Sega’s Saturn never gets the love it deserves, always losing out to Sony’s PlayStation. While it’s true that it couldn’t compete with Sony’s library, it nevertheless has a stunning array of quality titles, with a particular focus on impressive arcade conversions. Here are the ten games we feel that every Saturn owner needs to have in their collection. Best get saving those pennies…
NiGHTS Into Dreams
It’s difficult choosing just one of Sonic Team’s Saturn titles, and we debated endlessly over this or Burning Rangers, but as NiGHTS is so unlike anything else, and came out first, it had to go in. The gameplay basically involves flying around a pseudo-3D world, passing through rings to open the level exit. The atmosphere is surreal, but to reach that euphoric state you need to master the art of infinite looping: passing through rings quick enough to maintain the timer and effectively loop the level several times while generating insane scores. It doesn’t click for everyone, but if your mind is expanded enough it’s magical. Also, don’t forget Christmas NiGHTS!
Bomberman is one of the greatest series ever created, and Saturn Bomberman is the pinnacle of the series. Every single post-Saturn iteration of the franchise generates the question: is it as good as Saturn Bomberman? None are. The big reason is it’s the only version supporting ten simultaneous players, on a single screen, which is pure nirvana. Another thing is, while most Bomberman games are fairly boring in single-player, the Saturn’s solo mode is equally as good as the multiplayer. Beautiful animé cutscenes, ingenious level design, interesting enemies and power-ups – whether alone or in a group, Saturn Bomberman is awesome.
No other system at the time could do 2D like the Saturn could, and the game exemplifying this was Guardian Heroes. Unlike Final Fight, which had a variable plane of movement Heroes only had three-planes, where movement was restricted to left-and-right, with players needing to alternate between them. It ensured the fighting engine was precise, well defined, and unlike anything else. Treasure also blessed it with a fantastic animé intro, and dozens of frames of super-liquid-smooth animation. Then there was the ability to collect extra characters to fight as, and even control a powerful undead warrior. Pure genius.
Shining Force III
The Shining series has always been a favourite among Sega stalwarts and, after the Saturn’s first-person-perspective Shining The Holy Ark, fans rejoiced that the series would return to its Strategy RPG roots for the first time in 3D. The basic mechanics weren’t a drastic departure from past instalments, but there were several additions, such as the friendship system. Unfortunately, for all its excellence, it is also a source of annoyance for the Saturn community. Only the first of the proposed three-disc set was translated into English, with the second two only in Japanese.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
The third part of Sega’s Saturn trilogy moved away from the balls out action of the previous two games, to deliver a far deeper experience. There were still huge bosses to take down and enemies to defeat, but it was married to an excellent new turn-based combat system, while the core game itself had heavy RPG elements. Filled with remarkably story twists and stunning set pieces, Panzer Dragoon Saga was a revelation, and marked a highpoint for the series, from which it never recovered. Criminally released late in the Saturn’s life — meaning many didn’t get to play it – it deserves all the accolades that have been rightly heaped upon it.
Sega Rally Championship
Sega Rally might have only had three cars and four circuits, but thanks to its endless time attack options we’re still struggling to put it down. The key to Rally’s brilliance lay in its circuit design and handling. Singularly excellent, the two complimented each other to offer a game that was convincing to play, but thanks to a variety of different lines that could be taken through most corners and the precision needed to balance the cars on the edge, knowing that there was another tenth lurking in a given sector would keep you coming back for more.
Virtua Fighter 2
While the Saturn didn’t lack decent 3D fighters, none of them could hold a candle to VF2. While it wasn’t the most accessible game to grace the console (arguably its only weakness), VF2’s perfectly weighted controls, fluid animation and sheer depth really set the game aside – and the stunning high resolution, 60 fps visuals only helped to sweeten the deal. While the AI was competent enough, VF2 was always best enjoyed with a friend of roughly comparable quality, where learning a character and devising tactics accordingly in order to beat them became the order of the day – and it still plays like a dream now.
Prior to Virtua Cop, the light gun game had been stuck in the doldrums. However, Yu Suzuki’s AM2 team saw the chance to revive it in 1994, and thus Virtua Cop was born. The port is about as faithful as you could hope, with all of the enemy attack patterns and locations recreated. While the game might seem sedate now – especially compared to the various instalments of Time Crisis or House Of The Dead – the score attack based gameplay that rewarded justice shots (shooting an enemy’s hand, rather than killing him), the depth this allowed for was stunning, and still worth playing to this day.
There’s a host of outstanding shoot-’em-ups on the Saturn, and while it’s somewhat predictable that we’ve plumped for Treasure’s opus, it so deserves to be here. Ported from the Arcade S-TV board, Radiant Silvergun is quite simple the pinnacle of Saturn shmups and is one of the most exhilarating shooters we’ve ever played. Beautiful in design, with an ingenious weapon system – you instantly start with a fully powered-up ship and must use the weapons to the best of your ability – Radiant Silvergun is a near flawless experience that shouldn’t be missed under any circumstances. Yes it’s essentially nothing more than a souped-up boss rush. But man, what a rush.
Street Fighter Zero 3
Capcom was one of the Saturn’s staunchest supporters and as a result there are a host of great beat-’em-ups available on the machine. While the likes of X-Men Vs Street Fighter, Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Marvel Vs Street Fighter are all worthy of a mention, it’s the Japanese-only Street Fighter Zero 3 that’s made our coveted top ten – mainly because, until very recently, it was the finest conversion of the game to ever appear on a home machine. That wasn’t all though, as Capcom included all the arcade’s extra gameplay modes and a console exclusive “World Tour” to ensure that arcade veterans had plenty to sink their teeth into.