The Sega Saturn was released in Australia on this day July 8th way back in 1995. Arcades were still a big deal, even if they were in their last few glory years, and Sega was dominating. Games from Sega AM Departments like Virtua Fighter, Daytona, Virtua Cop and Sega Rally were swallowing money at Timezone like a bank during the Global Financial Crisis. Every time my lunch break ended I’d stare back into the arcade and wish there was a way to play those awesome games at home. And then there was. The Sega Saturn. It was big and black and beautiful. Virtua Fighter 2 with fighting sticks, Virtua Cop 1 and 2 with lightguns, and Sega Rally with steering wheel were all in my home. Life was good.
It has been 24 years since the Saturn launched in Australia and 19 years since it made way for the Dreamcast. Since mini consoles are a craze right now, I reckon it is time Sega gave the Saturn some love and released a Saturn Mini.
Here are the games that a Saturn Mini should have…
Virtua Fighter Kids
My constant requests for this game to be added to the BAM roster keep falling on deaf ears for some reason. I can only assume it is because not enough people have working Saturns to meet the demand that would be created when everybody finds out about it.
If Sega releases a Saturn Mini with VF Kids then a whole new generation of gamers can finally experience one of the cutest games ever made, and I might finally work out how they do backflips with their giant heads. This game even has a “kids mode” that automatically pulls off special moves at random when button mashing. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Virtua Fighter 2
It’s like Virtua Fighter Kids but with grown-ups. Nowhere near as good tho.
The Sega Saturn wasn’t supposed to be able to play this sort of game. But it could. And it could do it very well despite what the Sony Defense Force and clowns like Lorne Lanning kept claiming. Lorne pls your game with half a dozen sprites on a rendered background could be done on a Commodore 64.
Exhumed was a Doom style game set in a future Egypt in “the late 20th century” which is now in the past. Unknown forces seized the city of Karnak and a crack team of soldiers had to blah blah mummies something something evil spirits whatever… like the story mattered. This was an FPS with some puzzles and it was heaps of fun.
The Saturn also had a very capable version of Tomb Raider that in some ways (texture tearing) was superior to the Playstation version, and it also had a version of Quake that played pretty well. For a console that was supposed to be bad at 3D it still did a pretty good job at it.
I played this so much at Timezone I could get to Lakeside on one $2 coin. That’s like two hundred dollars in today’s money so you can see why I thought it was a big deal. Sega Rally was powersliding perfection and I couldn’t get enough of it. Timing the slides and making sure you were in the right gear when exiting corners was the key to getting the best place in the first 3 tracks and unlocking Lakeside. Each track looked and played different, and Lakeside really felt like a reward with its mud and beautiful autumn colouring. Sega Rally was about skillful sliding and driving. Unless you were playing in the Stratos. Then it was about hurtling out of control with style.
Manx TT Superbike
Sometimes it is nice to unwind after hours and hours of racing rally cars by racing motorbikes.
Manx TT was not a great technical achievement – the tracks curved a lot so that the processor could cheat and draw everything 100 meters in front of you, and the controls were jerky as you tapped left or right just enough times to turn without sliding, but it was so addictive you overlooked all that. This was a fun game. The tight turns that hid the draw-in actually suited the gameplay and kept it interesting. Also, for some reason there was a house in the middle of the track so it gets extra points for being a massive troll. Apparently the track is based on a real track. If that is true then whoever lives in that house must have a lot of motorcycles and dead riders in their loungeroom based on my experience with the game.
Who doesn’t love fighting robots? Anybody who played Rise of the Robots. Virtual On was different, though. Two giant robots, with three different attacks, battle in a large 3D level. Robots could jump, dash and (kind of) take cover. The fighting was hectic, and the music and sounds had an urgency that set the scene perfectly.
The arcade version of Virtual On used a twin joystick control system that did not exist on home consoles at the time so the Saturn version was very hard to play. Dedicated players purchased a special Virtual On Saturn twin stick controller for hundreds of dollars. Now there is a very good Xbox Live version of this game which I recommend. The twin joystick controls work very well with the two Xbox controller thumbsticks. This game would not work as well as the others in this list because of the controls but should still be in the Saturn Mini because it is one of Sega’s best arcade games and the Saturn was the place for them at home.
Virtua Cop 1 and 2
Light gun shooters are the forgotten genre. The guns were never updated to work on non-CRT displays, and the tendency for Americans to keep shooting eachother irl didn’t help the image of these games with easily spooked normies.
The Virtua Cop games were on-rail shooters where the game effectively carried you through levels while pointing at things to shoot before they shot you. There was some sort of story but nobody cared. You had to shoot the bad guys wearing suits or balaclavas, or the big muscle guys in orange vests holding rocket launchers. Occasionally idiot civilians would get in your way and you had to not shoot them.
If Sega put Virtua Cop in a Saturn Mini they would need to include a light gun controller. The game is no fun to play without one unfortunately.
Last Bronx was Sega’s weapon-based fighting game. It controlled and played a lot like Virtua Fighter but offered something unique enough to be interesting. And by “unique” I mean the characters looked different because they were holding weapons. Still it was a lot of fun. As one of the games that Sega seems to have forgotten it made, it would be nice to see Last Bronx make some sort of return.
A new Panzer Dragoon game got announced at E3 and fans of strange, arty games where you shoot things that are at 90 degree angles to you were very excited. This is another Sega franchise they neglected for far too long. Put the original(s) on a Saturn Mini and that alone would make it sell enough to be a success.
Baku Baku Animal
Of all the games Sega has abandoned, and there have been a lot, this is Sega’s biggest sin. Baku Baku Animal is a Puyo Puyo style puzzle game where two kinds of pieces drop – food and animals. You group each type of food together and then drop an animal on that food and it eats it. That’s how you clear the board – the animal eats the food. It is so simple and so much fun, and nobody else has done it since Baku Baku. Even Sega doesn’t make this game any more.
Baku Baku Animal is the best puzzle game of all time. Nobody can disagree with me because until there is a Saturn Mini with Baku Baku on it nobody can play it to prove me wrong.
Shining Force III
Shining Force III was a charming, turn-based, tactical JRPG. It came in 3 chapters but, in the days before it became trendy to never release the third part in every videogame series, Sega out-did everybody by not releasing the final two chapters in Australia. Wonderful characters, a typically JRPG story that was interesting enough to care about, and very satisfying battles made this the best chapter one of any JRPG I never played the rest of. It would be great to see all three chapters make it to my imaginary Saturn Mini. Just run chapter 2 and 3 though Google Translate or something. How hard can it be to translate games these days?
It is against the law to make any list of Saturn games without including Nights. This game launched a brand new controller for the Saturn and, if rumours are to be believed, was partly responsible for the lack of Sonic games on the platform due to internal politics over the engine. Nights is a cheerful platformer with no platforms where you make loops in the air and hum along to the wonderful soundtrack to save some kids from nightmares. Nights was a game that you could really relax while playing. The Saturn Mini should also include Christmas Nights which was only released as a magazine cover disk. Younger readers should ask their parents what that means.
Dragon Force is a hidden gem of a game that played to the Saturn’s strengths. You walk around a world map between castles where enemies are also moving in real time. When you meet on the map it results in a battles that can have up to 200 characters fighting on screen at once. When all troops from both sides are defeated in battle you and your opposite general have to fight one on one. During the game you have to keep your castles and build your army with different troops from different parts of the map. Some troops are suited against other troops so selection before a battle is important. The whole package comes together perfectly for a game that is extremely addictive to play. I can not understand why it has never been released anywhere else. It would work very well on mobile, but since mobile gaming sucks bums I’d rather play it on a Saturn Mini.
Sonic Racing games have been done better – Sonic Rivals on the PSP – but Sonic R was the first and only attempt to have a Sonic Racing game in 3D. It seems strange that Sega hasn’t done this more often. Sega seems to think that Sonic is a platformer when the reality is that Sonic has always been a racing game. The controls in Sonic R could be diabolical but the game looked great and was actually fun at times. Plus it wasn’t like the Saturn was overflowing with Sonic platformers so Sonic fans had to take what was available. I liked this game a lot. A quick web search suggests I was the only one. Put it in a Saturn Mini anyway because it is Sonic and this is my list.
We don’t talk about Saturn Daytona.
Ok so what did I miss? Bug? That game with the clockwork knight thing? The fighting game with the car from Daytona? Who is going to be brave and make a case for Flicky’s Island? Are you Lorne Lanning? Get mad at me in the comments. If you don’t then that means I am correct and my list is perfect.