Friday, 13 October 2017

Sega Saturn- An Informal Beginner's Guide For Beginners (Part II) The Games!

I'm very pleased to be able to bring you part 2 of Brian Vines most excellent "Sega Saturn -  A Beginner's Guide For Beginners" This time, Brian focuses on the stand out games that an aspiring Saturn collector might want to add to his or her library, without needing to take out a second mortgage to procure them!

The Sega Saturn boasts a solid library of exclusive software, but it's not going to be everything to everyone, as it specialised in some particular types of games and genres over others. The Saturn excelled in vibrant, arcade style offerings that were easy to learn, yet difficult to master. As you make your way through the consoles more value oriented offerings, these are likely the types of games you'll find yourself playing, as you patiently search for decent deals on the more elusive heavy hitters. I mean, Panzer Dragoon Saga is great, but it's just not worth going out and dropping several hundred dollars on right away. There are so many other great and more affordable Saturn games out there, its a far better use of time and money to focus on getting those first.

If I were jump starting a collection on the cheap, I'd first search my preferred auction website for a decent bundle for sale. This can be a bit cheaper than buying games piecemeal can be. When it comes to the Saturn, everyone seems to think they know what they're selling (and will often charge accordingly, usually excessively) so you'll need to be very patient. In general, I'd recommend some of the following titles. Whilst this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the great and reasonably priced games the platform has to offer, these should make some mice additions to a well rounded starter collection, in no particular order.

NiGHTS into Dreams - Oh yeah, I forgot to mention a small detail about the Saturn. Bafflingly, Sega and Sonic Team never made  a proper, mainline Sonic game for it. However, they did produce this little gem, which is an incredibly unique 2.5D flying jester simulator. It's fast like a Sonic game, but with free form verticality and nifty aerial acrobatics. It controls very smoothly, but the 3D analogue pad is all but mandatory. It's also a gorgeous title that does an admirable job of putting the Saturn through it's paces.

DecAthlete/Athlete Kings & Winter Heat: Fans of Konami's classic Track and Field or other Olympic themed button mashing games of that style-- will feel right at home with these summer and winter sports events titles, respectively. They both have super simple gameplay.: for most events you're tapping a button until its time to hit another one- with timing and precision dictating your success--yet somehow these games manage to be damn fun, despite their streamlined game mechanics. Even better, you'll often find tripping and falling on your face is a fun alternative to playing the events properly. If I had to pick one, I'd pick Winter Heat.


Sega World Wide Soccer '98 - It took a few iterations, but Sega's WWS series became a solid example of how technically demanding sports games could shine on the Saturn. WWS offers a breadth of international teams, game options and play modes to choose from, but it's biggest strength lies in its presentation. The pitches and stadiums are detailed and lively, the player animations are top notch and even the commentators are actually fairly entertaining.

The Last Bronx- Amongst a sea of better known fighting games, last Bronx is still a fun 3D weapons based fighter for the Saturn. Hailing from rival Tokyo street gangs, it's characters wield an assortment of blunt objects, including nunchucks, bo-staffs and giant wooden hammers - as they bash the hell out of each other in the name of a more unified, peaceful Tokyo... or something. The mechanics are very simple, but the gameplay has a unique focus on air juggling combos to keep things interesting. Also Last Bronx is a visual powerhouse with excellent animations and 3D rendered backgrounds (quite a feat for the console) across multiple iconic urban locales such as "Naked Airport" and "Radical Parking Lot". While not incredibly expensive, this one is inching upward in price so the dirt cheap Japanese version is a nice alternative. (*FK No mention of "Lust Subway" Brian?😉)

Die Hard Arcade - Yippe Ki Yay! Okay so your character looks vaguely like John Mc Clane and you get to fight terrorists in a sky scraper, but that's where the similarities end between the game and the film. That's not to say that the movie wouldn't have kicked even more ass if it had laser shooting spider-bots, sumo wrestler bosses and some terrorist firemen - - but this game has them and it's pretty awesome for it! DHA is best played with a buddy for maximum beat up action.

Steep Slope Sliders - Now this is a surprisingly fun snow boarding title for the Saturn. Not too dissimilar from the Cool Boarders series, Steep Slope Sliders puts dual emphasis on getting fast race times and high trick scores for each of it's runs. However SSS incorporates the two aspects a bit more seamlessly as it gives you more opportunity to pull off tricks on the fly - instead of just a few predetermined tricks like in Cool Boarders - but only your top five tricks count towards your best score for each course. Unfortunately this game can't hold a candle to Cool Boarder's advertising prowess, SSS number of Butterfinger BB billboards pales in comparison. But at least it allows you to shred the gnar as an alien.

Virtua Cop 2 - If you have a CRT TV and pick up a Stunner Light Gun, the next thing you'll need is a copy of Virtua Cop 2. Whilst the original is also enjoyable, VF2s solid gun play, crisp visuals, detailed and branching environments and excellent action set pieces, make the sequel the more memorable of the two. It's also the most colourful terrorist/accidental civilian shooting simulator I've yet played.

Sega Rally Championship - What has two cars, four tracks and endless amounts of fun? Of course it's Sega Rally and I'd be an asshole if I didn't mention it here. Whether you're competing through the arcade mode, against a friend, or even just completing a leisurely free run in Time Attack, this is the quintessential Saturn racing game you'll keep coming back to time and time again. A steering wheel is recommended but not required.

2D Capcom and SNK Fighting Games - Most of these aren't super-cheap anymore, but if you're a fan of these games (you know who you are) these brilliant Saturn conversions of arcade and Neo Geo fighters are worth every penny. Marvel Super Heroes vs. Streetfighter, Waku Waku 7, and Streetfighter Alpha 2 are some of the genres many highlights on the console.

Panzer Dragoon II Zwei - Whilst the original Panzer Dragoon is worth picking up, Zwei is just about my favourite game on the Sega Saturn and one of the best on rail 3D shooters ever made. Effectively a dragon-riding corridor shooter, your dragon starts out as a small fledgling and evolves with new abilities as you progress through the story. This game is a technical marvel that nails it's ancient mystical-technology-meets-post-apocalyptic atmosphere perfectly. The gorgeous environments add complexity with branching paths you can take depending on your actions throughout each level (mainly by destroying the right enemies and slaying bosses quickly enough.)
Both the original Panzer Dragoon and Zwei have incredible sound track sand they're getting pricier these days, so these are yet more examples of titles where you can't go wrong with picking up the cheaper Japanese imports instead.

Manx TT Superbike - While only featuring a handful of bikes and two courses (plus backwards versions of each) Manx TT is a motorcycle racing game which is relatively light on content ; that's the bad news. Otherwise Manx TT ticks all of the boxes for mid-90s Sega arcade awesomeness: it boasts smooth colourful visuals, a chipper synth electric guitar rock soundtrack, and an aggressive  checkpoint countdown timer to keep things interesting. The handling is tight, but you'll definitely want to pick up a steering wheel or at least a 3D analog pad; the standard controller works so so, but it lacks the precision needed for the advanced course's narrow and twisty sections. In all, Manx TT is the Saturn's best motorbike racer, but I'd also recommend Hang On GP here as well.

Fighter's Megamix/Virtua Fighter 2 -  I'm tired of typing at this point. They're great, they're cheap. Go buy them.

There are many more great inexpensive games that I've failed to list here, plus a whole lot of awesome "not so cheap" titles like Albert Odyssey, Guardian Heroes, Dragon Force (my other favourite Saturn game along with PD Zwei) Radiant Silvergun, Burning Rangers etc. etc. There are also some delightfully bad games out there, but I'll leave those for you to discover.

Although the Saturn has it's flaws and was severely overlooked in it's day, it's now multiple decades later and we're still talking about the damn thing. This is not a platform that will wow you with it's 3D prowess and many of it's top titles are ridiculously expensive, but none of that really matters because the Saturn is teeming with character. Even if you're just starting out, you'll quickly find out that the Saturn is a blast to own as much for it's intricacies as it's charm. It's home to some of the most wonderfully niche games anywhere and as you play through more of them - working your way from Saturn newb to Saturn veteran - the console never seems to stop finding ways to surprise you.


Blondejon said...

Spot on, the description of Panzer Drsgoon Zwei conjures up images of the game so vividly im off to play it.

Jet Brian Radio (@VirtuaSchlub) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fatherkrishna said...

Another great post Brian! Thank you!

itsstillthinking said...

Great job!Burning Rangers is always been one of my favs & (Yes laugh) Many happy memories with Pebble Beach Golf Links. Maybe the next part you should talk about the Saturn of now. With the dedicated homebrew scene thats has made all sorts of cool gadgets with the Sd card reader, usb reader, pseduo Saturn and even Sonic Z-Treme