Monday 26 July 2021

X-men vs Street Fighter - Awesome + Awesome!


The arcades had a lot to offer back in the golden days of the Saturn. Three of those golden offerings was Virtua Fighter 2, Virtual On and X-men vs Street Fighter. There have been some monumental crossovers in the past but fans never knew how awesome it could truly get. After the stifling success of Street Fighter 2 and the wide acclaim of the X-men TV series, kids were ripe with excitement for the idea of a game that brought them both together. The fans were pleased with the results. While it is not perfect in its mechanics, it brought about an awesome experience for all to see. There were not enough quarters in the world to satiate the onlooking public.

A console port was a natural response to its success and as Sega Saturn fans, we got to have our cake and eat it too. Not only was it an amazing port that stayed incredibly close to the arcade, but it was also the best console port of the game overall. Capcom had done it again. 

The graphics are glorious and beautiful. The character options were beyond expectations, harboring such favorites as Wolverine, Akuma and Magneto! All of the Street Fighter cast is on display with this game, while the Marvel hero cast is amazingly full as well. Beyond anything, it was a fan-pleasing roster. With a flashy collection of backgrounds and some eye candy ultimate moves, you are hard pressed to find any real fault in its aesthetics.

The real flaws in this game come with its balance issues. Storm is amazingly over powered and a bit of button mashing pretty much gets you through the game with very little difficulty. Juggernaut's reach makes him ridiculous in terms of an offensive. The best thing you can do is try not to be too cheap with these super powerful moves. This game has literally ended friendships as a result. 

Everything on display here is top notch. Despite its small wrinkles, it is beautiful. X-men vs Streetfighter would go on to bring Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel vs Capcom, Capcom vs SNK, and so many more. Marvel vs Capcom 2 on the Dreamcast is a beautiful successor of this game and we are more fortunate to have this among our libraries in the 32-bit era. Play responsibly, and Hadouken with care.

Thursday 22 July 2021

Sonic Jam - The Saturn Masterpiece Collection


There is no denying that Sonic's golden age was his first three games. When he exploded on the scene in June of 1991, he came on strong. However, this was nothing compared to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which took the world by storm. This was followed up by a true successor in Sonic and Knuckles 3. Back in the day, you use to need an extra cartridge to get the Knuckles content for 2 and 3 while having some limited content on the first Sonic game. Now, we have Sonic Jam, which has all of the above. 

The Sega Saturn is proud to be home to this marvel of a collection. While there have been some amazing collections like it since on multiple consoles, Sonic Jam still remains quite iconic among the bunch. Along with the Gamecube's two collections, Sonic has had some amazing representation of gaming history being preserved. The blue blur will not be forgotten anytime soon and it's these ports that we have to thank for it. 

The anime style introduction is some of the most beautiful artwork and animation! Its soundtrack is awesome and it's a refreshing look to see such smooth video on the Sega Saturn's engine. You could watch it over and over again!

Sonic Jam, however, has some outstanding features that sets it apart from the others. For one thing, there is an easier, kid friendlier difficulty on this version of the game. This makes it to where the younger generation can still play it as one of their earlier games. Conquering this is one step closer to beating the same level on normal mode. Before long, they'll be conquering the whole game! 

As said before, you can play the knuckles version of all the games. It is clear that this whole thing is a port, as its controls are smooth and perfectly executed as opposed to an emulation. All of the versions are bonafide and capture the original games to a T. As if that weren't enough of a reason to play it, there is also a 3D mode that acts as something of a hub world. It's called Sonic World and it's beautiful. Not only does it show off some awesome Saturn graphics while giving us a peek at the 3D 32-bit game we never got, it also predicted the Sonic Movie in a theater!

This collection has a barrage of amazing features that you need to see for yourself. It is worth finding for a decent price, but make sure not to give into scalpers of this game. It is definitely worth showing to your kids as some of their best means of practice. Sonic Jam is one of the best ports of these masterpieces and I can sing its praise to the high mountain tops for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 alone. You can Knuckle it up on any version and have yourself a ball. Pick this up and be way past cool! 

That's right, I ended this on a Jaleel White quote! What about it?!

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Sega Rally Championship - Ride like the 32-bit Wind!


From the beginning, this game had a disadvantage of being late to the party. The first day I got a Sega Saturn was the first day I got Daytona USA as well. It was a fantastic racing game as far as I was concerned and today, I still own a Sega 3Pak collection. Sega Rally fell by the wayside in comparison, and didn't interest me. However, throughout my journey with the Saturn, it is a name that constantly comes up when sports games are mentioned. The first time I ever played this was on a demo disc. It had one race and nothing else, so it didn't get played much. 

That begs the question, how does it hold up today? Well, playing it for the first time, the first thing that comes up is the controls. They are janky here and there, but it's more of how you use your speed and are able to drift. It's a bit of a harsh learning curve, and many practice rounds were in store for me. Quite honestly, I never was very good at it. I was amateur at best in Daytona USA, more or less because racing games are not a forte. 

However, the more I did it, the more I began to get better and enjoy my time with this game. It has some great backgrounds and very smooth rides with a nice little background music. If we're really going to play comparisons to Daytona USA, that is one place where this game falls a bit short. The soundtrack for Sega Rally is good, it's catchy and it's a smooth ride, but it is in no way even close. 

This is a great racing game. It just takes some getting used to and you may even get really good at its mechanics. Sega Rally is more just a great bit of old school gaming that brings back that old time country flavor of 32-bit goodness that came out of the mid 90's. It ranks far higher in my books for its time capsule qualities. The Sega Saturn stays such a fine machine because it captures gems like this and holds them in stasis for newcomers and oldcomers alike. 

Sega Rally does well to represent what the Sega Saturn is capable of. Even when the 2-player mode doesn't hold together very well all the time, it is still a marvel of its time with the ability to do that. It holds up in high esteem for many reasons. If you love old school racing games, this is definitely one that should be on the top of your list. It's easy to learn, hard to master and reminds us of a time when games were made right. 

Monday 12 July 2021

Hexen: Beyond Heretic - I Cast "Bugger Off!"

There are some among us who can remember those good old days of video gaming when all you had were the video game cartridges and/or CD's you could hold in your hands. These were the days when first person shooters were in beautiful bloom and experimentation was bringing about new and exciting discoveries in graphics and video gaming technology. One of these experiments led John Romero into assisting a team with the Doom Engine. Raven Software used this engine to create a fantasy game that had all of the bells and whistles one could ever ask for to quench their thirst for swords and sorcery. 

When we were kids and didn't care all that much about beating games as fast as possible, this game gave us what we wanted. We could use our axes and staffs to drive the evil forces to an early grave. Now that we are adults and the kids are far more focused on getting through levels and killing monsters at a fast pace and with furious efficiency. If you are looking for a game that will challenge you, Hexen with either be your dream come true, or the greatest nightmare you ever had. 

At first glance, the graphics look stellar on the Sega Saturn. The frame rate isn't great and the pixelation on the monsters is noticeable, but overall it is a fantastic port. The controls take two seconds to get use to before you are ripping two-headed beasts apart in a gothic medieval setting. this game is gorgeous when it comes to its monster designs and atmosphere. The setting is pristine in its depiction of a medieval world that you can get lost in.

Oh, I'm sorry, did I say lost? Yes, yes, I did. If you have never played this game before and you are not watching a walkthrough, you will get lost. It's not so much a problem as finding a path, but it is a matter of finding a path, finding the switch and then finding the new path that switch opens up. Sometimes this path can be in a whole other planar dimension. So you need to hit a switch, go through a portal and try and find where a door opened. This is probably one of the most maddening parts of the game. 

Despite how they feel at the beginning, the weapons are utterly shite! This is a subjective view but it is also very valid when you are shooting monsters five or six times each while eight other monsters are chasing you around an entire map. Some people like these weapons, but some of them are slow while others are inaccurate. The real problem with the majority of these weapons is that they do not do near enough damage to get the proper job done. 

So, with the extremely confusing level design and the weapons that barely scratch, you may be thinking this is the challenge for you. Yes, if you are willing to take down flying monsters that sometimes you can't even shoot properly, then you are barking up the proper tree. Just be sure you have a ranged weapon and ammo, those fiery little bastards are a pain.

One very interesting aspect of this game is that you are able to choose between a Fighter, Cleric or a Mage. Each of them is different, and they all have their gimmicks and faults. I don't want to set any of them apart from the others, but do not play the Mage. His weapons are ineffectual and playing this class is just an all around abysmal experience. The fighter has the strongest weapons but he also doesn't have ranged attacks at first. It takes a lot of trial and error to find the class that is right for you. 

This game is the text book example of a mixed bag. It is fun and satisfying to play, but too much of this game at one time can be a convoluted and confusing experience. The real problem with saving and coming back to the game, and you run the risk of forgetting what was going on and what switches or pushed to get to what door and sometimes it's not really worth dwelling over. It's a terrible feeling when you're in the dead center of a game you decide to start all over. It is a cross this video game needs to bear. 

Imagine playing this game without a walkthrough of any kind. You could buy the game but you couldn't afford the game guide until next paycheck. Either that or your parents say it's either for Christmas or Birthday respectively. Pouring endless hours of bloodshed and madness into this game sounds like it would be fun, but it is rather bewildering. Do not start this game lightly if you intend to beat it. Just remember to drink those little vials of blue liquid. I think they're water.