What It Could've Been
It's been nearly 30 years since the formation of Atari and the debut of Magnavox's home console, the Magnavox Odyssey. Through vector lines and sprites, those who are truly hardcore have witnessed it all. The Odyssey had only one launch game, and it was the game that had eaten up the coins of millions of people worldwide; Pong! Or at least a version that played almost exactly like it, which would eventually lead to a lawsuit between Magnavox and Atari, for copyright infringement on Atari's part, on the grounds of developing a knock-off Pong. In-fact it was Magnavox who had made a rip off of the game, and sold it with their system. Atari decides to buy the rights to publishing Pong, just so Magnavox would get off of their asses. Today, Atari is quite possibly the most legendary videogame company; the word has almost become synonymous with videogaming, as has Nintendo and "Playstation". Back on subject, with this "knock-off " version of Pong, the Odyssey sold 100,000 units; pretty good for a first of its kind product. 'That' was nearly 30 years ago! Imagine that, almost makes you feel all tingly inside, doesn't it?
Throughout the course of those 30 years, the world was treated to a spectacle of never ending fun. Consoles came and went, while others engraved their presence into the books. Of the 30 released and manufactured consoles, entertainment units such as the Odyssey, Atari 2600, Commodore 64, NES, GameBoy, Sega Master System, TurboGrafx-16, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Playstation, Nintendo 64, and the Sega Saturn were the only ones who had actually sold well. And yes, the Saturn did do very well altogether, as it sold a very respectable amount of units in Japan. The console wasn't shelved up until the time of the DC's release, wherein areas here in the US, the death of the Saturn came in the begging on 1998. Sadly, Sega had dropped the console in light of focusing fierce development on the "Black Belt", which would later be titled "Dural", then "Katana", and finally "Dreamcast". Not only that, but Sega had laid off hundreds of jobs from their three divisions SegaSoft, Sega of America and Sega Entertainment. The sales of the Saturn still proved to be good enough for Sega to continue publishing it in the world over.
Meanwhile, newcomer Sony is noticeably edging out the competition, as Nintendo struggles to rack up any decent 3rd party support for their Nintendo 64. The console ultimately trails the Playstation at a distant second, never to really pose a threat for Sony. The Playstation's success is said to have been -most highly- contributed by SquareSoft and Final Fantasy VII. Quickly becoming the fastest selling game of its time, FFVII sold 2.5 million units in Japan within 33 hours worth of time (split between three days). Similar success falls on the domestic release, of what is herald to be quite possibly one of the greatest games and RPGs of all time. Eager fans of the franchise quickly trade in their sleek new Nintendo's for a CD-based squared console; Sony Playstation. Soon enough, blockbuster, after blockbuster, after blockbuster titles settle on the gray-wonder, as Playstation is eventually praised as the greatest videogame system of all time. 3rd party would flock over to Sony and release exclusive software like, Tekken [series], Final Fantasy [series], Chrono Cross, the fabled release of Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider [series], Ridge Racer [series], and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. In addition, Sony's 1st party games were nothing short of excellent, with the Crash Bandicoot series, Twisted Metal series (excluding 3), Jet Moto series, Gran Turismo series, Ape Escape, Parappa the Rapper, Syphon Filter series, Spyro the Dragon series, and so on and so forth. The PSX was the clear-cut choice for games - that goes without mention of Nintendo 64's extremely incredible 1st party titles.
The N64 is home to some of the best gaming software out there, including: Super Mario 64, GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, StarFox 64 (the very first console game to feature force feedback), and Super Smash Bros. The N64's list of titles didn't stop there, games like Banjo-Kazooie/Tooie, Super Mario Kart 64, Mario Party, Paper Mario, Donkey Kong 64, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Pokemon Stadium, and Mario Tennis 64 would keep the 37 million N64 owners busy throughout the console's 5 year life-span.
<---Japanese Sega Saturn/US Sega Saturn--->
The hardcore Sega fans, who stayed faithful to their Saturn's had some incredible software to play as well. Games like Virtua Fighter (1, 2, Remix, Kids), Fighters Megamix, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Jam, Burning Rangers, Daytona USA & Daytona USA-CCE, Fighting Vipers, Panzer Dragoon series, Saturn Bomberman, the incomparable Radiant Silvergun (!!!), and the unbelievably exceptional NiGHTS into Dreams! It was a shame that Sega's stupidity had to ruin such an incredibly good console. Not only that, the Saturn was the only console to perfectly replicate Capcom's current arcade hardware for games like Street Fighter Alpha 1&2, X-Men: Children of the Atom, Vampire Savior (DarkStalkers), X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel vs. Street Fighter. Granted some of those fighting games were never released in the US, but with a $15 switch-converter, any US Saturn could easily play Japanese software. To be honest, the Sega Saturn was an excellent console. In fact, despite its premature silence, this editor-in-chief would put the Saturn above the Nintendo 64, as the console had already featured damn near 50 must-have games in only 2 1/2 years, when it took the N64 to reach about the same figure in twice the time.
It could've been a completely different era right now. If Sega hadn't ridiculously overpriced the Sega Saturn for its US release ($399), Sega's loyalists would've still been intact and chances are the Dreamcast would've only been released in 2000, instead of 1999, thus, making the Dreamcast a technologically 'posable' threat to future next-generation consoles such as the PS2, Xbox and GameCube, as the chipsets would've been more up to date and flexible. Where did Sega go wrong? It surely couldn't have been marketing. After all, I still remember the commercials for NiGHTS, Sonic 3D Blast, "three for free" (buy a Sega Saturn and get three free games) and the infamous - "fly Play-thing, fly". Commercials of the Saturn were all over the place, so where did Sega go wrong? It's not a question of "where", but "when". Though, I'm sure many of us reading this have one giant image in their head, the scapegoat for all of Sega's burdens for the years to come. I am, of course, talking about the Sega 32X and Sega CD; two of the biggest abominations this side of the industry has ever seen. The support for either peripheral was barely present, as were the sales, especially with the steep price tags. The Genesis, which was once neck and neck with the Super Nintendo's sales, had slowly began to sink, along with the 32X and SegaCD. This was where Sega had lost its momentum, as Nintendo was in the clear for a single-handed win in the 16-bit era.
Now, let's turn the tables and play a little game of "what if". Those who saw the movie, "It's A Wonderful Life", know that it was about a man who had wanted to end his life, thinking the world would be better without him. He then had a vision in his dreams, of life without him, and saw how different -and in some cases chaotic- it was. After waking up, he then feels relieved to be alive. So what would've been the case today? Had the 32X and Sega CD never existed, I for one think that only now would we have seen the setting of the Saturn. Nintendo would've foolishly released the N64DD, and like the Genesis, the N64 would fade into nothingness. The Sega Saturn would've seen some sort of revised model a'la PSOne, and both console's lives would've ended together. With Sega's reputation presently in force, the Sega Dreamcast would've had an incredibly dedicated user base, not to mention technologically on par with the PS2 and upcoming consoles. The Playstation, with Sony having absolutely no videogaming background, would've led the same life as it has for the past 6 years now. It's Nintendo, that I believe, may have suffered a dangerously high fever, and either canned the N64, or kept it out with dragging sales.
As soon as Nintendo launched the N64, gamers flocked to their EBs and Babbages, picking up a copy of Super Mario 64 along side it. A few weeks later, gamers begin to notice a severe lack of games for their new "fun-machine", and return their systems in exchange for either a Saturn or Playstation. Fans of the fighting genre (Street Fighter in particular) soon notice the wave of incredible fighting games on the Saturn, such as Virtua Fighter, Virtua Fighter 2, VF Kids, VF Remix, Fighters MegaMix, Last Bronx, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, X-Men Children of the Atom, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Marvel Super Heroes, and so on. Not only that, but Saturn owners rekindle their spirits with incredible adventure games such as NiGHTS, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Jam, Burning Rangers, Christmas NiGHTS, Panzer Dragoon, Panzer Dragoon Saga and more. RPG fans get an incredible treat, as games like Shining Force III, Legend of Oasis, Shining Wisdom, Shining the Holy Ark, Phantasy Star IV, Dragon Force, and Grandia are available (with the success of the Saturn, Working Designs decides to bring Grandia out to the US). Racing fans indulge into the world of Daytona USA, Dayton USA-CCE, WipeOut, Sega Rally, The Need for Speed, Sonic R, Road Rash, Manx TT SuperBike, and Andreti Racing. Aside from RPGs and fighting, the Saturn's biggest attraction is its broad selection of sports games, including the Madden series, NHL series, FIFA series, NBA Live series, NBA Jam series, NHL All-Star Hockey series, World Series Baseball series, and the World Wide Soccer series. The Saturn held an incredibly diverse fanbase, and featured incredibly diverse genres with exceptional titles. Lastly, since the Saturn was such a success, AM-2 and Yu-Suzuki continued and completed Shenmue "chapter I-III" (as well as Virtua Fighter 3) - it spanned a total of 4CDs. The game would be released to excellent sales, and wonderful reviews.
NiGHTS is one of the best adventure games of all time.
With the Sega Saturn selling quite well, the Playstation's sales wouldn't quite reach the 80 million mark, as they would have in reality. Instead, the Saturn sells over 55 million units, while the Playstation sells nearly 70 million, and Nintendo racks in 25 million. RPG fans have bought their Playstation's for pretty much only one reason: Final Fantasy VII. The game quickly turns into the hottest RPG of all time, as SquareSoft enjoys the incredible sales, and Sony loves the royalty fees. In addition, early generation RPG games like Wild Arms, Alundra, Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, Final Fantasy Tactics, Persona Suikoden, Vandal Hearts, and King's Field attract their targeted fanbase. Fans of the racing genre were treated like kings in the world of Playstation, as Sony announces and later debuts Gran Turismo, which leads the pack of PS racers such as Ridge Racer, Rage Racer, Ridge Racer Revolution, The Need For Speed, Need for Speed 2, Need for Speed 3: HP, Test Drive 4, Destruction Derby, Jet Moto, Destruction Derby 2, and a couple of Formula One racers. Sports fans were treated to the best looking titles of their genre as the GameDay series was the first console pigskin title to use polygonal models, and not the traditional sprites. In addition to the GameDay series, Madden also found its way onto the platform, as did Live, NHL, and FIFA. But the best gameplay mechanics in sports games were to be found on the Saturn. Adventure and platform fans didn't have too much to lean back on early in the PSOne's cycle, but there were some great games nevertheless: Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, Pandemonium and Mega Man 8 and X4. While the Saturn benefited from some fantastic fighters, the PS's line-up was far from empty. Games like Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter Alpha 2, Tekken, Tekken 2, King of Fighters '95, Soul Blade, Battle Arena Toshinden, Tobal #1 and Dark Stalkers, caught the eyes of fans who enjoyed their fighting games. Both the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation offered such incredible line-ups for various categories; it was no wonder that each console performed so well. Though, it was Final Fantasy and the news of Metal Gear Solid that gave Sony an edge in the market over Sega.
Years after their respective launches, both the Saturn and Playstation see some incredible games like Virtua Fighter 3 (Saturn), Shenmue (Saturn), Sonic Fighters (Saturn), Radiant Silvergun (Saturn), Metal Gear Solid (PSX), Driver (PSX), Tekken 3 (PSX), Chrono Cross (PSX), and so forth. The 32-bit era was dubbed as the most successful gaming era to date, having put videogaming on the map as the most common mainstream of entertainment, only followed by movies and TV. ***Wavy lines distort your imagination, and you are instantly back in reality***. The Saturn had potential. In its mere existence, the console had dozens of fantastic titles, all of which were, unfortunately, hardly experienced. In fact, two Sega Saturn games will be making PSX Extreme's list of The 20 Greatest Games of All-Time. In a way this editorial may seem like some kind of pity-tribute to the Saturn, but make no mistake this is nor pity nor a tribute -- just a look of what it could've been.
Hope everybody enjoyed this editorial. If you have comments I'd sure love to hear them, so click on my name and tell me what you thought. I always enjoy feedback (hate or praise).
All images of videogame consoles and software is copyright material of their respective owners. PSX Extreme would like to thank the various eBay members who contributed pictures of their vintage..