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.

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