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Roundtable: Our favorite Saturn games

On May 11, SEGA released what would become the ill-fated Saturn console in the United States. Despite the bungled launch and the mismanaged marketing that both preceded and followed, the Saturn still produced some truly amazing titles, many of which remain playable exclusively on Saturn to this day.

To celebrate, our crack journalistical SEGA Nerds team has each picked their  favorite SEGA Saturn games and their reasons for why you’re wrong if you disagree.

The Requiem – Tempest 2000

Roundtable_our_favorite_saturn_games_Tempest_2000_RequiemIs it cheating to claim a favorite game that appeared on other systems? Maybe. But Tempest 2000 is easily my favorite Saturn game, and it remains one of my top three games of all time.

While I prefer the Jaguar version for its slightly better sound balance and faster load times, the Saturn version is still an incredible game. Tempest 2000 is one of my most played games and my easy answer when anyone asks me the question “What’s your ‘desert island’ game?” Blending a classic 3D web shooting mechanic with an updated “meltovision” presentation, Jeff Minter and the folks at Llamasoft nailed what made the original Tempest arcade game fun while giving it a fresh update, one that was truly revolutionary at the time and stylized enough to still stand up today.

Tempest 2000’s influence is still seen in other retro revivals like Space Invaders: Infinity Gene and Pac-Man Championship Edition. Fortunately, the spirit of the series lives on in other shooters like Space Giraffe on Xbox Live and TxK on PlayStation Vita … that is, at least until Atari gets its way and claws TxK off of PSN, those vulturous cretins.

What can’t be ignored, however, is how truly incredible the Tempest 2000 soundtrack is. The techno and trance-inspired tunes get your heart racing and complement the onscreen blasting perfectly. Mega props to the composers: Ian Howe, Alastair Lindsay and Kevin Saville.

Yep. Tempest 2000 is the best Saturn game. Disagree with me and risk being very wrong. Though if I was forced to pick a favorite Saturn-exclusive runner-up? Fine. The House of the Dead. Because zombie guts.

Köpke – Panzer Dragoon 

panzer-dragoonWhen you ask anyone for a “Best SEGA Saturn Games of all time” list a title that will appear on everyone’s response is Panzer Dragoon, an immediate reference on what SEGA and its console were able to do as a genuine marvel powerhouse back in the day.

There was so much in this game that made it unique. Was it the pretty visuals and world inspired by and collaborated by French comic book legend Jean Giraud Moebius (RIP 2012 U_U)? And later adapted by Manabu Kusunoki. Was it the amazing orchestral soundtrack composed by Saori Kobayashi? She really did an outstanding score! Or perhaps should we talk about Yukio Futatsugi‘s innovative game design. I mean flying dragons, the post-apocalyptic setting, the story and the shooting system for the game made this Team Andromeda game quite an impressive title for the console.

This game rose the bar for many SEGA titles, quite an experience. It even spawned three more games, all with such interesting stories. Sadly, there are no HD ports today for them, and for others won’t even be possible to happen, like the case of Panzer Dragoon Saga because SEGA lost the source code for it (duh!). I think the saddest part is that back in the day this marvel went underrated. So if you’re wealthy enough to buy or lucky to get copies of this game series, get them, this is a must in the SEGA fanboy library.

Chris – Worldwide Soccer

worldwide-soccerWe all have our favorite video game genres that we tend to gravitate to. For me, it’s usually platformers, RPGs and shooters. I used to enjoy sports titles back when SEGA was in that business, especially during the Dreamcast era, where Visual Concepts’ line of football, basketball, baseball, tennis and hockey titles were annually better than the competition.

Even at the height of my video game sports days, I never bothered to play soccer games, as that was a sport that I thought was kind of dumb, even though I played it a season when I was in the first grade. But that changed when I picked up Worldwide Soccer for my SEGA Saturn. Because I was unfamiliar with the real-life goings on in soccer, I didn’t care that that it wasn’t licensed and didn’t have the real soccer player’s names, something that would be a killer for a baseball or football game.

What made Worldwide Soccer so awesome for me was its smooth gameplay that made it so simple to pass between your team to score a goal. It successfully walked the very narrow line between a sports simulator and an arcade game, making it fun for the average gamer, yet also realistic enough for soccer purists.

Worldwide Soccer might not be the obvious pick for someone’s favorite Saturn game, and there are plenty others that are very high on my list, but I have to hand it to the game for engrossing me into a genre that I disliked quite a bit beforehand.

G – Panzer Dragoon Sag… wait what?

SEGA Rally boxPanzer Dragoon Saga is the best game ever made and therefore the best Saturn game. But, seeing as I have, on many occasions, raved about how beautifully amazing Panzer Dragoon Saga is, I’m going to flip the script a bit.

My new choice achieved a pinnacle of gaming brilliance when it was released and few games since (imo) have matched how ground-breaking it was. I bring you SEGA Rally Championship.

For me SEGA Rally was the first *realistic* (as in no weapons or plumbers riding karts) racing game that I truly enjoyed. The game was so simplistically brilliant – anyone could pick it up and play, but only those talented enough could master it fully.

Tell kids these days that a racing game has only three cars and four tracks (one of each you had to unlock by being good enough) and they would probably laugh in your face and then stab you for pocket change to top-up their Candy Crush account.

But SEGA Rally was one of the first racing games that used real-life car models, with realistic dimensions and decals on them to match their physical counterparts. It’s also credited with being the first racer to feature ‘track physics’, where each surface (mud, dirt, sand, tarmac and gravel) actually affected the speed, grip and turning of your vehicle.

It was the first game I got with my Saturn. My friends and I would spend hours on end, taking it in turns to finish the game and unlock that secret track and car. And while newer and technically better games have emerged over the years, the original SEGA Rally still manages to entertain; the visuals have aged, but the gameplay hasn’t – which is why it is still my favourite racing game of all time and the best racer on the Saturn. It also had the best sign-off to a game ever…

…”Game over YEEAAAHH!”

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