Sunday, 13 February 2022

Neptune - Why Live on Saturn?

The day before Christmas of 1996, my brother and I had already opened up all of our presents. I don’t remember the logic behind this, but we were having so much fun as a family that our parents just said, “go ahead”. So, after such a wonderful night of new gifts and Christmas love, we didn’t expect there to be anything else left when we got up the next morning. Still, we were happy because it meant we could still play with our new stuff we got and were happy to spend our Christmas money on more stuff, meager a sum as it was. We weren’t rich by any means, so what gifts we got were more than welcome, and some of them exceeded expectations by a long margin.

That’s when we saw what was under the tree on Christmas morning. It was a large box, and it depicted a black console with a CD underneath a hatch. Sonic the Hedgehog was depicted in small boxes along with other Sega properties, along with a triple pack free games with a gaming demo included. The Sega Saturn included Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop and the racing game Daytona USA. This was a ridiculous concept for both my brother and I because we had only had a Nintendo Entertainment System and a Sega Genesis in the past. Those were 8-bits and 16-bits respectively, only able to make two-dimensional games with varying levels of quality in both graphics and gameplay.

This was full three-dimensional and fully rendered polygons in 32-bits! Not that I knew that as a 10-year-old child, but it looked really cool and the games were awesome. Going from 2D to 3D and playing games we could only dream of from the arcades in the comfort of our own home was a dream come true. It had real music in the soundtrack and full audio dialog that didn’t sound like someone was talking through pixelated baby monitors. As soon as we got into the games, we would get locked into them for hours and my brother and I played every single game as many times as we possibly could.

Even when the games weren’t two player, we were still happy to watch each other play while waiting our turn. There were obviously parts where my brother would hog the controller and we would fight over whose turn it was but that’s to be expected, we were 10 and 12 after all. Still, he was better at video games than I was, so he helped me figure out a lot of the puzzles and worked through some of the harder parts of the video games. We collected a decent number of games and also rented quite a few from Blockbuster. It was quite the experience because we played these games together and found ourselves truly engrossed.

It got to the point where we would defend the Sega Saturn in arguments against the Playstation console. Back then, they were the top competitors on the market and today I can admit that the PS objectively was the better system. When I was in fifth grade, though, I would die before admitting to anything.

Over time, of course, things moved on, but we kept playing the Sega Saturn even when I was able to obtain the Sega Dreamcast because we still had a good number of games for it that we enjoyed playing. However, this was five years later, and it was clear to me now that this was when we began to grow apart. We began to hang out with different crowds, and he was starting to get into stuff that messed with his sense of reality. He began to spend more and more time alone, even when I was in the room, he barely acknowledged that I was there. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was when he was succumbing to a mental illness commonly known as schizophrenia. His state of mind began to bob in and out of logic and it wasn’t long before his new personality began to shove me away.

As much as I would like to tell you that this story had a happy ending, I must sadly disappoint you. While he got on medications and evened out, he was never the same and we have become very estranged as our lives branched off from one another. Our relationship never recovered from what occurred and I am left with the knowledge that my brother is somewhere buried deep within his own psyche. However, I still proclaim that the Sega Saturn is my favorite game console for a great number of reasons. It really does have a wonderful game library and the graphics evoke a heavy sense of nostalgia from an era branching off from the 2D to the 3D consoles of arcade and home ports. What it reminds me of most is of two young boys sitting on a bed and fighting one another in Virtua Fighter 2 or shooting criminals in Virtua Cop. It makes me reminisce over a time where the two of us helped one another solve puzzles or overcome challenges that came about in games like Warcraft 2 or Nights Into Dreams. It represents a time when our relationship as brothers was strongest and for that I will never give it up, no matter how much better graphics get or however many unfinished garbage games they release only to patch them later. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were making a history that would last for as long as I draw breath.

                                                    For Justin

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Virtual On - Lasers! Missiles! Laser Missiles!

As soon as you hear the phrase "Get Ready!" for the first time, if you hadn't practiced before hand, you were not ready! Virtual On is a game that takes some practice but then you will not put it down! This is hours of fun on single player and years of fun against your friends! Everyone has to at least try this game in order to feel the rush and zap your opponents with just about every type of laser! You will munch metal, tear titanium and sever steel with your own chosen mech! I could douse this game in hyperbole all day, but let's get slightly more objective before I turn this arena into a scrap heep!

If it wasn't clear, this game rocks. It is a third person 3D fighter that puts you in control of your choice of war machine. There are several to choose from and they come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you want the heavy weapons fighter that doesn't run quite as fast or one of the more slender models that are far more agile, this game has you covered. The Saturn graphics really shine with this title. Each machine is very unique, even though each stage is pretty much the same aside from different placements of cover. 

The real problem with this game is that the controls really do take practice to get use to and the game can be very unforgiving in its learning curve. It is moderately hard to learn but somehow very easy to master once you pick it up. All you need is some dedication in order to learn your chosen fighting machine and you can come out swinging! Learning how to throw the bombs, when to fly upward and when to use your ultimate attack without wasting it are all essential. The biggest challenge is the movement and going faster and firing with better accuracy than your opponent is also a very large part of the strategy. All of these elements help the immersion and puts you in that state of concentration that gamers florish in while you grind your opponent into pulp! 

It is very hard to find a fault in this game. The learning curve can be a little annoying at first but it can also be easily overcome. The graphics may seem menial today, but those who appreciate the 32-bits will absolutely relish in its quality and detail. The game has glitches but they are very few and far in between. It would be nice to have a bit more variety when it comes to stages and levels, but even then, they look different and function properly, so why fix what isn't broken? Even the short single player campaign can be forgiven because it has such a great 2-player function. The framerates can take a rather low dip! There we go, there's a fault in the game! There's the smudge on the Mona Lisa! Yes, the framerate can go down rather low, especially when there are the larger explosions. Even then, though, this game is amazing. 

If you have read either my Top 20 Saturn Games or my Top 10 Saturn Games lists, you will probably realize that this has been my favorite Saturn game for a very, very long time. Even after a very high boost in the number of games I've played on this system, Virtual On was never dethroned. This game is high octane action and top rate competitive gameplay for the whole family, so long as your grandpa enjoys turning mechanized warriors into can openers! VIRTUA BEAM!!!!!

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Listen to the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast Podcast!

Need a Sega-stuffed podcast in your life? Join us for the latest episode of the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast! Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts!

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