Anyone who knows me will say the same thing; “that Andrew guy spends way too much time playing Saturn and should be hospitalised – also there is a weird smell in his office,” which is great, because there is consensus.
However, this means that I spend a lot of time noticing trends in Saturn discussions and when it comes time to talk about favourite games or best games on the system the usual suspects get thrown up like Radiant Silvergun and Guardian Heroes and while these are awesome games they bury a lot of great games that don’t get enough attention.
So, I hope you enjoy this list of 10, great and overlooked Sega Saturn games for you to bulk up your collection with or just enjoy a great game play experience.
10. Manx T.T Superbike
Have you ever been to the Isle of Man? Do you even know what the Isle of Man is? Well, it’s a little self governing island in the Irish Sea that hosts a little event called the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy and SEGA made a game out of it. Originally an arcade game, it got ported to Saturn and looks and plays like absolute butter.
The draw distance could be better but the control is so good that is easily forgiven. It takes a while to get used to the control of the bike, as it needs to be adjusted with pixel perfect precision to stop you careening into walls. However, once you master the bike, you’re in for one of the best racers on the Saturn.
It’s a little short, but there are a bunch of unlockables, including the ability to race as a sheep. I wonder if the sheep is named Douglas (GET IT PEOPLE FROM THE ISLE OF MAN?! DO YOU GET IT?!)
9. Arcana Strikes!
What happens when you mix a fantasy RPG with Yu-Gi-Oh!? (sorry it looks like I’m yelling a question in your face there) You get Arcana Strikes! A really interesting RPG that focuses battles on tactical use of cards and monster capturing.
On top of beautiful graphics that meld FMV with the meticulously drawn worlds and character sprites, you get a deep combat system and although the game is a little short, it’s very satisfying to play for the sheer uniqueness of its game play in the Saturn library.
One caveat, however, is the fact that the game was never translated into English. Luckily there are some translation guides online and for your convenience you can actually rename cards using English characters, so through trial and error you can kind of work out what things do and rename the cards to satisfy your English needs. Arcana Strikes is actually very playable even untranslated though.
8. Congo The Movie: The Lost City of Zinj
Pointlessly long name aside, this is actually a very good game. Contrary to what you may have heard about Congo on Saturn, it’s quite amazing. Released in 1995, a full year before Quake released on PC’s, Congo uses a full 3D engine to render the world around you. Although enemies remain sprites, the engine itself is fully 3D. This has quite interesting ramifications because Quake is often credited as the first fully 3D FPS (not relying on raycasting and tricks to simulate 3D space, when in fact it is 2D), so make of that what you will.
The game itself is a fun romp through the jungles of the Congo fighting off spiders and apes that assail you from the pretty surroundings that teem with scaled sprites galore. Your weapons are actually rendered in full 3D, which has to be some kind of first, but correct me if I am wrong and a great map normally keeps you from getting lost in the vast levels. The size of the levels can occasionally lend to them being a bit boring and meandering, but if you can look past that, then you will really enjoy Congo.
7. Earthworm Jim 2
I can hear you now “PEOPLE DON’T SHUT UP ABOUT EARTHWORM JIM YOU FAT NECKBEARD KILL YOURSELF”. Calm down, take a xanax and come back to the PC. O.k, you good? Right, so when was the last time someone talked to you about Earthworm Jim 2 on the Saturn? I’ll wait. If the answer is never, then I will accept your apology.
You see, Earthworm Jim 2 was heavily advertised in several magazines when it launched for Saturn, but people just kind of forgot it exists on the console. It’s a shame too, as like Earthworm Jim on Mega CD, it is the superior 32-bit version of the game. You might be one of the people who considers the Saturn and Playstation ports of Earthworm Jim 2 to be identical, but I think the colours pop more on Saturn and the game play is much smoother.
Then again, it could just be my opinion. Who the hell cares, the point is that Earthworm Jim 2 on Saturn is awesome and forgotten way too often when Saturn conversations are brought up.
Luckily, unlike other games on this list, some people have actually played GunGriffon and can attest to how good it is. A mission based mech-shooter, it is characterised by super smooth 3D graphics, huge playing fields and great mission variety.
One issue I had was with the control. You need to be a bit of an octopus in order to effectively control your direction of movement, firing and speed all at once, however once you get it right it feels very natural. Also the balance of the missions is all over the place with too much emphasis on making sure things don’t blow up. It is like protecting an RC car crawling slowly across the street against a barrage of trucks with your flaccid genitalia sometimes.
GunGriffon isn’t for everyone, but it definitely does warrant a play for those into mechs are shooting and explosions, which should cover most people.
5. Wangan Dead Heat + Real Arrange
Whatever your opinion on the Playstation, one fact is without question, Ridge Racer is awesome. It is one of my favourite racing franchises and Sega had their own style, they weren’t about aping a popular competitor just to say “look we have it to”. Back in the Saturn days, it was about making sure you stood out for them and they did that with Daytona USA and Sega Rally Championship in the beginning.
This didn’t make me want a Ridge Racer style game any less on the Saturn. Well, years later I would find out about Wangan Dead Heat. Upon playing it, I realised I had actually played it before, if you’ve ever sat through Highway 2000, then you’ve played Wangan Dead Heat.
You play a racer trying to impress some girls with your mad drifting skills around the pastel coloured streets of what I can assume is meant to be a Tokyo analog. Whatever you have heard about Wangan Dead Heat, I would forget and go back and try the game. Not only is it beautiful and easily better looking than both Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution on Playstation, it also controls really well and features fun arcade like drifting mechanics.
I read a review somewhere where the guy writing mainly criticized the solid graphics of Wangan and the comment thread was filled with a circle jerk about how bad this game was. The group think mentality of the internet at large has relegated games like this to the dumpster of mediocrity, when it so doesn’t belong in there. Think for yourselves people.
4. Galactic Attack/Rayforce/Layer Section/Gunlock
(Yes it has four names, for the sake of argument we’ll call it Galactic Attack)
Galactic Attack is one of the best shmups I have ever played. I like my shooters to have dimension, fast shooting and dynamic levels; this game delivers on all aspects. Slick, well balanced levels play out with exciting transitions and beautiful scaling and scrolling sprites.
At one point you’re fighting a boss, only to then bank and sail through the atmosphere of the planet below you, penetrating the clouds and then flying over an ocean. It just feels amazing and if you’re lost for a shooter to play on your Saturn, play Galactic Attack.
Have you ever played Tech Romancer? It’s an awesome 3D robot fighter for Dreamcast that is a bit of an overlooked gem itself. Cyberbots isn’t generally considered to be part of any kind of robot fighting series from Capcom but it has a lot of similarities to the later Tech Romancer, such as kicking the crap out a robot while also being a robot.
So, you’ve seen the words “robot” and “fighting” used a lot, that should be enough for you? Right? No, alright then.
Cyberbots feels like a Capcom fighting game.
The aesthetic are similar to Vampire Savior (save the over the top theatrics and obvious supernatural themes) and the control scheme feels totally unique. It only uses three buttons on the pad and each fight normally devolves into a button mashing fest, but the excellent music and measured pace of the fighting gives the title a really satisfying feel. It’s hard to describe, all I can say is that you need to try Cyberbots, preferably with a friend to mash buttons with.
2. Baku Baku Animal
You know why I like Baku Baku? Because it’s stupid and fun. Sometimes you just want to sit down with a stupid game and feel stupid. In Baku Baku, you must arrange animal blocks to line up with food blocks to make a giant animal head appear and eat that food block, or chain of blocks. If you’re good enough at the game, you’ll have monkey heads, dog heads and panda heads flying all over the goddamn screen while honkey tonk plays in the background and an endless chorus of “COOL COOL COOL” echoes in your empty mind.
You put the game down and walk outside to go and buy milk and instead of cars you see awkwardly rendered dog heads chasing bones down the street, the sky is a pastel blue and instead of the usual Chuck Mangione muzak the store plays all you can hear is “COOL COOL COOL” while you stand in the dairy aisle, softly weeping.
1. Enemy Zero
This might cause some debate, but whether you like it or not, far too few people have played Enemy Zero. In my opinion, this is the only game I have ever played apart from D2 (also by WARP) that successfully blended FMV and 3D graphics into a cohesive package. A loving homage to movies like The Thing and Alien, Enemy Zero uses the same “digital actress” in the form of Laura, from D, in a science fiction setting.
An invisible alien monster has broken free from containment and only your trusty beepy gun can save you from almost certain death. While trying to keep your gun charged with limited reloads, you have to find survivors and ultimately survive the horror of the invisible, Enemy Zero.
Unless you have played this game you cannot possibly understand the tension of not being able to see your enemy and having to rely on a sonar to find it and shoot it. Even if you have a rough idea of where it is, you can never be totally sure and the excellent 3D engine does a great job of immersing you in the cold, sci-fi world Kenji Eno created. It is seriously expensive now, especially for a PAL collector, so if you can find this one cheap, I highly recommend picking it up and playing what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest games ever made.