Sunday, June 03, 2007

Thoughts on All Those Sega Saturn Imports

Alright, I figured if I'm going to continue highlighting Saturn games from overseas, I should drop the "Games You Missed" tagline. Otherwise, we'll be reading it fifty times over, and that's just redundant. Instead, I think I'll just go over everything in my CD stacks and show you what's up.

After the initial rush - holy cow, I'm playing all these cool games on my Sega Saturn! - I think I've settled down a bit now, so hopefully I can offer a more balanced and sober view. Ah, who am I kidding? I was happy just to play World Series Baseball '98 and Nights.

Sega Saturn was a retro console. That was thing that killed it in the '90s, and the thing that makes it immortal today. Surely there are some forward-thinking, cutting-edge titles, but so many games are solidly genre titles. And those were genres that were on their way out. The arrival of Playstation sealed that fate, but it was inevitable after the total burnout by the end of the 16-bit era.

There were seemingly millions of shoot-em-ups and fighting games on Super NES and Genesis and Turbografx, to the point where all but the most diehard gamefan (yeah, that's right, I went for the easy pun) hated the very sight of these things. Just how many alien invasions must one deal with? This is one key, but strangely unspoken, reason why the original Playstation was such a breath of fresh air. It literally was the dawn of a new day, and the whole 3D polygon realm was virgin territory.

So I can understand a little how Sega felt trapped with Saturn. It was meant to be the ultimate 2D game system. And it clearly is, as shown by one quality title after another. But nearly all of them are retro games. Genre games. Firmly set within those limits, and rarely sticking their heads outside the boundaries. All that's left are the graphics and visual effects, which on Saturn are almost always exciting and spectacular.

The 3D polygon world...well, that's a different story. We already know how that turns out.

Hmm. Maybe you have to really be a lover of the 16-bit era itself. Saturn was intended to be the successor to Genesis and Super Nintendo, and by the end it grew into that role perfectly. Maybe you'll want a bigger, better Gunstar Heroes, a bigger Bomberman, a better Fire Shark. If that's you, then welcome to the afterlife, my friend.

The real exception, of course, was Treasure, which hit its creative peak during the Saturn era. Radiant Silvergun, Guardian Heroes, Silhouette Mirage - those are fantastic games, and the fabled studio has only fallen into mediocrity and irrelevance in the years since. Am I the only one who appreciates the cruel irony of Treasure being reduced to the status of a work-for-hire? That should be a topic on another post.

Anyway, we're getting off the subject here. Where was I? Ah, yeah, Saturn is the home to about a thousand shmups and fighting games and a surprisingly large number of classic game compilations. How you can manage to be both behind and ahead of the curve is a mystery to me.

No comments: