Friday, 15 December 2017

A Mecha Enthusiast Dream!

 A Mecha Enthusiast Dream!

Growing up in the late 90’s I found myself loving two things more than most, my Sega Saturn, and giant walking death machines… MECHS! I had seen titles like Krazy Ivan, Ghen War, and Mech Warrior 2; but the one that always caught my eye sitting on the shelf of my local Hollywood Video was Gungriffon. A lumbering humanoid robot on front, screenshots from inside the cockpit on the back, for some reason it just drew me in. So when I finally got my Saturn in 97 it was one of the first games I rented. For lack of better terms, I was blown away. With that being said, here we are 20 years later. So let’s take a look back at the Gungriffon series on Sega Saturn.


Gungriffon (Gungriffon: The Eurasian Conflict) was released in 1996. A product of the new Game Arts game engine, that would one day see light in titles such as Grandia, It was localized for the western markets by Sega with a few story tweaks that would have to be retconned later in the series. The game was almost titled Iron Rain, thank God better minds prevailed. One of its most known features is the openings FMV, which can be played as MPEG-1 video with a VCD card. This is one of, if not the best FMV on the Saturn, and that’s not just this writer’s opinion.  


The English localization takes place in 2075 (2015 Japan) where the world is gripped in a battle of resources. Nations are almost a thing of the past, replaced by huge economic blocks. Through constant war, the evolution of mechanized warfare has dramatically increased. Tanks, once the kings of armored ground combat, have slowly been replace with AWGS (Armored Walking Gun Systems) “There mechs Jimmy… just call the mechs.” In response to this shift, certain economic blocks have developed the HIGH-MACS series. These “Armored Cars” as they are letter termed, are nimble mechs capable of short flight and blitz like attacks. You are a member of the American Foreign Legion, you have been chosen to pilot one of these HIGH-MACS in the 45th Armored Division. The fate of the war rest on your shoulders!


The game itself is broke up into two core sections, a Main Game, and an Exercise mode. The Exercise mode gives you a place to touch up on your skills, while the Main Game focuses on the story itself. Broken up into eight levels, you will see combat in many scenic locales, such as… war torn Ukraine… bombed out Mongolia… Russia… and China… yeah there’s a lot of war. Actually jumping into the cockpit, you find yourself staring at a pretty in depth Heads Up Display (HUD). Giving you ease of access to your arsenal, four main weapon types, your health level, jumps left, radar, and current orientation to the map. In many ways this is not simply a mech game, this is a mech simulator.

Controls reflect that simulation gameplay style quite nicely and are genuinely easy to pick up. Aiming is controlled by the D-Pad, the L button controls turret movement, and the R button for fire. X and A control forward and backward movement, with both having multiple speeds, as well as cancelling each other out. Y changes your screen to night vision, with B allowing you to strafe left to right. Finally, Z enables you jump (flight feature), and C cycling through your weapon inventory.

Actual combat can be summed up as easy to relentlessly punishing. While there is a difficulty setting in the options menu, each stage has its own level of difficulty. You will find yourself breezing through one level, just to see the “GAME OVER” title mock your futile attempts in the next. Enemy types range from simple cargo trucks, which take a few machine gun rounds to dispatch, to enemy HIGH-MACS that can dart around the battlefield as quick as you, with an arsenal to match. Mission types follow a pretty traditional pattern, with your “defend the target” to “destroy all the enemy” being the brunt of them. At the end of every mission, you are graded on your performance, with a leaderboard that drives you to retry the level for a higher score.

Gungriffon separates itself from other mech games of the 32 bit era with its notable playstyle most of all. While you can go it slow and steady, as you progress through the game, it becomes quite apparent that speed is a must. HIGH-MACS are designed to blitz the enemy, scatter hellfire from above, swoop in and strike without out even a whisper. To obtain the highest score, and incur the lowest amount of damage, speed is a must. Mastering this playstyle is not an easy feet, as not only must you stay on the go, but ammo is at a premium. Couple this with managing your jumps, the time limit, keeping on target, and the speed at which you can breakdown, leads to a game that has loads of replay value.


Game Arts second title in the franchise was left in Japan, as poor sales of the Saturn in the west, combined with the limited publicity of first title, left little in the room for a possible profit. Like the first game, Japanese publisher ESP took the reigns of distribution. Very little has been made in the way a graphical improvement, but light sourcing and a tweaked HUD did manage to find its way in. Unlike the first game, Gungriffon II does away with the beautiful opening FMV in favor of a simulated play through of the first mission. It also highlights the new “Replay” mechanic, which allows the player to watch the battle unfold with a high degree of control over the camera.

Fans of the first game will be happy to hear, that while the game did only see a Japanese release, the main menu is still in English. One of the few changes to the main menu is the ability to choose “Two Seater” mode, in this mode two players can control the mech in tandem, one operating movement, the other all combat systems. Also added, is a new “Survival” mode. In this new mode, the player can choose to use a HIGH-MACS, AWGS, Helicopter, Mobile Anti-Air Battery, and even a Tank. The goal is survival, and of course getting the highest score. The controls have also been mildly changed. Night vision mode has now been replaced with a air support function.

Gungriffon II also saw the use of Sega’s Taisen Cable, a LAN cable in layman's terms. This allowed for two Saturns to be tied together, and VS. matches could be played between two players, negating the need for split screen. Luckily this function is not region locked by console, so any Saturn capable of playing the game can be linked, provided the link cable is available. Oddly enough, Gungriffon II also supports the use of Virtual On’s Twin Stick, however playability is another factor.

Gungriffon II takes place immediately before and during the events of Gungriffon. Once again you take on the role as a pilot of one of these nimble HIGH-MACS. This time around you are one of the commanding officers of the Asian Pacific Community, an economic block consisting primarily of current Eastern Asian Nations. However, even though your allegiances may have changed, the goal is still the same. Destroy the enemy as quick as you can, making the highest score along the way.

Some noticeable changes during gameplay are the change of the HUD, making it feel more authentic. The time limit and damage gauge have also been moved or adjusted, making them easier to keep an eye on when the battle gets frantic, which it most certainly will. You also now have the ability to choose you loadout before you are dropped off into combat. One thing that has most certainly not changed is the wildly varying difficulties between missions. Just like in Gungriffon, Gungriffon II shows no mercy for poor management of ammo, or sightseeing on the battlefield.

Even with my love for the game, a few negatives must be pointed out. The constant warning alerts from nearing the relatively small play area boundary can become quite annoying. Distracting the player from their target, and at times even leading to the player becoming surrounded. The ineffectiveness of the machine gun against enemy mechs, and the limited amount of ammo for other weapon systems, can create a brick wall the player must face in later levels of both games. Collision detection is also not the greatest, at times leading the player’s mech to becoming stuck on invisible corners. While these are not game breakers, they do need to be noted.

So time for some overall thoughts.

If you love combat simulators, especially mech based sims, and you enjoy a healthy challenge, then I can’t recommend these two titles enough. Even for the non-Japanese reader, both games are easy to get into, and easy to enjoy. Also, both games can be found in their Japanese version for under $40 USD shipped, in most cases. Even if you want the US or PAL version of Gungriffon, most prices have it floating around the $50ish USD mark, Complete In Box.  

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Competition Time! Design a new graphic for the main page...


As a little bonus to celebrate the Saturn Junkyard's 11th Birthday, we thought we might set a competition. It's going to be something different to the weekly challenge on the Facebook page, something that utilises the creative skills of the members!

The brief is simple... To design a graphic or pictorial image for the Saturn Junkyard's 11th Birthday.
This rather lovely graphic (pictured below) was made on our 1st anniversary, way back in 2007. So it's high time we had a new one.


Use modern technology or good old fashioned crafting skills to create a captioned picture that celebrates us as a community!

The closing date for entries will be January the 1st 2018. So you've got around two weeks to knock something up. I reckon that's enough time!

Prize! Every competition needs a prize and we've got three!

First prize: A white 3D Saturn Controller with beautiful coloured buttons, that would enhance both the gameplay and aesthetics of any Saturn console, but particularly a Japanese Saturn...


Second Prize: A copy of Official Saturn Magazine. Thumb through the pages of this 1996 journal devoted to our favourite console and you'll be transported back to the days when the Saturn was king...


Third Prize: A copy of Sega Rally. (Are you beginning to wonder where all this crap is coming from? 😜) So you've already got one? Well come third and you'll have a spare!


Post your entries on the Facebook page and we'll announce the winners in the New Year!

Happy Birthday Saturn Junkyard!


The tenth birthday of the Saturn Junkyard, a huge milestone in website lifespans, was something that should have been celebrated with pomp and fanfare. But at the time, the blog was barely alive. Think ET lying in the stream, cold, pale and barely breathing on the day after Halloween... Or 'Flynn's Arcade' when Flynn Jr, turns up on his superbike at the start of 'Tron 2'... Or Star Fleet's finest pointy-eared Vulcan, floating through space in a state of suspended animation in 'Search For Spock'... I'm sure you get the picture. In short, it was knackered.


But earlier this year, in a crazy scheme cooked up by two slightly unhinged middle aged chaps with a penchant for gaming, the rusty old gates of the 'Yard were swung open, like Wonka's factory on the day specified on the golden ticket. Machinery was heard coughing and spluttering, cogs, once well oiled, but now rusted and seized together, began to turn once more and before you knew it, the old place was living and breathing again!


But in just one day's time we'll be cracking open a huge bottle of bubbly, to celebrate the 11th birthday of our little blog. It's back, it's primed and it's ready to run and run...

Read more...

Monday, 11 December 2017

Lost Games - Armed



We’ve all heard of games being cancelled. It usually happens midway through development when the publisher cuts the funds or forces the developers to work on another project. At the end of the Saturn’s lifecycle it also became alarmingly common to pull the plug on games that were all but finished, usually multiplatform games where the Playstation version went out as usual while the Saturn one got dropped in the bin. Frustrating as that was, at least you could still play the game, albeit on another platform, so all was not lost.

And then there were games that simply died on the final stretch and never saw the light of day, period. Armed (alternatively known as Aftermath) was one of those games. Until now.


Read More...

Sunday, 10 December 2017

My Sega life- part one

Unlike many of my friends and peers i suck at games, just wanted to clear that up before i ramble on! however my suckiness has never dissuaded me from being a gamer, and it’s not hampered my enjoyment of said games i think as I’ve got older most of my mates just find it endearing particularly as they can kick my butt at most games. But how does this tie into my Sega Saturn and equally beloved Sega Dreamcast? What i love about these consoles is the ability they have to perfectly transport me back to the arcades of the 90’s. Being a London kid i was often found in Sega World at the now defunct Trocadero. Sega World was a grandiose arena of gaming opulence, machines spilling out of every square foot, it was a sensory hit of lights and sound and it reeked of the 90’s. Ultimately it failed commercially and like Sega’s ill fated consoles of the mid to late nineties although it was amazing it lost them money, the world was moving on from the arcades, but quite a few of us didn’t want to come, i was led kicking and screaming into the arms of the Playstation 2 and X box as i watched the Sega console empire burn. What this did do was make my passion for the company even more vociferous and i felt it was my duty to keep the flame burning with my Saturn and DC. Although it didn’t always faithfully port classic arcade games i’m not technical enough to notice, i’m just glad the games made it to the systems i love! 




Theres not much i can say about Virtua fighter 1 and 2, Sega Rally , HofD and Daytona that hasn’t already been said ! These games particularly Sega Rally are like 
a great movie you can watch over and over and not get bored, Sega Rally is my Empire strikes back in movie terms unfortunately when it struck back on the DC the sequel left me underwhelmed, perhaps due to the perfection of Sega rally on the Saturn.

Since i’m so sucky at the games i won’t go on about them too much , what i would really like to focus on talking about is the sense of camaraderie that has been spawned out of these supposedly defunct and ailing consoles. I knew the Saturn was special a year or two after it’s release due to the fiercely loyal communities that developed around it, the same can be said of the DC which had an even shorter European lifespan. The Saturn excelled in niche gaming areas it has a fine array of RPGs and Smups and truly was and still is a 2D powerhouse! The very fact that I’m still exploring the gamut of games on offer for a console that ceased productions quite a few years ago is testament to it’s excellent library and unearthed gems of which the good and far more knowledgeable folk in the Sega Saturn and dreamcast junkyard are helping me to dig up! More in part 2!!


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Gaming Music Remixed Down At Club Saturn! (part 1)



What were you doing in 1996? I suppose if you're here, it was playing the Sega Saturn. I was too, on week nights. But at the weekend I would pursue a different form of entertainment, in the nightclubs of Manchester and occasionally Liverpool, London or Sheffield. I was, what I believe you would call, a raver. Rave culture  - dancing to frenetic "acid house" music in fields or nightclubs - had been around since the late 1980s, and I bought into it big time. By 1996, the whole rave scene had exploded  and it's repetitive beats and ecstasy influenced visuals had permeated all aspects of society - fashion, advertising, radio and television etc. but perhaps none more so, than it did gaming culture.


The fact that the Saturn appeared at this period of history, means that it's games will forever have musical, and sometimes graphical links to the rave scene. The 'go-to' gaming soundtrack up until this point had been chip tunes, soft rock or sweeping orchestral scores. But in the mid nineties more and more games started to appear with house, techno or drum and bass soundtracks... I'm sure you'll remember this as a feature of several Saturn games... Wipe Out, Sonic 3D Blast,and Steep Slope Sliders  to name but three. Games such as Wipe Out were actually produced with ravers in mind, and the idea of fusing raving with gaming culminated in the mighty Rez produced for the Dreamcast just a few years later.

Read More...

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

TitanCast Episode 1.5

In this episode of TitanCast, I sit down with one of the original members of the Junkyard's creative team. We discuss his beginnings with the Saturn, how it fell from favor, the rise and fall of the Junkyard, and his re-entry to The Saturn Junkyard version 2.0.


Ladies and Gentlemen, let me reintroduce you to Nuno, the one and only NebachadnezzaR. 



You can also listen to the podcast over at our Buzzsprout:

On ITunes:

As well as Google Play Music:

Contributors: 

The Southern Sega Gentleman: Samuel 
NebachadnezzaR: Nuno


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Ys - Falcom Classics Review

We're doing reviews on video now.

Feels gangsta being so hi-tech and all.

Anyway! It's our first foray into this uncharted territory, so feedback would be much appreciated.


Speaking of the game, Falcom Classics is a compilation disc released in 1997 exclusively in Japan, featuring reworked versions of three of their classic games: Dragon Slayer, Xanadu and, of course, Ys. I'm talking specifically about this game only because, not being fluent in nihongo [although I did once memorise the entire hiragana syllabary, which can come in handy when confronted with simple choices like はい (yes) and いいえ (no) - and little else], the best I can do is replay a game that I've played so many times already, in so many different systems, by now I could do it blindfolded. Almost. Tried my hand at Dragon Slayer and...yeah, I couldn't get very far.

I touched upon the most important aspects of this port in the video, from the basics of the gameplay, to the beautifully arranged soundtrack, to the graphics and various gameplay enhancements, so there's not really much more to say.

The story is cool, if a bit incomplete since it only comes to a conclusion in the sequel.

Just go watch it!

And play the game, it's really, really good!

Expect more reviews from the team soon ™.

Friday, 1 December 2017

SEGA SATURN, SHIRO! Podcast

I'm afraid we (at the SEGA SATURN, SHIRO! Podcast) have been playing our Saturns perhaps a little TOO hard, as we've gotten dreadfully behind in sharing updates on the Junkyard... Many apologies!

However, if you've already listened to the excellent TitanCast more than a few times and are now twiddling your thumbs at what to do with yourself until those boys drop their next bomb-track.., we've got you covered with a few episodes to fill the time... ;)  Cheers! -Patrick, Dave & Ke

(Thanks again to Father Krishna for the warm welcome and invitation to share with the Junkyard!)


Episode 1: Introductions
We share our Saturn "origin stories", and talk game recommendations.

Episode 2: Neo Geo on SEGA Saturn
We discuss Neo Geo ports on the Saturn and talk RGB & video quality.

Episode 3: Let's Get Technical
We talk media, backups, swap tricks, carts, drive replacements.
Public release of Armed (Aftermath), a previously unreleased game.

Episode 4: Spooky Saturn Halloween!
We discuss several great games for a spooky Halloween play-through!

Episode 5: Getting Saturn Online...
We talk SEGA's online history and interview SEGA RPG FAN &
ItsStillThinking1999 regarding the NetLink over VoIP exploit!

Episode 6: LOVE or HATE
We discuss several polarizing Saturn games that often stir up debate.



Wednesday, 29 November 2017

TitanCast Episode Two

In this episode of TitanCast, me and Brian discuss getting started with the SEGA Saturn. From some basic background info on the system's hardware, to video inputs, and even peripherals.


You can also download this episode of TitanCast from our Google Drive at the link below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lzUZkEFzqZ_qD7M1F6LRwZduF-gLBXw7/view?usp=sharing

If you want to look at both full articles mentioned in the cast, you can find them in the links below.

https://thesaturnjunkyard.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/sega-saturn-informal-beginners-guide.html

https://thesaturnjunkyard.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/sega-saturn-informal-beginners-guide_13.html

Contributors:

The Southern Sega Gentleman: Samuel
The Vitua Schlub: Brian

Monday, 27 November 2017

Saturn controllers for your Personal Computing needs

So, you want to play on your PC using a Saturn controller. Maybe you’re trying out a Saturn emulator (a topic which I’ll cover in depth in a future article) and want to keep the experience as true to the original as possible, or you just want to play native PC games with one of the best gamepads ever made (FACT), perfect for titles like Street Fighter which were made with six face buttons in mind.

You basically have two options: you can either buy an adapter for your original gamepad, or buy a whole new controller with a native USB connection, of which there are many.

I myself faced this dilemma sometime ago and tried to do as much research as I could, because for me spending hours reading stuff on the internet is half of the fun of buying a new product (I'm only half joking). Unfortunately I couldn't just try every solution out for myself and in the end had to buy only one product, so my hands-on experience is limited. Fortunately our friends from the Facebook SJY group are a resourceful bunch and, armed with their feedback, I feel confident in my assessment.

So, without further ado:

The Saturn/USB adapter


It basically does what it says on the package. It's a little box with a port for your controller on one end (with most featuring other inputs besides the Saturn, like Playstation) and a USB cable on the other end that you connect to your PC. There are various brands and models, one of the most popular being made by Mayflash, a company with a good reputation for gaming accessories.

Read more...

Thursday, 23 November 2017

SWWS 98: The Greatest Football Game Of All Time?




First of all, we'll acknowledge the elephant in the room... the very mention of the word "football" is going to be contentious from the start. The official title is "Sega World Wide Soccer", although the commentator, the venerable Gary Bloom, welcomes us to what he hopes... "will be an exciting game of football." So that's the word I'm going to use predominantly in this article... "football". The word used to describe the game in Europe, Africa, The Middle East, Asia and South America...
Apologies to our US cousins, for whom 'football' is an excuse to dress up in crash helmet, a fancy spandex suit and enough padding to protect a kindergarten full of kids, from an oncoming freight train... in order to play a jolly good game of rugby! 😉


''Sega World Wide Soccer '98" is the follow up to the most excellent "Sega World Wide Soccer '97"... A re-skin of the "J-League" inspired football game "International Victory Goal".  The game is widely celebrated for it's instant playability and free-flowing game play. There is little to distinguish between the '98 and '97 editions in terms of game mechanics, physics or engine. The major difference between the original and it's updated counterpart, being in the ability to play as the English Premiere League teams of the time*, as well as a good variety of international squads, more of which later. The only other major difference is the addition to the 'commentary team' of ex-Ireland manager and England player, Jack Charlton, more of that later too!
* The game also allows you to play as teams from the French and Spanish top tier too.

Read more...

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

TitanCast Episode One

For the first time in the history of the Junkyard, mountains have been moved! By that, we mean that three of us got together and recorded a podcast.

In this first, we discuss what brought us to our beloved Saturn, how it fell from favor, and eventually how the beast has returned. What impact has the Saturn had on the three of us, and what scale of an impact will this renewed interest in her bring to the Saturn retro community?

If you'd like to hear more from the TitanCast, drop us a comment and keep coming back for more.

You can also download the cast from our google drive at the link below:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1CHlSmW21LDcjezXG7PMoGaNLNeb1NfIe

Contributors:

Fatherkrishna: Simon
The Southern Sega Gentleman: Samuel
The Vitua Schlub: Brian

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Sega Saturn Saucepot Of The Month: November 2017!


A new month, so we couldn't let the opportunity for more Sega Saturn related sauciness pass us by. Our Halloween look at some of the Saturn 'cos-play' offerings  plastered unashamedly across the internet, got us fired up and in the mood for some more gaming-themed eye candy.

If we had to nominate one computer generated video-game character who has been sexualised more than any other, who has occupied the hormonally raging minds of many an adolescent boy (and even some grown men...) in short someone who has who has made desire synonymous with gaming, then that person would have to be Segata Sanshiro  Lara Croft.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Father Krishna's Saturn Collection (part 2) N-Z

So here it is... part 2 of my Sega Saturn collection. It's taken me a lot longer than I thought it would to complete, which I suppose is a good thing... it means that my collection is bigger than I first gave it credit for. It's also immediately out of date, as two of the titles are now on their way to someone else in our community, and there has been an addition into the library in the shape of "Biohazard", the easier Japanese version of Resident Evil... As already previously stated, the copies are listed separately. Although they are providing the vast majority of my Saturn gaming experiences at the moment, I don't consider them part of my official Saturn collection. I've decided to amend and update this article as when I feel like, putting little captions or paragraphs under some of the games I've particularly enjoyed or hated! Until then, don't forget there is link on each of the titles which will take you to another site related to the game... there's a lot of video or other information about each game, so take your time going through the article and click away at those links!