Old School: Sega Saturn

SONY DSCWho remembers the Sega Saturn? I’m sure most of you do but I’m also willing to bet that none of you have played one. Released in the summer of 1995, the Sega Saturn had three processors, making it difficult to program for, tacked on 3D functionality as it was originally intended to be a super powerful 2D console, a $400 dollar price tag which was much more than consoles normally cost, low retailer support due to an early launch that excluded some big chains such as Wal-Mart and KB Toys, and a lackluster game lineup due to many of the games designed for the Saturn to be Japan exclusives. However, despite all that, the Sega Saturn has great games, especially for the hardcore crowd, and is a great collector’s item.

I recall going to my cousin’s cousin’s house (that’s not a typo) and seeing a big black box under his 50 odd inch TV. My cousin told me it was a new system that had come out. I never got to play it but I remember watching them play a game where you were riding a dragon and shooting things. I now know this game to be Panzer Dragoon and the system was the Sega Saturn. During that generation of consoles, I had both a PlayStation and a Nintendo 64 (I had it off and on but that’s another discussion). I never had a Sega Saturn and I didn’t hear too much about it. Eventually, I started to become curious. I finally got one at a yard sale or a swamp meet or something around 1999. I remember thinking that it had one of the most comfortable controllers I’d ever played with.

I remember playing Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop (with the orange Stunner light gun), the best version of Earthworm Jim 2 I’d ever played, the most arcade perfect version of Mortal Kombat II I’d ever seen on a console, and Clockwork Knight, which might be my favorite Saturn exclusive. I also remember weird games I had gotten like Mr. Bones, D, Dark Savior, Fighters Megamix, and Street Fighter: The Movie. These games were quirky but I remember thinking “only on a Sega.” I also recall really enjoying the music in the game. Although I had liked music in games previously, everything just sounded incredible. I used to disconnect my system from my room’s TV and plug it into the living room TV when my mother was gone at work or shopping and play my games on the big TV (which at that time was 36 inches) and hear the music and sound effects through the stereo system we had. I enjoyed the music so much that I would turn off all the lights when it was dark and listen to the game soundtrack through the system’s interface, which was the cockpit of a spaceship. I also liked to hear my mother’s CDs through this. There’s nothing like listening to Zeppelin and watching a pixelated star field in the darkness of space while another spaceship flies by you doing barrel rolls and shifting into hyperspace. I don’t remember why I sold the console and the games but I always felt like there was so much more that I didn’t know about that console. I was right as when I got another one around 2004, it came with a different controller than I had before.

This time I was able to play some more well known games for the Saturn as well as some great 2-D fighters. I had Daytona USA, Virtua Fighter Remix, Sega Rally Championship, Street Fighter Alpha, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and Gex. I also had Fighting Vipers, which made Fighters Megamix make more sense. I also regained some of the games I had before but not all of them (Earthworm Jim 2 for the Saturn remains a lost gem for me that I can’t find anywhere). I was also able to play Clockwork Knight 2, which is a superior game. I obtained my Saturn as part of my goal to get an awesome collection of systems which at its height included a N64, Dreamcast, Gamecube, PS2, Xbox and Game Boy Advance.

Eventually, I had to sell my collection when money started to get tight and I wanted to help out in some way. However, I bought a third Saturn only a few years later in 2007 and one of the controllers that came in the bundle was this round shaped thing with a circular directional pad, sort of like a analog stick and it apparently worked with a game that came with it called Nights into Dreams. The Sega Saturn was released when I was about eight years of age and by the time I had obtained a copy of this game, I had already graduated from high school and was in college and this game was now about a decade old from a system that was a dozen years old. When I finally played this game, I felt dozen years younger. Playing as this purple jester looking character name NiGHTS, flying through this colorful, Disney inspired utopia brought a fantasy world for little kids to life and I was astonished by the world the developers at Sonic Team made. Thinking about that game still makes me giddy with excitement. Clockwork Knight also has that effect on me, as well as its sequel.

I no longer own a Saturn or many consoles for that matter. That can be attributed to our financial fallout after the economic recession that started in 2008. I still feel that there are many games that I haven’t tried and I still haven’t really seen what the console had to offer in terms of unique gameplay experiences and rarely seen game design choices. There are emulators out there in order to play these games but many of them don’t work at all and some don’t play all the games well or correctly. For the true experience, I will need to get the real deal, the original. To this day, I look at this console as something that seems unattainable. It was not successful because we weren’t good enough for it. Like the royal family in Great Britain, it was King in a democratic country. High atop its pedestal, too far away for us to really understand it, developers and consumers alike. The unceasingly cryptic, perpetually enigmatic, eternally mysterious Sega Saturn. Long Live The King.

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