Saturn Review

I had never used a Saturn until around the time that I'd started this website.  Since it was completely new to me, I thought I’d do a short review of the system and the games that interested me most...but please keep in mind, this "review" is from the perspective of someone who normally prefers games from the 8-bit or 16-bit era.  If you grew up playing PS3, you'll probably have the opposite opinions on most things.  Please don't take offence, these are just my opinions.

The Saturn was first rumored around the end of the 16-bit era.  When the rumors first started (via magazines and game-store-chat...the internet still hadn’t caught on as big as it is now), I got really excited for two main reasons:

- It was made for the purpose of bringing an identical arcade experience into your home.  Since I always worshiped the arcade versions of After Burner, OutRun and Daytona, I was thrilled!

- It was originally rumored to be backwards compatible with all the other Sega systems: Genesis, Sega CD and the 32x iterations of both. 

Backward compatibility would have been awesome.  I mean, even though the Saturn was really expensive, what kid wouldn't want one system that played all of the awesome Sega games, plus "real" versions of the arcade games?  Well, in the end, it was apparently too complicated and cost too much for Sega to make the system backward compatible.  The Saturn did not sell well and in my opinion, lack of backward-compatibility was a direct cause...especially if someone had just dumped money on a $200 Sega CD and a $150 32x...after already spending at least $100 on a Genesis!  That's certainly why I didn't buy it.  That and this was right about the time in my life I decided girls and drinking were more important than video games...but I guarantee if it was backwards compatible, I would have owned one no matter what!

Anyway, other than seeing the Saturn box on the wall of games stores, I never actually played one until I played Daytona USA at my friend Justin's house...far past my childhood; I was 30!  It was awesome, but even after building the Retro Cart, I didn't feel the need to get one just for that one game...

...until a friend gave me one for free.  Of course, that one turned out to be broken, but it came with a bunch of games and accessories, so now my interest was piqued.  Lucky for me, Justin came to the rescue and sent me his spare (thanks again for that dude) and now that I had it, I really wanted to put it through it's paces.  I was also able to pick up a Saturn Racing Wheel for $10.  I tried it with a bunch of racing games and it was just okay, but it worked perfect with Out Run.  Since the racing wheels usually sell for $40, for the price I paid, it’s worth keeping just for Out Run.  That being said, it’s really disappointing that it didn’t work better with Daytona, Sega Rally, or Virtua Racing.  If you find one cheap, pick it up.  If not, don’t go hunting for one.

I was lucky enough to be able to try a ton of games and I came to the following conclusions:

- It is so worth having a Saturn.  Even if I only play 10 games on it, they are 10 awesome games.

- All the ports of the Sega arcade games seem excellent and other than owning the actual arcade (or a stand-up MAME machine), this seems like the best way to play them. 

I’m assuming someone reading this page will have the same limited experience I did with the console, so I wanted to shed some light on a few games.  I played each one for at least a few minutes (and some for quite a long time), so I’ll give a mini-review of each.  Also, I put a “*” by my favorites and two “*” next to the ones I loved.  If you get the opportunity, I suggest you try each one.  So, onto the games!:

*Afterburner II - Exactly like the arcade (minus the huge cockpit to sit in), awesome.

Alone in the Dark One-Eyed Jack's Revenge - Seemed like a typical PS1-style game...which isn't my thing at all.

Area 51 - Light gun game - Like the arcade, fun.

Burning Rangers - This game had one of those 30 minute long training’s you have to go through.  I got terribly bored after 5 minutes and turned it off.  Maybe I should give it another try?

Chaos Control - Light gun game - Kinda boring, but still neat.

Contra: Legacy of War - Exactly what you'd expect a 32-bit Contra to look like.  Not my thing, but maybe you'd enjoy?

Crypt Killer - Light gun game - Funny, because you’re shooting zombies, but the graphics seemed sub-par for the Saturn.

**Daytona USA - Felt just like the arcade, absolutely amazing!

*Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition - Like the original with a more options and tracks.

Death Crimson - Light gun game - Weird Japanese shooter.

Destruction Derby - A demolition derby racing game.  It’s gotta be one of the slowest feeling racers I’ve even played and I didn't like it.

Die Hard Arcade - Typical PS1-style game

Die Hard Trilogy - This is supposedly a light gun game, but I couldn’t find any shooting parts.  It must be one of those games that’s 99% regular, with some gun parts.  I’d rather not waste my time on it.

Doom - An excellent version with great music.  If you’re a fan of the original, you’ll love this version.  Sadly, it's not comatible with the 3D Controller.  Here's a list of games that are.

*Double Switch - One of the few decent “Full Motion Video” games ever released and it’s much nicer looking than the Sega CD version.  After all these years, I still can't quite figure out how to play it!  I can't get more than 20 minutes into it!  Any suggestions?

Duke Nuke'm 3D - Awesome version of the game.  FPS' make me dizzy (they always have, it's not just new games), but if I felt the need to play this game, this version is great.  Also, if you have the 3D Controller, it's even better!

Golden Axe: The Duel - Like Street Fighter, but with the Golden Axe characters.

Guardian Heroes - Um, a story-based fighting game?  I think?  I really didn't like it.

House of the Dead - Light gun game - Kind of a fun zombie shooter.

Maximum Force - Light gun game - A cool “on rails” shooter.  The only problem is your view is through a window, so you end up with less on the screen.  I hate when games do that.  Its so much better when the game designers use the whole screen.

Mechanical Violator - Hakaider - Light gun game - This is a Japanese game, so all of the recorded vocals are in Japanese.  I’m sure they add to the story, but you get the idea from the pictures.  All in all, it’s a fun shooter, but I wish it was translated into English.

Mega Man 8 Anniversary Collector's Edition - It looked like a cartoon-y version of Mega Man X 4.  I never liked the look of these games.

Mega Man X 3 - A great port of Mega Man X3.  The only weird thing: there are these weird bars on the sides that cause the gameplay to be in the middle.  I did some research and found a site that explained it:
The most noticeable addition to the Saturn version is a border around the game playfield - while it does look nice, it can make the game feel smaller. The SNES originally rendered the game at 256x224 - the Saturn on the other hand can not draw lower than 320x240, so Capcom stuck borders around the game to fill up the unused portion of the screen.”
As a result, I’d have the recommend the SNES version instead, but they can get really expensive, since Capcom didn’t produce many of them.

Mega Man X 4 - It's all cartoon-y, like the PS1 versions. 

""Metal Slug - This is a port of the Neo Geo game.  It's really awesome and feels like Contra on crack.  It requires the 4MB cart.

Mighty Hits - Light gun game - A fun puzzle shooter.  It almost feels like a kid’s game, but it’s still worth playing.

Mortal Kombat 2 - This game looked really close to the arcade.  Unfortunately, the sound is really bad.  A lot of the sound effects are actually missing from the game.  Also, there’s awkward load times before finishing moves.  It was still fun and looked great, but make sure this isn’t your only version of MKII.

Mortal Kombat Trilogy - It looked good, but I lost interest in the MK games after MKII.

NBA Jam Extreme - All the characters were annoyingly huge.  They all had massive heads that were really annoying.  I turned it off after two minutes.

*NBA JAM T.E. - It looked great, but the controls felt weird.  I'll have to play it a few more times to make sure, but after playing a full game, I almost felt like the 16-bit versions (both Genesis and SNES) had better controls.

*Need for Speed, The - The best looking version of this game that I've seen.  Since I have so many other racing games, I'll probably never play this one, but if I someday felt the need to play NFS, it would be this version.

Nights Into Dreams - People made a big deal about this, but it didn't interest me at all.  To me, it seemed like the typical: "forget about gameplay, see how cool we can make 32-bit graphics look!?!?".

**OutRun - Absolutely amazing, best port of this game ever.  Just like the arcade!!!

Quake - Good version, exactly the the original PC version. 

Race Drivin’ - It looks exactly like the arcade.  Unfortunately, the arcade itself was the best thing about it: It was a full sit-down system with a clutch and shifter.  In the arcade, the clunky controls made sense, because it was supposed to feel like driving a real car.  Playing it with a controller just sucks.

*Road Rash - One of the best versions of this game that's out there.

Scud The Disposable Assassin - Light gun game - There’s nothing that stands out to make it awesome, but at the same time, it’s really fun.  I’ll definitely be playing it often.

*Sega Rally - Looks like the arcade, plays awesome!

Sega Touring Car Championship - It’s okay, but I won’t give it more than that.  I mean, it’s not bad, but when you have Daytona and Sega Rally to compare it to, it fails on all ends: graphics, gameplay, everything.

*Sonic 3D Blast - This is exactly what you'd expect a 3D Sonic game to look like.  Much like Mario 64 was the next step from Mario World, this was Sega's next step for Sonic.  Since I don't like this style game, I won't be playing it, but I highly recommend you guys try it.  At the very least, it's cool to play for a few minutes and enjoy the Sonic world rendered in 3D.  Also, if you have the 3D Controller, I imagine the gameplay would be much better.

**Sonic Jam - This game has the original versions of Sonic 1 - 3 + Knuckles.  It's really cool: It has all the original, mostly unaltered versions except for one thing:  You can save your game!!!!  For nostalgia's sake, I'll continue to play Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles on the Genesis (since you can save those games), but I'll definitely play 1 & 2 via this game!  Even as a kid I wouldn't want to play Sonic for 5 hours straight, so the thought of saving is really nice. 

Sonic R - It's a "racing" game, but you're not in cars, you're running.  It's horrible.

Soviet Strike - This game has full motion video cutscenes.  They’re not bad, but kinda drag on.  Luckily, the game isn’t a FMV game...it’s like most helicopter games, such as Desert Strike.  It’s fun, but I may prefer the older-style Super Thunder Blade games to this one.

*Space Harrier - It's very close to the arcade.  I'd obviously prefer to play it in 3D on the SMS, but this is definitely the best looking version.  As a side note, if you're a Space Harrier fan, I'd highly recommend checking out this article.

Street Fighter Alpha - I guess it's like the arcade, but I never liked these.  Too cartoon-y and I'd always been more of a Mortal Kombat fan than Street Fighter.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 - Same as above, but more characters.

*Street Fighter Collection - This is awesome!  It has versions of Street Fighter and SFII Turbo that are close to the arcade!

Street Fighter The Movie - It's Street Fighter The Movie...the game.  You have to try it once, just because.  That being said, it might be the only time you ever play it.

Tetris Plus - Typical port of Tetris.  I really love the NES, Gameboy and Wii versions, but (like so many others) this just seems to be a boring Tetris port.

Tetris S - A version of Tetris with a story mode?  Ugh.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 - It seemed identical to Mortal Kombat Trilogy.

*Virtua Cop - Light gun game - It feels like the next-generation Lethal Enforcers and is a lot of fun.

*Virtua Cop 2 - Light gun game - Just like the first, except slightly improved graphics.  It’s a ton of fun and probably the best light gun game on Saturn.

Virtua Fighter - Same clunky, boring version as the arcade.

Virtua Fighter 2 - Same as above with slightly better graphics.

*Virtua Fighter Remix - This one is almost playable.  The controls feel a bit snappier (that's not saying much, cause the controls always sucked for the Virtua Fighter games) and the graphics are by far the best.  If you had to play a VF game, play this one.

*Virtua Racing - Awesome.  By far the best version of the game.  It is actually the perfect example of how bad the 32x was:  It simply overlaid a 32-bit foreground on top of the Genesis’ 16-bit background graphics.  This Saturn version is a true 32-bit game and it looks great.  Also, since the graphics aren't as clunky, the game controls feel a lot better.

Virtual Hydlide - It's awful.  It's the best example of "This is a horrible game, but we'll try to make it look 32-bit-y and hopefully people will buy it.  You should play it just to see how bad it is.  I never played the original, but it was really bad too.  The game is so bad, that this is actually on the Wikipedia page:  "This game was universally panned by both critics and fans, forcing the developers to definitely abandon the Hydlide series."
           
Wipeout - It’s a weird “futuristic” racer where the cars all float over the ground.  Not bad, but not exciting either.

X-Men Children of the Atom - Like Street Fighter, but with the X-Men.  It’s pretty cool and the graphics are great.

X-Men vs Street Fighter - Seems like a good port. 

...so, that's it for now.  Let me know if you guys recommend any other games worth playing that I missed...especially if there's a light gun game I don't know about!  Also, let me know if you disagree about any of the games.  Did I pass over a hidden gem, because it took too long to get into the action?

Well, I hope if you'd never gotten a chance to play the Saturn, this was a helpful little review.  Click here to go back to the Saturn page.