The Saturn, Sega
's entry into the Fifth Generation
, had been originally been intended to be a 2D multimedia gaming device. Unfortunately, so many things went wrong.
Developers had just gotten excited about polygonal graphics
, and Sega realized their next system should have that. The irony is that it was their own Virtua Fighter
that got developers excited. The problem was, the original Saturn design had 3D capabilities that were barely any better than those of the 32X
, and the rumoured capabilities up the then-upcoming Sony PlayStation
and Nintendo 64
would have left the Saturn eating dirt.
Instead of redesigning the system to make it powerful enough to handle 3D, Sega just slapped on a duplicate CPU and a duplicate graphics card
. This is retroactively ironic
, because CPUs with multiple cores
are the norm in video game consoles and PCs today, but having entirely separate
units just upped the cost and the complexity of the system. The complex hardware setup prevented most game programmers from exploiting its full processing power, though multiple CPUs were nothing new to veteran arcade game
developers like Sega, who also adapted the Saturn hardware into their Titan Video (ST-V) arcade board.
While not ironic, the system was also suffering from a legacy of mismanagement from Sega, particularly a lack of communication between Sega of Japan and Sega of America
. Sega of Japan launched the Saturn without telling Sega of America, so Sega of America created the 32X and got everyone on the bandwagon of that, took their money, and then they were told that the Sega Saturn was being released. The 32X was soon abandoned, which pissed Sega's customers off. Now, the 32X customers didn't trust Sega, which led to all the 32X customers not buying the Saturn.
One really weird mismanagement was Sonic Team
hearing that the team developing the Sonic X-treme
was using the engine Sonic Team made for NiGHTS Into Dreams
. Sonic Team complained, and the Sonic X-treme
developers had to make their own engine, but that wasn't enough and the game was scrapped. First of all, the creators of Sonic didn't want a developer using their own engine to make a Sonic
game. That's ironic. It's also retroactively ironic because these days a developer would have to be crazy to stop a game from using a pre-existing engine.
Another odd bit of mismanagement was hiring Bernie Stolar, fresh from being fired by Sony Computer Entertainment America for his draconian and inconsistent policies, directly into the position of CEO for Sega of America. He then proceeded to start up a "five star game" policy (which basically just allowed him to veto whatever he damn well wanted) and basically took the ax to the Saturn. His policies drove away almost all of the American third party developers, blocked a metric ton of high quality games from being released stateside
due to his thinly veiled "no 2D" attitude (again ironic, considering that most of the 2D games were miles above the system's 3D games in terms of presentation and general quality
), and downplayed the Saturn as being dead in the water, giving the finger to the relatively small but still sizable fanbase.
From all that, Sega lost about $270 million on the Saturn, and the system sold just 11 million worldwide. It did do well in Japan, mostly thanks to the great advertising campaign involving Segata Sanshiro
, a judo master who beat the living crap of everyone who doesn't play Sega Saturn
, and has a considerable library there (in Japan, the Saturn was the favorite console of its generation for bishoujo
games, in part because Sega was more permissive than Sony or Nintendo about releasing 18-rated games with nudity). Too bad Sega doesn't see the point of localizing them
, and porting them to current systems. They would find a great home on the DS
, PlayStation Network
, Xbox LIVE Arcade
, and Virtual Console
. And the PC, for that matter.
On the other hand, the relative lack of ports/remakes for Saturn games has made it a must-own Cult Classic
system for hardcore retrogamers, especially now that they can easily look up the good games on the Internet. Too bad said games usually don't come cheap.
- Two Hitachi SH-2 32 Bit RISC (a form of processing focusing on many small instructions instead of a few big ones) CPUs at 28.63 MHz each.
- Hitachi SH-1 32 bit RISC processor (controlling the CD-ROM)
- Two 32 bit video display processors running at 7.1590 MHz on NTSC Systems, 6.7116 MHz for PAL Systems).
- Custom Saturn Control Unit (SCU) with DSP for geometry processing and DMA controller running at 14.3 MHz.
- Motorola 68EC000 Sound controller running at 11.3 MHz.
- Sound processor, "Sega Custom Sound Processor" (SCSP), running at 22.6 MHz.
- Hitachi 4-bit MCU, "System Manager & Peripheral Control" (SMPC). Likely used for handling input devices like the controller ports and the expansion slot.
As can be seen, the system was really processor-heavy. Not a good thing in that day, when developers were just starting to grasp 3D graphics.
- Each CPU has 4 KB of Cache.
- 2 MB main RAM, 1.5 MB Video RAM. The Extended RAM Cartridge (released in Japan only) added 1 MB or 4 MB to the main RAM.
- 512 KB sound memory.
- 512 KB CD buffer, which helped ensure smooth loading, if not fast loading.
- 32 KB save memory with the battery backup. A 128 KB or 512 KB memory cart could be added to supplement this.
- While the system was listed as having 200,000 fully-textured polygons per second, barely half could be done in real-time games. That was still an impressive amount for the time.
- Unlike virtually every other console ever made, the Saturn used quadrilateral (rectangular) shapes in its 3D rendering, rather than the more traditionally used triangles. While this could theoretically have resulted in graphics far superior to what its competitors offered, quadrilaterals were nothing short of nightmarish to work with in games, even moreso when you considered how hard it was already to create games for the Saturn. Moreover, it made it impossible to do direct ports of games from the PlayStation and Nintendo 64.
- Overall, the Saturn could potentially have topped the PlayStation in terms of 3D graphics, but the system didn't last long enough to prove one way or the other.
- 2D was another story, as the system was built initially with 2D in mind, and save for a few effects, the Saturn was a superior 2D device to the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Too bad it was mainly games in Japan that showed it off, unless it was a Capcom fighting game or a Neo Geo port.
Games for the Sega Saturn include:
- Advanced Variable Geo
- After Burner II
- Albert Odyssey
- Alone in the Dark: One-Eyed Jack's Revenge
- Battle Garegga
- Battle Monsters
- Blazing Dragons
- Brain Dead 13
- Bubble Bobble also featuring Rainbow Islands
- BUG! and BUG Too!!
- Bulk Slash
- Burning Rangers
- Clockwork Knight
- Congo: The Movie - The Lost City of Zinj
- Cotton 2
- Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
- Crusader: No Remorse
- Crypt Killer
- Cyber Troopers Virtual-ON: Operation Moongate
- Darius II
- Dark Savior
- Daytona USA
- Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition
- Dead or Alive
- Deep Fear
- Devil Summoner
- Die Hard Arcade (Dynamite Deka in Japan)
- Double Switch
- Duke Nukem 3D
- Dungeons & Dragons Collection (a compilation of Capcom's two arcade beat 'em ups, Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara; make sure you have the 4 MB RAM cart)
- Earthworm Jim 2
- Fighter's History Dynamite (Japan-only, though, as opposed to the ports for the SNES, Neo Geo, and Neo Geo CD)
- Fighters Megamix
- Fighting Vipers
- Fire Pro Gaiden: Blazing Tornado
- Fire Pro Wrestling S: 6 Men Scramble
- Groove on Fight
- Guardian Heroes
- Hercs Adventures
- The House of the Dead
- In The Hunt
- The King of Fighters '95, '96, '97 ('95 requires a specific ROM cart, but the later ones use generic 1 MB RAM carts)
- Langrisser III, IV, V
- Legend of Oasis
- The Lost Vikings 2
- Jurassic Park
- Last Gladiators
- Lunar series:
- Magical Drop
- Magical Drop 2
- Magical Drop III
- Magic Knight Rayearth
- Mansion Of Hidden Souls
- Marvel vs. Capcom
- Mega Man 8
- Mega Man X
- Metal Black
- Mr Bones
- NiGHTS Into Dreams
- Night Striker
- Panzer Dragoon
- Panzer Dragoon
- Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
- Panzer Dragoon Saga (Azel: Panzer Dragoon RPG in Japan)
- PowerSlave (Exhumed in Europe).
- Pocket Fighter
- Pro Pinball: The Web
- Pu Li Ru La
- Radiant Silvergun
- RAY Series
- Layer Section (a.k.a. Galactic Attack; RayForce on other platforms)
- Layer Section II (a.k.a. RayStorm)
- Resident Evil
- Resurrection: Rise 2
- Revolutionary Girl Utena: 4 Days in Ohtori
- Revolution X
- Road Rash
- Sakura Taisen (1 and 2)
- Saturn Bomberman
- Sega Rally Championship
- Various from the Shining Series;
- Shippu Mahou Daisakusen (a.k.a. Kingdom Grandprix)
- Silhouette Mirage
- Solar Eclipse
- Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island
- Sonic Jam
- Sonic R
- Soukyugurentai (Terra Diver in English regions)
- Soviet Strike
- Space Harrier
- Street Fighter Alpha
- Street Fighter Alpha
- Street Fighter Alpha 2
- Street Fighter Alpha 3
- Strikers 1945
- Super Robot Wars F/F Final
- Super Tempo
- Tengai Makyou: The Fourth Apocalypse
- Three Dirty Dwarves
- Three Wonders
- Thunder Force V
- Time Gal (a port)
- Tokimeki Memorial (Kirameki Saga)
- True Pinball
- Twin Cobra II
- Twinkle Star Sprites (some prefer the Saturn version to the Neo Geo original due to extras)
- Tomb Raider
- Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
- Uncharted Waters: New Horizons
- Vandal Hearts
- Virtua Cop
- Virtua Fighter
- Virtua Fighter
- Virtua Fighter Remix
- Virtua Fighter Kids
- Virtua Fighter 2
- Virtual Hydlide
- Waku Waku 7
- World Heroes Perfect
- Yu No
- Bald Women: One magazine ad features a woman with rings surrounding her denuded scalp. Likewise, the promotional video (see below) starts off with a bald (and nude) lady with rings encircling her head. Considering how shocking the trope can be, it's a good way to attract attention and invoke the image of Saturn.
- Dada Ad: The initial promotional video for the Saturn, clocking in at 9 minutes, infamous for not making any sense at all.
- Ghost in the Machine: What seems to be the point of the launch ad, titled "Theater of the Eye", although it wasn't exclusively the mind portrayed. It focuses on how the Sega Saturn will make you weep uncontrollably, lose your hearing, have a nervous breakdown, and also make your bowels move violently. Because that's what you want to happen when you play a game console.
- No Export for You: A large quantity of games released in Japan only.
- Scapegoat Creator: Bernie Stolar, often blamed for the downfall of the Saturn in America. As you can probably guess...
- Misblamed: While Stolar is very much responsible for not allowing many games into the west and pushing the Dreamcast to be released, the rest of Sega of America (including whomever was hired to market the system in the U.S., see below) are just as guilty. In addition, by the time Stolar came, the Sega Saturn was already losing the market and most of the games he refused to allow official releases were niche in the US such as Shmups and dating sims.
- What Were They Selling Again?: The marketing team for the Saturn in the U.S. didn't quite make it well known they were advertising a video game system, let alone the Saturn.