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Old 09-02-2003, 12:32 PM   #260
Icarus4578
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System Analysis and Review
Sega Saturn (SS for short)
Released in November 22nd 1994(Japan)/May 10th 1995(US)/1995 (Europe)
Originally, Saturn was to launch on "Saturn Day", September 2nd 1995 in the US, but launched early in many locations.
System originally included Virtua Fighter, and then VF Remix, then VF2 and Virtua Cop, etc.

-- Overview --
The first of the Sega Saturn software was formally unveiled at a Sega press conference on February 2nd 1994 in Japan. Among the first titles to showcase the new hardware were arcade ports of Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA. Also shown: Gale Racer, which was pretty bad, Clockwork Knight, amazing (but short-lived) side-scroller for the time, and an early working version of Panzer Dragoon. Unfortunately for Sega and Nintendo, a new player had entered the console wars by the name of Sony. Their new PlayStation featured unbelievable 3D graphic prowess, a healthy batch of software, and tons of hype to back it up. In an attempt to thwart this attack, Sega announced a new arcade cabinet to be 100% compatible with the existing Saturn hardware called Titan. Sega's gameplan was evident -- they themselves would rely heavily on arcade ports by Sega AM teams and original 3D software, and hope that the 3rd parties would back them up with strong support. In order to woo developers, Sega knew their first showing would have to instill confidence in developers.
They succeeded, to an extent. Virtua Fighter was not arcade perfect, and of course neither was Daytona USA which only ran at a respectable 15-20 FPS. Meanwhile, the PlayStation had a rather incredible showing with Namco's virtually picture perfect arcade ports of Ridge Racer and Tekken, as well as a slew of other fancy third party titles. Gamers grew accustomed to Sega generally being a very sequel-friendly company, so it was a rather unorthodox move to not have a familiar series like Sonic up and running. Sega wasn't without their share of problems - namely, lack of faith. A lot of people bought the 32X with high expectations, only to be severely let down. Buying a new piece of Sega hardware was considered a risk by many people. Game magazines like GameFan, always heavily leaning towards Sega, put the 32X in the spotlight and told gamers to 'purchase with confidence' because the software was coming. This just comes to show you that blind faith doesn't come without a price. In truth, Sega is still to blame for that massive mistake. Nevertheless, after much hype, rumors, and speculation, Saturn went on sale in Japan on November 22nd with several titles ~ Virtua Fighter (included), Clockwork Knight, Mansion of Hidden Souls II, TAMA, etc., and if you don't know this by now, Virtua Fighter was the most popular arcade at the time, so Sega was putting a lot of faith in Yu Suzuki/AM2's game to sell systems (sorta like how Nintendo relied on Mario 64; difference being, Sega kept the software coming at a steady pace). The launch was a success, but Sony still had a competitive edge. Sega desperately tried to gain an early advantage in the US by releasing 30,000 units (at $399 each!) earlier than originally planned, but this wound up being another big mistake. Many of the stores that weren't included in part of the early launch on May 10th turned their backs on Sega. In particular, Kay Bee Toys. Despite difficulties, titles like Bug!, Panzer Dragoon, and Astal provided a good foundation at launch. Sony had a strong showing of their own: Philosoma, Toshinden, and Ridge Racer, among others, were the groundwork of the future, merely a glimpse into what lie in store. How did Sega respond? Virtua Fighter Remix, a graphically renovated version with texture-mapped polygons.
Meanwhile, Nintendo/Rare had released Donkey Kong Country to an anxious public, 3DO was beginning to wane (already), and Atari Jaguar was a non-factor. The ambivalence of consumers would only edge them more towards purchasing a newer, more reliable console. It was time to throw away the toys and jump into the REAL next generation. Arcade ports aside, what Sega needed was RPGs and, unfortunately, the PS was to become the king of RPGs, beginning with Arc the Lad, Beyond the Beyond, and Suikoden... only to follow up with the biggest RPG of the 32-bit generation - Final Fantasy VII. When Square had turned on Nintendo in favor of Sony, so did millions of Japanese gamers. Sony, now empowered by Square, was considered a supreme force by all the game publications; from EGM and GameFan, to Next Generation and Famitsu, Sony had made good with the gaming community and was prepared for what would become a hegemony over every other 1st party. Sadly, much of Sony's dominance came from game publications hyping the hell out of crap like Takara's Toshinden which is one of the shoddiest, least playable fighting games ever made. Just because it looked good, that was good enough to warrant high scores (as is often the case nowadays as well....). With Tekken 2, Ridge Racer Revolution, Jumping Flash! 2, Resident Evil, and much more on Sony's horizon, Sega had to show their cards. Fortunately for the diehard Sega fanbase, there was much to be excited about. Sega wasn't content being sidelined by Sony. A wave of authentic arcade ports was set to launch Saturn sales into the stratosphere. Virtua Fighter 2 was a revelation, featuring without a doubt the best 3D fighting game engine up to that point, richly detailed texture maps, and at 60fps was considered a 90% perfect port of the graphic-heavy Model 2 arcade (the most popular arcade in Japan along with Street Fighter II), and was even high-resolution! The only thing missing was the 3D backgrounds. It was so good, in fact, that Next Generation blessed it with their much coveted five star rating, and everybody else was forced to admit it: Sega got the job done. That wasn't all though. Virtua Cop and Sega Rally also came home, both virtually arcade perfect. And Panzer Dragoon 2 was a graphic tour-de-force, if little else. These, along with Street Fighter Alphas 1 and 2, proved that Sega Saturn was, in the right hands, a great system for 3D games, and definitely the best 2D system around. Here's the Catch-22: the only way anybody could compete with Sega on their system in 3D was if they knew the architecture inside-out the way Sega did. Saturn was notorious for being difficult to develop for (what with two SH2 Hitachi CPUs), so Sega began developing more user-friendly workstations for the 3rd parties, lest every other 3D game look dated in comparison. And with Namco's big guns Tekken 2, Rage Racer, and the soon to be released Soul Edge as fierce competition, Sega was truly in an irreversible predicament.
Sony was an opponent without mercy, and Nintendo's Mario 64 was set to go at E3 1996, so Sega had to come up with more impressive software and a marketing campaign to match. Enter Sonic Team/Yuji Naka's NiGHTS ~ Into Dreams, a surreal game which looked, played, and sounded unlike any other. And since Nintendo was set to revolutionize 3D gaming with its analog controller, Sega (and Sony with their attempt at a mascot - Crash Bandicoot) came out with their own. Sega further displayed their might with such titles as Virtua On, Virtua Cop 2, Fighting Vipers, Manx TT, and later, Last Bronx and Fighters Megamix. A 3D Sonic had been shown for the Saturn, but Sega apparently didn't have enough confidence in it, so it was canned. Three Sonic titles made it to the Saturn: Sonic 3D Blast, which is considered a weak effort by most gamers (including myself), Sonic R, a 3D racer featuring the Sonic cast going at it on a scant five courses, and Sonic Jam, a compilation of every previous Sonic title on Genesis with an added 3D area for Sonic to transverse (an obvious attempt to copy Mario 64). Whereas PlayStation was the undisputed 3D champion, the Saturn was effortlessly the best at 2D. SNK and Capcom were foremost in pursuing this aspect of the hardware. As a result, Saturn owners were treated to 95-100% arcade perfect ports of such games as Nightwarriors ~ Darkstalkers Revenge (which included the original if you imputted a code), X-Men vs Street Fighter, Street Fighter Alpha 1, 2, and 3, Marvel Super Heroes, Street Fighter Collection 1 and 2, King of Fighters, Fatal Fury Special, Samurai Shodown 3 and 4, etc. etc. Many of these were import titles, and so Saturn owners in the US/UK bought converters and paid top dollar in order to transform their Saturn into the king of 2D fighters. Saturn had an array of great software, such as Shining Wisdom, Legend of Oasis, Dragon Force, and of course Sega's brand of sports titles. Around the time of Final Fantasy VII came Virtua Fighter 3, the most graphically intense 3D fighter ever made. Speculation about how it would be possible for Sega to convert this arcade to home was everywhere. Everybody invented rumors about Sega releasing it with a new cartridge which would increase the power of the Saturn to near-Model 3 specifications. Alas, this never happened. However, GameArts had something up their sleeve called Grandia, which many feel to be a superior RPG to FFVII. It was later converted over to PlayStation but lacked the impressive graphics of the inferior Saturn version. Some of the most obscure 2D games were available for import on Saturn, including Keio Yugekitai, which was overlooked by Victor Musical Industries (crafters of the TurboGrafx16 classic Legendary Axe) for release in the US, due perhaps to lack of sales for the Keio shooter for Sega CD. Also, Saturn was the choice for shooters. Darius Gaiden, Galactic Attack, Radiant Silvergun, etc. were all great experiences. The Saturn, in the end, didn't defeat PlayStation in sales. However, in many people's hearts it remains their favorite of the two. Despite the lack of 3D capabilities, the Saturn has more than enough great software to deem it a timeless classic.

-- Notable Releases (Release Date: Japan/US/UK) --
Virtua Fighter 2 (? 1995/December ? 1995/? 1995) - Considered by many Sega's best arcade port for Saturn, this sequel to the original arcade powerhouse featured faster gameplay, better graphics, two new characters, and actually advanced the gameplay and strategy - as opposed to most other fighting game 'upgrades' which usually just consist of graphic refinements and more of the same. A step in the right direction.
NiGHTS ~ Into Dreams (July 5th 1996/August 31st 1996/? 1997) - Sonic Team/Yuji Naka's answer to Mario 64 turns out to be not only one of the most unique games ever made, but also one of the most replayable. This game captured my attention for two weeks straight, always trying to better my score. A great game. The first Saturn title to use the analog controller.
Sega Rally Championship (? 1995/? 1995/? 1995) - AM3's highly polished off-road racing experience featured the best graphics of any racing game up to that point. Smooth and seamless textures, 30fps, inspiring gameplay, and scarcely any pop-up... equated to the definitive home racer, easily surpassing Daytona USA which looked horrendous by that time (only about a year apart!). Even the music oozes coolness. If you owned Saturn, it's a safe bet that you owned Sega Rally. Who can forget this? ~ "Game Over Yeaaaaaah!!"
Panzer Dragoon 2 Zwei - "Zwei" is German for "two" (? 1996/April 17th 1996/? 1996) - Although Y o s h i t a k a Azuma didn't compose the soundtrack like in the original, this PD is considered a milestone title for the Sega Saturn. Team Andromeda upgraded everything in this reinforcement of the original's tried and true formula -- from the blazing 30fps action, to additions like the berserk meter and dragoon transformations, outrageous boss encounters, and even an added new feature called Pandora's Box in which you unlock a tremendous amount of features and oddities. Although the gameplay is somewhat limited, the depth, replay value, and attention to every last detail cannot be undermined. Along with Panzer Dragoon Saga (RPG), this is my favorite in the series.
Street Fighter Alpha 2 (August 9th 1996/October 6th 1996/December ? 1996) - Out of all the Saturn games, I probably played this game more than any other. Without a doubt the best home translation of Alpha 2 (easily surpassing the PS version), this game was truly a sight to behold. Never before had I been so immersed in a SF conversion, save perhaps Street Fighter II. Awesome animation, tons of options, secrets, and the best fighting game engine around... excellence achieved. Capcom is the king of Saturn 3rd parties (as well as Dreamcast), actually showing support even when others fall away.
Guardian Heroes (? 1996/April 24th 1996/? 1996) - Treasure software is marked by abnormalities in the game mechanics, such as the inclusion of features usually unaquainted with whichever genre (or guise) they're supposedly working under. This game exemplifies their ability to incorporate those features. In this case, you've got a furious beat-'em-up with tons of branching paths and storylines, RPG elements like HP, MP, and EXP, and a tremendous amount of hidden secrets, endings, and other such goodies. It all equates to an unusual, unexpected experience. Perhaps too gaudy for its own good, with boss fights that seem to last forever. However, the positives generally outweigh the negatives. A fine 2D action title.
Grandia (December 18th 1997/never released for US/UK except on PlayStation) - GameArts stunning RPG astonished first-time viewers by showing that the Saturn can, in the right hands, compare with PlayStation graphically in 3D. A long quest which spans two discs, Grandia stands as probably the most important RPG for the Saturn (in Japan). Lunar 1 and 2 were also remade for both SS/PS.
Notable Mention also goes to Castlevania ~ The Bloodletting (known as Symphony of the Night) which was a remake of the PlayStation favorite with two added areas. However, it lacked transparencies and other graphic effects

When Virtua Fighter first came out, I was immediately enthralled and convinced that this was the beginning of good things to come. Sega had many high points during the 32bit era. In many ways, it is a better system than the PlayStation (and surpasses Dreamcast in my opinion as well). Saturn was my choice for 2D gaming. Too bad that game publications had to go and ruin it by pumping up PlayStation software with glowing reviews (even for games that suck) while the Saturn got shot down just because it wasn't always as graphically impressive. You can blame Sega's failure on 32X and Sega CD, but I don't believe this to be so. It had more to do with lack of faith in the platform by the 3rd party community, due in no small part to Sony's marketing propaganda. Sega Saturn will always remain an enthusiast's choice.
The Dreamcast was originally known as Dural, FYI.

Last edited by Icarus4578; 03-22-2004 at 01:26 PM.
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