Next Wave Report: The Sega Saturn


In the approaching contest between Sega and Sony in their war for King of Next-Gen, all eyes turned to Sega as they rocketed forth an opening punch. During the E3 Conference, Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske announced the imminent launch of their much-anticipated successor to the Genesis: The Sega Saturn. His declaration was echoed by various retailers who confirmed the recent arrival of games units. Defying their own planned, "Saturnday" wide release in September, the games company giant delivered a shocking blow to industry competitors and leapt ahead of the pack. This strategy effectely set up a drastically different picture than that of Japan, where Saturn launched alongside PlayStation last November, leading to mutual success.

Having shipped tens of thousands of units to stores across the nation, Sega is now the first company to show its hand in the heated showdown for top-grossing gaming system. U.S. gamers will have the opportunity to grab a ticket for the new generation aboard Sega's next flagship console as it sits uncontested (for now). The machine itself is virtually identical to the Japanese version. It will feature the same interior components, those awe-inspiring 8 processors, including three custom 32-bit processors as well as the high-def soundboard. Sega opted to give the U.S. Saturn a much-welcomed jet-black paint job. The only true difference with Japan is regional game compatibility - Japanese discs will not work on U.S. Saturns.

spotlightsaturn      spotlightsaturn2

The Sega Saturn                          Saturn Controller

The MSRP for the Sega Saturn is $399.99. Perhaps a bit higher than we would have preferred, especially considering rumors of a bundled game at that price were ultimately unfounded, but we anticipate this pricing decision was made prior to knowledge of PlayStation's Two-Ninety-Nine announcement. Anyway, now that you have spent the four hundred smackaroos, how about those games? Due to the early system launch, Sega was unable to meet its goal of twenty titles available from the get-go. Instead, players will have six games to keep them occupied for the time being. Virtua Fighter is the stand-out choice from the pack. The first fully 3-D arcade fighter made the journey to Saturn in one piece, thereby allowing fighter fans to duke it out at home. All eight fighters, along with their combo attacks, are intact. VF is available as a pack-in for the $499 bundle.

Daytona USA is the second arcade port for Saturn, complete with all tracks, the lighthearted personality, and Mitsuyoshi-composed soundtrack. The premier platformer for the next-gen system is Clockwork Knight, a 3-D pre-rendered title co-produced by the director of Streets of Rage. Accompanying the above titles are rail shooter Panzer Dragoon, sports exhibition Worldwide Soccer, and 3-D golf simulator Pebble Beach Golf Links. These games perform well as far as showcasing the potential of the Saturn, although this minimal library does raise a giant question regarding the status of Saturn as a bonafide Genesis successor. Where are the other 14 titles initially promised by launch? PPM has confirmed the upcoming launch of 3-D platformer Bug for Saturn in late July, however the lineup otherwise appears blank until mid-autumn.

Despite our profound joy to play Saturn several months sooner than expected, we cannot help but ponder whether this sudden console launch likewise took third-party publishers by surprise. The same likely applies to Sega's retail partners, too, who may have had their distribution schedule disrupted without much prior warning. In any case, we are pleased the wait is at an end, and the true 32-Bit era is finally upon us.


[Article from the July 1995 Issue of PPM]


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