Resident Evil on Saturn is a brilliant example of an almost flawless port. Beautiful graphics minus the odd blemish here and there, much improved over the Playstation, adorn a fluidly controlling and feature complete port of the original. Toss in the new Battle Mode and you have a must-have for any Saturn player.
Imagine you’re a faithful Sega Nerd in 1996, witnessing the release of Resident Evil and gawping at the pristine visuals and horror antics of the latest hit game to grace the PlayStation. Naturally, you’d be one jealous character.
In 1996, there began rumblings out of Capcom that a Saturn port was in development and would soon make its way to the west, in 1997.
These rumors turned out to be true, with Official Saturn Magazine covering the game extensively in an unfinished state and remarking that “it’s nice to see Saturn owners receiving the best conversion possible.”
Just over a year later in September of 1997, the game was released in Europe, with Saturn Magazine calling it “SUPERIOR to the PS version” (their words, not mine). It is safe to say the Saturn port of Resident Evil has a legacy behind it, as one of the best ports of all time, on a beloved console that has re-surged in popularity over recent years driven by coverage on the many gaming channels on the likes of Youtube. Was this praise justified, however? Is Resident Evil on Saturn truly a stunning horror game and one worthy of its legacy?
After Bravo team goes quiet in the Arklay Mountains outside Racoon City, Alpha team of S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) out of Racoon City PD are sent to recover them. Upon landing, they find their slaughtered comrades and are chased and separated by an unseen menace in the dark of night. Finding safe haven in an old estate, they soon find themselves alone and fighting for survival against a rotting menace that stalks the hallways of Spencer Mansion.
The opening introduction of Resident Evil is patently ridiculous, with horrendous acting and stilted delivery. I absolutely adore the cheesiness of this opening introduction and the ending cinematic for the comforting nostalgia they elicit. There is something about the cheese that I have an affection for and although they are technically terrible, the cinematics are really fun and a highlight of the game. It’s a shame Saturn owners didn’t get the uncut opening and ending cinematics though!
The look and feel of care and attention
You notice some front-end differences from the PlayStation original in the way fonts are used and a slight difference in resolution. Upon actually beginning a game or loading a game (which is significantly faster on Saturn), you notice that it is very much like you remember on PlayStation.
It suits the Saturn controller exceedingly well with the tank controls being accessible to anyone willing to learn their quirks. Pressing up moves forward in whatever direction you’re facing and it is a common criticism I see leveled at the game. I don’t agree that it is legitimate criticism, however, as the controls are a mechanism of the game and if it doesn’t appeal to you, then perhaps it is just not for you. Holding R readies your weapon and the nice, clicky shoulder buttons on the Saturn controller suit this use perfectly.
I also noticed that going in and out of menus is slightly faster on Saturn and 3D models of items once examined look more detailed in the inventory screen. Item juggling is obviously as big a part of the game as it was on PlayStation and learning what to have in your inventory at one time is a trial and error mechanism that you will either love or hate. I feel it suits a game like this, as it is a huge puzzle that must be solved using logic and exploration and inventory management is just one component of that.
Still tingling spines to this day…
The magic of the horror in Resident Evil lies beyond the rudimentary graphics and somewhat archaic flow of the game by today’s standards. What makes it scary is the atmosphere that Shinji Mikami created in his masterpiece that will consistently get under your skin. The ticking of a clock and foreboding or otherworldly music permeate Resident Evil and although it might seem tired to you in light of Capcom’s 2002 re-release on Gamecube, it all still works.
There is a sequence at the beginning of the game that sees dogs bursting through windows, which is a fan favourite scare and it always gets me. The zombie in the closet is another favourite or the boulder forcing you to make a mad dash down a tunnel to escape. Because the horror paradigms in Resident Evil are so timeless, it will never not be scary. The pre-rendered backgrounds still look detailed to this day and due to Capcom re-skinning the character models in the game with more detailed textures, it looks better on a fundamental level than the PlayStation original.
Where the effort went
With the knowledge safe in our minds that the game still packs enough energy to be frightening even now, how does it fare overall on Saturn? Official Saturn Magazine’s review might seem gushing but once you have sat through it on Saturn, you really understand what they were talking about. It feels like a perfect port, with exquisite control and tight, clean graphics. Character models look significantly rounder and more detailed on Saturn than they did on PlayStation, which couldn’t render a straight line if it had a gun to its head.
Just looking at faces in the game, you can appreciate how much extra effort went into making the game look better on Saturn. Backgrounds are higher resolution on Saturn and even though some textures are oddly low quality, like the clock in the dining room, it never fails to look incredible.
One more small issue with the graphics is the use of stippling for transparency. Burning Rangers proved the Saturn is capable of this, but it’s a small price to pay for such an otherwise pretty game.
In terms of extra content, players get a battle mode where they are tasked with killing as many enemies as possible in a set time with a set amount of weapons and items. It is pretty frenetic and fun but it won’t hold your attention for very long. It’s worth playing to see Zombie Wesker alone though!
If you have a Saturn and you don’t own Resident Evil, don’t wait for it to become rare. Grab a copy now and enjoy it because it is a brilliant port of a classic game on our beloved Saturn. 1997 was a great year for Saturn owners, with some fantastic releases, but few hit the right notes on horror and fun quite like Resident Evil.
+ Everything from the Playstation original is intact and improved.
+ Beautiful graphics with much improved character models and skins.
+ Control seems to fit the Saturn controller better.
+ Loads are shorter on Saturn.
+ New Battle Mode gives you an incentive to keep playing after the credits roll.
– Some oddly out of place textures.
– Stippling for transparency.
– Control and inventory management will not appeal to entirely action focused gamers.