Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Microsoft's Got that Saturn Lovin' Feeling...

Damn it, Google! I don't mean an impound lot full of scrapped compact cars!

Anyway. I'm in Arizona now, separated from my Sega Saturn, which is languishing in a storage shed thousands of miles away. Fortunately, Microsoft's got the methadone for my acute withdrawal, offering nearly a half-dozen Saturn favorites (or rather, their arcade counterparts) for chump change. How does Fighting Vipers for $1.24 grab you? Or perhaps the more substantial Virtua Fighter 2 for $2.49 would be more your cup of tea. There's also Daytona USA for $4.99, and Virtual On (actually Oratorio Tangram, the Dreamcast sequel) for $7.49. You'll find more information about this week long sale over at the Major Nelson web site. Note that these games can be played on either the Xbox One or its predecessor, the Xbox 360. Also note that you'll need a subscription to Xbox Live Gold to get in on these deals. Note that I've said "note" a lot already, and it's getting annoying.

By the way, the Sega Saturn avatar T-shirt that I mentioned in a post years and years ago is still available for just a dollar. You can show your love for Sega's long defunct game console by dressing a rough digital approximation of yourself in Saturn merchandise!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A boy and his dragon.

     This is a review wrapped in a story. It’s simple, honest, nostalgic and has at least one dragon in it. Before my teen years and the rise of the internet, getting news or reviews on video games came from friends around the playground, television commercials and of course magazines. Whenever my mom went to town for groceries I’d go just to read up on the latest video game news. When the September 1998 issue of Expert Gamer magazine came out I had no idea the impact it would end up having on my life. The cover featured Mega man Legends, Parasite Eve, F-Zero, and other assorted “note worthy” games. These weren’t what got me in the end, for you see on the back cover was a cut out mask. To advertise Panzer Dragoon Saga SEGA had a magazine advertisement of Edge’s face as a cut out mask. I was interested in knowing more about this new SEGA game. Fortunately this very issue had a review inside. Though small in length these four mini reviews were enough for me, I was sold. “I must play this game.” I though, but how? I’d never seen a Saturn in person before. One day I’d make it happen.

     Over twenty years I managed to avoid spoilers, I’d also cry and cuss as the price of Panzer Dragoon Saga rose and rose. YouTube had created a retro craze, day by day, more and more classics soared becoming out of reach. I had a choice to make and 2018 was the year, I saved up and bought myself copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga a Saturn and a 3D control pad. I though I was going to faint when I opened the parcel and removed PDS from the foam bubbles protecting it. My first play through was equal parts excitement to dread... “Would this game live up to my expectations?”

“What will the battle system be like?”

“Will I like the art style?”

“Am I a fool for spending this much on a game?”

   The more I played the more the dread subsided. The more I engaged with enemies the more depth I discovered in battles. Flying atop my dragon felt awkward and clumsy at first even with the 3D control pad. By the end of the first disc I had a better understanding of the controls, heck I even started to appreciate them. I held firm to my childhood expectations, though I’m happier knowing I waited till I was an adult to play this game. As a kid or teen I probably would have got to disc 3 got stuck and gave up. With the way the story is set up, layered and presented to you, it’s easy to get lost in the game play or overlook a seemingly small detail that will hide something from you for the rest of the game. Panzer Dragoon Saga is a game where you get out of it what you put in. If you speed run or focus only on what you need to, you could finish in 9-18 hours. You could also explore every corner, talk to every living being and fight every monster for that 100% play through. That’s both this games strength and weakness. That’s why I’ve replayed it and will keep replaying it. Team Andromeda packed this game with detail, action, personality, thought and balance. Keeping true to their vision of what this game was to them.

Story: 

Over four discs you’ll never feel like the story is rushed or ever distracts from the game play. What starts out as a tale of vengeance, will mature into a story of a hero who will change the world forever. A blending of both fantasy and technology themes help not only with giving a great environment for the main story, they also help tell an underlying narrative.

Graphics:

This is one of if not the best looking 3D Saturn game. All the areas fit the style and tone of the game. At times you’ll fly and watch the world render before your eyes. This is a hardware limitation of the Saturn and considering the how the development team handled these limitations I will overlook some flaws. Keep in mind though good for the Saturn, in 1998 there was better looking games and time can be cruel. Keep an open mind.

Sound:

The music of Panzer Dragoon Saga is haunting, charming and perfectly fitting. You may even find some songs stuck in your head. The monsters screams, cries and great sound effects make them seem more believable. Plus the amount of spoken dialogue was unheard of for the time and still is!

Game play:

At times you’ll fly your dragon through open environments exploring the world, for the most part these sections are great. Using a target to explore though true to the Panzer series can this game feel like it’s a point and click adventure. Now the battle system is an interesting one, you have the ability to circle your enemy for either a good opening to attack from, or a safe place they can’t attack you from. Your enemy can also circle you. You can also customize your dragons stats at any time by “morphing” him or changing it’s appearance, granting you certain bonuses.

Replay Value:

Even though you could, should and will replay this game. I feel the average gamer will play it tops three times and shelf it. Personally I’m going to play it a couple more times before I put it on my self to be played yearly.

IMO:

I’d say for myself, it’s been quite the journey and experience. At the end of the day I got the value from this title that I expected. I wish I could have bought it new in 1998 or at least from SEGA so they could have benefited from my purchases, seen that I cared and appreciated their efforts.

    It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since this game came out. Also That in those 20 years nothing quite like this game has been made. If you are an RPG fan and you want a fresh experience unique to SEGA and Saturn, you owe it to yourself to play Panzer Dragoon Saga. If you are a huge SEGA fan and want to try an arcadesc RPG with shooting elements and morphing dragons play this game. If you want a game or story that feels like Mad Max meets Dragon Heart meets Afro Samurai you should play this game. You should probably avoid this game if you want a quick fix, lack the time to invest into it, or can’t stand RPG's.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Life on Saturn

Thoughts from someone who, until very recently, had never owned or played a Saturn. 

 There it lay: The ntsc-j Saturn. 

 When was it made? Not sure. 

 When was it popular? No idea. 

 What games does it play? Not a clue. 

For me though, it was all intensely exciting. I’d rarely seen Saturns in the wild. In fact, I think I’d only ever seen one. But now I could study it in detail.

Straight away the buttons on the front had me intrigued: POWER. Ok, no problems. OPEN. Yes, fine. And… ACCESS? My teenage son laughed and told me it was in case I wanted to ‘hack’ into it. But he too was curious. And it had both a CD tray and a cartridge slot. Surely it must be capable of truly great things? In terms of aesthetic it seemed to resemble a slab of clay and was heavier than I expected. 
Time to boot it up… 



The first game I played was International Victory Goal, which surely must count as one of the catchiest football titles ever. You may think this is a strange choice but I currently only own three games and my eight year old was very keen to see this one. As the intro played, with huge people doing various kicks -presumably to score the victory goal, I found myself wondering if the images were state of the art back in the day. The copyright on the box was 1995. About the time of the Playstation? My gaming history is so dodgy. Just before n64? If those console dates are right then the graphics were indeed not bad. The n64 still gets a lot of love in my house from all ages and the Saturn produced better graphics. Certainly, I rather enjoyed them. 

I didn’t get too much chance to test the gameplay because the eight year old (who's a big fan of ISS64 and FIFA16) quickly took the pad and began experimenting. I’ll be honest, we all giggled at the running animation. The players seemed nothing if not enthusiastic. The angle of the camera (from behind the goal) took a bit of getting used to but there was something strangely captivating about the whole experience. When he scored his first goal he celebrated as energetically as ever -all criticisms forgotten. Moments later, Italy equalized and everything was unfair. In that sense, it was a typical football game. The fact that we played it for a considerable amount of time suggested that the gameplay was fairly decent. 

I have no idea if it is the best football game on the system. Perhaps there’s Cosmopolitan Triumph Goal, waiting to be uncovered. But one thing is certain: This first, brief, foray into the world of Saturn is worth following up.

Maybe next time I'll even press the ACCESS button...

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Clockwork Knight - The Definitive Saturn Experience?


OK Saturn Junkys - it's something we've all wondered on occasion... What games represent the very best of a console's back catalogue? If you had to show off your favourite console to a gaming fan who by chance had never experienced playing it, what game would you choose? What game provides a quintessential, exclusive Saturn experience?


Now to actually boil any console's software repertoire down to one title is an almost impossible task... especially when that back catalogue is as vast as the Saturn's. So maybe we should think about genres... Best Saturn driving game? Daytona? Sega Rally? Best sport's title? Sega Worldwide Soccer 97? Or 98? Pebble Beach Golf Links? Okay, what about best puzzle game? Best fighting game? Best RPG? Best shooter? Damn this is harder than I thought it would be... maybe top twenty is more realistic...

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Final Fight Revenge - A Game you Need to Play Before you Die.

Final Fight Revenge - A Game you Need to Play Before you Die. 
Released in Arcades in 1999, Capcom decided to make a 3D fighting game based on Final Fight. This game plays similar to Street Fighter EX, but was developed by the American division of Capcom (Production Studio 8), the same team behind Final Fight Streetwise and the first Maximo. It was later ported to the Sega Saturn in Japan and would make use of the 4MB Ram cart. This would be the first time characters like Poison, Haggar and Andore would be in a 1 on 1 style fighting game. Needless to say I was excited to finally dive into this one as were many other fighting game fans. Sadly, the final product was, shall we say, less than stellar.


This game shares some similarities with Street Fighter EX, but where that game succeeded, Final Fight Revenge fails on many levels. To my disappointment, the game plays like a slow, unresponsive mess at times with visuals that look like they were drawn by a 4 year old in MS Paint. I often wonder why the 4MB Cartridge was actually needed for this, as it seems to do almost nothing to help.


But, I still own it to this day, and I really do enjoy giving it a spin from time to time. Why? well, when you take a step back and think about it, even with it's strange visuals, awkward controls, and strange character lineup, this game does have overwhelming charm. Sure, it's a very bad game, but soon after starting, you will find yourself laughing and pressing on through the roster just to see what else is in store in this mess of a game. Only to have the final boss be a Zombie version of Belgar (The original game's Final Boss). Apparently he died in Final Fight, and now has been reincarnated as a zombie! You can't make this stuff up folks, the final boss is a Belgar Zombie! The only truly unfair thing, is that Zombie Belgar isn't a selectable character ... but if you manage to beat the game you are gifted ... GIFTED with an animation of Zombie Belgar performing the "Thriller" dance for you. 
Final Fight Revenge is truly a mastery of epic proportions. Not only are you laughing the entire time you are playing the horrendous pile of trash (Witch incidentally was the Final Release Capcom made for the beloved Sega Saturn), but you Strike gold when you finish, leaving you with an overall sense of accomplishment and a feeling of good fortune having witnessed the climax of this game. The fact that it was completely developed in the United States, by American programmers, then released only in Japan and never seeing the light of day in the country it was created in (unless you imported) only adds to it's already overwhelming charm and baffling existence! 



If you can track down a copy of this game, please ignore what everyone says and just enjoy what is being presented. It's sort of like the Movie "The Room" with Tommy Wiseau. It's not something you want to experience, but once you being you NEED to see it to completion. Keep in mind that an actual copy of Final Fight Revenge can go for quite the high price ... not because it's a great title, but because it's a game you NEED to experience before you die. Sure, it's a bad game, and you will probably never see this game used at EVO ... but it's just so darn charming, that I cannot classify it as one to avoid. If you can get it or play it, please do so and enjoy the baffling, hilarious experience that is Final Fight Revenge!


--"Collector" Chris Dunlap
https://www.facebook.com/collectorchris/
http://www.narcoleptic-insomnia.com

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Why Shenmue Deserves Attention On The Saturn Junkyard


So, we seem to have had a little bit of a kerfuffle over at the Saturn Junkyard in the month of August, when our favourite Saturn fan site changed it's name temporarily to The Shenmue Junkyard. Now why do a bunch of guys who claim to be devoted to the Sega Saturn, get all giddy about the HD re-release of a Dreamcast game on modern systems? The name change, podcast musings and overall distraction from the Saturn, has upset some of the valued members of our community and led them to question whether we're losing our way over at The Junkyard. So why is Shenmue of prime importance to every Saturn owner? Let's break it down...

Friday, 7 September 2018

SEGAMANIA 2018: It's the renaiSEGAsance on the Latest SJY TitanCast

Need something to listen to for your commute? Check out our latest episode of the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast. Listen to us on iTunes, Buzzsprout, Google Play, and wherever else!

Buzzsprout: http://thesaturnjunkyard.buzzsprout.com

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-saturn-junkyards-titancast/id1320249250?mt=2

PlayFM: https://player.fm/series/series-2287282

In this episode, we step back from the nostalgia and chat about the surprisingly rich slate of recent and upcoming titles from our favorite game maker in 2018! Simon is out today, unfortunately, but Sam, Nuno, and Brian are joined by Mike Phelan from the Dreamcast Junkyard's DreamPod and Patrick Traynor from the Sega Saturn Shiro podcast. 

Dive in with us and revel in this current renaiSEGAsance we're living in! 



Discussed in this episode: Shenmue I & II HD, Yakuza Kiwami 2 and the series at large, Team Sonic Racing, Sonic R, Streets of Rage 4, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, and more!

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Share Your Saturn Stories with the Junkyard Community

Fellow Junkies and Saturnites --

There's a brilliant Sega Saturn episode of My Retro Life in which Tyler from iretrogamer offers a rare and deeply insightful glimpse into his early memories with "Sega's most underrated console." Beyond an exercise in mere nostalgia, it wonderfully preserves the joyous enthusiasm that a boy and his father shared for the Saturn, not for what it could or should have been but for what it was. I'd encourage everyone to watch it (embedded below) -- so there's a quick Schlub plug for y'all.

Of course the Sega Saturn meant, and continues to mean, a great deal to us. Many of us had the opportunity to grow up with the console, with our memories inextricably linked to the highest highs and dramatic twists of its mid-to-late 90's lifespan. Others of us joined the party later on, acquainting ourselves with Sega's 32-bit system through a retrospective lens. Yet, we've all arrived here, with a shared appreciation for a beloved, if misunderstood console which continues to delight and surprise us decades onward.

So with that, we pose this to all of you in the community: What are your early memories of the Sega Saturn? How did you discover Sega's fifth generation console and what did it mean to you? Share your Saturn stories in the comments below.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Policenauts - The Greatest Story Ever Told?



hyperbole

[hahy-pur-buh-lee]

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com


noun Rhetoric.
  1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
  2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, such as “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.


Those of you now familiar with the Krishna style of reportage, will realise that the information that follows the title of each of my posts, rarely corresponds with the title itself. Today's subject is no different. Policenauts is of course, NOT the best story ever told... That honour goes of course to Ryo Hazuki's vengeful odyssey in Shenmue, but I digress...
And now to contradict myself outrageously within the first paragraph: Policenauts is indeed the greatest story ever told... The greatest story ever told... on the Saturn.


Now this is not a review... In order to review it, I would  have to comment on the story, assessing it's characters, setting, plot twists and outcomes. I simply cannot do all of that. If I did, it could possibly create a huge rift between myself and one of the other Junkyard correspondents, The Virtua Schlub - Mr. Brian Vines. The other day I posted a snippet of plot on the Saturn Junkyard Facebook page and Mr. Schlub chastised me for being a "huge spoiler dropping butt-munch", so don't be worried dear reader, I won't be dropping any "S-Bombs" during this epistle. 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Wipeout Playthrough in HD


With Wipeout fever being at an all time high here at the Junkyard - and with our Youtube channel sitting idly for a couple of weeks - I thought it timely to join our fellow enthusiasts of futuristic racing and show how beautifully this game in particular looks when running at a higher internal resolution.

I'm not the best Wipeout player in the world - far from it. In fact, the very first time I played it I positively hated it. I kept hitting the walls and slowing down, and couldn't figure out how to properly navigate the course.

Many years later, during my first time collaborating with the 'Yard, I gave it another shot, this time making the effort to understand the gameplay. It's actually pretty simple once you get to grips with it. You accelerate, you turn and, when trying to navigate a really tight corner, you use your air brakes for sharper turns. The trick is in understanding when - and for how long - to use the air brakes, since a split second too soon or too late will send you crashing against the nearest barrier.

It requires reflexes and finesse, and when you immerse yourself in it and pull off a good run it's incredibly satisfying. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the old reflexes came back to me, almost a decade after playing it for the last time. Silverstream still kicked my ass, and I'm nowhere near beating the Rapier class, but I still managed to pull off a decent run.

And the graphics are reaaaaally sweet, minus some unavoidable glitches. We could really use an Omega Collection for the older titles. Too bad the series seems to be a Sony exclusive nowadays :(

Monday, 4 June 2018

Wipeout: The Greatest Racer On The Saturn?


Hello Saturn Junkys! First of all, let me apologise profusely to all of you rare creatures that find yourselves here, having a little read every now and then. This is supposed to be the Junkyard's main hub, the place we all come to find new and interesting opinions, stories and articles about our favourite console. Whilst original team member Nuno has been producing Junkyard YouTube videos which receive thousands of hits, he's also been writing articles on emulation and generally putting this old Father to shame... In fact, in May 2018, for the first month since the 'Yard reopened, I have contributed nothing to it's hallowed pages. As an excuse, I'll throw in a couple of those hiccups that life sometimes throws at you, one of the warmest, driest, sunniest Mays since records began, a birthday and some major yardening... but enough of the past, May has gone. Now we're in June; the mid-way point of the year. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and summer feels like it has arrived with a bang for the first  time in years! Time to shut those curtains, crack yourself open a cold one and get your Saturn on!


So by now I'm guessing the title of the blog piece has been a bit of a giveaway... today we're talking about Wipeout, a fast, futuristic racer with a penchant for jet powered hover-cars, majestic sweeping race tracks and an acid house/drum & bass fuelled soundtrack. This is a game which originally appeared on the PlayStation, produced by legendary publishers Psygnosis and indeed became something of  a flagship title for that console. So how did it end up on the Saturn? Did we get a decent port? And is it still worth playing now?

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Killing Pixels: Part Deux and a Half - Now in 4K!


Because HD isn't quite high enough, we're taking the Saturn to new extremes. Revel in the glory of your favourite 3D titles rendered at a mind-boggling 3840x2160 - for comparison, one of the most used resolutions on the Saturn was 352x224).

Now, it isn't all roses. A large portion of the Saturn's Library was made of 2D games, which benefit nothing from an increase in resolution. Of the 3D games available, a large portion has moderate to serious problems running in YabaSanshiro - and many don't run at all - and of those that do, some don't benefit that much. Polygon jittering is a recurring issue, or 2D planes like the ground that don't scale that well and seem out of place.

But then there are models that just look gorgeous. Look at the player characters in Anarchy in the Nippon, Fighters Megamix or Virtual-On, and tell me they don't look straight out of a Dreamcast game.

As always, try it at your own risk. You might surprise yourself ;)

In case you missed the previous entries, check them out:

Part 1: Shaders in Retroarch

Part 2: Saturn Games in HD

Part 3: Widescreen Hacks

Friday, 11 May 2018

Saturn Emulation 101: Part 1 - What Emulation is All About

EMULATOR
noun em·u·la·tor \ ˈem-yə-ˌlā-tər \

1 : one that emulates
2 : hardware or software that permits programs written for one computer to be run on another computer
[Source: Merriam-Webster]



Aside from piracy, emulation has to be one of the most hotly debated topics among gamers. Most swear by their original consoles, disparaging emulators as the inferior choice, only suited for people who don’t really care about games and take the easy, dirty way to play them. I’ve seen all kinds of arguments throughout the years, ranging from “emulators are always full of glitches” (they’re not), to “they add input lag” (only half-true, depends on setup), and the last resort of someone who’s out of arguments, the “it doesn’t feel the same”.



If you’ve been following my content for the Yard, by now you know I’m an enthusiast for everything related to emulation. Having said that, I’m not an apologist for it. I think good things stand for themselves and don’t need anyone praising them and trying to convert the masses, so that is definitely not what this article will be about. I’m not going to try to convince anyone to leave their consoles gathering dust (as if you can’t use both).
Instead, this article is aimed at anyone who’s already into emulators and wants to know more about the Saturn scene in particular, or those who are curious but have yet to dip their toes in this gigantic pool and are looking for some guidance to get started.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Tech Battle: Episode 2 - Sega Rally Championship

 
Episode 2 of our new series, this time with less mishaps and better production values. We've widened our scope from a simple tech comparison to more of a retrospective that also takes into account the gameplay, features and history of the game. Hopefully this will make it more informative and interesting to the viewers.

Of course, we still go very much in-depth into the many differences between versions.

A couple of addenda that didn't make it into the video:

- We talk about an unlockable "secret car" but for the original arcade version this was simply an alternative handling mode for the regular cars. Later on the Saturn port actually added a new car to fit this handling model, the now iconic Lancia Stratos, so many gamers started to retconn the original and refer to that alternative handling as being the Stratos. It is true that the development team stated in interviews that it was their idea to include that 3rd car, which was then cut for time constraints, and the only trace of its existence is that extra handling mode, but back then regular arcade goers didn't know about that.

- We criticise the original Saturn game running at a higher resolution in the emulator YabaSanshiro for the missing polygons in the tracks. The PC version, when running at higher resolutions, seems to suffer from a similar - if less noticeable - problem, so maybe that's not an emulator bug but a quirk of the game engine.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Join our founder Simon (a.k.a. Father Krishna, a.k.a. Father K) as he takes some time to reflect on the Junkyard community, discussing its various goings on, history, events, the "weekly" challenges, and -- most importantly -- you!

Yeah, it gets pretty sappy but thanks for making the Junkyard and greater Sega community what it is!