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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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Post by Lord Spencer on Tue Dec 31, 2019 5:41 pm

#16

Game: Dragon Force.
Year: 1996.
Genre: Real-Time Strategy RPG
Publisher: Sega, Working Designs.
Developer: J-Force, Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 48641-dragon-force-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

My story with Dragon Force begins a long time ago, maybe two or three years after its release, and I didn't know its name then. At the time, I saw some distant cousins of mine playing a weird device in my grandfather's house that was neither a Playsation or a Nintendo 64. My young self saw them playing a game with excellently detailed 2D graphics. The music attracted me, and the battle scenes were mesmerizing.

To my 9-year-old self, the game looked glorious. One image stayed long in my memory. The special move where shockwaves go through the enemy force. Other than that, I had no idea what's the name of the game or even the system it was in.

To my surprise, while playing it now for the first time, I realized this was the same game I fell in love with only a day's glance.

As it turns out, that love, which was borne from pure instincts, was fully justified. Dragon Force, despite not quite reaching a fully glorious level, is a very good game.

"He and his villainous legion scorched the land and dried the once sparkling seas with a towering fury unequaled in all creation"

The story of the game is par the course for the time. An evil god, Madruk, fought the goddess Astea for control of the world, and that fight was partially resolved through Astea's dragon proxy. Still, the evil god wasn't defeated, and another fight broke out 300 years before the events of the game, and Madruk was again partially defeated.

The world as it exists now is mostly unaware of the events in the past and is divided between eight nations which are currently embroiled in a an all-out war. The immediate threat being the war-like nation of Fandaria, but everyone is attacking everyone else.

You can initially choose one of six nations, with the other two only unlocked after the game. This means that there are at least eight semi-unique playthroughs of the game since each nation comes with its own cutscenes and story perspective.

Predictably, the story reveals itself slowly as your character realizes the relationship between the current war and the events of the past, which informs your decisions to conquer all nations and gather the eight warriors that compromise the force necessary to defeat Madruk yet again.

While there is little original in the story, and I wish there was more interaction between your main characters and the named unique commanders and heroes in the game, it is a nice enough and well-told story. Especially when you consider the eight possible different perspectives.

"You can stop quaking with fear, step forth and fight!"

With the story out of the way, let us discuss the game's unique gameplay systems. Notice the plural, because there are many systems in place here. As the leader of one of eight nations, your main objective is to conquer the continent of Legendra, which your leader somehow justifies as a defensive maneuver.

This is done in an overview maps where you can move your armies in real-time from city to city. Each army consists of up-to five commanders with their own battalion of troops. This battalion can be anything from ten or so classes, with the number of troops depending on the merit awards held by the commander. This phase is similar to strategy games such as Total War and Romance of the Three Kingdoms but is limited to troop mobilization, as there is no domestic improvement done in this phase.

In fact, there is little domestic improvement scope in the game, which is left to be done during the domestic phase which is not in real-time. In this phase, you can attempt to recruit captive commanders, give awards to your own commanders (which can allow them to change troop classes or command a greater number of troops), or utilize development options. These development options are limited to fortify and search, both of which can only be conducted by commanders with an intelligence stat of 70 or more.

Usually, in a strategy focused game, the significant lack of developmental options would be a considerable negative. However, that's not the focus of this game. Instead, it is really all about war and the real-time battles that happen when two units meet each other on the map.

Here, the game cuts to the battlefield, where two sprite armies face-off against each other. In this phase, you can direct your troops with a number of tactics and can change in mid-battle as well. Also, your commander, depending on their own class, has access to a max of three special moves that can drastically change the flow of battle. It is a unique battle system that I haven't seen before

One of my favorite tactics is with Samurai commanders with access to the breach tactic, which is designed to breach through enemy forces and rush their commander. What I do is start the breach, but command the formation to move down instead of the middle. This pushes the enemy army into the middle, at which point I use the shockwave special attack which attracted me so much as a child. It completely obliterates everything in its path, which through my tactic was at least half of the enemy forces.

"No. There are some who shall hold the power of victory. They will be called the Eight Warriors of the Dragon Force"

With an excellent and unique gameplay system with eight different campaigns to play, there is a lot of replayability built-into the base game. There are multiple ways to tackle each campaign and many commanders to recruit and use in a game that is almost always engagingly fun.

I say almost because the game, like many other strategy games, does settle into a mid-game lull once you gain critical mass and become too big for the other nations to effectively attack, the game is predictably won until the end game where it gets exciting once again.

Also, at that stage, you usually have too many commanders and cities to oversee, which makes the lack of group order commands annoyingly obvious.

I feel that the addition of more micro stories into the game map (a few such stories exist) would have benefitted the game greatly, especially if it involved more interaction between the unique characters in the game.

This is the reason that despite absolutely loving the game, I don't plan to play it beyond two or three playthroughs, which is honestly more than enough to say about any game. If you think you would be on the same path, then it is worth it to not pick two similar characters to get as much variety as you can.

"You are part of the company in your fight against Madruk"

Back at that time when I first saw the game, I wasn't sure what the game was about when my cousins choosing in the domestic phase. I was then intrigued by the movement of the icons on the overworld map, wondering about what all this menu diving signifies. However, when the first battle started between two small sprites on the map, I was immediately blown away.

Two beautifully designed commanders, each with a regiment of 50 or so troops, stood facing each other in full 2D splendor with multiple planes giving the battlefield some noticeable depth. And, then, the onslaught began with a hundred detailed sprites attacking each other in different formations. I am still not sure if I heard or imagined the battle cries.

Then, in the middle of the battles, three impressive shockwaves cleaved through the enemy forces and my cousins excitedly claimed victory.

Honestly, Dragon Focre may be the most visually impressive game on the Saturn, and that's mostly because it doubled down on 2D sprites that look great today when other games attempted newer and uglier technologies. Even in its use of classically animated cutscenes, the game stayed visually consistent with its visual designs.

As for the game's soundtrack, I feel like it doesn't take full advantage of the increased capabilities of the Saturn besides having some limited but predictably terrible voice acting. To be fair, there are some memorable tracks such as the Apostle battle theme and Gongos's theme (which is the best character theme).

In general, I noticed that Strategy games tend to favor music that doesn't steal the scene, which is understandable given the time you spend on the map versus the time in battles compared to JRPG games.

In Conclusion:

I had a faint memory of witnessing a great game in action many years ago. Such faint memories of games gone by are a major reason that I am going back to playing the supposedly best games of systems past. In the hope of playing great games that I would have otherwise missed.

It is without any exaggeration that I say that Dragon Force is such a great game. You get the feeling that a sequel that ironed out all of its minor flaws and added more story to the game would have become a perfect game. Unfortunately, I am not sure such a sequel ever materialized.

Yet, we are still left with a game that compares with the best of its time.

Final: 9/10

Pros:

  • Unique and engaging gameplay system
  • Excellent sprite graphics that aged very well
  • Multiple characters to choose from with different stories


Cons:

  • It has some small flaws that keep it from being an absolutely excellent game


"Tips"
1- Make sure to utilize the tactics in the middle of battles.
2- For instance, mages can retreat and keep shooting at the incoming melee attackers. That allows them to be effective against all enemy types.
3- Shooter-type soldiers can keep shooting during special move animations.
4- Another tactic is to disperse your troops to avoid area-of-effect moves.
5- Make sure to save before finishing any domestic sessions.
6- After finishing these sessions, disloyal commanders may desert. Go back and give them rewards if you want to keep them.
7- Disloyal commanders can be useful for defending cities and transporting troops, but they shouldn't be used as your offensive force.
8- Fight outside of the city gates to avoid damaging your own cities.
9- Develop the cities next to the three temples.
10- Make sure to level-up the hero characters.

"Next Game"

After greatly enjoying Dragon Force I am hoping for yet another great Saturn game. It looks like I am in luck, as Shining Force III, which sits at #11 on the Retro Sanctuary list, looks as sure a bet as any other game.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Vibe on Tue Dec 31, 2019 5:48 pm

Still waiting for the PS1 review series.

I even read a bit of these, despite never playing Sega.
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Post by Lord Spencer on Mon Feb 10, 2020 2:48 pm

@Vibe wrote:Still waiting for the PS1 review series.

I even read a bit of these, despite never playing Sega.


Thanks for reading.

I hope to begin the PS1 reviews series this year but I am unsure if I can. There are about five or seven games left for me to review for the Saturn
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Post by Lord Spencer on Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:58 am

#11

Game: Shining Force III.
Year: 1998.
Genre: Tactical RPG
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Camelot Software.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 97231-shining-force-iii-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

This is one game on the Saturn I played knowing pretty much that it would be good. After all both Shining Force games on the Genesis were very good and are among the top 10 games on that system.

Yet, it appears that Camelot  Software had much higher ambitions for the game than merely being good. Years before the Tactical RPG behemoth, Fire Emblem, experimented with different storyline and perspectives with Fates and Three Houses, Camelot planned to release Shining Force III in three parts.

This ended up crafting a game with a rich and complex storyline, one that could have been seen as a great competition to the RPGs of the PS1. However, due to the decline of the Saturn, Sega of America decided they were only going to localize the first of those three games, thereby depriving Western gamers of the rest of the story and what could have been a legendary game for the system.

Still, it is a testament to its quality that even with a third of its story with no possibility of continuation, the game still managed to shine through.

"When idealogies come into conflict, bloodshed is almost inevitable. Humans... how ignorant we all are"

The game starts with you naming the three heroes that will play a huge part in the events of the game, but the first scenario will only focus on the exploits of Synbios, the son of a famous general of a new Republic that sprang from previous territories controlled by the rigidly feudal Destonian empire.

Slightly prior to the start of the game, the Destonian empire managed to invade and conquer an important Republican city. In order to resolve the conflict before it becomes another all-out war, a peace conference was called by a neutral third party.

As to be expected (or else we won't be having a game), the peace conference not only fails but quickly exacerbates the situation. What ensures is a well-told story of political intrigue, ideological conflicts, personal struggles, and good old ancient evil cults that all mixes in really well.

Previously, I complained about the simplicity of the storylines in Shining Force I & II. However, this is not the case here. In fact, it is a continuously engaging story from start to finish.

Since this is a review of the first Scenario only, I won't dwell too much on the three-pronged story other than state the obvious fact that it means certain elements will be unclear and a number of characters will not have the resolution that they deserve. Overall, the first scenario concludes with an ending that doesn't introduce new questions but leaves some questions unresolved.

Yet, even without experiencing all three scenarios, it is clear that the ambition to tell the story in three parts is what lead to Camelot crafting a story that develops intelligently and shows room for different perspectives, even if it doesn't allow all those perspectives to fully develop.

One thing that could have been better is the involvement of the playable characters themselves. Usually, other than through a pre-battle small conversation, the various playable characters don't develop much with the exception of the core group. This was a point of common concern in TRPGs back in the day and was only truly resolved through the now-classic support conversations in the Fire Emblem series.

"Listen up, you Republican buffoons. I'll take my leave with the Emperor now, your pathetic lives end here!"

Besides the advancement to its story, there isn't much changed from the basic template that worked so well for the first two Shining Force games. This is still a TRPG with all that is expected from the genre.

Up to 12 playable characters take the field against an assortment of enemies. Turn order is decided by the Agility stat. It pays to keep your formation intact. Experience is awarded based on damage dished out, healing, and kills. Character gain level, skills, and can be promoted. And, of course, characters come in a variety of classes.

This formula works really well due to the variety of the characters at our disposal and the general balance and occasional change in the many battles you are facing. Typically, there are two to tackle any battle. First, there is the safe block of doom approach, where all of your force moves in semi-unison to clean up the field. Second, the more fun and efficient way of dividing your force into squads and decimating the enemy in as short a time as possible.

Playing the game the second way reveals how the game provides more tools to both develop your force and finish battles more efficiently. Mainly, the addition of a trust system between encourages maintaining a squad between battles as it increases their overall performance. Also, the addition of super attacks showcases how strong your characters get by the end of the game.

Without being revolutionary, the gameplay is consistently engaging and fun.

"Many lives were lost... for nothing. If we do nothing, more will perish"

Outside of battles, the game offers what looks like a classic JRPG world exploration. With NPCs to talk to, items to buy, treasures to find, and even secret characters to recruit.

The latter activities may offer the most frustration to players as the "inspect" every box and barrel looking for precious mithril ore that they can later craft into amazing weapons. Yet, that is secondary to the possibility of missing a playable character because you didn't want to explore all the houses in a city (although you really should do that in an RPG).

Yet, this has always been part of the series's charm. The fact that it had the world-building aspects of any other JRPG. Generally, the NPCs do a great job of giving more context to the world and both story and dialogue are decently good. As such, even the downtime between battles is necessary for the game. Also, if you like, you can always forgo looking for items and just rush the story along.

Ultimately, there is no real gameplay in the sections between battles and the preparation aspects could have been more efficiently presented in menu screens. However, these "pillow" moments between battles serve to give greater context and contrast to the rest of the game.

"All of you... these chumps are slowing our progress! Eliminate them all so we can get back to business, stealing treasure!"

If you read some of my other Saturn reviews, you would probably guess what I would say regarding the switch fro sprites to 3D polygons in the game's graphics. It simply is not as pretty or "age-resistant" as the Genesis games. Especially when contrasted to the obviously beautiful 2D character portraits (those are still great).

However, there is enough charm in the character's chibi polygonal forms that the majority of the game looks fine. It is only when character initiate attacks that the game shows them in more "detail" (meaning more jagged edges and blocky features), which is also surprisingly competent. Better than Final Fantasy VII for reference.

In fact, the graphics were probably damn impressive by the standards of the day. Especially for the magic and special attacks, which must have appeared revolutionary at the time. Now, they are just random explosions of jagged edges and garish colors.

One thing that didn't negatively age is the game's soundtrack, which was crafted by legendary composer Motoi Sakuraba of Tales and Dark Souls fame. It works really well both inside and outside battles.

However, its best use was ina accentuating the more dramatic scenes, always playing the right theme at the right time, adding drama in lieu of voice acting. It is a really stellar soundtrack with "The Opening" and "Flying Dragon of the Battlefield" being some of my favorites in the game.

In Conclusion:

Besides the fact that it doesn't actually complete the story, with two other scenarios never localized, Shining Force III never gets a foot wrong. In fact, it even manages to make the best of its inferior polygonal graphics, making them charming in spite of the technical limitations.

Simply put, it is a great Tactical RPG that is pushing me to go and play the fan translations of the other two scenarios, which is something that I never did before.

Final: 9/10 by itself, 10/10 as part of the trilogy

Pros:

  • Complex storyline with lots of players
  • Very good tactical RPG gameplay
  • A lot of character variety with good designs
  • Lovely music that plays at the right times


Cons:

  • Only a third of the story was officially ported West
  • Polygonal graphics are OK, but 2D sprites would have been better


"Tips"
1- For maximum efficiency, don't upgrade character class until they are at level 14-15.
2- Don't worry about leveling-up fringe characters, there is a dungeon at the end where you can gain levels very fast.
3- There are a lot of items hidden in the game world.
4- Pay attention to save some characters if you are planning to play the other two SFIII games.
5- Make sure to let all your characters involved in a battle to level them up semi-equally.
6- Use the same weapon class with a character t increase their proficiency with it,
7- Healers are your friends.
8- The earliest characters you get are always the strongest.

"Next Game"

As expected, I had a great time with Shining Force III. So much so that I am actually going to play the fan translations for Scenarios 2 and 3 (but I won't review them).

Later, I will continue my Saturn review series with a review of Clockwork Knight which is requested by one of my readers. Hope it is a fun game.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sat Apr 04, 2020 11:30 am

#R3

Game: Clockwork Knight 1 & 2.
Year: 1994 & 1995.
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 36475-clockwork-knight-sega-saturn-front-cover
The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 Clockwork_knight_2

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

Out of every 10 platformers on the SNES and the Genesis, only 1 was good, and it most probably was not made on the Genesis. Generally, playing any random platformer at that time that isn't made by Nintendo is a huge gamble with your time. The gulf in class between the great platformers we remember from that time and the rest of the filler games is as deep a the grand canyon.

Both Clockwork Knight games are not in the rock bottom of that canyon (that spot is reserved to Bug), but they are deep enough for you not to waste your time playing them.

"Come on now, everyone, it's all right, join the fun"

I must admit that I was initially hopeful when I started the game, and that's due to the encouraging opening movie. With a catchy Borwaodway-inspired musical song (That reminded me of Super Mario Odyssey's theme), the movie shows a playroom come to life (not unlike Toy Story). Then, the princess of the playroom, which is maiden in a fancy clock, is kidnapped and an awakened clockwork soldier that suspiciously looks similar to Mario must go and save her.

The opening movie suggested a world filled with little details about everyday homes, shown from a small toy's perspective. It suggested, even if the gameplay ended up being mediocre, at least a thematically interesting world.

Unfortunately, while the theme is clear in the level design and world backgrounds, everything is made up in such a haphazard way that there no interesting visual storytelling at all. Levels are simply made of toy block, pencils, utensils, and other common things in a chaotic way that inspires no admiration whatsoever.

Ironically, the only thing remaining that ties in the game to that great opening cinematic is the good soundtrack, which incorporates the catchy tune into the game's few tracks. So, even when you are glaring at soulless characters in soulless environments, at least the soundtrack is okay.

"Pepperouchau, I am pleased to see you!"

If nothing else, at least Clockwork Knight 1 & 2 had the decency to be short (unlike Bug). Each game consists of eight short levels and four mediocre bosses. While for people buying it at the time, that short length would have seemed almost criminal, it was a blessing to this reviewer.

That's because playing the game is less fun than doing absolutely nothing, and every minute wasted on this game is a minute that is forever gone.

In the first game, the character moves at a plodding pace in unimaginative levels with terrible visual cues about where hidden things could be(not that anything is valuable at the game). Combat is boring, with inconsistent hit detection. Bosses are boring to look at, and boring to fight.

The second games improve things a little by adding the ability to run and sprinkling four collectibles in each level. Except, that doesn't improve the desire to explore those levels, as the level design clearly frustrates that desire. For instance, there is a tower of a sort that you climb through many platforms. In any competent platformer, that tower, which wastes your time climbing, would be a unique place in the level and should contain a collectible. Not in Clockwork Knight, where there are three such towers in the level, none of which has a collectible or anything of value to the player (screw the points you get).

At that point, it became obvious that no one was thinking about the best places to put in collectible or lives or any useful item. One egregious example of such poor placement design is in an invincibility power-up (the only power-up in the game) that is placed in a hard to get location, but once you get it, there is little use from it as there are no enemies or hazards that you will need to watch out for for the entire time the power-up is active, only for hazards and enemies to show-up again once the effects are over.

"Pepper, welcome back. Let's begin"

If it wasn't obvious by now how poor this game is, simply compare it to another great platformer at the tie. Both Clockwork Knight and Donkey Kong Country were 2D platformers made at roughly the same time with a psuedo-3D graphical look.

Visually, there is really no comparison despite one of them being made in a stronger console. There is a level of consistency in DKC in level design, enemy design, sound effects, and music that tells of a cohesive and vibrant world. That consistency is usually absent in mediocre platformers.

Gameplay-wise, there is a weight and momentum to the movement of Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong. A movement that is facilitated by the level design, as each level contains many obstacles that invite you to overcome. On the other hand, Pepperouchau or whatever the hell he is named is boring to control, especially in levels that are poorly designed with a minimum of obstacles to overcome.

Finally, the scope of each game is of completely different magnitude despite both being the same price. While the first DKC had 33 full-fledged levels, both Clockwork Knight games offer a paltry 16 poorly designed levels combined.

In Conclusion:

Games like Clockwork Knight demonstrates clearly how hard it is to actually make a competent platformer, nevertheless a great one.

Here is a game so devoid of skill, so bankrupt in its ideas, that it is honestly a struggle to finish it.

Final: 3/10

Pros:

  • A Good opening cineatic


Cons:

  • Terrible Gameplay
  • Terrible level design
  • Terrible wast of time despite being short
  • Unmercifully boring


"Tips"
1- Don't play the game.

"Next Game"

Well, I guess there is a game in the Saturn that is almost as bad as Bug, but it is not near enough in reality. Bug was an abhorrently designed game from top to bottom with no redeeming features. Ironically, both games got decent critical scores at the time, which points to a poverty of options at the time.

Next, I will continue with my Saturn reviews with a report of the top 11-20 games as per the Retro Sanctuary list. Later, I will play and review the most famous Shmup on the Saturn, Radiant Silvergun which sits at number 8 on the same list.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sat Apr 11, 2020 6:25 pm

#8

Game: Radiant Silvergun.
Year: 1998.
Genre: Shmup.
Publisher: Entertainment Software Publishing.
Developer: Treasure.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 3251766964_a513d51db4_b

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

Originally, I wasn't planning to review any import games for my Saturn Reviews series. However, the reputation of Radiant Silvergun was so glowing that I didn't realize that it never was actually released in the West. Apparently, the game was imported to a wide degree back in the day, so much that mainstream review outlets actually gate it glowing reviews.

So, in a way, I was tricked into reviewing this game by its lofty reputation, both breaking my no-import rule and my lack of proficiency with the genre. I am glad to be breaking both those rules now.

"I gave you life so you would make good progress. But you couldn't understand"

Being an imported title, I am immediately at a disadvantage to get anything from the story, which appears to be a respectable effort by Treasure. Starting with a great opening Anime sequence, the game aims to have some narrative pull, unlike some other purely Arcade Shmups (the Arcade version of this game forgoes the story).

At the beginning of each level, which for reasons I don't understand are not in a linear sequence (level 3 coming in before level 2), you can see that there is some narration to build up the story as well as dialogue between the game's characters.

From what I understood, there is a large prism monolith of some kind that is destroying Earth because of humanity's sins, which I guess based on the Anime shows of the time. As the pilot of the "Silvergun" aircraft, which is supported by a bigger aircraft piloted by a cool-looking old captain, you are tasked with stopping this prism monolith.

Again, my lack of Japanese language abilities significantly curtails my abilities to appreciate the game's story, but I am confident enough to know that it is acceptable window-dressing at most, as this is not the type of game to be driven by its narrative.

"Encountered an assailant"

No, this is the type of game to be driven purely by its action, and what sublime action it is. On the surface, this is just another vertical Shmup with all the genre's associated qualities. However, Radiant Silvergun differentiates itself with both its added complexity and its sheer competency.

Complexity in the game is in two forms:

First, there are many weapon options you have at the forefront. Immediately equipped with seven weapons, you don't worry about finding power-ups during the level. Instead, you need to learn how each weapon is best utilized, as that could be the difference between death and victory. Each weapon is useful in a certain situation and giving you access to all weapons at once allowed the developers to craft specific bosses and situations which force you to utilize different weapons, for example encouraging you to use the spread shot instead of the Vulcan or homing shots.

Second, this being a Treasure game, amazing bosses do not simply show up at the end of each level. Instead, the game is made-up 70% from bosses, as each level throws those amazing fights at you, each with their own unique twists and complexities.

As for competency, that is actually best demonstrated by the fact that this is one of the most accessible Shmups I ever played. It has a gentle difficulty curve before things quickly ramp-up in the second half, and it is built in a way that you feel every situation is escapable without the need to memorize patterns, only the skill to identify them during the fight. At least, that is what I felt before the final level, where things got chaotic, almost close to bullet hell levels of lunacy.

"Warning. No refuge"

Here is where I admit that I a not particularly good at the game. Sure, I beat it on Normal, but that was with extensive help from save-states. Wishing to get a clean and honest victory, I tried the game again at the easiest difficulty with the maximum number of stocks.

Unfortunately, I only reached half the fifth level before getting my first game over, depleting more than thirty lives in the attempt. It became obvious that I wouldn't be able to do it unless I dedicated serious practice time.

In the middle of massive fights with hundreds of bullets on screen, I was able to go into zen-like focus, evading and shooting my way out of impossible situations. Those moments showed me both that I had the ability to learn and augment the necessary skill, and that the game gave you ways out of impossible situations.

What usually turned me off the genre is still the same for Radiant Silvergun. This is not a game to be experienced or "beat". It is one to learn and to "master", always improving and gradually progressing. The game can take less than an hour to finish, yet it took me much more than that with save-state. However, I would bet that it would take weeks if not months in order to gain the necessary skills to actually finish the game with no cheats whatsoever.

"Be attitude for gain"

While Radiant Slilvergun may be regularly celebrated as one of the best Shumps on the Saturn, you know that it's not being so celebrated because of its looks.

That doesn't mean that is bad looking at all. Far from it, the juxtaposition of really well designed polygonal models into 2D backgrounds work surprisingly well, which is actually responsible for the silky smooth animation and the many incredible boss fights, many that change forms mid-battle in a variety of ways.

It is just that the 3D polygons don't look as good in comparison to the crisp sprites of the best looking Shmup games out there. However, it should be noted that the added animation possibilities of the polygons more than makeup for the relative visual downgrade.

The same can be said of the game's soundtrack, which is a solid work by the famed Hitoshi Sakimoto. The soundtrack is great at times, but many tracks bleed into each other without a lot of differences (which is especially jarring in a genre that demands repetition) and it doesn't always have the addicting energy of some other Shmup soundtracks, and here I am mainly thinking of the Thunder Force series.

In Conclusion:

Watching experts play the game on Youtube, I am astounded by the poetry in action, seeing these players consistently do things that I know can be done in the game (I managed my own share of wow moment), but doing it consistently throughout the game, playing with perfect focus.

Based on its ability to excite even a non-genre fan, Radian Silvergun is obviously a special game. It is accessible enough to pull you in, but there are such many complexities that you will need to dedicate serious time and energy to be able to conquer it.

Which, to fans of the genre, is perfectly acceptable because the game gives as much reward as you the effort you put into it, throwing more amazing boss battles at every point, true to the Treasure name.

Final: 8/10

Pros:

  • Gives you all weapons from the start
  • This is a fair but tough Shmup
  • A million amazing bosses


Cons:

  • I am not sure many will find it fair after the fourth level (VERY HARD)
  • There is little variety in the music.


"Tips"
1- Learn the pros and cons of each weapon you have.
2- Use the sword to destroy the circular pink projectiles, this also charges up your super attack.
3- Use the super attack when you need to avoid nearly inescapable danger.
4- To upgrade a weapon, continue using it for an extended period until you see the weapon upgrade bonus.
5- Tap the spread weapon button repeatedly to create a shield in front of you.
6- Alternate tapping two weapons to fire a variety of projectiles.
7- To get the destruction bonus at the end of each boss, destroy the parts before destroying the main core.
8- The best way to evade bullets is to keep your eyes on your ship, not on the incoming bullets.

"Next Game"

So I ended up reviewing one import game for the Saturn Reviews series. Thankfully, that happened to one of the console's widely regarded "must-play" games, and I ended up liking it despite not being very good at it.

Next to be reviewed is one of the most famous Saturn games, Nights into Dream, which is at number 5 on the Retro Sanctuary list.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Fri Apr 17, 2020 10:17 am

#5

Game: NiGHTS into Dreams.
Year: 1996.
Genre: Action.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Sonic Team.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 SAT_NIGHTS_INTO_DREAMS

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

It is frankly surprising that Sega did not launch the Saturn with a Sonic the Hedgehog game. It becomes scandalous when you realize that the only Sonic game made for the console was outsourced to another company which naturally botched the job.

The reason that Sega did not bother developing a game for their biggest mascot is that the Sonic Team were making NiGHTS into Dreams, a game that would then go on to be a commercial and critical success.

Yet, in hindsight, while Sonic heralded the unlikely success of the Genesis, NiGHTS had no such effect on the fortunes of the Saturn. More important to this review, I don't think the game was ever a true killer game for the Saturn.

"Night Over"

The development of NiGHTS is a microcosm of Sega's development philosophy during the Saturn era; to simply transfer the Arcade experience into home consoles. Besides the gameplay elements that I will discuss later, this also translates to a lack of a narrative focus in their games.

In this case, there are CGI scenes at the beginning and end of the game that does a good job of explaining the basis of the story. However, besides those two videos, there is no attempt in-game to flesh out the world or characters, relegating all the story bits to the game's manual.

Since I am not reviewing the manual, I must refer to what can be understood from the game itself.

Two children with anxiety regarding a coming musical audition and basketball match go into a dream world when they sleep. In this dream world, they lose four important orbs, then they transform into the titular Nights character and retrieve those orbs. Each of the game's seven stages is divided into four short parts where you get the orbs, and then you have to fight a nightmarish boss at the end.

Honestly, I don't think it was going to be hard for each stage to have half a minute introduction explaining what is it that you are supposed to be doing or just attempt to give the world some character. Especially when the overall design of the world does not sell a cohesive story (unlike Sonic)

"The Ideal"

The second part where the game is based on the Arcade experience is in its focus on scoring and replayability. No matter how you cut it, seven stages are very little compared to other games being released on the PS1 and SNES at the same time.

However, Sega's idea was to provide a unique and fun action mechanics that would get you to replay the levels, again and again, having fun in both beating your previous score and in mastering the game's mechanics.

This is the same philosophy that propelled the Sonic games, and it works well here for those who will greatly enjoy the game.

The mechanics are truly unique, as gameplay is entirely focused on flight. As Nights, you mostly fly in a 2D plane (with an occasional shift in perspective that works really well), and you can freely go up and down and lop around. Your basic moves consist of an air dash and acrobatics that are there just for style. Once you get used to the gameplay mechanics, you realize that there is a lot of depth here.

In each level of a stage, you must gather at least 20 blue orbs to get the main objective orb. The levels rarely have serious hazards. Instead, there are a bunch of stars you can collect, rings you can fly through, and springs that increase your speed. The focus is to be as accurate and fast in flight as you can to get the best score.

While in theory, the Arcade style does work for NiGHTS, I don't think its unique gameplay style is as fun anymore, not to the extent that I will ever want to replay it.

"Do not mind"

The most surprising thing about NiGHTS is how its graphics did not age terribly, especially when compared to other mainly 3D Saturn games. It is obvious that the Sonic Team used all their graphical wizardry to make the game, which does look occasionally beautiful and vibrant, even in today's standards.

Even the CGI movie's quality is forgivable given its age and its effectiveness at conveying the story and emotions.

True, there are the occasional technical hiccups, but the game performs really well most of the time. Its graphical problems are not technical in nature but are rooted in design.

Simply, from the main character to the enemies and bosses in the game, I simply do not find any of them attractive or well-designed. In fact, the best quality they have is a certain cohesion in their creation, which makes them cohesively awful.

The same cannot be said about the soundtrack, which is technically strong and a joy to listen to. Since there are only a limited number of stages, the soundtrack is as such restricted in scope. Which is a shame, since its probably the only unblemished part of the whole package.

I even liked the cheesy end-credits song.

In Conclusion:

As a replacement to Sonic, it was bound that NiGHTS would sell highly for the system. However, I don't think it brought people specifically into the console's eco-system, nor do I think that it is equal to the blue rodent's style or substance.

It is simply a unique action game that encompassed the limited and flawed design philosophy of Sega at the time.

Final: 6/10

Pros:

  • Truly a unique gameplay system
  • The music is quite good


Cons:

  • If you don't absolutely love the gameplay system, there is nothing much for you
  • Small number of stages


"Tips"
1- Loop around items to get all of them in one step.
2- You can use the shoulder buttons to do acrobatics.
3- Immediately attempt to get the 20 blue orbs in each level.
4- You need to get at least a grade of C in all six levels before you unlock the final seventh level.

"Next Game"

So the best-selling Saturn game turned out to be a dud for me, I think that in the long run, it turned out to be a dud for Sega as well if the fortunes of the Saturn are anything to go by.

The next game on my review list is Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, which sits at #4 in the Retro Sanctuary list. I will play the Panzer Dragoon (which has been recently remade) first, and I may review it, just to have some context regarding the supposedly hugely improved sequel.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Wed Apr 22, 2020 9:24 am

#4

Game: Panzer Dragoon II Zwei.
Year: 1996.
Genre: Rail Shooter
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Team Andromeda (Sega).

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 Panzer_Dragoon_Zwei_II_Boxart

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 Panzer Dragoon series is considered the most legendary and most technically impressive series on the Sega Saturn. Starting with the first game, which was just remade for modern consoles, I didn't get the appeal although I respect the technical artistry of the past. The first game simply didn't play well in addition to having a significantly aged graphical look.

Not having much hope for the supposedly superior sequel, I was then pleasantly surprised that it truly deserves its esteemed reputation. It outclasses the first game in every category, and it is still fun to play now.

"People lived in terror of the living weapon created from gene construction. The weapon that humans created have cost them the power they once held"

Somehow, Team Andromeda didn't get the internal Sega memo directing against story segments in its score-attack games. It is obvious that that the team developed the small story segments of the game in conjunction with developing an entire history of the series.

While the story "told" in the actual game is straightforward and brief; a man rides his dragon to destroy the giant ship that destroyed his village. The story embedded in the world-building is intriguing and I am excited about what the team can do with it.

The world design reminds me of older anime movies like Nausicaa of the Valley of Winds, and the director obviously appreciates the world that the crafted. Unlike the non-stop action of the first game or other Saturn action titles, Panzer Dragoon II takes the time to stop and allow you to appreciate the world-design.

There is a skill in advancing narrative without the need to say many words, showing shots of the ancient ship in the distance, or the snarl of a competing dragon, are both effective at providing space for your imagination to fill in the details.

"I didn't mean to break the code. Only... I couldn't kill him"

The first two Panzer Dragoon games are Rail Shooters in a similar mold to the Star Fox games. You control a dragon and his rider as they fly through the air, shooting enemies through an on-screen cursor while the screen-moves on-rails.

One aspect that I saw very little in other Rail Shooters is the ability to turn the camera 360 degrees around the character. This allows you to shoot enemies incoming at the sides and from the back, adding an extra layer of control to the traditional Rai Shooters experience.

When I first played the first game, I was immediately worried regarding the Saturn controls, which do not have an analog stick. The cursor wasn't very accurate given the speed of the dragon and needing to switch perspectives suddenly threw my aim off. It wasn't a matter of difficulty, but a matter of actively fighting the controls.

Thankfully, the experience is much improved in the sequel. Whatever programing the team did, the cursor moves smoothly and accurately, allowing more control of the shooting. Additionally, changing the camera now can be handled more efficiently as well, since your cursor allows you to move the "edge" of your view without having to push the shoulder buttons to change perspective. Also, the game expands the dragon's arsenal with a special move, in addition to his lock-on attack (which is very useful).

"I was horrified by the ancient power. But the real horror came afterward..."

Any criticism of the Panzer Dragoon remake would focus on its short length, which is a bigger problem now, but was still an issue back when these games were released. Similar to other score-attack games, this is a game built with repetition in mind.

Thankfully, the second game has a little more replay value than the first, with some different alternate routes in three of its six levels in addition to a dragon evolution mechanic that hides some of the best forms behind a skill barrier.

The short length does not jeopardize the excellent gameplay and levels that are already included, with six exciting stages each with their own style. Initially, your dragon doesn't fly much, and the first two stages are spent mostly on the ground. This works as a sort of tutorial phase because you have to worry less about movement.

Once you go up the skies, the enemies become more complex, shooting harder to avoid patterns at you. Fighting moves from open fields to dense forest and even tight ancient corridors. Each level culminates with an exciting boss fight that tests the limits of your skill.

In spite of a slight difficulty spike in the final two levels, the game is entirely fair and manageable. Especially since you always have access to a radar showing you where the enemies are, and as such you should never be blindsided by any powerful attack.

"After all this, he is still with me..."

It's not a controversial statement that it is likely that the most technically impressive graphics of the 5th generation consoles may still have aged badly. Simply, the 3D capabilities of that time did not stand the test of time.

That being said, there is no doubt that the graphics of Panzer Dragoon II are a technical marvel, not only pushing the Saturn to its limits, but also producing graphical effects that were impossible on the superior PS1.

Thankfully, the game didn't only rely on graphical prowess alone; it also had some excellent art direction which manages to salvage some of the game's visual splendor in spite of its aged graphics.

The same cannot be said about the soundtrack, which doesn't need any salvaging or historical qualifiers, as it is simply wonderful and one of the Saturn's best.

I was initially worried that like the first game, a good soundtrack will be buried behind an avalanche of obnoxious sound effects. Thankfully, the balance is more to the side of the music this time, and what music is this.

With an excellent selection of complex and atmospheric tunes, the music is yet another layer to the intriguing world crafted by Team Andromeda. Even complaining about its short length would be disingenuous, as the soundtrack offers more tunes for six levels than any other game would, with music changing within the level itself.

In Conclusion:

From a historical perspective, it is obvious why Panzer Dragoon II Zwei is such a highly regarded Saturn title. It pushes the console to its limits while providing an exciting and fun game. Equally, I think it is one of the few Sega titles that insists on adding a narrative to accompany its action gameplay.

Beyond that perspective, the game still plays well today, and I am excited to see how the remake pans out.

Final: 8/10

Pros:

  • Intriguing world and good direction
  • Good and exciting gameplay
  • Excellent music


Cons:

  • The graphics didn't age very well
  • It is ultimately a short game


"Tips"
1- Learn how to use your lock-on homing attacks.
2- To get the special dragons, you need to pick the more difficult routes and to score over 90% destruction rate in all levels.
3- Pay close attention to the radar.
4- When shooting at the sides, you cannot evade attacks, only attempt to destroy projectiles.

"Next Game"

When I first played the first Panzer Dragoon I was afraid that the second game would be another Saturn classic that I end up disliking. Thankfully, the game was fun to play and I imagine would have been gorgeous to look at back in the day.

Next, I am supposed to play the final game in my Saturn Reviews; Panzer Dragoon Saga which is #1 in the Retro Sanctuary list. However, I am going to fist play a game called Mr. Bones, which was requested by a community member.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sat May 16, 2020 11:08 am

#1

Game: Panzer Dragoon Saga.
Year: 1998.
Genre: RPG.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Team Andromeda (Sega).

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 9529833f61bcad59b479aa18c46cb92f--future-games-classic-video

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

Few games in the Sega Saturn library have the almost mythical reputation of Panzer Dragoon Saga, an ambitious RPG game that arrived in the latter stages of the console's life and consequently didn't get as much attention as it deserved. Typically, an original copy of the game sells for over a thousand dollars these days.

When you start the game, you immediately figure out that Team Andromeda had huge ambitions for it. Filling four discs and featuring fully-voiced dialogue, the game wanted to be a cinematic masterpiece. Additionally, the world which the team crafted over the two previous Rail Shooter Panzer Dragoon games was to be expanded upon with this one; even featuring an invented language in the opening scenes.

The end result is probably one of the most ambitious games in the 5th generation of consoles, and while some aspects didn't age gracefully, that wasn't enough to hide the masterpiece this game was made to be.

"From my experience, the less you know about the Empire, the better off you are"

There are three elements to Panzer Dragoon Saga's story, all which combine to create a truly compelling narrative.

The first element is the post-apocalyptic setting of the game and its unique world, which is well-crafted through both environmental storytelling and written lore. It is an oppressive world where a previous calamity has reduced humanity to a constant fear from biotechnological monsters and ancient forces which obviously had something to do with the apocalypse.

The second element is the cultural and political setting at the game's beginning. In this harsh world, an empire rose through its utilization of ancient technology, professing a willingness to fight the monsters of the world but in effect oppressing the already ravaged people of the world.

The third element, and the one that game needed to do right most of all, is the actual narrative of the game itself. Taking place in the frontier of the empire, the game follows the story of Edge, a mercenary boy that's guarding an imperial mine that may hold some useful ancient technologies.

It turns out that is indeed the case, as Edge and his crew uncovers a mysterious girl and promptly gets exterminated by a rogue faction of the empire. Except, Edge isn't killed but is then rescued by a Dragon who gives him the "edge" in fighting for revenge.

From there, the story unfolds, telling a more intimate story (with fewer characters and locations than most other RPGs). If it wasn't for the masterful direction of the story, it wouldn't shine as much. However, since the game is fully voiced and scenes progress in both in-engine and CGI cut-scenes, the acting in those scenes matter, and it is delivered very well, even if some of the more dramatic moments are over-acted.

In short, the narrative and story of Panzer Dragoon Saga is compelling not only in virtue of itself but also because it constructed very well. From the visual designs that sell the unique setting of the world to the cinematic direction which frankly challenges many of the games in that generation

"But power gave birth to ambition, and ambition to war. The battles became epic struggles"

In changing its genre fro a Rail Shooter to an RPG (which was needed in order to expand its story), the game risked jeopardizing its identity. Reportedly, that was the biggest headache the team faced, which is surprising when you look at the end result; a battle and gameplay system that is both great and ostensibly an expression of the series.

Basically, the gameplay progress almost entirely on top of your dragon. Both overworld areas and dungeons are traversed by flying around like in the first two games. Except, you control movement fluidly and can access areas through a cursor system. This is like having the flying machine you usually get in the latter stages of other RPGs, but from the start, but this is not the core gameplay and is only a "flavored" movement system.

The core gameplay is the turn-based battle system. Turns are awarded based on three gauges that fill with time. You can use the gauges at any time to execute an action, with magic attacks (called Berserk attacks in this game) costing two gauges. Typically, you can choose to shoot with your gun or use the multi-targeting lasers of your Dragon.

Where the system truly shines is in the movement options within the battle. The battlespace consists of four quadrants which you can freely move about without spending any gauges (but you stop the gauges from refilling while moving), and you will need to move about in order to avoid enemy attack zone and/or search for enemy weak points which you can then shoot with your gun for massive damage.

This system not only works wonderfully, but also retains the personality of the series which focuses on the abilities of the Dragon and his rider. It especially shines in boss battles, where safe zones suddenly change to danger zones and constant moving can be key.

It is worth noting at this point that there is a grading system that awards more experience points after each battle. To get the best grades, you must finish battles as efficiently as possible, meaning with less time, fewer moves, and less damage. So your actions need to be deliberate, and you should utilize the "continuous action" mechanic which the game explains well in its tutorials.

One negative in having almost the entire game on top of your Dragon is the lack of other party members. Interestingly, the game identified that issue, and it offered a class change mechanic for you to play with. At an early point in the game, you can freely change the core statistics of your Dragon, changing his class and appearance in the process. You can even change classes in mid-battle.


"Well, if there were Gods, these villages wouldn't have been ripped to pieces in a feeding frenzy"

Outside of battles and exploration segments, there are also a few settlements to wander about and NPCs to talk to. The in-foot segments reminded me of early PC RPGs, especially with the cursor system that helps you interact with the world.

In Panzer Dragoon Saga, all NPCs have names and voiced dialogue, lending the setting more authenticity in the process. Some of them will start sidequests, but there should be more of those in my opinion.

Generally, I felt that the game should have had more location and side content, but I am under the impression that the team simply didn't have enough time (or space given the four discs). As such, we end up with a relatively short RPG.

Of course, there is always the argument that an intimately told short story is better than a sprawling unfocused mess. However, I feel that the game could have been enriched by adding one or two locations as well as more sidequests. It could have even reduced the length of some dungeons to accommodate for that.

I only say that because what's in the game is so well-made that I would have liked to see more of it. Especially when you consider that much of the side content may be completely missable unless you vigilantly talk to NPCs several times just in case they have something else to say. Which I think is important in order to build the emotional connections that underline some events in the story.

"Our destination was destroyed, but we must continue to travel until we find a place to settle"

As with everything else, the production values of the game were hugely ambitious and very impressive for the time.

Let's start with the graphics, which split into three types. The in-game graphics, the in-game engine cutscenes, and the CGI cutscenes. All of these are significantly compromised with age. However, an impeccable art direction and attention to detail retain some of their past glory.

Everything looks better in motion, and as such, battle and exploration segments don't suffer much, and there is even some beauty to be found. The same cannot be said when in town and during some cut-scenes. Faces sometimes devolve into an unrecognizable blob and the textures of buildings and locations meld into each other. It is in those instances that you value the details the artists put in the world, making the interior of an ugly polygonal looking house believable by filling it with real items you can point to and wonder about. As fr the CGI cutscenes, they were great in the past, but they do look battered by age today.

One thing that can be said for the cut scenes is that the scene direction works really well. Composing drama in movement and voice acting that sells the scene in spite of the diminished graphics. Except in a few cases where the scenes devolve into melodrama.

That brings us to the voice acting, which is thankfully only offered in Japanese and is done by professional voice actors. This spared us from the incongruity of Western voice acting at the time. I am still baffled by the sheer ballsiness in having nearly all dialogue voiced.

Finally, we discuss the unique and atmospheric soundtrack, which is the final component in setting up the Panzer Dragoon world. Consisting of some orchestral arrangments, but mostly made with synthesizers, the music is a blend of sci-phi and ethnic influences that creates a new and unique sound.

There are few soundtracks like this one, suggesting a different world and a different culture (even the ending song features the fictional Panzreese language), but also hinting at the desolate landscapes and post-apocalyptic horrors. While the music rarely takes the center stage it had in Zwei, it nonetheless is a continuous influence throughout the game. This makes it hard for me to pick my favorite tracks, but I can always go with the opening "Behold the Precious Wings", and the second city theme "Source of the Protective Flame" is not my favorite, but is a very fitting track.

In Conclusion:

Before playing the game, I expected to enjoy it, as its reputation surely wasn't entirely built on sand. What I didn't expect is exactly how well its "cinematic" efforts aged. With the exception of the expected graphical limitations, the world is still brilliantly composed in art direction, soundtrack, and well-choreographed and expertly voice-acted narrative.

This, coupled with an inventive and fitting battle system allowed me to engage with the story at a level comparable with current experiences. True, the game could have expanded in some directions, and it may be a tad too easy some times.

In the end, this game obviously had the makings of a great game back when it was first released, and it still retains most of that greatness today.

Final: 9/10

Pros:

  • Good story with masterful direction
  • Unique and engaging world and lore
  • Very good music
  • Unique and fun battle system


Cons:

  • There are some graphical aging problems
  • The world is a tad too limited


"Tips"
1-Practice doing "continuous actions" to avoid damage and get better battle grades.
2-Use the button attack shortcuts (A for the gun and B for the Dragon lasers).
3-The majority of green "Access" points are useful, but some (like fish) are not useful.
4-Move away from danger zones in battle, but don't move excessively.
5-To get good battle grades, finish the battle quickly without getting to much damage, and without moving too much.
6-Experiment with changing the dragon class.
7-Talk to NPCsseveral times just in case they have more things to say.
8- Heal and prepare outside of battle so that you don't waste time.
9- Gather all D-Units to unlock a secret dragon class (which in turn allows you to unlock the FINAL dragon form).

"Next Game"

As I said in my review, I expected to like the game, but I didn't expect it to have aged so well. Compared to other 3D RPGs in the era, and compared to everything else besides maybe Metal Gear Solid, the game had them all beat as a "cinematic" game. It truly was one of the most ambitious games at the time.

With this, I am now nearly done with my review of the Sega Saturn's "best" games as per the Retro Sanctuary list. Next, I will make one final report regarding the top 10 games on the list, and I will then share my top 10 games in the system as well as review the system itself.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Thu May 21, 2020 10:37 pm


Finally, we are down to the supposedly top 10 Sega Saturn games. At least, this is the top 10 according to the Retro Sanctuary list I have been using all this time. Since I already played enough Saturn games to make my own top 10 list, I cannot say that I agree with this selection, but that's going to be the subject of my own top 10 list.


To be fair to Retro Sanctuary's selection, the games here are important from a historical perspective regarding the console as a whole. There are two major Arcade ports of famous Sega games (Virtua Fighter 2 and Sega Rally), two games in the mythical Panzer Dragoon series, and the obligatory Japan only 2D games (a fighting game and a Shmup). Then there is NiGHTS Into Dreams, the biggest selling game on the console. Yet, the inclusion of three 3D games, all of which have significantly superior ports in other consoles, significantly devalues this list. Especially when you consider the fact that pushes Shining Force III from the top 10.


With that being said, here is a quick report on each game on this list.


Please enjoy:-


10- Tomb Raider (1996):



  • Genre: Action Adventure

  • Publisher: Eidos Interactive; Developer: Core Design.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 RgTLRVz


It is no secret that Tomb Raider is one of the most important early 3D games. It introduced many elements that were then subsequently copied in other 3D games and is generally considered as a historically important game. It is also no secret that its sequels on the PS1 (which were not released on the Saturn) massively improved over the original in every way.


With that, we are left with only the first game. Yet, due to releasing earlier on the Saturn, the game had a weaker performance compared to the PS1 despite supposedly designed with port parity in mind.


These are two major reasons why I think an inferior port of a game that was clearly bested by its own sequels in the same generation shouldn't be considered as a top 10 Sega Saturn game.


9- PowerSlave (1996):



  • Genre: FPS

  • Publisher: Playmates Interactive; Developer: Lobotomy Software.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 EKa7knU


By all accounts, PowerSlave is a technical marvel on the Sega Saturn. It's a first-person game that works really well on the console. It's also a first-person game that worked better when ported to the PC and the PS1.


Again, I am left confused about why a non-exclusive game with superior ports elsewhere is considered among the top 10 Saturn games. This, of course, betrays the relative strength of the Saturn's library, but there are several games I would put ahead of it.


Also, the game plays terribly now, so there is that.


8- Radiant Silvergun (1998): Japan-Only



  • Genre: Shmup.

  • Publisher: Entertainment Software Publishing; Developer: Treasure.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 VEG8Yk6


Despite being published only in Japan, Radiant Silvergun had such a stellar reputation that it was widely ported West and even covered in official review outlets. This reputation is why I ended up reviewing the game, making it my only import review.


Of course, this meant that I didn't get much from the game's story, which was more involved than your usual Shump. However, this game is not legendary in the genre due to its story, but due to its excellent gameplay. Giving you access to all weapons at once, the game is more concerned with the player mastering these weapons than begging for drops. This is needed against the increasingly difficult and intense bosses, which are a hallmark of Treasure's gaming design.


As a genre outsider, I think that the accessibility features are what differentiates this game from others. It has several difficulty options, and the weapon upgrades as you play, making the game easier and beatable even if you exhaust all your continues. While I am sure that my appreciation for the game is to a lesser degree than genre fans, I actually can identify how it is a top tier Shmup, and a top game for the Saturn as a result.


7- Resident Evil (1997):



  • Genre: Survival Horror.

  • Publisher: Capcom; Developer: Capcom.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 PzX1Llj


Everything I said about Tomb Raider is equally valid here. After all, the first Resident Evil game itself was superseded by its remake on the GameCube.


However, when talking about the Saturn port of the game, it is actually a bit better than the PS1 version (and it released a year later). It came with slightly touched-up graphics, but also with some extra modes and monsters as well.


Regardless, the game was subsequently improved-upon in every way with Resident Evil 2 which was not released for the console.


6- Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1999): Japan Only



  • Genre: Fighting.

  • Publisher: Capcom; Developer: Capcom.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 DSq7Q1I


Street Fighter Alpha 3 is arguably the best fighting game released on the Saturn. Surely, it is the game with the best graphics and animations, as well as being one of the best ports of a widely admired fighting game. Unfortunately and rather predictably, the game was never ported west (by 1999, the Saturn was already dead in the states).


Still, I don't think the late date had anything to do with it. In fact, none of the other 2D fighting games covered in the Retro Sanctuary list were ported West despite being the best console versions available. As such, the console didn't fulfill its potential as the go-to fighting game console, even if that title would have gone to the Neo Geo in the end.


5- NiGHTS into Dream (1996):



  • Genre: Action.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 MDtQefu


In an alternate universe where Sega made sense as a company, NiGHTS would have been released alongside a Sonic game, complimenting its sales and propelling the Saturn in its early years. However, that wasn't the case, and NiGHTS was left shouldering the burden of selling Sega's console in the absences of its most iconic mascot.


Both critically and sales-wise, the game succeeded, becoming the highest-selling game on the system and one of its best-reviewed games. Personally, I didn't care much for the game and I think it failed at convincing Sonic fans to get into the Saturn.


I think the game had some unique ideas executed well, but that it ultimately was lacking in content and wasn't equal to Sonic in neither style nor substance.


4- Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei (1996):



  • Genre: Rail Shooter.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega (Team Andromeda).


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 4CoHWty


The Sega Saturn's answer to Nintendo's Starfox 64; Panzer Dragoon II is the second Rail Shooter game in its franchise and a much-improved sequel at that. Taking place in a mysterious world infested with biotechnological monsters, the game has a haunting visual atmosphere that is still effective today despite its aged graphics. Thankfully, the game's visuals are accompanied by an excellent unique soundtrack.


Gameplay-wise, the game is more involved than your usual arcade Rail Shooters, tasking the player with keeping track of four quadrants as well as giving the player more movement options. As such, the game doesn't suffer for lacking a Rail gun and is fun to play with any regular controller.


Just like the first game was recently remade for modern consoles, this sequel also has a planned remake and I am excited about it.


3- Sega Rally Championship (1995):



  • Genre: Racing.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 OF4k0TI


Here is a game that announced the Saturn to the world, it is an almost arcade-perfect port of the Sega Rally arcade sensation. It looks great (and it didn't age badly at all) and controls better. There is a satisfying feeling to the driving that envokes the dirt and struggle of Rally racing. Unfortunately, I think Sega took the wrong lessons regarding its success.


Sega thought the success of Sega Rally Championship was purely due to it being a very faithful arcade port, not the fact that it was an early game showcasing the system's power, but also one that should promise more substantive sequels in the future. After all, the game has only two cars and three tracks. No matter how good the racing is, that's a very limited content for a full-priced game.


Yet, Sega continued to port their arcade games with minimal alterations and limited content.


2- Virtua Fighter 2 (1995):



  • Genre: Fighting.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 T20oQze


The Virtua Fighter and Tekken franchises are the pillars of 3D fighters, with former created by Sega for its Arcades and consoles and the latter finding its home on Arcades and the PS1. Initially, the advantage in both graphics and gameplay was with Virtua Fighter, as can be seen with Virtua Fighter 2.


By nearly all metrics, Virtua Fighter 2 looked and played better than anything Tekken related, even on the Saturn where the Arcade version was amazingly ported. Comparing the two franchises, Virtua Fighter focuses more on fighting game fundamentals than the flashier and combo heavy Tekken series, and that worked well before the 3D technology advanced enough.


However, one thing the Tekken series did from the onset was to have a story for all of their colorful characters, expanding the appeal of the fighting genre beyond the competitive players. This continued with every sequel until the release of Tekken 3 simply surpassed anything Sega made.


Simply put, while Virtua Fighter 2 and Sega were content with having a strong fighting game for genre fans, one without even a training mode, Tekken continued to expand the genre and have more character development and single-player content. I think it is telling that supposedly the best fighting game on the Saturn is so stuck in the past while the best fighting game on the PS1 was making a new standard for the future.


1- Panzer Dragoon Saga (1998):



  • Genre: RPG.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega (Team Andromeda).


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 Y6b5iU1


With their first two Panzer Dragoon games, Team Andromeda crafted a unique and mysterious world that unfortunately could not be satisfactorily expanded upon in Rail Shooter games. Yet, the need to expand upon that world was obviously so great that the next game in the series became an RPG.


As such, one of the most mysterious and critically lauded RPGs was made.


Panzer Dragoon Saga is a hugely ambitious game despite being short for an RPG and contained in its story and location. It is probably one of the first games that aimed to be a "cinematic" experience. The story is revealed in so many CGI and in-engine cutscenes that the game occupied four CDs, All dialogue was voiced, including simple conversations with NPCs. And, if you look closely at each scene, you see how the team managed to convey nuance and emotion through actual and realistic "acting".


Within that ambitious experiment, there was a well-crafted world with interesting lore and characters. Also, there was an amazing turn-based battle system based completely on the rider and his dragon, and in that way, it was a perfect tribute to the first two games. Even though I may prefer Shining Force III over Panzer Dragoon Saga, there is no question that this is the Saturn's best game. From a historical perspective, it outdoes any game released at that time in terms of production, and it plays great even now.


This is exactly the kind of game Sega should have focused on if they wanted to compete in the console space. Something that couldn't be emulated in the Arcade floor, but something that unraveled its mysteries in your home, amazing you wth what video games can offer beyond chasing a high score.


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


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 on 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 Thu May 28, 2020 11:36 am


Now that I completed my Sega Saturn reviews series (reviewing around 30 games and playing over 50 games), I am ready to make my own Top 10 games list. My top 10 is widely different than Retro Sanctuary's list, with only three games being in both lists.


Generally, I consider any console that has 10 great games to be one worth owning. Based on my reviews of many Saturn games, I actually struggled to compile a top 10 list for the console, not for an abundance of options. Still, this list contains 10 games that are worth playing even today.


Ironically, my list doesn't probably reflect the kinds of games the Saturn is most famous for since I am not a big fan of the content-light Arcade ports that Segapsuhed the hardest for the console. Also, since many of the Saturn's "best" games were never ported West, this list may actually miss some games that would otherwise get in.                      


The list is presented in alphabetical order, but Panzer Dragoon Saga and Shining Force III are shoulders above the rest, with only Dragon Force coming close and Radiant Silvergun probably being the best for fans of Shmups.


Here goes:


Dark Savior (1996):



  • Genre: Action Adventure

  • Publisher: Sega, Climax Entertainment; Developer: Climax Entertainment.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 DMQu56l


Originally planned as a sequel for the well-regarded Landstalker Genesis game, Dark Savior became something that is much different. More an Isometric Platformer than an Action-Adventure game, this is a truly unique experience. The thing that makes this game unique is how the story diverges based on the opening "level". The game starts with you onboard a ship transporting a dangerous entity to a prison island, and things quickly go south. The dangerous entity escapes, and depending on how fast you reach the Captain's cabin, the story diverges in four different ways.


Boiling down this game to a few elements wouldn't do it justice. The platforming is clunky, and even after getting used to it, it is not very enjoyable. The combat is rough around the edges, and there isn't a lot of variety. Also, the game's plot, while fun, is not very unique. However, the sum of its parts is actually an addictive game where the different stories are all worth playing.


Also, it has some good graphics, with sprite work that utilizes the Saturn's best qualities and some unique and effective art design. Musically, the soundtrack is a blast, with one of the game's tracks, the "Seabandits" theme, being my favorite.


Honestly, this is one game that I enjoyed but could not properly explain exactly why.


Dragon Force (1996):



  • Genre: Real-Time Strategy RPG.

  • Publisher: Sega, Working Designs; Developer: J-Force, Sega.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 QDiE7Xh


As you may have gathered from the rather lengthy genre description, this is a game that defies categorization, as it is nearly entirely unique in the combination of things it does. Basically, you control one of six nations, each vying for total control. As the leader, you recruit generals and mobilize troops in what appears to be a real-time grand strategy game. However, once two forces collide, the action goes into a real-time tactical decision-making battle, as each force moves while you can pause the action to change tactics or deploy special moves. All of this is tied through a progression mode and story that is closer to RPGs than traditional strategy games.


Adding to this unique and addicting gameplay loops is an honestly amazing presentation. Taking advantage of the console's 2D capabilities, all generals and soldiers are represented by well-detailed sprites, which looks great when you have 200 hundred of them battling each other while an anime special move cleaves through the battlefield.


When I reviewed the game I noted how I started my review series to discover gems like these, and how ironic that this is a gem I knew about when I saw my distant cousins play it as a kid, but I never knew its name or even the console they were playing at the time. You can be sure that I won't be forgetting about this game any time soon


While it is unfortunate that I didn't find many gems like Dragon Force in the Saturn's library, that only makes the game shine brighter today.


Guardian Heroes (1996):



  • Genre: Beat 'em Up.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Treasure.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 AQxKwkT


The best thing I can say about Guardian Heroes is that I greatly enjoyed it despite not being a fan of Beat 'em Ups. Being one of the first games in the genre that introduced light RPG elements and an adventure with multiple paths, this game is another feather in Treasure's bonnet in that era. Truly, I enjoyed it enough that I finished it several times.


However, the elephant in the room is whether this version of the game is worth playing at al?


Since the game was remastered on Xbox Live, there exists an undoubtedly better version of the game. One that resolves some of the issues in the base game while building upon its best traits. Normally, I wouldn't even review a game that was remastered or fully remade; the only reason that I made this review is that I didn't know the remaster existed. Yet, I ended up enjoying the game, and I hope it gives anyone reading the review a slight push to try the Xbox Live version. The reason I still decided to include the game in my Top 10 list is that there is simply no other game that can take its place.


The Legend of Oasis (1996):



  • Genre: Action Adventure.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Ancient.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 23Kgcqa


Just like Dark Savior this game is another sequel to a well-regarded but little-known Genesis game. In fact, this is actually a prequel to the very good Beyond Oasis that explains some of the lore of that game. Not that the game contains much narrative or world-building depth.


A top-down Action Adventure game, there are some minor similarities to the adventure game of another blond hero. However, a key difference is the game is faster and more action-oriented. One unique element that supports both combat and puzzle-solving is the ability to conjure spirits from the elements in the environment.


When conjuring a spirit, that spirit is summoned as an ally that helps you in both combat and solving environmental puzzles. For instance, the fire spirit can light torches and burn ropes while the water spirit can extinguish fires and freeze lakes.


Finally, it doesn't hurt that the game's graphics are really great examples of 32bit 2D sprites. This is a case where the game's decision not to follow the latest trends made sure that it aged very well.


Magic Knight Rayearth (1998):



  • Genre: Action Adventure.

  • Publisher: Sega, Working Designs; Developer: Sega.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 1yyC4Pf


Based on the Magical Girls anime of the same name, this is an Action-Adventure game in the mold of The Legend of Zelda. The gameplay is pretty good, even if it never approaches any level of greatness. Ironically, it is the game's adherence to the past that allowed to age gracefully and still play well today. While originally derided by some for not moving away from the 16bit graphics of the previous generations, that ensured that this game looks great now compared to early 3D graphics adopters like Bug! and Mystaria.


An interesting thing about this title is that it was one of the first games unveiled for the system but ended up being the last official game released in the west. That's because Sega, in their infinite wisdom, decided that 2D games would not sell well in the west. Instead, they banked on the Saturn's weakest points rather than its strengths. Also, they didn't think that a game featuring 3 little girls as the main characters would sell.


As such, this game deserves a spot in the list not only on its own merit, but also a signifier of Sega's disastrous Saturn strategy, and as an unfortunate reminder of the many quality games that never left Japan's shores.


Mega Man 8 (1997):



  • Genre: Action Platformer.

  • Publisher: Capcom; Designer: Capcom.


The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 ZKLd926


It is entirely possible that Mega Man 8 is mostly known today for its very cheesy voice acting, which is cringe-worthy to the extreme. For fans of the series, this was considered a regressive step back compared to the new excellence of the Mega Man X series. However, if we take the game at its own merits, as an evolution of the classical formula, then it is a damn good game.


At its best, this game has all exciting action-gameplay the series is known for, with great levels and some excellent boss battles. While it does not have the fast action-packed gameplay of the X series, it is still a worthy Mega Man game besides them. Arguably, putting Mega Man X4 in this spot would be the better choice. However, this is a case where the Saturn version of Mega Man 8 is better than the PS1 version, and the PS1 version of X4 is better than the Saturn's. As such, I chose to put the better Mega Man port in the top 10 despite favoring X4 more as a game.


One thing that I think Mega Man 8 excels at is the awesome way it updates the looks of the classic Mega Man series. This is one seriously gorgeous game, and that's only better with the great soundtrack. Even if the voice acting is one of the worst ever performed.


Panzer Dragoon II Zwei (1996):



  • Genre: Rail Shooter.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega (Team Andromeda).


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Panzer Dragoon II is the second Rail Shooter game in its franchise and a much-improved sequel at that, and at this point in the franchise's history, it was Sega's best answer to Nintendo's Starfox series. However, the developers clearly had more ambition to their game than just being a simple arcade Rail Shooter.


Taking place in a mysterious world infested with biotechnological monsters, the game has a haunting visual atmosphere that is still effective today despite its aged graphics. Thankfully, the game's visuals are accompanied by an excellent and unique soundtrack, which manages to convey the game's atmosphere in lieu of graphical fidelity. Also, the game does seriously look better in motion than screenshots may suggest.


Gameplay-wise, the game is more involved than your usual arcade Rail Shooters, tasking the player with keeping track of four quadrants as well as giving the player more movement options. As such, the game doesn't suffer for lacking a plastic Rail gun accessory and is fun to play with any regular controller.


Just like the first game was recently remade for modern consoles, this sequel also has a planned remake and I am excited about it.


Panzer Dragoon Saga (1998):



  • Genre: RPG.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega (Team Andromeda).


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With their first two Panzer Dragoon games, Team Andromeda crafted a unique and mysterious world that unfortunately could not be satisfactorily expanded upon in Rail Shooter games. Yet, the need to expand upon that world was obviously so great that the next game in the series became an RPG.


As such, one of the most mysterious and critically lauded RPGs was made. After playing the game, I can safely say that its reputation was earned.


Panzer Dragoon Saga is a hugely ambitious game despite being short for an RPG and contained in its story and location. It is probably one of the first games that aimed to be a "cinematic" experience. The story is revealed in so many CGI and in-engine cutscenes that the game occupied four CDs, All dialogue was voiced, including simple conversations with NPCs. And, if you look closely at each scene, you see how the team managed to convey nuance and emotion through actual and realistic "acting".


Within that ambitious experiment, there was a well-crafted world with interesting lore and characters. Also, there was an amazing turn-based battle system based completely on the rider and his dragon, and in that way, it was a perfect tribute to the first two games. There is no question that this is the Saturn's most remarkable game. From a historical perspective, it outdoes any game released at that time in terms of production, and it plays great even now.


This is exactly the kind of game Sega should have focused on if they wanted to compete in the console space. Something that couldn't be emulated in the Arcade floor, but something that unraveled its mysteries in your home, amazing you wth what video games can offer beyond chasing a high score.


Radiant Silvergun (1998):



  • Genre: Shmup.

  • Publisher: Entertainment Software Publishing; Developer: Treasure.


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The Saturn is known for its great collection of Shmups, which is ironic considering very few of them were actually ported west. Radiant Silvergun is probably the most famous of those games. Despite being published only in Japan, Radiant Silvergun had such a stellar reputation that it was widely ported West and even covered in official review outlets. This reputation is why I ended up reviewing the game, making it my only import review.


Of course, this meant that I didn't get much from the game's story, which was more involved than your usual Shump. However, this game is not legendary in the genre due to its story, but due to its excellent gameplay. Giving you access to all weapons at once, the game is more concerned with the player mastering these weapons than begging for drops. This is needed against the increasingly difficult and intense bosses, which are a hallmark of Treasure's gaming design.


As a genre outsider, I think that the accessibility features are what differentiates this game from others. It has several difficulty options, and the weapon upgrades as you play, making the game easier and beatable even if you exhaust all your continues. While I am sure that my appreciation for the game is to a lesser degree than genre fans, I actually can identify how it is a top tier Shmup, and a top game for the Saturn as a result.


Shining Force III (1998):



  • Genre: Tactical RPG.

  • Publisher: Sega; Developer: Camelot Software.


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Here is a masterpiece that shows both the best and the worst that the Saturn could offer. That sentiment may sound weird when you consider the fact that Shining Force III may be the best game in its illustrious franchise, and is by all objective measures a great game. Retaining the excellent TRPG tactical gameplay that made its predecessors on the Genesis such good games while evolving its story, this is a game that truly jumped to the next generation.


Yet, you can see the worst Sega strategies when you consider the initially huge ambition of Camelot Software when developing this game. Basically, the Shining Force III that Western audiences are familiar with is simply the first of three scenarios that were released in Japan. Each scenario covered the journey of one of the three heroes, showing the central conflict from their perspective. This didn't only allow for simply more of the same excellent gameplay, but also for a richer and more complex story to be developed around those multiple perspectives.


However, by the time Shining Force III came out, it appears that Sega of America was willing to cut their losses and simply port the first game West, leaving fans of the series with an incomplete ending. Honestly, I understand their decision at the time, as it was clear in 1998 that the Sega Saturn was failing miserably in the US and no game can save it.


Thankfully, the fan community has come together to translate the second and third scenarios, and their work is very well-done. Also, even if you are not interested in playing those translations, I do think that the first scenario does work well as a stand-alone game, even if the ending may feel a little bit abrupt.


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


So I ended up deviating greatly from Retro Sanctuary's list with my top 10 games. After all, my list was developed with no regard to historical importance at the time and is purely based on my impression of these games after playing them now. Honestly, I can say that all of these games are good games, with three or four of them being great games.


Other than that, I don't even have a list of honorable mentions since I struggle to bump the list up to 10 games in the first place. Maybe Rayman but that's it.


I know that a couple of Japan-only games would have made it on the list. Games such as Grandia and Lunar would have pushed the console further back in the day, but Sega was busy burning the legacy of the Genesis down.


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Post by Young Kaz on Fri May 29, 2020 7:27 pm

I believe street fighter Alpha 3 was also released on the Super Nintendo. I remember it being slow and clunky, although still playable on really old hardware.

Saturn probably was the GOAT machine for 2d fighters though with its dual processor being able to streamline two functions on different levels.
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Post by Lord Spencer on Fri May 29, 2020 8:45 pm

@Young Kaz wrote:I believe street fighter Alpha 3 was also released on the Super Nintendo. I remember it being slow and clunky, although still playable on really old hardware.

Saturn probably was the GOAT machine for 2d fighters though with its dual processor being able to streamline two functions on different levels.


The best home console for 2D fighters was probably the Neo Geo. The Saturn should have competed with that, but Sega did not encourage porting 2D games to the west.
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Post by Young Kaz on Fri May 29, 2020 9:10 pm

@Lord Spencer wrote:
@Young Kaz wrote:I believe street fighter Alpha 3 was also released on the Super Nintendo. I remember it being slow and clunky, although still playable on really old hardware.

Saturn probably was the GOAT machine for 2d fighters though with its dual processor being able to streamline two functions on different levels.


The best home console for 2D fighters was probably the Neo Geo. The Saturn should have competed with that, but Sega did not encourage porting 2D games to the west.


Cant be the GOAT 2d game system with no access to the GOAT 2d series(and I say this as someone who liked KOF over Street fighter). Neo Geo was stifled by being stuck with 1 consistently good fighting series, 1 consistently bad one, and rare gems that came and went.

A big bad mark on Neo Geo was that it would run you like 700 bucks. This was when 700 was A LOT too lol. I knew more people who had a Playdia than a Neo Geo growing up Laughing Laughing Laughing

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