REVIEW: Sega Saturn

SATURN REVIEW

The Saturn reminds me a lot of the Game Gear as far as the aesthetic choice of black on black. I personally like it, makes it look kinda sleek and sexy. The graphics however do not hold up well. We are 1280px-Sega-Saturn-Console-Set-Mk1beginning that time period of gaming that I foretold to you guys months ago, the period where gaming embarked on its quest to look realistic but did not yet have the tools to accomplish that. At that time period the Saturn, Playstation and N64 looked great, but when we go back to play them after getting used to today’s gaming graphics they look like hot garbage. In my opinion the sound also doesn’t hold up well on most of these games. The charming low-bit themes of the NES/SNES/Genesis are gone for the most part in favor of attempts at more realistic sound effects and simulations of orchestrated themes. Very few games managed to pull that off well during the time period.

Saturn’s controller is very similar to the Genesis’ and that’s a great thing in my opinion. I find it light and tumblr_mu1nibrfDy1sg3g3so1_400ergonomic, with buttons and a pad that all feel responsive. The Saturn also had a later model controller I’m fond of that had an analog stick and “trigger” style shoulder buttons, the first controller to do so. The addition of an analog stick improved gameplay experience on some Saturn games, especially Nights into Dreams which it came packaged in with. I had zero problems with the Saturn as far as reading games or loading times. The small number of games the Saturn does have in its library are actually quite good for the most part. The Panzer Dragoon series in particular is a must-play set of titles that sadly can’t be found anywhere else. To see my other suggested games just refer to my collection list on the Saturn poll blog post.

Aside from the crummy graphics of this era I enjoyed my playtime when reviewing these games and am happy with the Saturn. Its honestly a shame that Sega handled things so poorly because structurally the Saturn had tons of potential for the time period. Had they allowed and encouraged more third party support they would’ve had many more games and thus more potential for growth in sales and recognition. It seems like Sega worried so much about being beat by Sony and Nintendo that they kinda dug their own grave. Had they stuck with one focused plan during its development and spent less time worrying about the Playstation then we could possibly still be seeing Sega consoles on store shelves today. I personally enjoy the system and am glad to have it, but I wouldn’t fault you if skipped over it due to its small and expensive library.

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HISTORY/COLLECTING: Sega Saturn

HISTORY OF SEGA SATURN

After several years of success with the Genesis, Sega launched the Sega Saturn in 1995, at $399.99 ($626.37 today adjusted for inflation). The sales numbers were quite low and thus the Saturn ended up having one of the shortest console production spans in history. It was discontinued in 1999, leaving only a four year span of sales in North America and only 9.5 million units sold worldwide. The system itself was technologically impressive at the time, using a combination of Hitachi CPU and an additional video display processor. The Saturn used CD-ROM games, had Internal RAM and had hardware capable of 32 bit information storage. Sega changed the design of the system multiple times over its production span, mainly due to rumors of how powerful the upcoming Sony Playstation would be.

There are several things credited to the Saturn’s poor sales. The console’s North American release date was a surprise by Sega, coming four months early in an effort to beat the Playstation to the market. So much of a surprise in fact that they did not even tell most sega saturn logodistributors that it was coming.  Those left in the dark were rightfully upset. KB Toys even removed the Saturn from their stores completely. Another factor was the huge $399.99 price tag, likely due to the messy development changes Sega made from worry of being beat out by Sony’s Playstation. The small number of available launch titles (Bug!, Clockwork Knight, Daytona USA, NHL All-Star Hockey, Panzer Dragoon, Virtua Fighter and Worldwide Soccer) for a system that had already been out in Japan for a full year is another issue credited to Saturn’s low sales. That problem would plague the Saturn throughout its lifespan, as it ended its production with one of the smallest console libraries ever. The other factor some say may have been the biggest was that a new Sonic the Hedgehog never released for the system, which many reasonably believe would’ve been a huge impact on sales for the Saturn given the popularity and success of the series at that time. No matter what you credit for its demise, the Saturn is a historic example of what not to do with a system’s development and launch if you’re a video game company.

PERSONAL HISTORY WITH SEGA SATURN

My grandmother in Indiana bought a Saturn in the late 90s, probably cheap at a yard sale, so that us grandkids would have something to play. What limited time I had with thetumblr_mpfumsd02c1qe7n8no1_400 system I thoroughly enjoyed. My cousins and I played a lot of Nights into Dreams, Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop and Daytona USA. They also played a lot of Sonic 3D Blast, but I didn’t because that game always made me dizzy and nauseated. I personally was a huge fan of Virtua Fighter 2. Super Street Fighter II and Killer Instinct had hooked me into fighting games earlier in my life but Virtua Fighter 2 was really the first 3D fighting game I got into. A 3D fighting game presented to me a new system and strategies to master. Later in life when I started collecting I picked up a Saturn and relived those past games. I also picked up great titles I had missed out on through the years like the Panzer Dragoon Series.

COLLECTING FOR SEGA SATURN

Saturn’s short lifespan combined with the fact that most of its games weren’t produced in high numbers make it one of the most expensive and difficult consoles to collect for. The console itself doesn’t present too much of a challenge. It can be found with only moderate difficulty at retro gaming stores, online or at yard sales. The console also is well built and in my experience holds together very well with time so there is minimal worry of you buying a Saturn that turns out not to work. Saturn’s games is where things get tricky. All of them are difficult to find. Even the more popular ones like Daytona USA, Virtua Fighter, Sega Rally Championship and Nights into Dreams are not gonna be seen with regularity at retro gaming stores. For the hard to find classics like the Panzer Dragoon series you almost have to resort to eBay or Amazon as they’re nigh impossible to find and they will be expensive (although I was personally lucky enough to find Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei disc only at a thrift store for $25). Arguably the best Saturn game, Panzer Dragoon Saga, normally goes for over $200 on eBay. Complete-in-box collecting for Saturn won’t run you much more at all and in my opinion is the only way to go when it comes to CD based games.

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REVIEW: Mega Man X4

Never Played: MEGA MAN X4

I was a fan of the Mega Man games for the NES as a kid and beat most of them. But I took a long lay off from the franchise for a while, going from Mega Man 7 to my next Mega Man game eventually being Mega Man Battle Network, which as you may know plays very differently from most Mega Man games. I’ve never played a Mega Man X style game until now.

Mega Man established itself as Capcom’s flagship IP, with its plethora of well received games on the NES mmx4and SNES. In 1993 the franchise added some new characters and backstory into the mix with the introduction of Mega Man X and Zero. Mega Man X4 is the fourth entry into the X series, which at that point had established its backstory and key characters. It released in 1997 for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Like its predecessors it is a side-scrolling action/platforming game that features eight bosses, which each award the player with a unique power-up upon defeat. Mega Man X4 had overall positive reviews and decent sales on the PlayStation. The X series would see seven more titles after X4.

Mega Man X4’s cover art is pretty uneventful, with just X and Zero back to back in kind of “ready-for-battle” poses. It does hint at my favorite feature of the game though which is the ability to play as either X or Zero, a feature new to the series at this point. When you start the game you choose your character and play through as them. You fight the same 8 bosses either way, but the story and strategy changes dependent upon your character. As with most Mega Man games, the order you face the 8 bosses is entirely up to you and is where a lot of the strategy lies. Beating a boss unlocks a weapon upgrade if you’re playing X or a new attack technique if you’re playing Zero. With Zero I ended up going for his Ryuenjin first and ended up finding it to be the most overall useful ability, but there are tons of different strategies players employ to tackle a game as challenging as this one and that’s what I like most about Mega Man games. The difficulty I personally found to be perfect. It was tough at times, I rarely beat a level without dying several times. But with strategy, patience and solid timing I did eventually beat the game, which is not a given with a Mega Man game. The bosses were unique and each presented their own attacks and necessary strategies. Personal favorite was probably Frost Walrus just because he looks so goofy but so cool at the same time.

What I was impressed with the most was the graphics. The game employs a heavy anime style in both cut scenes and actual gameplay. This style holds up tremendously with time and I personally found it beautiful for a game nearly 20 years old.

If I had to find fault with Mega Man X4 it would definitely be with its poor English voice acting. Zero’s wasn’t bad but X’s was just atrocious. I also was not a fan of the plot. While the cut scenes looked great, they were ruined by poor voice acting and a strange and uninteresting plotline.

Overall I had a blast with this game and it has made me want to pick up the Mega Man X collection that was released for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube. The fun yet challenging gameplay and anime artstyle more than make up for Mega Man X4’s minor flaws.

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REVIEW: Twisted Metal 2

Personal Favorite: TWISTED METAL 2

The Twisted Metal series is produced by David Jaffe and his tm2dev team at Sony Interactive Studios America. In 1996 Twisted Metal 2 released for the PlayStation and PC. Like the original game, Twisted Metal 2 has the player controlling their choice of unique futuristic vehicles and competing in a barbaric Demolition Derby style death match, complete with various power-ups and weapons. Twisted Metal 2 and Twisted Metal Black received the highest reviews out of any of the long running signature Sony IP that has spawned a total of 8 games over 20 years.

Twisted Metal 2‘s cover art shows you all you need to see to know what you’re getting from a Twisted Metal game: Crazy characters trying to kill each other in bizarre vehicles you could only dream up in some strange Mad Max-esque fantasy. I mean seriously where else are you gonna control a man attached tm gifto two giant wheels and fire machine guns at a demented ice cream truck? There’s one other thing on the cover to note that shows you a feature of Twisted Metal 2: the Eiffel Tower in the background. This game has you battling it out in notable cities around the globe, adding an extra layer of fun to the mayhem. You have your choice of characters, who each have their own bizarre vehicle and unique attack power-up. That power-up is used to help destroy the other combatants along with the standard machine guns that come equipped on every vehicle. Power-ups vary wildly like the bulldozer’s ability to pick up and smash opponents, to the cop car’s siren electric shock area-of-effect attack, to the tank’s homing missiles. Its this combination of unique attackers and the small arena you have to fight in that keep’s Twisted Metal 2‘s action fast and fun. Think of Twisted Metal 2 as a grown up version of Mario Kart’s Balloon Mode, but with unique attacks and an extra injection of personality. There is no story nor need for one. Just pick your wacko, grab your power-ups and destroy some fools.

This game is no less fun now than it was when Levi and I played it 15 years ago. The controls, sound and even graphics hold up well enough that they do not detract away from the fun of Twisted Metal 2. In my opinion the game is a must-own for PlayStation collectors, particularly those who have someone to play multiplayer with.

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