The Sega Saturn game list is a real strange one. The console was a mere stop gap for the company before the launch of the Dreamcast. It that was criminally under promoted in the west. Released early with only a handful of games it caused friction between retailers, developers and Sega themselves. Yet the games it did have were often spectacular, way ahead of their time and really pushed gaming forward in ways people were only beginning to imagine. From the Sega Saturn game list we present the top five games we think should be on a Saturn mini.
Sega Rally Championship
Originally a massive hit for Sega in Japanese arcades, this racing game should never have been so addictive. Firstly, you can only choose from two cars. Secondly, it is a rally game, a racing genre that is based on lap times as opposed to outright out speeding the others. So why the hype?
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Because Sega Rally Championship actually felt like you were driving a car. For the first time, any bump or clip to the vehicle could spell disaster. Your racer handled differently depending on what surface it was on. The whole experience was on realistic driving as opposed to glitz and glamour. It just felt so real in a way nothing had before.
I remember playing this and actually thinking it was a really adult, grown up game. The investment in it was huge. One of the seminal racing games that paved the way for a new foray into driving realism. It has to be included on a Sega Saturn list.
Nights into Dreams
One of the main gripes many people have with the Saturn is that it actually never got it's own Sonic game, which is actually absurd considering that the franchise pretty much made Sega a household name. So what were the Sonic team actually doing at this time?
Nights into Dreams is the answer. Conceived by the team during development for Sonic 2 and Sonic and Knuckles, the group was influenced by the sleep theories of Freud and Jung.
The game takes part in the dreamworld Nightopia and has a thick plot that flirts with the line between dreams and nightmares. Imagine Nightmare on Elm Street merging with Sonic. However, to call it a mere platform game does not do it justice. It has elements of flying and time attack that give it a rich complexity lacking in rival games at the time.
It also had some absurdly forward thinking concepts within its frame. The game has an artificial intelligence system that allows background characters to react differently to you depending on how you have played. They can also mate and produce totally new creatures. Combined with a non linear soundtrack that developed itself depending on which area of the game you were in, Nights is a defining Saturn title and must be included.
Virtua Cop follows a pretty standard narrative. Choose one of two police officers charged with taking on an international gun running syndicate. Shoot your way through stages to reach the final boss.
The real beauty comes in the realism that Virtua Cop employed. You could shoot through glass. Opponents would go down without dying if you shot them in the legs. You could even shoot weapons from their hand!
The Saturn supported use of the light gun which really made the game come to life (it also supported the mouse which I expect would have the opposite effect). I could have included either of the sequels or even the elite addition. Yet, like Sega Rally above, the original set precedents that make the game a must have on a Saturn Mini.
Street Fighter Alpha 3
So I swayed between having this on the list and Virtua Fighter. I still think Virtua Fighter has to be on a Saturn Mini. It is iconic in its role as a 3D fighter and being one of the few games that launched the Saturn. However, I don't actually like it that much and don't think it has aged well. Yet I believe Street Fighter Alpha 3 to be one of the greatest fighting games ever.
As fighting games ran towards a three dimensional craze, SF Alpha 3 showed that the old ways were still the best. It had combat that was speedy and physics you could almost feel through your joypad. Add to this an art style that could rival a Japanime feature film and the burgeoning mythos of the Street Fighter franchise and it was an unstoppable force.
The recent SFV felt like it added uninspiring new characters for the sake of selling downloads. The Alpha series was the absolute opposite. It combined elements of SF I, SF II, the wider Capcom cannon and added new, inventive characters to the roster. A pivotal moment that cemented Street Fighter as a global phenomenon, it is a must.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Moving on from the rail shooter it was known as, Panzer Dragoon Saga was Sega's answer to Final Fantasy VII. However, it stands on its own as something totally unique and much more than just an answer to a problem.
Incorporating the rail shooter elements into an RPG stretched the Saturn and Sega's development team to breaking point. Uncorroborated rumours even state that during development conditions were so stressful and working hours so long that two employees died.
Panzer Dragoon Saga would become one of the most famous games of all time but in true Sega fashion, they had already shifted attention to the Dreamcast by the time it was released. Global sales were poor, especially in the west where the Saturn was faring poorly.
In time, it would come to be known as one of the greatest RPG games ever made. A gem in the Sega Saturn game list, it has to be included.