Monday, 28 September 2020

Impact Racing - No Horn, Lasers!

When you want some high octane in your tank and you’re tired of taking crap from the drivers next to you in other racing games, look no further! Impact Racing has to be one of the most underwhelming title by comparison to its content. Yeah, you’ve got impact, but you’ve also got lasers, ion cannons and mines in order to destroy your opponents. The destruction is wonderfully therapeutic and you get your money’s worth in speed! It’s the kind of racing and gunning fun you’ve been looking for, if that’s your thing. 

The graphics aren’t the best, even by 1996 standards, but they get the point across and do not hinder your ability to take down your opponents. With an overhead radar view, you get the chance to take down enemies from behind you with the mines. There is no ammo cap on neither lasers nor mines, so have a ball! You can fire both at once.

That’s not to say it’s always that easy. Sometimes, you’ve got quite the strenuous time limit to get to the checkpoints. Destroying enemies can supply you with extra five second blocks, but that’s at random, and it’s not always guaranteed that you will be directly behind them to catch the time block. However, taking down other racers can also supply you with special ammunition and armor. If you take down enough enemies, you will also get a bonus stage for a chance to upgrade your weapon even further!

This is raw retro gaming and it is just plain fun! This game is just something you can pick up and play within a moment’s notice. It’s nice and challenging and the 32-bit graphics will bring you back to a simpler time when games were made for fun. The one real strike against this game is that there is no 2-Player mode, which is very unfortunate, though not uncommon for racing games back in the day. Still, if you see this for a reasonable price, by all means do not hesitate to add it to your Sega Saturn collection. Virtua Laser Strike!!!

Sunday, 6 September 2020

The House of the Dead - Digital Zombie Brains


If you have ever been to an arcade of any quality at all, you’ve probably seen The House of the Dead in one of the corners. There were two shiny red and blue guns and a whole bunch of zombies coming out of the woodworks to eat your face! So, from the arcade to the home console, you can tell that there are some differences among the similarities. It’s still the infectious undead package it was in the big box, it’s just taken a couple of hits. 

This game was given a lot of flak for how much quality it lost in the translation from cabinet to Saturn and somehow it lost a lot of face in the process. Yeah, the graphics weren’t as good and the frame rate was crawling at some points. Whatever happened to “Graphics don’t make the Game?” There are times when they can seriously get in the way and sometimes some of the more wobbly polygons can go a ways to make you sick. The House of the Dead had none of this. It’s just some of the textures became dulled and some of the features on character renders didn’t look quite as good. 

The gameplay and the game itself is still the same at its very core. There is still plenty of brain-sucking freaks coming at you as you take them all down in a blaze of glory. You can play two player and you have a lot more content than you did in the arcade (not to mention, you don’t need to keep churning coins into it) like different characters and gameplay. None of these graphical downgrades get in the way of putting bullets in dead people. 

Not only was it just the novelty of bringing a fully 3D game home after years of going to the arcade, but the fact that you could bring a friend to play with you as well. It’s something of a bonding experience, shooting at a screen next to a friend is very satisfying. Do I wish the graphics didn’t glitch so much? Yeah, maybe, but that goes away just as fast as it came. 

Now, bad things about this game that actually affect it are more of a problem with the enemy mechanics. Sometimes, there were these monkeys (yes, you heard me correctly) and it seemed like no matter how many times you shot them down, they kept getting back up. Armored and hard to kill enemies can get a little tedious sometimes, especially when there are sections of the entire level that seem to feature them exclusively. Then there’s the times when monsters immediately pop up in front of you and slash you. This is a common problem with many railshooters and it feels like a cheap way to  score a free hit on the players who don’t see it coming. Even when you saw it coming, there’s a chance you won’t react in time. 

The real love that is given to this game is not only in the therapeutic killing of zombie hordes, but also the many types of zombies and monsters that you encounter along the way. There are sludgy swamp zombies, zombie frogs, zombie worms, leatherhead chainsaw zombies and big huge brute zombies! There are monsters of all sorts gathered for the boss levels and some of them are still archetypes of the genre! The discovery of these creatures is only beaten by the sight of their heads exploding and their torsos being blown off! 

With cheesy dialogue and nonsensical mad scientist plots and schemes, this game is a campy corny masterpiece. It may not look as shiny or run quite as well as its arcade counterpart but there is still so much to love about this port of the game. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to find a PS1 version. (Oh, snap!)

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Five Platform Games On The Saturn Which Still Hold Up In 2020

Do you ever start something and think to yourself; "I really don't know what I'm doing here..."? Well I think that is the starting point for this brief consideration of platform games on the Saturn. As I started, I realised I didn't really have the exhaustive knowledge necessary to write this article, that I was unaware of all examples of the genre available for our 32 Bit obsession, and that I hadn't even played any of these games sufficiently to actually pass judgement on them.

SO - please look upon this written passage as a way for you to dip your toe in the waters of Saturn platforming, rather than an exhaustive deep dive into the ocean of up and down, left to right and occasional back and forth...

My initial consideration was about the exact type of game I should include... should I include games such as Sonic 3D, NiGHTS or Burning Rangers? Should I include Castlevania or Metal Slug - both of which contain platforming elements - the directional side to side and up & down movement, being integral to both games? Should I include Clockwork Knight - (by far my most played Saturn platformer, but also one which I had highlighted before?) In order to cover myself on all fronts, let's just re-brand this article as "5 Platform Games On The Saturn (Part 1)" implying there will be careful consideration of other games in the future!

Okay, caveat over, we'll dive straight in...

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Duke Nukem 3D - Don't Steal Our Chicks

A game that needs very little introduction on its own and was another landmark in the First Person Shooter genre of video games. Duke Nukem wasn’t perfect, but it certainly was a fantastic way to jump from Doom to a new age of games when it came to play style. Where Doom made different vertical levels possible, Duke Nukem made it to where you could not only jump, vertical aim and platform, but also fly around on a jet pack. There were now recognizable structures that you could view around a city with different environments and entire alien worlds.

After the abysmal port of Doom to the Sega Saturn, many might think that Duke would be similarly tainted by framerate and movement problems. The exact opposite is true, as it ported the game with seemingly no differences and even did it better than the Playstation and the N64. Textures, lighting and graphics were transported to the system and it delivered on an amazing scale.

As said before, it wasn’t perfect. Using the controller was a bit of a switch from the normal keyboard and mouse and it took some getting used to, especially when it came to things like aiming. However, the learning curve worked well with the levels. As difficulty grew, so too did your ability to use the Saturn controller. Many, such as myself, played this port of Duke Nukem more than the PC itself.

With such great innovations as environments rich with both detail and interactivity, Duke Nukem had a great deal of high points that still shine bright today. The main character was a badass, although his one-liners weren’t exactly what we’d call original. His large array of weapons was a lot of fun to sort through and test out in the battlefield.

While his franchise didn’t exactly pan out very well at the end of it, it certainly shined in the early games. Duke Nukem 3D remains the best game in the entire line-up and that is not an insult to the other games. They even made the conversion over to the Saturn with grace and elegance and you can master the controls in no time. If you have the opportunity to pick up this title, do not hesitate. Although, it has become somewhat pricey among the retro gaming community. Just stay safe and game well while you’re drinking water.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Modern Controllers on the Saturn and Dreamcast: Early Impressions of the Brook Wingman SD

Let’s just get this out of the way: the original, Japanese-style Saturn gamepad is one hell of a controller. It’s easily one of the greatest ever crafted…for 2D games.

When it comes to 3D, the Sega Saturn’s pedigree is considerably more complicated. Sega’s initial attempt at an analog controller – the 3D control pad – was a perfectly serviceable, albeit rough-around-the-edges attempt at giving Saturn players a handle on the third dimension. But it worked well enough. As an early showpiece title for the controller, NiGHTS into Dreams drew us in with its vibrant, imaginative worlds and addicting score attack premise. Yet it was our seamless connection to the game’s smooth and blistering flow – thanks largely to the 3D control pad – that cemented Sonic Team’s soaring jester simulator among the Saturn’s most beloved and iconic games. At the very least, it was clear that analog controls were our future.
Unfortunately, like most other consumer products of the 1990s, those original 3D control pads were not made to last forever. After two and a half decades of wear and tear, their fraying rubber membranes and wobbly analog sticks are slowly becoming more rules than exceptions. Inevitably, there will be a day when our passion for 3D Saturn games like NiGHTS will outlive our ability to fully play them as intended on original hardware. In the meantime, we’ll just have to enjoy our ratty old 3D controllers while they last…

That is, unless we had a viable alternative.

It’s not for a lack of trying. A couple of years ago, Retro-Bit announced plans to produce its own aftermarket 3D Saturn gamepads. The company has since released its well-received interpretation of Sega’s original 2D Japanese-style pad, yet its 3D analog models ostensibly lie in design stasis. Earlier this year, Retro Fighters launched its BrawlerGen controller for the Genesis and Saturn. With any luck, I hoped it would be the silver bullet that saves the Saturn from an apocalyptic, 3D controller-deprived future.
It wasn’t.

The BrawlerGen’s form factor feels reasonably ergonomic and it sports an analog stick for directional input but it completely lacks analog functionality. Disappointingly, its analog stick simply mimics the d-pad’s eight-way digital input without any of the pressure-sensitive, omni-directional functionality of the original 3D pad. The BrawlerGen is still a useful controller – especially for some Genesis games and non-analog 3D Saturn titles like the original Panzer Dragoon – but it hardly remedies the Saturn’s scarcity of analog controller options.

So here we are. Unlike Retro-Bit and Retro Fighters, gaming peripheral manufacturer Brook has taken a wildly different approach to alleviating that scarcity. Instead of a brand new controller, Brook’s Wingman Converter SD is a controller adapter dongle that lets players use an array of modern gamepads and arcade sticks on both the Saturn and Dreamcast. The company sent me an early unit to test out and write about, so I tested it and now I am writing about it.

So how does it work?
As it turns out, pretty damn well…with plenty of caveats.

The Wingman Converter SD promises wireless and wired compatibility with a variety of modern first party controllers, including the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Switch, and others. It took me a while to get some of them to sync consistently and ultimately, some worked better than others. Granted, most of the PS4 and Xbox One controllers I own are early launch-era models so it’s possible the Wingman simply doesn’t play nice with those older gamepads. At one point, Brook's website also suggested the Wingman would be compatible with some modern arcade sticks. Unfortunately, I don’t own any so I wasn’t able to test them. I’ll also note that I’m using an early pre-production Wingman SD unit so it’s possible – even likely – that some of the issues I mention here will be ironed out before release or via future firmware updates. Hell, even as I've been using this adapter, Brook has already issued a couple of updates which cleaned up some earlier issues I experienced considerably.

After syncing various modern gamepads via their respective USB charging cables (not included), I noticed some fairly major differences in their performance. For instances, my launch Xbox One controller (non-Bluetooth model) felt like it had very little dead zone in its analog stick and was a bit too sensitive, making it more difficult to finesse directional movements. The Switch Pro Controller works reasonably well with the Wingman but because its shoulder buttons (ZL and ZR) lack analog sensitivity, it poses obvious problems for driving games which rely on pressure-sensitive acceleration and braking. That left me with a newer DualShock 4 (Model #CUH-ZCT2U) which I primarily used wirelessly with the Wingman SD. For the purposes of sharing my impressions here, I’m going to focus on my experiences with particular controller.
Playing Dreamcast games with a DualShock: Heresy? Sure, but it’s heresy that works.

Despite some of the quirks I mentioned earlier, the Wingman SD has a great deal of potential to turn modern gamepads into fully functional alternatives for playing 3D games on Sega’s penultimate and swansong platforms. After syncing it with the Wingman, my DualShock 4 worked wirelessly on both consoles with little fuss. Overall, it feels solid where it needs to: it’s highly responsive while adding no discernible lag. Most crucially for games like Burning Rangers and NiGHTS, the PS4’s analog stick supports a full range of granular directional inputs that I’d expect from the original 3D control pad. The trigger buttons also share a comparable range of motion and pressure sensitivity, which is critical for racing games like Manx TT and Sega Rally Championship.

I hesitate to say the Wingman SD and DualShock 4 work better than the original Saturn 3D control pad, but at the very least, it’s a damn fine alternative. There are a couple of Saturn games I feel the Wingman SD works especially well with: Power Slave/Exhumed and Sonic R. Honestly, a lot of this may come down to the DualShock 4’s smoother and more resistant analog stick. It provides a more stable and nuanced feel for these games that is less finicky than Sega’s official 3D pad. Combine that with a more ergonomic formfactor, I really do think the Wingman/DS4 will be my preferred way to play many of these games going forward.

Additionally, the Wingman SD supports button remapping and turbo functions, which is particularly useful as the default face button assignments don't always intuitively between the Saturn and PS4 controllers. As far as I can tell, you can’t swap the analog sticks to map physical movement to the right stick (I’ll get into that in a bit). But with a few button combinations outlined in the instruction manual/website, I was able to remap the face and shoulder buttons fairly easily.
In case you’re wondering how the default button mapping works for using a DualShock 4 with Saturn games, the Wingman assigns X, Y, and Z, to square, triangle, and L1 and A, B, and C to cross, circle, and R1, respectively. This set up works well for most 3D games I’ve tried so far, though I wouldn’t recommend it for games which require equal access to all six face buttons. Honestly, you’ll still want to keep those 2D Saturn pads and arcade sticks handy for shmups, fighting games, etc.

OK, now let’s talk about the Dreamcast because that’s where the Wingman SD will have some extra value. For all of Sega’s groundbreaking and forward-thinking accomplishments, its failure to include a second thumbstick on its Dreamcast controller was almost comically shortsighted. Some developers attempted to design around this by mapping physical movement (forward/backward/strafing) to the Dreamcast controller's face buttons. This was an admirable attempt that worked to the benefit of 3D shooters like Fur Fighters, MDK2, Slave Zero, Quake III Arena, Outtrigger. That said, it was hardly a great, let alone perfect solution.

To that end, the Wingman SD manages to give players a little taste of how dual analog support might have worked on the Dreamcast. Surprisingly enough, it kind of does a solid job at it.

I say “kind of” because neither the Wingman SD nor modern controllers are not going to miraculously convert digital A/B/X/Y inputs into full analog directional inputs. However, they will let players functionally use the left stick for aiming and the right stick for basic eight-way movement for any action/shooting games with those mapping options. For those aforementioned games I’ve tested so far, it works surprisingly well. Unfortunately, the Wingman lets you remap the face and shoulder buttons but not the analog sticks, which means I was basically stuck with a southpaw configuration for my faux dual stick set up. If that’s your preference and/or you’re able to adjust to it (I eventually was), it works reasonably well.
There’s also another Dreamcast-specific feature I should mention. Unlike other controller converters (e.g. the Total Control products) the Wingman SD does not have a VMU port on the unit itself (you can load one from a second controller). However, the unit does function as its own built-in memory card with a full 200 blocks for game saves. For those familiar with Brook’s earlier PS3/PS4-to-Dreamcast Super Converter adapter, which only had a few dozen blocks of memory, the Wingman SD is a notable improvement.

Well, that’s pretty much all I have to say about the Wingman SD for now. Overall, it's an ambitious peripheral and I've encountered plenty of quirks and issues during my time with it. Regardless, the Wingman is a nifty little adapter that I see myself using fairly often going forward. As our older analog sticks grow looser and wobblier – and as Saturn 3D pads become rarer and more expensive – we’ll need solutions like this to keep enjoying those classic 3D games on original hardware. For its part, the Wingman largely succeeds.

The Brook Wingman Converter SD is scheduled to release in mid-July for $49.99.


Thanks for reading -- You can find me on Twitter (@VirtuaSchlub) where I post about random video game musings as well as occasional Junkyard write ups and podcasts.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Sonic R - Life is not a Race

I have talked at length about how Sonic has not had the greatest relationship with the Sega Saturn. With a title like Sonic 3D Blast not meeting a lot of expectations, that is a well long dried up in terms of enticing conversation. It’s not a horrific game, but it certainly doesn’t blow up the skirts of those looking for the high octane action of the original trilogy. Sonic Jam was a massively awesome title, but that’s more because it ported Sonic’s success on the Genesis over to the 5th generation. Not only could you play all three original titles, but you can play all of them with Knuckles as well. Total Sonic win!

Then there is a title that many have overlooked for many reasons. Sonic R is not what we would call a celebrated title among the many games on the Saturn. There are legitimate reasons for this for sure. The graphics are not the greatest by any means. The framerate can dip to some single digits and the glitches in the gameplay can make your skin crawl. Then the controls come along, and yes, you need to get used to them in a very steep learning curve. When you are trying to win this game, it can be a bit of a hassle.

However, when you are going into this game with the idea of “fun” in mind, you can have all kinds. It’s really not hard at all. With a bit of practice and a few friends playing, you can engage in some minigames that the game comes with from the very start! On top of the racing, you can also play tag! That’s right! A racing game with a tag feature! With the awesome characters at your disposal, you can have high speed games of cat and mouse with free exploration of the vast maps as far as the eye can see.

When you have a child to entertain, the possibilities are endless! Quality time can be spent scouring the race tracks for a balloon minigame. Finding the balloons sounds childish as all getout, but why not? Isn’t the point of a game to be fun in our own little ways?

No matter how much this game gets lambasted by the critics and snidely turned down by framerate snobs. This game is still a lot of fun to play. This is not a troll, nor is it saying that it’s the GREATEST SONIC GAME by any means. The love for this game stems from a mixture of both its wide variety of gameplay, its characters and its amazing soundtrack.

The music in this game can never be overstated. It is some of the most energetic, majestic, lyrical tunes on the Sega Saturn. If I were to pit this up against Daytona USA, Sonic R would come out on top, and that’s really saying a lot. From start to finish, this game hits the beats hard and does not stop.

Sonic R is far from perfect and it certainly won’t make a whole lot of favorite games lists. However, there are those of us who still love it for both its pros and its cons. Would I recommend it? No, it’s more for a certain group of people and those willing to forgive its flubs in the graphics and gameplay. On a conventional scale, this game is not good and it deserves all of its critical panning. On another level, the subjective, nostalgic, bleeding heart level, this game is endless fun and deserves a second glance if you’ve got the time. If you’re a Saturn fan, give this game a try and don’t drown in the water. Drink it.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

The Panzer Dragoon Remake: Flying Blind Through Familiar Skies

I’ve always been sympathetic to, and even charmed by Sega’s mid-‘90s transitional struggles. For a time, the company was caught perpetually off guard as the industry conventions it had relied on (and indeed, helped define) crumbled amidst a swift generational shift. Sega adapted, more or less. It eventually forged its own creative renaissance that continues to endear the company to many of us today, even if it was ultimately a victim of that sea change.

In my mind, no game exemplified that precarious phase more than the original Panzer Dragoon. As something of a killer app in the Sega Saturn’s early days, the original title stands as a cult classic, particularly by association with its offspring. Fans maintain an enduring fondness for the original Panzer Dragoon, of course, but it remains even better known for kicking off a remarkable and criminally underappreciated gaming franchise.

For its part, the original Panzer Dragoon was a timid first step in a bold new direction. It navigated a generational chasm between a familiar arcade-action framework and the unbound possibilities of 3D gaming. Between them, Panzer Dragoon took a contorted middle path. It utilized the third dimension to great artistic and mechanical effect, hoisting players atop a majestic dragon and immersing them in a 360˚ perspective as they locked lasers with fantastical beasts in a mysterious, post-apocalyptic setting. Those concepts contributed to a distinct vision and tone that felt entirely new. However, several of the game's structural aspects – like its rigidly linear pathways, finite life/continue counts, and lack of upgrades or progression systems – did not.

The game is about dragons, after all, so in those terms the original Panzer Dragoon was like a young fledgling: confined to well-trodden ground despite its loftier ambitions for flight. With later installments, the series would grow its wings, evolve with more modern conventions, and soar with a swagger to match its ambition.

But now, 25 years later, developer MegaPixel Studio and publisher Forever Entertainment return us to that young fledgling via the Nintendo Switch (for now, with PC and other platforms eventually).

At face value, the Panzer Dragoon remake basically does what it promises. It lets me hop back into the dragon’s saddle and guides me through the linear pathways and familiar locales from the original game. Homing lasers in tow, I again blast the waves of monsters surrounding me. The remake largely succeeds in replicating the basic structure of Panzer Dragoon, no doubt, but it overlooks many of the things which defined its novel vision in the first place. At no point does the Panzer Dragoon remake ever make a compelling case for why it really needed to exist.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Listen to the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast Podcast!

Need a Sega-stuffed podcast in your life? Join us for the latest episode of the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast! Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts!

Find us on all the major podcast sites:

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(Host site)

Friday, 13 March 2020

Battle Arena Toshinden URA - Ultimate Rancid Anus

What do you get when you take an already made sequel to a mediocre (at best) game and jackhammer it into a completely different system than intended? You get a product that looks like it was hastily put together by lego knockoffs. Battle Arena Toshinden URA was meant to be a Sega Saturn release that veered away from the ongoing plot of the main series. Why? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? It’s well known that the Saturn has a completely different operating system than the Playstation, so it’s obvious that they would need to take a different route in its creation.

But, for real, Takara… WHY!? Why would you do this? One single look at this game and your heart will sink. Even if you don’t care all that much about the first one, you still made an effort to get this game in some capacity. Whether it be by money or whatever else, you still spent time to make this game playable and now you look at THIS! The character select screen is enough to cause you to scowl. It is ugly. I know graphics don’t mean everything, but this looks like vomit of the blockiest quality!
That’s not even talking about the gameplay. Oh, no. Those two paragraphs were just about the look and the history of this “game.” As soon as you get to your first match, everything gets much, much worse! The first game was saltine crackers, this game is stale wheat bread on the verge of growing blue fuzz. The controls are as alien as the story concept. The character models are far more half assed than the first and any attempt at any kind of strategy goes just about as well as the first game, if not worse.

You have to try to be this lazy with a game. The concepts of the first game were already shabby enough, but now, you don’t even have a story mode. Oh, no no no, no story what-so-ever is ever really shown. There is a story somewhere in here, and it’s about as nonsensical as you’d expect. You get 5 to 10 second cut scenes that show off their hot new bad guys. These bad guys are so bad, they’re cheap and spam attacks to a ridiculous degree. A big surprise coming from a game so nuanced as this.

So, yes, it’s that bad. It’s even worse than I could have expected, and I was expecting some bad stuff. Remix was no masterpiece, by any means, but it had merit in the ways of dumb fun. This has none of that. The voice clips during the fight sound far worse, and there isn’t even a story mode as a vehicle to show off the cheesy voice acting between characters. Playing the main game is equivalent to an arcade mode. So, with the new characters, you get no character at all, just new fighters. Trust me when I say it’s not worth it. This is definitely a front runner for the worst fighting game on the Sega Saturn!

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Fighters Megamix - Bears and Cars, oh my!

When Fighting Vipers and the Virtua Fighter series just isn’t enough to quench your thirst for combat, you just smash them both together and get your fight on! Fighters Megamix is one of the Saturn exclusives that was a real draw for a lot of people. It was a fighter with a lot of variety. With just over thirty characters to choose from, you can keep yourself nice and busy unlocking twelve of them through their challenge modes. It features maps from both of its parent games, as well as a few you’ve never seen in a fighting game.

What’s great about this game is that you can play with characters that you can’t in other iterations; that includes boss characters. While the framerate can drop in some arenas rather easily, it’s still a lot of fun to play through all of the game modes. The very idea that they included characters like Janet from Virtua Cop 2 or a completely original character like Bean The Dynamite (which is just a bean with a hat) just goes to show you how much fun they had making this game in order for you to play it.

Is this game perfect? No, it’s not. There is something of a real problem with these mechanics. It comes in the form of some of the Fighting Vipers characters. Fighting Vipers not only have an armor mechanic that makes them tougher than usual, but some of them have a fighting style that is entirely too fast for other characters. This becomes very apparent in the Boss Battle challenge. They can get very hard to deal with and their cheap combos will be anger inducing. The best way to handle them is to answer them in kind. Just get yourself a boss Fighting Viper character and go crazy on them.

This also means that balance can be an issue with some of the Fighting Viper characters as opposed to Virtua Fighter’s line up. So, when you’re playing a two player game, just be sure you understand which characters can be played with whom. Either way, this is a perfect game to play with friends for retro parties.

If you’re a lover of 3D fighting games, this is definitely your go to. The fact that you can fight as a car (very poorly, I might add, his controls are atrocious) only adds to how tongue-in-cheek this game is. If nothing else, it’s worth unlocking all of the characters you can and having some fun with friends. Out of all of the fighting games you can find on the Saturn, this one is more than worth your time.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Sonic The Movie - Did It Suck???


Okay first things first, there's something we need to get out of the way before we start. I was always going to love this movie. I love Sega. I love Sonic. I love anything that celebrates, promotes or endorses  either. I'm an unrepentant fanboy.A movie about Sega's mascot in 2020 did not seem very likely a few years ago, as Sonic's decline seemed to be as meteoric as Mario's ascent. Beloved of Retro-gamers in the US and recognised by even the most ardent of non-gamers, Mario could do no wrong. Nintendo seemed to get all the love in the 21st century - the DS, the Wii and the Switch have all been a smash. Every Mario game is hailed as a classic and a plethora of games featuring supporting characters like Luigi, Kirby, Wario and even the lizard guy, all seem to be met with both critical and commercial success. 

We Are Back!

After an extended hiatus, we are back! Praise Segata! 

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Neptune - Sega Saturn Mascots

Early gaming consoles had a great host of cute, often furry, characters we like to refer to as “Mascots.” These are the spokesmen that stood out among the rest of the games in their respective companies. Though, many of them did not live up to the hype that they wanted. Names like Bubsy, Boogerman (yes, for real), Zool, and Gex were either remembered in infamy, or not remembered at all. You also had Spyro and Crash Bandicoot for the PS1 that came a long way in popularity, but still didn’t quite have the staying power as the more prominent mascots.

Well, believe it or not, the Sega Saturn also had its fair share of mascots. Some that rose to some very distinctive time in the spotlight and some that were gone and forgotten before people even learned their names. Well, in this article, we’re going to take a brief look at the candidates. We will also be determining who we at Planet Virtua claim to be the console’s true face of public interest. Let’s begin, shall we?

Sonic the Hedgehog

Oh, I’m sorry, is this a little too on the nose? Yeah, we’re getting this one out of the way. Everyone knows who is the true face of Sega. He is undisputed and even though some of his recent games haven’t been up to par, we still love him. Anyone who got a Sega Genesis normally saw at least five or six pictures of this guy on the box. The Blue Blur will always be king. However, we are talking specifically about the Sega Saturn and as much as we love our favorite hedgehog, he wasn’t exactly given the “royal treatment” when it comes to games of the generation. Sorry, old friend, you’re treated better on the Dreamcast.

Sir Tongara de Pepperouchau III

The brave knight who is on the way to save his true love, the clockwork fairy princess, Chelsea! Sir Tongara de Pepperouchau III, or Pepper for short, was a decent attempt at making a mascot for the Saturn system. He stood out in a lineup, for sure, as there were no other noble knights of valor who fought evil toys among the other candidates. So, what stopped him? Well, for one thing, his game didn’t exactly turn heads when it came to gameplay or originality. Then there was the fact that he was released in America the same year that a very similar batch of characters came to the big screen in Toy Story. Though it is remembered fondly today, the game itself received mixed reviews at the time of release and Sir Pepper himself wasn’t really seen as the “mascot type.” Check out Clockwork Knight and its sequel if you’re wanting a good platformer.

Akira Yuki

Strangely enough, when it comes to characters you’d recognize along with the Saturn, Akira is definitely along that line. After making his debut in Virtua Fighter, he was seen on pretty much the frontline of every fighting type game magazine having to do with Sega. Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighter Megamix both featured him on the cover and he was on more than one magazine cover. Would we consider him a “failed” mascot? Well, not really, but he didn’t exactly have a whole lot of staying power when compared to other fighting game spokesmen. He was, indeed, a very noble effort.


One of the most iconic characters on the Sega Saturn. Her high flying gameplay along with her very unique physical appearance makes her a cornerstone of beauty in the eyes of gamers of all ages. She tested so well with the youth of Japan and America. She is on custom consoles that don’t even feature Nights into Dreams in their libraries! Put Nights by a crescent moon, add in some sparkles and you’ve got some A-Class artwork that you could stare at for hours. Nights definitely fits the bill when you are looking for a Sega Saturn mascot, even rivalling Sonic on the subject. Considering the last game made for her was made back in 2007, this is a serious accomplishment. With an HD remake on recent consoles and Steam, this beauty of a character is still making waves with the make of just one game. Definitely, a top notch pick for the Sega Saturn mascot!








Segata Sanshiro

OH, SNAP! You didn’t really think we’d forget this massive manliness of awesome, did you?! The hero who could kick a baseball into a home run, then beat your ass for no other reason than to show you the legendary Sega Saturn Shiro! Don’t you dare insult the Sega Saturn, or Shiro-sama will destroy your universe and insist you play the Saturn!

For real, though, Segata Sanshiro was one of the greatest comedic characters to ever come out of the land of the rising sun. His commercials were ridiculous and absolutely crazy, and we loved every single minute of it! His pushing of the Sega Saturn console was legendary and he became a legend because of it! He still lives on today through memes and hilarious inside jokes but for the true blue Saturn fans, there really couldn’t be a better mascot that we could ask for.

Our pick, here on Planet Virtua, is none other than the man himself: Segata Sanshiro!

Monday, 9 December 2019

Myst - Just Missed It

Cyan set out to tell a story using very little dialogue and a lot of stunning visuals. This game is full of thematic imagery and some very nice atmosphere. It’s a point and click adventure game with tons of very head scratching puzzles and a lot of attention that you need to pay to pretty much everything that you do throughout it. The settings that you go through have a realistic tone to them, while also existing clearly in the 32-bit dimension.

The down-side? Pretty much everything else. This game is sloggier than a slug looking for the slowest shell to slither through the molasses river. It is so god awfully boring and so hard to get through, especially in the first run through. At first, it’s nice to view the scenery and take in the atmosphere. Then you start to hate the scenery and the atmosphere becomes blotchy because there is very little music at all throughout the game. You spend so long in these places trying to find the puzzle combinations and all of the switches that you need to flip along with figuring out everything you need to do to advance to the next stage. Visually, the game delivers, but that does not mean I want to stand around and stare at everything for that long.

There is a story attached to this game as well. It is somewhat of an interesting one, but only when you actually start to put the puzzle pieces together and that takes a while. The plot isn’t exactly the deepest, though, in fact it’s rather simple in a lot of ways. None of that is really the problem, though. The problem is the acting is atrocious. FMV games have been known to be absolutely terrible in the ways of performances from its characters. This stims from the fact that real actors cost money and it’s a lot cheaper just to put the game devs into silly costumes and let them ham it up in front of the camera. So, the more footage you get from the storyline, the more you get to see just how badly their playwriting sucks.

So, you’re traveling through the worlds using a book in order to gather pages for incomplete books. There are some guys trapped in these books. They are more or less the epitome of cringy performances. The more pages you put in the books, the more you get of their messages and the more they can tell you “PLEASE! Bring me more pages!”

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but it’s interesting enough to keep you invested. It is especially good if this is really your thing. It is very good for its time and quite advanced when it comes to the point and click adventure games. When you hear about this genre, Myst is sure to come up. However, it is an acquired taste for a select demographic. Anyone else will more than likely be bored out of their skull and not even make it out of the first level.

The story and gameplay are quite shallow--so shallow, in fact, that you can actually beat the game in just a few minutes if you know where to go. I won’t spoil anything for you, but the ending is really terrible. All of the endings, that is. You’ll either get some dismal epilogues or you’ll get one “good ending” that is more or less just a clumsy precursor to the sequel game, Riven.

Do not let anyone tell you that this game is awesome and a classic that everyone should play. It is very subjective as to whether or not you’ll enjoy this. Before diving in, be sure to keep an open mind and always remember to drink water.

Friday, 22 November 2019

WELCOME TO YOUR PARTY, SATURN!!! YOU'RE SO OLD NOW (The SJY Community's Top 100 Favorite Saturn Games List)

So it’s been 25 years, huh? A quarter century? Well, shit.

This is one hell of a milestone. To be honest, we weren’t really sure how to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sega Saturn’s Japanese launch so we figured we’d ask for the community’s help. We started by putting together a survey to capture the community’s all-time favorite Saturn games. About 150 of you responded (thanks, everyone!). And after that, we tallied up your responses to build the community’s all-time top 100 favorite Saturn games list, which we’ll feature at some point in this piece. Probably towards the end.

But we didn’t just want to throw together the list and leave it at that. We also asked some of our friends from around the community to contribute a few words to share their love and enthusiasm for some of the Sega Saturn games which mean the most to them. Before we jump into it, I’d like to thank our wonderful contributors, including Retro Faith, the Dreamcast Junkyard’s Mike Phelan, Kev Mason, and Lewis Cox, Saturn Junkyard alumni Lady Morgan, resident Clockwork Knight guru Peter O’Hanlon, Patrick Traynor and Peter Malek of Sega Saturn Shiro! and the Saturn Junkyard’s own Camron Graziano, Gaz Cormack, and Jeff Bradford. I’d also like to give a huge thanks to the one and only Simon Early – a.k.a. Father Krishna – the deeply passionate and generous bloke who got us into this whole mess in the first place.

Thanks for helping us celebrate – now let’s party!

- Brian
In Shenmue's timeline, the Sega Saturn would be at least 33 years old.
Keio Flying Squadron 2 | SEGA | Victor Entertainment | 1996 (JP & EU) | Unranked (Out of top 100)

Sega Mega-CD owners may very well be familiar with the Victor-developed Keio Flying Squadron. These days, it seems to be more known for its ridiculous second-hand asking price, but those in the know will sing praises for its wacky anime-centric shoot-em-up gameplay. Its 1996 Saturn sequel, on the other hand, seems to have fallen by the wayside, perhaps due to it never reaching a full international release (it was never released in North America, only Europe and Japan). It also switched out the original’s beloved shoot-em-up gameplay (mostly) for side-scrolling platformer levels. But what the game changes about its gameplay, it doesn’t lose in presentation, fully taking advantage of the Saturn’s ability to create amazing 2D environments – and in Keio 2’s case, ones that feature many references to both ancient and modern Japanese culture.

Players take control of bunny-eared protagonist, Rami, jumping on the heads of enemies or whacking them with one of the game’s few weapons. The gameplay, in all honesty, is pretty generic, not being that far removed from any other standard platforming fare, but what Keio Flying Squadron 2 lacks in original gameplay, it makes up for in imagination. Every single second of Keio 2 is filled with excitement and insanity, featuring unique and highly varied levels, from underground racoon mines to deadly theme park attractions (featuring a ridable roller coaster), and Ninja castles. The plot just seems to take Rami all over the place, and the boss fights are complete madness. The high level of imagination put into Keio Flying Squadron is undisputable, and in a way, features the same kind of balls to the wall, anything goes creativity that we often rely on modern indie studios to provide. I’m a big fan of games that take me by surprise, and Keio Flying Squadron 2 is a wonderful and well-executed example. Its gameplay might not blow you away, but damn, what a hilariously trippy experience from start to finish.

Clockwork Knight | SEGA | 1994 (JP); 1995 (US & EU) | Ranked 75th

Clockwork Knight has always been a very special game to me. I always had a thing for platformers, but something always just felt a bit different from the others with the fact the main character was an old, classic style toy and that he used his key to attack. My first experience of the series was actually a Japanese copy of Clockwork Knight 2, and we played it on our PAL Model 2 Saturn via a "CD+Plus" cart plugged into the top of the console. I don't know what it was at first that made it so special, but I suspect that it had to do with my age at the time. I think I was around 6 years old, and I still loved the whole legend of Toys coming to life while you slept... it all seemed a bit magical to me, and seeing this game just added a little bit more magic to my childhood.

Another thing I always loved about the series was the music. The mix of different styles always stood out to me and was a big difference between what the Mega Drive and what the Saturn can do. A huge memory of mine is the end credits scene where the perfume bottle "Soltia" sings the classic song "A Lullaby". It was always just something really interesting for its time I felt, and me and my father both really loved it, so we've always had a bonded memory and love over the series. As a small footnote, "A Lullaby" was actually written before Clockwork Knight by the composer "Hirofumi Murasaki" for his daughter who had recently been born.

I was lucky enough to meet Hirofumi Murasaki over Facebook in 2012, becoming good friends with him, and in 2015, I actually met up with him for drinks in Tokyo, where he signed by Clockwork Knight soundtrack. Every year I'm discovering more hidden secrets about the series, even to this year where we found out that an illustration contest took place and the winners’ drawings were shown in the credits of the second game’s Japanese version. I don't think I'll ever stop loving it, and I think all Saturn players should give the game a fair shot...but play 1 and 2 if you do!

- Peter O’Hanlon (Tongara)

Winter Heat | SEGA | AM3 | 1997 (JP); 1998 (US & EU) | Ranked 69th

The Winter Olympics has always been that slightly weirder younger brother of its summer counterpart, and the same can be said of its place in video games, with the snow and ice always playing second fiddle to another joystick waggling track and field clone. But with Winter Heat, SEGA not only delivered an awesome arcade sports title that bettered its sunnier compatriots, it delivered what is still the best video game Winter sports compilation ever.

Sure, there’s a bit of button mashing in the speed skiing, but the sheer variety on offer - from the angular 3d alpine and sliding events to timing and reaction based high flying events - and the sense that the game offers depth rather than instant gratification, marks it out more like a precursor to the DC’s Sports Jam than a sequel to Athlete Kings. Still popular now thanks to its excellent record keeping and multiplayer joy, there’s not many niche genres that can still hold a Saturn title up as best in class like Winter Heat.

- Mike Phelan, The Dreamcast Junkyard

Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru | Time Warner Interactive | 1997 (JP) | Ranked 63rd

Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru (Psychic Assassin/Killer Taromaru) came out on January 17th, 1997 in Japan. For a while, it was slated for a US release (according to some game magazines at the time), but since the release of Taromaru coincided with the end of Time Warner Interactive, the game never traveled west and, in fact, had an extremely limited print run (5,000-7,500 copies; some have said 60,000 but given its rarity, I find that unlikely). Before hipsters ran the prices of Saturn games into the stratosphere, it was extremely difficult to track down a copy of Taromaru to buy (back when it cost $75+).

Taromaru is a side scrolling action game in the similar vein as Treasure's masterpieces of the time. In fact, Treasure legend Hiroshi Iuchi even drew a comic for the game that can be found in the game's manual (and did some work on the backgrounds). One aspect of the game that tends to throw new players off is that it relies on a lock-on system; that is, to attack enemies, the player has to wait for targets to lock on to them, at which point Taromaru (short range, but whose charge shot can hit multiple enemies at once) or Enkai (long range; charge shot hurts a lot) can rapidly shoot lightning bolts at them.

In so far as the comparison to Treasure, this really comes from a wealth of masterfully designed boss fights, both in terms of art and gameplay. Taromaru also features a killer soundtrack.

These days, Taromaru fetches obnoxious prices but it is most definitely worth playing for Saturn fans and is an absolute treat of a game to master across two playable characters and multiple difficulties. (I like call to this masterpiece the “Zap-Zap Game!” If you've played it, you'll understand!)

- Lady Morgan

Policenauts | Konami | 1996 (JP) | Ranked 60th (Tie)

Lying back in your chair, feet on your desk, neon lights to your back, and your trusty pistol on your desk. A women wanders into your office. She hands you pills and a photo, and tells you her husband has gone missing. Then it dawns on you, it’s your ex-wife, but she looks 20 years older than you are. Then it dawns on you, you were frozen for several years, and you are a relic of a time gone bye.

Policenauts has to be my favorite game on the Sega Saturn, PERIOD! An entertaining and thrilling Visual Novel with Light Gun elements interspersed, by the legendary Hideo Kojima. Not to mention the amazing soundtrack, which was so good, it was released on vinyl…IN THE WEST!

While us westerners never got our hands on this game, we are able to enjoy this finally translated on the Sega Saturn!

If you’ve never played this before, get a RHEA/Pseudo Saturn/Phantom chip, get a light gun or a mouse, sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience!

- Patrick Traynor, Sega Saturn Shiro!

Sonic Jam | SEGA | Sonic Team | 1997 (JP, NA, & EU) | Ranked 27th

Sonic fans were buzzing with the news of a 3D game for Sega's new console. The anticipation that was bubbling would turn sour as delay after delay hit Sonic Xtreme. The first time we would see Sonic in 3D was as a secret character in Christmas Nights but there was another title that gives us one of Sega's greatest 'what ifs'.

Sonic Jam brought together the classic sonic story from the original Mega Drive titles. To compliment the games Sonic Team added a large museum featuring artwork, videos and music from the series. The museum was brought to life in a 3D environment where you control Sonic to reach the various museum exhibitions.

There are five challenges to complete in the 3D Green Hill Zone that allows you to explore a 3D Sonic world for the first time. Completing the challenges uncovers a giant ring that displays the game credits when you jump through. As a huge Sonic fan this tantalising taste of what could have been on the Saturn is both cruel and intriguing.

- Retro Faith, Retro Faith UK

Magic Knight Rayearth | SEGA | Working Designs | 1995 (JP); 1998 (NA) | Ranked 25th

From one of the first Saturn games announced to the last US release. Rayearth had quite the journey West. Legal issues with rights holders and even lost code that Working Designs had to rewrite themselves. Was it worth the wait and all the efforts? Personally I would say yes, yes it was. What makes it such a joy? The anime FMVs, the easily accessible gameplay, the vibrant colourful world, the simple story premise, the cheeky bits of Working Designs translation and even reading the girls diary’s. Working Designs hard work and dedication to deliver on their promise to fans shines through in Magic Knight Rayearth. If you haven’t given Rayearth a try and you’re in the mood for a charming adventure, that stars three endearing young girls. You really can’t go wrong with Magic Knight Rayearth.

- Camron Graziano (Tsundain), The Saturn Junkyard

Virtual On: Cyber Troopers | SEGA | AM3 | 1996 (JP, NA, & EU) | Ranked 24th

Little did I know that the game sampler I received with my Saturn would contain a demo such as this. Virtual On was the first overhead fighter I had ever played in my life. At first, it was very hard to control and I had no idea what was happening half the time. It took practice, a lot of it.

The more I played, the better it became. I love firing missiles and gigantic lasers at robots and destroying them while making super high jumps. The most fun this game has to offer is telling your friend to split screen with you and watch them struggle to keep up while you maul them mercilessly. Virtual On is run and gun fun for everyone and has been my favorite Saturn game seemingly forever.

- Jeff Bradford (Virtua Neptune), The Saturn Junkyard

Tomb Raider | Eidos Interactive | Core Design | 1996 (NA & EU), 1997 (JP) | Ranked 23rd

The Sega Saturn is actually my favourite console of all time, there I said it! A huge part if it’s charm for me at the time was discovering it was the underdog, something I was completely unaware of at the time of purchase as I put almost zero thought into it, It said Sega on it and I had played Sega Rally and Virtua Cop one afternoon at a friends who had one, and then instantly demanded one for Christmas as soon as my mum picked me up that later that day.

Throughout the era of Saturn I only knew one other person who had one, that included the entire cohort of my 1400+ school. Whilst I had always been a games obsessive there was already a part of me that loved that only me and my friend Jared actually had the Sega Saturn, it made the special games seem more special somehow.

Away from the ‘big names’ of the system, there was one game I was obsessed with. Tomb Raider, I remember seeing the screens for it and thinking it looked like nothing I had seen before. Replaying now I was surprised by how minimalist and sparse the sound design is, and I use that as a positive. As it really adds to the experience that I loved all those years ago that you are alone and isolated in some unforeseen land, being an actual adventurer and explorer, rather than an action hero as seems to be the norm now. I loved the feeling of carefully moving your way through the environments, positioning yourself to climb and scale as you work out the puzzles and environments and where switches are likely to be, I remember thinking it was cool you could holster and pull out the guns as that was something I had never seen before, and made sense you wouldn’t climb with them out.

At the time I was playing the game competitively to see if I could complete it before my brother (Playstation) and my friend (PC) - so was finding myself compelled to methodically press on no matter how hard it got. The T-Rex is a moment that everything remembers, and rightly so, however, there were many great moments, the first appearance of the man in black who was hounding you, the arrival of each new creature that is stalking and hunting you, the falling blades. Tomb Raider for me is easily one of my top 5 Saturn games, and in terms of overall ‘experience’ of what a game and it’s memories mean to me, is easily in my own personal top 10.

- Kev Mason, The Dreamcast Junkyard

Shining the Holy Ark | SEGA | Camelot Software Planning | 1996 (JP); 1997 (NA) | 21st Ranked

Are you lost in the mines? I bet you are. Welcome to Shining the Holy Ark! And don't let the silly name fool you; this game is not to be taken lightly. Sonic Software Planning did not hold back with this title. Like its older brother Shining in the Darkness (Sega Genesis 1991), Holy Ark is a first-person dungeon crawler known for its lengthy dungeons and over-the-top level of difficulty. Released for the Saturn in December of 1996 (May 1997 US), Holy Ark was the second Shining title to grace the console. While fans impatiently waited for the 3rd installment of the Shining Force Saga, Sega took a leap of faith and released Holy Ark first. A bold move indeed, but well worth the risk.

You play the role of Arthur, a mercenary hired by the King of Enrich castle to eliminate a ninja named Rodi. Right from the very beginning of the game, you know you are in for one hell of an adventure. The music alone is enough to drag you in, and you can't help but feel a bit intimidated as you enter the first dungeon. Within a few minutes you will understand why this game is notoriously known for its difficulty.

The music is outstanding and the graphics are surprisingly stunning! The monsters are well designed and some a bit scary even. I was blown away by how good this game looked. And I still am. I'm currently working my way through this game blindly and enjoying every moment of it. The dungeon puzzles are unique and a bit frustrating at times, but the payoff of conquering one will make you feel like a champion.

If you have flirted with the idea of indulging in Holy Ark, know that I highly recommend this game for any gamer. Even though it's extreme in the difficulty category, the gameplay is silky smooth and controls very well. So what are you waiting for? Shine that Holy Ark!

- Lady Morgan

Sonic R | SEGA | Traveller’s Tales & Sonic Team | 1997 (JP, NA, & EU) | Ranked 17th

Dearest Sonic R,

You’re the community’s 17th favorite Saturn game which, to some, probably feels high…just like the diamonds in in the sky.

But guess what, baby? You’re my number one.

Over the years, many of us dismissed you as a quirky, unconventional racing game with a cheesy soundtrack. You polarized fans with your clunky, unwieldy controls and they bitterly derided you for not being a “real Sonic game.” And once upon a time, I might have agreed…

…but that was before I learned how to treat you right…and left, using the 3D pad’s shoulder buttons. It made a world of difference, baby. I gave you another chance and it didn’t take long for me to finally feel the sunshine.

I’m so glad we could work it out. Take me back in time and I would’ve realized your cheese was really charm all along.

Once I stopped trying to see you as a racing game or a Sonic game, the pieces all came together. I wasn’t racing. I was exploring. I was strategizing. I was collecting. Once I realized that, I was in love.

And so today, I give up dreaming. You may not have been the Sega Saturn Sonic game I thought I wanted but you were absolutely the one I needed.

With love always,

Brian Vines, The Saturn Junkyard

Radiant Silvergun | SEGA | Treasure | 1998 (JP) | Ranked 13th

There you are, after round and rounds of enemies, after so many bullets and Game Overs… There you are, fighting a Red/Black Silhouetted man, jumping and flipping all over the place… “Awesome!” While I can’t say I was at the ground floor for Radiant Silvergun, I certainly fell in love with it.

Addicted to Ikaruga, I tried this game out, knowing it would be just as fun if not more fun… And I was a bit disappointed at first. The game felt pretty slow, the controls were confusing, and I kept dying on easy….

Playing it more and more, I finally get the controls, learn how to effectively use them. Every Treasure game has a gimmick, and this one didn’t disappoint. While slow going, it’s worth the effort!

- Patrick Traynor, Sega Saturn Shiro!

Radiant Silvergun is my go-to Saturn game for whenever I have no idea what I’m in the mood to play. I’m not sure I’ve ever tired of it. It’s frequently featured in discussions about the platform’s best shmups – and indeed, Silvergun is the highest-ranking 2D shmup on this list – but I’d hesitate to peg it squarely in the genre without a cavalcade of asterisks. Part shooter, part puzzle game, part platformer, with a dash of light RPG elements, Radiant Silvergun is a deeply innovative, genre-bending title.

Treasure’s seminal shooter is unique in that, to truly maximize your score (which may or may not be your goal), it demands players emphasize restraint as much as destruction. Silvergun’s enemies come in three different colors to destroy, and the game gives you six very different weapons to get the job done. Kills reward you with progressive score combos when you chain together as many like-color enemies as possible. You’ll begin to learn the increasingly-complex enemy and obstacle patterns the game throws at you. You’ll need to assess the most effective weapons for each situation, determine which enemies to shoot and – even more importantly – which not to shoot.

Like jazz, as they say, sometimes it’s about the notes you don’t play.

Also like jazz, there isn’t necessarily a single best way to enjoy this game, which lies at the heart of its lasting appeal. Silvergun places a heavier emphasis on experimentation than most shmups. It frequently rewards you for trying new tactics in various situations – whether it’s trying a different weapon against familiar enemies or zigging when you would have zagged. Silvergun’s focus on discovery helps make the process as rewarding as the outcome.

You’re also not obligated to utilize any of Silvergun’s pattern/puzzle chain mechanics just to enjoy it. You can also treat it like a typical shmup, focusing on precision movement and memorization, and blasting everything in your path. Each of your six weapons will level up the more you use them, allowing you to progress from where you leave off in subsequent playthroughs. Destroying everything won’t net you the highest scores but it’s a surefire way to build up your weapons and tear through the parade of larger enemies and bosses with little fuss – and that is rewarding in its own right.

- Brian Vines, The Saturn Junkyard

Burning Rangers | SEGA | Sonic Team | 1998 (JP, NA, & EU) | Ranked 8th

At times it feels like a glorified tech demo, showcasing all that could be done in the right hands. And at other times Burning Rangers goes beyond tech demo to deliver an overload for the senses. Every box gets checked off, lighting and particle effects, transparencies, polygons everywhere and a bumpin up beat techno jazz tunes that just ups that late 90s charm.

Now that you are convinced that Burning Rangers looks the part, how does it play? Well there’s the tricky part. Burning Rangers is about putting out living firing and saving people. You’ll use jet packs, lasers and voice guidance to save the day. Using the 3D pad will yield the best results, but there will still be occasional missed grabs and landings. Even with this in mind Burning Rangers is still a technical marvel, a challenging adventure and oozing with charm.

- Camron Graziano (Tsundain), The Saturn Junkyard

Shining Force III: Scenario 1 | SEGA | Camelot Software Planning | 1997 (JP); 1998 (NA & EU) | Ranked 6th

Shining Force III is one of the most well-known RPGs on the Saturn and quite possibly the best in the bunch. This delightful addition to the Shining Series is broken up into three different scenarios which follow three different protagonists; Synbios, Medion & Julian. Each scenario takes place at the same time, often overlapping with each other. What makes this game even more unique is that you can actually link your save files together; keeping all of the names & stats from each scenario! And for those who collected all three volumes, Camelot also released a premium disk that offers a series of battles in which you can choose characters from all of your save files.

But there is some bad news. Sadly, only Scenario 1 was released in the US. It wasn't until nearly two decades later that a fan site took the time to translate the last two scenarios. Although a bit choppy, fans finally got to finish what they started years prior.

Shining Force III is a tactical turn-based RPG that plays like its older brothers, Shining Force 1 & 2, which were released for the Sega Genesis. Camelot Software Planning also added a new feature called the Friendship System. This allows characters to form bonds with each other which would help boost actions on the battlefield. In general, Shining Force III was a bit more challenging than its brothers, but not unbearable.

Scenario 1: 12-11-97 Synbios // God Warrior of the Kingdom
Scenario 2: 4-29-98 Medion // Target: Child of God
Scenario 3: 9-23-98 Julian // Bulzome Rising

Shining Force III was composed by the talented Motoi Sakuraba. Music and gameplay go hand-in-hand and Sakuraba delivers! Like Holy Ark (also composed by Sakuraba), the music alone will suck you in. The enticing melodies will be stuck in your head for days, forcing you not to forget the battle at hand. Unfortunately, the graphics are a bit below par, but the gameplay and soundtrack make up for all of the visual flaws.

I highly recommend this game. The in-depth storyline is absolutely fantastic and will leave you starving for more. Be forewarned: Shining Force III is a time trap. Once you start, it's hard to put the paddle down. What you intend to be a couple hours of gaming will turn into a full day of war! If you are an RPG fanatic, this game is a must. It contains all the ingredients that make for a near flawless Fantasy Role Playing game. Oh, you didn't play Shining Force 1 or 2? That's okay. There is no connection in story. So go for it! The Bulzome Sect isn't going to destroy itself, ya know...

- Lady Morgan

Virtua Fighter 2 | SEGA | AM2 | 1995 (JP & NA); 1996 (EU) | Ranked 5th

Does anyone remember seeing Daytona USA running on the Saturn for the very first time? I do, back in 1995 my local Virgin Mega Store had a Saturn kiosk running Daytona, I actually heard it before I seen it, the famous and instantly recognisable intro music drew my attention straight away, I was already getting a Saturn for Christmas that year so this was a chance to see one of its flagship launch games running for the very first time. Back in those days we just had screenshots in magazines to look at, I walked up to the kiosk with my bud Glen at the time to check Daytona out, now I knew it was never going to be a match for a $15,000 Model 2 arcade machine, however, what I was greeted with upon casting my eyes on the screen felt like a punch to the gut. The disappointment was hard to stomach. I thought this looked absolutely horrendous – was this really the extent of the Saturn’s 3D capabilities? The insanely poor draw distance with textures popping up everywhere was an eyesore beyond belief.
Now pop up was common place back in the 32-bit era, but this...this was on another level, to further confound my disappointment was the atrocious choppy frame rate which maxed out at 20fps with frequent drops below that.

The game not only looked like a dog’s dinner, but it ran like it also. To even further reinforce this and cast my disappointment in stone, a few days earlier I seen Ridge Racer running on the PlayStation and visually it completely destroyed this. THAT was next generation 32-bit graphics. Not this. My feeling of regret for choosing the Saturn was strong, I tried to convince myself it didn’t look so bad, I knew I was getting a Saturn so I felt at the time I had to, completely bullshitting myself to my friend stood beside me who’s disappointment was also written all over his face – “hey this looks all right, doesn’t it?” – fishing for any crumbs of assurance and approval from him but instead his silence spoke volumes more than any words could.

Having been a die-hard Sega owner this felt like one of the biggest let downs I had ever felt in gaming. We all know that the gameplay is spot on, they got that right thankfully, it handled like the arcade game. However, first impressions make a huge impact back then. I wanted next generation 3D graphics and this didn’t deliver.

Now what does all this have to do with Virtua Fighter 2? Well nothing, but I thought it was appropriate to convey how I felt about the Saturn in that moment in time and to give you an insight about what I thought the Saturn was only capable of, and to give you as big a contrast as possible to how I felt about seeing Virtua Fighter 2 for this first time,  After seeing Daytona, I thought this was it for the Saturn…this is as good as it gets visually. I had also had the chance to play the first Virtua Fighter a few days earlier and although it was not the greatest port, being that it was a port from a model 1 game I still didn’t mind it as much.

Virtua Fighter 2 is a game I played in the arcade. It’s incredible, lifelike, fully-textured characters comprising of a massive polygon count and silky-smooth framerate blew me away, at that point it felt like graphics couldn’t get any better, this was well beyond anything I had seen.

The game was hard. I didn’t know many of the moves back then but I knew there was a very deep fighting game in there. I was aware this was being ported to the Saturn; I was looking forward to it of course but I didn’t hold much hope for a good-looking game, but it wasn’t until seeing a small trailer for the game running on the Saturn on the TV show Games Master it COMPLETELY blew me away. I recorded every episode of Games Master on VHS back then and must have watched this small clip of VF2 around 200+ times, it felt overwhelming. “The Saturn can’t do this” seeing it for the first time I mistakenly thought it was the arcade version of the game, what we got here was a rock-solid, unwavering 60 frames per second, crispy hi-resolution textures, and incredible lifelike animation that was equal to the £15,000 arcade machine. A game that graphically, in my eyes, blew Tekken on the PS1 out the water which was considered the benchmark for graphics in a 3D fighting game at the time.

The term “arcade perfect” was one that got thrown about a lot back then, but this felt like that to me seeing the small clip. It was a very long - month wait for the game to be released, I continued to play the arcade game when I had the chance until – at long last – I finally bought the Saturn game on release. Seeing it running on my screen for the first time was easily and still to this day one of the biggest “wow” moments I’ve experienced in gaming. My faith was absolutely restored in the Saturn. It was more than restored; it was exceeded.

I must have played Virtua Fighter 2 every day without fail for around a year solid. I knew every single move the game had to offer across all characters. I had Ranking Mode High Scores in CVG magazine. I played it so much that most of the moves are still ingrained into my mind today in 2019. I can play it and still know around 80% of all the moves. Of course, my reflexes are not as good any more but this is still a game I play occasionally on Xbox Live and PS3.

VF2 is a classic example of a game that’s easy to play and get into but very hard to master. Pulling off moves is easy, but the key to success is utilising the normal moves effectively. Chaining combos need to be inputted so fast that they can only be pulled off by doing them faster than the move appears on screen. Akira’s Stun Palm of Doom 5-hit combo takes much more skill and precision than any 50+ hit combo you’d care to mention in Killer Instinct. This is a combo that I personally have only been able to pull off a few times.

A quick look on YouTube and some of the professionals in japan where this game was huge is simply mind bending to watch. These guys are able to pull off chain combos with basic and special moves that you didn’t know existed or were technically possible. It’s like watching a master at his craft and this is the beauty of this game. VF2 is easy for anyone to play and anyone can get something from it no matter what your skill level is, but it also has depths that can only be unlocked by a select few.

- Gaz Cormack, The Saturn Junkyard

NiGHTS into Dreams… | SEGA | Sonic Team | 1996 (JP, NA, & EU) | Ranked 3rd

NiGHTS dropped as competition to Mario 64 and to Crash Bandicoot, though that’s not very fair, as the game is nothing like the aforementioned titles. NiGHTS is a score attack game presented with glitz, glamour and pizzazz to stand out as a jewel in the Saturn gaming crown.

The game revolves around two troubled children who find NiGHTS in their dreams. But what is NiGHTS? Is it a dream, a figment, or a memory? Whatever it is, together with NiGHTS the children fight off the nightmares of the evil Wiseman and at the same time grow as individuals in order to overcome their worldly problems.

The game is an insanely well-tuned, high-scoring, point chaining thrill ride. The sensation of flight is fluid and free, taking advantage of the Saturn 3D Analogue Pad to translate every nuance of motion to an action on screen. The timed levels engender a palpable adrenaline rush as the player endeavors to find the most optimal flight line to pick up the most points possible. Each point collected gives the player a brief moment to collect the next point to form a chain – and each item chained multiplies in value for a higher score. Thus, the game is a mad, thrilling flight in collecting items in the most efficient way possible to rack up the best score.

The gameplay, coupled with the ridiculously good graphics and ever-changing game music would be quite enough to propel NiGHTS into the top tier of Saturn gaming, but there is even more to the game. Tracked in a separate memory file is the Pian population – the little angel beings that roam the levels. They fly, they mate and lay eggs, and they even build little statues and snowmen, depending on the level. The gamer has a cursory effect on their life cycles… and their overall happiness is what determines how cheery or sad level music is. Further, there is even the possibility to breed strange mutants, if a Pian and a Maren (enemy) mate. The ultimate goal is to produce a King Pian in this quasi-side quest of the game proper.

The game itself is quite short – only seven dreams for the kids to play through – but of course, with a game like NiGHTS, finishing the game is really a subjective point. The story may be complete, but the quest for a slightly higher score will burn brightly long after the contemporary Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot are done and begin to collect dust on the shelf. Pure gameplay, in a blend of instant, arcade-like thrills and deep, satisfying replay value that has you coming back again and again is NiGHTS' bread and butter. This is SEGA at its finest, folks.

- Peter Malek, Sega Saturn Shiro!

Panzer Dragoon Saga | SEGA | Team Andromeda | 1998 (JP, NA, & EU) | Ranked 1st

An RPG more famous for being expensive and rare. A game that was plagued with set back after set back and even rumored that a priest had to chase away evil spirits. It still remains as fresh and unique as it was in 1998. Panzer Dragoon Saga is the third entry into the Panzer Dragoon franchise and for me personally the best entry in the series. What Saga does for me is everything the other games don’t, the biggest thing is the freedom.

Other Panzer Dragoon games are on rail shooters that require we memorize patterns and course layout. Saga on the other hand relies on you exploring every inch of the dystopian world Team Andromeda crafted. Even in the bleakest seemingly most empty corners of the map there is still much detail and love crafted in. Even after repeated play throughs I still enjoy hopping onto my dragon and just soaring. Now after 25 years there has never been a more accessible time to experience this legendary game.

- Camron Graziano (Tsundain), The Saturn Junkyard

It’s hardly a surprise – and maybe only appropriate – that Panzer Dragoon Saga nabbed the top spot on the community’s list of favorite Sega Saturn games. Despite owning the damn game for nearly a decade – and despite Panzer Dragoon Zwei being my all-time favorite Saturn game (it still is) – it took me forever for me to finally get around to playing Saga. It had an undeniable mystique. It just never felt like the right time to play it. In hindsight, perhaps I just didn’t know what I was missing. I always figured I’d probably play it…eventually.

**** Thematic spoilers for PDS to follow. ****

And eventually came – literally last year – when I finally broke down and accompanied Edge on his futile quest for revenge in a ravaged world he’d never truly understand. While the rest of gaming was caught up in the narrative arms race towards convoluted, cinematic, and overwrought storytelling, Saga sought simplicity. It relished in its opacity. Saga trusted us as its co-authors, leaving us space to derive meaning between the breadcrumbs of its story arcs and world building. It felt intentional. It was refreshing. It would not be replicated.

**** End spoilers. ****

In some ways, Saga feels like it exists in a distinct place and time, on its own plane of existence from the rest of gaming history. And perhaps there’s some truth to that considering it was released at the tail end of the Saturn’s lifespan, long after its future was ceded to the Dreamcast. I dunno. Maybe it’s only fitting that a neglected JRPG set in a hopeless, post apocalypse would come to define the Saturn’s own post apocalypse. Still, considering the context in which the community continues to revere Panzer Dragoon Saga today, perhaps it just proves that some apocalypses are merely temporary.

Like Team Andromeda’s swansong, the Sega Saturn was also of its own place and time – existing adjacent to and beyond the medium’s history – and also lost to it. For a time. During its marketable lifespan, the Saturn was unknown to most and appreciated by a dedicated few. But give it 25 years and those few have grown into an enduring community of fans who’ve ensured the Saturn’s best years are yet ahead of it.

If the following list is anything to go by, we’ve got a shit ton of amazing Saturn games to play. So we must. It’s the Sanshiro mandate.

- Brian Vines, The Saturn Junkyard (@TheVirtuaSchlub on Twitter)

Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
Lunar: The Silver Star Story
Road Rash
Twinkle Star Sprites
Mega Man 8
Shinobi X / Shinobi Legions
Three Dirty Dwarves
Bug Too!
Bust-A-Move 2 / Puzzle Bobble 2
Dragon Force II
Sega Worldwide Soccer '98
Out Run
Asuka 120% Burning Fest Limited
Hyper Duel
Steep Slope Sliders
Super Tempo
Elevator Action Returns
Enemy Zero
World Series Baseball '98
Lunacy / Torico
Clockwork Knight
DecAthlete / Athlete Kings
Sakura Wars / Taisen 2
Dungeons & Dragons Collection
Manx TT SuperBike
Winter Heat
Digital Pinball: Last Gladiators
Duke Nukem 3D
GunGriffon II
Shinrei Jusatsushi Tarōmaru
Street Fighter Collection
Thunder Force V
Alien Trilogy
Sonic 3D Blast / Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Marvel Super Heroes
Baku Baku Animal
Die Hard Trilogy
Galactic Attack / Layer Section
Dark Savior
Virtua Fighter / VF Remix
Christmas NiGHTS
Cotton 2 / Cotton Boomerang
Fighting Vipers
Sakura Wars / Taisen
Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter
Battle Garegga
Mr. Bones
Darius Gaiden
Last Bronx
X-Men: Children of the Atom
Akumajō Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight (Castlevania: SotN)
Deep Fear
Bulk Slash
House of the Dead
Legend of Oasis / Story of Thor 2
Dead or Alive
Virtua Cop
Resident Evil
Albert Odyssey
Vampire Savior
Sonic Jam
Magic Knight Rayearth
Virtual On: Cyber Troopers
Tomb Raider
Street Fighter Alpha 2
Shining the Holy Ark
PowerSlave / Exhumed
Die Hard Arcade / Dynamite Deka
Street Fighter Zero 3
Sonic R
Saturn Bomberman
X-Men vs Street Fighter
Virtua Cop 2
Radiant Silvergun
Dragon Force
Fighters Megamix
Daytona USA / CE / CCE
Panzer Dragoon
Burning Rangers
Guardian Heroes
Shining Force III: Scenario 1
Virtua Fighter 2
Panzer Dragoon Zwei
NiGHTS into Dreams
Sega Rally Championship
Panzer Dragoon Saga

Good God, that was a long article. With that, thanks for reading and thanks again to the various friends of the Junkyard for their wonderful contributions. Thank you for helping us celebrate the Sega Saturn’s 25th birthday and remember…