they both evoke that solitary mood and setting. The music throughout the series is particularly noteworthy. A fantastic series of games which were unfortunately doomed to the format they arrived in, these games are absolutely classics.

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    NiGHTS into Dreams
    Probably the most recognizable of any Saturn game, and the one saturn game people are most likely to remember. NiGHTS is the second post-sonic project by Sonic Team, following Ristar. NiGHTS inevitably drew comparisons to both Crash Bandicoot and Mario 64, but it's a radically different game. More of a time attack game than anything else, it's a rare example of a game which has only gotten better as time progresses.

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    Shining Force III
    Pound for Pound the most epic series of the 32-bit era, Shining Force III is Sega's answer to Final Fantasy VII. Shining Force III encompasses 4 games in total, each clocking it at well over 40 hours each. Once combined, the games form a single coherent story, a feat unmatched at the time. While only the prologue - Shining the Holy Ark - and episode 1 were released in the US, episodes 2 and 3 have since been translated and can be fully played today.

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    Burning Rangers
    While solid 3D action titles were common on the N64 and PSX, they were significently rarer on the Saturn. Burning Rangers represents the Saturn's best attempt at a modern 3D action game. It is Sonic Team's second, lesser known Saturn title.

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    Fighter's Megamix
    Virtua Fighter 2 remains the most stunning Saturn game visual-wise, but Fighter's Megamix is unquestionably the best 32-bit fighting game of the generation. Its depth is unmatched. Essentially Virtua Fighter vs Fighting Vipers, once fully unlocked, the game becomes a Sega All-stars fighting game, crossing over characters from Virtua Cop, Sonic the Hedgehog, Rent a Hero, and even Daytona USA. It's built off of the unreleased Virtua Fighter 3 saturn port's back.

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    Dead or Alive
    Virtua Fighter and it's ilk were always much more technical than its contemporaries, and I'd argue that's precisely what made them so great. But, while the PSX had fighting games that were technical as well, it also had a derth of fighting games that were fun to play and high on flash. The saturn equivalent to such games was Dead or Alive, a port that handidly bests it's PSX counter part and winds up one of the best looking 32-bit fighting games period. Built on top of the Virtua Fighter 2 engine, it's a natural fit for the saturn.

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    Psychic Assassins Taromaru
    Extremely rare but worth picking up, this is the best action title on the saturn. Best compared to a sort of contra meets cobal meets shinobi 3, it come closest to a pure action title that the Saturn ever got to. Again, it's exceedingly rare - 8000 copies exist - but so worth picking up.

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    Thunder Force V
    Most have undoubtedly heard the heaps of praise that Radient Silvergun receives, but I've always been a thunderforce man primarily. The saturn entry does the series proud, with great visuals and an awesome soundtrack. The US release on the PSX adds a bit of content, but visually is a step back from the Saturn version.

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    Die Hard Arcade
    The closest the saturn got to Streets of Rage 4. Overseas, it's known as Dynamite Deka, and the sequel came to the US under the name Dynamite Cop. It's one of the most fun beat 'em ups on the system.

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    Sega Rally Championship
    While the Daytona USA port for the system was miserable, Sega rally is superb. What VF2 on the saturn was to the VF1 port, SRC is to Daytona USA. Often cited as one fo the best racing games of that generation, it's easily the best on the saturn.

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    Deep Fear
    Early on in the saturn's life, it received an excellent port of Resident Evil that kept pace with the PSX version nicely. Resident Evil 2 was in production for the saturn early on, but was scrapped along with RE 1.5 and a saturn successor from capcom never came. Eventually, the genre became a hallmark of the PSX and a major example of how the PSX could keep pace with the N64 graphically. Deep Fear is the closest Sega ever got to RE2. Developed by Sega in 1998, it is the last game produced for the saturn in europe. Utilizing all the knowledge Sega had accumulated with the system at the time, it's a wonderful survival horror game. Extra props to the non-tank controls when using an analog gamepad.

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    Dragon Force
    One of the most bizarre SRPGs I've ever played. It has a tremendous learning curve and no in-game tutorial. However, once you pick the game up, it becomes a blast to play. One of Working Design's most treasured releases.

    There are tons of other saturn games worth discussing, but listing them all in the OP would spoil the point of this topic - to discuss the growing legacy of the Saturn and help steer those interested in a worthwhile direction.
    eobet wrote: »
    The quad thing is very interesting, but wasn't it also true that the machine couldn't handle transparency at all?

    Not in the least.

    273-Burning_Rangers_U-3.jpg

    Getting the machine to do transparency in 3D was difficult, but several games could do it. Getting the machine to do transparency in 2D was a snap.

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  • CygnusZCygnusZ Registered User regular
    It's worth noting that Sakura Taisen was absolutely huge in Japan.

  • UnbreakableVowUnbreakableVow Registered User regular
    I bought a Saturn just for NiGHTs and was sorely disappointed

    But then VF2 was awesome and we were cool

    I didn't even know there was a Saturn version of Dead or Alive!

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    I bought a Saturn just for NiGHTs and was sorely disappointed

    But then VF2 was awesome and we were cool

    I didn't even know there was a Saturn version of Dead or Alive!

    NiGHTS is a wonderful game, one of my favorite of all time, but it's not a system seller. I'd quicker push the Panzer Dragoon Series, Shining Force, or any of Sega's phenomenal 3D fighters over NiGHTS as a primary reason to get the Saturn. Those 3D fighting games hold up so incredibly well.

    And Dead or Alive on the Saturn is a lot better than the PSX version, considering it runs off of the VF2 engine.

  • UnbreakableVowUnbreakableVow Registered User regular
    I just loved the look of NiGHTS, and I still do. It looks great in-game, and the character design of Nights herself is just really, really well-done, one of my favorites.

    Shit, I may give the HD release another purchase just to look at the damn thing

    I always wanted to play Panzer Dragoon Saga but alas, I am not rich

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    I just loved the look of NiGHTS, and I still do. It looks great in-game, and the character design of Nights herself is just really, really well-done, one of my favorites.

    Shit, I may give the HD release another purchase just to look at the damn thing

    I always wanted to play Panzer Dragoon Saga but alas, I am not rich

    I think this is precisely the reason the saturn failed. NiGHTS is a wonderful game for what it is. It compliments the saturn library very well. But it's not a system seller, not a game which can sustain the entire system by itself the same way Mario 64 could at launch, or Sonic the Hedgehog did for the Genesis. NiGHTS was probably the last time people really payed attention to the Saturn, and those who picked up the system because of NiGHTS I felt walked away unsatisfied and didn't get the rest of the system a fighting chance.

    I've said it a couple of times already, but Panzer Dragoon really is the poster-boy series for the system. It's the flagship series for the saturn and is a much better series to sustain the system. Saga is incredible - one of the best games I've ever played - but the other 2 Panzer Dragoon games are also great, especially Zwei. Zwei is a much better shmup than Starfox 64, IMO, and all 3 have a wonderful story that evokes a lot of emotion. Panzer Dragoon Zwei and Panzer Dragoon Saga were created in tandem and really tie into together well.

  • carmofincarmofin Registered User regular
    There's not much on the Saturn that's still relevant to me from today's perspective. One such game is The Legend of Oasis, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
    I still have to play that Panzer Dragoon RPG, which I heard is very good. I also have yet to play Dark Saviour, Landstalker being my alltime favorite game in existence, I haven't dared to touch it considering the mixed opinions on it.

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  • Shady3011Shady3011 Registered User regular
    I got to give a shout out to Kenji Eno's fuck you to Sony, Enemy Zero. I'd also mention that sound only visual novel he also made, Real Sound, but we never got that.

  • RainbowDespairRainbowDespair Registered User regular
    A couple other games I'd give shout outs to:

    Grandia - Only released on the Saturn in Japan but later ported and released in the US for the PS1. The Saturn version is superior and it's one of the best games of that entire era - the visuals are better than what Square-Enix was doing at around that time (Xenogears) and the design, characters, and music are all fantastic. Definitely one of the best non-Sega created games on the system.

    Shining the Holy Ark - my favorite Shining game. Just a really fun dungeon crawler RPG.

    And yeah, I think you hit on one of the Saturn's major barriers to success - no really big system sellers. Stuff like Nights & Panzer Dragoon Zwei are great games but they're also really short games; more of arcade style score attack games than the epic adventures that gamers have grown to like more these days. And the really big hitters like Panzer Dragoon Saga didn't come out until the system was already one foot in the grave.

    Sandarken
  • skeldareskeldare Gresham, ORRegistered User regular
    The Saturn was such an underrated console that was killed too early. So many classics.

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  • Shady3011Shady3011 Registered User regular
    Sonic R is shit but man if it doesn't have some catchy music.

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    A couple other games I'd give shout outs to:

    Grandia - Only released on the Saturn in Japan but later ported and released in the US for the PS1. The Saturn version is superior and it's one of the best games of that entire era - the visuals are better than what Square-Enix was doing at around that time (Xenogears) and the design, characters, and music are all fantastic. Definitely one of the best non-Sega created games on the system.

    Shining the Holy Ark - my favorite Shining game. Just a really fun dungeon crawler RPG.

    And yeah, I think you hit on one of the Saturn's major barriers to success - no really big system sellers. Stuff like Nights & Panzer Dragoon Zwei are great games but they're also really short games; more of arcade style score attack games than the epic adventures that gamers have grown to like more these days. And the really big hitters like Panzer Dragoon Saga didn't come out until the system was already one foot in the grave.

    First up - if you like Shining the Holy Ark, play Shining Force III immediately. Different genres, but SitHA is a direct prequel to SF3.

    As for the difference in system sellers vs non-system sellers, I think the real difference is arcade games vs home console games. Every sega system went through the same cycle - a reliance on arcade ports early on, then, as sega matured, they'd begin creating games tailor made for the home console experience. In general, arcade games are shallower and shorter, while games made for home consoles are generally much fleshed out and longer games. Now, Sega's arcade output is legendary -- they're the all-time king of arcades for a reason -- but they still don't feel right at home. The real stand-outs early on in the saturn's life - namely the panzer dragoon series - always felt different from pure arcade games because of their belying depth. The panzer dragoon games have a complete world and lore to explore, even in the earlier arcadier entries. The desolate landscape, sweeping orchestral soundtrack, the commitment to the fictional world Sega created, right down to the creation of a fake Panzereese language, it all totals up to something that is well beyond the arcade experience.

    Nintendo, I felt, never really returned to their arcade roots, at least not in the style that Sega continuously returned. Ever since the release of Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo has been about the home console experience foremost, and it usually helps float their console. Sony simply nabbed up the remaining crowd with flashier games and a cheaper price early in the 32-bit era, leaving Sega with nothing but die hards like myself.

    Now, by around 1997-1998, Sega had swung into full-scale console mode, and subsequently their saturn output from that time period on verged on masterful - deep fear, shining force III, panzer dragoon saga, fighter's megamix, burning rangers, etc. The early era dreamcast games people love that sega pumped out? They were pumping out similar quality games, albeit on much weaker hardware, by the end of the Saturn's lifespan.

    Where the PSX and N64 ran away is that, for all intent and purposes, the saturn's life ended at the very end of 1997. By contrast, the N64 and PSX went on to live another good 4 or 5 years after that, which is where the gap between Saturn games and their contemporaries formed. But if you take a saturn game from 1997, and put it up against a similarly budgeted PSX game of the same time period, the Saturn keeps up pace. Judging from the Saturn Shenmue videos, had they kept the machine going, it probably could have kept pace with the PSX at least. Imagine a machine where all developers put in the time and effort to learn the machine as they had done with the Genesis and SNES. The Saturn had a lot of untapped potential in it.

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    Shady3011 wrote: »
    I got to give a shout out to Kenji Eno's fuck you to Sony, Enemy Zero. I'd also mention that sound only visual novel he also made, Real Sound, but we never got that.

    Also, this is probably my favorite E3 moment of all time.

    Enemy Zero wound up being a pretty awesome game, too. Too bad nobody played it because, on top of being a saturn exclusive, it became an unknown game on an already niche system.

    That's the good thing about collecting for the Saturn, though. You can be almost assured that what you're getting isn't available elsewhere, outside of a few select games. And, for the most part, the games which are really good like Panzer Dragoon Saga and Shining Force III have gameplay and stories that holds up incredibly well even today, so that even if you can't set yourself into a mindset to appreciate the visuals of those games (and really, considering the hardware, the visuals in both games are jaw dropping), you can still enjoy them as games to play.

  • UnbreakableVowUnbreakableVow Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    Did some reading on Enemy Zero just now on Wikipedia
    Enemy Zero began life on Sony's PlayStation. Irritated by Sony's failure to meet even a third of preorders for the PlayStation version of D,

    What the hell does this mean

    EDIT: Never mind, just found it.

    Really? Niche-sounding game like that got 100,00 in pre-orders? Wow.

    UnbreakableVow on
  • Linespider5Linespider5 ALL HAIL KING KILLMONGER Registered User regular
    The Saturn still has the unique honor of being the only home system to ever get this wonderful gem.



    It's compelling enough to me that, given I'd need a Japanese Saturn AND the game, that's still a pretty decent payoff in terms of what I'd be getting in return.

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    Did some reading on Enemy Zero just now on Wikipedia
    Enemy Zero began life on Sony's PlayStation. Irritated by Sony's failure to meet even a third of preorders for the PlayStation version of D,

    What the hell does this mean

    EDIT: Never mind, just found it.

    Really? Niche-sounding game like that got 100,00 in pre-orders? Wow.

    D wasn't a niche game at all - this wasn't all that long after Myst. It had a massive marketing push behind it, too.

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    The Saturn still has the unique honor of being the only home system to ever get this wonderful gem.



    It's compelling enough to me that, given I'd need a Japanese Saturn AND the game, that's still a pretty decent payoff in terms of what I'd be getting in return.

    Well, depends on what you consider home system. I have both that game and shadow over mystara as actual CPS2 boards, which you can play on a number of superguns, including some made by Sega and Capcom.

    EDIT: You don't need a japanese saturn, btw. I'm still writing the OP, and I'll include a section on imports in the Hardware section. No saturn owner should be without a PAR 4m+ to allow for backing up saves and making your saturn region-free.

    TheSonicRetard on
  • CaedwyrCaedwyr Registered User regular
    A friend and I played a huge number of hours on Dragonforce. That game still has not come out as a re-release on another system and it is a real shame. To top things, off his Saturn is long-dead and there's no real viable ways to play the game anymore. We also always hoped that Dragonforce 2 would get localized and released in NA, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    A friend and I played a huge number of hours on Dragonforce. That game still has not come out as a re-release on another system and it is a real shame. To top things, off his Saturn is long-dead and there's no real viable ways to play the game anymore. We also always hoped that Dragonforce 2 would get localized and released in NA, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    Dragonforce was re-released on the PS2, and it just hit the PS3 as a PS2-download in japan. There is strong rumors that it may come stateside on PSN or XBLA.

    The sequel is being translated by fans right now. Like the Shining Force 3 scenarios, it'll be playable on a real saturn via a mod chip or the swap trick.

  • CaedwyrCaedwyr Registered User regular
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    A friend and I played a huge number of hours on Dragonforce. That game still has not come out as a re-release on another system and it is a real shame. To top things, off his Saturn is long-dead and there's no real viable ways to play the game anymore. We also always hoped that Dragonforce 2 would get localized and released in NA, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    Dragonforce was re-released on the PS2, and it just hit the PS3 as a PS2-download in japan. There is strong rumors that it may come stateside on PSN or XBLA.

    The sequel is being translated by fans right now. Like the Shining Force 3 scenarios, it'll be playable on a real saturn via a mod chip or the swap trick.

    I knew that Dragonforce 1 was rereleased in Japan in several bundles, but I don't remember it coming to NA/English.

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    A friend and I played a huge number of hours on Dragonforce. That game still has not come out as a re-release on another system and it is a real shame. To top things, off his Saturn is long-dead and there's no real viable ways to play the game anymore. We also always hoped that Dragonforce 2 would get localized and released in NA, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    Dragonforce was re-released on the PS2, and it just hit the PS3 as a PS2-download in japan. There is strong rumors that it may come stateside on PSN or XBLA.

    The sequel is being translated by fans right now. Like the Shining Force 3 scenarios, it'll be playable on a real saturn via a mod chip or the swap trick.

    I knew that Dragonforce 1 was rereleased in Japan in several bundles, but I don't remember it coming to NA/English.

    It didn't come to North America on the PS2. But Sega is apparently interested in mining its Sega Ages collection and localizing them. Dragonforce is a game that has been tossed around quite a bit as a game that could come over. Sega is apparently interested in appeasing saturn fans.

  • AnakinOUAnakinOU Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    SteevL wrote: »
    I got a Saturn rather late: roughly around 2002. Ended up getting two multi-taps and enough controllers to play a few 10-player Saturn Bomberman games. Good times.

    Also, Death Tank Zwei!

    I came here to post about those two. Good man.


    Other Saturn goodies not yet mentioned:

    Guardian Heroes. Man, crazy great game.
    Virtua Cop 1 & 2 - Light gun goodness. It's a shame that genre is dead, thanks to modern display tech.
    Christmas NiGHTS (Supposedly will be included in the NiGHTS HD remake coming soon...)
    carmofin wrote: »
    One such game is The Legend of Oasis, which I thoroughly enjoyed....
    I also have yet to play Dark Saviour, Landstalker being my alltime favorite game in existence, I haven't dared to touch it considering the mixed opinions on it.

    Yeah, Legend of Oasis is a great Zelda-like. And I remember Dark Savior being quite fun, too (I even played through it the 3-4 different ways you could), aside from one horrendous platforming section (floating castle in the sky, bad 3/4 perspective...not fun).

    AnakinOU on
  • Shady3011Shady3011 Registered User regular
    Oh hey, I totally forgot about Princess Crown. I really wish we got some kind of localization for that game.

  • CaedwyrCaedwyr Registered User regular
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    A friend and I played a huge number of hours on Dragonforce. That game still has not come out as a re-release on another system and it is a real shame. To top things, off his Saturn is long-dead and there's no real viable ways to play the game anymore. We also always hoped that Dragonforce 2 would get localized and released in NA, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    Dragonforce was re-released on the PS2, and it just hit the PS3 as a PS2-download in japan. There is strong rumors that it may come stateside on PSN or XBLA.

    The sequel is being translated by fans right now. Like the Shining Force 3 scenarios, it'll be playable on a real saturn via a mod chip or the swap trick.

    I knew that Dragonforce 1 was rereleased in Japan in several bundles, but I don't remember it coming to NA/English.

    It didn't come to North America on the PS2. But Sega is apparently interested in mining its Sega Ages collection and localizing them. Dragonforce is a game that has been tossed around quite a bit as a game that could come over. Sega is apparently interested in appeasing saturn fans.


    That would be excellent news. It's a game with a huge amount of depth to it, and a lot of replayability as every kingdom has its own campaign that plays differently.

  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited July 2012
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    Caedwyr wrote: »
    A friend and I played a huge number of hours on Dragonforce. That game still has not come out as a re-release on another system and it is a real shame. To top things, off his Saturn is long-dead and there's no real viable ways to play the game anymore. We also always hoped that Dragonforce 2 would get localized and released in NA, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    Dragonforce was re-released on the PS2, and it just hit the PS3 as a PS2-download in japan. There is strong rumors that it may come stateside on PSN or XBLA.

    The sequel is being translated by fans right now. Like the Shining Force 3 scenarios, it'll be playable on a real saturn via a mod chip or the swap trick.

    I knew that Dragonforce 1 was rereleased in Japan in several bundles, but I don't remember it coming to NA/English.

    It didn't come to North America on the PS2. But Sega is apparently interested in mining its Sega Ages collection and localizing them. Dragonforce is a game that has been tossed around quite a bit as a game that could come over. Sega is apparently interested in appeasing saturn fans.


    That would be excellent news. It's a game with a huge amount of depth to it, and a lot of replayability as every kingdom has its own campaign that plays differently.

    Sega has stellar DD support, and I've been hearing that they want to tap their Sega Saturn library quite a bit lately. They've localized games for DD lately - namely the arcade version of Wonderboy in Monster Land (which is actually a long lost localiztion from the 80's that was never released due to the game not leaving japan) and Monster World IV (which was an entirely new translation done for download). They've shifted a major focus of the company to DD, too. I think there's a strong possibility Dragon Force could come.

    reviewbugtoosat-6.jpg

    I remember, during the time when the Saturn was alive, the search for a good 3D platformer was painful. The system never really got one - NiGHTS was awesome, but it certainly wasn't a 3D platformer. Bug! was terrible. But Bug! Too is surprisingly decent. It does much more interesting things with the camera, and the level design is generally better and a bit easier to swallow. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either.

    Radiant_Emerald.jpg

    Sonic R actually is the closest the saturn got to a real, 3D sonic game. When you play the game proper - that is, get all the emeralds and then beat the rivals one on one, you find there is a surprising amount of depth to the game that puts it beyond a normal racing game. The hideous controls are a lot more tolerable on an analog controller once you realize that you use up and down as a 3D throttle, and the L and R triggers to steer. However, while I'd call it enjoyable at best, it's certainly not a great game nor a game to point to for someone looking for a decent 3D platformer.

    21832269.jpg

    Croc was probably the closest the Saturn got to a real 3D platformer, in the vein of Mario 64. It's very basic compared to the ground breaking Mario game, and even falls a bit short compared to the Playstation's closest counterpart, Spyro the Dragon. And, to make matters worse, it was also available on the Playstation... and the Playstation version is better. But, despite all this, it's still probably the closest to a real 3D platformer on the system, and something that those who are starved for such a game to latch onto.

    burning_rangers.jpg
    burning_rangers-10.jpg
    burning-rangers.jpg

    Burning Rangers come so very close to not only being the stand-out platformer on the system, but also a great game in it's own regard. However, it is short on length - only 4 (long) levels, with the ability to replay with random level layouts (and new parts of the levels not seen before). It makes for a fun old-school feel, especially in subsequent playthroughs when you turn on randomization, but it doesn't match the depth of Mario 64 or even Crash Bandicoot 2. The actual platforming is fine, however. It feels like a very prototypical Sonic Adventure, although it's more of an action game than a straight up platformer.

    And that's pretty much it for the 3D platformer options on the system. There is a bit better variety if you're into 2D, including Astal, Super Tempo, Rayman, and the superior version of Megaman 8, but not much earth shattering. Certainly no Mario World or Sonic the Hedgehog.

    Being a platforming fan with the saturn was tough. Platforming games were my favorite genre in the 16-bit era, and going cold turkey on the Saturn was very difficult. I'd eventually turn to my Playstation to satisfy my craving for platforming, preferring the feel of the Crash Bandicoot series to stuff like Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64.

    TheSonicRetard on
    DraguscloudKamiroZilla360
  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    Your OP is incomplete.



    Ahh... there we go.


    I didn't get into the Saturn until very late in its life... maybe '97? I still have most of my games for it. I remember seeing Panzer Dragoon Saga in the bargain bin at TRU for $19.99 and picked up two copies for friends (already had, and still have, one). I wish I'd realized then how rare it was because I would have bought the other four. My wife once in a while jokes with me that we should sell it. I respond joking that we should get a divorce. ;-)

    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    Shadowfire wrote: »
    Your OP is incomplete.



    Ahh... there we go.

    I'm actually writing up a section on marketing and advertising right now, and I'm going into the marketing for each region, as they were all quite different. I believe marketing also played a major factor in the demise of the Sega Saturn.
    I didn't get into the Saturn until very late in its life... maybe '97? I still have most of my games for it. I remember seeing Panzer Dragoon Saga in the bargain bin at TRU for $19.99 and picked up two copies for friends (already had, and still have, one). I wish I'd realized then how rare it was because I would have bought the other four. My wife once in a while jokes with me that we should sell it. I respond joking that we should get a divorce. ;-)

    I got Panzer Dragoon Saga earlier this year. I had a chance to get it back in late '97 as EB Games was liquidating their stock and passed on it for Magic Knight Rayearth, which I figured would become rarer as it was the last game made for the system and a working designs game. When I went back to pick up PDS later, it was already gone. Earlier this year, I bought a bunch of rare saturn games for a really cheap price, including another copy of Shining Force III, which I traded away for PDS. Those final days of Sega Saturn sales in the US are almost all the same. Sometime late in 1997, it became apparent that the Saturn was on its way out and suddenly people found games being almost given away across the country. A lot of people passed on them, but I got a ton of great games at the time for dirt cheap, including Sonic R, Burning Rangers, Shining Force III, Fighter's Megamix, World Series Baseball 98, etc.

    Definitely a great time to buy saturn stuff.

  • anoffdayanoffday To be changed whenever Anoffday gets around to it. Registered User regular
    I remember playing a Saturn as a kid in a game store, but sadly that's about as much experience as I have with it. I really should try to hunt one down and play some of these games.

    Steam: offday
  • GrimthwackerGrimthwacker Registered User regular
    SEGATA SANSHIRO! SEGATA SANSHIRO! SEGA SATUUUUUN, SHIROOOOOOOOO!!!!!

    Ah, a TSR Saturn thread. Should be good for learnin' AND reminiscin'. I didn't own that many Saturn games, all things considered, but the big ones were there; Fighters Megamix, Burning Rangers, the Panzer games, all that good stuff. The system was also my avenue for playing some of the great FPSes that I couldn't play on my non-existent PC like Duke Nukem 3D and Quake, both of which were very well done by Lobotomy Software. My brother also got his hands on a cart that could play imports like X-Men vs. Street Fighter and DoA. Good times.

  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    Yea, I really got into it for Marvel Super Heroes and X-Men vs. Street Fighter. Later when MvSF came out I was further in heaven.

    Also, Burning Rangers. One of the few games I've sold in the past that I really regret. Hence why there are now some games I will never sell off (PDS, Suikoden 2, etc).

    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
  • Shady3011Shady3011 Registered User regular
    Croc on the Saturn had (has if you have the PAL version) a hilarious bug where if you booted up the game from a cold boot Croc and enemies would be headless.

  • LolkenLolken Registered User, __BANNED USERS
    I mantain that the beat-'em-up game scene would've been vastly different today had Guardian Heroes been released in the PSX. It was an awesome game, way ahead of its time.

  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    Lolken wrote: »
    I mantain that the beat-'em-up game scene would've been vastly different today had Guardian Heroes been released in the PSX.

    In that it would still exist outside of Castle Crashers.

    Guardian Heroes is still my favorite game of all time (or at least in my top 3).

    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    Lolken wrote: »
    I mantain that the beat-'em-up game scene would've been vastly different today had Guardian Heroes been released in the PSX. It was an awesome game, way ahead of its time.

    Sega should have ported Golden Axe: The revenge of Death Addler to the Sega Saturn or 32X. That likely wouldn't have changed the fate of the beat 'em up genre, but we'd have at least one more awesome game to play.

  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    Also, I really want the D&D collection. I wish it didn't cost $Texas.

    Did Shadow Over Mystara ever get released in US arcades? I only ever saw Tower of Doom.

    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
  • TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    Shadowfire wrote: »
    Also, I really want the D&D collection. I wish it didn't cost $Texas.

    Did Shadow Over Mystara ever get released in US arcades? I only ever saw Tower of Doom.

    I dunno if it was released in the US. Mine is an Asia grey board that has been phoenixed.

  • Shady3011Shady3011 Registered User regular
    Yeah. It was released over here.

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