Sega’s Saturn had some superb games available for it, but many of them never reached the UK. With that in mind we’ve highlighted some of the best releases across a variety of genres, which represent the best the Saturn had to offer. How many of the following did you play?
Everything about Radiant Silvergun is magnificent. Graphically it’s spectacular with all sorts of fancy tricks that push the Saturn’s hardware to its limits. Mechanically it impresses as well with a perfectly balanced weapon system, a colour coding scoring system – that would admittedly be refined in spiritual successor, Ikaruga – and some incredibly challenging bosses. Even a digital release on Xbox Live Arcade hasn’t stopped copies of the Saturn original from selling for north of £100 on auction sites. An incredible shooter deserving of all its praise.
Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru
Sadly, its insane price tag and sheer rarity will mean many will not have had a chance to experience Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru (or Psychic Assassin Taromaru). You’re missing out on a delightfully nutty game that takes elements of Shinobi and Alisa Dragoon and marries them to insanely over-the-top action scenes that involve gigantic frogs and fantastic scaling and rotating effects. The difficulty is a little unfair in places, but the impressive visuals, inventive level design and stunning animation certainly makes up for it. If there’s a better game where you can run across the backs of stampeding bulls, we’ve not played it.
Magic Knight Rayearth
Based on the Japanese manga, Magic Knight Rayearth is easily the best playable import RPG, thanks to a highly entertaining localisation by Working Designs, its fun combat system (you effectively control one character at a time, switching between them tag-team style) and some delightful 2D visuals. Unfortunately, its late release (it arrived in 1998, three years after the Japanese release) means you’ll be hard pushed to get it for under £100. While we’re on the subject of RPGs we stayed away from the Japanese ones due to their general inaccessibility.
Street Fighter Zero 3
While the first two Zero games reached the West, Street Fighter Zero 3 remained a Japan exclusive. It’s a stunning conversion of the arcade original, with a gigantic roster of characters impossibly slick animation and glorious backdrops. In addition to introducing the likes of R Mika, Juni and fan favourite Karin, Capcom also overhauled the combat system, adding three different playing styles called ‘isms’ and a new Guard Power Gauge that results in a ‘guard crush’ whenever it’s fully depleted. It’s another pricey Saturn game, though.
Elevator Action Returns
Taito’s sequel to its popular arcade game was a marked improvement and particularly good on Sega’s console. It’s a wonderfully slick run-and-gun with gritty looking visuals, well-animated enemies and plenty of variety in its stages. It retains the same gameplay of the original but it feels much better to play thanks to tight controls and a challenging time limit that ensures you’re always trying to reach red-coloured doors as quickly as possible. Other improvements include an excellent co-op mode, a vast array of new weaponry, the ability to throw bombs and the ability to explode oil drums to take out nearby enemies.
Konami Antiques: MSX Collection Ultra Pack
There’s a host of fantastic compilations on the Saturn, from Capcom’s superb Generation series, to various Sega Ages releases. We’re going to go for this solid effort from Konami, which took its three PlayStation compilations and packed them onto one disk. An impressive 30 games are included covering everything from Yie Ar Kung-Fu to Gradius. The quality is very good, while the presentation is also superb. Konami created some cracking games for the MSX, so this is a great way to experience them.
Daytona USA: Circuit Edition
Okay so Daytona is available in the West, but let us explain its inclusion here over the likes of Gale Racer. The original Daytona played well enough but looked a bit pants. Championship Circuit Edition was then released, which added two new tracks, a link-up mode and additional music. Circuit Edition goes that little bit further by adding the excellent Daytona Medley, the ability to alter the drift mechanics of your vehicle – which greatly alters the way the cars handle – and the option to race at different times of day. It’s the definitive version of the best Saturn racer that isn’t called Sega Rally.
There’s a host of import platformers for the Saturn, from Astal to Mizubaku Daibouken, but we kept returning to this charming effort. Despite being released after Rainbow Islands, it’s subtitled as Bubble Bobble II. Franchise confusion aside, it’s a fantastic game and everything you’d expect from a 32-bit Bubble Bobble release. There are four different eroes to choose from, each with their own skills; bosses are far more plentiful; it’s possible to charge your shots and there are often multiple routes to take. It’s otherwise more of the same, which means it’s amazing fun to play.
Dungeons & Dragons Collection
Capcom were staunch supporters of the Saturn, releasing a number of great games and notable arcade conversions. While this does suffer from lengthy loading times, it remains the best scrolling fighter on the system, just beating Taito’s delightfully odd PuLiRuLa and Capcom’s own Dynasty Warriors. It’s essentially a compilation featuring both Tower Of Doom and its superior sequel, Shadow Over Mystara. It features stunning animation thanks to using the 4MB ram pack, has some truly dramatic boss encounters (particularly in Mystara) and a satisfying combat system, with your characters having access to a huge number of weapons and spells.
Digital Pinball: Necronomicon
A number of pinball games were released for the Saturn but this is easily the best one. Heavily inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon it’s an excellent pinball game that boasts convincing ball physics, some great music and impressive high-resolution visuals. It’s the table that impress here however and the three included: Arkham Asylum, Dreamlands and Cult Of The Bloody Tongue are vastly different to each other and full of ways to amass great scores. There’s also an additional game option called “Realms Mode:” that requires you to play all three tables in a row (providing you can score enough points of course).