Monday 2 October 2017

Christmas time, mistletoe and... Saturn?

One of the great pleasures I have always taken from the Junkyards, (firstly, the Dreamcast Junkyard and secondly, the Saturn Junkyard) is the opportunity for interaction with some of the retrogamers and Sega enthusiasts worldwide. Luckily, the trend continues! The Saturn Junkyard has barely celebrated a week of it's renaissance, and we've already had a nostalgic contribution from one of our Facebook members:
Kevin Mason
Kev spends some quality time
with his favourite console...

Kev has penned an account of that special time in all of our lives, the day he got his Saturn! So sit back and enjoy Kev's memories of his favourite Christmas!

(As is the custom here on the 'Yard, we'll change the font and text colour so readers know that I am not plagiarising or passing other people's work off as my own!)

Christmas morning 1995, saw me rushing downstairs to unwrap something I was very excited about... At the age of 14, I hadn’t been so geared up for present opening in quite a while! Having picked out the Sega Saturn from my Mum’s “Kay’s catalogue”, I had eagerly anticipated the day I would get to play on it, for what felt like months...

This was the most technological way you could shop back in the '90s..

I would later learn that the Saturn only came with a scart lead, not the more common A-V lead. However a “pre-check” by my Dad, (good old Dad!) had apparently spotted this faux-pas by Sega, and a quick trip to Dixons had fortunately cured this omission. Why this was bundled with the system, I have no idea, as it would be years before myself (or anyone else I knew) would have need of a "scart cable", or for that matter, know what one was...


The system itself was hastily assembled in my bedroom, the scart cable strewn aside (and ultimately lost... as years later, I would have to buy a new one!) The second pad was left in its box, mainly as my elder brother and main gaming companion was no where to be seen. The machine was fired up, and for the first time I would hear the iconic chiming, as the blue and grey loading screen greeted me...  My reward for having correctly pressed the power button?

Among the games I received that day, I remember playing Command & Conquer first. Having been impressed when playing it on the PC at a friend's house, I was delighted to begin playing the Brotherhood Of Nod campaign, as my friend wouldn’t let anyone play as them (sadly I can’t elaborate on this, he just wouldn’t!*)  *I'm intrigued...FK

However, it was part way through the day, when I decided to try the 'Sega Flash Volume 1' demo disc, and my dislike of driving games changed forever. The important decision about what to spend the money I had acquired on that day was made... (as part of your traditional teenage Christmas, family members you have rarely seen since childhood don’t even pretend to know you enough to send an actual gift...)  
Sega Rally would be bought when we visited the shops on boxing day!

The demo disc whirled round and Sega Rally “Forest” stage soon loaded... I am sketchy on the detail but I believe that you could choose either of the two cars the game offered (the Toyota Celica or the Lancia Stratos) with either a manual or automatic set up. These are pretty much the only choices that the main game offers up to the player, for this game makes no attempt at being a realistic racer, it was always a full on arcade experience, and unashamedly so.

Having grown up in the East Midlands, in a town famous for not having a cinema and for being the biggest town in Europe without a train station (to offer a context of how much of a "back water" place it was...) **Colour me further intrigued FK!
 I had never played or even seen the arcade version of Sega Rally. Seeing the staggering pace at which the forest was now ripping past, would silence any doubters over my choice of Christmas console!

I played that demo stage over and over again, getting to the point where I was recording times and fastest laps on a bit of paper, changing from car to car and trying to get quicker and quicker times. This mammoth demo session led in to the next day, which involved me being driven around by my Father, until I eventually found the game in stock, ready for purchase!

On Boxing day in the mid 90’s, a love affair began, one that would still be going on close to 20 years later. Shout out to Comet in Kettering for having it in stock!
Sega Rally to my mind, was the finest game that the Saturn produced in it's lifetime, which is tragic when you consider how early into the console's development cycle it was released. As well as on the Saturn, I don’t think there is even a better driving game than Sega Rally on the Dreamcast, surprisingly enough (not even the sequel 'Sega Rally 2' which I personally feel is worse, due to it’s inclusion of options and extras that the first doesn’t even attempt... distractions that could get in the way of the outright joyous rally experience.)

Two cars (the bonus third car is a joke, in my opinion) three tracks (again the “bonus” track is a joke... very difficult to attain!) However, the utterly refined handling of the cars in the game and iconic course design means that you will constantly be trying to get the better of the tracks, and push your personal best time lower and lower...

One major gripe, however...the CPU controlled cars may as well not be there... they react to what you do in no way, shape or form, never deviating from their "scalextric-like" rigid path (unless you crash into them). They never really feel like someone you are trying to beat,( or care about beating), the way you do the clock and the “best time” counter.  To this day I am frequently trying to beat a particularly good arcade run set by a friend, who had the honour of being the only other person I knew who owned a Saturn, and who thus sold me his memory card in 1999 when he finally parted with his console.

Sega Rally was a marvel of a game, an 'all too early' pinnacle, of a sporadic series, which in my opinion somehow gets worse with each new release. To me, it also represents the pinnacle of the software for console itself. There would always be talk of Sega Rally vs Ridge Racer from certain sectors and fans, however as a good a game as Ridge Racer was at the time, it faded and lost it’s appeal in a manner that 'Rally' never did. To this day, people spotting the Saturn at my house, still always ask about Sega Rally (and then usually want a go!) To this day you can practically see parts of their brain coming back to life and remembering the classic commentary: “long easy right maybe, medium left” as soon as it starts.

The fact that the console went on to produce so few genuine hits, is what makes Sega Rally all the more endearing. Sega Touring Car, didn’t come close to matching what it was about, and is a game I probably played less than 10 times in total despite having owned it since release day!

Thanks to Kev for sharing his memories with us! What are your thoughts on the game? And what are your best score and times on the game! Let us know at the 'Yard, here or on the Facebook page!

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