Sunday, 24 February 2019

2019 - The Year Of The First Person Shooter?

The moment I dipped my toe back into the healing waters of Saturn gaming back in September of 2017, I was immediately hit with a tsunami of experiences, that I had in no way anticipated. The dawn of the Pseudo Saturn in my gaming life, meant that rather than exploring my small back catalogue of bought PAL games, I would be playing the very cream of the Saturn's software offerings on burned CDs and repros…
For the rest of the year and far into 2018, I would predominantly be playing Japanese shmups, provided for me by Junkyard stalwarts, Jon Lee and Daniel Turner. These included the Parodius collection, Darius Gaiden, Wolf Fang, Salamander, Gradius, The Game Paradise, Radiant Silver Gun, Tempest 2000 and Sol Divide. Later in the year I "discovered" a new genre, the puzzle game  - Baku Baku Animal, Tetris Plus and Columns ...and this consumed the tail end of 2018 as we moved into the current year.

But if 2019 has been defined for me by any genre of Saturn games so far, it would have to be the First Person Shooter (FPS). In an attempt to generate a common topic for our forthcoming podcast, my good friend Mr. Brian Vines (The Virtua Sclub - remember him? He used to write here!) suggested we should all play the game Exhumed. I had had a lot of fun with Alien Trilogy in October, as part of our Halloween games drive... I didn't need much persuasion to try another Saturn FPS as January drew to a close.

 Made popular by the PC crowd in the early 90s, the FPS was an attempt at immersion by perspective, allowing the player to see the end of his hand/weapon only, as if the screen view were the players own eye view... looking down on his own body. This was an alternative to the traditional third person view, where the player's whole avatar could be seen. The incredibly dark and incredibly popular Doom, was the FPS title which captured the gaming world's attention. The game also drew the ire of the nation when the school shooters responsible for the massacre at Columbine, were found to be avid players of the game. The Call Of Duty FPS franchise would become the biggest money spinner of the entertainment world, surpassing the revenue earned by the top music of film releases of successive years...

But what about the Saturn? Can it's FPS offerings still hold their own in 2019?

Monday, 28 January 2019

A Sega Saturn Classic? Good Idea or Bad Idea?

With the release (and subsequent price drop) of Sony's Playstation Classic, one has to wonder how a Sega Saturn Classic system would fair in today's market. Yes the PS Classic did poorly, but that was due to lack of care on Sony's part The Games list was questionable, the hardware was weak and the Emulator choice was not the best route they could of taken. So what do you all think, would a Sega Saturn Classic work? My initial thought would be No, seeing as how Companies seem to be moving away from the Classic Console and investing into newer consoles that share the classic name. The ColecoVision Phoenix and Intellivision Amico are on the horizon and these will have new game as well as play the classics. Lets not forget The AtariBox ... I mean, we've heard NOTHING about it for a while, but it's still out there ... Maybe.

Anyway, after giving it a little more thought, a Sega Saturn Classic Would be absolutely the perfect thing to get the Classic Mini market the charge it needs. Look at all the great games that can be put on it. Even if it shipped with only 20 Games, you can bet that the Sega Saturn 20 will be a hell of alot better than Sony's picks.

If there will be a Sega Saturn Classic ... Here is a list of everything that it must include, in my personal opinion. Its a given, that licensing issues and technical jargon may prevent these things from happening, but I am only striving to give the best product around. I'll let the lawyers and technical wizards handle the rest.

Of course make it look like the Saturn, with matching 6 Button Controller
This is kind of a no Brainer, but I don't want anyone getting any funny ideas. Don't mess with this look! Also the Controller MUST be a Model 2 style!

Make the button actually open the lid! Why? Because you can put a MicroSD Card to save your games. This it what it will Officially be used for. But It will be ok if someone else finds another use for it...

I don't know why companies give you the Micro USB cord but no Adapter. Thats dumb. Make it come with an AC, it's not hard and won't drive up costs!

Here's the fun part! I would love to hear your takes on my list and would love to hear what you would want to add or change. This is my personal list, so don't be offended if your game isn't listed. I really want to hear your feedback though, so please comment away!

Panzer Dragoon Zwei
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Sega Rally Championship
Daytona CCE
Fighters MegaMix
Virtua Fighter 2
NIghts (With Christmas Nights)
Clockwork Night
Shinobi Legions
Burning Rangers
Dragon Force
Guardian Heroes
Albert Odyssey
World Series Baseball
Sonic Jam
Virtual ON
Legend of Oasis

Well, That's about all it would take. The US, EUR, and JPN Markets would have a few different games naturally. Here are some proposed changes:

Change World Series Baseball to Deep Fear
Change Legend of Oasis to Keio Flying Squadron 2
Change Bug to Parodius

Change Virtua Fighter 2 with Fighting Vipers (Japan Version with Pepsiman)
Change World Series Baseball With Pocket Fighter
Change Legend of Oasis to Magic Knight Rayearth

What to you all think, Can a Sega Saturn Classic work like this, or do you have better ideas?


Sunday, 13 January 2019

Linkle Liver Story Translation - How To Download And Emulate

Watch Nuno's new video telling you how you can emulate or download the latest fan translation for the Saturn, as a classic action JRPG becomes avilable for Western audiences for the first time!

Friday, 28 December 2018

Segata Sanshiro Shinken Yugi - The Segata Sanshiro Christmas Mini-Game!

Well dear readers, whilst our Christmas video went swimmingly, excellently spliced together by my dear brother Nebachadnezzar, I was left feeling that my own contribution was sadly lacking in detail and even incorrect in a couple of places. I have only myself to blame for this lazy description of the game, as I had sent my own copy over to a Segata acolyte  in Australia, who's devotion to Segata I felt deserved this very disc *... In the video I lamely discuss Segata Sanshiro Shinken Yugi, a Saturn import title that has our titular hero as it's main protagonist....

You can watch my faltering description here...

*This act of selfless generosity however, left me disc-less and therefore unable to play the game before I described it. So as something of an addition to the video, I will now describe the mini -game in more detail and with more accuracy.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Back in the Game

Happy Saturnalia, one and all! (It was a real holiday once, honest!) I bring you great tidings of personal gaming joy... after years of going without, I finally have a Sega Saturn to replace the one I had in Michigan. Here it is now, tucked into the center of my shelf along with a handful of other systems...

Sega Saturn... kuro!
Right now, I can't actually do much with the machine... I've got no games, no Pro Action Replay loaded with Pseudo-Saturn, and the controllers, while technically usable, are those unreasonably large US models. I'm not sure what Sega was thinking when they designed these, but whatever it was, Microsoft must have had the same idea when they made the Duke controller for the original Xbox. And the Xbox One, now that I think about it. That's one video game revival the world could have done without...

I did spin a music disc in my new Saturn, though. There are two things worth noting... the Saturn had many boot up screens thanks to the hardware being sublicensed to Victor, Hitachi, and Samsung, but it's my opinion that the opening in the US model is the best of the lot. The gentle ringing of chimes followed by the slamming of a car door is a good sight better than the abrasive "Waaab, waaab, WAAAB!" noises the Japanese had to put up with in their version of the system.

Second thing... while it's dated by today's standards (of course it is; the system is over twenty years old), the Saturn's interface for playing music is far superior to the static rainbow splashes displayed on its arch rival, the Playstation. You know all the complaints about the recently released Playstation Classic? People seem to have forgotten that it looks the way it does because the original Playstation did too. Seriously, fire up one of the earlier models with a music disc in the tray for proof. Boring, isn't it?

The Saturn, on the other hand... now there's an interface with style. Chromed orbs hover in mid air as buttons on a retro-futuristic space ship control panel. Play a music disc and polygons on either side of the panel pulse in time to the beat. Hide the control panel and you actually see the ship soaring through space, with stars racing toward the player and a slowly turning nebula in the distance. Back when I first bought one in 1997, the Sega Saturn was my first compact disc player, and I can't think of a better introduction to the technology.

Anyway, enough wistful nostalgia. Enjoy your winter holiday of choice... once Christmas is over, I'll be on the hunt for some cheap Saturn titles, if such an animal even exists. If you've got any leads on a supply of low cost games, or even better, a cheap Pro Action Replay, by all means let me know in the comments!

Monday, 17 December 2018

Some warm Saturn memories

    The temperature drops, snow covers the ground and you can see your breath as you talk to your friend outside. You talk about holiday plans, family you still need to shop for and the general busyness of the season. Warm nights spent inside with family by the fireplace’s gentle warmth enjoying time together. Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic listening to the same cheery song on the all Christmas station. This time of year is synonymous with all sorts of special moments and memories. Video games in particular can be the catalyst for deep long term memories and the seeds from which nostalgia grows. From a gift from a special someone, to the time spent enjoying quality time together. When it comes to myself and the Saturn this is around the time I came across a local ad for a Saturn game that would start  my collecting and help me eventually build deep and lasting memories with new friends and newish to me games.

    Burning Rangers was always a game I kind of knew about back in 1998 reading gaming magazines. The SEGA advertising with a fireman in a kiddy pool always stood out but I don’t think in the way SEGA intended. I was never sure what the game play was like due to lack of video at that time. Around this time last year I saw a local ad for Burning Rangers, I knew it was rare and expensive as one of the last US Saturn releases but it was in very good shape and cheaper than eBay. I took a small risk since I had no clue what it was like just that if I didn’t like it I could sell it or trade it. Built as a show piece as to say “Here is what Saturn can do in the right hands.” it’s little more than a glorified tech demo with some anime cut scenes. Luckily I love what’s here, I decided I wanted to share my new found joy with like minded people and I had recently joined the Junkyard by ways of the Dreamcast Junkyard in hopes to finally connect with people who like Saturn and want to talk about it.
    It was wonderful as I shared my new found love for Burning Rangers it turned out other people also shared their love of Burning Rangers and it turned into quite the phenomenon. A warm inviting atmosphere where people shared tips, memories and maybe have even started some small friendly competitions. It was then I knew yes this was worth joining this group. Talking with the admins and seeing the active role they play in the community is impressive. The way there is always an active member ready to share their Saturn experience. As I learned things about Saturn and played more games I returned the kindness and shared whatever I could, engage in whatever activities I could. Like in April when Sonic R stole the show and warmed our hearts with sunshine. I hadn’t a Saturn copy to join in the group time trials so I used my Game Cube copy in a pinch just to see what all the fuss was about. I’m glad I did because it opened my eyes to how good a game Sonic R is.

    It’s the passion and energy that you feel from Titancast, the YouTube team and the Facebook group that can make you look at a game in a new way that makes you revisit it with new perspective and that’s what’s so great about the Saturn Junkyard, people making games exciting even some of the lesser known US games like Casper or obscure Japanese exclusives like Cotton. The last year in ways has felt like it’s 1996 and I’m ten years old again talking about games on the schoolyard. Getting a boxed Saturn, getting Dragoon Saga and experiencing all the games I saw in magazines and more has been a mixture of surreal and childlike glee. Every Saturn game I buy is a new adventure, a new experience I can’t wait to share with friends and hopefully in 2019 we’ll continue to make more deep lasting memories around Saturn.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Twelve Years Old Today! A Birthday Message From Father K!

So here we are in 2018, and thanks to ArugulaZ we're still here! For it was on this very day in 2006, that the Saturn Junkyard as a "thing" first existed. Of course we can't mention the birth of the Saturn Junkyard without also acknowledging the site's mentor and patron, Thomas Lee Charnock, the founder of our sister site, The Dreamcast Junkyard. For it was he who gave me my first break in the blogosphere, allowing me to be a contributor to the Dreamcast Junkyard and giving me permission to bring his original concept to the Sega Saturn.

Now of course, The Saturn Junkyard is  a YouTube Channel, a Facebook Group and a place where like minded Retro Gamers - but more importantly REAL friends -  can hang out and have a laugh together. We have become so much more than a blog, we have become a community. That is a pretty amazing thing to be able to say as we enter our twelfth year!

Love to all of the Junkys from me, your very fortunate founder, Father K. Thank you for your participation. Who knows where we'll go next?

Monday, 3 December 2018

Saturn Puzzle Games - The Forgotten Genre?

It seems my education about the Saturn is ongoing. I learn new things all the time... this year I found out that you could unlock Pepsi Man in Fighting Vipers. That sort of thing really tickles me, as it brings new life to an old console. So as I'm sure you can imagine, uncovering a whole genre that I had never really acknowledged existed on the Saturn, has caused my retro-gaming to career down yet another unfamiliar path. It started at the Play Expo in Blackpool. Here, I bought several cheap, import games, and it dawned on me that I'd stumbled onto a whole genre that I was barely aware of.

When was the last time you engaged in a discussion about your "favourite Saturn puzzle games"?  People don't often recall puzzle games when reciting their top ten Saturn titles. Sure, Super Puzzle Fighter II sometimes makes an appearance, but I'd always thought about it as more of a Street Fighter novelty spin off. I had it in my collection, but for years it had languished in solitary isolation, without a puzzle game friend to rub shoulders with, in the Saturn section of my game collection.

But as I came out of the Blackpool Play Expo, I had eight new games and half of them were puzzle games. Bust-A-Move 2, Hanagumi Columns, Columns Arcade Collection and Monsterslider. "Puzzle games"... it's a genre that is alive and well. But full price physical CD copies of puzzle games haven't appeared on consoles for a number of years. The block falling magic of Tetris may have sold on the Gameboy, but it wasn't going to cut it on the PS3 (although the hyper-casual shovel-ware marketed on the Wii made sure the puzzle game would have it's last hurrah  as a genre, on a big selling console...)

When mobile phones became "smart phones", with touch screens, the puzzle game became the perfect way to pass time at bus stops, on the train to work, or during your break time. Bright, brash, snappy and colourful, connecting and destroying bricks, jewels, fruit and a host of other nonsense, with satisfying crunches, munches, plops and squelches, all to a jolly, easy listening soundtrack, they could either be bought for peanuts or downloaded for nothing at all. They were satisfying to play and uncomplicated to master. But their compatibility with smartphones and tablets meant they would cease to be released as physical discs for consoles.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Tetris on the Saturn

In case you follow our Youtube channel (in case you don't, why? Check it out!) you probably noticed that we seemed to go on a bit of a hiatus. You know how it works, life gets in the way and making videos is time-consuming, so we had no option but to let it sit for a while.

We're back, though! And this time with a classic. You've probably played Tetris a thousand times already, but there's always time for a thousand more! The Saturn was home to a couple of Tetris games, and despite the basic formula being the same, in every other aspect they're polar opposites.

Learn everything you need to know about Tetris S and Tetris Plus in our video, where we take a deep look at each game and tell you if they're worth your time.

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

- A monkey also appeared in Sega's first Tetris game, simply titled Tetris and released in 1988. What's the deal with Tetris and monkeys?

- Both the arcade version and the Saturn port of Tetris Plus run at the same resolution of 320x224, at 60 fps. The European version has the resolution unchanged so it will display black bars on the top and bottom, but the framerate is optimized so it won't feel slowed down.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Caspervania and the SJY Halloween Horrorcast

Want a podcast to help get into the Halloween spirit? Check out the latest episode of the Saturn Junkyard's TitanCast. In this one, we delve into the horror-filled worlds of some of Saturn's biggest Halloween-themed games.

Listen on iTunes, Buzzsprout, Google Play, and wherever else:

Discussed in this episode: Resident Evil, Deep Fear, D, Enemy Zero, Alien Trilogy, and Casper

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Halloween 2018 on the Saturn!

Well folks, it's that most wonderful time of the year! The time when the undead walk the earth, when ghosts, goblins and vampires roam the woods and zombies wait patiently for their dinner at the school yard gates! Halloween! Time to let your ghoulies hang out! Time for you to get in touch with your inner witch/warlock! Time for you to let your cos play fantasies run wild!

Or maybe not...

Anyway, the month of October is an excuse for unashamedly watching horror movies, hollowing out pumpkins, stuffing your face full of sweets and decking the halls with orange, black, purple and green! The Southern Sega Gentleman also declared it a whole month for indulging in horror themed gaming, so let's see what's been scaring us shitless here at the Saturn Graveyard...

This is not going to be a review article - more of a personal jaunt through each title, so I've included a few links and videos to cover the factual shizzle - Instead, it is simply a suggestion of a few games that might tickle your scary bone over the next few days... So sit back, relax, line your underpants with something absorbent and be prepared to encounter some of the best horror themed games available on the Sega Saturn...

So let's start with the quintessential horror experience for the Saturn, the House Of The Dead!

The House Of The Dead (Sega 1998)

The House Of The Dead, was for a long time, the most expensive Saturn game I owned. At a time when you could (genuinely) pick up Sega Rally for the princely sum of  20p, HOTD cost me £25:00.
I had become aware of this Sega classic, through playing HOTD2 on the Dreamcast, a game for which I had bought my Dreamcast light gun. At the time, the Dreamcast was my system of choice, the Saturn simply an out of date "also ran" in the console stakes. I still loved it, but the Dreamcast was the console that gripped me, in an almost obsessional way. Still, the chance to play a different iteration of the HOTD franchise appealed to me, and despite the prohibitive price tag, I picked it up. From the same store, I bought a 'Stunner' for peanuts, and was ready to kick some putrid zombie butt. Besides, my acquisition of a Saturn light gun, meant I could play Virtua Cop as it was intended to be played... i.e. not with a pad, as I had been playing it for years previously…

As I fired up the game, a zombie with blinking red eyes greeted me from the screen... so far so good, but then the story started and the game play began, I was immediately conflicted. The story looked ace, in a b-movie style, with cheesy dialogue and the same protagonists as HOTD2... RESULT! But the game itself looked underwhelming, rushed, dull, jaggy and pixelated. It was a visual horror show. I don't know whether it was my gun, the game, or me, but I wasn't having the same degree of success in zombie slaying, as I did on the Dreamcast. Still it was HOTD and I loved every minute of it! The game is still prohibitively expensive for a PAL or US copy, so a repro or a Japanese import is the economic way to play. Don't forget you'll also need one of those old fangled CRT TVs as well...

For a fantastic review of the game from the awesome Andrew Rosa of  Master-Cast TV, just click this link!

Alien Trilogy

Now as a proud owner of a Saturn back in the nineties, I dismissed 2D games as old fashioned and uncool. With a swish of my arrogant thick skinned skinhead, I dismissed all of the classic shmups and 2D fighters I now adore. I also dismissed the genre of first person shooters as being for solitary, geeky, PC nerds with only a mouse and keyboard for friends... I wanted arcade experiences, preferably those I could play with mates, so my Saturn collection consisted of Actua Golf, Sega Rally, Virtua Fighter and Virtua Cop,  At the time, despite it's tie in with a movie I had enjoyed, Alien Trilogy would have been sneered at. In a way, it's great that I was such a dismissive knob, because I now get to experience these genres with new eyes, and a they are a beautiful revelation.

Alien Trilogy is a corridor FPS based on the movie franchise. I did wonder whether or not to include a science fiction title in a Halloween round up. I mean does Science Fiction really have a place at the Halloween table? HELL YEAH! It does when it's as pant-soilingly scary as this particular franchise, which owes as much to the horror genre - with it's shocks and atmosphere of claustrophobia mixed with despondent isolation - as it does to science fiction. The game consists of level after level, of seek and destroy missions, involving the hunting and dispatching of xenomorphs, face huggers, gut busters and other aliens, as well as soldiers, synthetics and mutated crewmen. Your ammo, arsenal and inventory can be replenished as you progress through the level, much of it hidden in crates, which you have to shoot open. The only problem is the fact that they also hide those pesky face huggers... The music is integral to the atmosphere and despite it's twenty two year old graphics, this is still a great looking game. The xenomorphs are still creepy as hell and the frequent jump-scares have left my underwear with more skid marks than Brands Hatch after a Formula 1 race... Have a look at the Master-Cast review here!
You can pick up this game pretty cheaply and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Deep Fear (Sega 1998) 

I was going to resurrect my Biohazard gaming for Halloween, for the first time since the game gave me a truly horrific experience  - by freezing three quarters of the way through, when I played the Saturn version, as a newbie last year... Instead, I grabbed my copy of Deep Fear, sent to me in a bundle of burned discs, by Junkyard Facebook Admin and all round top bloke, Daniel Turner. Boy, am I glad I did!

Deep Fear is an underwater adventure produced by Sega in 1998. It is essentially a Resident Evil clone, suffused with the atmosphere and themes of the movie The Abyss. It has the dubious honour of being the last PAL release before the demise of the Saturn and was only released in limited numbers in Europe, not at all in the US. SHAME!!! This is a great game! To my mind it surpasses Resident Evil, as the game is much more forgiving than it's inspiration, in terms of ammo, health and saves. There is, however, an added fear factor, in the limited air supplies that an underwater setting facilitates.

The characters in the game are pretty shallow and the acting is hammier than a hamster, but Deep Fear has a great plot, full of jump scares and mutated monsters. There are genuinely horrific cut scenes and real shocks within the game. One such scene left me so shocked, that I dropped my controller to post this fact on the FB page, only to die as the monster I thought had drowned, came back to rip my spleen out with it's crab-like claw...

Deep Fear costs a ridiculous amount for a PAL version. But a Japanese import is largely in English and very playable. If you love Resident Evil, but are looking for a new twist (and the ability to walk and shoot at the same time) then Deep Fear is for you. Master-Cast TV Review here...
The game gives us a look at what could be achieved on the Saturn given the right development team and is crying out for a "Gamecube style" re-vamp for a modern console... And talking of Vamps, that leads me very cheaply into my next paragraph...

Vampire Hunter (Capcom 1996)

Not all horror games need to be of the adventure variety, as Capcom's 1996 effort Vampire Hunter proves. Vampire Hunter (or Night Warriors; Dark Stalker's Revenge - Banpaia Hantā Dākusutōkāzu Rebenji in Japan) is a quirky 2D brawler with a roster of horror, mythical and sci-fi inspired characters with awesome moves and stunning backdrops. Fighters include the Dracula-like Dimitri Maximoff, buxom bat-winged demon Morrigan Aensland, the "Eddie-from-Iron Maiden -alike" zombie, Lord Raptor, Victor Von Gardenheim (who bears a passing resemblance to Frankenstein's monster) the Egyptian mummy, Ankaris and  paradoxically foxy feline "Were-cat", Felicia.

The game has some amazing fighting moves, pulled off with ferocious flare and fluid animation. The game has a quick "pick up and play" element to it, but of course mastery takes time. Combos can be used to stunning effect and the backgrounds are themed around the characters and fully animated. This is perhaps the best looking of this year's bunch and still looks fabulous on a modern TV. If I have one gripe, it's the absence of the machine gun wielding Little Red Riding clone, Bulletta, but other than that, it's a Halloween winner. My apologies if your favourite horror themed, or spooky Saturn game didn't feature, but as I reminded my Graveyard colleague Brian Vines, we have to leave some available for next year... until then, Happy Halloween one and all! 

No Bulletta (B.B. Hood) in Vampire Hunter sadly...

A Tour de Saturn at the 2018 Portland Retro Gaming Expo

The Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE) happened last weekend and it was nothing short of a celebration of excess in retro game collecting and culture. Although PRGE lacks the corporate-bankrolled production values of shows like PAX or E3, the expo sports a ton of attractions and no shortage of distractions. There was a myriad of video, arcade, and pinball games to play, plentiful panels with familiar YouTube personalities from throughout the retrosphere, plus an assortment of competitive tournaments -- including the Tetris World Championship -- a far more intense and interesting affair than I would've ever expected.

Top: The Video Game History Foundation's 35th Anniversary NES museum shows off random '80s and '90s Nintendo merch, complete with a creepy-ass Link face that someone might have conceivably worn on top of their own face. Left: We witness an epic final tournament round of that Russian block drop game; it was nearly as intense as a match of Smash Bros I watched where one of the players had to fight using a N64 mouse. Right: Ben Heckendorn takes some time to dismantle a Sega Genesis in between dad jokes. 

However, with the high profile events like Smash Bros Melee and Mario Kart tournaments, a spectacular display of NES history, and all of the Thrashing Christs and Nintendo Hoodlums and other retro gaming public figures wandering about -- what surprised me most was what didn't get lost in the shuffle. The Atari Jaguar had a surprisingly strong presence with no less than five upcoming, in-development games playable on the show floor.

Atari Age shares the Jaguar indie love with a new shmup, an RTS, a Dizzy game, and more. The racing game on the right-hand side is literally called Not Outrun. At least it knows what it isn't.

Then there was our beloved Sega Saturn, which was repped surprisingly hard at PRGE. I stumbled upon a 10-player Saturn Bomberman set up when I first arrived at the expo. Apparently, they even held a tournament at some point over the weekend. What fun!

Saturn Bomberman: the Saturn's multiplayer game of the year...every year since 1996.

Of course, a major part of any expo consists of people selling shit. And at PRGE, dozens of vendors had plenty of Saturn goods for sale. Whether you were looking for affordable Japanese games or less affordable North American long box titles (including plenty of sealed games), vendors had you covered. On the whole, prices weren't nearly as exorbitant as I expected, albeit with some exceptions...

If you thought the Saturn's priciest games were overly expensive...try spending $55 on Virtual Hydlide! For additional perspective, any one of those shitty NES games in the display case will fetch at least double the price of Panzer Dragoon Saga.

Sidebar: While not specifically Saturn related, the free play arcade area did have a Virtua Cop 2 cabinet, which is one of my favorite Saturn games. There was also an F-Zero AX cab, which totally rocks...uncontrollably, side-to-side as you bank through the game's churning twists at 1,500 km/h. There were also some older Sega arcade titles on the expo floor but I don't really remember which ones. Probably Congo Bongo and stuff like that.

Time to serve some sweet, Stunner justice...or suffer some severe motion sickness. You decide!

That brings us to one of the more topically relevant aspects of this year's PRGE: Retro-bit and Sega's upcoming Saturn gamepads. There were a few original-style pads on display, including both the Saturn and USB wired versions (the wireless pad was absent, outside of its placeholder box design). From what I could tell, the controllers hold up well compared to the originals -- with a strong build quality and feel of the d-pad and face buttons. In other words, RetroLink this ain't (which is a good thing) but it's a bit odd to hold a brand new Saturn controller that has yet to be broken in. The shoulder buttons remain a work in progress -- the representative said Retro-bit is focusing on refining the springs and molds to get them to feel as clicky as the original pad. Although it's not quite there yet, I see this this as a promising sign that Retro-bit is sweating the details and making an earnest effort to do justice to one of gaming's all-time greatest controllers. We should find out whether they succeeded by the end of the year.

EDIT: For more info and impressions on the Retro-bit Saturn pads, be sure to check out this article from the Sega Saturn, Shiro! guys. I think they spent a bit more time putting the pads through their paces than I was able to.
Some close up pics of the Retro-bit Saturn pad, draft promo boxes, and my ugly mug.

Also, I have to give a huge kudos to Ke Kona and Ben Wallace of Sega Saturn, Shiro! These guys had a booth celebrating plenty of Saturn goodness, including some of Ke's gorgeous repro art and an awesome NiGHTS poster.
A Murder of Crows, a.k.a. the Sega Saturn Mecca of PRGE.

The Saturn is often seen as Sega's forgotten middle child of a console -- nestled firmly between the breakthrough popularity of the Genesis and the long-tailed shooting star that was the Dreamcast. However, one of the interesting bi-products of the current retro renaissance is that many people have cast an eye towards discovering the retro games and platforms they missed back in the day. Since the PlayStation outsold the Saturn by over 10:1, Sega's diminished presence in the broader gaming lexicon ensured that relatively few gaming fans had ever heard of the Saturn, let alone played or owned one.

For many of us indulging in retro gaming today, the Saturn carries a certain mystique and allure by virtue of its relative elusiveness. The Saturn appeals to many peoples' sense of discovery in the retro space -- or perhaps retro FOMO -- so I'm not surprised that people would still be drawn to the Saturn and its “hidden gem” status at a convention like this. At the very least, my experience at this year's PRGE has shown that Sega's forgotten console may not be so forgotten after all.


Anyway, PRGE is an awesome expo and if you happen to find yourself visiting the Pacific Northwest around this time next year, you should absolutely check it out. Otherwise, you don't need to be on this side of the globe nor wait until next year to get your retro convention fix. If you're near Blackpool this weekend, check out Play Expo where the great folks from our sister site, the Dreamcast Junkyard, will be hanging out. As a nifty bonus, our very own Father K will also grace the expo with his presence.

Stop by and say hello!

Saturday, 20 October 2018

The Sega Saturn is the Best Neo Geo Emulator out there!

With the release of the Neo Geo Mini system, I am reminded of what a developer once said to me during an E3 conference some time ago. I remember that SNK did have a presence at that show and they were debuting SNK vs Capcom Chaos for the AES/MVS. Upon looking at this title, I, along with a few other show goers were amazed that this title was coming out on what was essentially dead hardware, but it looked so amazing. This led to a discussion about this title being ported to the Sega Saturn someday, and we all agreed that it needed to happen.

Neo Geo Screenshot on Left ... Sega Saturn on the Right:

We were convinced that there was no other system out there that could do Neo Geo Ports any justice. We compared them to past Playstation releases and our unanimous agreement that no other system could make perfect Neo Geo Ports. This got the attention of another show goer who interjected about PC emulation, and yes while PC emulation would probably be a good way to experience Neo Geo Games that wouldn't come stateside, emulation at the time was new and relatively unknown to most gamers. In face most gamers never played Neo Geo at home unless they owned one of the inferior ports. Also at the time Neo Geo emulators weren't up to snuff.

The discussion got the attention of a developer who happened to be walking by the SNK booth. He inquired about our emulator talk and was convinced that emulation was not the ideal way to play anything. I will never forget what happened next, as the show goer who first brought up emulation asked this developer, and I quote "Is there a perfect Neo Geo Emulator out there?" to which he replied "Yes, it's called The Sega Saturn!" This developer was not present for the first half of the conversation and said that without hesitation. I laughed so hard upon hearing this, as did a few other show attendees within an earshot.

Again... unless you know you can't tell the difference!  Neo Geo Left... Saturn Right!

So, just remember, if someone asks you what the best Neo Geo Emulator is, just tell them "It's Called The Sega Saturn".

A fun little story that popped back into my head recently.

--Collector Chris