Saturn Reviews M-R

Madden NFL 97
Grade: A-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
Reviewed: 2008/10/22
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotSome may dismiss the 2D Madden games of old, but Madden 97 proves they can be every bit as fun - if not more so! I reviewed this with my friend Eric who owned this game "back in the day", and we were both shocked at how well it's held up. Madden 97 opens with a grainy but interesting CGI intro with several shots of New Orleans, and that classic NFL theme music really gets you pumped up. Each game is introduced by James Brown at an anchor desk, who passes control to John Madden and Pat Summerall who provide additional commentary. That's right - Madden was actually involved in his games at one time! Why Madden and Pat are previewing the game in a silent, empty stadium I have no idea. On the field, the digitized sprites look great, despite the fact that every player is #88. The animation is less than stellar, but the controls are crisp and the action moves along at a brisk pace. You can quickly call plays and players line up immediately, so there's never a lull. The six-button Saturn controller gives you a lot of receiver options, and runningbacks bounce off would-be tacklers with stiff-arms, speed bursts, and spin moves. It's hard to kick the ball for distance, but the kicking controls are the best ever devised. The instant replay system is also very user friendly - when was the last time you could say that? Madden 97's one glaring weakness is its tackling. Often a bump is all that's needed to take down a runner. But it's the game's distinctive quirks that give it its charm. The sporadic audio commentary features Madden's disembodied voice punctuating big hits with phrases like "doink!", "where'd that truck come from?", and "that one knocked the snot right out of the locker!" (huh?) When a play is over, you can still dive at your opponent, and it's quite habit-forming! Unlike modern games, the crowd is fairly quiet, at least until the "D-Fense" chant kicks in. Most stadiums look generic, but the bright orange trees outside of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore look gorgeous. Madden 97 was largely overlooked in its day because flashier 3D games were stealing the spotlight, but it's one of the best sprite-based football games. If you're weary of the modern, cookie-cutter Maddens, revisit this classic and have fun again. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Madden NFL 98
Grade: C-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
Reviewed: 2008/10/22
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotIncredibly, Madden 98 represents a gigantic step down from Madden 97. The game is noticeably worse in every way: graphics, gameplay, and even sound! Live video of Madden and Pat Summerall provide pre-game commentary, but "black outs" that occur during this sequence look unintentionally hilarious. When the screen comes back, you almost expect Pat to have a black eye! On the field, the players look different than last year. While the box describes them as "light-sourced super-sprites", these guys look terribly chunky, although they do have the correct numbers on their jerseys at least. The gameplay seems just like Madden 97 at first, until you realize you can't complete a [expletive] pass! The offense in this game is hurting! EA couldn't resist tinkering with last year's flawless kicking controls, so now the meter moves entirely too fast. Text is now superimposed over a grainy pattern which makes it awfully hard to read. Play-by-play is provided primarily by a subdued Pat Summerall, with Madden only chiming in on rare occasions ("I didn't know a brick wall could run that fast!"). The sound effects are putrid, with repetitive crowd noise that actually made me nauseous. For some reason the default quarter length is now ten minutes, which is far too long. While Madden 98 certainly represents a big step back, it does incorporate a few nifty new features. You actually see penalty flags lying on the field, and referees actually bring out the chains to measure first downs. Why in the hell can't they do that in modern football games?! After a spectacular play, an automatic replay is shown, although the distant camera angle actually makes it harder to tell what happened! Be careful about diving at your opponent after a play, or you may draw an unsportsman-like conduct penalty! There's a few interesting wrinkles, but when you consider how good Madden 97 was, this is a monumental letdown. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Magic Carpet
Grade: B
Publisher: Bullfrog (1996)
Reviewed: 2004/2/3
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotMagic Carpet is a one-of-a-kind game that's remarkably deep. It begins with an electrifying FMV intro, and once the action begins, it gradually sucks you into its magical world. It's mainly a first-person shooter where you play a wizard flying freely over mountainous islands while destroying monsters and collecting "manna" produced upon their demise. But there's a lot more to Magic Carpet than meets the eye. You can't pick up the manna directly, so you need to construct palaces that dispatch balloons that float around collecting your manna. Don't worry, it only requires a simple spell to build a palace. Meanwhile, other wizards on flying carpets can be seen fighting monsters and competing for manna, and you'll need to defeat them in order to complete the stage. It's possible to upgrade your palaces and deploy more balloons, but monsters can try to attack your strongholds and tear them down. This is not your typical Saturn game, but it's well worth investing the time in learning how to play. Unfortunately, the manual really stinks so you'll need to figure out most of the details on your own. The mountainous 3D landscapes are somewhat pixilated and foggy, but the frame rate is very smooth. There are scattered townships with people milling around, and rocks and palms trees fill in the undeveloped areas. I especially like the shadowing, and how manna gentle rolls down sloped surfaces. The extensive list of monsters includes giant caterpillars, bees, crabs, genies, dragons, krakens, trolls, griffins, apes, and armies of skeletons! In the early going you'll use fireballs to kill you enemies (strafe and fire), but later stages let you to unleash lightning, earthquakes, and even volcanoes. The game's one downfall may be its control. It's easy to move in a certain direction, but adjusting your altitude is confusing. Fortunately you can't crash. Hitting both shoulder buttons causes an overhead map to appear, but it's too easily to bring it up by accident since individually these buttons are used to strafe. Magic Carpet's audio is outstanding. Not only is the musical score extremely ominous and well orchestrated, but the sound effects are brilliant. You can hear nuances like water lapping against the shore, trees crackling with fire, and townspeople talking amongst themselves. Frightening roars can be heard in the distance when a large monster is approaching. Magic Carpet starts out a bit slow, but each level introduces more monsters and spells, and the action eventually gets very intense. There are 70 stages in all, which is absolutely insane considering how time consuming each one is. Magic Carpet doesn't fit neatly into a category, but that's a major reason why it's so great. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Manx TT Super Bike
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1997)
Reviewed: 2007/5/1
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis high quality motorcycle racer is what Hang On GP should have been. Manx TT Super Bike features realistic-looking racers, gorgeous winding courses, and very good analog controls. Dust off your Saturn "3D" controllers, because Manx puts them to good use. That analog pad makes all the difference when it comes to making minor adjustments around turns. Better yet, you can use the triggers for accelerate and brake! Only two tracks are available (not including the "mirrored reverse" versions), but they look very nice. One provides a scenic coastal route, and the other winds through a wooded mountainside and township. Manx TT's frame-rate is smooth, providing a convincing sensation of speed. There's some minor draw-in, but the twisting, rolling courses tend to hide it very well. The controls are good, but even with the analog controls it's hard not to avoid over-steering around long curves. A slew of playing modes are available, including arcade, challenge, time trial, and even a two-player split screen mode. The challenge mode will keep the solo player busy, but it's really too challenging for my taste. When you're in third place and still run out of time, clearly the difficulty is too steep. A skill select option would have been nice. The game automatically saves your best times in each mode. One of the more comical aspects of Manx is the voice announcer. With that lisp and effeminate voice, could he possibly sound more queer?! Manx TT Super Bike arrived on the scene as the Saturn was fading, so it didn't get much attention, but if you enjoy racing action this is a quality title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Marvel Super Heroes
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/7/22
Rating: Teen (13+)

screenshotOutstanding! Wow - this 2D fighter really blew me away! The characters are HUGE and smoothly animated with awesome, over-the-top attacks. The lineup includes Spiderman, Shuma-Gorath, Captain America, Blackheart, Iron Man, Juggernaut, Magneto, Psylocke, Wolverine, and the Incredible Hulk. I love some of the wisecracks made after each victory ("You're gonna be a great sidekick someday!"). All the standard punch/kick moves apply, plus there are a few special attacks for each character. The backgrounds are gorgeous, and sometimes the screen will scroll up really, really far. Options allow you to adjust the difficulty mode and turbo speeds. The only thing that bothers me is the prospect of having Spiderman fight Captain America - I can only pray that this unfortunate situation never occurs in real life. All in all, Marvel Super Heroes is my favorite fighting game for the Saturn. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Mass Destruction
Grade: A
Publisher: NMS Software (1997)
Reviewed: 2005/1/11
Rating: Teen


screenshotFinally, a game that lives up to its name! Mass Destruction is a fast-action, rapid-fire shooter with the most awesome explosions I've ever seen in a Saturn game (possibly any game). You control a tank from a high, third-person point of view, embarking on missions somewhat reminiscent me of those in Desert Storm (Genesis). But in contrast to Desert Storm which required you to proceed cautiously and ration ammo, Mass Destruction lets you give in to that primal desire to obliterate everything in your path. And you can too, because your firepower is phenomenal. Besides you standard machine guns and explosive shells, you'll acquire mortars, guided missiles, mines, and a devastating flamethrower! Shooting a structure a few times will usually disable it, but you also have the option of leveling the thing, which often reveals power-ups. Your tank zips around quickly, and rough terrain doesn't slow it down much at all (just stay out of the deep water). Although the stages are quite expansive, you can speed from one end of the map to the other in mere seconds. The shoulder buttons aim the turret, allowing you to "run and gun" like a wild man. You'll face resistance from tanks that explode into fireballs and infantry soldiers that scream realistically as you run them down. In terms of replay value, there are three different tanks to choose from, and each stage includes several optional secondary objectives. Mass Destruction's graphics are good, except for those cone-shaped trees, which are truly hurting. But it's the silky smooth animation with no slowdown that gives the game its arcade flavor. The awesome soundtrack varies from dramatic action music to techno, and the controls are extremely responsive. I searched high and low for flaws in this game, but there really isn't any. I suppose some might find the action repetitive, but I couldn't get enough of the insane devastation. This is a game for those who prefer to shoot now and ask questions later. Good times! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Metal Black (Japan)
Grade: C
Publisher: Ving (1996)
Reviewed: 2012/1/25

screenshotIf you think Metal Black looks like a 16-bit shooter, that's probably because it's a port of a 1991 Taito arcade game. The intro text scrolls by so rapidly that you can barely keep up with its grammatical errors. "It was believed they came flying from the sky area of Nemesis." "They had a special ability of combined with the Earth's civilization." "The Earth's government made a compromise called peace." "The Earth died, and it was about to enter upon silence times." You can't make stuff like this up! Metal Black's side-scrolling action features simple controls, rapid-fire shooting, and layered backgrounds. I recommend using a joystick with a turbo option if you have one. As you fly through post-apocalyptic ruins, caverns, and deep space, you'll wipe out waves of jets, aliens, frogs, and giant insects. The wave entitled "Cry for the Moon" culminates with a giant alien boss springing forth from center of the moon. Colorful molecules float around the screen and snatching these up charges your weapons. The molecules are too plentiful however, and it gets tiresome to collect them after a while. Also annoying is how many objects sneak up on you from behind, especially considering there's no back-shot weapon. The graphics are uneven. The opening desert stage appears nearly digitized, while others (like the cave) look like something lifted from a Genesis game. Bonus waves let you launch guided missiles from a first-person point of view, but the "gee-whiz" factor is offset by confusing camera angles. I really like the two-player coop because you work together to defeat the aliens, yet still compete for score. Metal Black isn't spectacular by any means, but it's still enjoyable if you're not expecting too much. Note: The arcade version is available on Taito Legends 2 (Playstation 2, 2006). © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: CJS 117,820
1 or 2 players 

Mr. Bones
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2000/10/3
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotMr. Bones is a collection of high quality mini-games sandwiched between some extremely impressive full motion video (FMV) clips. You control a skeleton named Mr. Bones who was formerly a blues musician. He is pursued by an army of skeletons under the spell of an evil wizard. The video clips that convey the storyline are the most impressive I've seen on the Saturn, seamlessly combining live actors and computer animation. I'm pretty jaded when it comes to FMV, but these clips held my attention. The levels themselves range from typical side scrolling mayhem to some of the most original concepts I've ever seen in a video game. Some of the more unique stages include playing a guitar (cool!), playing drums, telling jokes (seriously), gliding through a huge cathedral, fighting a skeletal T-Rex, and saving a village of little people from spiders (their high-pitched screams are hilarious). In most stages, hits will cause you to actually "lose" bones, forcing you to crawl around with no legs, or hop on your spine! Although no single level here could stand on its own, it's evident that a tremendous amount of thought and effort was put into each one. The graphics are sensational, and the sound effects and music are equally impressive. If Mr. Bones has a fault, it's the difficulty level. Just making it through the first level is entirely too hard. Also, the jumping control could be more responsive at times. But overall, Mr. Bones is an amazing piece of work. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

NBA Live 97
Grade: F
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/12/24
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotElectronic Arts waited a few years before releasing their basketball games for the Saturn, and it was hardly worth the wait. This sloppy version makes the Playstation edition look like a masterpiece by comparison. NBA Live 97 looks ugly, sounds horrible, and the gameplay is a mess. The players are composed of rough polygons and look terribly blocky. The animation is far from fluid, as the ball jumps around and magically appears in a player's hands. It's actually hard to tell what's going on! The sound is minimal, with a steady water-faucet crowd and brief comments provided by the announcer after each basket. Even the control is horrendous. Players move much too fast and don't stop when you want them to. Are they playing on ice or something? To round things out, the computer AI is weak, the dunks are unspectacular, and the loading times are painfully long. You'll be reaching for your old Genesis after playing this garbage. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 10 players 

NFL '97
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2000/8/21
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThe only positive thing I can say about NFL '97 is how much it makes me appreciate my Madden football games. NFL '97 may quite possibly be the worst football game I've EVER played. Relative to the 32-bit system it runs on, it's an utter disgrace. The big-headed players look so ridiculous that you won't believe your eyes. The pixelation is horrible and the generic stadiums lack any degree of detail. And as bad as the graphics are, the gameplay is even worse! The players move slow and the control is sluggish. An idiotic passing/kicking system shows the path of the ball BEFORE it's thrown. This is not only the worst idea ever for a football game, but the muddled graphic representation looks like crap. While playing the computer, time automatically runs off the clock before each play, and while this is intended to speed up the game, it makes controlling the clock impossible. The crowd sounds like a steady faucet, and there's no voice commentary at all. Sega released some fine football games 5 years earlier on the Genesis, so how they could release this piece of garbage is a mystery. This was supposed to compete against the Sony Playstation's NFL Gameday? I think not! © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 8 players 

NHL 97
Grade: D-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
Reviewed: 2005/2/13
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)

screenshotDuring the mid-90's, sports games were transitioning from 16-bit 2D to 32-bit 3D technology, and it wasn't painless. Many games went from being fast and smooth to slow and choppy. As if being an early polygon sports title was bad enough, NHL 97 had the additional burden of running on the 3D-challenged Saturn. All things considered, this could have turned out far worse. The players look crude and blocky up close, but once the camera pulls back they don't look so bad. What's most important is that the action is fast and the frame-rate keeps up, allowing you to follow the puck without too much difficulty. The default camera is in constant motion but does a fair job of providing a decent angle. The ice surface looks realistic enough, but what's the deal with those puny goals? They certainly don't look regulation size, which may explain why it's so frickin' impossible to score. I'm no slouch at hockey games, but I played this game several times and failed to score a single goal. Shots on goal seem awfully soft, even when you hold down the C button. Outside of the playing surface, the scenery looks downright hideous. The glass around the rink looks like a white-checkered pattern, and the crowd is a static, brown pixilated mess. Between periods, live video of a bald guy named John Davidson recaps the action. As you can imagine, his canned, generic comments provide no insight whatsoever, and it's not unusual for him to repeat the exact same "analysis" for two periods in a row. Chalk that up as another failed 32-bit video game experiment. NHL 97's single bright spot is its audio. Its crisp sound effects put those fuzzy Genesis noises to shame. Organ music plays during the action, and I love the techno music that plays over the menus. NHL 97 may be just another monkey in the evolution of hockey games, but I've played worse sports games on the Saturn. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 8 players 

NHL All-Star Hockey
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2007/12/31
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotMy buddy Eric got a Saturn for Christmas in 1995, along with this video game equivalent of a lump of coal. For weeks Eric rationalized that NHL All-Star Hockey wasn't bad, but he eventually would admit it was awful. Twelve years later Eric and I revisited the game so he could reassess his opinion of it. He now regards All-Star Hockey as repugnant. Sadly, this game set the tone for sports titles on the Saturn, which consistently paled next to their Playstation counterparts. All-Star Hockey's ugly intro intermingles game graphics with video clips as "The Power" blares away in the background. I can only assume that Sega intentionally made the video clips extra grainy so the game's dreadful graphics would look halfway decent by comparison. The main menu looks sharp, thanks to a digitized Marv Albert who prompts you to select a game mode. Sadly, his talent is wasted because there is no in-game commentary. On the ice, the low quality of the graphics is glaring. These flat, pixelated players would be more at home in an Intellivision game! The animation is so minimal that players will go from standing positions to flat on their backs in two frames! There's a wide range of selectable camera angles, but none provide a decent vantage point, and most aren't even playable! Even at the closest camera setting, you feel distant and never have a good angle of the goal. All-Star's control is pitiful, and the act of shooting the puck is needlessly complicated. The action is so choppy that when a goal is scored, you'll find yourself wondering what the heck just happened. The crowd sounds realistic enough, but the player grunts are repetitive. After the first period, some fat guy named Coach Labou rants about how badly you suck - even when you're winning. There are plenty of options and modes, but would you really want to customize your roster in a game this bad? The best thing about NHL All-Star Hockey is its edgy menu screen music. If you get a chance to pick this game up, then by all means do. It will give you renewed appreciation for every other sports game ever made. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Night Warriors - Darkstalker's Revenge
Grade: A-
Publisher: Capcom (1996)
Reviewed: 2002/3/26
Rating: Teen

screenshotThere's an interesting story behind this game. Capcom originally made a deal with Sony to release their Darkstalker games exclusively for the Playstation. However, in a rather sneaky maneuver, Capcom circumvented the deal by calling the sequel "Night Warriors" and thus was able to release it on the Saturn. Since the Saturn is well-equipped for 2D games, Night Warriors looks particularly sharp and plays slightly better than its Playstation counterpart. The control is crisp, and there are four additional playable characters. You'll recognize two of them as the bosses from the first Darkstalkers, and the other two are a vampire hunter and a freaky "Chinese ghost" that looks like a girl with long arms. Like the first game, there are some incredible babes here including Morrigan (busting out all over) and Felicia (if she didn't have the legs of Hulk Hogan, she'd be pretty cute). The animations are always entertaining, and there are tons of crazy moves. Night Warriors is great fun, and stands as one of the premiere Saturn fighters. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Nights Into Dreams
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2005/1/11

screenshotIn 1996, Sega's Saturn console was on the ropes against the upstart Sony Playstation. Making matters worse, Sega failed to deliver a Sonic the Hedgehog game (their flagship franchise) to demonstrate the system's true capabilities. Rumors ran rampant however that the Sonic team was hard at work on a "secret project" that would restore Sega's rightful place as industry leader. That game turned out to be Nights Into Dreams, a beautiful and stunningly original creation that was so innovative that it came with its own controller! The game's main character resembles a purple jester who effortlessly flies through magical, dreamlike worlds that bring to mind Alice in Wonderland. It's a pleasure to glide through rings, burst through obstacles, and collect "chips" by encircling them. While the graphics are pure 3D eye candy, Nights is played on a 2D plane, similar to Pandemonium (Playstation). Stages are cleared by depositing a certain number of blue chips into a large globe-like creature, causing it to explode. Nights is best played with Sega's "3D control pad", an analog controller that looks like a black version of the Dreamcast controller. It's highly recommended due to all the "rolling" motions you'll need to perform with the directional pad. Although the Saturn's 3D graphic limitations are reflected in some blocky objects and pixilation, Night's fluid animation and shifting camera angles often border on breathtaking. The game is full of surprises, including a wild sled ride in the snow stage. Completing a stage is not difficult, but earning a decent grade sure is. Each stage ends with a boss confrontation that tends to be bizarre but innovative. Instead of "attacking" the gigantic beasts as you'd expect, you can pick them up and hurl him into the scenery! The game's happy, upbeat music is high quality and pleasant. Nights may take a while to grow on you, but there's no denying the game's unconventional genius. Ultimately it failed to resuscitate the faltering system, but it's a title many Saturn owners will always cherish. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

PGA Tour 97
Grade: D
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
Reviewed: 2000/12/24
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotHow many ways can EA screw up a golf game? Plenty! Start with excessive loading time between holes and even between shots. Then add a five-second lags between when you initiate your shot and when the golfer actually swings. Then throw in some unimpressive, choppy graphics and poor sound. PGA 97 is a major letdown, especially compared with the stellar PGA 96 (Playstation). The static look of the two courses, along with the lack of sound effects, doesn't exactly put you "in the game". The choppy ball movement is absolutely unforgivable, and where's the wind indicator? Apparently EA was concentrating on their fancy new "torn paper" user interface, but it wasn't worth the effort. PGA Tour 97 is playable, but it's a long, slow game. Incidentally, this was the game that began a long, downward spiral for EA golf games in general. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 

Panzer Dragoon
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2003/3/20
Rating: Kids to Adults (Mild animated violence)

screenshotThis stunningly original shooter pushed the limits of the Saturn's 3D graphic capabilities. In this oddly named game, you fly a blue dragon over breathtaking scenery while shooting enemies that approach from all directions. Although your path is predetermined, you still have enough freedom of movement to dodge obstacles and oncoming missiles. At first, it all seems a bit shallow, simply aiming crosshairs and shooting at everything, but there are some innovative features that make this game special. First of all, you have a 360-degree field of vision around your dragon (you use the shoulder buttons to rotate your view). This means you're not limited to forward shooting, but can also track targets behind and on either side. With the use of the helpful radar, it's easy to locate your enemies. You can fire normal straight shots, but it's more effective to hold down the fire button to "lock on" several enemies at once, taking them out with a barrage of guided missiles. You'll want to use both methods simultaneously to maximize the damage you unleash. The stages attractive and imaginative, and combined with the tranquil background music, can almost put you in a dreamlike state. The first stage features majestic ancient ruins protruding from the sea, and it looks magnificent. The bosses, who you approach from several angles, are absolutely huge. Unfortunately, the Saturn's graphic capabilities can just barely handle this game's visual demands. There's major pixelation and it's hard to make out certain enemies, especially in front of equally pixilated scenery. Another problem is the lack of a level select, meaning you'll have to replay the early levels each time you play. Be sure to check out the introduction - it's one of the best I've seen in a Saturn title. Panzer Dragoon is a landmark shooter, and every Saturn owner should have this game in their library. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2003/3/20
Rating: Kids to Adults (Animated Violence)

screenshotThe first Panzer Dragoon had a few graphical issues, but it was still a terrific game. This sequel addresses those problems and augments the experience with even more variety and deeper gameplay. The first thing you'll notice are the ground-based stages - that's right, it's not all flying this time. The ground stages are a nice change of pace, and they control nicely. But the best new feature is the "berserk" attack, which obliterates everything on the screen (like a smart bomb). It's especially devastating against bosses, which range from huge airships to freaky creatures. I like how you methodically shoot pieces off of the airship boss, and then can look back to watch it crash into the ground. Although Panzer Dragoon II is still "on rails", there are times when you can actually select alternate paths, and depending on your score, your dragon increases in size and strength between stages. Add in the ability to save your game, and you can see this is a complete package. Even the graphics are easier on the eyes thanks to larger, better-defined enemies. It's hard to be critical of Panzer Dragoon II - it's one of the best Saturn games I've ever played. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Panzer Dragoon Saga
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1998)
Reviewed: 2013/10/1
Rating: Teen (animated violence, mild language)

screenshotReleased at the tail end of the Saturn lifecycle, Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the most celebrated RPGs of all time. The sheer artistry of this game cannot be understated. Its exotic rhythms, melancholy themes, and surreal landscapes come together for a sublime experience. Sprawling over four discs, Saga is magnificent in scope. You are a young dragon-rider named Edge (pronounced "Ed-gee" by other characters) caught up in a chaotic world of warring factions, rampaging monsters, a mysterious girl, and an all-powerful tower. The Saturn is hardly a paragon of 3D prowess but Panzer Dragoon Saga squeezes every bit of performance out of the system. Your dragon glides with fluid grace under the power of the 3D controller. The landscapes are gorgeous. The Forbidden Zone features snowflakes falling gently on moonlit waves, and the majestic sunken ruins of Uru will be instantly recognizable to fans of the Panzer Dragoon shooting games. Even the more pixelated scenery has a poetic charm. Exploration is fun and I love the idea of blasting rotating stones to reveal items. Battles occur while flying, which adds a new dimension to combat. Skirmishes play out in semi-real time, and positioning yourself relative to your foe(s) is critical. Attacks are fully animated and the camera swings around to capture the carnage. Your primary weapon is a barrage of lock-on lasers, but you can also concentrate a powerful gun on weak points. Your dragon provides magical "berzerker" attacks, and you can even "morph" your dragon to emphasize attack, defense, agility, and spirituality. There are plenty of options and an intuitive user interface makes it fun to experiment. Weaker enemies include swarming bugs, mutant dandelions, or armless creatures that skip across the water. Larger foes tend to be massive airships - often with monsters infused into them. It's satisfying to watch huge chunks of these vessels break away as you wear them down. Saga's intriguing storyline is conveyed via full-motion video segments that were state of the art for their time. The dialogue is Japanese with English subtitles, and the exotic musical score (with occasional vocals) is mesmerizing. The save point distribution is pretty good, the difficulty is fair, and the game runs about 20 hours. My only serious gripe is the maze-like designs of several areas. I found it hard to enjoy the game while languishing in these multilayered networks of uninteresting tunnels and elevators with labels like "B3F North" and "Tower 15F West". Otherwise Panzer Dragoon Saga is one epic fantasy that hits on all cylinders. Like nothing I've ever played, this is a special kind of game that I won't soon forget. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Pebble Beach Golf Links
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2000/12/24
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotDon't you hate it when developers spend too much time on extra bells and whistles instead of getting the main game right? That's what seems to have happened in Pebble Beach Golf Links. The game looks good, but it's very difficult to gauge the power of your shots! That's too bad, because otherwise Pebble Beach has a lot going for it. The graphics are attractive, and you can tell you're playing on Pebble Beach because of the ocean in the background. There's only one course, so the replay value is limited. Each hole is introduced by Craig Sadler, who also offers advice. Craig doesn't seem too excited about being in the game - in fact, he actually looks pretty bored and occasionally pissed-off. Lighten up Craig! You play a GAME for a living! The preview of each hole features really bad (shaky) video footage. The game has plenty of bells and whistles as I mentioned, but many are completely unnecessary. Do we need to see the caddy on the screen? Would you ever use the option in which Craig Sadler can "pinch hit" for you and hit one of your shots? No question about it, if Sega had concentrated more on the main engine, this could have been a winner. As it is, it's pretty mediocre. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Powerslave
Grade: B-
Publisher: Lobotomy Software (1996)
Reviewed: 2008/9/12
Rating: Mature (17+) (violence, blood and gore)


screenshotIn 1996 the Saturn was desperately seeking a quality first-person shooter (FPS), and Powerslave fit the bill quite nicely. Like an Egyptian version of Doom, Powerslave is well programmed and exudes its own distinctive style. The narrated intro is read by the same guy who does the movie trailers, and you almost expect to hear "Mel Gibson is the Powerslave!" You begin the game by entering the tomb of Ramses, where his glowing ghost-face conveys the background story. Man, this guy sure talks a lot for a ghost! He's worse than a teenage girl! Will he ever shut the hell up?! Once the action kicks into gear, the gameplay is everything you'd expect from an early FPS: plenty of shooting, simple lock-and-key puzzles, and a modest amount of platform jumping. You begin with only a knife, but soon obtain a machine gun, and eventually wield magical weapons. The animation is fast and smooth, and it's quite satisfying to blow scarabs, mummies, and dog-headed zombies into meaty chunks. The sand and stone environments are complemented by some nice exotic music, but you'll find yourself getting sick of both after extended play. The crystal-clear surround sound effects are so remarkable that I found myself looking over my shoulder at times. Powerslave is a strong title, but it has two major flaws. First, there are too many "one-hit" deaths (like exploding pots) which force you to restart the stage from the beginning (ugh). Second, the save system is terrible. It's not documented anywhere, but the game automatically saves periodically to your system memory, so make sure your console has a fresh battery! Powerslave isn't as spellbinding as it once was, but its visuals have aged well and its fast pacing and commendable violence make it worth revisiting. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Primal Rage
Grade: B-
Publisher: Universal (1994)
Reviewed: 2013/7/4
Rating: Teen

screenshotI've been searching for the best home version of Primal Rage and I'm pretty sure I've found it. Heck, this Saturn edition might be better than the arcade game! The first thing I noticed was that the creatures are huge - about half the screen in height. Better yet, the animation is very smooth and the controls are tight. The battles are real slugfests, and they remind me a little of those old Japanese monster movies. All the little bells and whistles are here - the flying pterodactyls, the chick on the continue screen, and the statistical breakdown after each game. The game also includes the pre-rendered introductory scenes (like the 3DO version), but I recommend turning these off. You might be able to stomach their rudimentary pre-rendered 3D animations once, but that's it. Unlike the Jaguar and 3DO versions, there are no bonus modes like endurance or tug-of-war, but I don't think anybody will miss them. The game features quick loading too, with no pauses between rounds. Primal Rage was never a great fighter, but on the Saturn it's quite the spectacle to behold. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Pro Pinball
Grade: B-
Publisher: Empire (1996)
Reviewed: 2006/3/14
Rating: Kids to adults

screenshotIn this slick pinball simulation, you view the action from the end of the table as you would a real pinball game. The only problem with this scheme is how the graphic details of the far end of the table are lost. That's certainly the case with Pro Pinball, but the table's thoughtful design makes it easy to see the bulk of the action. The table is entitled "The Web", and while it's utterly generic, there's a lot of fun to be had. The color scheme is black splashed with red and blue accents, and there's such a high degree of detail that the table looks nearly photo-realistic. Pro Pinball's controls are more robust than most pinball games, providing the ability to nudge the table in three different directions! The physics is good, although the balls do tend to get "floaty" during the multi-ball modes. Some of the mini-games are actually played out on the dot-matrix video display at the end of the table, including a simple one that involves shooting asteroids. Adrenaline-pumping music adds to the frenzy, but the fuzzy voice samples are hard to discern. Maybe it's because I'm a pinball nut, but I really became immersed in this game. It's very challenging and has that "one more time" quality. You always want to beat your previous best score, but sadly, these are not saved to memory. Despite that blatant flaw, Pro Pinball is a quality title that will keep you riveted to the screen. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 

Quarterback Attack
Grade: D-
Publisher: Digital Pictures (1995)
Reviewed: 2008/9/12
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotI am endlessly fascinated by these awful Digital Pictures games with their marginal gameplay and grainy full-motion video graphics. And I mean grainy! I've come to expect low-quality video on my Sega CD, but you'd think the Saturn could do a little better! Quarterback Attack kicks off with a locker room scene of a team getting pumped up for the big game, but their "rowdiness" is so forced that you have to laugh. Most Digital Pictures games feature some kind of celebrity guest, and in this case it's Mike Ditka. How bad is his acting? Let's put it this way: he's not even convincing as a football coach! The game itself is just a patchwork of football clips. The box claims "you're in control", but that's a joke. The action moves along at a brisk pace, but it's a very automated experience. When running or kicking, you simply call a play and watch the action unfold on the screen. Passing is the one aspect of the game that gives you some semblance of control. Unfortunately, the combination of buttons you need to hit is completely counter-intuitive (the right shoulder button to hike the ball?), and since you can't see what receivers are open, it's largely a guessing game. Once a receiver is selected, you're expected to "lead" your pass by positioning a green cursor. Unfortunately, the cross-hair movement is clumsy, and even when you do put it "on the money", most passes are knocked away or picked off. Interestingly, you don't play any defense in this game, so once you give up the ball, the game basically "fast forwards" to your next possession. It looks really odd when you punt the ball away to the other team, only to see it immediately punted back to you. You might see footage of the other team's score, but not the drive. As you can imagine, the first time you play this thing, it's confusing as hell. I assumed Digital Pictures gave out free hot dogs to put people in the stands, but closer scrutiny shows that most of the crowd is actually cardboard cut-outs! And hey - was there anybody available under the age of 90 to play the ref? That guy can barely raise his arms! I love how during halftime Ditka motivates his team with idiotic lines like "It's either them or us, and my money's on us!" and "Interceptions are killing us! Don't throw any more!" Quarterback Attack is so bad that it's worth playing just so you can see how bad a video game can be. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Radiant Silvergun (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Treasure (1998)
Reviewed: 2004/8/4

screenshotTo call Radiant Silvergun a highly regarded shooter would be an understatement. This Japanese import is has attained near-legendary status among Saturn enthusiasts. The game boasts extremely high production values, and the fact that it wasn't released in the states is a travesty. But while Radiant Silvergun may be the best shooter for the Saturn, that's really not saying a whole lot if you don't count Japanese releases. The game plays like a standard 2D shooter with 3D polygon graphics that allow for nifty scaling and rotation effects. It's the control however that really sets this game apart. Each of the six buttons unleashes a unique attack, and pressing combinations of buttons provide even more possibilities. If you had an arcade-style joystick, you'll definitely want to use it with this game. Employing the proper weapon for each situation is key to surviving each treacherous stage, and it's fun to experiment. The intense, chaotic gameplay is not unlike Dreamcast shooters like Mars Matrix and Gigawing, but Radiant Silvergun is deeper and far more challenging. An innovative "chain combo" scoring system rewards you for destroying consecutive "triples" of enemies of the same color. The stages tend to contain narrow corridors and converging enemies that require narrow escapes. The background graphics aren't too interesting, but you won't even notice them in the heat of battle. The skill level is definitely expert, so don't feel guilty about setting the difficult to easy and cranking up the lives. My main gripe with Radiant Silvergun is its overemphasis on bosses. The stages themselves are surprisingly short, and the bosses can linger for quite a while if you don't hit their sweet spot. Most bosses are uninteresting amalgamations of rough geometric shapes rotating and moving around the screen. One of Radiant Silvergun's strong points is its amazing music soundtrack - one of the best I've heard in a shooter. A nice two-player simultaneous mode is included. Despite being a Japanese game, it's interesting to note that most of the text (including menu options) are in English. This game typically sells for $150 or more on Ebay, and it requires some kind of "pass through" device like a Gameshark or Action Replay to run on an American Saturn. Hardcore Saturn fans will love Radiant Silvergun for the terrific shooter it is, but I'd hardly recommend it to the casual fan. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Rayman
Grade: C-
Publisher: Ubisoft (1995)
Reviewed: 2009/5/15
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotIn the early 90's a steady stream of platform titles arrived for the 16-bit systems, each a variation of the standard formula. Rayman attempts to take that formula to the next level with high-resolution graphics, oversized characters, lush scenery, and sophisticated controls. The star of the game is a happy-go-lucky cartoon bloke with disembodied hands and feet that float around him. An agile fellow, Rayman can leap, punch, hang, climb, and glide between platforms. In some stages he can plant seeds to "grow" new platforms. Gamers craving the fast-paced action of Sonic the Hedgehog may find Rayman a little slow, but the controls are responsive and forgiving. The layered scenery is hardly spectacular but the soft colors are easy on the eyes. The opening jungle stage features crystal clear exotic bird sound effects and a soothing musical score. Subsequent stages offer "fantasy themes" such as worlds made of candy or musical instruments. The branching stages tend to be short and there are frequent opportunities to save your progress. The developers tried to make Rayman cute and endearing, but he comes off like an unlikable dork. The fact that Rayman actually "makes up" with the bosses he defeats is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. In the pixelated intro video, the narrator sounds like he's reading to a preschool class. But the game's worst transgression is its frustrating stage designs. Oversized enemies like flying hammers are invincible, and most others can absorb several hits. The "Band Land" stages are a case study in bad design. Here you'll find all the worst cliches rolled up into one, including slippery platforms, disappearing clouds, spikes, and cheap hits galore. There's so much trial-and-error involved, the zone should have been called "Honey I Fell Off the Screen". Rayman's large size is a real liability in stages that scroll continuously, since you sometimes end up running out of screen before you can properly react. I can appreciate its high production values and old-school roots, but Rayman is too tough for its own good. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Revolution X
Grade: F
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Reviewed: 2000/7/4
Rating: Mature

screenshotYou'll have to look high and low to find a worse video game than Revolution X. The premise of this debacle is that a "new world order" has risen up and prohibits everything that is fun, including music. With Aerosmith's help, it's up to you to stop this evil army! After playing Revolution X, the only people I want to stop is Aerosmith - from making more video games!! The gameplay is incredibly shallow and boring. All you do is aim some crosshairs, hold down you machine gun button and splatter wave after wave of generic soldiers. The blood is gratuitous and phoney-looking, and the graphics suffer from extreme pixelation. In fact, the screen becomes such a mess that you can't even tell what's going on - but don't stop shooting! The bosses are ridiculously hard to take out, even if you fire down their throat for five minutes. During all the mayhem, you may notice dancing girls in cages or the band playing in the background (I tried to shoot them). Every now and then, members of the band will offer unneeded support and advice. The only redeeming factor of this game may be the Aerosmith soundtrack. Otherwise, Revolution X is absolutely horrendous. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 2 players 

Robotica
Grade: F
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Reviewed: 2007/4/19
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotOne dilemma of reviewing games is that you're forced to play the bad ones a lot longer than you normally would have, just to make sure you're not "missing" anything. Robotica is one such game that made me toil in agony. It's a dark, science fiction-themed first-person shooter (FPS) with - you guessed it - robots. Before reviewing Robotica I applied my "game face" (as I always do), dimmed the lights, and psyched myself up to be thrust into a galactic tale of law-enforcement-robots-gone-wild. Initially you're plopped into a generic room with metal walls. Your two mechanical arms wield different weapons, but you can only use one at a time (rats!). For a while, Robotica manages to generate a sense of foreboding and suspense as you slowly wander around generic corridors looking for a "gate key" that will allow you to exit the level. Darkness prevents you from seeing too far ahead, and the ominous music is mixed with alarming sound effects like clanking metal, heavy breathing, and wire shorts. Eventually you encounter floating robots that look pretty cool (I suppose) but are easily dispatched with using basic strafe-and-fire attacks. Unfortunately, strafing is only half as fast as normal movement, and the constant darkness makes it hard to tell whom you're up against. Robotica auto-maps your progress, which is good because every room looks the same. The floor plans are randomly generated, which may have been cool in 1995, but in 2007 it's just boring. As you traverse one floor after the next, you hope that the gameplay or scenery will change, but it never does. After eight floors of tedium, I resorted to a cheat code to peek ahead, but even a dozen floors ahead it was all the same 'old crap. There's no password feature, but that's okay because nobody will ever play Robotica more than once. On a positive note, this snore-fest laid the groundwork for Alien Trilogy, a much stronger FPS Acclaim released a year later for the Saturn and Playstation. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.


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Screen shots courtesy of Shinforce, Games Database, Video Game Museum, GameSpot, Rotten Tomatoes, Racket Boy, GameFAQs.com, Old Games News, Hardcore Gaming 101, IGN.com

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