The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

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The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Tue Mar 13, 2018 6:10 pm

With the Saturn, Sega have completely dropped of the console space in a lot fo the world. Sony were dominating with the Playstation, and Nintendo's late entry into the market with the N64 completely buried them. In many ways, the decisions Sega made prior to the Saturn era, and during it, have greatly contributed to the downfall of the company.

This is why, the Saturn has a bum reputation even among Sega fans. It killed their beloved company and have setup the Dreamcast to fail.

However, the system still has its fans, and its 2D abilities are considered the best by some of its fans. It's position as the third prong in the console war meant that it could take some risks with its games, and meant that it didn't need to chase the graphical power race between Nintendo and Sony.

Regardless, I have not played any Saturn game before, and that's why I am very interested coming into this review series. I want to be pleasantly surprised with offbeat games, hidden gems, and generally have a good time.

Like with my other review series, I am going to use a top 100 list as a basis for my reviews, this time again from Retro Sanctuary:
Top 100 Saturn Games from Retro Sanctuary


So, I am going to review games that interest me from that list from 100 to 1. Like with my other review list, I am not going to review:


  •    Games I already played (does not apply here).
     
  •  Sports and Racing games; these genres have only gotten better with time.
     
  •  Multiplayer Focused games, so that takes party and fighting games off the mix.
     
  •  Genres and games that don't interest me at all, I am simply terrible at shmups.
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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:38 pm

#100

Game: Bug!.
Year: 1995.
Genre: Platformer.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Realtime Associates.



First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

Sega obviously rushed the release of the Saturn. Hearing about Sony's upcoming console, they wanted to be first in the scene to try and imitate their early console advantage of the 16bit era. Maybe that is why they didn't have their big guns ready at the start. Specially missing was their newly iconic mascot Sonic the Hedgehog.

Which is why Bug, the titular character of Bug!, was actually conceived and developed as a possible mascot for the Saturn. Both the character and the game were made to represent the capabilities of the new console. That was a big mistake.

Chucking the entire thing into the ocean would have been a better demonstration.

"Local bug scored Hollywood movie role"

Bug is an obnoxious mascot character in an obnoxious game with an obnoxious premise.

There is a reason humans have a natural aversion to bugs. In trying to overcome that aversion, media like Pixar's Bug's Life try to add some charisma to make us care. Realtime Associate's version of that attempt is making Bug the unlikely movie star of a new Hollywood movie, with the game being that movie.

Maybe, this was a good premise. However, the directors forgot to imbue their creations with any charisma. Bug is a poorly designed insect wrecking havoc, very slow havoc, in a poorly designed world. At best, these characters remind us of C level 90's kids shows. However, they mesh poorly together, and in an ugly world make for a terrible design.

Then was the decision to add some voice acting clips.

Here is where the entire thing falls apart, as Bug's lines cement the obnoxious nature of the game. A hundred times in each level, he would scream inane lines in the most nasal voice imaginable. Kiss these antenna's goodbye, kiss these antennas goodbye, kissss theeesee antennaaaaas goooodbyeeee. Whatever charm the design had completely collapses once Bug sounds his lines (without opening his mouth).

So, the game miserably fails as a mascot platformer from the get-go, because the mascot himself is completely unlikable. The closest I can compare the game' style with is Earthworm Jim. Both have an unlikely creature as a mascot and actually use similar style and attempts at humor. However, Earthworm Jim manages to craft an entire charming universe where Bug fumbles at the first spoken word.

"Kiss these antennas goodbye"

Maybe, just maybe, if the gameplay was good then the obnoxious shell it is in can be forgiven.

First, credit must be given to the game's technical accomplishments in the beginning of the 5th generation. Bug! is nearly a 3D platformer. I say nearly because there is no true 3D movement. Instead, Bug goes into the traditional 2D axis, but can also go into the screen. Except, he can only move in a straight line in whichever axis he engages with at the moment.

This translates to a psuedo-3D platformer where there is an additional axis into and out of the screen.

Too bad the whole thing is slow, unresponsive, and downright boring.

Split into 6 zones, each with three levels and a boss, the game actually has a good amount of content. Bug walks, jumps over enemies, and can gain a spitting powerup starting from the 3rd zone. He also gets access to a timed super mode and a limited zapping powerup. There are also some bonus  mini-games you access by exchanging coins with a zany spider (the only good thing about the game).

It is actually in one of these mini-games where the dullness of the game becomes extremely apparent. In a Sonic cameo, yo are tasked with racing the blue blur and getting the trophies in the way. While Bug saunters forward with his slow animation, Sonic is in the background with his traditional moving fast animation. Except, he is moving as if running in molasses, as if the entire game is played from a slow motion camera.

With its labyrinthine levels, with basic and boring platforming, a variety of technical blemishes, the game is a chore to play.

"Warning! Kamikaze cicadas"

One highlight could have been the bosses. Honestly, they are well-designed, and the fights against them can be exciting. Yet, there is something fundamentally wrong here.

With its unresponsive mechanics, wonky hitboxes, and general looseness, the game is usually generous with health items. Except against bosses, where they can one-hit kill you and have a ton of health point.

The same fight with a third of its length is exciting and varied. When something good is tripled, it does not necessarily retain its quality. When you consider that the original game did not have a save system (not even passwords), then it becomes doubly insulting that Realtime Associates put in such artificial difficulty barriers between zones.

"And so the story ends"

As an early game with 3D sprites and environment, Bug! can be excused in the graphical department. In actuality, apart from the poor artistic design, the game's sprites are not that terrible. The levels themselves, floating in space with a 2D background in the fr horizon, are not insulting, just boring.

The CGI clips are early CGI, with all the blemishes expected, but there is something historical to appreciate here.

That is clearly what the first reviewers of this game thought. Damn, these are working 3D graphics, and the whole thing can be excused.

What can never be excused though is the game's poor "musical" score. Clearly influenced by jazz, the game's soundtrack attempt to have that sweet jazzy beats. It fails. Which is not weird considering the game's entire sound design fails. From the nasal sound bites to the terrible sound effects.

Why then would the soundtrack be any good?

In Conclusion:

I like Stephen Spielberg movies. Great director.

Seeing the game and the character in the Consumer Electronics Show back in 1995, Spielberg declare: "This is the character! This is the character that is going to do it for Saturn". Between this quote and the E.T. travesty that sunk Atari, I think Spielberg should be kept away from any gaming related thing.

Due to its technical achievement, Bug! was actually well-received back in the day by critics. However, it was mostly ignore by fans, and its superior (not very difficult to do) sequel was heavily blasted.

Bug! didn't do it for Saturn, didn't do it for himself, and surely didn't do it for me.

Final: 3/10

Pros:

  • It is a technical achievement at the time.


Cons:

  • Terrible character.
  • Boring platforming.
  • Long labyrinthine levels.
  • Unbalanced bosses.
  • Bad music and sound.
  • Kiss these antennas goodbye


"Tips"
1- Don't play the game.
2- If you are going to play it, try and finish it quickly, no need to "explore" the boring levels.
3- Jump while using the spit attack in order to move and shoot (Bug stops to spit otherwise).
4- Go to the bonus stages to get some lives.
5- Direct your jump after you hit the jump button, this is not like normal better platformers.


"Next Game"

I expected this and so I am not surprised. I knew I would start my review series with a bad game, and Bug! is a bad game. Maybe a historically important one, but a bad game nonetheless. Its place in this review series is then s something to compare against, a bottom of the pit, because I do not expect a list of the top 100 Saturn games to have a game that is worse than this.

Next game in the list, at #97 is Gex, another character envisioned as a Mascot to compete with Mario and Sonic. Originally conceived as a a mascot for the unfortunate 3DO console, it was then ported to the Saturn and PS1. The Saturn is generally considered as the better version.

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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Mon Mar 26, 2018 6:29 pm

#97

Game: Gex.
Year: 1996.
Genre: Platformer.
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics.
Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Beam Software.



First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

With the impending start of the fifth generation of videogame consoles, The 3DO Company wanted to revolutionize the console market with their new 3DO console. Of course, the 3DO Company realized they needed a mascot character to compete with Mario and Sonic, and Crystal Dynamics obliged that need with Gex. A green gecko mascot to rival Sega's blue and Nintendo's red.

It can be surmised that the failure of the 3DO, is then in part, a failure of Gex. Yet, that would be a very unfair conclusion. Even though Gex is as dead a mascot as he can be, his debut was not bad at all.

In fact, it puts him square in the running for best failed mascot of the 90s.

"That's what I call getting some tail"

Gex is an obnoxious mascot character in an obnoxious game with an obnoxious premise.

I could have easily started my review of this game the same way I started my review of Bug!. After all, two of the statements above are entirely correct. However, the difference is that Gex was designed from the ground up to be somehow obnoxious, and that's infinitely better than accidentally becoming so.

Gex is a designed in a quintessentially 90s way, with an attempt at being cool obvious n ever facet of his design. From his sly eyes to the sarcastic one-liners, Gex oozes a specific kind of personality. Unlike other mascots of the time, this gecko is not content on being a silent protagonist.

No, instead, he is going to continue making snarky comments, punchlines, and references. Honestly, a lot of his lines are genuinely funny. Even hearing them for the tenth time, the voice actor does such a good job that it is never grating. And when there is a one-liners author credit at the end, you know some real effort went into writing them.

That is true especially because the rest of the game compliments Gex's character. The game start with the evil "thing" Rez zapping our hero into the TV world. Gex then must travel through TV and pop-culture inspired levels to save himself. Here is where good character design is built, by changing Gex's library of lines depending on the level, the developers actively build-up the character.

It could have been very easy seeing Gex fail as a character. Instead, he manages to succeed, in perhaps the most endurable yet obnoxious way.

"Let's get back to the mystery van"

Unlike the travesty that was most of the early 5th generation 3D platformers, Crystal Dynamics decided to stick to the true and tested 2D platformer to show their mascot. This decisions means that they can take much inspiration from an already proven genre. Yet, it also means that Gex would be compared to excellent platformers like Sonic, Mario and Donkey Kong Country.

Knowing that, Gex offers a new way to traverse his levels; utilizing his unique lizard traits to clib up the walls.  He can attach himself to nearly ever surface in the game, and in some cases the background itself. This added a different layer to a typical 2D game, with an ability to navigate the 2D realm in different ways.

Other than his climbing abilities, Gex can use his tail to bash enemies as well as get a variety of useful power ups. Other than the customary invisibility power up, there are also three offensive power ups that add some serious "fire" power to Gex's breath.

However, there is something lacking in the characters movement. Everything feels a little bit clunkier and slower that it should be. One thing the game doesn't take from other platformers is the ability to jump on enemies; Gex must always wack them instead. That robs him from a serious momentum boost.

Otherwise, the game is rarely challenging, with only the final set of levels providing any modicum of difficulty. In some way, I understand the lack of challenge. The game is not fast and precise enough, so adding in some platforming difficulties would probably only serve to make it more frustrating than fun.

"I wanna be... the Rocket Man"

To showcase his abilities, Gex goes to some 18 or so levels and some bosses. Generally, the levels follow the Sonic formula of labyrinthine levels rather the more focused Nintendo style. Except, where Sonic's mechanics invite the player to try and master them in a variety of paths, Gex is never that kind of game.

As such, the longer levels do not feel like adding in value as much as stretching out content. They are not boring in any way, but they are dangerously close to being so.

It is only when the levels really are built around an idea that they shine. One example is maze-like level with doors changing the time from day to night. Another good example is a level that utilizes Gex's abilities well by having a conveyor belt both in the roof and the floor.

In the other hand, the bosses are in no way repetitive, with each having a unique and satisfying fight. Not easy fights, but fights that are fair and take just the right amount of time. That is excepting the final boss though, which deserves is a frustrating test of patience.

"Gecko Fry. Never Closes"

I already mentioned that Crystal Dynamics were very smart to stick with 2D gameplay with their Mascot introduction. Experience in the 3D realm and with polygon graphics have yet to be properly built, and consumers would be turned off by an ugly polygonal mess.

Instead, Gex opts to be one damn fine looking 2D platformer.

Let's get Gex himself out of the way though. While he doesn't look in any way bad, there is some clashing against the rest of the environment, almost as if he is juxtaposed against it. It is jarring at first, but you quickly get used to it.

Other than that, the environments look good, and the character design is uniformly great. In each of the game's five worlds, it offers different characters that fit really well with the theme. Especially in the Chinatown world, which looks like an excellent place for Joe Musashi to be in. A special mention should be made for the level's backgrounds, which are simply great to look at.

2D art have aged really well. The same cannot be said of the FMV scenes though, which may have been impressive at the time but only serve to remind you of how old you are today.

As for the music, it is somewhat limited in the number of its tracks, but is generally of really good quality. Of course, in saying it is of generally really good quality, I am emphatically excluding the terrible credit song. One of the best songs is the Kungfu Ville stage song, which uses the Asian influence quite well while also having some energetic beats to it.

Finally, the voice acting for Gex is quite good. With the amount of lines he says, my impression of the game may have been very different if that wasn't the case.

In Conclusion:

Gex is an obnoxious character, and that's why he works.

He is the quintessential forgotten 90s mascot, full with quips and cool, so much that he has no other decade to go to. The 2000s wouldn't accept him, nor would he work out today.

The 3DO failed, and while Gex survived its failure for sometime, he eventually disappeared. At least no one can take his debut away from him, nor the distinction of being the best sold game on the 3DO.

Final: 7/10

Pros:

  • Gex works as a character.
  • Very Good 2D Graphics and good music.
  • Doesn't overstay its welcome.


Cons:

  • Slow and easy gameplay.


"Tips"
1- If you get hit you lose the powerup.
2- You can attack while you are attached to the walls.
3- The remotes you need to get are never hidden out of your way.
4- Extra paths don't have anything more useful than extra lives or powerups.


"Next Game"

So, it is great the next game in the list is not as terrible as freaking Bug!, even it its not exactly a great game. If anything, it is a solid 2D platformer that successfully launched the career of on gecko character.

Next game in the list is another Crystal Dynamic game; The Horde which sit at #95. It's a unique strategy action hybrid that was originally made for the 3DO and then ported to the Saturn and the PC.

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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Sat Apr 07, 2018 8:10 pm

#93

Game: Pandemonium!.
Year: 1997.
Genre: Platformer.
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics.
Developer: Toys for Bob.



First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

Pandemonium is yet another Crystal Dynamics platformer, but it is one of their lease known titles. Originally released on the PS1 in 1996, the game was overshadowed by Naughty Dog's Crash Bandicoot. It then went on to be ported nearly everywhere, with the Saturn getting probably the best version.

It's one of the earliest 2.5D games in the market, and through some impressive innovation at the time, in provided solid 2D gameplay in a moving 3D world.

"I am Youngo. Oh.... (Chomps an entire village) YUM"

The game starts with an admittedly not so bad CGI cut-scene. In that scene the girl character and the jester accidentally summons a monster that eats their entire village. In order to reverse that spell, they must travel far to a wishing well and wish their spell away.

Initially, I thought this would be the start of a more involved platformer, but as evidenced by my own forgetfulness of the two character's names, any semblance of plot goes out of the window. Instead, there is only a vaguely fantasy medieval setting and soundtrack to pick up the narrative slack.

Of course, you are not going into a platforming game, especially in the 1990s, for any narrative depth. However, there is an expectation that the characters somehow carry the game. That's never the case with the girl and the jester, who are utterly forgettable in an utterly forgettable world.

Maybe that's unfair to the world, which tries its best to be a good fantasy medieval setting. For half the levels, where the setting is against a background of lush greenery or mystic cloud, Pandemonium shines as a game. In the other half, with boring deserts and samey swamps, the game's character becomes like that of its main characters; unrecognizable and mundane.

"Let's go tuts, make with the boo boo"

With two characters to choose from, the game offers two somewhat similar ways to play. The girl can do a double jump, and the jester has a flipping attack that defeats enemies. Since you can defeat enemies by jumping into them or shooting them with one of three similar power-ups, the girl is the obvious choice unless you are like 7 years old me who refused to play as a girl.

The jester becomes more like an unofficial hard mode, since the double jump makes everything easier. It also makes the game more fun. Since exploring the stage and finding shortcuts to go over obstacles is a significant part in each level, the double jump allows you to more easily access that.

Stages are not very varied though, with a lot of them sort of bleeding into each other. It's basic platforming gameplay, with a hop and bop style that is at times fast, and at others very deliberate.

That's mostly due to the camera.

Since this is a 2.5D games, the game's 3D engine does a lot of camera tricks. Sometimes it zooms too close, and that's when it becomes hard to avoid obstacles and enemies. The game is best when the camera changes your perspective as you go, so that the player sometimes goes into the stage or out of it, and that showcases the excellent 2D backgrounds and hides the limitations of the polygonal stages.

"I hereby wish for a chicken"

While Pandemonium's core gameplay is nothing to write about, it is solid enough most of the time. However, there is a duality to it that I think is the cause of disparity in level quality. It's evidenced by the game's access to bonus stages, which require getting 80% of all the level's treasure (coins).

In some levels, playing the best route, finishing the level as fast as you can, and generally being really good at platforming, naturally nets you that 80% count. That means that the level was designed with optimal play in mind, and those are the best levels.

Other levels seem like they want you to explore all paths to get that bonus, which means going over the two or three paths the level offers for you to choose from. That's just weird, and throws in some labyrinthine design without any rhyme or reason. In those cases, the game seems to drag on.

Bosses are one area where its consistently challenging and good. Which is not hard when you only have three bosses. They combine some light puzzle solving with a lot of jumping around, and they make the most of the 3D engine.

"Think we are gonna need another wish"

Outside of the admittedly good CGI cut-scenes, the game's polygonal design have not aged well, but have not aged terribly. They look fine, especially when the camera zones out. What's weird is that the levels are not islands in the sky, but try to have a logic within the natural world.

Of course, the 3D polygons can't hold a candle against the gorgeous 2D backgrounds, which in their design truly sells the fantasy medieval setting. One thing the camera does is showcase this marriage between 2D and 3D very well, adding some depth to the level as well as the background.

While the graphics are not the best, what let's down the production department is the god awful sound direction.

The music is suitable and good half the time, and annoyingly repetitive in the other half. That's not bad enough to condemn the game though. What is bad is the gloriously terrible sound effects.

While the 'boing' jumping sound is annoying, some of the other sound effects are genuinely offensive. In a series of level where some firework things attack you, their screeching sound drowned out the soundtrack and nearly broke my speakers.

In Conclusion:

Back in the day, I actually player this game a little on the PS1, and had some good memories with it. However, there is a reason I didn't actually complete it, and now I figured out that reason. The initial impression doesn't hold.

Pandemonium is half a good game, with one half showcasing some very good graphics, with good gameplay and sound. However, there is another face to the game, and that's one that is simply boring, with sub-par levels showcasing the most mundane aspects of it's gameplay and production values.

Then there is that SCREEEEECHING sound.

Final: 5/10

Pros:

  • Very Good Half of a Game.
  • Effective Use of the 2.5D Design.


Cons:

  • Boring Half of a Game.
  • Inconsistent Level Design.
  • THAT SCREEEECHING SOUND.


"Tips"
1- Just Pick the Girl.
2- Usually, the safest ways involve jumping over birds to keep at the highest level of the stage.
3- There is no real difference between powerups.
4- There are some permanent power ups that increase the number of your hearts, I stumbled on them by accident.
5- Bosses will probably require you to have more than the initial two hearts you start with.
6- Health recovers only when you die or get some health, it doesn't recover when you finish a stage.


"Next Game"

I really wanted this game to justify the good memories I had with it in the past. Now, I realize it was probably not worth begging my Uncle to let me play it then. Probably had to do some chores to get the "privilege".

Next game in the list is the first, but not last, Tactical RPG. At #91, this game has two names depending on the region; Blazing Heroes and Mystaria: The Realms of Lore. Published and developed by Sega, this was another TRPG to rival their own Shining Force series.

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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Mon May 14, 2018 8:36 am

#91

Game: Blazing Heroes/Mystaria: The Realms of Lore.
Year: 1995.
Genre: Tactical RPG.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Sega, Microcabin.



First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

If anyone suggested that Sega's newest console would almost launch with a Sega developed and published Tactical RPG, everyone would have thought a new Shining Force game was on the way.

Instead, Sega, ever the intelligent decision-makers, decided to make another unrelated Tactical RPG instead, with Shining Force not being released for a couple of years still.

The resulting game, Blazing Heroes (changed due to copyright reasons from Mystaria: The Realms of Lore), is not a carbon-copy replacement, nor is it of the same caliber. However, it is a solid TRPG with a lot to offer, and its fair share of aging pains.

"A legendary battle which will change the face of history has now begun"

The most striking thing about Blazing Heroes is how it heralds the beginning of a new gaming generation in many ways other than the obvious graphical progress. It does so by offering its narrative front and center, to be parallel to the actual gameplay for the overall experience.

Beginning with CGI cutscenes and an opening narrative, but continuing with dialogue exchanges between the various characters in the story. In total, the narrative is almost twice as much as Shining Force II on the Genesis, despite being a shorter game.

Of course, the fact there is more story doesn't automatically mean its a better one. Sure enough, Blazing Heroes offers nothing new, other than a basic evil warlord with possible greater evil threat behind him. This works well initially, especially due to the deliciously evilness of Lord Bane, the most evil of warlord.

In many ways, Lord Bane could have been an iconic villain for his time. His evil lines often equal or better those with more infamy such as Kefka from Final Fantasy VI or Dracula from the Castlevania series.

However, he is proof that just as a hero is defined by his nemesis, so is a nemesis is defined by the hero. Since Prince Aragon and his motley crew are such wet napkins, the whole story starts falling flat in the end.

Initially, this didn't seem to be the case, with both the dialogue and overall narrative feeling tight and well-directed. However, the dialogue starts losing style, and obvious grammatical and translation errors start appearing regularly. By the end of the game, the quantity of dialogue starts working against the game, with the characters only losing likeability as their spoken words revels in sloppiness.

Overall, Blazing Heroes could have been a solid story built on a well-tested narrative, but early generational localization makes it sloppier than it should have been.

"You are traitorous rebels. To me, you are gnats to be swatted away"

Like Shining Force and Fire Emblem, Blazing Heroes is a Tactical RPG, with characters moving and fighting in a grind in turn-based battles. Unlike those two, the characters in this game have much more options, and there are less of them in the field. This is similar to another Tactical RPG hybrid game on the PSOne, Arc the Lad.

To explain the difference:

In Shining Force, each characters can move and either attack or defend. Maybe they have another mode of attack, but they rarely have more than three options, and the attacks rarely consider multiple enemies. In Blazing Heroes, attacks have considerably more range, magic is more heavily utilized, and each character have several choices. Overall, this makes for a game leaning more on the RPG side than the tactical one.

Generally, battles are mostly in the easy side. That's because Aragon and Raiko are always in your party, and Raiko can become a one-man army by the end. It doesn't mean that the game becomes mostly busy works, as the fights are fast enough that you keep having fun, although there is one integral issue.

"Twelve brave warriors to banish the dark lord forever"

Each battle, you can choose six characters, each with a unique class from classical brawlers to mages. In the actual fight, you finish your turn before the enemy can move. In your turn, you can move around the field and use your skills. Depending on how much you move, you may not be able to use some skills. The more you use a skill, you can unlock other more powerful skills in that category. Which means that despite standby characters gaining some experience, you must use a character in order to unlock the skills that make them viable later on.

Due to the way that characters level up their skills, there become little incentive to care about using characters equally, as it just handicaps you in fights, and keeps you away from gaining the most powerful moves for your key players.

With only 6 slots (Which may be useful for the turns not dragging on too much) per match, with two always fixed, this means that half of your team is in the wayside.

This may be a spoiler, but make sure at least three members of your standby team are halfway competent with their skills, and make sure all of them are equipped with the rest of the team. That will avoid creating an unwinnable situation at the end of the game.

As such, even when there is variety in characters and attacks, the game really boils down to using the most powerful attack and steamrolling your way to victory. Only when it surprises you with a sudden difficulty spike or a need to use underutilized characters does the game approach any level of challenge.

"How do we know we can trust hi? After all, he is a Ninja (RACISTS)"

For the time, Blazing Heroes was a significant step forward in graphical design. It had CGI cut-scenes, 3D animated polygonal models, a full rotatable camera, and was a clear indication of the 5th generation as a step forward.

Therefore, it's also a clear indication of how badly the 5th generation's polygonal graphics have aged (especially early one).

It's not that the game's graphics are incompetent in any way; it is the best that could have been produced in 1995. All polygonal models are unique, animations are choppy in a way but camera changes when the attacks happen add some much needed depth an action. Backgrounds and the environment are certainly ugly, with poor textures and lighting.

Just that there are no attempts to actually distract from the ugly polygons. For instance, Final Fantasy VII had those boxy character models. However, with the excellent 2D portraits s well as 2D backgrounds, it made them more tolerable.

The fact that the character's portraits are also their same polygonal in-game models just reinforces the ugliness of the graphics.

Musically, the game does not particularly excel nor does it fail. I liked the soundtrack without getting bored with any track, which is positive for a TRPG. One thing to be thankful for is, unlike the negative comments of some reviewers in the past, that there is no voice acting. The worst parts of this game's dialogue would have been much more cringe if actually voiced.

In Conclusion:

Back in the Saturn's original launch, Blazing Heroes would have been a great game to have. I can even see some play it twice just to try out the characters they didn't use. However, that was not the case for long, as games in the fifth generation quickly outgrew it, and games from past generations aging much better.

It's simply game that occupies the early band of a console's library, where its unique selling points are no longer unique, and its shortcomings are clearer because of that.

Final: 6/10

Pros:

  • Solid TRPG gameplay.
  • Variety of Characters to use.


Cons:

  • Graphics have aged badly.
  • Little reason to change party members.
  • Lack of fair challenge.


"Tips"
1- At one point, when your party split up, make sure to save before you do so.
2- For latter matches, you will need your Elf archer or age to pull up a shield.
4- For near the end game, you will need a magic shield, so use a physical shield whenever possible to unlock it.
5- Using skills unlock newer stronger skills.
6- Enemies may be leveled according to your own level, but skills are important too. Make sure you have at least three competent fighters in your B team.
7- You usually can earn enough money to buy the strongest equipment as you passively play the game. The strongest equipment are in treasure chests.
8- Equipment that are strong but have side effects are not worth it at all.
9- Raiko easily becomes the strongest fighter in the game if you level up his Ninja skills.


"Next Game"

This is one game that I enjoyed, but that I think few others would have the patience to go through. It has little to add over much more accomplished games in the genre, and instead serves as a teaser of what the genre is capable off.

Next game on the list is running a little amok at #88, title Amok (get the joke). From what I have seen, I expect this would be a short and negative review.

Stay Tuned
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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Thu May 17, 2018 2:45 am






In their top 100 Saturn games, Retro Sanctuary didn't have many ringers in the last 10 in the list. From numver 100 to the 91st game, there were some unique games, and even the start of a moderately successful mascot's career. Most of all, these were early 3D games in the fifth generation, and they have suffered as a result. While Gex is probably the only one worth playing today, some of these games are intresting in their own right.


Bug! can go to hell though.


100- Bug! (1995): Check the Review



  • Genre: Platformer.

  • Publihser: Sega, Developer: Realtime Associates.



With no Sonic game ready for their console launch, Sega thought they could get away by aking another iconic mascot for their platform. Bug! proved that making a mascot platformer is not easy, being a game so devoid of personality or fun, making it the perfect vehicle for such a drab mascot as the titular Bug.


This is a game best forgotten, but should be remembered a little bit for the hilariously wrong Stephen Spielberg quote, where he said that this character would be the one "to do it for the Saturn". If by do it, he meant kill it clean off the gates, then he may have been on to something.


99- NBA Action! (1996):



  • Genre: Sport Action.

  • Publihser: Sega, Developer: Grey Matter.



NBA Action!  was Sega's exclusive basket ball sport game, based on the show with the same name. The game had many of the teams of the time, and was generally well-regarded in some ways, but not enough to continue a successful franchise. Fro what I played, I didn't get a glimpse of the game's complexity in controls, and generally found defense to be lacking.


Still, my lack of knowledge of both basketball and sport action games in general meant this title is not for me.


98- Street Racer! (1996):



  • Genre: Kart Racing.

  • Publihser: Ubisoft, Developer: Vivid Image.



This is a game that was released on every console under the sun. Street Racer! was one of those kart racers that just happened to be made after Mario Kart. What made this one more unique was the looney tunes style brawling in the game, which involved a lot more frequent fighting and less actual racing.


I played the game and didn't like it much. The tracks were hectic and confusing, the driving wasn't fun, and everything was too chaotic for me to get a grip on anything. Mostly, I think the zoomed in camera made things worse, and the game lacked charisma.


97- Gex! (1996): Check the Review



  • Genre: Platformer.

  • Publihser: Crystal Dynamics, Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Beam Software.



Ooh how did this Gecko dissapear. Before his premature demise, Gex was another one of the attitude era mascots, starting with the decent Gex! on the ill-fated 3DO. Because this game did not blindely follow the 3D craze and instead opted for a solid 2D game, it survived the ravishes of time and is a good game even now.


What it lacks in innovation or depth, it has in some attitude.


96- Hexen: Beyond Heretic (1997):



  • Genre: FPS.

  • Publihser: id Software, Developer: Raven Software.



For some reason, there was a trend of porting early PC FPS games like Doom into consoles, in the process distorting them beyond any parity and producing several inferior versions of the game. Hexen: Beyond Heretic is such a game, one that has multiple better versions that should be played rather than this one.


The game itself was pretty divisive, with some really liking it and other hating its guts.


95- The Horde (1995):



  • Genre: RTS.

  • Publihser: Crystal Dynamics, Developer: Toys for Bop.



I have to say that this is one game I wish I could learn how to play. It is a very interesting concept. First, you build your city and you defenses, and then have to defend them in real time action gameplay. Its a uniqe mach-up of genres that was very well-recieved back in the day. However, it lacks many of the quality-of-life features we take for granted today, and it is a serious pain trying to learn how to play it.


Also, the game is ported elsewhere, with the PC having a better version of the game.


94- High Velocity-Mountain Racing Challenge (1996):



  • Genre: Arcade Racing.

  • Publihser: Atlus, Developer: Cave.



There are many arcade racers in the fifth generation that look very similar, but play differently with their racing mechanics. High Velocity is fast and furious, with some serious skill needed to beat the relentless computer. Of course, you can get a lot of practice in one of the only three courses available, using samey boxy cars, in a game that reuses its assets more than washed-out comedian uses their jokes.


Seriously, this game is a shell of a full game, with less content than a typical demo-disk in the day.


93- Pandemonium! (1996): Check my Review



  • Genre: Platformer.

  • Publihser: Crystal Dynamics, Developer: Toys for Bob.



This is one game that I played a little back then, but never ocmpleted. As such, I remeber that it was a game that I had fun with, but not to the extent that I wanted to finish it. That perception is more justified now, as the game lacks the tightness and challenge necessary to be an attractive platformer.


It also has one level with such damn SCREEEECHING sound.


92- Madden 98' (1997):



  • Genre: Sport Action.

  • Publihser: EA, Developer: EA.



This another game in the storied American Football (handegg) franchise, and so I know little to nothing about it, and am not intrested in playing it. One intresting thing to note about this yearly release is that it is the last one to utilize 2D sprites in a 3D playing field. All later games started using a proper 3D engine.


91- Blazing Heroes/Mystaria: The Realms of Lore (1995): Check my Review



  • Genre: TRPG.

  • Publihser: Sega, Developer: Sega, Microcabin.



Finally, with a game that is competent in many levels, but have aged badly without offering anything unique or special to compensate for that. Blazing Heroes was a solid TRPG back in the day, but that is not enough to intice us now, not when there are many games in the genre much worth your time.


With aging graphics, bad dialouge, and a lack of challenge, this is a game that can be enjoyed but will not be remembered. At least its core villain, Lord Bane, is something to admire.


*********************************


This report is a consolidated review of the top 100 list by Retro Sanctuary. It features the reviews I made for the list, but also has a brief paragraph about each game in the list that I didn't review. For games without an official review, the opinions I express is purely based on some little playing time and general research about the game and its reception at the time.



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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Sat Jul 28, 2018 11:50 am

#81

Game: Shining Wisdom.
Year: 1995 Japan. 1996 NA.
Genre: Action Adventure.
Publisher: Sega, Working Designs.
Developer: Camelot Software.



First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

Sega's Shining series has always been one of many genres and possibilities. It started as a dungeon crawler RPG, and it thrived as one of the best SRPG franchises in the 16bit generation. As such, it was only natural that it takes a stab at the action adventure genre dominated by Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series.

Shining Wisdom is the result. A game set in the Shining universe, but with gameplay that is similar to Zelda without being a direct clone.

What is most apparent though, is that this is a game made for the Genesis, but was late enough to be released on the Saturn instead.

"The circle is coming around yet again. Behold! Your greatest trial lies just ahead..."

One thing that is surprising about Shining Wisdom is that it had a decent story and some witty writing. Which was atypical for the tie, especially for Sega RPGs which generally had poorer localization than on Sony's or Nintendo's platforms.

While not a breakthrough in narrative design, Shining Wisdom manages to hold interest in the game's world by consistent narrative engagement. As Mars, the mostly silent protagonist of the game, you are tasked with stopping the evil schemes of Pazort, whose four minions released four elemental god-like beings to resurrect some god-like great evil.

Riveting stuff, it is not. However, the game keeps the story in the forefront, and as such is more rewarding narrative-wise than A Link to the Past, for example.

What is really interesting about the story though is the conversations you can have with the town's people and castle guards. These conversations are mix off regular RPG jargon, backstory exposition, objective explanations, but also some really funny stuff. Including, but not limited to, some video game references.

Something I wish the game did more off is continue with the eventful beginning of the game. At the start, there was a reason to get into a dungeon more so than getting the magic McGuffin. Whether it was to increase your standing as a novice guard, or to escort a goose princess into a magic tree, it added an objective for Mars other than a gameplay device.

"I am Pazort, Master of Subversion! Soon all Palacia will cower before me! HA HA HA HA HA..."

Pazrort's scheme is a simple gameplay segregation tool. Release four elemental, each in one dungeon, and then converge into a final place to resurrect an ancient monster.

It neatly segregates the game's world into at least five dungeons for the player to beat. Only thing he forgot to do was kidnap the princess and keep her for the end. That part is resolved much earlier.

The game looks and controls similar to the Legend of Zelda SNES game. It is a top-down view, and the game world is open with dungeons and enemies strewn around. It is mostly linear progression though, as abilities gained in one dungeon are needed to access or beat the next.

Of course, this is the same satisfying gameplay feed-back loop that made Zelda famous, and it works well here. Not to say that Shining Wisdom is a straight-up Zelda clone.

While inspired by many elements from Nintendo's franchise, the mechanics are widely different.

One thing is a major differentiator between the two, and that's the dash meter. Instead of holding a dash button, the player must mash it to reach a certain dash speed (from 1 to 5) and then hold it to keep Mars at that dash level. If hit by anything, the dash level decreases.

Having a high dash level is necessary to move quickly, hit harder, and use the magic orbs for some useful and sometimes necessary abilities.

This introduces the game's biggest flaw. In order to be in any way remotely useful, you will be mashing the dash button a lot. You will mash to attack, get hit, and mash again. You will mash to launch some magic, and mash again. You will stop because your finger hurts from holding the dash button, and you will mash again.

In the final boss, I felt in 10 minutes what a marathon session of Mario Party would cause, minus the blistered palm.

"Your peaceful, boring world will be replaced with a land where chaos rules supreme"

Other than its mechanical issues, Shining Wisdom feels like it should have been a better game, if only some serious quality of life elements were put into focus.

Dungeons can be both fun at times, but amazingly frustrating due to their labyrinthine design. A map would have made things much simpler and more enjoyable.

It is easy to get lost, and not know which dungeon to go to. At that point, you wish the town people were less funny and more objective oriented. It is easy to lose a lot of progress in dungeon because you fell through a hole that plummeted you back into an earlier faraway floor. At that point, you wish you could punch the map designer.

What is frustrating is that the puzzles are good, and the game-play mostly works regardless of how tiring mashing the dash button can get. Shining Wisdom's dungeons make use of most of your abilities, not just the latest one (a common complaint against Zelda games).

One thing showcasing the best of the game are the boss fights, which even while needing some finger dexterity to be overcome, are exciting to play, and challenging to beat. Even then, the game's loose design is sometimes very obvious.

For instance, in one boss fight, it is nearly impossible to hit the enemy without being hit yourself. In game testing, that should have flagged, and the sword's range of attack should have been increased.

"I'm just a senile old has-been with too much time to worry about the past"

It is obvious that this was a game initially being made for the Genesis.

It is obvious for two reasons.

The first is that the game colorful graphics and sprites are all possible on the Genesis hardware. These are the charming 16bit backgrounds and sprites we fell in love with before, and they show their graceful aging here. It looks as good, and sometimes better, than any other 16bit Action Adventure game on the previous generation of consoles.

The second reason is the ugly, horrendous, and down-right terrifying CGI intro for the game. It looks like an afterthought to showcase the Saturn's increased power, and it aged like an afterthought. I would pay it no consideration whatsoever.

While the graphics are good, I cannot say the same for the mundane design of most enemies in the game. They won't win any minion design awards. Still, the main characters and bosses have some really good portraits (two characters are obviously missing theirs for some reason), and their design is good.

Musically, the game doesn't have a lot of tracks. However, it has at least five really good ones. Both over-world themes are great, and the Odegan castle theme is something else. This is the only part of the game where the Saturn's increased power is obvious, and it is used in making both complex and catchy tunes.

One complaint in the time was about the lack of voice acting. All I can say is that it gives me one less thing to complain about, as I don't believe the VA of the day would have been anything but terrible.

In Conclusion:

Shining Wisdom is a frustrating game to review. While it began strongly, with good story, funny dialogue, and some great graphics and music, it's shortcomings were eventually exposed.

The dash mechanic is innovative at first. However, it soon becomes an inescapable annoyance. Inescapable because you will always need to be dashing to keep the game from being a slog, and because the game' lack of directions will keep you dashing more time than you will otherwise need to.

As a straight-up Legend if Zelda clone, it would have been better, but its lack of fine-tuning is obvious. Mostly though, it is all the bloody dash button mashing that frustrated me.

Final: 6/10

Pros:

  • Good story and dialogue.
  • Very good graphics and music.


Cons:

  • All that dash button mashing.
  • Easy to get lost.
  • finger arthritis.


"Tips"
1- Mash the run button and then hold to keep your running speed.
2- You can farm money by killing the spiders that multiply at the millennial tree.
3- Try and get enough money to buy the pajamas (you don't need more than one) at the secret shop (which you need the freeze orb to access).
4- Each orb interacts differently with some equipment (boots and gloves only).
5- Collect blue diamonds to increase your health, and orange diamonds to increase you recovery health.

"Next Game"

I cannot say that I didn't enjoy this game. Camelot's credentials were obvious in the parts that were good, and their naivety were obvious in those that were not so good. Ultimately, this wasn't a highlight in the Action Adventure genre, and its innovations hurt more than helped it..

Next game on the list is helicopter shooter game, Soviet Strike in #80. The Strike games were fun on the 16bit era, with Desert Strike on the Genesis and SNES, and Soviet Strike is the definitive version of the game on the fifth generation.

Stay Tuned
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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:59 pm






In their top 100 Saturn games, Retro Sanctuary didn't have much quality in the 80s. There were a couple of sport games competing against other console's titles, and there was an ambitious port of an early PC FPS. That was generally the case for some of the games, with inferior ports of Arcade or PC games. Also, at 81, there is Camelot's first game on the Saturn. Shining Wisdom could have been a much better game if not for some wierd design choices.


Astral Superstars looked like an interesting fighting game though.


90- Grid Runner (1996):



  • Genre: Action Multiplayer.

  • Publihser: Virgin Interactive, Developer: Radical Entertainment.



Grid Runner is one of those early Saturn/PS1 games that crafted an entire game out of a single idea. Something that now would be an exciting, although a rather non-essential mini-game in the latest Mario Party game. It’s basically a grid-based game of digital tag. To be fair, tag has always been a fun a game to play with friends, which is something I tried to convince my younger cousins with their faces glued to the iPad screens.


The central limitation of the game is that it is simply not fun against the AI, so human opponents are advised. The second biggest limitation is that only two players can be involved, which makes for one boring game of tag.


Beats being an only kid though.


89- Crusader: No Remorse (1997):



  • Genre: Isometric Action.

  • Publihser: Electronic Arts, Developer: Origin Systems, Realtime Associates.


 


The advertisement for this game proclaimed: “Nonstop actin from a different perspective”, the perspective being an isometric view. It is difficult imagining this being said today, although the isometric style is being revived with some good indie games.


Regardless of the style’s pros and cons, the console port of this originally PC game did not translate the critically acclaimed title well. Which is a bummer, because Crusader seems like a genuinely interesting game.


Set in a dystopian society with supersoldier and stuff, the player character eventually joins the rebels against the World Economic Consortium. Heavy stuff. Maybe I will give it a try someday on steam or something.


88- AMOK(1997):



  • Genre: FPS.

  • Publihser: Scavenger, Developer: Lemon.


 


I tried playing AMOK, but I couldn’t enjoy it. This is a poor port of a PC release, and it shows in the difficult FPS controls. That alone could kill a game with a good concept


This is not such a game. Even with better controls, the environments are drab, the story uninteresting, and the game an utter drag.


It’s basically nothing to run AMOK about.


I am here all week.


87- Astra Superstars (1998):



  • Genre: Fighting.

  • Publihser: Sunsoft, Developer: Sunsoft.



Astral Superstars is a strange 2D fighting game. It is perhaps the only fighting game that exclusively features two air-borne fighters wailing at each other. Yes, you read that right, there is no ground in the game.


This means that you can “jump” over your opponent, or dive under them. Hits propel players like pinballs all over the screen, and movement is significantly floatier. This makes for some uniquely chaotic fights, especially with the game’s focus on elaborate combos and use of a special meter.


Never making to the West, this means few players were ever introduced to its excellent 2D animations and unique character designs. Still, outside its unique fighting style, the game failed to make any lasting legacy for itself. In the crowded fighting market, Sunsoft simply could not fly over the competition.


86- Mass Destruction (1997):



  • Genre: Tank Action.

  • Publihser: ASC Games, BMG Interactive; Developer: NMS Software.



In actual warfare, Tanks are either escorted by an infantry squadron, or by lighter vehicles. That is because Tanks, while ultimately devastating, are some pretty dumb machine that require ton of recon support to be effective.


That is why tank games like Mass Destruction are a puzzle to me. It is no my idea of fun to go an entire mission controlling a tank, not without the complicated gizmos of a game like Armored Core.


Here, only one shoulder button works to change the direction of the cannon, meaning that in order to return it to its previous location, you will need a 360 turn to do so. That is only one control issue that makes Mass Destruction an unplayable archaic mess.


85- Alien Trilogy (1996):



  • Genre: FPS.

  • Publihser: Acclaim Entertainment, Developer: Probe Entertainment.



Early FPS games somehow melt into each other, especially out of the PC. The generic mazes of Doom can easily be the layout of the ship in Alien Trilogy. Likewise, the Xenomorph can double as a generic enemy on Doom, sine this is how he is treated in the game.


To be fair, Alien Trilogy is probably one of the better FPS games on the Saturn, and anyone playing it at the time would have probably enjoyed it a great deal. Still, the FPS is one genre that kept progressing forward in many ways, and its earlier days did not age as well as platformers or JRPGs.


84- Tempest 2000 (1996):



  • Genre: Tube Shooter.

  • Publihser: Atari, Interplay Corperation; Developer: Llamasoft.



Tempest 2000 is not one of the Shmups the Saturn is known for. Instead of the gorgeous 2D visuals and ridiculous bullet hell parades, this a Tube shoot featuring vector graphics. That in itself is not a bad thing. There are excellent indie shooters utilizing the same style, and Tempest 2000 is still a challenging Tube shooter in its own way.


Of course, it also has some rad disco tunes (I need to use more 90’s lingo in these reports), and some ridiculous explosions of color and sound.


Unfortunately, I don’t think it has anything on the indie games that utilize the same style today but with better production and replay value.


83- World Series Baseball (1995):



  • Genre: Sports Baseball.

  • Publihser: Sega, Developer: Sega.


 


The first time I understood Baseball was on the Wii Sports Baseball game on the, you guessed it, the Wii. I didn’t understand it immediately. In fact, I had no idea how the score was kept, or why I was hitting the ball. Then, like an epiphany, I just understood nearly everything. As if all the Baseball movie information I ever watched all converged at one moment, fully explaining the game to my subconscious brain.


No such epiphany will happen with 5th generation Baseball game.


This sport series is simply the Baseball placeholder for the Sega consoles. It looks to be a well-made game, with many teams, some voice commentary, and a number of cool modes. Reportedly, it was considered a good Baseball game at the time.


82- Steep Slope Sliders (1997):



  • Genre: Sports Snowboarding.

  • Publihser: Sega, Developer: Cave.



My experience with snow sport games begin and ends with SkiFree on Windows 95. I never managed to get past the Yeti for more than a minute, and I never saw snow until 20 or something years into my life.


Steep Slope Sliders is a snowboarding game ported to the Saturn from the Arcades. The port job downgraded the graphics, lost some of the nuances of control, but kept all the characters and environments otherwise intact.


Generally, this is not a Snowboarding game that is much talked about, but it looks par the course for its time.


81- Shining Wisdom (1995): Check my Review



  • Genre: Action Adventure.

  • Publihser: Sega, Developer: Camelot Software.



After finishing my review of this game, I realized that the localization that I enjoyed so much was actually panned by critics, who did not like the references liberally strewn about. Many said those references would cease to be funny later. I disagree, as I think the localization added a lot of character to the game, and that’s one of the game’s few saving graces.


This would have been a very good answer to Zelda by Sega if they didn’t complicate things too much. With a very poor dashing mechanic that spills misery on every other aspect of the game, the game fails to reach the potential it indicated through its story, music, and very good 16bit visuals.


*********************************


This report is a consolidated review of the top 100 list by Retro Sanctuary. It features the reviews I made for the list, but also has a brief paragraph about each game in the list that I didn't review. For games without an official review, the opinions I express is purely based on some little playing time and general research about the game and its reception at the time.



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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Thimmy on Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:37 pm

Spencer, did you ever play a Michael Jackson game on Sega or Nintendo? I vaguely recall being at a friend's place in kindergarden and playing a game based on him, where you could throw your hat to damage enemies. I was really young back then, but the game looked, felt and sounded incredible at the time. If I ever get a retro console, I'll want to play that game.

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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by RealGunner on Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:36 pm

@Thimmy wrote:Spencer, did you ever play a Michael Jackson game on Sega or Nintendo? I vaguely recall being at a friend's place in kindergarden and playing a game based on him, where you could throw your hat to damage enemies. I was really young back then, but the game looked, felt and sounded incredible at the time. If I ever get a retro console, I'll want to play that game.


I remember that lol. 100% on sega
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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by silver on Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:03 am

I recently started watching videos on Youtube about speedrunning old console games. There's actually a massive community for speed running. Quite interesting. Anyone else follow it?

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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Great Leader Sprucenuce on Wed Aug 08, 2018 12:36 pm

@silver wrote:I recently started watching videos on Youtube about speedrunning old console games. There's actually a massive community for speed running. Quite interesting. Anyone else follow it?


Have you ever seen Games Done Quick they do every year on twitch?

https://gamesdonequick.com/

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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:30 pm

@Thimmy wrote:Spencer, did you ever play a Michael Jackson game on Sega or Nintendo? I vaguely recall being at a friend's place in kindergarden and playing a game based on him, where you could throw your hat to damage enemies. I was really young back then, but the game looked, felt and sounded incredible at the time. If I ever get a retro console, I'll want to play that game.


I played it. It looked incredible for the time, and it still had good music, but the gameplay was incredibly basic, repetitive, and is not considered a very good game.

So I did not review it as part of my Genesis reviews series.
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Re: The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread

Post by Lord Spencer on Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:02 pm

#80

Game: Soviet Strike.
Year: 1996.
Genre: Helicopter Action.
Publisher: Electronic Arts.
Developer: Electronic Arts.



First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste

The Strike series is a product of its time. An entire game based on a single premise, that of a lone helicopter pilot raining hell on his enemies. Other than predicting the infatuation of Western developers with military settings, the series quietly retired into the sunset.

That doesn't mean the games are bad or anything. In fact, the strike games are known for frantic and tactical action. In this case, it should also be known for its hard as ball difficulty.

"We measure our success by the wars that do not happen"

As a step into the 5th generation, Soviet Strike went all-in with its story. Except, instead of in-game cinematics, it uses live-acted FMV scenes. The kind of FMVs headlines by bit-part actors that somehow fit their cliched roles.

I say cliched roles because the entire premise is born from 90's B-movie ideas.

Take for instances the character of "Hack". An African-American hacker who is depicted like the fresh prince with weird "hacking" googles. The entire dialogue between characters consists of catch phrases, to the extent that the entire script can be made into quotes.

Which is not actually a bad thing, as it gives the game an endearing B-Movie feel. If the acting was simply bad, it wouldn't have worked. However, in this case of over enthusiastic bad acting, it feels right at place.

So what is all the bruhaha about?

Basically, Strike is an elite unit consisting of an extensive intelligence network and one chopper that aims to prevent wars from breaking out. As such, the extensive intelligence apparatus and single chopper attempt to surgically remove (kill, blow up, destroy, obliterate) the causes of a conflict.

This time, it is a typical corrupt Soviet general trying to plunge the world into World War III, and that's where Strike and the single chopper comes in.

"Remember. If you do not think, you will not win"

If you think this is just going to be a brainless shooter where you can march your helicopter around and rain hellfire against your enemies, then you are wrong.

Soviet Strike is hard as balls, and your enemies can ruin you in matter of seconds. The enemy consists of foot soldiers, soldiers with rocket launchers, light tanks, heavy tanks, anti-air guns, helicopters, light gun ships, big gun ships, and even freaking submarines.

You have a single chopper.

Thankfully, the extensive intelligence apparatus usually does a good job. For each of the game' five levels, you have several missions. The level of detail that went into the briefing for each level's objective, each mission's goal, and what your enemies have in store is amazing. You would think that just by absorbing all that information, you would easily have the upper hand.

Coupled with that, your allies have spread some resources in the level to help you out (but no other chopper).

Even then, they offer  lot of support as each level changes due to some scripted emerging objectives. It gives you a clear pathway through the level (which you can ignore to your peril), but also adds a feeling of tactical depth.

Still, you are only one chopper.

"Evil Helicopter!!!"

This single chopper is equipped with a light gun, two kinds of missiles, and drop-able bombs. IT controls well, with a tight control scheme and high agility. However, I found trouble aiming, with the guns shooting haphazardly sometimes.

While this contributes to the game's difficulty, it is not the prime culprit. You see, in the game there are three resources that you need to keep an eye for. Your ammo, your armor (health), and your fuel. So, while you navigate the level, you will need to frequently recover one or two of those meters.

Since there is a finite number of resources in each stage, this can put you in unwinnable situations whenever those resources are depleted. While this can be considered part of the game's challenge, the fact that it is impossible to predict what you are facing (despite the excellent Intel) makes resource management a matter of luck.

In fact, there is always a singular path of success that you can take, and it requires multiple playthroughs to discover. This is not a case where you play the game multiple times to get better at it. It is a case of playing it multiple times in order to just beat the damn thing.

Because of that, the level of stress is always high, and not in a good way. I am never sure if I have enough resources, and an unexpected emerging event may kill me off. Worst of all, it stops being fun, and is just a pain to play.

And you are only one lonely chopper.

"The way I see it, the only good enemy ship is a burning enemy ship"

Graphically, the game is in my opinion a step down from the 16bit Strike games. The 16bit sprites are more colorful and defined, and the game pops with more color. Now, the environment is drab, and the polygonal models, while not exactly ugly, are a downgrade.

It is significantly better-looking on the Saturn compared to the PS1 though.

As for the FMVs, they are simply live-action clips, and EA wisely choose to go with that easier option instead of trying to use poor CGI. The B-Movie style of acting and FMVs work for the game. Soviet Strike is generous in using those scenes for every part of the mission briefing.

Like with the graphics, the game's audio is lacking. The soundtrack is almost uniformly poor and/or non-existent. That at least gives you a chance to appreciate the decent sound effects.

And the sound of that single lonely chopper.

In Conclusion:

It is ironic that Soviet Strike's biggest flaw may be its biggest draw today. The fact that it is almost unfairly difficult may attract some real masochists.

Otherwise, the helicopter action games the series popularized have already declined into oblivion. These games were good for what they were; focused action games designed to keep you from reselling the game for as long as possible.

Final: 4/10

Pros:

  • Cheesy story and FMVs.
  • Levels with plenty of intel and objectives..


Cons:

  • Almost unfairly difficult.
  • Inconsistent aiming.
  • Built in order to be replayed often just to win.
  • Poor graphics and music.


"Tips"
1- Protect your supplies from enemy fire.
2- Finish your missions in the suggested order.
3- Save Ammo, Armor, and fuel supplies for when you really need them.
4- Save strangled allies to get some Armor.
5- Learn how to strafe fire often.
6- Learn the health of your enemies to know how much to fire.
7- If you fail, try and try again (which will happen often)

"Next Game"

Desert Strike is the better game when compared to this one, even though Soviet Strike's cheesy story and presentation nails that B-Movie feeling (even if unintentionally). Mostly, the game was a pain to play, and I am glad I am done with it.

Next game on the list is not known for being easy, but Rayman at #79 is known for being a wonderful-looking platformer. This is a game that I am looking forward to.

Stay Tuned
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Lord Spencer
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