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Post by Young Kaz on Fri Mar 22, 2019 10:02 pm

@Lord Spencer wrote:#59

Game: Magic Knight Rayearth.
Year: 1995 in Japan, 1998 in NA.
Genre: Action Adventure.
Publisher: Sega, Working Designs.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Magic_Knight_Rayearth_Coverart

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

Although one of the first games unveiled for the Saturn, Magic Knight Rayearth was actually the last official game released in North America. That was due to the extensive localization needed for a game that pushed the narrative boundaries of the time.

Based on a well-known magical girl anime, this is actually an adaptation that successfully tells a story while being a good game in its own right. The rare anime adaptation that works.

"This land, this place. The dark tide must be quelled. I must call them"

Heavily based on the anime of the same name, the plot of the game will be very familiar to fans of the show, even if there are some notable changes to the plot. Namely the fact that it skips the second part of the anime and combines the entire story in one arc.

For the non-fans, the story is a familiar Magical Girl Anime trope. Three Tokyo teenaged girls are summoned to the endangered world of Cephiro, where they need to fulfill their destiny of becoming Magical Knights and rescuing the princess Emerald. Emerald's disappearance is throwing the world of Cephiro into chaos, and the many locales of the place are in danger because of that.

The three girls, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, all represent well-worn anime archetypes. From the feisty red leader, Hikaru, to the geeky eye-glass wearing Fuu. Their development into the Magic Knights, which requires them to grow with the plot, is the major theme of the game.

Trying to stop them is the evil wizard Zagat and his band of hapless minions, who, to the story's credit, do get fleshed out more than expected. Even if the exposition is a bit forced sometimes.

The plot unravels through character dialogue, which is voice acted in the important scenes. Also, there is a big number of anime cut scenes that do not gracefully follow the action. In fact, I would say the anime cut scenes are more a distraction than an asset.

Surprisingly, the majority of dialogue and character interactions were really good. In fact, there are many times where NPCs would say something funny in a meta-level, but the important bits of dialogue and exposition are also mostly well-done. Of course, there is the occasional cliched scene or two, where the otherwise decent VA creeks under poorly written lines and unnatural developments.

"Hmph! It appears that the Magic Knights have been summoned from beyond the barrier"

In order to develop their powers, the three girls must grow and find their inner strength, and they do that by helping the various communities of Cephiro. That's basically the driving force behind the Action Adventure gameplay.

Similar to the Legen of Zelda the game is a top-down action adventure. Each of the three characters has their own attack style and spells, and you can freely switch between them. While some may call it an Action RPG, the progression is more like Zelda compared to anything else.

Each location has its own dungeon or two, and these are mostly straightforward affairs with simple puzzles. I imagine a better version of this game would have had character-specific abilities to solve some smart puzzles.

Except, the limited challenge of the game is mostly based on the combat. Yet, with the combined strength of the three girls, especially with Fuu's homing charged arrows, the game is rarely hard even against the exciting bosses.

"Alcione... The time is come for a little child abuse"

You shouldn't look at the game's lack of challenge as a serious negative though. While it is true that the gameplay doesn't reach its full potential because of that, the core game is still enjoyable enough despite its relative simplicity.

That's probably due to an always forward-momentum that help you breeze through the game without feeling bogged down at any one moment. Since the story and characters are nice enough, each new location or dungeon is an exciting new thing to quickly overcome and go forward again.

One activity that requires some backtracking is in collecting some of the 64 Rainbow amulets, which is a side activity that offers some exploration incentive without being necessary.

In the other hand, if you don't like difficult Action Adventure games, then this game is right up your alley, with a gentle difficulty and learning curve all the way through to the end.

"Ya know, in my day we didn't have bloomin' video games to rot our minds! We played with rocks and sticks and mud all day, and we LIKED it! We LOVED it!"

One of the many sticking points against the game, when it was originally released, is that it didn't go far from the graphics and presentation of the 16bit era. When games like Bug! and Blazing Heroes were released with polygonal models, Magic Knight Rayearth was simply an upscaled 16bit game.

That is exactly why this game looks great when most early games (And even later) of the Saturn have aged terribly.

The sprites look really good against a crisp and detailed environment. Character portraits are nice-looking an expressive, and their emotions are conveyed in cute little touches in the animations, touches you see in many an anime.

While this level of care doesn't always include the enemy monster models (except the bosses), the game's graphics are consistently good and are a reminder of why 2D game style never went out of fashion.

Complementing the graphics is an impressive array of anime cut-scenes and cinematics that do not always work. Somehow, the voice acting in the in-game scenes is miles better than the anime cut-scenes. That brings us to the VS, which is surprisingly decent, except when it is ill-served by some unnatural lines in the script.

The same cannot be said about the music, which is really the only thing that should have been made up to the increased standards of the Saturn. As it is, few tracks are memorable, and it just reminds me of how little I liked the Genesis soundtracks compared to the SNES.

In Conclusion:

As the last game released on the Saturn in North America, the game symbolizes a lot of what went wrong with the console. Released late because Sega worried about marketing a 2D sprites game in the midst of a technology race, Sega instead bet on the Saturn's weaknesses instead of its strengths.

Looking much better than the games that were developed after it, and perfectly adapting the heart of its anime source, Magic Knight Rayearth somehow became the rare good adaptation. Although limited in its gameplay, and you can feel areas where it could have been better, I had a good time finishing the game.

Final: 8/10

Pros:

  • Good story with funny dialogue sometimes
  • Tries its best at endearing you to the game's world and characters
  • Good graphics that aged very well
  • Gameplay is fun most of the time with good bosses


Cons:

  • Rarely challenging and doesn't reach the full potential of the combat
  • The story does suffer from the cliched moment or two
  • The music is mostly forgettable


"Tips"
1- Depend on Fuu's Heal magic instead of potions.
2- Fuu's charge attack is your go-to in times of difficulty.
3- Make sure not to let any character die, because they cannot be healed for the rest of the dungeon.
4- There always is a health fountain before a boss.

"Next Game"

I don't think I would have enjoyed a magical girl game back when I was a kid, not as much as I liked the game now.

Next on the list would be a report review of the games from 60 to 51, since the rest after Magic Knight Rayearth are games from genres I don't usually cover. Still, I will try and give each game a try.

Stay Tuned


I remember this being so good in like 1996. Ridiculously easy though. People would just give you new attacks from the Anime, which I also remember being "ok".

Good review old friend Smile

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Post by Lord Spencer on Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:16 am

Magic Knight Rayearth is mostly easy until the final boss, which is only difficult because to that point, Fuu's healing magic was enough to save you from any problem.
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Post by Young Kaz on Sun Mar 24, 2019 1:59 am

@Lord Spencer wrote:Magic Knight Rayearth is mostly easy until the final boss, which is only difficult because to that point, Fuu's healing magic was enough to save you from any problem.


I never actually finished it. Who was the final boss? Assuming it was Zagato or one of his generals/proteges?

I did appreciate it was easily picked up kids since it was very very simple. I think the actual Kanji in it was very low. Usually a sign it was directed at kids who were fan of the show, although I remember the show having elements I would not particular be comfortable showing to kids who cant understand basic kanji Laughing

I am curious to how this list shapes up for you. The saturn was a failed system in every way we would judge a system outside of creatively. There were some things done on it that shaped how video game enthusiasts, or even players in general, would view the medium.  I remember the first time I booted up Sakura Taisen 2(we couldnt even get 1, it was literally impossible to find because it sold so well and nobody at Sega expected that for a Saturn game)..man that shit was amazing:


The thought of using the dual processor for the battles alone.That was a stroke of brilliance you'd only see someone try on a sega system. Sega, at least to us, were the only people who would give you that type of freedom to pull it off. You had the original Shenmue prototype on the saturn, and Panzer Dragoon 1. It was amazing. Sega finally stopped just being Sonic during this period.

I think the more amazing thing is that anything was developed and released on the saturn at all though. I've had 3 different saturn development kits since 2000 and not a single one has worked as intended. Obviously SH2, or any assembly programming, is a nuisance to use but 3 different ones not working paints a pretty grim picture of what was actually being sent to developers.Even worse is that you get some of the worst cisco-lite like documentation to go along with it. I remember when I got the first one from a guy on Seganet I messaged him back asking if there was any documentation to use the thing and he told me that Sega does not do documentation, which I figured was the case before the Dreamcast era since the documentation for developing on the Dreamcast Katana is very impressive. I dont know how much of that is the expansion of the internet during, and after, the lifecycle of the dreamcast though.

Happy playing!
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sun Mar 24, 2019 4:51 pm

#R1

Game: Shinobi Legions.
Year: 1995 in Japan and NA.
Genre: Action Platformer.
Publisher: Sega, Vic Tokai.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Shinobi_Legions_coverart

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

One of the strangest thing about Shinobi Legions is that despite being the latest game in a core Sega franchise at the time, it was published in the West by a different company. Evidenced by that, and the fact that no other Shinobi game was released on the Saturn suggest Sega had no idea what to do with the franchise.

In hindsight, that was obvious with this game, as it is barely an improvement on the Genesis games. In fact, it is actually more of a step-down if we are being honest, even if the end product isn't bad in any way.

"If you want her back just come and find us"

While the Shinob series was always short in the story department with little narrative. Instead, it opted to offer the story through its futuristic Ninja setting, where the series protagonist, Joe Musashi, finds a reason to throw shurikens at enemy faces.

Given that this is a game released on the newer Saturn console, Sega decided to offer more of a narrative pull to the game.

First, this is a completely different story, with another protagonist. Second, there are now several FMV scenes separating the stages. These scenes are products of their time, with cheesy B-movie acting in a B-movie plot. A simple girl kidnapping to unlick a mystical force plot. Maybe, if it were not for the grainy images, it will even be a little endearing.

One thing to note is how little these scenes have with the actual progression in the game, as the scenes predict little of the setting of the next stages.

"Sho, you have to be the one who will defeat this evil power"

Regardless of the shallowness of the story, it does give Sho a reason to throw shurikens at enemy faces to save his girlfriend. Or, in this game, to slash them with his katana.

Unlike the previous Shinobi games, Legions puts more emphasis on getting close and personal with your enemies and slashing them with the sword rather than killing them from a distance. To accomplish that, the designers nerfed the shuriken, making them slower to throw. Also, they increased the move-set available and the speed of swordplay.

This is a mostly welcome change, as it increases the excitement of the combat. It does, however, increase the risks, especially at higher difficulties. To compensate for that, enemies in the game actually have less of a ranged threat than in previous game. On balance, this is actually an easier Shinobi than the ones I played on the Genesis.

Generally, the action is pretty good, even if it is a little bit sluggish and unresponsive at times. Some inputs, I feel, do not register at times. Double jumps fail for no reason, lunge slashes randomly appear, and shurikens are just too slow. Most of these issues only rarely affect the game, but they can screw you up at the wrong time.

"Sho, you're no match for me now that I have the key to the secret technique"

The biggest challenge in a game of this genre is always about perfecting the action mechanics and continuously improving. As such, their short length, which invites replayability, is not negative for the dedicated fan.

It is the same here, especially with some decent bosses that are fair yet challenging to defeat. Which is not something you can say for many Action games of this type. At least not the "fair" part.

Unfortunately, the levels themselves are not very creative and pale in comparison to the exciting locations of the previous games, both in design and in gameplay mechanics.

Worst of all are the final two levels, which are as frustrating as they are dull. With plenty of pits of doom in one that makes traversal a boring slog, and some rocket evading bullshit that betrays the unresponsiveness of the game.

It is in these instances, and not in actual moments of challenge, that Shinobi Legions gets its undeserved badge of difficulty.

"Let it be our honor to demonstrate the infamous dance of the deadly swords"

Typical to other games released on the early days of the Saturn, we see Sega experiment with new graphical and sound technology that somehow reduces the appeal of the games compared to their predecessors.

Not speaking of the grainy FMV scenes, the graphics in the game, that utilize digitized sprites in lieu of the beautiful handiwork of Shinobi III, are just simply a step down. It looks cheap. It is cheaps. And it is simply dated and unattractive.

Still, it is not as bad as early polygonal graphics and doesn't affect the gameplay in any way.

What is affecting the gameplay is an honestly weak score. This soundtrack makes a mockery of the excellent tunes of the Genesis games and was even replaced by some original compositions when the game was ported to Europe.

In Conclusion:

If you take it in isolation, then Shinobi Legions is a good, if unremarkable, action platformer game. It only when you compare it to its very recent legacy that you get disappointed. It is obvious that Sega had little idea what to do with their core franchises as they went forward with the Saturn.

That isn't more obvious than a Ninja trying to hide, dressed in white.

Final: 6/10

Pros:

  • Good Action gameplay with the sword
  • Good boss fights


Cons:

  • Weak soundtrack
  • Boring levels
  • Unfair late-game levels
  • Doesn't compare well to its predecessors


"Tips"
1- Utilize secret thunder power-up when in trouble.
2- Practice making your double jump.
3- Practice utilizing your wall jump.
4- Include shuriken throwing in your repertoire.
5- Look for powerups and life orbs inside breakable objects (beware of bombs).

"Next Game"

Even though I ended up not enjoying Shinobi Legions as much as the Genesis Shinobi games, I don't regret playing it at all. Thanks to Ghoane for suggesting this game for me to play. Feel free to suggest any game that is not already included in the list I a reviewing.

Next in the series, I will be writing a report on the games from #50 to #41 on the Retro Sanctuary list. I have only played a single game from those 10 (Albert Odyssey) since most of them are either multiplayer focused or genres that I am not usually good at.

After that, I will play and review the #40 game, Dark Savior.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sun Mar 31, 2019 5:38 pm

Unfortunately for my review, the top 50-41 games on Retro Sanctuary are mostly multiplayer focused games. With a regular fighting game, a tank fighting game (that's more like Worms than anything else), and two puzzlers. Other than that, there are two Shmups, a PC port of a simulator, and a Lightgun Rail Shooter.

Of these games, I only extensively played and reviews the JRPG, Albert Odyssey. As for the rest, I gave the games that were not Japan-exclusive a spin to check them out and wrote a brief report on each one.

Please enjoy:-

50- Croc: Legend of the Gobbos (1997):

Genre: 3D Platformer

Publisher: Fox Interactive; Developer: Argonaut Software.





Originally pitched as a 3D Yoshi game for Nintendo, Croc eventually became its own IP when the pitch fell through. This game is actually a well-known game on the PSOne. It served as one of the few 3D platformer games on that console, and by virtue of the success and reputation of Super Mario 64 and the lack of anything like it on that console, Croc became a considerable success on that platform.

Little known is the fact that the game was also released on the Saturn. That's probably because the game sold a fraction of its sales on that console. Also, the game suffers from a myriad of control issues and the 3D isn't as good.

Regardless of its Saturn specific shortcomings, Croc is really one of the weakest titles in the 3D mascot platformers of the era. It does not compare favorably to Nintendo's or Rare's output at all and is outclassed by others on the PSOne. Yet, by virtue of being one of the very few games of that genre on the Saturn, it probably is the best one.

49-The House of the Dead (1998):

Genre: Lightgun Rail Shooter.
Publisher: Sega; Developer: Sega.





There are no two ways about it, The House of the Dead was a brilliant comeback of the Lightgun genre back in the arcades, and that's really the best place to experience it. Home ports such as the Saturn version do not have the same magic, and cannot be enjoyed today without having access to a CRT TV and a light gun.

Still, this is the place to talk about how the cheesy B-Movie plot of the game makes it such a good game. With its plot of a mad scientist gone rogue and the main characters who include a character named "G", it just makes for a hilarious set-up. Especially because everyone is so damn serious about the whole thing.

48- Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean (1997):


Genre: JRPG.

Publisher: Sunsoft, Working Designs; Developer: Sunsoft.




I already mentioned it in my review of the game, but this game looked and sounded like it could have been a classic. Yet, its basic gameplay structure, serious loading issues, and lack of any side quests, all compiled to make this a very middling game. Coupled with a localization the is, to say the least, misguided at every point, gave me a very bad impression.

Sure, the 2D sprites look great, with some cool animation. Hell, the backgrounds and even the city designs were all very good. Musically, there are even some orchestrated songs that I like listening to even now. Yet, the sum of the game is less than its parts, even relegating an otherwise good if basic story into a cliched mess.

47- Magical Drop 3 (1997):


Genre: Puzzler.
Publisher: Data East; Developer: Data East.




At a glance, the Magical Drop series does not look different from other match-the-color puzzler games like the Bust a Move series. However, once you get into the mechanics, it shows itself as a completely different beast. Unlike many puzzlers, where you introduce new elements into the field, you use the elements already in the field here.

For example, as the colored orbs go down the screen, you attract same-colored orbs down and throw them back up again to make some connections. It makes for some fast and furious puzzle action that the West has rarely encountered.

That's because games like Magical Drop 3 on the Saturn never got ported west. Outside of its unique mechanics, this game also had more content than the usual puzzler, even though a lot of it is just cosmetic. For instance, there are many "characters" to choose from, but that's only a cosmetic change on the puzzle background.

46- Sexy Parodius (1996):


Genre: Shmup.
Publisher: Konami; Developer: Konami.




The title of the game might give it away, but Sexy Parodius is not a very serious game. Made by Konami as a parody of their own famous Gradius series, this is a Shmup that takes place in a crazy surrealistic world that is focused on being, well, sexy.

That's not to say that the game ever gets into AE territory. It's all a bunch of fan-service material with some risque appeal, not outright nudity. Between levels, you are "rewarded" with a still image that has the slightest hint of an exposed breast or something, but always something that isn't even softcore.

As for the game itself, this is simply Gradius with a different skin. Meaning that the Shmup mechanics are well-tested, and is considered a classic of the genre. However, the style of this parody may turn even fans of the genre off, as the sights and sounds can get really annoying. Needless to say, this game was not ported West.

45- Theme Park (1995):


Genre: Sim.
Publisher: Bullfrog Productions, Electronic Arts; Developer: Bullfrog Productions, Krisalis Software.

Does anyone think that a Sim game like the famous Theme Park would play any better on consoles rather than PC? No, then good.

44- Samurai Shodown IV (1997):


Genre: Fighting.
Publisher: SNK; Developer: SNK.




Here is another excellent fighting game released on the Saturn but never ported west. The Samurai Shodown series is known for its tactical and deadly weapon-based fighting system, and the fourth entry in the series was considered a return to form after the disappointing third game.

With its beautiful 2D artwork, from its excellent 2D sprites and expressive animations to absolutely lovely backgrounds, this game showcases the good work of SNK and the capability of the Saturn in rendering 2D graphics.

Unfortunately, such an excellent fighting game was not released West at the time.

43- Death Tank Zwei (1997):


Genre: Tactical Artillery Game.
Publisher: Lobotomy Software; Developer: Lobotomy Software.




Of all the games on this list, Death Tank Zwei is unique in the fact that it is not actually a full retail release. It is actually released as a bonus game with the Saturn version of PowerSlave. Yet, anyone who bought that game would probably have enjoyed DTZ more. Even though it has very rough-looking graphics and little to no soundtrack.

This is actually a fun game to play with friends. Each with their own tank, you play in a 2D field and throw artillery shells like in a Worms game, but in real-time. Also like Worms, the field gets destroyed with everyone's attacks.

Of course, the game has little in terms of story or any extra modes, and without friends, it is not worth looking into. A newer, more polished version of the game was released in Xbox Live Arcade as well.

42- Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (1996):


Genre: Puzzler.
Publisher: Capcom; Developer: Capcom.




As you can guess from the name, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (SPFII) is a puzzler parody of the famous fighting game. Based on Capcom's well-known Baku Baku Animal puzzler games, this is a simpler spin-off with Street Fighter II fighting game aesthetic plastered on it. There is little to the Street Fighter influence other than the chibi versions of well-known characters like Ryu and Chun-Li, and the cute fighting moves they perform when you pull off some cool puzzle combos.

For fans of the genre, this has always been considered a really good multiplayer Puzzler, but I don't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed other match-the-color games like the ubiquitous Bust a Move series. Here, you drop a pair of colored tiles trying to match tiles with the same color. However, they only break when they connect with a special "crash" piece that causes the entire connected series to break. The emphasis here is in carefully arranging your "crash" pieces and tiles in order to form a long chain, all the while dealing with your competition that is sending junk pieces to your court.

This, in my opinion, leads to a lot of luck based gameplay, as you can never predict what color "crash" pieces you are getting next, and that leaves much of the strategy that you would otherwise employ in a game like Tetris out of the window.

41- DoDonPachi (1997):


Genre: Shmup (Bullet Hell).
Publisher: Cave, Atlus; Developer: Cave.




This is exactly the type of game that I know I can never get really good at. Just looking at it in action is very cool, with bullets covering all parts of the screen while you desperately try to thread your way through hell. It is just too stressful for me, as bullet hell shooters are a huge step ahead of regular Shmups which I am already bad at.

For fans of the genre, DoDonPachi is a well-known title with some fast and action-packed gameplay in top of some impressive 2D visuals and a killer soundtrack. With three ships to choose from, each with two different shooting styles, as well as the multiple difficulty levels, the race for that high score will be different every time.

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

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 are purely based on some little playing time and general research about the game and its reception at the time.
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Post by Lord Spencer on Sun Apr 21, 2019 4:32 pm

#40

Game: Dark Savior.
Year: 1996 in NA and Japan.
Genre: Action Adventure.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Climax Entertainment.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Dark_Savior_Coverart

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

Early fans of Sega would recognize Climax Entertainment as the team responsible for many of the best games of the Genesis. They helped Camelot Software with the first two Shining games, and they made the critically and commercially successful Landstalker title.

Taking a cue from that latter game, Climax Entertainment wanted to make another Action Adventure game on the newer consoles, but they struggled with developing in 3D.

Which is why they went back to what they knew best, and developed another isometric game that uses polygons only sparingly in the environment, but otherwise is mostly a sprite-based isometric game.

The result is Dark Savior, which is thankfully still playable today because its graphics aged semi-gracefully, and that's good news because we would have otherwise missed a very good game.

"What is it about this island...? What kind of evil things happen here?!"

Dark Savior start with a scene outside of a transport ship. A bounty hunting crew, led by the main character, Garian, have captured a vicious monster. This monster, Bilan, is to be transported to Jailer's Island to be executed.

Predictably, the monster escapes during the transport and Garian must track it (him?) down to kill it while it roams and wreaks havoc in the prison island. Complicating matters is the fact that the prison warden is not a straightforward character, and the prisoners are planning a revolt. Also, Bilan has the ability to impersonate any character it comes across (and kills).

That in itself, while pretty straightforward, is a very good setting for the story. This is further reflected by a decent translation that manages to give a good characterization of the many players in the story.

However, what truly raises the story in Dark Savior beyond the bar is the fact that it has multiple parallel stories instead of one. During the beginning of the game, you are tasked with reaching the captain's cabin as fast as possible. Depending on your time, the game diverges into one of three paths.

Each path is worth going through to see how much a single decision can affect the overall story and the lives (and deaths) of those whose fate is intertwined with Bilan and Jailer's Island.

"It will be a world of evil, by evil, for the sake of pure evil. There is no place for you there"

Expectedly, the path where you reach the captain's cabin late would have the worst final outcomes, and that's obviously by design.

The player wouldn't be expected to be able to grasp all the complexities of isometric platforming in his first five minutes with the game, which will result in getting to the captain late the first time you attempt it.

That's because Dark Savior's gameplay depends heavily on platforming in an isometric field, which requires some adjustment as you figure out the directions and the ability to direct your jumps and runs. Diagonal movement is still a pain even at the end of the game but everything else became very straightforward.

It is important to state that platforming will be about 80% of the gameplay in Dark Savior, as traversing the island's many locations is simply traversing a series of isometric platforming challenges. Many of these are not difficult at all once you get the hang of the controls, but a few do require some light puzzle solving.

What is challenging, and it did become second nature later, is the ability to move quickly in an isometric field. This is obviously needed to gain access to the other parallel stories after you finish the first one. One thing you should not is never to underestimate your running jump.

"I know now you are a brave knight. You have the skills to defeat Bilan"

The other 20% of the time you would be fighting your enemies in one-on-one fights that are a little bit like fighting game matches, but with very limited controls. You square against the enemy in a linear field and have access to two attacks, a jump, and a special.

Fights can feel like intense affairs at first, with a rapid back and forth between you and the enemy until you realize that you could spam your knock out attack infinitely and easily cheese most of the game's fights.

At least, you don't need to use Garian for all the fights. With his special ability, Garian can capture some of his enemies when defeating them (to capture an enemy, knock them down while they are at low health and use a special move). Then, you can use these captured enemies in fights for a little bit of variety, even if the underlining mechanics do not change.

In theory, the one-on-one fights should be action-packed and exciting affairs, which they are to an extent. While fun, they are really easy, and you cannot but wonder if a more strategic turn-based dueling system would have been more exciting in the long run.

"Now is the time to reach eternity... Garian..... with our burning heart.... we must become as one"

Finally, let's talk about the game's production values, which thankfully have not been fully ravaged by time.

With its choice of using 2D sprites mapped into a 3D isometric field, Dark Savior managed to preserve the look of their characters, even if the environment appears to be largely bland. Character sprites are big and detailed, and their portraits (which I wish were shown when they talk) are nice enough.

A highlight of the game's graphical design is the varied design of the game's characters, who come from many different backgrounds and species. It suggests a rich and interesting world, even if a translation error suggests India exists in this world.

Aside from the game's graphics, the game's soundtrack is top notch. There is an excellent use of drums; a foreboding beat like in Bilan's theme, or the exciting percussion of "The Battle". Then there is the variety; from the emotional "Friendship with Garian" to the epic "Decisive Battle".

It's a soundtrack that is best in its totality even if no tracks truly standout. There is an impressive variety of instruments used, and it is honestly one of the best soundtracks I have listened to on the Saturn so far.

In Conclusion:

There is something weird in my review of "Dark Savior" so far. While I see that taken individually, the game's various parts would not produce a good game, it somehow does here. At no stage did I feel like I didn't want to see what the next parallel story would reveal, and instead would have appreciated one or two more.

I cannot honestly say that playing the game should be fun. The platforming, even after you get used to it, is nothing special. Also, the fighting isn't that impressive either.

Yet, maybe because there was a lot of heart put into the game by Climax Entertainment, the game continued to absorb me even when its gameplay infuriated or bored me at times. Eventually, I just started enjoying myself, even while wishing the game had that extra polish that would have made it a great game.

Final: 8/10

Pros:

  • Unique and interesting parallel stories system
  • A decent cast of interesting characters
  • Variety of characters to use in fights
  • Good graphics and a very good soundtrack


Cons:

  • Core platforming gameplay requires getting used to
  • Fights are limited and somewhat repetitive


"Tips"
1- Try to immediately get used to the unique isometric platforming system.
2- Practice changing directions mid-jump.
3- Practice moving and jumping while dashing.
4- To capture an enemy, knock them down when their health is low and do a special move. This means that you should have a nearly complete special bar when attempting to capture.
5- Your running jump covers a lot of distance and can be used to take short-cuts.
6- To access the different parallels, then at the beginning of the game when you are asked to reach the ship captain's cabin: P1) Reach the cabin in more than 4:30 minutes, P2) Reach the cabin between 4:30 & 3:30 minutes, P3) Reach the cabin before 3:30 minutes.

"Next Game"

I am hoping Dark Savior to be the start of this list only getting good games on the 8-10 range. I wish I could have given this game a higher score, but it did have some serious weaknesses.

Next in the series is the last game released on the Saturn in Europe. Deep Fear, at number 39 in the list, is a survival horror game that I expect has not aged particularly well. So, my wish may be reserved to the game after it, but let's hope I am wrong.

Stay Tuned
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Post by Lord Spencer on Tue May 14, 2019 9:52 pm

#39

Game: Deep Fear.
Year: 1998 in Europe and Japan.
Genre: Action Horror.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Sega.

The Official Sega Saturn Gaming Thread - Page 2 220px-Deep_Fear_EUR

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 major critical and commercial success of the first Resident Evil game, it was only a matter of time before other imitators started crowding the market. Among that crowd, Sega's Deep Fear was meant not only as a rival of Resident Evil but also as its answer in the Saturn's library.

Unsurprisingly, the game failed at both counts, failing to both establish a series or make any uplift to Saturn's flagging sales. Eventually, the game was the last Saturn release in Europe and was not released in North America.

In hindsight, I can see that the game isn't actually bad in the standards of its day, but that it does not have the qualities of Resident Evil and it's better imitators that it becomes worth it to play it today.

"A human being turning into a monster, what is happening here?"

The most unique aspect of Deep Fear and by far its best is the setting. Deep below the ocean floor, the game takes place in an experimental underwater lab and submarine refueling building called the "Big Table". It's a unique setting that the game utilizes well in both gameplay design and story events.

In this isolated base, you control John Mayor, who is suddenly thrust into a major crisis. Starting with the mysterious crash of a submarine that was attempting to refuel, a parasite or something started spreading around the base turning humans into hideous monsters.

Basically, this is a zombie game that is set underwater, with the zombies looking different and featuring some different water-inspired designs. From that point, the game doesn't attempt to be anything different, but its execution of the basic plot is awful.

If you at any point attempt to take the game's story seriously, you will be sorely disappointed. The only way to approach the plot is to laugh at its B-Movie sensibilities. Starting with the terrible acting, behavior, dialogue, and general mannerisms of all the game's characters.

Every cutscene in the game competes with the hammiest scenes in Resident Evil, as character act and talk in stiff and robotic ways, as they continue being as stupid as they can be. Reactions to character deaths are non-existent, and the fact that no one is at all freaked out by bleeding ocean zombies is astounding.

You can detect a director's hand in all of this mess. A director who understands elements of good storytelling and drama, but, for whatever reason, was not able to employ that understanding in any meaningful way.

As such, the game's story goes beyond camp and parody and simply becomes a huge bore.

"If exposed to the outer world, as estimated 264 hours is all it would take to wipe out all the mammals in the planet"

While it is clear that Deep Fear took its core design from the Survival Horror genre, it becomes quickly apparent that it is more an action game than a survival one. This is purely due to the abundance of ammo and health items.

As such, while rudimentary puzzles, fixed camera locations, tank controls, and even the shooting mechanics are all similar to Resident Evil, the fact that there is no ammo scarcity completely changes the player's approach.

Simply put, you have all the firepower in your disposal to get rid of all the enemies you encounter. Starting from the moment you enter the room, you can aim at the enemies, even if they are off-screen, and shoot the dead. By the time you run out of ammo, you will probably be next to a storage area where you can recover all ammo at no cost.

Of course, enemies can still swarm you and do some damage, at which point you can use some of the overabundant (and infinite) first-aid sprays that the game offers.

This design choice offers up combat as something to enjoy rather than avoid. Unfortunately, the clunky nature of the action as well as the limited offensive options both make anything but enjoyable.

In fact, the only element that I somewhat enjoyed is the fact that you need to keep a tab on the air supply in the base. Combat reduces the oxygen content in the air, and once it hits zero, your air gauge starts to drop.

This is an excellent mechanic that is thematically appropriate. However, soon it also becomes apparent that maintaining the air supply is very easy, as you have an abundant supply of air grenades and air system consoles to restore the spent oxygen supplies.

"The oxygen circulation system is broken. Activate the AS or else it's going to be tough"

As you can guess by now, the gameplay wasn't particularly engaging. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case in the early parts of the game. Before any of the monsters showed up, the game was effective at building a sense of tension and isolation.

Then, with a mix of exploration "quests", it introduced elements of the gameplay in a clever way. As I went inside the destroyed submarine, the ammo was truly scarce as I had no idea about the storage areas by that time, and air was truly precious. Especially when entering a flooded area for the first time and seeing that air gauge drop.

After that, the game continued offering some good micro areas such as the submarine. However, as the game opened up, and the entire base became semi-open, the design flaws became apparent.

The second half of the game is full with backtracking, where you need to go back and forth between two far away points and then back again. Apparently, the designers thought the "fun" part in that is fighting against the respawning enemies (they don't always respawn) and going back to a storage room to replenish ammo supplies.

It is in those sections that the repetitive and boring elements of the gameplay were exposed.

"Aaah, my masterpiece is ruined. Ooooh, what I am going to do"

When it was first released, the game wasn't only compared to Resident Evil because of its theme and gameplay, but also because of its graphics, which are obviously similar.

Except, it is not nearly as expertly crafted. The characters are blockier and their animation is stiffer. The environment is okay, but an undersea base is not varied looking anyways. Maybe, because they are allowed to be super grotesque, the enemies look actually "good".

One thing that is surprising is the number of CGI scenes in the game, many of which are good by the standard of the time, but look terrible today. Honestly, the directing of the scenes is where they falter, as unnatural moves and terrible pauses ruin what may have been a good scene.

While the graphics are excusable given the abilities of the time, the voice acting is not. Compounded by some terrible dialogue and directing, the voice acting goes beyond B-Movie camp.

Surprisingly, the soundtrack is really very good, with famed composer, Kenji Kawai, doing one hell of a job. Starting with the excellent opening "Visitation" to a really good boss theme. It and the really good soundtrack are both beyond the standards of the rest of the game.

In Conclusion:

Inspired by the excellence of Resident Evil but not able to capture what made it such a brilliant game, Deep Fear is only a surface level imitation that has a weaker story and atmosphere, and more damningly, much weaker gameplay.

At best, this is a playable curiosity.

Final: 5/10

Pros:

  • Very Good Soundtrack


Cons:

  • Boring Action Gameplay
  • Bad Story and Acting
  • Bad Gameplay Design


"Tips"
1- Shooting reduces air so take care of that.
2- Reloading, wearing the air mask, or throwing a grenade all leave you open to get attacked.
3- Use the auto-lock option, manual aiming is terrible.
4- You will need to search around the environment for extra information and some items.
5- There are many boxes with infinite smalle first-aid sprays, use them well.
6- Once you get the shotgun, always use your secondary weapon.
7- When you enter a room, listen for enemy grunts to know which type of enemy is hiding from your view.

"Next Game"

When writing the review of Deep Fear I started to realize more and more how much bored I was while playing the game. It is almost inoffensive in its boring design, which is why I didn't stop playing it but never really enjoyed my time after the opening hours.

Next game in the list is a prequel to a game I enjoyed on the Genesis. Legend of Oasis at #38 is an action adventure game that looks like it would be right up my alley.

Stay Tuned
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