What with the release of NiGHTS into Dreams on PSN and XBLA, we were wondering: “What other Saturn games would be great on modern digital platforms?”
Now it’s actually a tougher question to answer than one might think. If I had it my way, about 80 to 90 percent of Saturn games would be updated and re-released on modern systems and my first thoughts for this list were games like Shining Force III, Dark Savior and Enemy Zero. But really, what games would actually work on platforms such as XBLA and PSN?
Generally, the digital platforms tend to have smaller, shorter titles – games that can be played over and over but completed in a shorter space of time than disc-based titles. Just like NiGHTS into Dreams, it’s possible to finish the game (from level one to the final boss) in a weekend. But games like NiGHTS have just so much more to them, so many hidden pieces, different aspects to them that keep you playing for months, even years after that first weekend.
So with that in mind, here’s a list of five games I want to see on digital platforms:
SEGA Rally Championship:
I know that SEGA has released other SEGA Rally titles on XBLA and PSN, such as SEGA Rally Online Arcade. But, in my opinion at least, the original SEGA Rally is still the best in the franchise. No gimmicks or fancy features – just pure racing brilliance. [Note: It appears that SEGA Rally Online Arcade is no longer available to download on XBLA – the game still shows up, but no download option; very upsetting.]
SEGA Rally was one of the first racing games to feature real vehicle licenses, with realistic car designs and was as close to a real driving experience as possible at the time. The realism came from being the first driving game to feature different driving surfaces (such as asphalt, sand and mud), to which the cars’ handling abilities changed accordingly.
Sure it only had four tracks (three main and one unlockable) and three cars (two main, one unlockable), but it’s still one of the most enjoyable, pure racing games of its kind. It’s easy to pick up and play, but much harder to master and complete. When set to one lap races the game can, theoretically, be completed in about 10 minutes – but to this date it’s still one of the best 10 minutes of gaming ever. And the game is just so well made, that it is still genuinely enjoyable to play today.
It’s not such a stretch to see SEGA Rally Championship coming to modern digital platforms. Back in the day, SEGA even released SEGA Rally Championship Plus: NetLink Edition – which featured online gameplay and leaderboards, something that is now expected of games these days.
Steep Slope Sliders:
I’m a pretty big snowboarding fan, and to this date, I can’t think of many snowboarding games I have enjoyed more than Steep Slope Sliders. It’s a racing game, but you don’t race against other players or even AI characters. No, you race against the clock and pull of some absolutely sweet tricks along the way.
The game had so much to it as well: plenty of extra characters and new tracks to unlock and even a really fun, secret, retro mini game. But to top it all off, it had an absolutely brilliant soundtrack.
And that’s not all. One of the really fun extra features to Steep Slope Sliders was the video editing feature. After every race, you could save your performance and then go back and edit the replay. You were able to change the music, colour filters, different effects and even change the camera angles. It was really fun and very well done. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of technology at the time, you couldn’t really do anything with your awesome video edits, other than save them and show your mates when they came round.
But just imagine the game with modern online capabilities! I wouldn’t want online multiplayer racing, however, as I feel that would ruin the spirit of the game. But online leaderboards and the ability to share and upload your video edits? Now that would be a great thing to have.
Now I know that Bomberman Online*** has been released for XBLA (and PSN?), but, to this day, I would argue, (as I’m sure many other will too) that the best Bomberman game ever made is still Saturn Bomberman.
Not only did this game have an excellent single-player and co-op story mode, with fun boss battles, interesting level designs and worlds to plant bombs in – but it also had the best multiplayer mode I think I’ve ever played on a pre-Internet game. The game featured different bomb types to play with and even dragons for your bomberman to ride around on in the single-player mode.
It wasn’t the standard, two-player affair (two controller slots only in those days, remember?), it wasn’t even a four-player or six-player game. No, this was a 10 simultaneous player title – with the addition of two controller multi-taps attached to the Saturn. If you didn’t have 10 friends to play with, the game would insert AI-controlled characters – with varying difficulties, which meant the 10-player deathmatch could still be enjoyed with only a couple of mates.
An additional feature in the deathmatch was when a player dies, they would appear on the side of the arena with a gun turret. Allowing them to fire additional bombs onto the screen (keeping them in the game) – to potentially speed up the demise of the remaining players and make it more frantic and fun.
To cap it off, if the game went on too long, blocks would start to fall on the arena, making the battle ground smaller and smaller, until a player kills the other or a block crushes someone and finishes the job. It was epic fun.
Bring that to modern consoles, not much need for an update – just online multiplayer to allow for the 10-player battles (unfortunately, no multi-taps to plug controllers in these days for epic local play) – coupled with the immensely fun story mode, and I think gamers will absolutely love it.
Panzer Dragoon franchise:
Panzer Dragoon is still one of the greatest and under-appreciated gaming franchises of all time, in my opinion. Sure the original Panzer Dragoon, while a solid enough title, perhaps wasn’t the best ever, but Panzer Dragoon Zwei (that’s ‘two’ if you didn’t know) really stepped up the game and became one of the best games ever made.
Both titles are on-rail arcade shooters in a similar vein to Star Wing and Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars. Though, rather than flying space ships, you ride on the back of an awesome plasma-shooting dragon. And instead of just facing forward and fighting enemies approaching you from the front, you had the ability to rotate the camera 360 degrees around your dragon, facing enemies from all directions.
The beauty of the franchise is the world and atmosphere that has been created; it’s pretty much unlike anything else around and hard to explain fully, unless you’ve played the game. The art-style, the brilliant soundtrack and just excellent gameplay made the games what they are.
Games like Panzer Dragoon and Dragoon Zwei, would be great on XBLA and PSN. They are short enough to be suitable for the digital services but have more than enough replayability – especially Zwei, with its multiple paths through the game.
Now there is one other Panzer Dragoon game on the Saturn, Panzer Dragoon Saga. It is, to this day, the best game I have ever played. And while I think it would be amazing to see Panzer Dragoon Saga on XBLA and PSN, it doesn’t really fall into the criteria I set out because it’s a full blown RPG, which was spread over four epic discs on the Saturn.
Still, if somehow SEGA could bring all of the Saturn Panzer Dragoon titles (Saga included) to XBLA and PSN – that would be truly amazing.
~Note: In Panzer Dragoon Zwei (above) the first level (and a half) is on foot – before your dragon learns to fly~
Another SEGA classic from a golden age of gaming – when developers had the balls to actually make games with new, exciting ideas and Sonic Team wasn’t forced to make nothing but Sonic the Hedgehog games – so they came up with Burning Rangers.
Burning Rangers is essentially a futuristic firefighter game. You play as one of two new recruits to the Burning Rangers and are sent into various levels – building which are on fire, to save as many people as possible, put out the fires and find out what’s happened.
That sounds a bit weird and possibly a bit rubbish, but, trust me, it’s really fun and one of the most unique games ever made. Burning Rangers is in fact a 3D action platformer. You are a firefighter, and you use a futuristic crystal-powered gun to quell the fires’ energy and save people. But the levels are all brilliantly made with enemies to fight, hidden areas and a surprisingly good storyline, which links all of the missions together.
The levels were never a simple case of ‘find all the survivors’, or ‘get from point A to point B’ – you had to get from the start of the level to the end, finding as many survivors as possible AND try to keep the fires under control.
You see, you could make your way through a level, ignoring the burning flames everywhere, but once the flame percentage became too high, the whole level would become unstable with fires and explosions breaking out all around you. It was still possible to bring the fires under control, or escape, but it really made the game much more intense.
And another pretty unique feature (especially at the time) was the voice navigation system. The levels were pretty vast and maze-like, but rather than leave you to fend for yourself, SEGA was kind enough to give you voice guidance. From any position in a level, you could request help and your leader would tell you which direction to head, to make your way through the level. That doesn’t sound impressive by today’s standards, but it was unheard of back then. In fact, I really can’t think of a game today that you request guidance and a voice tells you the direction to take on cue (let me know if you can, though).
Also, I mentioned you have two main playable characters. The overall storyline was the same, but the way the levels played out and some of the survivors you found differed between the two characters, which really added to the overall experience. The story development itself is quite subtle, most of the key plot moments and hints are told through the communications between your team as you progress through the level. It’s something else I loved about the game, you weren’t forced into endless cutscenes or boring conversations, most of it happened while you were involved in the action.
Again, Burning Rangers is another game that you really need to play to fully appreciate it, and just like the other games on this list, it is wholly possible to complete it over a weekend – yet you will spend months finding all the hidden survivors and extras in the game. It took me a good year to even realise you could unlock new characters.
By the way, did I mention you are futuristic firefighters … with jet packs?
The only other question is: “Just how likely is it that these games will ever make it onto XBLA and PSN?”
Well, if a recent Tweet by Yosuke Okunari, the gentleman responsible for bringing the latest Dreamcast and Saturn titles to digital platforms, is anything to go by, then there is a chance that games like Burning Rangers will appear. In response to a direct Tweet about bringing Burning Rangers to current platforms, Okunari-san wrote:
@personasama If the sales results of NiGHTS are good, I may also be able to propose development of BR to SEGA.
— Yosuke Okunari /奥成洋輔 (@okunari) October 3, 2012
So there you go. If you want to see more awesome Saturn titles coming to a digital platform near you, then get on there and buy NiGHTS into Dreams. Now!
Though, unfortunately, as Saturn Bomberman and Steep Slope Sliders aren’t made by SEGA, there’s a high chance that they probably won’t ever make it … but we can dream.
Now there are plenty more brilliant games on the system, many of which will make great digital titles. So, what Saturn games would you like to see go downloadable?