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Welcome to the Saturn Page. Read up on all the cool games that you should have, from earlier titles like Sega Rally to the more recent games like Panzer Dragoon Saga. Need a Saturn? Well you can pick them up for around $35 these days, (when I wrote this years ago,) which is less than the price of some 2nd hand games! (Well, when Cash Converters seem to have any.) A great buy when you consider simply the CD player features this has to offer, let alone everything else it can do.
It may be long out of production now, but with the truckloads of games you can get for it, there’s bound to be something you don’t have already.

What’s the deal?
Sega had a great success with it’s Mega Drive console, and with new 3D games approaching, like Virtua Racing, Daytona USA and the like, they decided to release a newer, more grunty console. Initially when they released the spec’s they came out as terribly underpowered against Sony’s new PlayStation. Sega decided to keep the current “design,” and renamed it the 32X. They then went back to the drawing board to create something better than the PlayStation, and out came the Saturn, with it’s clever blue logo.
The Saturn came out in Australia around August 1995 I think, but I’m yet to get an exact date on it…

Specs & Stuff:
The Saturn is an interesting box of tricks. It features 2 main parallel processors by Hitachi, the SH2s. These 2 babies, each measuring about 2cm by 2cm big, run at 28.4 MHz and can clear 50 000 000 instructions per second. (25 MIPS each.) It also contains numerous other processors, including the main one from the Mega Drive, I believe.
The Saturn features a 32 channel sound processor, the 68EC000, running at 11.3 MHz, capable of CD quality audio and numerous other effects, such as reverb, surround sound etc.
The Saturn also has good variety in resolutions as well, from 320 × 224, and 640 × 448, to the even nicer 704 × 448 and 704 × 512 pixel modes, used in such games as Virtua Fighter 2, Scorcher, Saturn Bomberman, Last Bronx etc, etc. It can show up to 16 777 216 colours at once, generate 500 000 unshaded polygons per second, 200 000 polygons per second with texturing, lighting etc, and can scroll 5 screens. (Which is 140 000 and 20 000 more than the PS respectively, and about 350 000 and 100 000 more than the N64.)

The Saturn has 2 MB of system RAM, and apparently an additional 2 MB for textures, 1.5 MB of video RAM and something like 32 KB of back up memory.
The CD drive is an Intelligent 2 × speed type, which can spin both directions (?) to access information on the CDs.
Special features include wire-frame, flat shading, gouraud shading, real time coloured lighting, transparencies, vertical cell scroll, lateral line scroll and good old texture mapping. While considered tricky to program, most competent programmers were able to get whatever they wanted happening.

(Please send me an e-mail if you think I have any of these facts wrong. I went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that they’re correct though!)

My Comments:
Personally, I think the Saturn is really great, especially for it’s time. Forget the PlagueStation. Compared with the Saturn the games looked crusty and the majority of them were not worth making coasters with. Okay, I’m whinging, but the Saturn had a hard time, when clearly to any real gamer it was the pinnacle of the games consoles from 1994 through to 1998. Due to more over hyping than you can imagine, the PlayStation was seen as some monster of a console that could out perform the Saturn left, right and centre. Had anyone actually bothered to look at a Saturn, and compared the 2, they’d have noticed how much more gorgeous the Saturn actually was. Finer visuals to the Saturn? Not likely. For starters the Saturn has superior lighting & gouraud shading capabilites, plus more room for textures as well. Not only that, the Saturn had the finest games around, such as the Panzer Dragoon series, NiGHTS, Virtua Fighter 2, Sega Rally, Virtua Cop 2 and Sonic R - all of which are techinally superior. Games like Burning Rangers, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Sonic R and V.F. 2 wouldn’t even run on the PS or the N64 due to their high detail levels and custom special effects. So, really this malarkey about Saturn games looking inferior is a load of garbage. Also, it can do transparencies, unlike many ill-informed people believed, it had the fastest loading CD drive of any CD based console of it’s time, and didn’t suffer from bug ridden games like some of the initial PS line up. The N64 however, produced many various effects with ease, but games on numerous occasions suffered from blurry image quality and the lower polygon output, resulting in lower detail environments, despite that it’s CPU was quite fast.
Take Quake & Duke Nukem 3D, both games, although never as accurate on console as they were on the PC, made the best console conversion on Saturn. Apparently Duke Nukem on Saturn was the only version to use working mirrors also. And Quake on N64, was stripped back on geometry to get it to run.

The Saturn was, of course, the only console of these 3 that impressed me, and I’ve never had any 2nd thoughts about buying one.
I’m a real fan of the original 6 button control pads for the Saturn too, which have been praised by many fighting game fans — they feel great, and they have a nice round D-pad, unlike the Dreamcast’s “+” shaped thing.
One other thing that slightly dissapointed me about the Dreamcast is it’s shocking CD player section which has barely any features at all. The Saturn’s CD player, however had cool pulsing cubes that morphed into spheres with the music, had a spaceship screen-saver, could add a surround effect, cancel vocals, change pitch without changing the speed, plus you could program up to 99 tracks. One thing that I felt was better than many commercial CD players, was the ability to program a list of songs, then randomly play that selection back and at the same time you could choose to repeat one song, or the entire lot, and view the time elapsed of the current track, time elapsed of the selection, time remaining of the current track, or time remaining of the selection. Plus you could repeat a portion of each track over and over. I’ve never seen anything do all that before. So it really comes in handy when you want to play only the songs you like best on a CD and in no particular set order.
I do have to add that the back-up memory cartridge was never too reliable for me. I lost my Christmas NiGHTS save game when it bodged up once.

I tried adding a 60Hz switch to the Saturn once, but I wasn’t too sure about the whole procedure, and taking the whole thing apart and soldering to the microsopic connections was nasty, so I gave up on that.

I quite like the capabilities of the Yamaha sound processor too. As it turns out, I learnt that Panzer Dragoon Saga actually uses like a MIDI type music, and the quality is quite extraordinary. I think NiGHTS does too, but don’t quote me on that.

In terms of people who programmed for it, French programmer, Mev Dinc, from developer Ubi Soft, springs to mind, that created Street Racer. They were able to pull off some great fading in scenery effects, transparent cloud shadows that cover the cars, buildings & ground, and the like, and they only used 1 of the Saturns 2 SH-2’s to run it, I think. Not sure on that. Alien, or whatever it was, did though.
Quake, converted by Lobotomy Software, I thought was always an amazing job.
The rippley reflective water in Sonic R and the transparent fading in scenery always looks brilliant, and Travellers Tales put some top-notch gameplay into that title too.
Finally, NiGHTS. Sonic Team’s mind bogglingly original concept that showed that the Saturn really could slash some of the new flashy effects of the N64. I love watching NiGHTS’ reflection in the walls of Soft Museum and Puffy’s stage, and the eye candy of Jackle’s stage is droolific! This was the Saturn game that I had to have, it’s playability reached new heights, and it looked gorgeous to boot.

And although now, with the XBOX and the GameCube upon us, I still love the old 32-bit thing as much as I did when I first got it.

on the Saturn, 3DO, Atari Jaguar, PlayStation & Nintendo 64.