Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Saturn Tri-Force - Virtua for Beginners

If you were an American who got their Sega Saturn in 1996, you were quite fortunate, indeed. You more than likely were surprised to see that on the box, it holds three distinct, free Saturn titles! Not only does it have three games, but it also comes with a Demo CD that plays the first level of some Saturn games and trailers for many others. The value of this to a child in the 90’s is insurmountable, as it meant they weren’t forced to go to the store to find something actually play it with! They could open it up, pop one in and indulge. Not only were they free games, but they were actually some of the better titles for the console and even went so far as to showcase some of its better capabilities!

First off, we have one of the best early 3D fighting games, Virtua Fighter 2! Far superior in graphics and gameplay to its predecessor, Virtua Fighter 2 brought about game mechanics very seldom seen in fighting games. Although the physics are akin to moon jumping, all of the quirks in the controls are easily overcome. No matter your fighting style, you’ll find someone you can play within the roster. 

The greatest thing about this game is that you can definitely win the first three matches as long as you have some skill in gaming. If you’re around the recommended age of eight or nine, you’ll enjoy your first playthrough, so long as this is your thing. Virtua Fighter 2 has been said to have some very deep mechanics within the fighting styles and the cast is a distinct array of characters, making us wonder how the Saturn could include it as a free game along with two others.

Among gamers, a common complaint is overpowered moves. Wolf has a move where he flings the opponent across the ring. With the ring out mechanic, this pretty much means 90% of the time, he would win. Paichan had a few moves where, if you did not block her oncoming attack, she would perform ridiculous combination moves entirely too fast to defend against. Balance issues aside, there’s not much else to complain about aside from nitpicks. 

Next title in the box is Virtua Cop! A rail shooter featuring two cops who take down criminals doing their dastardly deeds. While definitely not the only arcade style rail shooter, nor is it the best, it is definitely a very fun and entertaining experience playing this title. The graphics are not great, and sometimes the hit detection can be rather buggy. Not to mention, if you are playing with a normal Saturn controller, you will have a distinct disadvantage to those with the VIRTUA GUN! (Dramatically cool 90’s music)

So, not only was this a great game that you can still play first day, but it’s also a very intelligent marketing tactic. Without shoving an ad in your face (they are in the box, mind you) they encourage you to enhance your gaming experience with this piece of hardware. The gun was worth it, because as said before, this is far from the only time you get to use it. Virtua Cop 2 was much harder of a game, and definitely would benefit from this firearm of plastic orange and blue magic.

The point in Virtua Cop’s (and the Saturn’s) favor is that you definitely did not require the gun. You can play and beat the game just fine with the first day controller. The game is simple and obvious in its content. The voice acting is laughable, but part of me thinks that part of the point, and the boss fights are beyond easy, even with a handheld controller. All in all, the flaws are background material, the forefront is a badass, gristle chewing pow pow fest. It’s free with your Saturn, what more did you want?

Last, and most certainly not least, is a game that has befuddled many, and delighted many more. This game is the most unique of the three games because it has no combat, nor is it really even what some gamers would consider as a genre befitting “real gamers.” The generic race car games of the past fit into the status quo of superfluous and a waste of time. I mean, who really wants to sit there and make left turns all day?

The people who play Daytona USA, that’s who! What you are instantly met with after the Sega Saturn logo and the dev companies is some of the catchiest and flamboyant tunes you will ever hear in your life coming from a video game. This game and Sonic R are two of the most memorable soundtracks on the Saturn, and if you have not heard these tunes before, you need it in your life, if only just once.

Gushing about the music is not a normal thing for normal video game reviews, so as soon as we dig deeper, we see that it is a racing game through and through. However, the simplicity of this game made it so easy to just jump in and drive that you really have no other choice but to do so. Two options, Manual and Automatic transmission, choose a color for your car, and then ROLLING STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAART!

On the beginner stage, it’s making left turns. However, if you’re playing on the hard levels, it is a struggle to stay in first if this is your first playthrough (not that I would recommend it on the first try). The fact of the matter is, though, that you are holding down one button and steering with your D-pad. If you have manual, you change gears. That’s it! That is literally the gameplay. Beyond that, you have three stages to explore. It’s a good twenty minutes to finish all three courses, and that’s if you’re taking your time.

It is literally the only Nascar-type racing game in my game library. Story time: I found it as a digital download on Xbox 360, and I bought it immediately. As I begin playing it, a friend of mine was flabbergasted that I would be playing something so strange as a car racing game. I very quickly explained that this was not just any car racing game. This was THE Sega Saturn racing game. No other racing games compared.

Am I geeking out and getting overly subjective? Of course, I am. It’s the Saturn and I don’t have a degree in journalism. Fight me. So, with the soundtrack made from the highest level of angels, Sega goodness in every pixel, simple, tight and extremely manageable controls along with somewhat challenging gameplay, Daytona USA has the charm to make it last through the ages in any Sega Saturn library.

The mere fact that Daytona USA was one of the 3 Free Games of one of the Saturn’s US releases only goes to push the fact that we had a friend and more when it came to the good folks at Sega America. Every single one of these games showcases different capabilities of the Saturn, along with completely different gameplay. What made this better, was that none of these games were really as well advertised as games such as Nights Into Dreams or any of the Capcom titles. So, you had these three games to whet your appetite and then pounce on the next game you had your sights set on.

All three games stand by themselves proudly in any of their respective genres. Putting all three of them along with such a system is far more than anyone could ask for. The greatest thing about them is that all of them stand the test of time as gracefully as the day they were released. If you were wanting three games to begin your collection, look no further. They are still commonly sold together in any of your common retail sites, and if you’re lucky you can find them in any local retro gaming store. Be sure to support your local gaming retail stores, and always remember to drink water.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

D - Saturn Horrorfest Review

Among the vast library of the Saturn games, it’s interesting to note how few Survival Horror titles there were. The one title that I played as a kid had such an affect on me that I remember it very well today. When I say the Saturn port of "D" affected me, that is not a good or bad thing, it just is. Part of me absolutely loved playing this game. It is probably one of the best point and click horror games of its time, growing its own cult following, especially among those of the Saturn community. The other part of me can never go into a hospital waiting room without thinking a portal will open up and I’ll be trapped inside the mind of a murderer.

Many have played Myst, and despite your thoughts on that game, it’s a good way of getting the feel for the type of game you’ll play with D. However, while Myst had more of a science fiction/steampunk feel to it, D was very gothic and very macabre.

When I say horror, many would think of gore and blood, along with some zombies. Well, if that’s what you’re expecting, you’ll be sorely disappointed. This is not survival horror in the ways of Resident Evil but more akin toward Phantasmagoria, if you’re old enough to know that game (Spoiler alert, it’s not good). This is slow horror. This is atmospheric to the point of settling your brain into an unsettling posture.

One thing you will realize when you play this game is that it is slow. Like, ungodly slow. That is one serious strike against it at some points. The frame rate is not great and the movement speed plus the load times bring the game to a slow, slithering pace. Patience is a definite must when you dip into this. It really doesn’t matter what port you play this on, it’s slow and very needing of darkness to get the full effect.

You’ll notice very little music apart from the general sudden scare shot from the background. That is replaced by what sounds like someone tapping on a gong over and over again. This is not annoying, this is, once again, unsettling. The creepy atmosphere is such as to give you some real, genuine scares.

The puzzles are not hard, but some of them do require that you do some serious searching and deductive reasoning. Some puzzles are pretty obvious, some not so much. On the first playthrough, you may have to do one or two source checks, but the game itself is intuitive enough, you probably won’t need to. It’s a lot of fun to figure it out for yourself, like when the game originally came out, you couldn’t do it to the point you can today.

The game is not hard by any means, especially when you’ve played it once already. The replay value is not great. The best you’ve got is two possible endings, good and bad. Another somewhat questionable gameplay element was the pocket watch. Your character, Laura, has to make her way through the mental representation of her father’s insanity in order to find out why he went on a killing spree and took an entire hospital hostage. She must do all of this before midnight. So you have a time limit on how fast you can solve the riddles. In theory, it’s a good thought, but this game is a bit on the inconvenient side on time already, considering how slowly you move.

Still, as annoying as it is, you still have time. It only takes a little over an hour to finish the game after you’ve figured everything out and gazed at all of the horrific scenery for a bit. Storywise, it’s mediocre, but the true horror atmosphere makes up for a lot of the flaws the game possesses.

When you get right down to it, the slow pacing of the game, while atmospheric, is probably the largest flaw it possesses. It really does feel like you’re swimming through molasses with how slow the pacing is. Beyond that, the father’s mind face pops up every once in a while and spouts out some very bad voice acting. I understand that not all games can get A-Class voice actors, but this guy does not have the magic instrument of vocal bliss. Again, more than just an annoying voice, it also continually slows the game down.

If you have a few hours to dedicate to a good horror experience, then D is definitely up your alley. It has the Nosferatu feel about it, and it even has a nice little twist to go along with the story. Despite its pacing, QTE’s, and overly short playtime, it is, without a doubt, a gem of a game. Be a dear, and get this title if you get the chance.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Neptune - Saturn's 10 Least Favorite Virtua Insanity

No console is without its flaws, just like no human is without their flaws. As a fashion model covers their blemishes, us Saturn fans tend to overlook some of the less popular games in the franchise. While we here at Virtua World would love to say that we see eye to eye with all Saturn fans, well, we don’t. Our views are not yours, and we know you’re going to argue. Just keep it civil.

Before you begin to wage Virtua War upon our planet, let’s set the ground rules. First of all, again this is all opinions, please treat them as such, because if we just listed all of the lowest rated games of the Saturn, that would just get generic and boring. Next, this is the worst games of the Saturn port, this is not a review of the games themselves. Some of these games were perfectly fine on other systems. Next, this is based on games that I have played, because that’s the only way I can judge them. Whether they are well made or favored by others is not the point. Okay? Okay.

#10. Doom

The fact that one of the greatest games in history is on any worst games list is anyone’s guess. Oh, wait, no it’s not. John Carmack has the dubious dishonor of single-handedly ruining this port. Whatever the story is, he made the wrong choice. Now, Doom for the Sega Saturn is choppy, laggy, pixelated and an all around abysmal experience. Once you step into any open areas with lots of detail, your game slows down that much more. It has a very large chance to completely freeze in some of the later levels where the areas are open and the enemies are plentiful. This is assuming you can ever get that far with this port. Not only is the Saturn controller not as good as a keyboard, it is also not very good for a Doom port to begin with. This is a game that has been made playable on an ATM machine, people. Just saying…

#9. The Horde

It has been said that this is a quirky, fun game with some charming animation. Quirky, yes, fun is subjective and charming animation doesn’t really help. The fact of the matter is that the full motion video (FMV) presents you with some of the worst actors since Plan 9, and their constant badgering is really annoying. After that nonsense, you are transported to a world where you slice bumbling orcs and goblins that are attacking the fine, slow motion folk of your kingdom. You are able to set up defensive postures and all that, and that’s all well and good. However, when it gets right down to it, maybe I don’t feel like playing as a young lad who swings his sword like a gangly helicopter with severe muscular deterioration. Many have said that they can get good at this and some of the gameplay elements in the later levels are a lot of fun, however, the journey to get there just isn’t all that fun to look at, let alone participate in.

#8. Street Fighter The Movie

Renting this because it combined elements from both Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat was something that we as young children could not see coming back in the day. The internet was scarce and we didn't have youtube reviews. So we think this game has a title we can trust. This was before we saw the very stupid, very guilty pleasured movie, and scoffed. The gameplay is awful, ranging from overly sensitive to just flat out misdirected. The figures look terrible, the special moves should not work the way they do, and this was just a bad idea to begin with. The whole thing makes it look like the actors are puppets on strings. Instead of blending into the background, they make the whole game look like it's stuck in terminal green screen. Who, exactly, signed off on this? Was it Jean Claude himself? No? Well it sounds like something he’d do.

#7. Virtual Hydlide

Though generally viewed as the worst game on the Saturn, this regrettable title most certainly is not. It does, however, earn that viewpoint for a reason. When you’re a lover of fantasy and medieval lore, you tend to get suckered into these cheap knockoffs when you’re not careful. All of the rumors are very true: Hit detection is ridiculously hard to gage from the stance of yourself and the enemy’s hits. Some enemies drain your entire hitpoints in just a few hits. The game’s levels and dungeons are wretched to look at, let alone play in. Although, there’s no regret in trying this game, it was honestly better off on that Blockbuster shelf.

#6. Sonic 3D Blast

This game should honestly be a higher rank on this list, but upon another recent playthrough, it has been decided that this title is “mostly harmless to a certain degree.” Obviously, have your own opinion on this game all you want. It is still a far cry from any of the original Sonic library and even when it’s better than the Genesis version, that’s really not saying a whole lot. It still feels very little like an actual Sonic game. It doesn’t need to go light speed, but we’d like a bit faster than a light jog, please! And DAMN your platforming! I’m sorry, that was a bit much. But really, Sega?!

#5. Corpse Killer: Graveyard Edition

Thankfully, these live-action rail-shooters did not catch on, though some developers tried. The fact of the matter was that their gameplay was so repetitive with the machine-gunning constantly. Zombies would fly out at you from nowhere and just charge into you. Close up zombies looked like pixelated cowpies. You just sat there and shot, hoping another zombie wouldn't speed toward the screen like a mosquito.  The acting with every character you meet on this tropical hellhole is atrocious, much like many FMV games, and the people in the zombie costumes look more like mental patients and big dead preschool students throwing tantrums. If there is any redeeming factor with this game, please, by all means, find it yourself.

#4. Death Crimson

Whenever you love a game like Virtua Cop, you tend to think that every game could possibly be as great as that one. Death Crimson tries entirely too hard to be like Virtua Cop without actually putting in the effort to make it any good. The controls were awful, the aim system was broken, the polygons looked like someone had microwaved them for a moment, and the framerate made you think your game had been scratched by a rough sponge. Enemies glitch into existence before they are quickly taken care of and glitch right back out as if never there to begin with. If you can pass through the first level without a headache, it becomes an endurance test to see when you get one, as it is only a matter of time. There are times when a game should not be released in America, we are grateful that it works out that way sometimes.

#3. Double Switch

The idea of watching a house at night to protect the innocent was an interesting concept. Maybe even make the scene really creepy with a masked serial killer, that’d be cool! Nope! What you got was generic film noir, horrific acting of the worst caliber, and the most laughable, bumbling morons who look like they’re in a Benny Hill sketch. If it were not for the overall entertainment value of this FMV slogfest, it could probably hit #1, but it is entirely too much fun to see people act like they have mental disabilities while also trying to play it straight. It loses even more points for Corey Haim, however, the inclusion of the late, great R. Lee Ermy makes up for this mistake. It’s not even a mixed bag, but that was nice to see. It gets a pass at 3, not to mention, there is less fun to be had.

#2. Rise 2: Resurrection

It sure is nice to have the added feature of the AI deciding to be cheap and repetitive whenever they feel like. Fighting games are always more fun when the computer can spam attacks that should take a second to perform. Bundle that with some of the worst, most choppy animation on a 32-bit fighting game and there you have Rise 2, sequel to Rise of the Robots. If that title alone doesn’t depict the amount of effort was put into this project, then one round with the controls should be enough to convince you. One single playthrough of this game is enough to make you want to put it back in your mother’s purse so she can return it to the rental store. There’s always next weekend.

#1. The Crow City of Angels

If there was an advantage to making your game literally unplayable, I certainly cannot find it. This was back when GoldenEye showed kids that not all movie tie-in games were evil. The Crow City of Angels was a game that set that fear right back into all who would behold it. With a strangulating control system and the most nonsensical camera angles, you may think you’re making it to level 2, or maybe even halfway through level 1, but you would more than likely be wrong. Passing it from sibling to sibling to friend to friend does not help. It does not matter what kind of prior gaming experience is in your arsenal. This game will not stop for you just because you can’t do anything in it. It is only there to kick you while you are down. How dare you play it?!

Honorable Mention

The Incredible Hulk Pantheon Saga - After a let-down like the Genesis version, you would think you could come to another Hulk title on the next generation and get more out of it. No, not really, you just get more confused and damaged for no reason. The puzzle solving in this game doesn’t so much give you a sense of relief, more a sense of wtf, because the Hulk should be able to strong arm just about every single one of these so-called “barriers.” Add on the random damage you take and the injuries sustained that the Hulk would have no problem recovering from are now suddenly killing him. Hulk nap now.

There are so many more bad games from the Saturn, and yes, there are some major ones that were missed. I do not rate games that I have not played. I’ll give them a second-hand glance, but there is no way you can ask someone to spend money on a game just to talk about how bad it is. Consider donating some bad games to Planet Virtua and, I’m certain I can be far more generous with my reviews. Beyond that, enjoy the free reading material! My Virtua Budget!

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Virtua Sonic #1: Where to Begin

Blue Streak speeds by, Sonic the Hedgehog! If you blinked, you missed him! Blast processing was ready, but only just barely when our favorite blue hedgehog hit the scene in 1991! He went from a simple hood ornament in Rad Mobile to blasting through the Sega Genesis in his debut self titled game! Sonic the Hedgehog hit the shelves in 1991, boasting some of the most beautiful graphics of the 16-bit era, especially as an early Genesis title. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was soon to follow late the very next year. It was also a rousing success, garnering favor between gamers and critics alike. With a third game rounding out the already legendary library for him, Sonic really seemed like he was going places.

We all know what happened next. New systems meant new studios, along with third party developers who didn’t know how to handle the character as well. Over the course of the next few decades, our hero was not treated with the most delicate of hands, and he suffered a lot through the ages. With titles out front such as Sonic The Hedgehog (2006) and Sonic 3D Blast, the little rascal just had a bad run of things. That’s not even mentioning the other mediums that were butchering the Blue Blur. Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Underground were handling the beating to his credibility in the hand-drawn aspect. So, it's par for the course at this point.

Then you have the wondrous other medium that he seemingly was not meant for. Sonic in the 3D rendered world would have an amazing score were it in golf terms. The numbers coming in were dismal bears. Nothing seemed to work, not even slowing down the game to a snail’s pace while making him into an uncharacteristically goofy werehog seemed to work. Yeah, that was sarcastic, because that game was a dumb idea to begin with. Fight me. 

Still, no one can convince you that Sonic on Sega Saturn was a good idea. You can only convince yourself and those who are already convinced. Sonic Racing (or Sonic R as it is marketed) was not in a lot of Top 10 lists when it came to quality, that was more a list when it came to lack of quality. The controls were awful, the racing mechanics were questionable, and the glitches made stitches in bitches. However, it was still fun for some people. Bad controls, yes, but also entertaining as all hell. Not to mention, anyone that enjoys playing it will also tell you that the amazing soundtrack is smooth to the point of therapeutic.

When asked about Sonic 3D Blast, you will get no real details out of me. To become very subjective in my journalism for a moment, I despise this game. Sonic moves like he weighs a ton. The graphics are not terrible to look at, they even remind me of Mario RPG for the SNES, but they were so poorly rendered in their execution when it came to movement. The one thing that Sonic is known for is his speed, first and foremost. To those of you who enjoy this game, kudos for that, because I love Sonic, and I love the Saturn, but this game was way out of line when it came to expectations. Still, we take the hit and we move on. We are Sonic fans, afterall.

Then there came the biggest smash in the face for all Sonic fans. After a long history of hits and misses, he seemed pretty beat up, but otherwise staying rather strong with a good foundation for a fanbase. We still loved him for when he shined, and accepted his flaws. However, Hollywood stepped in and decided to choose the ugliest Sonic character design they possibly could with the most horrific CGI makeup you could fathom. Even his fur color was off a few tones! Rightfully so, the fans were absolutely outraged! The shape of his body was awkward and muscly, not even close to his origins! Memes flooded everything, vlogs scattered all through social media as all Sonic fans joined hands and literally retaliated! After such an initial fan revolt, the director of the movie released a statement to Twitter. He expressed their shared concern for the fan’s outcry and promised to fix it very soon. After that, there was talk that such a change would cost the production company a great deal.

Yeah, let’s talk about that for a moment. You're someone who has the responsibility of literal millions of dollars at your disposal, and you failed to take a look between two pictures for two seconds? That is the only explanation there could be, because anyone with even half the eyesight of a mole could see that someone had their i’s crossed. There is no excuse for this. The texture on the design was complete and the voice work was done, you could have saved millions if you just took 2 seconds to listen to someone who actually knew what they were talking about. 

Revamp or not, it’s clear that priorities have gone awry in the communities of both movies and games. Sonic is just a victim of poor management, since his gaming licenses didn’t pan out quite as well as fans had hoped. A lot of costs were cut, and sometimes developers were making two sonic games at a time, KILLING the quality of the game itself. Whatever the reason, it spells trouble for Sonic fans, and since we are fans, we should probably keep a close eye on this. For once, they listened to us, but that’s not saying that they would do so again. We have no clue what he’s going to look like next. Slightly off or dead center, we should probably be thankful, but otherwise, yeah, we’ll play it by ear.

That’s not to say Sonic has been abused throughout his whole late career as Sega’s Fronthog. He’s had some awesome games since Sonic & Knuckles and we’re bound to see some more in the future! They even got one detail in the Sonic movie amazingly right! Who could have thought that Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik was exactly what every fan could have wanted? You really can’t go wrong with casting Ace Ventura in your 90’s nostalgia flick. So, kudos for that.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Neptune - Top 10 Games of Saturn's Virtua Insanity

Oh, by the way! I guess I should have posted this first, but here I am anyway! My name is Virtua Neptune, and I am a veteran in the field of writing. Obviously, my love for the Saturn runs very deep and many games in its library are among my favorite games of all time. They are not great with the graphics on some occasions, some of them drop framerates like a hot potato and sometimes the glitches make me pull out my non-existing hair! But I still love them!

I’ve already gone into great detail as to why I love this system, so I won’t bore you with anymore of those details. Now we’re going to get to know each other just a little more. It’s really hard for me to pick and choose my favorites among the enormous number of options. This is going to be rough, but I’ll try to keep it at 10 with some honorable mentions.

If you don’t agree with these choices, by all means, feel free to post your choices in the comments section. I can’t remember every great game I’ve played, these are just the ones that stuck with me all these years, and the ones I still play today. Here goes nothing:

#10. Daytona USA

A speedway racing game in a gamer’s top 10 is like plain ice being on your favorite list of popsicles. This should not be here, but for all intents and purposes, here it is. It is not only a racing game, but it is also so basic and so bare bones, that you can do more or less anything with your gameplay. It can be just a smooth ride on Easy mode, just to get some twists and turns. You can go off road, and no one will penalize you, or you can set it on very hard and get yourself some good old fashioned challenge. With just three tracks, it’s a gem that does far more than some modern racers. At least give it a shot. If not for the racing, then do it for the soundtrack. Like many Saturn titles, there were some astoundingly gorgeous tracks on their list of songs.

#9. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3

The second sequel to a legend was ported to the past generation consoles and then to the Sega Saturn. It's an amazing installment in the series and was born from a very bad mistake on the developers’ part. They did not include certain major characters in Mortal Kombat 3, and the fan outcry was so bad, they decided to upgrade it and put in a lot more content. UMK3 kills and kills and then kills with more blood before buying some groceries and killing on the way to the bread aisle. Why is this port so much better than the others? Two words “C-R-A-Z-Y-C-Y-R-A-X.” In put those letters with your Saturn controller and you unlock all of the wonderful cheats there-in. Mortal Kombat was already awesome, MK on the Saturn is Virtuawesome!

#8. Warcraft II: The Dark Saga

One of the very few times you will ever see a Warcraft game ported to a major console. The Saturn and Playstation both were blessed with this illustrious sequel to a game that began an era. Is it better on the PC? Yes, but playing it on the Saturn for hours on end is just so satisfying. There’s no explaining it, but despite its toned down graphics and gameplay, this one somehow made killing and pillaging that much more fun. What does it have over its PC counterpart? It just so happens to be the original game, compiled with the expansion pack. No extra purchase required! Sold! For the Horde!

#7. Virtua Cop

Many would rate Virtua Cop 2 as the superior, however, when it comes to the true enjoyment of the title, the first one was far more pure of an experience. Nothing against the second installment, but the first Virtua Cop’s simple concept broadened its scope. Starting from the beginning, and stretching out toward the end, you can see how much more experimentation they were doing with their enemies. You could see the criminals doing more and more different tactics of attack on you, ranging from construction equipment to rocket launchers, these guys were insane! However, the Virtua Police Department is on the job! Save Virtua City from the criminal element! Virtua Justice!

#6. Panzer Dragoon II Zwei

The best of the Panzer series, in my opinion. The other titles are fantastic, and deserve a spot on the best lists as well, but this one is the piece of the dragoon pizza I take. The leveling element along with the fast gunning action is heart-throbbing and brow sweating fun. The enemies look amazingly evil and sinister in their war machines and the bosses are just plain strange and gigantic! Enjoy the gothic scenery and soar through the heavens in this marvelous title!

#5. The House of the Dead

No matter what anyone tells you about these rail shooters, they can be played just fine with a conventional controller. Whether that’s hip with you nerds or not is not my problem. What is my problem is this game is so damn awesome, but for some reason you cannot get through it without killing some of the dumbest innocents ever digitized! These people will get lined up with your shot and you have no choice but to blow these morons’ brains out! Anyway, this game is still amazing! Killing zombies feels like a million bucks! You love every bone crunching, spinal tapping, hot lead busting moment of this terribly voice acted masterpiece! Though the English dubbing is awful, it doesn’t hold to the second one’s abysmal vocals “Don’t come! Don’t come!”

#4. D

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I got my start in writing horror. Not the zombie, vampire, witch, werewolf horror, I mean the real fear inducing kind of horror where you would see the skeleton, but it is not any ordinary skeleton. He would be a skeleton that could turn your world into nightmares! You will regret messing with that skeleton! D is a game that induces that kind of creep factor for those who would turn out their lights and settle down for a good scare. It is ungodly slow to no end, and does take a lot of patience, but that's where true horror fans will love this piece. Your nerves will be tested, and your mind will be trained as you creep through some of the darkest, most sinister scenery with lurking terrors at every corner. D will do that.

#3. Nights: Into Dreams

Nights is probably the game you’ve seen time and time again, even if you never owned a Saturn. It was the most celebrated game and more or less the iconic depiction of what the system was capable of. It was a gorgeous game! Some would call it highly underrated among its peers and this is a fair assessment. The high flying action and free flowing gameplay will mesmerize you to no end and make you want to play more. It is not a game for everyone, but those of us who love it hold it dear to our hearts. That cute little jester is more or less the face of the Saturn itself. Nights' character was depicted in much of the console's artwork and fanart since the day it was broadcasted on television commercials. The fans bought the game and a great number of the fans were not disappointed! Here’s to Nights!

#2. Virtua Fighter 2

This title may make you go “Oh, you just love these three titles because you love the Sega Saturn 3 Free Game Pack!” Well, yeah! Duh! Daytona USA, Virtua Cop and Virtua Fighter 2 were all included in the Sega Saturn for 2 months. By some miracle, my parents picked it up within that small window of time and this was what was present. This game stood above the rest and still stands as the first game I ever played on the Sega Saturn. Of course we chose the fighting game! We were young and bloodthirsty! We were ready to smash each other in the face with fists of epic fury! This fighter delivered in a big way! Though, it is often overlooked because of other current fighting games of the generation, Virtua Fighter 2 still stands the test of the time years later. Nomu.

#1. Virtual On

Whoever has the gusto to ask me why this title is my favorite, I would like to point out that this game’s speed and control capability far sets it above the rest. This game was received in a Demo Pack that came with the Saturn as well. It came with some very nice demo games, but none caught my eye more than Virtual On. Virtua On? Possibly. The combat is run and gun fun for everyone and that goes for two-player mode as well! There are still tournaments to this day being held (I should know, I won 3rd Place in Phoenix) all over the states and Japan. The mechas are beautiful, and customizable, especially on the Dreamcast port. That’s right, the Dreamcast port came out as well and it was just as glorious. Do not miss this amazing title or you will sorely regret it. Check your local or distant arcades for this machine. Beam Cannons Fire!

Honorable Mentions

Three Dirty Dwarves - A highly overlooked title of the Saturn, which made it very difficult to find later on down the line. You play as three dwarves trying to destroy and beat up various things and men with the use of guns, bats, and other improvised weapons. Tons of fun for the kids! (Do not quote me on that, it is somewhat violent, check the ESRB Rating!DISCLAIMER!)

Sonic R - Oh, here’s a head scratcher. Unless you were paying attention to my introductory SJY article, you may not have seen this one coming. It’s true, and it’s not a troll. This game is very enjoyable if you simply do not take it too seriously. Sonic is still a lot of fun to run around with, and every character has a cool quirk that makes them interesting to play as. The songs, my friends. That soundtrack alone is worth racing around those tracks. Look it up. Way past cool!

Die Hard Trilogy - Die Hard Arcade was cool, but trilogy was an amazing compilation of game styles that made it a classic and infinitely awesome to play! You have the choice to play in one of all three Die Hard movies. Each one sporting a different objective and overall gameplay. They are highly addictive and even if you’re not good at some of the levels, you can’t help but enjoy the hell out of it!

I could make this list go on for a good ten thousand words (and no, I’m not kidding). To say this list was hard to make is the biggest understatement of the year. Normally two thousand words takes me a good hour at most, this took me almost all day. It’s one of those things that really has no structured order, so the overall list in your head is what you go with. There are so many more, and there will be more reviews for all of them and more. That is all to come in the future, though. Presently, I think this list is rather solid. If it is to get an update, I may just make an 11 - 30 favorite titles. Who knows. If it’s late, get a glass of water and get some sleep. Sweet Virtua Dreams.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Sega Saturn: The Nostalgic Little Giant

A game console that needs all of the introduction, yet none of it. The Sega Saturn was a front runner of CD based, 3D technology while also delivering to the lowest common denominator when it comes to simplicity. What more could one ask for? While it sold to millions in Japan, the Saturn’s capabilities were sorely misconstrued between developers and that was a big reason why its numbers suffered in the US. Despite this, their library is packed with some of the most entertaining and hard hitting games of the time and if you can play then on anything play it on a Sega Saturn! Their ports were lacking in some cases, but there were some golden gems that were clear as day to those in the know.

Why is the Saturn loved so much? What could have possibly driven some people to not be able to move on? Even the Dreamcast, the semi-perfect successor (opinionated) to the Saturn seemed to pale in comparison when it came to those who clung to the 5th generation (since no one counts the 32X). Playstation is objectively the better system of the time, and many of its shared ported games were just better, by and large. Why the Saturn?

If you need to ask that question, then words will never convince you. You may think it’s an act, but it’s far deeper in meaning. The concept of loyalty shouldn’t apply to a piece of hardware from the mid 90’s, nor should we ever express deep or meaningful love to inanimate objects, it’s just not healthy. Well, we’re humans and we are prone to unhealthy choices. The hours upon hours put into games like Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Virtua Cop, Virtual On, and X-men vs Street Fighter are enough to make the current gaming industry look like a pile of rocks by comparison.

First of all, young generation, games back then didn’t need add-ons, downloadable content, nor did they need in-game purchases to make the game easier. Yes, that’s right, we may be old, but we can still hold that pile of horse flop over your heads. Fight me.

In all seriousness, this is a love letter to Sega Saturn and it is simply put in the context of an explanation. To do that, you would need to hear the story of a boy and his brother waking up Christmas day, thinking that they had opened all of their presents the night before. Yes, they did that sometimes. Then the big day comes and both of them find a big huge box labeled Sega Saturn underneath their tree. Within the box were three games: Virtua Cop, Virtua Fighter 2, and Daytona USA all included with the system.

Now, let’s pause. In this moment, obviously, some of us feel a twinge knowing that we could have kept the console inside the box, and sold it 20 years later for much more profit. However, that is not what a ten year old and a twelve year old were thinking at the time. The box was opened, and the system was hooked up. We were hooked up. In the prime of our mental development, we were taken from our 16-bit era and thrown into the era of boxy pixelation, blood, and monstery, fiery death.

If that is not enough to explain 10% of the nostalgia factor inherent in the Saturn, try the fact that the controller was the most user-friendly controller of its time. Six buttons all in a row was far better than four buttons front, four buttons back. You just needed two bumpers, six buttons and you were set. Fighting games were a breeze to learn and improve upon because it was very much set up like the arcade games we played at the time (Which are happily showing new signs of life here in the precursor of the 2020’s). If you even think about telling me how the N64 controller is better, I would like to invite you to my palm coming very close to your face. Enjoy that conversation.

You could make the argument that we were in the prime of our youth, and now blinded by rose colored goggles. In all fairness, you could very well be right. However, where’s the problem with that? Yeah, we’ll bring up the Saturn into normal conversation. You may find it strange because everyone had a Playstation back then, as far as the normal consensus is concerned. The Doom port was terrible, but the fact that we can play it with the controller while also having it on our favorite system is well worth it; (if only the games were cheaper!) to us, at least.

Whatever your reason for loving the Saturn or hating it, human opinion is a moot point. What matters is that if we want to consider it as a front-runner of its time, laughing at us doesn’t exactly help. The system has been sorely misrepresented on the internet as a relic of a past age, fed upon by leeches who can’t let 95 - 96 just die already. If you took just two seconds to look at us in action, you’ll see that not all of us are the trolls that say Saturn is better and your consoles SUCK in comparison. There are plenty who will freely admit that the Playstation is a better system, but get that over-hyped garbage out of my face!

The representation it has gotten on social media and youtube has been shoddy to say the least. So-called “Sega Saturn Fans” have been rolling over for the Playstation just because it’s the better system overall. Let’s be real, here, how much better of a system was it? If I wanted to buy a Playstation or that atrociously produced Playstation Classic system, I would have done so by now. There was plenty of opportunity, but why would I waste my time? Whatever exclusives it has are ported elsewhere and a PS3 is a perfectly fine substitute for it. The Sega Saturn does not have that kind of support, though it is growing that support as we speak.

It’s kind of beautiful that it’s being celebrated recently, and I, for one, really hope we get a classic system for it. If for no other reason than to get maybe a good thirty or forty new people to love the Saturn along with us. The community is not exclusive to 90’s kids, newcomers to the Saturn are always welcome. The library is gigantic when you look at the forest for the trees, and people are still making fan ports for it.

So please, do not cram the Playstation in our faces when we mention Sega Saturn. The system did a good number of games better than the PS1, and it had exclusives that are still treasured to this day. If one of the Saturn fans out there could put it into more understandable words, by all means, write it down and share some thoughts and memories in the comments. It’s a great system, tell us about your favorite games and your early recollections. Maybe you even have guilty pleasures on it, like mine, Sonic R. There’s nothing wrong with having guilty pleasures, but if you think the Sega Saturn is one of mine, I would like to reaffirm my statement before about my hand, and that wonderful conversation you can still have with it.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Saturn Quake Takes: Killing Them Slowly

I don’t need to tell you that Quake rocks. Father K already covered that a while back, offering praise for it and the other iconic first person shooters Lobotomy Software famously ported to Sega’s mid-90s underdog console.

It’s also no secret that Quake’s presence on the Saturn was practically a miracle in the first place. Digital Foundry’s John Linneman has even gone as far as to dub it the “Impossible Port.” The Saturn was notoriously a pain in the ass to develop for – particularly for devs hoping to utilize the third dimension – and yet it still runs Quake somehow. Granted, plenty of concessions were needed to make that happen. Compared to the PC original, the Saturn Quake sports choppier frame rates, reduced responsiveness, and less precise movement and aiming sans mouse and keyboard. But despite its limitations, it remains infinitely more impressive than the PlayStation port of Quake…which doesn’t exist.

Tech stuff aside, I’m more interested in delving into some interesting ways Saturn Quake managed to differentiate its player experience from the classic PC original. As a likely result of the technological and design compromises Lobotomy made to get Quake to function on Saturn hardware, I quickly noticed the Saturn version forces me to approach its gameplay in some fundamentally new and unexpected ways.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Being A Retro Gamer, Stops Me From Playing The Saturn!

We all love a bargain...
I remember when I first started collecting for the Saturn as a "Retro Gamer" (as opposed to a current gen buyer in the 1990s). The year was 2006, and I was avidly buying up Dreamcast hardware and software. I had inherited a couple of Dreamcasts from people who wanted to get rid of "clutter". They had given them to my kids to be honest, but my kids could not have been more disinterested. They had a PS2 and were dreaming of a 360. I on the other hand was very interested - I had missed out on the Dreamcast completely, because my late 90s and early 2000s had been a blur of parenthood, work and excessive raving. The Dreamcast was a revelation to me... I was enthralled by it and spent my post-raving days buying up as much Dreamcast guff as I could. Most of my transactions and purchases took place at a Gamestation within Blockbuster in Fallowfield, Manchester, where vast quantities of games were being offloaded by punters, usually to pay for new stuff - it was an exciting time - the PS3 and 360 had just come out and the Wii was imminent. The Dreamcast was dead in the water... games that had fetched £40 + were now being sold at Blockbuster for £2.50. The console itself was £17 if you wanted one, and peripherals such as light-guns, keyboards, microphones etc could be picked up for under a fiver. The term retro-gamer had just been coined for people who were generally into systems such as the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Amiga, Commodore 64 etc. If retro-gamers were into any sort of consoles, it was systems like the Atari 2600, the NES or Master System.

So where did the Saturn fit into this world? Well, the value of Saturn games and hardware was even less than that of the Dreamcast. It was available for pennies... literally. The Saturn was simply seen as a failure, an "also ran" system that had been vastly inferior to the PlayStation, and that it had failed both critically and commercially. Many people simply didn't know the system had existed. One of the most exciting things about collecting for Dreamcast or Saturn was the ability to score a bargain. We all love a bargain, right? We tell friends about them, we post our shopping triumphs on Facebook and remember them, sometimes for years after we have used them up, or thrown them away. I distinctly remember the time in 2006 that I found a copy of Sega Rally for 20p!

20p? In 2006, that was a paltry amount of cash - one could perhaps buy a cheap packet of crisps or a small chocolate bar with it. But here was one of my favourite games in pristine condition for 20p! Again, back at the time of production, this would have gone for £30. I remember the fact that I had got a game I rated and valued SO MUCH had blown my mind. For a week or so, I played my Sega Saturn more than my Dreamcast. I revelled in the fact that my gaming pleasure had cost me so little... indeed, it seemed for every hour of Sega Rally I clocked up, the pleasure I took from my purchase seemed to grow. It was a feeling I had forgotten about, until now...