Sunday, September 12, 2010

Photos - Dead or Alive (Saturn)

The number of truly great Sega Saturn games that never left Japan is truly stunning.  Here's one of the best-known examples - a superb arcade translation of Tecmo's Dead or Alive.

I watched a lot of gameplay videos from both the Saturn and Playstation version of Dead or Alive, and I have to admit, the Saturn version has aged far more gracefully.  So many PS1 games smothered all the polygon graphics in gouraud shading and lighting effects.  This art style was considered "cool" and cutting edge in the 1990s, and that's what developers and consumers wanted.  But the years have not been kind.

Saturn Dead or Alive is focused on the fundamentals, things like a high frame rate, and a sharp, clear design to the character models.  The result is much more pleasing to the eye, more direct, and less cluttered.  The spectacular animation is allowed to shine on its own, and as a result, the video game has aged like fine wine.

I'm also greatly impressed by the use of 2D backgrounds to fake a fully 3D environment.  Sega's AM2 did this for Virtua Fighter 2, and it's a brilliant and skillful piece of software engineering.  An arcade-to-home translation depends greatly on what is cut out - Yars' Revenge on Atari is the pinnacle of this theory.  You have to make the strengths and limitations of the hardware work for you.  And so Tecmo follows AM2's lead in Dead or Alive, with even more impressive results.

Once again, I have to ask in frustration, why so many Sega Saturn games were not brought to the West?  This is beyond baffling.  Thank goodness we have import shops and internet downloads.  History has been very kind to the Sega Saturn.  Here is one excellent reason why.

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