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Post by Young Kaz on Fri Mar 22, 2019 10:02 pm

@Lord Spencer wrote:#59

Game: Magic Knight Rayearth.
Year: 1995 in Japan, 1998 in NA.
Genre: Action Adventure.
Publisher: Sega, Working Designs.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Magic_Knight_Rayearth_Coverart

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

Although one of the first games unveiled for the Saturn, Magic Knight Rayearth was actually the last official game released in North America. That was due to the extensive localization needed for a game that pushed the narrative boundaries of the time.

Based on a well-known magical girl anime, this is actually an adaptation that successfully tells a story while being a good game in its own right. The rare anime adaptation that works.

"This land, this place. The dark tide must be quelled. I must call them"

Heavily based on the anime of the same name, the plot of the game will be very familiar to fans of the show, even if there are some notable changes to the plot. Namely the fact that it skips the second part of the anime and combines the entire story in one arc.

For the non-fans, the story is a familiar Magical Girl Anime trope. Three Tokyo teenaged girls are summoned to the endangered world of Cephiro, where they need to fulfill their destiny of becoming Magical Knights and rescuing the princess Emerald. Emerald's disappearance is throwing the world of Cephiro into chaos, and the many locales of the place are in danger because of that.

The three girls, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, all represent well-worn anime archetypes. From the feisty red leader, Hikaru, to the geeky eye-glass wearing Fuu. Their development into the Magic Knights, which requires them to grow with the plot, is the major theme of the game.

Trying to stop them is the evil wizard Zagat and his band of hapless minions, who, to the story's credit, do get fleshed out more than expected. Even if the exposition is a bit forced sometimes.

The plot unravels through character dialogue, which is voice acted in the important scenes. Also, there is a big number of anime cut scenes that do not gracefully follow the action. In fact, I would say the anime cut scenes are more a distraction than an asset.

Surprisingly, the majority of dialogue and character interactions were really good. In fact, there are many times where NPCs would say something funny in a meta-level, but the important bits of dialogue and exposition are also mostly well-done. Of course, there is the occasional cliched scene or two, where the otherwise decent VA creeks under poorly written lines and unnatural developments.

"Hmph! It appears that the Magic Knights have been summoned from beyond the barrier"

In order to develop their powers, the three girls must grow and find their inner strength, and they do that by helping the various communities of Cephiro. That's basically the driving force behind the Action Adventure gameplay.

Similar to the Legen of Zelda the game is a top-down action adventure. Each of the three characters has their own attack style and spells, and you can freely switch between them. While some may call it an Action RPG, the progression is more like Zelda compared to anything else.

Each location has its own dungeon or two, and these are mostly straightforward affairs with simple puzzles. I imagine a better version of this game would have had character-specific abilities to solve some smart puzzles.

Except, the limited challenge of the game is mostly based on the combat. Yet, with the combined strength of the three girls, especially with Fuu's homing charged arrows, the game is rarely hard even against the exciting bosses.

"Alcione... The time is come for a little child abuse"

You shouldn't look at the game's lack of challenge as a serious negative though. While it is true that the gameplay doesn't reach its full potential because of that, the core game is still enjoyable enough despite its relative simplicity.

That's probably due to an always forward-momentum that help you breeze through the game without feeling bogged down at any one moment. Since the story and characters are nice enough, each new location or dungeon is an exciting new thing to quickly overcome and go forward again.

One activity that requires some backtracking is in collecting some of the 64 Rainbow amulets, which is a side activity that offers some exploration incentive without being necessary.

In the other hand, if you don't like difficult Action Adventure games, then this game is right up your alley, with a gentle difficulty and learning curve all the way through to the end.

"Ya know, in my day we didn't have bloomin' video games to rot our minds! We played with rocks and sticks and mud all day, and we LIKED it! We LOVED it!"

One of the many sticking points against the game, when it was originally released, is that it didn't go far from the graphics and presentation of the 16bit era. When games like Bug! and Blazing Heroes were released with polygonal models, Magic Knight Rayearth was simply an upscaled 16bit game.

That is exactly why this game looks great when most early games (And even later) of the Saturn have aged terribly.

The sprites look really good against a crisp and detailed environment. Character portraits are nice-looking an expressive, and their emotions are conveyed in cute little touches in the animations, touches you see in many an anime.

While this level of care doesn't always include the enemy monster models (except the bosses), the game's graphics are consistently good and are a reminder of why 2D game style never went out of fashion.

Complementing the graphics is an impressive array of anime cut-scenes and cinematics that do not always work. Somehow, the voice acting in the in-game scenes is miles better than the anime cut-scenes. That brings us to the VS, which is surprisingly decent, except when it is ill-served by some unnatural lines in the script.

The same cannot be said about the music, which is really the only thing that should have been made up to the increased standards of the Saturn. As it is, few tracks are memorable, and it just reminds me of how little I liked the Genesis soundtracks compared to the SNES.

In Conclusion:

As the last game released on the Saturn in North America, the game symbolizes a lot of what went wrong with the console. Released late because Sega worried about marketing a 2D sprites game in the midst of a technology race, Sega instead bet on the Saturn's weaknesses instead of its strengths.

Looking much better than the games that were developed after it, and perfectly adapting the heart of its anime source, Magic Knight Rayearth somehow became the rare good adaptation. Although limited in its gameplay, and you can feel areas where it could have been better, I had a good time finishing the game.

Final: 8/10

Pros:

  • Good story with funny dialogue sometimes
  • Tries its best at endearing you to the game's world and characters
  • Good graphics that aged very well
  • Gameplay is fun most of the time with good bosses


Cons:

  • Rarely challenging and doesn't reach the full potential of the combat
  • The story does suffer from the cliched moment or two
  • The music is mostly forgettable


"Tips"
1- Depend on Fuu's Heal magic instead of potions.
2- Fuu's charge attack is your go-to in times of difficulty.
3- Make sure not to let any character die, because they cannot be healed for the rest of the dungeon.
4- There always is a health fountain before a boss.

"Next Game"

I don't think I would have enjoyed a magical girl game back when I was a kid, not as much as I liked the game now.

Next on the list would be a report review of the games from 60 to 51, since the rest after Magic Knight Rayearth are games from genres I don't usually cover. Still, I will try and give each game a try.

Stay Tuned


I remember this being so good in like 1996. Ridiculously easy though. People would just give you new attacks from the Anime, which I also remember being "ok".

Good review old friend Smile

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Post by Lord Spencer on Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:16 am

Magic Knight Rayearth is mostly easy until the final boss, which is only difficult because to that point, Fuu's healing magic was enough to save you from any problem.
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Post by Young Kaz on Sun Mar 24, 2019 1:59 am

@Lord Spencer wrote:Magic Knight Rayearth is mostly easy until the final boss, which is only difficult because to that point, Fuu's healing magic was enough to save you from any problem.


I never actually finished it. Who was the final boss? Assuming it was Zagato or one of his generals/proteges?

I did appreciate it was easily picked up kids since it was very very simple. I think the actual Kanji in it was very low. Usually a sign it was directed at kids who were fan of the show, although I remember the show having elements I would not particular be comfortable showing to kids who cant understand basic kanji Laughing

I am curious to how this list shapes up for you. The saturn was a failed system in every way we would judge a system outside of creatively. There were some things done on it that shaped how video game enthusiasts, or even players in general, would view the medium.  I remember the first time I booted up Sakura Taisen 2(we couldnt even get 1, it was literally impossible to find because it sold so well and nobody at Sega expected that for a Saturn game)..man that shit was amazing:


The thought of using the dual processor for the battles alone.That was a stroke of brilliance you'd only see someone try on a sega system. Sega, at least to us, were the only people who would give you that type of freedom to pull it off. You had the original Shenmue prototype on the saturn, and Panzer Dragoon 1. It was amazing. Sega finally stopped just being Sonic during this period.

I think the more amazing thing is that anything was developed and released on the saturn at all though. I've had 3 different saturn development kits since 2000 and not a single one has worked as intended. Obviously SH2, or any assembly programming, is a nuisance to use but 3 different ones not working paints a pretty grim picture of what was actually being sent to developers.Even worse is that you get some of the worst cisco-lite like documentation to go along with it. I remember when I got the first one from a guy on Seganet I messaged him back asking if there was any documentation to use the thing and he told me that Sega does not do documentation, which I figured was the case before the Dreamcast era since the documentation for developing on the Dreamcast Katana is very impressive. I dont know how much of that is the expansion of the internet during, and after, the lifecycle of the dreamcast though.

Happy playing!
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sun Mar 24, 2019 4:51 pm

#R1

Game: Shinobi Legions.
Year: 1995 in Japan and NA.
Genre: Action Platformer.
Publisher: Sega, Vic Tokai.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Shinobi_Legions_coverart

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

One of the strangest thing about Shinobi Legions is that despite being the latest game in a core Sega franchise at the time, it was published in the West by a different company. Evidenced by that, and the fact that no other Shinobi game was released on the Saturn suggest Sega had no idea what to do with the franchise.

In hindsight, that was obvious with this game, as it is barely an improvement on the Genesis games. In fact, it is actually more of a step-down if we are being honest, even if the end product isn't bad in any way.

"If you want her back just come and find us"

While the Shinob series was always short in the story department with little narrative. Instead, it opted to offer the story through its futuristic Ninja setting, where the series protagonist, Joe Musashi, finds a reason to throw shurikens at enemy faces.

Given that this is a game released on the newer Saturn console, Sega decided to offer more of a narrative pull to the game.

First, this is a completely different story, with another protagonist. Second, there are now several FMV scenes separating the stages. These scenes are products of their time, with cheesy B-movie acting in a B-movie plot. A simple girl kidnapping to unlick a mystical force plot. Maybe, if it were not for the grainy images, it will even be a little endearing.

One thing to note is how little these scenes have with the actual progression in the game, as the scenes predict little of the setting of the next stages.

"Sho, you have to be the one who will defeat this evil power"

Regardless of the shallowness of the story, it does give Sho a reason to throw shurikens at enemy faces to save his girlfriend. Or, in this game, to slash them with his katana.

Unlike the previous Shinobi games, Legions puts more emphasis on getting close and personal with your enemies and slashing them with the sword rather than killing them from a distance. To accomplish that, the designers nerfed the shuriken, making them slower to throw. Also, they increased the move-set available and the speed of swordplay.

This is a mostly welcome change, as it increases the excitement of the combat. It does, however, increase the risks, especially at higher difficulties. To compensate for that, enemies in the game actually have less of a ranged threat than in previous game. On balance, this is actually an easier Shinobi than the ones I played on the Genesis.

Generally, the action is pretty good, even if it is a little bit sluggish and unresponsive at times. Some inputs, I feel, do not register at times. Double jumps fail for no reason, lunge slashes randomly appear, and shurikens are just too slow. Most of these issues only rarely affect the game, but they can screw you up at the wrong time.

"Sho, you're no match for me now that I have the key to the secret technique"

The biggest challenge in a game of this genre is always about perfecting the action mechanics and continuously improving. As such, their short length, which invites replayability, is not negative for the dedicated fan.

It is the same here, especially with some decent bosses that are fair yet challenging to defeat. Which is not something you can say for many Action games of this type. At least not the "fair" part.

Unfortunately, the levels themselves are not very creative and pale in comparison to the exciting locations of the previous games, both in design and in gameplay mechanics.

Worst of all are the final two levels, which are as frustrating as they are dull. With plenty of pits of doom in one that makes traversal a boring slog, and some rocket evading bullshit that betrays the unresponsiveness of the game.

It is in these instances, and not in actual moments of challenge, that Shinobi Legions gets its undeserved badge of difficulty.

"Let it be our honor to demonstrate the infamous dance of the deadly swords"

Typical to other games released on the early days of the Saturn, we see Sega experiment with new graphical and sound technology that somehow reduces the appeal of the games compared to their predecessors.

Not speaking of the grainy FMV scenes, the graphics in the game, that utilize digitized sprites in lieu of the beautiful handiwork of Shinobi III, are just simply a step down. It looks cheap. It is cheaps. And it is simply dated and unattractive.

Still, it is not as bad as early polygonal graphics and doesn't affect the gameplay in any way.

What is affecting the gameplay is an honestly weak score. This soundtrack makes a mockery of the excellent tunes of the Genesis games and was even replaced by some original compositions when the game was ported to Europe.

In Conclusion:

If you take it in isolation, then Shinobi Legions is a good, if unremarkable, action platformer game. It only when you compare it to its very recent legacy that you get disappointed. It is obvious that Sega had little idea what to do with their core franchises as they went forward with the Saturn.

That isn't more obvious than a Ninja trying to hide, dressed in white.

Final: 6/10

Pros:

  • Good Action gameplay with the sword
  • Good boss fights


Cons:

  • Weak soundtrack
  • Boring levels
  • Unfair late-game levels
  • Doesn't compare well to its predecessors


"Tips"
1- Utilize secret thunder power-up when in trouble.
2- Practice making your double jump.
3- Practice utilizing your wall jump.
4- Include shuriken throwing in your repertoire.
5- Look for powerups and life orbs inside breakable objects (beware of bombs).

"Next Game"

Even though I ended up not enjoying Shinobi Legions as much as the Genesis Shinobi games, I don't regret playing it at all. Thanks to Ghoane for suggesting this game for me to play. Feel free to suggest any game that is not already included in the list I a reviewing.

Next in the series, I will be writing a report on the games from #50 to #41 on the Retro Sanctuary list. I have only played a single game from those 10 (Albert Odyssey) since most of them are either multiplayer focused or genres that I am not usually good at.

After that, I will play and review the #40 game, Dark Savior.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sun Mar 31, 2019 5:38 pm

Unfortunately for my review, the top 50-41 games on Retro Sanctuary are mostly multiplayer focused games. With a regular fighting game, a tank fighting game (that's more like Worms than anything else), and two puzzlers. Other than that, there are two Shmups, a PC port of a simulator, and a Lightgun Rail Shooter.

Of these games, I only extensively played and reviews the JRPG, Albert Odyssey. As for the rest, I gave the games that were not Japan-exclusive a spin to check them out and wrote a brief report on each one.

Please enjoy:-

50- Croc: Legend of the Gobbos (1997):

Genre: 3D Platformer

Publisher: Fox Interactive; Developer: Argonaut Software.





Originally pitched as a 3D Yoshi game for Nintendo, Croc eventually became its own IP when the pitch fell through. This game is actually a well-known game on the PSOne. It served as one of the few 3D platformer games on that console, and by virtue of the success and reputation of Super Mario 64 and the lack of anything like it on that console, Croc became a considerable success on that platform.

Little known is the fact that the game was also released on the Saturn. That's probably because the game sold a fraction of its sales on that console. Also, the game suffers from a myriad of control issues and the 3D isn't as good.

Regardless of its Saturn specific shortcomings, Croc is really one of the weakest titles in the 3D mascot platformers of the era. It does not compare favorably to Nintendo's or Rare's output at all and is outclassed by others on the PSOne. Yet, by virtue of being one of the very few games of that genre on the Saturn, it probably is the best one.

49-The House of the Dead (1998):

Genre: Lightgun Rail Shooter.
Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega.





There are no two ways about it, The House of the Dead was a brilliant comeback of the Lightgun genre back in the arcades, and that's really the best place to experience it. Home ports such as the Saturn version do not have the same magic, and cannot be enjoyed today without having access to a CRT TV and a light gun.

Still, this is the place to talk about how the cheesy B-Movie plot of the game makes it such a good game. With its plot of a mad scientist gone rogue and the main characters who include a character named "G", it just makes for a hilarious set-up. Especially because everyone is so damn serious about the whole thing.

48- Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean (1997):


Genre: JRPG.

Publisher: Sunsoft, Working Designs; Developer: Sunsoft.




I already mentioned it in my review of the game, but this game looked and sounded like it could have been a classic. Yet, its basic gameplay structure, serious loading issues, and lack of any side quests, all compiled to make this a very middling game. Coupled with a localization the is, to say the least, misguided at every point, gave me a very bad impression.

Sure, the 2D sprites look great, with some cool animation. Hell, the backgrounds and even the city designs were all very good. Musically, there are even some orchestrated songs that I like listening to even now. Yet, the sum of the game is less than its parts, even relegating an otherwise good if basic story into a cliched mess.

47- Magical Drop 3 (1997):


Genre: Puzzler.
Publisher: Data East; Developer: Data East.




At a glance, the Magical Drop series does not look different from other match-the-color puzzler games like the Bust a Move series. However, once you get into the mechanics, it shows itself as a completely different beast. Unlike many puzzlers, where you introduce new elements into the field, you use the elements already in the field here.

For example, as the colored orbs go down the screen, you attract same-colored orbs down and throw them back up again to make some connections. It makes for some fast and furious puzzle action that the West has rarely encountered.

That's because games like Magical Drop 3 on the Saturn never got ported west. Outside of its unique mechanics, this game also had more content than the usual puzzler, even though a lot of it is just cosmetic. For instance, there are many "characters" to choose from, but that's only a cosmetic change on the puzzle background.

46- Sexy Parodius (1996):


Genre: Shmup.
Publisher: Konami; Developer: Konami.




The title of the game might give it away, but Sexy Parodius is not a very serious game. Made by Konami as a parody of their own famous Gradius series, this is a Shmup that takes place in a crazy surrealistic world that is focused on being, well, sexy.

That's not to say that the game ever gets into AE territory. It's all a bunch of fan-service material with some risque appeal, not outright nudity. Between levels, you are "rewarded" with a still image that has the slightest hint of an exposed breast or something, but always something that isn't even softcore.

As for the game itself, this is simply Gradius with a different skin. Meaning that the Shmup mechanics are well-tested, and is considered a classic of the genre. However, the style of this parody may turn even fans of the genre off, as the sights and sounds can get really annoying. Needless to say, this game was not ported West.

45- Theme Park (1995):


Genre: Sim.
Publisher: Bullfrog Productions, Electronic Arts; Developer: Bullfrog Productions, Krisalis Software.

Does anyone think that a Sim game like the famous Theme Park would play any better on consoles rather than PC? No, then good.

44- Samurai Shodown IV (1997):


Genre: Fighting.
Publisher: SNK; Developer: SNK.




Here is another excellent fighting game released on the Saturn but never ported west. The Samurai Shodown series is known for its tactical and deadly weapon-based fighting system, and the fourth entry in the series was considered a return to form after the disappointing third game.

With its beautiful 2D artwork, from its excellent 2D sprites and expressive animations to absolutely lovely backgrounds, this game showcases the good work of SNK and the capability of the Saturn in rendering 2D graphics.

Unfortunately, such an excellent fighting game was not released West at the time.

43- Death Tank Zwei (1997):


Genre: Tactical Artillery Game.
Publisher: Lobotomy Software; Developer: Lobotomy Software.




Of all the games on this list, Death Tank Zwei is unique in the fact that it is not actually a full retail release. It is actually released as a bonus game with the Saturn version of PowerSlave. Yet, anyone who bought that game would probably have enjoyed DTZ more. Even though it has very rough-looking graphics and little to no soundtrack.

This is actually a fun game to play with friends. Each with their own tank, you play in a 2D field and throw artillery shells like in a Worms game, but in real-time. Also like Worms, the field gets destroyed with everyone's attacks.

Of course, the game has little in terms of story or any extra modes, and without friends, it is not worth looking into. A newer, more polished version of the game was released in Xbox Live Arcade as well.

42- Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (1996):


Genre: Puzzler.
Publisher: Capcom; Developer: Capcom.




As you can guess from the name, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (SPFII) is a puzzler parody of the famous fighting game. Based on Capcom's well-known Baku Baku Animal puzzler games, this is a simpler spin-off with Street Fighter II fighting game aesthetic plastered on it. There is little to the Street Fighter influence other than the chibi versions of well-known characters like Ryu and Chun-Li, and the cute fighting moves they perform when you pull off some cool puzzle combos.

For fans of the genre, this has always been considered a really good multiplayer Puzzler, but I don't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed other match-the-color games like the ubiquitous Bust a Move series. Here, you drop a pair of colored tiles trying to match tiles with the same color. However, they only break when they connect with a special "crash" piece that causes the entire connected series to break. The emphasis here is in carefully arranging your "crash" pieces and tiles in order to form a long chain, all the while dealing with your competition that is sending junk pieces to your court.

This, in my opinion, leads to a lot of luck based gameplay, as you can never predict what color "crash" pieces you are getting next, and that leaves much of the strategy that you would otherwise employ in a game like Tetris out of the window.

41- DoDonPachi (1997):


Genre: Shmup (Bullet Hell).
Publisher: Cave, Atlus; Developer: Cave.




This is exactly the type of game that I know I can never get really good at. Just looking at it in action is very cool, with bullets covering all parts of the screen while you desperately try to thread your way through hell. It is just too stressful for me, as bullet hell shooters are a huge step ahead of regular Shmups which I am already bad at.

For fans of the genre, DoDonPachi is a well-known title with some fast and action-packed gameplay in top of some impressive 2D visuals and a killer soundtrack. With three ships to choose from, each with two different shooting styles, as well as the multiple difficulty levels, the race for that high score will be different every time.

*********************************

This report is a consolidated review of the top 100 list by Retro Sanctuary. It features the reviews I made for the list but also has a brief paragraph about each game in the list that I didn't review. For games without an official review, the opinions I express are purely based on some little playing time and general research about the game and its reception at the time.
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sun Apr 21, 2019 4:32 pm

#40

Game: Dark Savior.
Year: 1996 in NA and Japan.
Genre: Action Adventure.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Climax Entertainment.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Dark_Savior_Coverart

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

Early fans of Sega would recognize Climax Entertainment as the team responsible for many of the best games of the Genesis. They helped Camelot Software with the first two Shining games, and they made the critically and commercially successful Landstalker title.

Taking a cue from that latter game, Climax Entertainment wanted to make another Action Adventure game on the newer consoles, but they struggled with developing in 3D.

Which is why they went back to what they knew best, and developed another isometric game that uses polygons only sparingly in the environment, but otherwise is mostly a sprite-based isometric game.

The result is Dark Savior, which is thankfully still playable today because its graphics aged semi-gracefully, and that's good news because we would have otherwise missed a very good game.

"What is it about this island...? What kind of evil things happen here?!"

Dark Savior start with a scene outside of a transport ship. A bounty hunting crew, led by the main character, Garian, have captured a vicious monster. This monster, Bilan, is to be transported to Jailer's Island to be executed.

Predictably, the monster escapes during the transport and Garian must track it (him?) down to kill it while it roams and wreaks havoc in the prison island. Complicating matters is the fact that the prison warden is not a straightforward character, and the prisoners are planning a revolt. Also, Bilan has the ability to impersonate any character it comes across (and kills).

That in itself, while pretty straightforward, is a very good setting for the story. This is further reflected by a decent translation that manages to give a good characterization of the many players in the story.

However, what truly raises the story in Dark Savior beyond the bar is the fact that it has multiple parallel stories instead of one. During the beginning of the game, you are tasked with reaching the captain's cabin as fast as possible. Depending on your time, the game diverges into one of three paths.

Each path is worth going through to see how much a single decision can affect the overall story and the lives (and deaths) of those whose fate is intertwined with Bilan and Jailer's Island.

"It will be a world of evil, by evil, for the sake of pure evil. There is no place for you there"

Expectedly, the path where you reach the captain's cabin late would have the worst final outcomes, and that's obviously by design.

The player wouldn't be expected to be able to grasp all the complexities of isometric platforming in his first five minutes with the game, which will result in getting to the captain late the first time you attempt it.

That's because Dark Savior's gameplay depends heavily on platforming in an isometric field, which requires some adjustment as you figure out the directions and the ability to direct your jumps and runs. Diagonal movement is still a pain even at the end of the game but everything else became very straightforward.

It is important to state that platforming will be about 80% of the gameplay in Dark Savior, as traversing the island's many locations is simply traversing a series of isometric platforming challenges. Many of these are not difficult at all once you get the hang of the controls, but a few do require some light puzzle solving.

What is challenging, and it did become second nature later, is the ability to move quickly in an isometric field. This is obviously needed to gain access to the other parallel stories after you finish the first one. One thing you should not is never to underestimate your running jump.

"I know now you are a brave knight. You have the skills to defeat Bilan"

The other 20% of the time you would be fighting your enemies in one-on-one fights that are a little bit like fighting game matches, but with very limited controls. You square against the enemy in a linear field and have access to two attacks, a jump, and a special.

Fights can feel like intense affairs at first, with a rapid back and forth between you and the enemy until you realize that you could spam your knock out attack infinitely and easily cheese most of the game's fights.

At least, you don't need to use Garian for all the fights. With his special ability, Garian can capture some of his enemies when defeating them (to capture an enemy, knock them down while they are at low health and use a special move). Then, you can use these captured enemies in fights for a little bit of variety, even if the underlining mechanics do not change.

In theory, the one-on-one fights should be action-packed and exciting affairs, which they are to an extent. While fun, they are really easy, and you cannot but wonder if a more strategic turn-based dueling system would have been more exciting in the long run.

"Now is the time to reach eternity... Garian..... with our burning heart.... we must become as one"

Finally, let's talk about the game's production values, which thankfully have not been fully ravaged by time.

With its choice of using 2D sprites mapped into a 3D isometric field, Dark Savior managed to preserve the look of their characters, even if the environment appears to be largely bland. Character sprites are big and detailed, and their portraits (which I wish were shown when they talk) are nice enough.

A highlight of the game's graphical design is the varied design of the game's characters, who come from many different backgrounds and species. It suggests a rich and interesting world, even if a translation error suggests India exists in this world.

Aside from the game's graphics, the game's soundtrack is top notch. There is an excellent use of drums; a foreboding beat like in Bilan's theme, or the exciting percussion of "The Battle". Then there is the variety; from the emotional "Friendship with Garian" to the epic "Decisive Battle".

It's a soundtrack that is best in its totality even if no tracks truly standout. There is an impressive variety of instruments used, and it is honestly one of the best soundtracks I have listened to on the Saturn so far.

In Conclusion:

There is something weird in my review of "Dark Savior" so far. While I see that taken individually, the game's various parts would not produce a good game, it somehow does here. At no stage did I feel like I didn't want to see what the next parallel story would reveal, and instead would have appreciated one or two more.

I cannot honestly say that playing the game should be fun. The platforming, even after you get used to it, is nothing special. Also, the fighting isn't that impressive either.

Yet, maybe because there was a lot of heart put into the game by Climax Entertainment, the game continued to absorb me even when its gameplay infuriated or bored me at times. Eventually, I just started enjoying myself, even while wishing the game had that extra polish that would have made it a great game.

Final: 8/10

Pros:

  • Unique and interesting parallel stories system
  • A decent cast of interesting characters
  • Variety of characters to use in fights
  • Good graphics and a very good soundtrack


Cons:

  • Core platforming gameplay requires getting used to
  • Fights are limited and somewhat repetitive


"Tips"
1- Try to immediately get used to the unique isometric platforming system.
2- Practice changing directions mid-jump.
3- Practice moving and jumping while dashing.
4- To capture an enemy, knock them down when their health is low and do a special move. This means that you should have a nearly complete special bar when attempting to capture.
5- Your running jump covers a lot of distance and can be used to take short-cuts.
6- To access the different parallels, then at the beginning of the game when you are asked to reach the ship captain's cabin: P1) Reach the cabin in more than 4:30 minutes, P2) Reach the cabin between 4:30 & 3:30 minutes, P3) Reach the cabin before 3:30 minutes.

"Next Game"

I am hoping Dark Savior to be the start of this list only getting good games on the 8-10 range. I wish I could have given this game a higher score, but it did have some serious weaknesses.

Next in the series is the last game released on the Saturn in Europe. Deep Fear, at number 39 in the list, is a survival horror game that I expect has not aged particularly well. So, my wish may be reserved to the game after it, but let's hope I am wrong.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Tue May 14, 2019 9:52 pm

#39

Game: Deep Fear.
Year: 1998 in Europe and Japan.
Genre: Action Horror.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Deep_Fear_EUR

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

With the major critical and commercial success of the first Resident Evil game, it was only a matter of time before other imitators started crowding the market. Among that crowd, Sega's Deep Fear was meant not only as a rival of Resident Evil but also as its answer in the Saturn's library.

Unsurprisingly, the game failed at both counts, failing to both establish a series or make any uplift to Saturn's flagging sales. Eventually, the game was the last Saturn release in Europe and was not released in North America.

In hindsight, I can see that the game isn't actually bad in the standards of its day, but that it does not have the qualities of Resident Evil and it's better imitators that it becomes worth it to play it today.

"A human being turning into a monster, what is happening here?"

The most unique aspect of Deep Fear and by far its best is the setting. Deep below the ocean floor, the game takes place in an experimental underwater lab and submarine refueling building called the "Big Table". It's a unique setting that the game utilizes well in both gameplay design and story events.

In this isolated base, you control John Mayor, who is suddenly thrust into a major crisis. Starting with the mysterious crash of a submarine that was attempting to refuel, a parasite or something started spreading around the base turning humans into hideous monsters.

Basically, this is a zombie game that is set underwater, with the zombies looking different and featuring some different water-inspired designs. From that point, the game doesn't attempt to be anything different, but its execution of the basic plot is awful.

If you at any point attempt to take the game's story seriously, you will be sorely disappointed. The only way to approach the plot is to laugh at its B-Movie sensibilities. Starting with the terrible acting, behavior, dialogue, and general mannerisms of all the game's characters.

Every cutscene in the game competes with the hammiest scenes in Resident Evil, as character act and talk in stiff and robotic ways, as they continue being as stupid as they can be. Reactions to character deaths are non-existent, and the fact that no one is at all freaked out by bleeding ocean zombies is astounding.

You can detect a director's hand in all of this mess. A director who understands elements of good storytelling and drama, but, for whatever reason, was not able to employ that understanding in any meaningful way.

As such, the game's story goes beyond camp and parody and simply becomes a huge bore.

"If exposed to the outer world, as estimated 264 hours is all it would take to wipe out all the mammals in the planet"

While it is clear that Deep Fear took its core design from the Survival Horror genre, it becomes quickly apparent that it is more an action game than a survival one. This is purely due to the abundance of ammo and health items.

As such, while rudimentary puzzles, fixed camera locations, tank controls, and even the shooting mechanics are all similar to Resident Evil, the fact that there is no ammo scarcity completely changes the player's approach.

Simply put, you have all the firepower in your disposal to get rid of all the enemies you encounter. Starting from the moment you enter the room, you can aim at the enemies, even if they are off-screen, and shoot the dead. By the time you run out of ammo, you will probably be next to a storage area where you can recover all ammo at no cost.

Of course, enemies can still swarm you and do some damage, at which point you can use some of the overabundant (and infinite) first-aid sprays that the game offers.

This design choice offers up combat as something to enjoy rather than avoid. Unfortunately, the clunky nature of the action as well as the limited offensive options both make anything but enjoyable.

In fact, the only element that I somewhat enjoyed is the fact that you need to keep a tab on the air supply in the base. Combat reduces the oxygen content in the air, and once it hits zero, your air gauge starts to drop.

This is an excellent mechanic that is thematically appropriate. However, soon it also becomes apparent that maintaining the air supply is very easy, as you have an abundant supply of air grenades and air system consoles to restore the spent oxygen supplies.

"The oxygen circulation system is broken. Activate the AS or else it's going to be tough"

As you can guess by now, the gameplay wasn't particularly engaging. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case in the early parts of the game. Before any of the monsters showed up, the game was effective at building a sense of tension and isolation.

Then, with a mix of exploration "quests", it introduced elements of the gameplay in a clever way. As I went inside the destroyed submarine, the ammo was truly scarce as I had no idea about the storage areas by that time, and air was truly precious. Especially when entering a flooded area for the first time and seeing that air gauge drop.

After that, the game continued offering some good micro areas such as the submarine. However, as the game opened up, and the entire base became semi-open, the design flaws became apparent.

The second half of the game is full with backtracking, where you need to go back and forth between two far away points and then back again. Apparently, the designers thought the "fun" part in that is fighting against the respawning enemies (they don't always respawn) and going back to a storage room to replenish ammo supplies.

It is in those sections that the repetitive and boring elements of the gameplay were exposed.

"Aaah, my masterpiece is ruined. Ooooh, what I am going to do"

When it was first released, the game wasn't only compared to Resident Evil because of its theme and gameplay, but also because of its graphics, which are obviously similar.

Except, it is not nearly as expertly crafted. The characters are blockier and their animation is stiffer. The environment is okay, but an undersea base is not varied looking anyways. Maybe, because they are allowed to be super grotesque, the enemies look actually "good".

One thing that is surprising is the number of CGI scenes in the game, many of which are good by the standard of the time, but look terrible today. Honestly, the directing of the scenes is where they falter, as unnatural moves and terrible pauses ruin what may have been a good scene.

While the graphics are excusable given the abilities of the time, the voice acting is not. Compounded by some terrible dialogue and directing, the voice acting goes beyond B-Movie camp.

Surprisingly, the soundtrack is really very good, with famed composer, Kenji Kawai, doing one hell of a job. Starting with the excellent opening "Visitation" to a really good boss theme. It and the really good soundtrack are both beyond the standards of the rest of the game.

In Conclusion:

Inspired by the excellence of Resident Evil but not able to capture what made it such a brilliant game, Deep Fear is only a surface level imitation that has a weaker story and atmosphere, and more damningly, much weaker gameplay.

At best, this is a playable curiosity.

Final: 5/10

Pros:

  • Very Good Soundtrack


Cons:

  • Boring Action Gameplay
  • Bad Story and Acting
  • Bad Gameplay Design


"Tips"
1- Shooting reduces air so take care of that.
2- Reloading, wearing the air mask, or throwing a grenade all leave you open to get attacked.
3- Use the auto-lock option, manual aiming is terrible.
4- You will need to search around the environment for extra information and some items.
5- There are many boxes with infinite smalle first-aid sprays, use them well.
6- Once you get the shotgun, always use your secondary weapon.
7- When you enter a room, listen for enemy grunts to know which type of enemy is hiding from your view.

"Next Game"

When writing the review of Deep Fear I started to realize more and more how much bored I was while playing the game. It is almost inoffensive in its boring design, which is why I didn't stop playing it but never really enjoyed my time after the opening hours.

Next game in the list is a prequel to a game I enjoyed on the Genesis. Legend of Oasis at #38 is an action adventure game that looks like it would be right up my alley.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:48 pm

#38

Game: The Legend of Oasis.
Year: 1996 in NA and Japan.
Genre: Action Adventure.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Ancient.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Sega_Saturn_The_Legend_of_Oasis_cover_art

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

The Legend of Oasis or The Story of Thor 2 as it is known in Europe, is a prequel to a little known but much respected Genesis Action Adventure game, Beyond Oasis, which was especially lauded for its clear and crisp sprite work and animation in a previous era.

Immediately after the release of that game, this prequel was planned to be released for the ill-fated 32X add-on to the Genesis. However, those plans were shelved and production moved to the Saturn. Most probably, this is the reason that the game retained the original vision of being a simple upgrade to its wonderful predecessor instead of becoming a bastardized early 3D abomination.

For better or worse, The Legend of Oasis is a simple follow up to a 16bit Genesis game.

"Young warrior, who inherit my will... A dark, evil shadow is about to appear, somewhere in Oasis"

If you played the first game, you would recognize the world of Oasis as one borne out of the fight between two God-like beings, each wearing a special armlet. In that game, the golden armlet of the good God found its way to the fated hand of the hero just in time to save the kingdom of Oasis from turmoil.

The prequel doesn't do anything different, except the fact that the kingdom of Oasis was not yet established, and the story expanded just a little with more characters and scope.

As Leon, the fated "King of Spirits", you must protect your village by acquiring the power of the six spirits (expanded fro the four in the first game) and defeat the evil Agito. NPCs provide some coloring by changing dialogue as the story progresses, and there is some basic dramatic build-up regarding a mentor character and a girl who may or may not be the embodiment of evil.

Similar to the first game, there is a lack of character building in the world itself. No other villages that you visit or interesting NPCs that you interact with. This makes it more an Action game than an Action Adventure in some regards.

When compared to some of its peers, like the Dark Savior for instance, it lacks a certain depth to its story and world-building that would have served to elaborate an otherwise very basic story.

"You are a young and inexperienced 'King of Spirits", protector of this world. So you must discover your powers to overcome all obstacles"

At least one area where you don't need much elaboration is in directions. Clearly, Leon must travel around the game's top-down world to find the Spirits, and it is almost always clear where you need to go.

Nominally an open-world, the power of each Spirit is needed to access previously inaccessible areas, not unlike a Zelda game. Traversing the game world is the bulk of the gameplay, especially inside the dungeon areas which are filled with both enemies and puzzles to solve.

One thing that is both enjoyable and confusing is that there is no hard boundary between the dungeons and the overworld, as everything is connected to each other in an organic matter. Hell, one dungeon in the clouds do not have bottomless pits, but instead, you fall down to the overworld below whenever you mess-up (this may sound nightmarish, but there are portals that your progressively unlock throughout that dungeon so that falls don't become insanely punishing).

This encompasses the entire feedback loop for the game. Going into dungeons to retrieve Spirits, which you can then use to access other dungeons to retrieve other Spirits. It's a basic, but very satisfying gameplay loop, with a few annoyances.

First, the fact that there is no overworld map to work with, and as such must struggle to remember where everything is, which is a special pain when you need to go back for a previously inaccessible power-up.

Second, the fact that much of the open world may feel like padding since you ultimately go into a linear path of progression. This latter point is especially noticeable since the world does not have the characterization of other Action Adventure titles.

"Leon, you must destroy the evil by all means. Only you can defend Oasis from Agito's will"

With the basic gameplay loop established, let us talk about the mechanics of the game.

Leon is a surprisingly mobile hero who can run fast and jump long distances. Even in combat, he is able to do some basic combos as well as more complicated special moves. This basic combat and movement options are quite serviceable, but they are not the differentiators for The Legend of Oasis.

The entire gameplay structure hinges on the Spirits that you eventually control. They and their method of utilization is easily the most unique thing about the game.

These Spirits are useful in combat, but their main use is in solving the game's many environmental puzzles. These puzzles are usually simple. For example, freeze water fountains to create ice steps, or turn on some fire lamps. For the first puzzle, you will need the water spirit, and for the second one, you will need the fire spirit. As you can see, these are pretty easy puzzles.

However, the extra element that the game adds is that invoking the correct spirit can sometimes be its own puzzle. You see, summoning a spirit is not a simple matter of pressing a button. No, you must invoke the spirit from its own element. For example, you must have a fire source nearby to invoke the fire spirit, or a darkness source to invoke the shadow spirit.

As such, the game's puzzles have two elements. One if the actual solution of the puzzle itself, and the other being the solution of how to invoke the correct spirit. The best puzzles are where you need the power of multiple spirits to solve a single puzzle, which makes the latter dungeons particularly devious.

Using these spirits in both traversing the game's world and in combat is fun, especially against some really cool boss battles. Even when minor annoyances creep up, such as dismissing Spirits by mistake and having to backtrack to a suitable elemental source to summon them again, the game's relative speed makes sure little time is wasted.

"You look torn Spirit King. Though I have been looking forward to seeing you squirm"

One of the residual aspects of being originally developed for the Genesis 32X is that there was no illusion of it ever being made with polygonal 3D graphics. Instead, this was the natural evolution of the crisp 2D graphics and animations of Beyond Oasis. At the time, this was considered backward's thinking, and the game even suffered critically for not having cutting edge graphics.

Now that we all know better, it is clear that The Legend of Oasis's beautifully drawn sprites have survived the test of time and still look good today. There is no doubt that is a graphically beautiful game, with lush environments and a clear artistically consistent style that permeates all through the environment and creature designs.

Sure, the design may not appeal to everyone, with its 90's cartoon aesthetics, but it cannot be said that it is not well executed or ugly.

Carrying on with the same musical style as Beyond Oasis which I criticized previously, the game's soundtrack is a mixture of ambient sound effects and a background orchestral arrangement that reminds me of the epic movies of the 50s and 60s.

In concept, this may sound nice, and Yuzo Koshiro is not an unknown composer (he is also the producer of the game). However, in practice, this leads to a soundtrack with many similar tunes and a difficulty in asserting itself over the various actions on-screen.

Like with the first game, but with a better sound chip, the orchestral arrangements of the land of Oasis fail to implant themselves in my memory.

In Conclusion:

Clearly, the most obvious thing to say about this game is that if you liked Beyond Oasis, then you will like this game.

However, it goes beyond fans of the original game, as this is a really good Action Adventure with some unique elements that help make it stand out, even if it does not quite reach the heights of some of its best peers.

It lacks some world-building elements, and some may be lukewarm on the music just as I was. Certainly, the game may even lack a certain thrust that keeps propelling you forward. Still, you can appreciate the purity of its gameplay and the beauty of its 2D graphics.

Final: 8/10

Pros:

  • Great Graphics and Animations
  • Solid Gameplay
  • Unique Way of Utilizing Power-Ups


Cons:

  • Easy to Get Lost Without a Map
  • Forgettable Music


"Tips"
1- Search around for power-ups to your spirits and scrolls.
2- Each weapon has some special combos that are very useful.
3- Spirits super attack (holding down the A button) are also very useful.
4- Personally, the water spirit is the one I use most when facing bosses.
5- If you need a certain spirit to solve a puzzle or get a power-up item, the means to summon them will be nearby.
6- For example, if you need the Shadow spirit, then one way to summon him is by freezing a water fountain source (so that it becomes a "dark" crystal).
7- Bombs are a way to easily summon the fire spirit.
8- Bombing water puddles allow you to summon the wind spirit from the resulting steam.
9- If you see a dark crustal by itself in a room or something, then it is likely that you should summon the Shadow spirit and use his special ability to see hidden things.

"Next Game"

It's great to have another game I enjoyed in this list. The Legend of Oasis is the kind of game I do these lists for, unknown games that are really fun to play and experience.

Next on the list is another report of the games from 40 to 31 in the Retro Sanctuary list. Originally, I was going to play and review Metal Slug. However, it was only released in Japan and never ported west on the Saturn.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Fri Jul 26, 2019 9:37 am

#29

Game: Guardian Heroes.
Year: 1996 in NA and Japan.
Genre: Beat 'em Up
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Treasure.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-GH_front_cover

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

After playing and enjoying Guardian Heroes for a bit, a couple of people noted that the game was actually remastered for the Xbox 360 Live Arcade. That would technically disqualify this game from being reviewed as part of the Saturn Reviews series since a superior version exists at newer hardware.

However, that would have robbed me of the opportunity to enjoy this pretty good game. Usually, I am not a big fan of Beat 'em Up games. Yet, this was a great leap forward of for the genre, as it introduced some light RPG mechanics and a sense of character progression that I felt was missing from earlier classics of the genre.

Overall, even though there exists a better version of Guardian Heroes in the wild, I don't regret playing this game at all.

"This warrior is the one that will bring back light to this world of darkness!"

The game starts with four mercenaries who just discovered an ancient sword. These mercenaries, a grunt, a mage, a ninja, and a healer were apparently hired by a knight rebelling against the evil kingdom of the Khans.

Apparently, this group of merry revolutionaries didn't hide their movements well, as the Khan's soldiers immediately find the group and chaos ensues. In the middle of this escape, and just as the group is about to be destroyed, the ancient sword reveals itself as a conduit for an undead golden skeleton warrior, who saves the group. Suddenly energized by this powerful ally, the group find that they may be able to topple the evil regime of the Khans.

This is a more involved story than is usual in the Beat 'em Up genre, with more character interactions and an expanding story. A central element behind that is the multiple paths you can take. For example, you can choose whether to go to the castle through the city or the forest. That choice may reveal different information about the various characters.

These choices culminate in five different endings, with even more side-content within these paths. For example, one time I finished the game without meeting a critical princess character. Other than the obvious replayability factor, these choices flesh-out the characters as you see how they react to different information and scenarios.

One thing that betrays the age of the story is dialogue, which, while not as bad as the standards of the time, is still lacking in some way. It simply sounds a little weird, and some of the terms are confusing.

Still, the story, even with the dialogue faults, is pretty fine. In fact, in the Xbox Live remaster, only the dialogue was fixed up without altering the story in any great degree.

"As a Knight, I must fight till the end"

The main gameplay mechanics of the game are similar to other Beat 'em Up games. You fight waves of enemies in a 2D field with multiple planes you can jump back and forth from. Combat involves a simple guard, normal attack, and strong attack buttons but also includes magic attacks. Special fighting moves can be triggered in directional commands as in fighting games, as can magic spells which is a superior way to use magic than choosing from a list as hordes close in on you. Overall, the fighting has an emphasis on juggling enemies in the air and utilizing your tools to trap enemies in devastating combos.

The game differentiates itself from other brawlers in three ways:

First, is the control you have over the golden skeleton warrior, who accompanies you for most of the game. This warrior offers huge support and is a competent AI-controlled partner that you can influence in some limited ways. You will surely be thankful that this "golden freak" is your ally.

Second, Guardian Heroes is sometimes wrongly classified as an Action RPG because the characters level-up between levels and you can choose how to add points to their stats. This is the character growth portion I talked about earlier, but that alone does not make the game an Action RPG. What it does is give the player a sense of character progression.

Finally, you get to choose from four widely different characters to play with, and a fifth one is unlocked after you first complete the game. Each character justifies a playthrough on their own as you experiment with their different tool, which is supported well by the branching storylines the game already offers.

"Attack the king's men! They shall do evil deeds no more!"

It is important enough to repeat for the third time; the branching paths not only make for a good storytelling tool but also serve an important gameplay function as they encourage repeating the game with different characters.

Unfortunately, other than the changes to the story and the change in the playable character, the branching paths offer little to no gameplay difference. Simply, the levels have a different make-up in the waves of enemies you face. Offering two mages and three knights against instead of one mage, a priest, and three knights.

True, the enemy combination does get more complex than that, but not the goal of simply defeating all the different enemies on-screen. One thing that drastically changes are the bosses, but they are not that widely different to begin with.

One other element that encourages going through all the different paths is a fighting game mode that I did not extensively try out but it looks like it could have been a lot of fun back in the day. All characters in the game, once defeated, can be chosen in that fighting mode (which is obviously not balanced at all) with up to 8 players (way before Super Smash Bros. did it).

In the Xbox Live Arcade version, the characters you unlock are not restricted to the versus mode, which means you can clear the game with one of the major boss characters if you want.

"Now you have a big golden freak for your ally! Nobody told me about that!!"

If you are familiar with any 90's work by Treasure, then you probably know what to expect in production values. With some catchy music and very good 2D graphics, the game aged really well and still looks good today.

That's not to say that the game's graphics are excellent or anything. While the stylistic choice and consistency in character design and animation are much appreciated, it is not close enough to be the best 2D graphics of the time.

In fact, depending on how you enjoy the cartoony and less detailed style, you may actually be a little put-off by the character designs, which make no effort of being humanly proportional. Personally, I feel the style's mixture of Japanese Anime and Western cartoons to be a refreshing and unique look.

As for the soundtrack, which is pretty good, you also feel that it is inappropriately similar to Treasure's other games. Guardian Heroes is in more of a fantasy setting compared to the other games and you would think that would involve less electric guitar solos.

In Conclusion:

As someone who doesn't particularly enjoy Beat 'em Up games, the fact that I enjoyed Guardain Heroes is a testament to how much it evolved the genre. As such, it is not only a good game on its own right, but also an important predecessor to other game's down the line such as Odin's Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade.

In fact, if I was part of the Xbox ecosystem, I would definitely buy the Xbox Live Arcade remaster of the game, which is what I suggest for those who can. From what I saw, that version retains all the best qualities of the original while fixing some of its flaws.

Final: 8/10

Pros:

  • Great Evolution of the Genre
  • Multiple Paths and Endings
  • Multiple Different Characters


Cons:

  • Eventually Repetitive Gameplay
  • Ill-Fitting Music


"Tips"
1- Learn how to use magic through "fighting" directional commands.
2- Chain magic works to dish-out a lot of damage.
3- You cannot afford to lose continues in the first three stages.
4- Make sure to have the Golden Knight with good commands.
5- Avoid getting caught in swarms, it could kill you very fast.
6- Avoid damage by jumping through planes.

"Next Game"

I guess it was an accident of ignorance that I ended up playing Guardian Heroes ane enjoying it. If I knew about the Xbox Live version, I would have not played the game, since a better version would be available in a more recent console.

Next game on the list is another one of Sega's Shining Series. A sequel of sorts to the first Dungeon-Crawling RPG in the series, Shining in the Darkness , this game had more of a critical success. Sitting at number 23 in the Retro Sanctuary list, Shining the Holy Ark seems to have a lot of promise.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Mon Oct 14, 2019 5:58 pm

#23

Game: Shining the Holy Ark.
Year: 1996 in Japan, 1997 in NA.
Genre: First-Person RPG
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Camelot.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Shiningtheholyark

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

Other than the fact that it is part of the illustrious Shining series, and one of the few RPGs on the Saturn, I don't think that there is anything much remarkable about Shining the Holy Ark (other than such a grammatical mess of a name).

It's a boring by-the-numbers First-Person RPG that does little to stand out.

"So you are the chosen ones to join me in spinning the threads of destiny"

The game starts with a hunt for a dangerous criminal ordered by the king of the country himself. As part of a mercenary trio, you corner that criminal inside a dark cave, and after a fierce fight, the floor collapses plunging all four fighters to their death.

Yet, in the darkness of that cave, the spirits that caused the collapse saves three of the fighters, including the criminal, while a dark spirit obviously possess the third member of the mercenary trio. Bound by the spirits, you must go and find your lost partner and discover what is the secret of these spirits and your place in the destiny of the world.

Honestly, it is not a bad set-up and the story progresses smoothly with good dialogue and characterization. Nothing too special or too distracting, aside from cringe-worthy attempts at humor. It's a basic JRPG story that is better told than many others but is outclassed by the classics and other JRPGs of the same era.

"Yeah... Since you are the mighty swordsman, you lead the way"

If I were to analyze the game's story more critically, I would find that many of its shortcomings are directly related to its gameplay. As a First-Person RPG, Shining the Holy Ark typified the genre with its focus at pushing the player towards more dungeon crawling.

Somehow, the game is convinced that you should traverse its dungeons as much as possible in order to have some fun. That may have been the case in a time where its battle system wasn't too outdated and in a console with few RPGs, but it surely not the case today.

With a very basic turn-based battle system, there isn't much that differentiates battles from each other. The difficulty is mostly on point, but it is very obvious when you simply need to grind to progress. There are limited strategy options and little to no customization opportunities.

Simply, it becomes a slog to go through much of the game.

"I was truly surprised when I saw you hale and hearty in my magic crystal"

The reason that much of the game is a slog is due to its incredibly boring dungeons. Visually, conceptually, and inactively boring dungeons are the theme of this game. Being a first-person game, you expect the game's dungeons to be labyrinthian in design. What you don't expect is for those same dungeons to require much backtracking. It becomes incredibly boring, especially when the battle system is uninspired and several trips back to town are required to complete it.

Ironically, the game's most unique and engaging element ends up exposing its biggest flaws. One thing I enjoyed is how enemies show up on the screen. While they are randomly generated battles, the enemies physically appear somewhere around the player. For example, you could see them running towards you from the distance or you may see a monster's claw as they approach from the corner. In that window of opportunity, where the monsters reveal themselves but are yet to attack, you can use pixies to score an opening attack that helps shorten battles and get more experience points.

With five types of pixies, each guarding a single direction, it provides an active experience where you need to quickly switch between the pixie types as you see where the enemy is approaching from and then spring your attack.

This fun little element in battle and exploration is marred by the need to actually find those pixies. You see, most of them are not in treasure chests or hidden cleverly in the environment inside obvious pots or special looking rocks. No, the majority of pixies, and items as well, are hidden in the bland dungeon environment of the game. This means that without a guide, you need to wast your time like an imbecile "searching" every wall in the game, skipping the text box declaring your idiocy to the world.

"You who are the mortal destined to stop the thousand years kingdom"

Directly supporting the game's intention to confuse and beguile you in those pixie hunts is its art direction, which provides no character or distinction to its many dungeons. With the bland semi-3D design, the game world is a barren mockery of the colorful localities of previous Shining games.

The characters fare better, with acceptable designs and models that aged better than most. Even the polygonal models were not as bad as I initially noted, notwithstanding the fact that 2D portraits would have been much better.

Musically, the game was fine. In fact, it had some really good tunes which made dungeon crawling more bearable. That is until you hear some of those horrendous sound effects. For some reason, those effects consist of pongs and screeches that bury the best part of the track on a consistent basis.

Overall, the game's production values are far removed from what the series is known for, aging poorly in the process.

In Conclusion:

If I were a Saturn owner, I would have probably enjoyed Shining the Holy Ark. It is rich in content, and it looked new and amazing at the time. Yet now, there is little pushing me to finish it.

Even though it doesn't avoid the curse of early 3D RPGs, it is not incredibly ugly either. Somehow, the fact that it is a first-person RPG both contribute to its mediocrity and save us from what could have been uglier and blander game.

Even with a story that isn't at all bad, it manages to push things very far with its poor pacing and very long dungeons, actively working against its best assets, concluding with a game that probably wasn't bad at the time but is surely not fun to play now.

Final: 5/10

Pros:

  • Relatively OK Story and Characters
  • Many Characters to use


Cons:

  • Boring and repetitive graphics
  • Going through dungeons is a slog
  • There is little unique or engaging about the gameplay


"Tips"
1- You will need to search around the dungeons like an idiot to find items and pixies.
2- Spare yourself the headache and simply use an online resource.
3- At some points, you will simply need to grind.
4- Learn how to best use the pixies for a useful opening attack.
5- You can actually sell key items (once you don't need them) to get some cash and free-up inventory space.
6- If you accidentally sell something you need, you can buy it back for a higher price.
7- Some doors are jammed and need you to dash through them at full speed.

"Next Game"

As a fan of the series, I hoped that Shining the Holy Ark would prove to be the rare good First-Person RPG of its era. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, with the game showcasing many of the problems associated with that genre in those early days.

Next in my review list, I will review a game suggested by one of the commentators here. That game is Astal which was used in lieu of the availability of Sonic to launch the new console.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sat Oct 26, 2019 3:38 pm

#S2

Game: Astal.
Year: 1995.
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 29531-astal-sega-saturn-front-cover

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

As one of the earlier games on the Saturn, Astal wasn't probably designed with that console in mind; the fact that it escaped the trappings of early 3D "advancements" being a proof of that. Yet, with its weird aesthetic, not even its beautifully drawn graphics could hide a very basic and uninspired Action Platformer.

Even in the Genesis, Astal would not be considered a good game.

"Lida's power was to create life. Astal's power was to protect Lida"

The game begins with an acceptable cartoon prologue, explaining how the universe and its characters were created. In short, Astal was created to protect Lida, a creator of life, when a big bad thing caused Astal to destroy much of the world and get banished as a result.

To its credit, the game doesn't abandon the story as you go forward, and in fact offers a fully voiced narration of Astal's journey of redemption, I guess. It's presented in a way that is aimed directly at children, and it works well for that demographic.

For everyone else, it's a cheesy story with some poor voice acting on top.

"Get away from e you stupid bird. Quit following me"

If you hoped the gameplay would improve on the story, then be disappointed at the game failing to cross even that low of a bar.

Simply, this a game that is slow and boring. Any attempt at speed is mired by poor movement, lag in actions, and some ridiculous hitboxes. All of that conspires to create a slog of a game that is a little fun to play.

One saving grace is that the game is actually very short. So short you could finish it in one sitting if you were not bored out of your mind of playing it.

"Astal, please stop, you are scaring everybody. You've got to try a little compassion my friend"

Realizing that the majority of its gameplay is uninspiring, the game wisely crams in as many boss fights as it can considering its short run time. These encounters are actually not bad, even if your worst enemy is your own controls and weird hitboxes.

During these fights, you will need to use all the tools at your disposal, which brings up the game's central gimmick. In his quest to save Lida, Astal is joined by a bird companion that he can command to attack or bring health items. Frankly, I didn't understand exactly how to choose what the bird does, but I managed to utilize it well when it mattered.

Some other thing that you can do is blowing mightly on things, which works well to push smaller projectiles away (only if it is intended to do so) and extinguish fires.


"Pathetic, you can't even defeat a little boy"

With some really good 2D graphics, this could have been a really beautiful-looking game. Instead, it is plagued with some of the worst designs I ever saw, with no thought to consistency or suitability. Hell, the best looking thing is a giant bug that looks like it was lifted from a Studi Ghibli film, and then you have some Golden Age of Western Animation designs combined with children Anime styles.

These styles jar against each other, but even without that inconsistency, the design of the main characters is unappealing to me.

Other than the terrible voice acting, the sound effects are also annoying. Thankfully, the music manages to be more than halfway decent. In fact, it is the only thing I am willing to give unqualified praise for.

In Conclusion:

I don't understand what was Sega's objective with Astal, at least not in the US. In Japan, the hero had five hit points and infinite lives, which changed to 3 hit points and limited continues in the US.

In its Japanese version, this game makes sense as something purely aimed at young children. However, by increasing the challenge, Sega of North America simply negated the only demographic who may be remotely interested in this game.

Final: 4/10

Pros:

  • 2D Graphics are really nice
  • Good music


Cons:

  • Slow paced gameplay
  • Short and unsatisfying
  • There is little unique or engaging about the gameplay


"Tips"
1- You need to learn to use the bird to attack and to heal.
2- You can jump on top of enemies to get some vertical leverage.
3- You can use your blow power to extinguish fires and flames.

"Next Game"

Even though I didn't like this game, I still thank Sharukurusu for adding a recommendation to this review series. Astal may not be a lot of fun, but maybe the other games that he recommended are.

Next, I am returning back to the Retro Sanctuary list with a review of the #22 game on that list; Burning Rangers. This looks like a game that didn't age particularly well. However, the concept of controlling firefighters and saving people is interesting, and this one has Yuji Naka on the helm

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sat Nov 09, 2019 7:20 pm

#22

Game: Burning Rangers.
Year: 1998.
Genre: Action, Third Person Shooter
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 22901-burning-rangers-sega-saturn-front-cover

First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

Burning Rangers is the kind of game that is difficult to dislike, even if it gives you every reason to do so. With date 3D polygonal graphics, stiff 3D controls that demand an analog stick, and some cheesy writing; here is a game that I should normally severely criticize as an outdated relic that may have been good in the past. However, the game's solid core and innovative design combine to make sure that despite all of its age-related flaws, Burning Rangers remains a fun game to play.

"Sense a split second. Treasure the life. Have a Goddes on your wing"

This is very much a 90's game. You can figure out that much from seeing the opening anime scenes, which invoke much of the "cool" imagery that was common in the day from big-handed armor suits to wise-cracking long-haired protagonists. The unique twist in Burning Rangers is that this ragtag group of anime archetypes are firefighters.

Seeing much of the videogame space being dominated by games about shooting people, Sega decided to do something different with this 3rd person shooter game of theirs; opting to design a game about saving people instead of killing them. Ironically, this doesn't change the core shooting gameplay much as the targets are now balls of fire rather than ghouls and goblins.

I guess that the firefighting gimmick combined with the futuristic Anime style does provide a unique story that is was never told in videogames before. However, that doesn't make it a necessarily good story.

Although, if you are fan cheesy 90's anime, then the cheesy dialogue and voice acting has its charm.

"You must evacuate. It is too far from your location. We don't have enough time"

As I mentioned above, this is a 3rd person shooter with fireballs as targets. Yet, that simple description doesn't do the game justice since the focus is not actually on it being a shooter.

The focus is, like in many Yuji Naka games, is on movement. In this case, movement in 3D space. Burning Ranger main gameplay hook is in the speed you can get to from one place to another in the map to save people and extinguish fires. This speed is the result of the booster shoes the character wear, which allows them to dash forward and fly around in unprecedented fashion.

In fact, I am not sure any game at the time had the freedom of movement that was present in this title. With the ability to cross massive distances, both horizontally and vertically, you can virtually keep flying most of the level and rarely touch the ground.

All that movement is in the service of getting to fires and victims quickly in a maze-like map as the game challenges you for faster times and better performances as a firefighter. It is exhilarating most of the time, that is until the game's age-related issues start becoming more obvious.

"But if I don't give it a shot we can't save them all. I must save the others. It's my turn to help others. I will never give up"

There is no hiding the obvious age of Burning Ranger's graphics, which affect the visual variety of stages as well as put an obvious straing on the framerate. However, that's not the biggest flaw in the gameplay.

As usual in early 3D games, the camera controls are wanting and the lack of analog controls is an obvious issue. Due to the excellent movement mechanics of the game, both issues are not as big of a problem as they could otherwise have been, but they are issues nonetheless.

Honestly, the game's shortcomings are excusable mainly due to its short length. With only four short missions, the game can be completed in one sitting. True, this allows for repeated playthroughs to get better scores and master the system. However, I didn't find multiple playthroughs to be as rewarding as the first, and even then, the gameplay wears thin by the fifth hour.

"Say hello to Big Landman, he is our most skillful ranger"

Depending on your tolerance for early polygonal graphics, you will either be charmed bu this game's more than competent visuals or get a slight headache from all the flickering lights and the poor graphical detection.

It is not ugly nor is it unplayable. Still, it requires getting used to, especially when the background starts appearing in the foreground suddenly.

Musically, the game has some good tunes. However, due to the need to listen to the voice guidance system, the tracks are more muted than usual, which unfortunately doesn't give you enough chance to appreciate the game's soundtrack.

As for that voice guidance system, it is nothing if not innovative. With your commanding officer trying to guide you through the burning buildings, it helps that her voice acting is not bad even if it is weirdly inexpressive (unlike most of the cast who alternate between cliched to hammy voice acting).

In Conclusion:

Burning Rangers is an innovative game that hedged its bets on its unique setting and gameplay system carrying it beyond being a short game to be traded in at the first opportunity. I think that its reputation today proves Sega won that specific bet.

For the modern gamer, the short length is a blessing because it allows them to experience the best of the game without its shortcomings becoming too obvious.

Final: 7/10

Pros:

  • Unique movement system
  • Unique setting and style


Cons:

  • Poor cameral controls and lack of analog movement.
  • Aged 3D graphics.


"Tips"
1- Look around for victims off the main path.
2- You can dodge by hitting the jump button with a direction at the same time.
3- One hit loses all of your hard-earned crystals.

"Next Game"

I guess I enjoyed Burning Rangers despite initially being apprehensive regarding its graphics. This proves that a good game can shine even if it doesn't look its best.

Next, I will be writing a report about the games from #29 to #20 in the Retro Sanctuary list before I play Dragon Force at #16 in the same list.

Stay Tuned
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