Monday, 21 January 2008

A brief history with the Sega Saturn

I must regretfully begin my first post with a shameful admission... I wasn't always a fan of the Sega Saturn. Back in 1995, when the system was prepped for release in the United States, I was absolutely convinced that the console would be a failure and a waste of money. Hey, don't give me that dirty look! It would be hard to come to any other conclusion after the 32X!

However, I would not hold that opinion for long. Out of morbid curiosity, a friend and I decided to rent the Sega Saturn and some games. One of our choices was NightWarriors: Darkstalker's Revenge, the sequel to one of my arcade favorites. I was utterly floored by the quality of the conversion... the enormous sprites, smooth animation, and vibrant colors that were once the exclusive domain of pool halls and laundromats were now on my television set, with no apparent compromises. It was truly a defining moment for me as a gamer.

After that day, my faith in Sega was restored, and my loyalties had shifted from the Playstation to the Saturn, even in the light of Sony's increasing market domination. So enamored was I with the system that I purchased my first Saturn game (NightWarriors, natch) a month before I could actually afford the console!

When I moved to Arizona and bought a Saturn of my very own, that's when my tiny collection exploded. NightWarriors was quickly joined by Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Marvel Super Heroes. Shortly afterward, I took my collection beyond the borders of versus fighting, purchasing any games I could find. Fortunately, at the tail end of 1997, Saturn games weren't hard to track down, and they were even easier to afford. It was rare for me to purchase a game at full price, thanks to all the clearance sales and the dozens of games available at Bookman's. For those of you who've never stepped foot into the Arid Zone, that's a really cool used entertainment store that's like Barnes & Noble, GameStop, and Sam Goody all rolled into one. But I digress!

By 1998, I had roughly forty games, but that still wasn't enough to satisfy me. Saturn titles were starting to dry up in America, thanks in large part to the short-sighted leadership of Sega's American branch. I had to turn to the far East to get my fix, and in April, I ordered my first import title from National Console Support. That game was Waku Waku 7, a tournament fighter that borrowed all of its heroes from popular Japanese films and television shows. That was quickly followed by King of Fighters '97... I played this in arcades whenever I had the chance, and was impressed with the Saturn conversion, lengthy load times aside.

Then came the coup de grace. While surfing online, I met a collector from Japan who needed to pad out his library of Sega Genesis games. That system was as unpopular in the land of the rising sun as the Saturn was here, making its games extremely rare. So we started trading... I sent him Spiderman: Arcade's Revenge and Snatcher, and received Japanese Saturn releases like Layer Section and Grandia in return. Soon, I had thirty import games to go along with
my collection of US titles. And the difference in quality between Japanese and American releases is nothing short of massive... frankly, I can't blame Americans who don't like the Saturn, because they missed out on the good stuff.

Today, the Sega Saturn has been technologically eclipsed by the Dreamcast and a half dozen other game systems. Despite this, I'm more proud than ever to be a fan of the system, because I know I'm not alone. The Saturn Junkyard is only one of a dozen sites dedicated to the underappreciated console, and with the internet bridging the gap between the United States and Japan, more people than ever recognize the Saturn's full potential. We're experiencing a 21st century renaissance of a system whose genius had went unrecognized, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

9 comments:

nick944 said...

great first post arugulaz!!! I can't wait to start getting some import games. I just won a brand new Saturn Netlink for a total of $16! :)

fatherkrishna said...

"We're experiencing a 21st century renaissance of a system whose genius had went unrecognized, and I'm proud to be a part of it."

Those words just leave a lump in my throat! A fabulous first post Arugulaz, which summarises brilliantly the Saturn path that lead you here!

Excellent stuff! :)

elend said...

Thanks Arugulaz. Your post brought some tears to my eyes. I had a very bad start with the Saturn, too!

The most significant difference between me and many of other Saturn freaks, is probably that I bought the Saturn in the year 2000. Long time after its demise. At first I hated it, because I had a PAL one and crappy games only. My love flourished, as soon as I realized, that I need a japanese Saturn. No wonder it failed in the US and EUR markets, since many of the best games are japanese only! A real shame.

Yet I am kinda happy, that I haven't bought the Saturn back in 1995, because it managed to capture my heart without any childhood memories (which tend to make people blind) and with the uber tough competition, that was the Playstation and it's gorgeous titles at that time (Ridge Racer 4, Soul Reaver and the likes). So the Saturn love is somewhat pure for me. :D

NebachadnezzaR said...

Great first post ArugulaZ, it's always interesting to know about the past of Saturn fans and how was their contact with the console, looks like everyone walked a different path that ultimately converged into this hallowed place.

I would love to see pictures of your collection, maybe in a next post... :)

Caleb said...

Great post!

I got Darkstalkers 2 recently and it does kick ass.

However, PLEASE tell me you kept a copy of Snatcher for yourself!!?!?!?

ArugulaZ said...

Nah, I'm afraid not... I don't really dig the digital comic genre. I understand that Snatcher for the Sega CD has become something of a holy grail among collectors, but for me, having fun is the highest priority, and the Saturn games I received in that trade were far more entertaining to me than a digital version of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.

elend said...

I always wondered what those Snatcher and Policenauts thingies are about anyways? Weren't they japan only releases? I wonder how so many people played them, considering that they heavily rely on text.

The GagaMan(n) said...

Great first post! You still sound like Seaman though ;p

(I'm joking, of course! But not really.)

fatherkrishna said...

LOL! Be nice Gagaman(n)! I know you're just playing... Are you ready for that interview soon?