Monday, 29 December 2008

Dezaemon 2 Shmup Galore - Part 2!

Ho, ho, ho, it has been Christmas... again!

Wasn't it like yesterday, that the Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager has been released by the staff around Christmas? Damn, as time goes by. It's actually 1 year by now and I wasn't even able to finish some "projects" regarding Dezaemon, which I had in the pipeline. But don't worry, soon they'll be finished and be posted here.

But the more important news today is, that the staff wasn't lazy and actually released the Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager Volume 2! Oh my, what a feast. This thing opens - once again - the world of Dezaemon 2 user made shmups to you and your Saturn. On the CD are approx. 70 games and I think there are once again quite some pearls amongst them. The "Urban" series for example, which consists of "Urban Assault" (horizontal) and "Urban Uprising" (vertical).

(click for bigger versions)

Check out those great and moody graphics! Don't tell me, you wouldn't love to play all this. So, go head to and download the ISO of the Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager Volume 2 and be sure to cancel all apointments, since you'll need weeks to go through all those games.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Sega + Xbox = Awesomeness!

Can you guess what was the first game I tried on my recently purchased Xbox? No, not Jet Set Radio Future, I was already playing that on my 360. It was none other than Panzer Dragoon Orta! The only title in this magnificent series not released on the Saturn, I've waited for a chance to play it ever since it was first announced. Now, I'm not the biggest Panzer Dragoon fan out there, but I played the PD Zwei demo to death when I was a kid, and one of the first games I played when I bought my second (and current) Saturn was the original PD, so I really like the series, even though I've yet to beat Zwei and never even played Saga (it's on my list...).

Anyway, now it was the time to see how the only 128bits game in the series compared to the rest of the pack, and oh boy, was I in for a surprise. This game is fucking brilliant! I know you were expecting a more elaborate opinion, but to cut it short, that's just how it is. The game plays very much like the predecessors, you control a kid (in this case, a girl) riding a dragon through a pre-determined path and you basically just have to shoot your way out (though you don't necessarily have to kill everything), hence the name "on-rails shooter".

But, of course, Sega didn't just want to do the same thing again, they had to introduce some new twists. Now you can accelerate and decelerate your dragon to strategically position yourself on the battlefield and, even better, you can change its form. No shit, it's like having 3 dragons instead of one! Don't worry, though, for this doesn't mean that you'll have to bust your head trying to figure out what to do. The acceleration thing is only needed in some situations and the forms of the dragon are more a matter of personal taste than necessity. Some situations call for a specific form, like when there's a swarm of weak, little enemies the rapid fire of the "glide" form comes in handy, and the powerful shot of the "heavy" form helps beating some bosses, but in the end this is an action game, not strategy.

Then come the graphics, and OMG, isn't this game gorgeous. Even nowadays it still blew me away. That's because it excells not only from a purely techically point of view, but from an artistic one too. The PD universe is unique and surreal, no question about that, and this game explores that like no other. It's just...I can't really express it through words, but trust me, this game is beautiful, in any and every sense of the word. Pictures don't do it justice, and neither do videos, you really have to play it and see it in motion before your eyes. The level design is basically perfect, the scenarios are unique and varied and everything fits together so well... Playing this game is an unreal, truly fantastic experience.

Finally, to top it off, there's the extras. Not only is this a pretty long game considering genre standards (depending on player skill, it can last as long as most action games/FPS of today), but it features tons of unlockables. Really, there's a lot of stuff to unlock. You'll find detailed information about the game's universe, concept art, bonus missions with new character's/dragons and even a port of the original Panzer Dragoon! Woot!

So, in the end, this game is awesome. It's a god-send gift for fans of the series, a must-have, game something that proves that Sega didn't die with the end of the Dreamcast. Heck, it's so awesome they even made a limited edition Xbox after it!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Bring a taste of the Saturn to the Xbox 360

Since all the other members of the Junkyard are posting, I might as well chip in a little information about my latest project. A few months ago, I modified a Sega Saturn controller to work with a handful of game systems, including the GameCube, Wii, Nintendo 64, and 3DO. For the Cube and Nintendo 64, it was mostly a matter of personal preference, but anyone who's actually played the 3DO knows that the system was begging for an alternative to its heinous stock joypads.

The only console that I wasn't able to persuade to play nice with my hacked Saturn controller was the Xbox 360. The system uses a security protocol to filter out input from any controllers not licensed by Microsoft, and many of the official joypads use multiple grounds, forcing you to connect two wires to each pad. It's a frustrating situation, because although the stock Xbox 360 controllers are very good for their intended purpose, playing old-school titles like Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting and Pac-Man Championship Edition is a complete chore with that kludgy D-pad.

Fortunately, there was a ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel of mushy, imprecise control. A post on the Digital Press web site revealed that the MadCatz Arcade Stick was the ideal candidate for a controller hack... it's relatively cheap, licensed by Microsoft, and has a single ground, greatly reducing the amount of wires necessary for the modification. Best of all, I actually had one of these sticks in my closet! I went right to work, grabbing some spare parts lying around the house and heating up the old soldering iron in preparation for the hack.

Several hours of careful soldering and testing later, this was the end result:

There were a few hiccups along the way... I had to resolder a couple of wires that had broken off during playtesting. After this happened several times, I used a hot glue gun to permanently hold the wires in place. A good solder connection will hold fast under some stress, but glue offers that extra insurance in case you get a little too involved in a game and give the controller a not-so-friendly tug.

After a shot of glue on all the connections, the controller worked consistently, and continues to perform well even after several days of thorough testing. The only major issue I've had is that there just aren't enough buttons on the Saturn controller to handle all of the Xbox 360's functions. L3 and R3 aren't much of a loss (who uses the buttons under the thumbsticks, anyway?), but the absence of Guide and Back buttons is greatly felt; especially in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night where Back is used to access the inventory screen.

Nevertheless, I'm really happy with this hack. It's already boosted my scores in Xbox Live Arcade games, but more importantly, it's made them a lot more fun to play. If you're interested in giving this controller mod a shot, first check out this earlier post, then use this schematic as a guide. You don't need to be an electronics engineer to make this work, but some experience with a soldering iron is a must.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Happy Second Birthday SJY!!!

Thanks to two computers packing up in my house recently (my laptop power lead snapped where you plug it in and my PC has just given up and died) I've been unable to do much in the blogosphere of late... Having finally wrestled my son's laptop off him for about half an hour and so much has happened since I last checked in.

The first, is the most welcome addition to the family of newest contributor Martin (see below.)

The second is that I've missed the announcement of the second birthday of the Saturn Junkyard! DOH! So even if it is a few days late, may I take the opportunity to thank all our contributors, commentors and readers for helping to keep the memory of one of the finest consoles of all time well and truly alive.

Things may not have been a tad slow round here for a while due to the reasons mentioned below by Nebacha, but rest assured that there will be plenty of Saturn love posted here before our third birthday in December 2009!

Monday, 15 December 2008

You know it's Christmas when...

Firstly, I must say how humble I am to write on this well established blog. Hopefully my contributions will give you as much pleasure reading them as I have in writing them. I'm Martin, and I also write for the Dreamcast Junkyard. Obsessed with the SEGA of old and Japan, I think I can add something to this excellent blog on the SEGA Saturn.

Even though I am writing a Ph.D thesis at the moment Neb, I think I can squeeze in a little SEGA lovin'! I am indeed a segata sanshiro セガタサンシロ follower! I actually sang his song in karaoke in 2006 in Japan... you have no idea how huge he is there. People aged between 17 and 27 know exactly whom Segata is, which is just perfect. As for reading and writing Japanese, yup - I'll do my best! I know enough to get by in the games and also enjoy quite a lot of the more intricate titles... SEGAGAGA anyone...?

You know it's well and truly Christmas when you dig out your copy of Christmas NiGHTS on the Saturn and sit in awe of the amazing graphics and playability (especially if you have the analogue controller) of the Sonic Team creation: NiGHTS. 

As has been well documented before, Christmas NiGHTS is pretty much a demo version of NiGHTS, with a Christmas theme. It uses the Saturn's internal clock (CR2032 battery dependent) to 'skin' the game. In November, it's Winter NiGHTS, April is April Fool's NiGHTS and New Year also has a skin. 

Imaginative and hasn't been seen in games since. Maybe it's because most games these days are pieces of crap you don't want to come back to year after year...

I thought I would give a teeny-tiny background on the way I game and what my main system is. As you can see on the left, I have a model 2 Saturn. I also have the original model 2 Saturn that I bought back in 1996 - untouched. This Saturn however, is heavily modded. There's a region select switch (3 way) and a 50/60hz switch. The LED is also a bright blue one which is a nice touch I think.

In time, I'll review some of the 404 games I have for the Saturn... I have 404 Backup Games, 20 PAL originals and 102 Japanese Originals... and still collecting! Looking forward to getting involved in the Saturn Junkyard - this console gave me the most heartache when I was a young lad... too expensive for Christmas... friend bought PlayStation and eventually that won... oh SEGA. Merry Christmas Sonic Team, SEGA of old, and to you all!

And then there were...7? Wow...

That's right, folks, we're now 7 (that's SEVEN!!!) here at the Yard. Since this place has been a little dead lately, I thought we could use the help of another Saturn enthusiast and Segata Sanshiro follower (I hope, forgot to ask him that...). So, everyone say hello to マーティン (that's Martin in Japanese)! He's a SEGA fan from Manchester (hey, Father, you two could have a beer together. Drink one for me too :D) and he has been in Japan for...I don't know, he'll give you the details. What matters is that he actually can talk and write in Japanese, which no doubtly will be of use to the Yard, since finally we'll have someone who can read import games (my little knowledge of katakana doesn't take me too far...).

But, more important than that, he's a true SEGA fan and his enthusiasm was what first made me want to add it to the team, so welcome Martin! Hope you'll bring some life to the Yard while Father K recovers from his shoulder, gnome works on his dissertation, ArugulaZ prepares a new video, elend waits for new weird merchandise to buy, caleb finds some game to talk about and I finish the fucking end of semester exams.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Fighting Force prototype

I finally had the time to try out the Fighting Force (Judgement Force/Streets of Rage 3D/Metal Fist/Whatever...) prototype and, oh boy, am I glad that we could finally put our hands on this beauty. The first thing I noticed was that, for an early version, this game both plays and looks very good. It has good graphics and, more importantly, the framerate is both fast and constant, so no slowdowns or slow gameplay. Speaking about gameplay, the game offers more options than your average brawler. Besides kicking, punching and jumping, you can also do a special, rotating attack; punch behind you (useful when surrounded) or charge against your enemies. There are also some weapons, but I couldn't get firearms to work, only clubs and the like.

Other than that, I can't really comment on the similarities and differences between this and the final PSX version because I haven't played that game in a long time, but a lot of the stages seem familiar to me, like primitive versions of what ended up in the final version. It was definitely a shame that this one got cancelled, it would be a blast for any Die Hard Arcade fans since they both play very similar, but at least now we can have a taste of what that would be like.