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16BitFlash

16BitFlash

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since 04/02/2017

94

Fighters MegaMix (Sega Saturn) 15/07/2017

Kick 'N' Mix

Fighters MegaMix (Sega Saturn) While far from a runaway commercial success, the Sega Saturn wasn’t without its success stories, for example it’s excellent array of fighting games in both 2D and 3D flavours was unparalleled in terms of quality when stacked up to its competitors the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64. While Sony’s first console could boast the Tekken series and Soulblade, its library was cluttered with countless sub-standard 3D fighters, and conversions of the slick 2D fighters offered by Capcom and SNK faced an uphill struggle on a machine that couldn’t handle 2D. The N64 fared even worse with ‘playable’ about the best you could say for some of its better fighting games. Over on the Saturn, players who like their games with a bit of kick were spoiled for choice; excellent conversions of Capcom’s popular Streetfighter series and its spin-offs, SNK’s King of Fighters, Battle Arena Toshinden for weirdos who like bad games and numerous fantastic Sega 3D fighters, most notably Virtua Fighter 2. Virtua Fighter 2 was a bona-fide smash hit, particularly in its home territory of Japan where it ruled the arcade, and the Saturn conversion of the game almost sold the console on its own for fight fans. AM2, the division of Sega responsible didn’t hang about and first tried to cash in on the hysteria surrounding Virtua Fighter 2 with a fighter that used the same engine but somewhat relaxed the need for a realistic setting with Fighting Vipers. Fighting Vipers would prove a moderate success, but ultimately ...

NiGHTS into Dreams (Sega Saturn) 13/07/2017

Dreamy

NiGHTS into Dreams (Sega Saturn) Sega made a lot of mind-bending decisions in the 1990s with regards to its established franchises, particularly with regards to the move from the Megadrive to the Saturn, but none is more infamous than their potentially fatal decision to launch the machine without a Sonic The Hedgehog title completed, or even with a release in sight. It’s no exaggeration to say that Sonic was one of the main reasons that the Megadrive provided Sega’s only truly successful console, and launching the machine without the character that had become the company mascot seemed like complete insanity, which to be fair it was. So what were Sonic Team, the developers whose very name was derived from the mascot they had created, doing while Sega launched a potentially make or break piece of very expensive hardware? They were working on a new property, one they had actually been in development of since they completed work on Sonic & Knuckles for the Megadrive. That title would become known as Nights Into Dreams, and it would see release in 1996 in all territories. It’s hard to say if Nights was intended to replace Sonic as the console’s main showpiece, although an interview I once read with one of the children who provided the operatic vocals for one of the songs the game featured indicated that Sega very much saw this as the case. Regardless, Nights, both the titular character and the game, would become very much the face of the Saturn, with its positive critical reaction, particularly retrospectively, ...

Last Bronx (Sega Saturn) 12/07/2017

First & Last

Last Bronx (Sega Saturn) While, as a fan, I find it quite sad, the many highs and lows that punctuate the history of Japanese videogame purveyors Sega is a saga I can’t help but find intriguing. Truth be told it may be where a degree of their appeal comes from; never quite a full-blown underdog, but equipped with an undeniable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory that I can’t help but find equal parts frustrating and endearing. At times they were very much the architects of their own downfall, which saw them go from being one of the leading console hardware developers to becoming reduced to creating software for other companies. In other cases, it’s easy to sympathise with them given that games arcades, where the majority of their successful titles had found their genesis, were starting to die off, and for one reason or another their popularity in their homeland of Japan would never seem to match up chronologically with their success in the USA or Europe, meaning they only ever seemed to strike a hit with part of their target audience. One game that almost perfectly encapsulates the latter is 1997’s arcade port Last Bronx. Debuting in arcades in 1996, Last Bronx was created by Sega’s AM3 sub-division, who were responsible for a slew of arcade hits like Sega Rally Championship, Manx TT Superbike and Decathlete, but this would be their sole entry into the fighting game arena. What makes this more notable is that fighting games, particularly 3D ones, were a genre far more associated with ...

Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition (Sega Saturn) 10/07/2017

Improved Finish

Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition (Sega Saturn) While it may sound like sheer hyperbole, I genuinely believe that the original port of Daytona USA that appeared on the Sega Saturn is quite possibly one of the most disastrous home console releases of a major arcade game in living memory. My disdain for the genre of racing games is well noted, but even I was looking forward to trying out one of the most famous arcade games ever on what should have been its home console. Ridiculous pop-up that saw tracks basically develop in front of your eyes, a lack of single player modes and, most criminally of all, a complete absence of any multiplayer function whatsoever rendered it an impotent release that came across as a quick and cheap attempt to get a ‘name’ title ready for the Saturn’s launch. A year later in 1996, Sega opted to try and fix their errors with the release of Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition. In much the same vein as ‘Virtua Fighter: Remix’ Championship Circuit Edition could almost have come with an alternative title of ‘Apology Edition’ as it existed almost purely to try and right the wrongs of the first attempt to bring the game home from the arcades – the only difference was that unlike VF Remix this wasn’t handed out free to those who had registered as owning the original poor port. In many ways it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter suffered the same fate, as they were both products of Sega’s subsidiary AM2. It’s well known that as Sega’s most successful branch in ...

Marvel Super Heroes (Sega Saturn) 10/07/2017

Marvelous, Super & Heroic

Marvel Super Heroes (Sega Saturn) While often regarded as a barren period for the art of comic books, the 1990s weren’t without their victories for the medium. While it’s true that the major story arcs, and in some cases artwork of the books themselves took a slump with regards to quality during the decade, not to mention some catastrophic cinematic conversions like Batman & Robin and Steel, it did also see a variety of characters make successful jumps to the small screen with a collection of animated series’ based upon Spider-Man, Batman and the X-Men, as well as arguably the golden age, if you can call it such a thing, for comic book heroes in videogames. Yes, there were a fair share of turkeys, and a great deal of utterly generic cash in titles based on protagonists in capes and masks, the sheer amount of games featuring Marvel and DC’s finest released across the consoles of the day ensured that there were a fairly solid assortment of success stories too. One of the greatest triumphs was Capcom’s X-Men: Children of the Atom, a title which saw the Japanese developer combine the characters from Marvel’s most successful title of the time with the gameplay of their incredibly successful Streetfighter arcade games. If you’ve read my review of that game’s Saturn conversion you’ll know how badly I pined for it, but at the time I was without a console capable of it. It was a massive success both in the arcades and at home, and it wouldn’t take long for Capcom who, by 1996 had already begun to milk Streetfighter ...

Panzer Dragoon (Sega Saturn) 06/07/2017

Dragood

Panzer Dragoon (Sega Saturn) There are few consoles with game libraries as unique as that of the Sega Saturn. Why Sega opted to eschew the franchises that helped make the Megadrive their only real console success story is beyond my comprehension, it did lead to Sega developing a slew of new and unique franchises for their move to three dimensions. One such title would be Panzer Dragoon, a project from rookie developers Team Andromeda, which would arrive with the console as one of its few launch titles, and become one of Sega’s great unheralded properties. In many ways, despite its qualities, it isn’t hard to see why Panzer Dragoon wasn’t a runaway success. Besides its somewhat unique art style which strayed as far as possible from the over-the-top anime style popular in Japan and the ‘gritty realism’ America sought, Panzer Dragoon also took the form of an On-The-Rails shooter – not exactly a genre that crops up regularly. With that said, it still managed to collect a great deal of plaudits both upon release and retrospectively, and did clock up a fairly respectable 3 sequels and a hand-held spinoff. Despite its cult status, I actually found acquiring a copy relatively simple after becoming a Saturn owner. Admittedly it was minus instruction manual, but obtained for a paltry sum of £3. Set in the kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland you only find in Japanese made fantasy projects, Panzer Dragoon sees a world where civilisation has collapsed and the people have cobbled together a basic society built from ...

Fighting Vipers (Sega Saturn) 03/07/2017

De-Venomed

Fighting Vipers (Sega Saturn) Given their unusual reluctance to bring existing properties from the Megadrive days onto its successor the Saturn, Sega seemed to go into overdrive to try and produce new franchises for their 32-Bit black box. There were stone-cold classics like NiGHTS and Panzer Dragoon, but the undisputed success story both critically and commercially, and trust me there weren’t that many, was the Virtua Fighter series of 1-on-1 fighting games. The first was the first fighter to take the bold step into three dimensions, and while it was technically impressive it was a little lacking in something. That something was remedied with a wonderful sequel that took the groundbreaking premise of a fighting game that not only used fully 3D rendered character models, but also grounded itself in reality and ran with it, crafting one of the finest examples of the fighting game genre of all time in the process. What is interesting, and possibly one of the reasons the Saturn wasn’t exactly a success, was that Sega didn’t push to capitalise on this success with another sequel quickly. Instead AM2, the subsidiary responsible for Virtua Fighter, as well as Virtua Cop and Daytona USA, turned their attentions to using the Virtua Fighter 2 engine to create an entirely new fighting game in the form of 1996’s Arcade hit Fighting Vipers. Proving one of the most successful coin-operated games of the year, it didn’t take long for Fighting Vipers to make its way onto the Saturn to see if it could repeat that success ...

Olympic Soccer (Sega Saturn) 30/06/2017

Gold Medal in Awful

Olympic Soccer (Sega Saturn) If there is one football tournament that must be grateful for the advent of the Confederations Cup it has to be Olympic Football, as it no longer has to suffer the indignity of being the least respected of all International footballing contests. In many ways the demise of Olympic Football is something quite sad in itself, given that once upon a time it was actually regarded as the premier International competition, and 2 of the stars above Uruguay’s crest actually represent Olympic victories from the pre-World Cup days. By the Atlanta games in 1996 it had very much fallen from grace, as reflected by the fact that 11 year old me, utterly obsessed with all things football, wasn’t even aware of its existence until one of my friends produced a copy of US Gold’s somewhat ill-advised tie-in game for the PlayStation. Truth be told, I had only the vaguest memory of it from the time, which I’ll get back to, and somehow found myself in possession of a copy of its Saturn equivalent. With 1996’s big tournament, the European Championship, already selling its rights to Gremlin for the Euro 96 game and EA Sports’ FIFA holding a hammerlock on pretty much all major club leagues, US Gold found themselves in possession of the rights to make a game based upon the footballing section of the 1996 Olympic Games. It’s an interesting, if somewhat pointless, license in the end, given that it uses entirely generic player names and despite the fact they never competed in the Olympics inclusions of ...

Virtua Fighter 2 (Sega Saturn) 29/06/2017

Virtua-lly Perfect

Virtua Fighter 2 (Sega Saturn) It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the Saturn was not quite the runaway success that Sega were hoping for when they decided to embark upon an assault on the world of 3D gaming. Admittedly, when looked in hindsight, the Saturn’s problem wasn’t actually a lack of quality software, but some highly questionable decision making on Sega’s part, particularly when it came to promotion. The machine wouldn’t be without its success stories though, with arguably no light shining quite as brightly as Sega’s own Virtua Fighter 2. Despite stellar sales, the first Virtua Fighter game wasn’t exactly a smooth conversion when it appeared as a Saturn launch title, and there was a lot riding on Sega subsidiary AM2’s developers when it came to bringing the sequel home. While the first Virtua Fighter was incredibly popular, and also groundbreaking due to its status as the first ever 3D fighter, the sequel improved upon it in every possible way, and quickly established itself as one of the finest fighting games ever to grace an arcade, the pressure was really on to deliver second time out. If you’re unfamiliar with Virtua Fighter, or fighting games in general, I’ll elaborate. Virtua Fighter is a 1-on-1 fighting game where the goal is to win a best of 3 rounds contest against your opponent by either depleting their health bar using a variety of attacks or by knocking them out of the designated ringed area. Ring outs aren’t the only thing that differentiated Virtua Fighter from the pack of ...

Sega Rally (Sega Saturn) 28/06/2017

A Rally Good Time

Sega Rally (Sega Saturn) When I finally came to own a Sega Saturn, years after the machine’s untimely demise, and truth be told after the even more untimely demise of its successor the Dreamcast, I picked the machine up for the rather paltry sum of £30. Nobody wanted a Saturn, for years it was regarded as the ugly stepchild of all mainstream consoles, a disaster nobody even wanted to admit owning. Maybe it was partially this reputation that drew me to it, to see if it was as bad as many said, though a regained love for console games the Dreamcast gave me after years in the wilderness of being a ‘PC Gamer’ and then, even worse, owning a Nintendo 64 that drew me to this most mysterious of machines. The one catch to it being long dead was games were hard to come by. At this point in time they could be picked up for pittance on eBay, but while old enough to have the disposable income to buy the machine, I wasn’t quite old enough to be running riot online shopping yet, and the only games that came with it were 2 terrible football games. I had the machine but I was desperate for games. Then it happened. I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, ok, maybe not yesterday but last week sometime, vivid enough that the major details are in place. It was in GAME in Buchanan Street in Glasgow, in a store that is no longer there itself, I saw it sitting in the preowned bin. Buried amongst a plethora of PlayStation copies of WWF Warzone and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? That long, slightly bigger than a DVD case ...

King of Fighters '95 (Sega Saturn) 27/06/2017

Fighting Royalty

King of Fighters '95 (Sega Saturn) SNK’s King of Fighters series is something of a unique prospect in the world of videogames. It’s a series that has spanned well over a decade with annual releases, enjoys a huge fan following in both North America and Asia but has hardly had any luck whatsoever when it comes to the PAL territories in Europe. With that said, not all of the games have actually migrated from their native Neo Geo console to the mainstream machines, with today’s subject, King of Fighters ’95 one of the few cases of the game not only making it to one of the more established consoles but actually seeing a PAL release to boot! I do find it somewhat odd that King of Fighters ’94, the first of the series, wasn’t the game to make the leap, but perhaps it performed better than the game’s developers, SNK, or anyone else had anticipated. While they had never managed to make a huge splash, several of SNK’s previous fighters like Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting and Samurai Shodown had made transitions to the Megadrive and Super Nintendo with various degrees of success, so it is unusual that SNK didn’t try to push what would become their flagship franchise a bit more. King of Fighters ’94 was an interesting concept in itself. While both its protagonist, flame-wielding Japanese teenager Kyo Kusanagi, and antagonist, megalomaniacal billionaire Rugal Bernstein, were new characters KoF was based on the tournament featured in both Fatal Fury and the Art of Fighting series of fighters, and the cast was largely made ...

Virtua Cop 2 (Sega Saturn) 26/06/2017

Virtua-lly Pointless

Virtua Cop 2 (Sega Saturn) Bringing games from the Arcade to your home was, once upon a time, the Holy Grail for games developers, with the already installed awareness in the user base making for an easy route to sales straight out the gate. It’s somewhat ironic that the console generation which saw these games being faithfully recreated for the first time also happened to be very same generation where the art of the arcade conversion started to go out of vogue. This era, which came in the mid-1990s, saw a shift towards the more lengthy, epic single player adventure and Role-Playing-Game seemed to take prominence in the popularity stakes. You can perhaps take the downfall of the Sega Saturn as one of the key examples of this trend, as while it did have its share of excellent single player titles, the majority of its success stories came in the form of arcade conversions, most often from Sega themselves. 1994’s Virtua Cop was one such example of this, a game notable for its status as the first lightgun shooter to employ full 3D polygon graphics. Virtua Cop was a good arcade game, and when ported to the Saturn alongside the Virtua Gun peripheral it proved somewhat of a success. While it was a solid port, and was certainly enjoyable, it is true that it was incredibly short in length for a home release and the graphics were somewhat on the basic side. A year later a sequel was released that was designed to improve upon these flaws, and a year on it also made its way to the Saturn console for home ...

X-Men: Children of the Atom (Sega Saturn) 25/06/2017

Xcellent

X-Men: Children of the Atom (Sega Saturn) While a few questionable recent movies may have seen them fall behind the Avengers in the pecking order of comic book supergroups, there can be no denying that in the early 1990s Marvel’s X-Men were in the midst of what would be very much the sunniest period in their then 40 year history. While the decade may have started with an animated series that never failed to get past the pilot stage, the spin-off action figures and Konami arcade Beat ‘em Up game that did make it to release proved a success, and a second attempt at a cartoon would prove incredibly popular before rounding off a decade with a big-budget movie that is almost single-handedly responsible for both the current comic-book movie boom and Hugh Jackman’s status as an A-List star. Indeed it was the aforementioned arcade game that tipped me over the edge from being just a normal kid who liked Spider-Man and Batman into a fully-fledged comic geek. I had no idea who these guys were when I put my first Quarters into that arcade machine on holiday in Florida, but by the time I got the plane home my bag was jammed with Toy Biz action figures and comics bearing their likeness. The funny thing about the success of the X-Men in the 1990s is that it is a period widely derided in the history of the medium of comic books. Most A-List titles endured some bleak spells in terms of both sales and quality, and an obsession with ridiculously proportioned characters in armour, with ammo pouches and possibly oversized weapons took ...

Daytona USA (Sega Saturn) 24/06/2017

"let's go away!" Please do

Daytona USA (Sega Saturn) I hate racing games. Anyone familiar with my past reviews in the genre will probably be aware of this fact, but it is always worth addressing again. Racing games are a genre that, with a few honourable exceptions, has never resonated with me in the slightest, possibly due to a combination of the fact that I can’t drive and the fact I am absolutely terrible at them. However, as I say, there are honourable exceptions to this rule, most of which you can probably guess, such as Super Mario Kart, and even Micro Machines 2 on the Megadrive managed to hold my interest. One such game was arcade mainstay Daytona USA, a stock-car racing experience from Sega that any self-respecting early 90s arcade had at least a twin cabinet for. The funny thing is, that while I enjoyed Daytona USA in short bursts in the arcade, there have been other racing games that statement would also apply to, the difference is that the name Daytona USA stuck with me. What is probably the most interesting thing about that fact is that there are 2 reasons for this, though both are linked to the same aspect of the game; the soundtrack. Firstly, as I mentioned, no arcade worth its salt didn’t have a Daytona USA cabinet, which was prone to blast out a theme tune with the lyrics “DAYYYYTOOOONAAAA…let’s go away” on repeat that is forever bored into my head and the second is bit more speciality early 1990s in terms of memory. I was very much a Megadrive kid, and as such purchased the Official Sega magazine fairly ...

Virtua Fighter (Sega Saturn) 23/06/2017

Warriors of Virtue(a)

Virtua Fighter (Sega Saturn) Hyperbole and videogames are 2 things that tend to go hand in hand, especially if you happen to read the blurb on the back of the game’s sleeve, but every now and again you encounter a beast that genuinely does deserve the billing it gets, a game that genuinely did made a difference that would actually have a direct effect on the very landscape of games. Virtua Fighter from Sega is very much one of those games. Unleashed in arcades in 1993, what would become one of the flagship titles in Sega’s arsenal holds the illustrious distinction of being the first 3D fighting game, and its immense popularity has been cited as an influence by everyone from the team behind the Sony PlayStation to ID Software’s First-Person-Shooter Quake. Looking back, it is actually quite amazing to think this came just 2 years after Streetfighter 2 debuted in arcades, and ultimately if, like me, you feel we maybe jumped headlong into 3D at the expense of 2D too soon, it’s especially galling to think that this was the beginning of the end for 2D sprites. With this said, this stance is somewhat revisionist from me, as 8 year old me was as bowled over by Virtua Fighter’s full 3D polygon model fighters as anyone. In many ways, Virtua Fighter could have been seen as a somewhat risky move for Sega. Fighting games were all the rage in the early 1990s, and as Mortal Kombat sent the genre down a road of ridiculous over the top violence that every developer from East to West was trying to outdo, Sega opting to ...
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