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Caféman's Blog - SEGA Saturn is hooked up again


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I've been in a real old-school SEGA mood since fall hit. Up until December, I have been enjoying playing many 16-bit Genesis and SEGA-CD games. I finally had my fill for a while, put that system into the closet and hooked up the SEGA Saturn for December.

At first it took some time to get into the 32-bit Saturn again. I was still in a 16-bit mood. I looked at my game wallet that has my 40+ Saturn games, didn't really know what to play. Well, I hit a retro store and picked up on the cheap, Madden 97, QB Club (which I haven't tried yet since I kind of know it ain't that great), and World Series Baseball 98 which I've been on the lookout for! I used to love playing WSB II (97).

Well, baseball is baseball and although I see improvements over the prior 2 WSB games in gameplay, I just can't get into the slow boring baseball gameplay. Not right now. The polygons are sure uglier than I remembered too . The prior 2 used sprites and I was fine with that.

Madden '97 is another story! EA had not progressed to using polygons yet, so this is like a turbo-charged version of the Genesis games and I love it! Fast to load and play, with just enough brief clips of Madden commenting on things before each game, fast framerate and the best gameplay and presentation we'd seen up till that time. I don't know how Madden 97 was perceived back in the day, but I think its awesome. I keep playing (stubbornly) as the Steelers, now in week 10 of the Season. I had to clear all the save files from my Saturn for Madden to save its humongous 500 block save file. I use a backup cart and swap other files back-n-forth, kind of a nuisance but that's life playing real hardware. It took me a while to figure out the clunky save mechanisms, too. I thought I'd saved but I didn't. You have to manually save!

Tomczak was the QB back then (1996 stats) and Greg Lloyd and Rod Woodson still on defense. Bettis was the Running Back. Yancy Thigpen over there right-field as wide receiver. Well, I'm really not that good a video game football player! I try to pick the good offense plays and fitting defense formations ... but I'm frequently shut down and burned! Still fun. Why can't my receivers get out in the open more often, I wonder?

Last night I grew satisfied with all the Madden, so I also played several rounds of Guardian Heroes (as well-designed as it is ... it kind of bores me to be honest), and also the magnificent Sega Rally Championship.

Sega Rally on the Saturn is (again), a magnificently faithful port of the coin-op. It runs at half the frame rate, half the resolution, but other than that is very faithful. It is my favorite racer on Saturn (with Daytona CE 2nd). I play SRC the same way every winter when I once again nostalgically hook up the Saturn -- First I play normal Championship , trying each of the 2 cars. I usually compete fairly well but have trouble getting 1st place after the 3rd track; usually I'm 3rd. Sega Rally races are brief though, so it only takes a half hour before I've played enough so that I finally got 1st place, and unlocked the Lakeside Track , and I easily beat that since you start in 1st place. Lakeside has beautiful use of bold sunset colors and distant birds flying over the track.

I know I'm set to win the game in 1st place when I finish the first Desert stage in 9th place. On an average game I'm either 10th or even 11th - there's no way you can make a comeback if you are 11th after track 1. Then after track 2 (Forest track) I start the city track in 3rd or 4th place and win, as long as I don't mess up too much.

After this, I set the options to 3 laps (instead of the default 1-lap races on each track). This changes up the game's competition quite a bit and is a nice option. I didn't come in 1st playing this way but still had a really fun race! The great thing about 3-lap races is you get to hear the excellent extended musical tracks, with Joe Satriani's great guitar work overtop the other SEGA musicians' rhythms.

Even after all quickly coming in first place, I still find it quite fun to just race myself in Time Attack mode against your own ghost car, shaving off seconds, then having an infuriatingly poor lap, then again finally beating your own time once again. The game just plays so well and has inviting and enjoyable sound too - even on the title screens!


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