Welcome, one and all, to a bit of a retro gaming post. You see, back in December last year, Retro-Bit announced a new partnership with SEGA. The idea was that they would create new controllers for various SEGA systems, including, but not limited to, the Genesis/Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast. Now, some of these have already appeared, and they look pretty nice. But … Retro-Bit also make consoles and cartridges. If you browse their site, they do some pretty nice, not to mention officially licensed, stuff! For example, the plug and play Retro-Cade has legal versions of Mega Man 2, Double Dragon, and Final Fight all loaded and ready to go.
The point here is that there have, as you may expect, been rumblings of this partnership leading to new consoles. While there is the possibility of that simply being new build systems that will play the discs and cartridges, there is also the chance that we’ll get some plug-and-play stuff coming through. I mean, the NES-Mini and SNES-Mini did well, and SEGA are already getting ready to produce a Genesis/Mega Drive-Mini. So, I want to do some speculation as to what I’d like to see if we get even more as a result of this partnership. I’m going to start with a list of ten games I’d like to see if we get a SEGA Saturn-Mini.
So, first some history. The Saturn was launched in 1995, and by 1998 was considered to be a commercial failure, having only sold 9.26 million units worldwide. The fact is, a number of things really scuppered the system. The most prominent of these are often taken to be 1) the cancellation of the 3D Sonic X-Treme, and 2) the system being more capable of handling 2D gaming than 3D gaming. Despite this, it has gained a fair amount of cult status over the years, and in more recent times, many people are looking at it with a lot more fondness than it received in its original life cycle. It’s worth remembering that the system was the first to offer online play in the USA via your own Internet Service Provider via the Net Link adapter. That’s a pretty cool little achievement! Plus, there were some really stand-out titles in the catalogue.
Which brings me nicely to the list of games I’d like to see if we get a SEGA Saturn-Mini. I’m going to go with ten titles, covering a mix of genres. Some of these will be obvious picks, others maybe not so much. So, let’s begin.
1 – Nights into Dreams
This was a 2.5D game, and one that is fondly remembered by many. In fact, with the lack of a definitive Sonic title on the Saturn, this is probably the game most synonymous with the system. The brunt of the game sees you flying through levels and trying link up actions like passing through rings and collecting items to build a combo and improve your level ranking. There were also entities known as Nitghtopians in the levels that could mate and create new lifeforms, altering the way the levels look. What made the artificial life system so cool was that it also caused shifts in the tempo and pitch of the music depending on the Nightopians’ mood. Graphically, it was a strong showing for the era, and the Saturn 3D controller for the game was a good addition. Sure, the low number of levels meant that the game was a little too short for some’s tastes, but the replayability was definitely there!
2 – Virtua Fighter 2
Deemed by many to be the best looking polygonal fighter on the 64-Bit generation of consoles, Virtua Fighter 2 was a near perfect arcade port. Featuring a focus on realistic fight moves and martial arts styles, the game had a ton of nice looking attacks and counters. It may not have been as fast games like Street Fighter Alpha 3 (which also saw a well-received Saturn port), but the speed really didn’t matter. To this day, it remains one of the most well-loved games in the genre, and for good reason.
3 – Resident Evil
Most people will remember the PlayStation version of the survival horror classic, but the Saturn version shouldn’t be overlooked. On top of running remarkably well considering the Saturn was the weaker of that generation’s consoles when it came to 3D graphics, it also features of a bountiful amount of exclusive content. Of course, that includes additional outfits for the playable heroes, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, but there’s more than that on offer here. Zombie Wesker, a golden Tyrant, a second breed of Hunters known as Ticks, and a second Tyrant prior to the final battle all make up the Saturn exclusive enemies. There was also an unlockable battle mode where players had to fight through several rooms of enemies and would be graded afterwards. Plus, if blood’s your thing, the Japanese version is the goriest of all the versions, with decapitated head sticking around and Plant 42 being able to cut the player before the game over screen.
4 – Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
Panzer Dragoon is the most well-known rail shooter series on the system, and for good reason. I mean, who doesn’t want to take to the skies on a dragon and lay waste to their foes? With the popularity of things such as Game of Thrones right now, it seems like a good time to revisit the world of combative dragon riding. The reason I pick this over the original game though is that it went so much more in depth, adding in alternative routes and a dragon evolution system that was based on the player’s performance. It also improved on the already impressive graphics and smoothed out the animations.
5 – Sega Rally Championship
While Daytona USA failed to gain any traction in the racing game world, Sega Rally Championship sought to overtake the other popular arcade ports like Ridge Racer. In a way, it was actually an innovator in the genre, as it was the first ever racing game to show the vehicle’s handling changing with the difference in friction properties associated with driving on different surfaces. It’s a simple thing that seems obvious now, but in the 64-Bit generation, it was unheard of. What makes it a technical marvel too is that the whole thing had to be remade when it came to porting the game due the differences in power between the Saturn and Arcade hardware. It also made use of the Net Link adapter to offer multiplayer gaming across the net.
6 – FEDA Remake!: The Emblem of Justice
This was an interesting little release for the system, as it was not a new game or arcade port, but a reworking of an old SNES title. The game was a strategy RPG that featured a large variety of human and anthropomorphic animal characters, and the Saturn version saw some major graphical changes for the game. Cut scenes were now fully animated, and the attack animations were greatly improved upon. The real shame is that neither version of the game actually had a Western release. So, imagine if they finally did an official translation! That’d be a nice little addition to the set!
7 – Virtua Cop
The third of Sega’s major arcade ports on the system was also a real hit for them. Featuring support for both a light gun and a Saturn mouse, the game saw the ability to target individual body parts with realistic consequences, adding a layer of depth that many arcade style shooters lacked. The game received praise for enemies popping up in more ways than simply leaping out from barrels, and the simple fun of the game made it a mainstay for many Saturn gamers. Interestingly, it also ran better on the Saturn than on the later PC port.
8 – Wipeout 2097
Deemed by some to be superior to the PlayStation version, Wipeout 2097 took all the good bits of the original Wipeout and improved the things that were a little off. Responsiveness and controls were tidied up, the graphics and sound effects were ramped up in quality, and the aggressive AI was countered by the ability to destroy opponents. While the PlayStation only allowed analogue control via the Negcon Twist, this was also fully compatible with the Saturn 3D controller that had come bundled with Nights into Dreams. This was the futuristic racer of the time.
9 – Shining Force III
Another strategy RPG game for the list, this was released in three parts, and saw players traversing a 3D plane with polygonal graphics that kinda looked 2D. The battle animations are a little dated now, but they do look good in the context of the era. Since the demise of the Genesis/Mega Drive, this the was the first Shining game to receive both critical and fan acclaim, and it’s a mainstay in many people’s Saturn library. In the West, we onyl got the first part too, so a full release of all three parts would be another great addition to the set.
10 – Guardian Heroes
Said to be the true successor to games like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, Guardian heroes was a strange beast. Graphically, it actually looked a bit dated, even on release, but what it did was make up for this with some fantastic gameplay. Featuring all the staples of the scrolling beat ‘em up genre in terms of combat, it elevated this with RPG story elements that allowed for multiple endings, and switched from a true isometric style of play to fully 2D side-scrolling with three planes that could be switched between. While only two players could play co-op in the story mode, all the playable characters could be used at once in the battle mode, meaning that up to six people could duke it out in an arena mode, adding some great frenetic fun to the proceedings.
So, those are my ten picks for a Sega Saturn-Mini. But what about yourselves? What did you think of the console? Did you have any favourite games? What would you like to see in a Mini console if it were released?