The Sega Saturn is, without a doubt, undeniably, irrefutably, no questions asked, the most underrated video game home console of all time. I’m making that the strongest statement I can possibly make because the system is so forgotten, unappreciated, unnoticed, and unloved to the general gaming public. If you own a Sega Saturn upon release and still kept it since the day you got it, I salute to you that you’re more of a hardcore gamer than any player who has the best scoreboard in any popular game today. A lot of people today overlooks the Saturn because they have no legit Sonic title (I hate modern Sega fans for only liking Sonic), a lot of games that were released in Japan were not released elsewhere, and they were so hard to get over the years. I don’t blame anyone for the Sega Saturn’s failure due to the fact that Sega was so out of control and out of reach with their business during this system’s lifespan. Since day one on the console’s announcement, consumers and developers were furious with he Saturn’s early announcement when it was supposed to be announce in E3 1995. It also didn’t help that all the downfall and useless hardwares from the Sega Genesis didn’t help the Saturn to be a great follow up. It also didn’t help that many of the best Japanese exclusives for the system didn’t make it out of the East because idiots from Sega of America like Bernie Stoler says “RPG’s won’t work in the U.S.” which is kinda funny when Final Fantasy VII became the best selling Playstation title ever. Close to the systems final years, the only thing that was seen in our local stores were Nintendo 64’s and Sony Playstation games. I remember that I only saw the Saturn once in my local store and I regret not asking my folks to get it because I thought at the time that the graphics were so realistic that it was scary, and boy did I miss out. If you were one of those Sega Saturn owners who still kept the system during its downfall, you indeed had a hard time finding a store that even sold these Saturn games, probably go to another state to track an exclusive down. Though the Sega Saturn was really successful in Japan, it was difficult to manage oversees. So why are there some that still holds a special place with the Saturn. There was no other console like it in the 90s. The system featured an option for memory expansion, an amazing soon system that is high quality, complex graphics hardware (which was often difficult to work with), there was a slot behind the CD tray where a storage card could be placed to save high scores, save files, and other data that is important to disc-based games. But what makes the Sega Saturn worth a damn is that it has titles that are so unique and unlike any other that a system can have. It’s really no wonder why only the most hardcore gamers understands the beauty and magic of the Saturn and this is a list of games that proves it all. Many Sega Saturn games to this day still never had been ported to another system or become available for Xbox Live, Playstation Store, Wii Virtual Console, Steam, or any other online game store. Some of these games have been, and always will be, Sega Saturn exclusives; they are so good that they demonstrated that even though a console has failed in a market, it still is capable of offering some of the best games on any system.
Number 10. – Burning Rangers
Burning Rangers is similar to many other 90s 3D action/adventure platformers like Tomb Raider, but only more explosive, more exciting, twice the action, and all the more fun than any breed of its kind. Burning Rangers is the last game by Sonic Team on the SEGA Saturn, and just like Ristar on the Genesis/Mega Drive it really does push the console to it’s limits, though in this case sometimes causing slowdown. Burning Rangers is very short and one of Sonic Team’s weakest releases of the 1990′s, but the music and replay value will leave a lot of people satisfied. Not to mention that the music and the game’s theme is so damn catchy that you can’t deny its appeal. While Burning Rangers has never gotten a true sequel, many Sonic Team games such as Samba De Amigo Ver. 2000 and Sonic Pinball Party have featured music from the title. Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe even had whole downloadable missions based on the game, including some of the characters and the theme song. Yeah, the games short length is what makes it low on the list, but it has really high replay value that makes it quite an experience. Though we never had a proper Sonic title on the Saturn, at least we got a 3D platformer that made it on a system, making sure that the Saturn is one of those consoles that has a game for everyone, in every genre.
Number 9. – Virtua Fighter II
Though Virtua Fighter is historical for being the first fighting game in 3D polygons, it suffered and aged terribly for it’s floaty physics, dismantled polygonal graphics, and design flaws. Because the sequel fixed everything, it’s a no brainer why the Virtua Fighter 2 is so damn good. There was no looking back to the original when the successor was released on the arcades and the Saturn. It features a total of eleven characters, and the incredibly high resolution of 708×480. The graphics are so amazingly far from the original Virtua Fighter that you’d think you were playing it on a different system.It even surpasses the almighty Tohshinden for the Playstation in overall graphics and animation. The amount of options is even outstanding, with five modes of play and the option to play version 2.0 or even the new 2.1 that has just been released in Japanese arcades. Also, after you beat the game, you are treated to a batch of other treats: ring size, stage select, etc. If that’s not enough, there are also remakes of Virtua Fighter 2 at the point of reference for Virtua Fighter Kids, Virtua Fighter Animation and Fighters Megamix. There was no other Sega console that could even hold up to the technical power of Virtua Fighter 2 and because the fighting mechanics and focus on real martial arts is so much fun is why we bothered getting the Sega Saturn in the first place & it was so worth it!
Number 8. – Shining Force III
You should all know that I brutally love the Shining Force series with a mighty passion, that I called the first two games the best game on the Sega Genesis. I would SO love to put Shining Force III as my favorite Sega Saturn because it captures the awesomeness of its predecessors. But unfortunately, for us Americans we only had the first part of Shining Force III and the rest of the game never came out of Japan (along with all the the sequels after the third game). It’s one of those boneheaded moves that Sega of America keeps messing up and we’re never experience the greatness of Shining Force III at its fullest. What really impressed me, though, was the in-game graphics, with 3D polygonal environments that were more detailed than the 2D environments of the first two games. The textures are very detailed, both on buildings and the ground, and there are various other noticeable things such as trees, flowing fountains, light reflections off of floors, all impressive for the Saturn hardware. The infamous Shining Force battle cutscenes have really improved from the first two games. Whereas they used to feature 2D sprites bouncing back and forth, they now have evolved into fully rotating, light-source shaded, polygonal characters hacking and slashing at each other. Spells have been improved considerably in terms of graphics and in number, some being extremely impressive, pulling off effects that were supposedly not possible on the Saturn. The core gameplay remains the same as ever from the originals but with the Saturn’s technology we’re able to see dynamic angles and visuals that we’ve never seen from the series. Though we also have to suffer poor voice acting, plot holes in the story, and even the incompletion of the U.S. release, I still find myself in love with this title.
Number 7. – Die Hard Arcade
Not once did I find this 3D beat’em up to be at all boring; it was totally action packed and unbelievably insane, shall we say. The sad thing is that never was the 3D beat’em up genre ever again been this good. It combines elements of both punch-and-kick style games and straight shooting games. If Die Hard Arcade can be compared to anything, it would probably be viewed as a souped-up Final Fight. The action keeps you interested and the fighting is tough, but not so tough that it gets frustrating. The vast array of weapons available for you are use by characters in this game are great. Players can pick up guns, mace, trash cans, brooms, axes, and missile launchers. There’s almost always an opportunity to hurt the enemy with something other than your hands or feet and that’s the fun of it all. And best yet, between fights, you have quick-time events where John McClain uses a deadly blow on his opponent. Even though similarities between the game and the Die Hard movie trilogy are few and far between, I’d say this there are very little 3D beat’em ups out there that could even be more exciting than this.
Number 6. – Nights into Dreams
Magical! Purely magical! This is one of the many reasons why I really miss Sega being so good in making great games because their sense of wonder couldn’t be compared. It’s really nice to see what else could Sonic Team do out side of the franchise because Sega needs more recognizable titles. As for what it did for the Sega Saturn, I was amazed that this game really pushed the limits of the system that we don’t mind if there isn’t a proper Sonic title in the system’s library. Nights into Dream is so different and revolutionary that it’s still unidentified to what genre it belongs to. I never felt so addicted to go on-rails and collect so many collectables just to get to another level because the very atmosphere is purely wonderful to witness. Every time I play or think of Nights into Dreams, I always feel like a child; little games out there could do the same thing for me. And the sad reality is that no other console even has their version exclusive like Nights, and quite frankly there is no other game like Nights.
Number 5. – Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
If there’s anything to discuss about when it comes to the Sega Saturn’s library, it has to be the Panzer Dragoon series. It’s amazing that the original was a launch title of the system to show what the system is capable of. But for a series to remains strong, it had to have great sequels. In order to make one of the best sequels ever made, you have to take everything from the original, fix all of its flaws, expand everything, and give us more than what we’re expecting. And that’s what Panzer Dragoon II Zwei exactly did. Never have dragon riding ever felt so glorifying because the adventure, magic, and action you can do in this game is so mind-blowing. Targeting and attacking enemies was so damn simple that it started to increase the replay value. Not only that but when you play the game again, chances are it’s going to change the experience a bit where you’ll say to yourself “I don’t remember that” thanks to the alternative paths and decisions that this game takes. Not to mention, that the game rewards the player in remaining alive and destroying so many enemies humanly possible because your Dragon evolves into a better looking dragon, depending on the player performance. No doubt, this is my favorite on-rails shooter game of all time! It’s another reason why I say Panzer Dragoon is Sega’s best video game series ever! Go ahead and play Panzer Dragoon II and see how many more replays you’re going to give this game after your first playthrough.
Number 4. – Dragon Force
Though I am disappointed that I could not put a Shining Force game high on the list, there is another console strategy game on the Saturn that captures my need for fantasy strategy games. Every once in a while a different type of game comes along that requires the attention of all types of players. One that can turn fans of one genre into fans of another. Dragon Force was exactly that kind of game. Even if your not a fan of strategy games, you will want to find more games like it after you play it. And that’s why Dragon Force is so special, it’s one of a kind (unless you can read Japanese there is a sequel, also on the Saturn). Dragonforce is just the most different console strategy game I’ve ever played and demands countless hours of attention, this game alone makes the Sega Saturn worth purchasing. Dragon Force balances role-playing and strategy elements perfectly, intermittently directing the war of the land through storyline segments. It’s also one of those titles that used the anime style that was growing its popularity at this time, and gave us glamorous anime cutscenes. Gamers send forces of up to four generals (who, in turn, command up to 100 troops) out into the world to raid castles or take on roving bands of enemies. The castles themselves contain as many as ten generals and their respective minions. That’s good news for the player – though even better news is that enemy castles aren’t often so heavily fortified. On the battlefield, fights are fought between two generals and their corresponding forces. The troops face off against each other while the generals fling their various spells from opposite sides of the combat zone. The carnage continues until either the enemy general is overwhelmed, or only the two generals are left – in which case a duel decides the melee. Dragon Force balances role-playing and strategy elements perfectly, intermittently directing the war of the land through storyline segments. And the ending is a stunning and climactic spectacle to behold. If you’ve never played it, you owe it too yourself to track down a copy and begin assembling your own army.
Number 3. – Grandia
The one thing that sucks about living in America and owning the Sega Saturn is that we missed out on so many Saturn RPG exclusives, all because Bernie Stoler (president of Sega of America) said “RPG’s won’t work in the U.S.” Newsflash, dipshit! FF7 is the best selling RPG on the PS1! And speaking of Playstation, there are many Sega Saturn games that would later get their port in the Sony Playstation, but the end result is being inferior ports in comparison to the Saturn versions. Grandia is one of those titles. Grandia was immediately hyped by various magazines and gamers as the Saturn’s “Final Fantasy VII – killer,” being ‘bigger, badder, and just more game.’ Interestingly, Game Arts themselves weren’t spreading this hype – they were just out to make the ultimate RPG for the Saturn, and in the end, that is exactly what they achieved. It’s sad to see that Game Arts (creators of Lunar) isn’t as big of a name as they should be because Game Arts and Sega was like Nintendo and Rare; they go hand and hand together making so many unforgettable classics. The most immediate aspect that stands out is the graphical quality of 2D sprites and 3D polygons which makes it a fantastic gaming experience when you’re adventuring, battling enemies, everything. Though the story is light-hearted, and at the end it gets mature, but the best part of the Grandia experience is the engaging battle sequences. It is like Lunar all over again, but much more strategic, great animation sequences, and have a lot dynamics visuals. Every character says something when they attack or cast a spell – bringing a much more energetic and interesting feel to the battles, as opposed to every other RPG out there (including FFVII). And every spell they cast is accompanied by different sayings as well in every aspect of the story! The decision by Sega America to bring “Shining Force III part 1” to the US and not “Grandia” is one that I am sad to see. Game Arts really outdid themselves by giving the Sega fans a very unique and more original RPG in this department.
Number 2. – Guardian Heroes
Initially, Guardian Heroes seems like any other mindless beat ‘um up. However, when you realize that Guardian Heroes is really a fighting game on a much larger scale, the experience is greatly enhanced. To sum up the gameplay of Guardian Heroes, you take your old-school arcade beatemup like Streets of Rage games, combine the fighting moves of Street Fighter 2, and add RPG-elements like leveling up. It’s the perfect example of a hybrid game and oozes Treasure’s trademark creativity. The fighting area in Guardian Heroes is divided into three horizontal plains (similar to old-school Fatal fury games) and it’s used to dodge enemy attacks or to fight in a desired plain. You can combine these basic attacks with the control moves to make special attacks and mix them all up with RPG elements really help add a lot of depth the game and keep it from being repetitious. And to keep it from being just another beat’em up, the AI in Guardian Heroes is much higher than your standard brawler. The computer characters actually play quite well and your opponents will actually put up a good fight. In addition to the standard Story Mode, you also have Versus Mode which allows up to 6 players can join in a large battle. You can fight in teams or have single elimination, choosing 9 stages to fight in. There are many characters to choose from and you can select any character you have beaten in Story Mode in addition to the heroes. The cast can be as high as 45 characters. You also have the option to make the additional characters human or CPU controlled. Up to six humans can participate in these chaotic brawls, but even the CPU characters play skillfully due to the superb AI. You can also alter many parameters before the fights, such as characters’ strength, defense, level, etc, and even select the stage. For those who says that the Nintendo 64 was the only console in the 1990’s that was built for multiplayer fun, couldn’t be anymore wrong until they play Guardian Heroes. Guardian Heroes is a very well-rounded title and adapts various concepts from many successful games to create a phenomenal hybrid gaming experience. Guardian Heroes is one of the best examples of a high-quality game developed by Treasure in addition to being, if not the best Sega Saturn game, then the most fun console exclusive of all time!
Number 1. – Panzer Dragoon Saga
Since we’re all now living in the Nintendo Generation, the only people left that will tell you that this game (and any other Sega Saturn game) is good are the Sega Saturn fans who experienced it. What an achievement it was to turn a franchise that’s known for its on-rails shooting to THE BEST role-playing game of all time. If you really love the first two Panzer Dragoon games, don’t be discouraged that this is a different experience because this installment kept the many familiar aspects from the first two games to make it a worthy sequel; from the enemies, selecting what you want to interact, Dragon’s attack, etc. The one main reason why this classic is number 1 for me because you have to remember that in 1997 we were all blown away by Final Fantasy 7, but when we got a chance to see Panzer Dragoon Saga it blew us away even more for having MUCH better graphics (actual transparency in this era), voice-acting throughout, everything to be in full 3D, much better soundtrack, and even free roam in the game’s world that in every way imaginable succeeds over FF7. The one thing I really dislike about console role-playing games (outside that they’re not as fun as table top RPG’s) is that when you’re in battle, characters stand around just taking turns on hitting each other or wait to get hit, which is stupid on to itself. But Panzer Dragoon Saga managed to make turn-based combat to look somewhat plausible by having the dragon you’re riding on and the enemies to battle up in the air. Unlike any RPG out there, you can maneuver around the enemy to its left, right, ahead, or behind them so that you can shoot them at their weak spot or mistakenly get hit at their most crucial area. This combat mechanic creates some of the most dynamic visuals and engaging battle sequences ever implemented in a game and no other RPG came even close to it since. Just like Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei, as your Dragon continues to level up, at certain levels he can evolve into an entirely different dragon. And if you don’t like how your Dragon looks you can either keep leveling up to a different look or you can change its stats to make it look different. That part of the game really beats the likes of Pokemon in their own evolution concept. The journey involves Edge riding his powerful dragon to revenge on his fallen comrades and rescue the mysterious girl from the ruins. The fan favorite, Azel, looked like she was going to be a generic damsel in distress that we need to rescue only to find out later in the game that she is in Crayman’s side and becomes your biggest nemesis. Panzer Dragoon Saga’s plot is so well-told for it has so many twists and complete with emersion that I rarely see in video games anymore. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that this is the most underrated game of all time because it went miles ahead on what most people considers to be the best RPG (like FF7, Pokemon, Dragon Quest, or whatever), no other game feels anywhere like it, and the end of the game succeeds in offering complete satisfactory. It’s such a shame that nobody gives Sega Saturn a chance and as a result there are only 300,000 copies that were published by Sega which means that they are rare and very low number of people have experienced its magic. If you are a hardcore gamer, you owe it to yourself to play this game before you leave planet Earth; you are missing out on one of the best games of all time! Panzer Dragoon Saga took me out of my regular life each time I put the game on, it embraced me and absorbed me into its own world. No other game can ever take its place in my heart.
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