The SEGA Saturn. Talked about a lot for being a failure in the fifth generation, this is quite true. It had horrible sales, got released too early, and had a processor.....erm, processors, much to complicated to be programmed at the time. At the time when SEGA was at its prime, via the Genesis, they dominated Nintendo. And had more than half of the market share in video games, according to reports. I imagine that means that Nintendo had less. Anyway, I would like to talk about here what would have happened if the Saturn made the right choices.1. The Release Itelf
The early bird gets the worm.....well, unless there are no worms around to actually get. And that's what happened here, the Saturn unexpectedly came out four months prior to expectations and it pissed off a lot of Super Markets, but because of SEGA's success the console was packed in regardless, but it was a little hard to convince them to do so. However, after failed sales and lack of games, the markets realized it was rather pointless to even have a Saturn in their stores and so it slowly began being removed.
Solution: Had the SEGA Saturn launched as scheduled, the market might have saw more Saturn games available. Would this have saved the Saturn? Maybe not, unless that is more third-party developers noticed how quickly the sales went up, as I imagine the launch day would have seen a lot of Saturns being sold, had they not pissed off the stores with the early release. And as such, would have attracted more developers to want to make games for it.2. The Processors
Introducing the specs of SEGA's newest hardware: the SEGA Super Computer! Ha...no, actually.....this is the SEGA Saturn.....alright, you can stop looking surprised now. The Saturn had not one, not two, not three, not even four....but EIGHT processors. And I have to say: If developers had known how to utilize this, the Saturn might have won that generation entirely due to the immense power of the console. However, eight processors was just too much, and since developers did not get to see at least one game that took advantage of all eight, they weren't all that curious enough to put all that time and effort into making a 3D game. 2D games, however, were a demon of speed and texture as they looked so beautiful and crisp on the Saturn.
Solution: Had the Saturn decided to ump a little less on the processors, or if they had known how to use them and showed developers the steps, the Saturn would have been that much closer to winning that generation of gaming. In fact, they would have been pretty close if they had ported Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to its fullest advantage using all of what the Saturn had to offer, rather than simply emulating the PS1 version on it. Castlevania would have been a best seller and surpassed sales that the PS1 version had and would have definitely made the Saturn memorable. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Don't get me wrong, though, the game still came out, testers weren't upset it was the way it was, it still saw a release to an adequate audience of loyal Castlevania fans who praised the amount of content added and new character, but hated that it had missing textures in some areas and more loading times. And for the Saturn's controller, Symphony of the Night was flawless for it. If you have a Japanese Saturn or an Action Replay with your American one, then Symphony....or, as it is called in its Japan-only release: Nocturne in the Moonlight (sounds a bit cooler, too), is a worthy collector's item. Get it now, though, as prices have rose up to $80. The game doesn't run slow either, just loads longer. And it features remixed music that still sounds pretty good on the Saturn. Unfortunately, a few of the cool effects of transparency and detailed textures are also omitted from this release. The Saturn could have done much more on detail if it was given a true port, but this did not happen so we will never know how beautiful this game could have looked running on a Saturn, definitely would have surpassed the PS1 port by a lot if it had its full potential. Aside from that, the additional areas and character make this purchase worth it.3. The Controllers
The Saturn, even though within the 3D generation, mostly had a focus on 2D games. And this controller was a perfect fit for them. Featuring eight buttons, it is really comfortable to use and hold, as I did get to play it on my brother's Saturn once. The triggers are a bit more awkward to play as they look, with a similar design as seen on the Xbox One's front triggers that require you to kind of push in the front a little, as well as the top in order for it to click. Pretty weird, but it still works fine aside from that. SEGA's trademark D-Pad got readjusted here, but it isn't horrible as it may look. In fact, being a 360 D-Pad, it is really easy to play 3D games on it and it is a breeze. Of course, SEGA knew they had to release some sort of analog joystick controller as people don't want to play 3D on a D-Pad, no matter how comfortable. And as such, we got...
This. And I will be honest, this controller is extremely comfortable to hold and it tops what the other fifth generation controllers felt like, even Nintendo's. It had a real ball joystick, and it is the earliest example of a joystick as it didn't stick out like most do, but rather there was just a grip and a ball, literally. SEGA threw in a little of their oldschool days in it too, but not in style; in the way they mock Nintendo. As they too have a bullseye-like design, but it is concave instead. And is much more comfortable. And not just a joystick, but also present are analog triggers in place of digital, and the first of any console to feature analog in its triggers. Though unfortunately not many games managed to utilize the feature as it was not too common at the time to have analog triggers. They feel really comfortable to press, though. And finally, this controller features the return of SEGA's well-known 360 D-Pad in its original style, and is much more easy to press down on.
Solution: I don't really have one. The controllers, both of them, are really nice. And I like having the option for another controller for 2D and one for 3D games, so SEGA did good here; their controller choice would not have effected the console's fate. I just brought it up because I loved the way the controller looked. Oh, and well I brought up those two controllers, I might as well throw in the last one for good measure...
So, yeah people did in fact complain about the D-Pad for the weird way it looked, and as such we saw a return of the classic SEGA Pad on this new modeled controller, and better shoulder buttons. This redesign gives the controller a sleeker appearance and makes it look better. Personally, this controller, alongside the 3D controller, make for a perfect duo when it comes to switching off from 2D and 3D games. As my personal recommendation, this should be the controller you game on if you decide to get Castlevania: Nocturne in the Moonlight. Also, I forgot to mention: Alucard has a third hand for weapons, and along with that there are many more to collect. Haha, good luck with that.4. The True Sonic Title
You probably know the story by now, for hardcore researchers; and I wanted to make an article about this game alone, but I figure many people have done this already. So I will instead feature a much shorter synopsis of this game.
The game started development, everything looked fine. Beta process underwent several changes, until the game picked up its core: being on the Saturn, and looking like this:
Gameplay, actually was NOT revealed at the time it was announced. Not until 2005 did we see this picture I am showing you of the game. In the magazine or whatever, we knew what Sonic was gonna look like so this isn't too much of a shock. The game decided to make Sonic 2D so he could look more attractive on the console, rather than a 3D mesh of polygons. This way, the stages could move faster and Sonic could look nice. The game was near completion, but developers hated on the style and wanted it to be designed like the boss engine which had a more platform-like style, less speed and no fish-eye view, so in other words a basic 3D game. So they scrapped practically everything they made, except the boss levels and Sonic sprites. Oh, and if you have seen this game in action already, you know it looked like a fish-eye view, in case you were confused.
What stinks is the game had its core pretty soon in development, and it went so smoothly so more development time could have been arranged for the Christmas season if they could have continued. It even featured Sonic's trademark beautifully composed music, only one track unfortunately was released. Of course, this didn't mean the game was lost, they tried to do it again. They had to work about sixteen to twenty hours a day, in an isolated space to avoid distraction and this made the employees sick, along with a few even gaining serious illness and passing. The creator of the project passed himself, I believe. And so, the game was finished, until they borrowed an engine from the famous Saturn hit, Nights into Dreams and the game resumed development and was getting better.
But then the Nights people suddenly went "Hey! You didn't ask us if you could use that engine!" (they did) and despite the fact that they were struggling, the people said they had to change their work.....again. So now with no engine to work off of, the team was getting frustrated....what was left of the team, anyway. And so, the project was canceled so they could save the stressed and tired employees from certain death of overworking and at least make something out of their efforts. So instead, a Sonic Compilation, titled Sonic Jam, came out and it showed remastered versions of every good 2D Sonic game, excluding Sonic CD and Knuckles Chaotix that is, and added tons of content. And a racing game, Sonic R, which was not as fun and is also an example as to why this game was not considered in 3D even once.
But it sounded amazing, regardless. The game never saw a release, and the people behind the good Sonic games disbanded entirely. And as a result, the Sonic of today was made: tall, green-eyed and overall kind of awkward. Except for Sonic Generations, that was a true 3D Sonic game of the next gen. Sonic X-Treme almost got revived in 2010 only for the creator to drop it for good due to the amount of stress he remembered from the nineties. But don't lose faith yet, for those who saw the trailer and showed a slight interest in wanting to play the game itself, not all hope is lost...
Haha, no I am not showing you more beta content to make you sadder about the game. This is actually what a fan has developed. This fan, just one person, did this. He started in 2006, and has not stopped the project yet. He has sense had more of a development team than he once did, and the project blossomed into what you see here. It is a perfect recreation of what was shown in 2005, albeit in HD and much smoother. It still retains the fish-eye view and pays homage to the trailer in every way, and is not a remake, but a remaster. The game is expected to launch all the way between 2015-2017, the creator has yet to give an official date. But the game looks close to completion. If you wish to find him, go on YouTube and search Project AXSX to see all he has done so far. His work is truly incredible.
Solution: Had the executives accepted the ideas that were shown, the game would have most likely been finished by the 1996 Christmas season. But would it have competed against Super Mario 64? I think yes. Not in that it is all 3D, but the idea is very original and Sonic could have toppled Mario this time around because this game looked much more promising than Mario 64, not to say Mario stinks I loved Mario 64 and even experimented with Toadstool 64 for several months just because I loved everything about it.
But, the Sonic game looks much more fun. And I have a feeling Sonic could have saved the Saturn, as I could have seen this game as something that either would have done alright, or gained critical acclaim for innovation and definitely music, as that too sounded promising the STI is known for making great music in their Sonic games. And every Sonic game they ever released pretty much gained critical acclaim. So this wouldn't have been any different. Oh, and sorry about misleading you there, it looked like I was gonna sum this game up pretty quick in that first line but then I just threw three long paragraphs at you. Did not mean to hit you with a curveball.
Fun Fact: Mario Kart 64 is a perfect example of how Sonic X-Treme would have looked, and the game itself may have possibly copied Sonic X-Treme's style of 2D characters in a 3D environment.5. Their Support
Now, onto the final reason as to why the Saturn failed so bad: Support. The Saturn creator, or an important employee I don't remember, quit sometime in 1997 due to the Saturn undergoing a lot of stress with games, especially the aforementioned one. Without Sonic here to help, the Saturn was falling. So bad, that the man left, leaving the Saturn to need a new head of development. Two new people showed, and decided on a new idea: let's get rid of the Saturn! Yup, just three years in, the Saturn is gone; stopping production sometime in 1998. Personally, I like the Saturn's 3D Pad better than the Dreamcast controller for having a better grip, joystick and additional buttons. It is pretty much a Dreamcast controller when you look at it, but just more cool looking rather than colorful.
Anyway, the Saturn saw its end and the Dreamcast was in development for a release in just a few months. Basically, SEGA said "We got to get our crap together and try now. We failed too much." And truth is, they did try on the Dreamcast it had very creative games, they just lacked resources to fund it due to the failure of the Saturn not giving them enough profit to move on. They still did, and for two years in North America which is pretty impressive I must say. They even got two major Sonic titles on it. Now, these games were okay, but the reason these Sonic games didn't save the Dreamcast is because they were different: had a new team, rock n roll in place of the incredible music Sonic games used to have and it felt different. If STI worked on these games, they might have saved the Dreamcast I'm not gonna lie. They were that good with Sonic.
Solution: Maybe, they should have had this change of heart on the Saturn, rather than make a new console. They should have said "let's start trying" in finding developers, but just for the console they had, not abandon the Saturn. In this case, the Saturn was like the Karate Kid, only they never let him gain his potential they basically said "Screw you, just be like everyone else again; your karate is not special and you won't improve." so the Saturn lost his martial arts ways and never blossomed as he could have. I mean the Saturn did have superior hardware, just no idea how to use it. Heck, that is another thing they could have done: try to figure out their hardware. Maybe then the Saturn could have had a last minute rise. We'll never know how it would turn out now, though. And then the Dreamcast would have had its turn in like 2000 not 1998, it was much too soon since they did not have the money.Final Thoughts
So here is a summary of how the SEGA Saturn would have dominated:
1) It was released on time so we could actually have games to PLAY on a VIDEO GAME CONSOLE.
2) Maybe less processors so developers would have been less freaked out.
3) Sonic had been accepted for who he was.
4) They hadn't given up on their new creation.
Let's face it: SEGA accomplished so many things in its short time in the console wars. Nintendo was a great company, don't get me wrong, but SEGA was smarter, for a little bit anyway. Their franchises were coming out like crazy, their competition towards Nintendo was humorous and not too insulting and finally they put effort into their ideas. With the Saturn, after Sonic blew out of the water they just lost hope. It is like they were so shocked that they forgot about their creative franchises they had already made and gave up on them too, despite the fact they could have helped the Saturn a lot.
Castlevania: Nocturne in the Moonlight would have seen full development on the Saturn, and would have most likely seen a North American release to critical acclaim for the Saturn's amazing 2D power. Oh, I forgot to mention one last thing about that game: it came out in 1998, around the time the Saturn was done so this is most likely why it was not heavily developed as they had no faith it would do them any good. Well, in my opinion, that game would have done them wonderful and would have easily made people want a SEGA Saturn even more, had they decided to continue support rather than quit.
And, here is a little something for you in case your interest for the Saturn suddenly plummeted: The console had a few great games to remember, such as the previously mentioned Nights into Dreams which is the best example of a good 3D game on the system and the 3D Game Pad works flawlessly with it. Also a few good titles for the 2D controller are Virtual Fighter II, Panzer Dragoon and pretty much most arcade ports. The system was a 2D beast, like I said, it ran these games great. And even some 3D games ran in 60fps, very rare for a console of the time but it did have eight processors so if you used them well.....you get 60fps, simple as that. The console has the power, they just didn't have the intelligence. Oh, and get the Castlevania game I have mentioned several times. The game is still incredibly fun, with the addition of having three characters, and they're all playable right from the start as options. More weapons, and more rooms too. The game is pricey, like I said, but if you really want a great 2D experience then this game is the best way to go. They still did an adequate job on it, and it is not too bad. Just requires a lot more patience if you already played the Playstation version.
Fun Fact: SEGA Saturn and Playstation were going to be one console originally, though SEGA refused Sony's offer of friendship to screw Nintendo over. Since their fate was already sealed, they should have just accepted their proposal. Though had this friendship formed, Nintendo would have been finished since Sony would have had mature games on their side, as well as creativity of the SEGA franchises.
So, there you go, my thoughts on how SEGA could have been number one this time around. They had a fresh team of people before the Saturn, and a new and improved team after it, but they failed. Let me sum this up in an analogy: The Genesis was the inspiration, the Mountain was the Dreamcast. SEGA tried to scale the mountain, but forgot they needed the tools (Saturn) to do so, and so they fell halfway up the mountain. Or, they could have taken the escalator (Sony) and beat Nintendo up the mountain much quicker. The Saturn's controller, though, is honestly the only part of their console that didn't fail. It is very comfortable to hold and only had one less button than the N64, but at times even the N64 did not utilize all the buttons they had. That is the only thing I would have missed if SEGA decided to join forces with Sony. Super Mario 64 barely used the C-Buttons, and Sonic X-Treme would have just been running and jumping. That is all I have to say here, and I hope I wasn't too messy in my explanations I tried separating them better this time.