Exploring the Sega Saturn library in 2020

@Blrb#6696 Thanks, these are some nice, off-the-beaten-path recommendations. Asuka 120% is another one I've been meaning to check out forever.

I got that exact question last year so I can just copy-paste and translate my advice.

To understand the SegaSaturn, you need to understand it was the true heir to the generation of video games that preceded its release. The previous generation was still very dependent on arcade ports. _The console with the most arcade ports?_ It's the Saturn. _The closest successor to the Super Famicom school of game design?_ Clearly the Saturn with its old school RPGs and 2D action games (even the PlayStation is ahead of the N64, somehow). _The true successor to the PC Engine?_ Well, everyone from that camp bailed out on the PC-FX and moved to the Saturn. Shmups, RPGs, dating sims, you name it. _The closest successor to the Mega Drive?_ It's the Saturn, but only by default really, because even the Saturn was not that good of a successor to the MD library, especially outside Japan. _PC-98 hits?_ Found a mainstream home on the Saturn. _The most faithful Neo Geo ports of the era?_ They were on the Saturn, obviously. _Etc._

The Saturn is the ultimate console of the 16-bits era. It lost the commercial war it got into because it picked the wrong fight, against two companies who understood how to make that previous generation uncool. But in retrospect, pound for pound during its existence (so roughly 1994-1998), the Saturn's software catalogue is just as strong as its contemporary PS1 (which got many of its best games from 1998 onwards) and N64 (which barely existed side by side with the Saturn and arguably spent more time facing the Dreamcast). And if you did prefer the kind of games designed in the previous generation, especially arcade games and the PC Engine, there is no sweat seeing the Saturn as the best machine of its era. There you go! That's my best defense for the Saturn, conveniently hiding all the crap and the stupid under the carpet while you're looking away.

With this cheerful perspective in mind, here are the types of games I recommend to understand and encapsulate the Saturn without spending too much cash. That list of recommendations was addressed to a person who had novice notions of Japanese so I added some notes (•) about which games could present potential issues.

### Sega AM, King of the Arcades

  • - Sega Rally Championship Plus
  • - Decathlete
  • - Dynamite Deka
  • ### Sega CS, the Eternal Challenger

  • - Dragon Force (•)
  • - Dark Savior (•)
  • - Azel: Panzer Dragoon RPG (•)
  • ### Children of the Mega Drive

  • - Radiant Silvergun
  • - Grandia (••)
  • - Langrisser V (••)
  • ### The Super Famicom legacy

  • - Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (••)
  • - Chaos Seed (••)
  • - Arthur to Astaroth no Nazomakaimura (•••)
  • ### The PC Engine Diaspora

  • - Saturn Bomberman
  • - Sakura Taisen 2 (••)
  • - Tengai Makyō : Dai-Yon no Mukoshiroku (•••)
  • ### The PC-98 gets mainstream

  • - Policenauts (••)
  • - YU-NO (••)
  • - Steam Hearts
  • ### The true Neo Geo CD

  • - Metal Slug
  • - Fighters History Dynamite
  • - Twinkle Star Sprites
  • ### The Best of '90s Arcades

  • - Elevator Action Returns
  • - Vampire Savior
  • - Layer Section
  • And I will add (for free!) two categories dedicated to the two arcade games that could be described as "social phenomenons" in Japan at the time, and the inevitable rivals / clones / cousins that followed.

    ### Virtua Fighter-xploitation

  • - Fighters Megamix
  • - Dead or Alive
  • - Anarchy in the Nippon Goiken Muyō
  • ### It's Puyo Puyo Fever!

  • - Puyo Puyo Sun
  • - Shingata Kururin Pa!
  • - Waku Waku Puyo Puyo Dungeon (•••)
  • *Voilà!* Pick between 1 and 3 games from each category (maybe depending on your personal interests) and you will end up with a catalogue of 10 to 30 games that properly encapsulate the SegaSaturn. I could have picked many more candidates for each category. I know from experience that I could make three different lists of games (so 90 games total) with the same "constraints" / categories in mind.

    _**Notes:**_
    (•) Speaking japanese is advised, but an official English version of the game exists
    (••) Speaking japanese is advised, but an unofficial English patch, an official English translation on a different platform and/or a well-detailed walkthrough can be found on the Internet.
    (•••) Get cracking on these Japanese lessons, it will be worth it.

    @chazumaru#6709 this is a great take on the Saturn. Such a fascinating platform that got lost in the shift in game design. It’s odd that Sega was pushing 3d in big ways at the arcade but focused on 2d for the home market. Seems like they were caught by surprise on how big 3d would become.

    Congrats on the Saturn acquisition! It's probably my second favorite console next to the Mega Drive.

    Guardian Heroes, Guardian Heroes, Guardian Heroes!! I cannot recommend Guardian Heroes enough! Also the Japanese version is still affordable (it's how I got my own copy). Burning Rangers is neat for seeing how Sonic Team explored full 3D outside of the human navigation (and messy Sonic) parts of Nights.

    Sonic Jam, while a compilation of Mega Drive Sonics, is still the _best_ compilation game out there, I feel. Roaming around Sonic World is really neat, and the one thing that comes close to it are the Namco museum games on the Playstation.

    Sonic R is also fun once you get use to setting your mind to play it like a racing game with an accelerator and drift buttons.

    Going back to Treasure, the Saturn version of Silhouette Mirage has some more subtle flourish on their 2D art that's missing in the Playstation version, and is also way more balanced than the Working Designs release.

    Mega Man 8 has some extras the PSX version is missing, too, with two extra boss battles and a few other changes.

    @chazumaru I really like this reading of the saturn library, and I guess because of that I'll put my recommendations into this thread instead of starting a new one. But I think your reading of it does the system a lot more justice than my way of thinking about it.

    Ultimately, I think of the Saturn as a pretty bad console with weird games on it, despite how much I like it. It was tough to make games for! This was both it's worst and best point. Worst because without herculean effort or an arcade/PC game to start from (plus a somewhat lesser herculean effort), you made crap. Best because those who pushed through and really did something made experiences, visuals, and concepts unseen anywhere else.

    So here's an attempt at some lists. I'll do one that's "games everyone knows but are indeed worthwhile," second is "games that are slightly under the radar but gaining popularity, or which are known in general but under-discussed," third is "games not so many people know but which are cool" and finally "games that are not necessarily good but are interesting for one reason or another" which frankly encompasses the majority of the non-kusoge library.

    Chaz' list is more concise and includes some of my games, and some I don't have. I didn't put anything on the list that I can't personally say much about, but suffice it to say, daytona USA CCE is very good even though it's not on the list.

    **GOOD GAMES PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT**

  • - nights into dreams. first game where I truly experienced 3D, walking around as the child in non-nights form. otherwise it's a very excellent time/score attack arcade game with [fantastic music](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIkKLskRYN8).
  • - burning rangers. pushed the saturn hardware beyond its limits and also had a unique vibe you'll not see elsewhere. [watch this awesome video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_OchOV_WDg) to learn more about that.
  • - sonic R. when you play it how the game wants you to, it's quite fun. and that music!! it'd be a great hangout game if they'd let you.
  • - sonic jam. the first three sonic games ported to saturn - not emulated!! ported. most notable is the 3D area where you could run around as sonic and view memorabilia, video clips, etc. This is one of the things that inspired me to get into making video game museums.
  • - astal. lush watercolor 2D, with some amazing looking effects especially on a CRT, effects that [really matched the music](https://youtu.be/qHHfdeFZRoU?t=787) (a theme you'll notice).
  • - grandia. a solid RPG that's a visual tour de force with everything looking like a diorama, the ability to touch and feel so much of the environment, all of which fell apart when it was ported to PS1, with shadows, sprite layers, and more lost in the process.
  • - street fighter alpha 2 gold (also 3). Best street fighter alpha!!! and dramatic mode, in which you can fight two-on-one, is exclusive to this version I believe. And the remixed music is good.
  • - megaman 8. This is the only megaman game I've ever been interested in playing for more than an hour. Also: the music.
  • - saturn bomberman. not only is the main game good, the 8-player arenas are super fun. AND there's the 10 player giant arena, the final resting place of hi-ten bomberman.
  • - panzer dragoon zwei. utilizing the saturn's unique ability to infinitely display floor and sky textures, this game couldn't have been done anywhere else. Also it rules.
  • - panzer dragoon saga. amazing exercise in taking an action game and moving it to a new genre (RPG) without comprimizing anything or making you confused. also, the music.
  • - dynamite deka. punch a dude as you run down a corridor.
  • - radiant silvergun. another hot visual experience and the tip of the spear as far as treasure's relationship with complex scoring systems.
  • - magic knight rayearth. the last US saturn game was an early game in japan - I didn't like it much back in the day, but it's a low friction high engagement game with fantastic music, a great vibe, and it was directed by rieko kodama.
  • - virtua cop 1+2. Read [Kimimi's review](https://kimimithegameeatingshemonster.wordpress.com/2020/09/10/non-stop-3dcg-gun-shooting/).
  • - sega rally. an excellent racing game where your position in the race continues into the next course. this also is the game that got mizuguchi to say he'd never work on the saturn again (lol)
  • **IN BETWEEN**

  • - galactic attack. great shooting game with a panzer dragoon-style lock on, but in 2D, with tons of great stage interaction.
  • - bulk slash. people are sort of starting to know this one now. it's a hudson-published mech game with a sprite-based main character and absolutely stellar 3D background. just a super solid vibe all round.
  • - asuka 120% limit over. my favorite 2D fighting game, the end.
  • - wolf fang. an odd arcade game where your powerups are represented by little dudes hanging on to your giant mech body. that detail is great.
  • - silhouette mirage. I always liked treasure's platform action games the most. Silhouette Mirage also starts the dual/flipped weapon style of ikaruga in a way. there's a version on PS1 that has a lot of stuff removed.
  • - toshinden ura. interesting in that it's not a port of toshinden 2 - it's a sequel to the remake of toshinden 1, making it a unique branch on the saturn.
  • - hyper duel. great arcade port AND remix version of the same game. Different enough that it's like playing the original and a 1.5 sequel.
  • - soukyuugurentai. great visuals, ideas, and music in this STG.
  • - cleopatra fortune. [check persona's thread](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/152-ive-become-a-giant-cleopatra-fortune-fan) but this is the best home version of the game.
  • - Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru. while known primarily for being expensive, this game is directed by a Treasure alum and features an interesting dual attack - your melee and magic attacks are controlled separately. It also does great stuff with 3D where it exaggerates the perspective to make things feel bigger and bolder though it's actually 2.5D.
  • - powerslave. original saturn FPS (or at least released there first) from the folks who would go on to do the amazing quake port.
  • - batman forever. arcade port that's so over the top with sights and sounds it's ridiculous. it's like a beat-em up inside a slot machine.
  • - dark savior. a game that encourages you to try, fail, and play again, with branching stories that can wind up absolutely completely different. Someone wrote something good about this recently, if anyone remembers, please link it.
  • - legend of oasis. Yuzo Koshiro's ancient studio made this sequel to beyond oasis right after the original. It's probably a worse game by virtue of its lack of a map, but I love the game. the music is mostly ambient, letting the sound design take center stage, which gives it an unsettling vibe.
  • - metal black. it's a shooter - the intro->first stage sequence rules so hard that I sometimes just think about it.
  • - steam gear smash. a 3/4 view linear megaman-like almost!?
  • - terra fantastica. under-discussed RPG with almost suikoden-like battle visuals and a unique troops/orientation approach.
  • - stellar assault. late-in-life saturn sequel to a late-in-life 32X game with awesome stuff like particle effects and high res textures. graphically amazing.
  • **UNDER THE RADAR**

  • - quovadis 2. [read kimimi's review](https://kimimithegameeatingshemonster.wordpress.com/2019/02/07/quovadis-2-wakusei-kyoushuu-ovan-rei/), but it's a great RTS-lite strategy game with techniques that still haven't been used elsewhere.
  • - black matrix. this game had a huge influence on me with its 2D backgrounds that look 3D, its absolutely unique (for the time) music that blended rock, jazz, dj scratches, and other stuff into this hodgepodge that was [super ahead of its time](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI7J-5ID1Tk).
  • - vatlva. moto roader MC style top-down car battler with odd music by motohiro kawashima.
  • - tactical fighter. one of my favorite raising sims, it really hits all the right notes as far as raising sims go.
  • - cyber doll. absolutely tops. a body horror cyberpunk game where you gain levels by defeating stronger enemies and taking their spines and putting them in your body. you start the game at the end, losing your memory as your body degrades because of an aids-like disease that affects cyborgs, then relive how you got there.
  • - dragon master silk. a very smooth 3D dungeon crawler where an orb comes down from the heavens to find a young man to be the chosen one, and finds a lady in an onsen and is like "you must the the chosen man" and she's like "I'm a lady" and it says "no, I chose you so that means you're a man." it's very dumb but fun to play.
  • - aquazone. an aquarium simulator with light jazz that's basically a build your own vaporwave experience.
  • - marika. HUGE AVATAR SPRITES is what I have to say about this game.
  • **JUST INTERESTING**

  • - elan doree. a 3D fighting game conversion of an ST-V game, fighting in the air before psychic force. The system actually kind of works?
  • - can can bunny premiere. full disclosure, this is a hentai game. but it's interesting because it's easy to read for a foreigner, and when you get a lady into a sexytimes scenario you have to choose which erogenous zones to target in which way in which order in order to get the lady off, and also to help her achieve her dream!? and then she inevitably moves away and sends you a letter saying "that was a great night thanks" but there's never any indication you get your own proverbial rocks off. it's interesting.
  • - dezaemon 2. a shooting game maker that also has several shooters packed in. odd!
  • - dragonforce. neat large-scale battles and great mechanics but also way too long and difficult.
  • - eve the lost one. people like this series, but also it has this bizarrely excellent video codec you can [learn about here](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev7x8MwLq2A&t=357s).
  • - ninpen manmaru. if they made a full game out of the 3D world from sonic jam, and made it slow, it'd be this.
  • - gameware series. this is a bunch of shovelware ad-supported nonsense. minigames and advertisements. it's only interesting because the ads are all 90s nonsense, you see previews for other sega games, and occasionally there's an interesting mini-game like a tennis-ish thing starring the Bic Pens mascot.
  • - touge 2. decent racing game held back by the saturn hardware BUT has this awesome extra where players of the first game were asked to send in photos of themselves and their cars. it's just a slideshow of 90s cars and fashion, so beat that.
  • - g-vector. a sci-fi panzer dragoon-like that is not that good but is interesting because of the first part of the sentence.
  • - nekketsu oyako. just as good on other platforms but a neat beat-em-up where the stage transitions are like - you're standing on a dock, then a whale bashes through it and swallows you, so the next stage is fighting inside a whale.
  • - princess crown. the origins of vanillaware. not that fun? but neat to see what the saturn can do with a vanillaware-ish game.
  • - pup breeder. the first fully 3D RTS as far as I can tell, and it's on the saturn. not that fun though.
  • - savaki. also not that fun, but a 3D fighter that uses realtime lighting, the only one on the saturn!?
  • - shining force III. too tough for me, but you can raise a chicken <3
  • - silhouette mirage demo. it's a demo of silhouette mirage that changes the order of events, which is interesting if you're way too into silhouette mirage like me.
  • - tilk. a tactics RPG starring kids, with great visuals, decent music, a fine battle system, and sadly INCREDIBLY LONG and frequent load times. If they'd solved that it might be a classic now, sadly.
  • - wachenroder. steam punk weirdo tactics RPG with big names behind it that I could never get into. Handily there's [a thread about it](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/128-wachenroder-on-the-saturn).
  • - willy wombat. 2D sprites, 3D background hudson furry mascot game. a real oddity with some production values behind it that got totally ignored forever.
  • - final fight revenge. the only 3D game to make use of the 4mb ram cart! but not that good.
  • - virus. bizarre hybrid mix of real 3D, anime, and CG.
  • - zork one. [fantastic music](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZQJCy7zJjQ) from motohiro kawashima and does a neat thing where you choose a word from a sentence and assign an action to it, like choose "door" and then select "enter" from a drop-down.
  • - the unsolved. FMV game with video sequences directed by brian yuzna of reanimator fame for some reason. it was exclusive to the saturn for a while.
  • - last gladiators. pinball with bizarrely excellent hair metal music.
  • - f1 challenge. f1 game with AMAZING rock/fusion music.
  • - battle monsters. crap fighting game combo of CG and digital actors that absolutely rules even if it's no fun.
  • - amok. voxels!!!!!!!
  • well the end

    I will add that you absolutely should not buy a real copy of it, but Deli Soba Deluxe is one of the most fun 5 minute long games I have ever played

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBVAHtfGubs&ab_channel=SaturnMemories

    My only real two cents here is that no one should sleep on how good Capcom's Japanese Saturn library was, especially their CPS2 ports using the RAM cart. Importing X-Men vs. Street Fighter is what sold me on picking up a Saturn, after I begrudgingly refused to support the system (long story short, I had a 32X and felt betrayed by SEGA … but I am such a huge Capcom/FGC person, that X-Men vs. Street Fighter broke my “protest”).

    X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Vampire Saviour, Street Fighter Alpha 3 ... all used the RAM cart and all were so, SO close to the CPS2 experience (for the time).

    Wow, thank you so much, @chazumaru and @exodus. Thanks to you and everyone else who's responded in this thread, I will be occupied with Saturn deep-diving for at least the next few months.

    We've started delving into what has always made the Saturn such a compelling and mysterious console for me. Whereas the Genesis, SNES, PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were all well-known quantities for me growing up, the Saturn existed somewhere in between all of them, delivering _something_ all its own, but from an outsider 12-year-old's perspective, it was never exactly clear what that _something_ was. It was vaguely intimidating for me, at that age, and so remained that way for decades.

    Since purchasing my Saturn, I've sort of been reflecting on the fact that this new console (in my life) provides me with far more excitement than either of the actual new consoles (PS5 and Xbox whatever) that the industry is trying to get me interested in. At first, I chalked it up solely to nostalgia, but you've helped me figure out that there's more at play: hardware in the 16 and 32 bit eras genuinely did have distinct personality. Because development for each machine was so different, and there were such limitations in place on what could be accomplished, each console really did have its own flavour, or personality. People who've been around long enough to remember when this was the case seem desperate to apply that sense of personality to the new consoles, but Sony and Microsoft are really both just bringing affordable PCs to people who don't want to buy an actual PC, for whatever reason. There's very little to distinguish those two machines from each other, and if the Switch didn't have portability, it would also feel basically the same, except less powerful and with a hilariously hard-to-navigate eShop.

    Plugging in my Saturn for the first time and watching its logo materialize out of what appeared to be broken glass, I knew I was in for a defined aesthetic. I like what Sega printed on the console's box, in 1994, for Japanese consumers: "SEGASATURN represents a leap into the new age of entertainment. Its launch is a new step for SEGA, too. Let's go forward together." Sure, that's just catch copy, but with 26 years of distance between it and now, we've got a crystalized understanding of what that new step ultimately became for Sega, and it sure is cool to be able to pull the lid off of four years' worth of hard-won game design victories (and compromises) and see what it looks and feels like.

    In 2020, digging into a library this old, with this distinct a flavour, feels like discovering a band you never knew existed, or even a whole new genre of music. That's not something anyone will be able to say in the year 2040, if they were to purchase a vintage PlayStation 4 and dig into its back catalogue.

    As a game liker, I can't imagine a more exciting proposition than this, is how I feel.

    I gotta say, as someone who hasn't really started digging the Saturn catalog past the most popular games due to feeling super overwhelmed and not really knowing where to start this thread is a tremendous resource. Sincere thanks to everyone participating!

    Most of anything remotely interesting I have to say @exodus has already covered (mostly things about Silhouette Mirage, one of my favourite games, ever, but also because Battle Monsters does in fact rule somehow by being terrible in a lot of ways), but I do have a few tiny additions:

    All of these games are exclusively in the 'probably don't bother unless you're made of money or are playing with ISOs and have run out of other things to try'.

  • - Rabbit: A fighting game exclusive to arcade and Saturn where your character fights with a Stand-like spirit. It's a lot of fun, but more of a curiosity.
  • - **Fighters Megamix**: It's been mentioned before, but I'll suggest it because it belongs to a generation of games where it feels beautifully unpolished for what should be a flagship game from Sega. It's also a lot of fun to play!
  • - **Groove On Fight**: like all the games in the Gouketsuji Ichizoku series, the UI design is outstanding. Again, not the greatest fighting game, but aside from an arcade version, the Saturn is the only place you can find it.
  • - **Suiko Enbu Fuunsaiki**: even though the original got a US release as Dark Legend, the pseudo-sequel is I think Japan exclusive and includes a few characters from Fighters History.
  • - **Street Fighter the Movie the Game**: incredibly stupid fun, but I clearly have bad judgement in addition to a weird fixation on digitized mo-cap games for the Saturn.
  • Edit: Oh wow, hadn't intended for all these to be fighting games, but they are!

    Edit 2: I'm taking a risk that my Saturn fan credentials will get revoked for saying it, but I also like the inferior yet expanded Saturn version of Akumajou Dracula X: Gekka no Yasokyoku (AKA Castlevania Symphony of the Night), mostly for anthropological reasons. Like my suggestions above, I can't recommend you buy it, but you might just consider playing an ISO or watching a longplay.

    if you have any musical inclination at all, Techno Motor is inexpensive and very fun to mess around with:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUg3G2aIOFA

    oh I meant to say @chazumaru good call on chaos seed in the SFC successor area!

    @Neko#6782 that looks rad.

    @exodus#6785 Great game, and a great guide has appeared during the last decade; I certainly wish I had it back then! It’s for the SFC version but the basics apply just as well to the Saturn remake. I also looked into and picked up the original guidebooks released for both versions a couple of years ago.

    Here is a live play session of the Saturn version with some members of the original dev team.

    https://youtu.be/ItNAQbq6B6Y

    This game would have been perfect on the DS! Portable dungeon-making with the info divided on two screens. Too bad nobody got around to making it. I am not entirely sure who has the rights to Neverland’s catalogue nowadays.

    yeah, as I was testing it out myself I thought it'd be great for DS!! I wish that form factor were still viable.

    [[4],[4,24]]

    Man. You know what made me realize the Saturn has been the last console I had yet to pick up and play?

    Because I did something I hadn‘t done since I was a teenager.

    I read the lists on Racketboy. You know what I’m talking about? For every console, racketboy has lists of the rarest and most expensive games in every region, as well as lists of the “obscure ” hidden gems" and “obvious choices”. I love these, I cut my retro gamer teeth on them back in the day when I would google for “obscure _console namegames”. It‘s been a very long time. Maybe I should go browse the HG101 Saturn list while I’m at it. :j

    I hope Legend of Oasis is good. It could be the Alundra of the Saturn….

    I‘d been waiting years to finally play Elevator Action Returns and I wasn’t disappointed.

    Princess Crown‘s pixel art graphics are in another class than anything Vanillaware made after. It’s the only 240p game they made.

    Also Odin sphere straight ripped the opening menu with the girl and the kitty and the book from PC! I can imagine O sphere improved a lot… but the fact PC even has the cool inventory menu from Odin Sphere is pretty remarkable for a game of this vintage. Such well executed, stylish choices. These are some of the best 2d games I‘ve ever played! Everything is animated smoothly. Elevator Action‘s seamless scene & stage transitions are so cool. I was a fan of the original famicom game somewhat ironically… It is amazing how "90’s cool" they managed to make Elevator Action, a game that always had a somewhat lame appearance before.

    Saturn did so much good 2D stuff right that we could make lists all day even on a forum like this and we‘d still be overlooking something. I really must second @exodus Astal mention since you’re playing on a CRT.

    No one has mentioned how good winter heat is yet, either.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSXCWb4Ypgc