My top ten Saturn games (terms and conditions apply)

So a while back I stressed and stared and wrung my hands and eventually came up with my top ten Mega Drive games, and at the request of the lovely Adam I’m giving the top ten list format an airing for the Saturn and at some point down the line the Dreamcast too. 

As before I’ve given myself a set of three rules to stick to:

  1. The game must be an original Saturn game. It doesn’t matter where it ended up, but it must have started life on the Saturn.
  2. Only games I’ve owned are eligible. It’s very easy to gush over legendary £200+ rarities you can only dream of having but I’d feel a bit insincere doing so.
  3. Nothing too obvious. Thankfully there aren’t all that many obvious Saturn games, but if you’re wondering why <your favourite game here> isn’t on the list then this might be why. The reason for this rule is just to stop the list filling up with games you’ve already played to death when the space could otherwise be used to show something that’s hopefully both more interesting and useful.

Green text = hyperlink – click on any game title in green for further info!

Astal

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When I first bought this I expected Astal to be another cutesy platformer with a cute character and his cute bird sidekick… but as it turns out he’s an angry little chap who’s more than happy to uproot trees and slam them into enemies without a second thought - to be honest it still surprises me how up for a fight Astal is. I haven’t checked recently but I’d bet money that the game was criticised on release for not being modern enough (ie: not being in 3D); but it actually uses lots of clever tricks with sprite scaling and the like that all come together perfectly to both show off the Saturn’s strengths as well as create a beautiful and unique platformer.

Dragon Force II

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Dragon Force was ace. I bet most of the people that wind up on my blog have experienced the original or are at least aware of it. Dragon Force II took an already great game and tweaked it just enough to be an improvement without changing everything that we all loved about the first one – can’t really complain about Dragon Force with knobs on, can we?

Dungeon Master Nexus

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I loved Dungeon Master on the Amiga as a kid even if it did used to scare me and the sequel, Chaos Strikes Back, starts with your team basically naked in the dark in a pit filled with monsters. Anyway, finding out that FTL’s legendary dungeon crawlers had a Japan-only Saturn-exclusive send off was a bit of a surprise, but what was even better was playing it and finding out that it still felt authentically old-school – arguably even more so than the wonderful Legend of Grimrock, and I think that game’s the bees knees.

Enemy Zero

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Kenji Eno, bless him, was one of those developers that you had to admire whether you liked his games or not - when you played a WARP game you knew you were getting their vision, raw and untouched by PR men, focus groups or common sense. Enemy Zero’s sci-fi horror adventure FPS-by-sound ‘em up isn’t really a very good game all things considered, but it’s somehow still a gripping and unforgettable one.

Grandia Digital Museum

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A behind-the-scenes fan disc for an RPG doesn’t sound like something everyone should rush out to grab, but I thought this was really good. When you start the game the museum only has a few items in it, and it’s up to you to go off adventuring and grab the rest. More Grandia’s always a good thing (so long as we’re talking exclusively about the original), so getting a fun little adventure as well as the opportunity to gawp at bonus material at the same time really impressed me.

Sakura Taisen

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The game that launched a thousand drama CDs. I have played this game on every format it’s ever been released on, and I honestly never tire of it. Ogami & co’s adventures are just the best – likeable characters in colour coordinated uniforms off saving the world while making sure they’re back at the theatre in time to perform Cinderella. One of Sega’s flagship series, and a game I’d heartily recommend to just about everyone if only it had an English translation – I really cannot stress just how important this game is to Sega and to well, me, I guess.

Shining Force III Premium Disc

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This fan disc takes a slightly different approach to Grandia’s, although it’s no less thorough for it. It’s especially worth mentioning the model viewer (all characters, all promotions, with all possible weapons) and the sound test that covers every track in the entire trilogy – by comparison the official soundtrack only offers a measly thirteen, and one of those is a medley. But even better than all the glorious art stuffed on the disc are the battles that let you use your own Shining Force III save data to create an all-star team to go up against some of the series most memorable bosses, a Shining fan really couldn’t have asked for more *heart flutters*.

Shiroki Majo ~Mouhitotsu no Eiyuu Densetsu~

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“But Kimimi, you said no ports!” you probably cry. Well OK so this one is a bit of a cheat but it is so different from the original PC-98 Shiroki as well as any and all revisions after it that it may as well be an all-new game. Hudson’s port is a bright-n-breezy adventure with some impressive FMV and absolutely spectacular sprite animation. But they did far more than just give the game a makeover; they completely rebuilt it from the ground up, and cut out all the usual RPG fluff – the game doesn’t even have random battles! You think this’d kill an RPG but in practise it’s perfect for people like me who miss old-school RPGs with towns and magic and kids going on adventures but don’t actually have the time or the will to spend on all the tedious bits that can accompany that sort of thing.

Silhouette Mirage

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Treasure were at their peak on the Saturn, which is a little odd coming from someone that thinks Alien Soldier is the best game they’ve ever made. But the important thing to remember is that Silhouette Mirage is completely nuts, and while I’ll never be any good at it I’ll always enjoy putting it on and grappling with the quirky mechanics and fun encounters.

Terra Phantastica

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Sega systems aren’t really praised for their RPGs the way Nintendo (SNES) or Sony (Playstation) are, so it’s always good to remind ourselves that they do have some brilliant exclusives too. Terra Phantastica is pitched just right for me - an SRPG with some interesting ideas that doesn’t confuse “interesting” with “drowning you in a million stats” or lumbering you with a dozen esoteric battle mechanics. It’s nice to find something with a bit of thought behind it but not demanding that I need to dedicate all my time to it just to get anywhere, and I found this kept me engaged the whole way through.

So, that’s that! What would you include on a similar list? Let me know either here or wherever else I happen to be lurking, OK?