Ah, Duke Nukem. That ass kicking, bubblegum chewing, one-lining tower of muscle who is always responsible for the babes of Earth. Duke Nukem 3D has always been one of my favorite FPSs, so I decided to see what Lobotomy Software had done with it on the Saturn. While not a perfect port (actually, not a port at all; see below), it still retains everything that makes Duke Nukem, well, Duke Nukem: the one liners, the gore, the strip clubs, the pig cops. Saturn owners and FPS fans would do well to track this one down for themselves.
After playing through the censor-neutered Duke Nukem 64, I only had one major expectation of SS Duke 3D: that it kept all of the original Dukeisms intact. Once I entered the second level and saw my first stripper, then the deal was sealed. Yup, there isn't a single thing censored in this game: you have strippers baring their breasts, Duke spouting off profanity, and gore galore. My personal favorite Duke moment is fighting the second boss: as he enters the room, Duke growls "I'm gonna rip off your head and s&*$ down your neck!" Upon wasting the Rancor-like beast, you are treated to a FMV of Duke making good on his promise, newspaper and all. Moments like these define the Duke Nukem experience, and I was glad that Lobotomy kept it all intact.
The gameplay, however, had to undergo some serious changes to work on the Saturn. Instead of using the original Build engine, SS Duke 3d has been rebuilt from the ground up using Lobotomy's Slavedriver engine (previously seen on SS Quake and Powerslave). A lot of the level architecture has been changed to accomodate this (no spinning gears, less secrets, levels broken up into smaller sections with load screens), and Duke controls much differently than other incarnations. The 3D NiGHTS controller is supported, and is the ideal way to play this game. L and R strafe, A fires, B jumps, C is the action button, holding X allows you to aim, Y cycles weapons backward, and X cycles weapons forward. This control setup (also featured in SS Quake and Powerslave) works wonderfully, but feels a little bit different. When you strafe, you "lean" slightly in the direction your strafing in, which is disorienting at first but comes naturally after a level or two. Holding X to aim is a chore, but thankfully Lobotomy added Doom-style vertical autoaiming to help remedy this. After a few levels movement and weapon switching will come naturally.
What doesn't come naturally is having to toggle/switch your items on the pause screen. Due to the finicky nature of the analog stick, it's easy to accidentally use the wrong item, turn the automap on, or even quit the game entirely. Why this function wasn't mapped to the unused D-pad is beyond me.
Also due to the Slavedriver engine, enemies and projectiles seem to move slower in this version than others. While it compliments the slower control scheme nicely, sometimes enemies will "catch up" with themselves and move twice as fast, making you miss shots and sometimes even teleporting them through walls. Doesn't happen often enough to be gamebreaking, but it's prominent enough to mention.
Other than that, this game is pure Duke Nukem: fast, furious, and strategic all at the same time. After playing through the original Doom, I appreciate how you have to come up with a plan of action for every level versus just barrelling through it at fast as you can. If you just charge into a room without surveying the landscape first, you will die FAST, even with 200 health! The weapon variety is great, featuring standards like the pistol, shotgun, and RPG while adding less conventional fare such as the pipebomb, a freezing flamethrower and even a shrinker gun that lets you stomp on your enemies! The levels themselves have tons of interactive elements, from monsters on the can, reflective mirrors (Damn! I'm looking good!), and water fountains to security cameras, fire hydrants, and the infamous strippers.
The music in this game is wonderful, and complements the action nicely. As previously stated, all of Duke;s one-liners are completely intact, as are all other sound effects. My only gripe is that some soundtracks are reused on innappropriate levels (the Mission Impossible-like theme comes to mind). Plus, all of the audio is redbook, so you can pop it in a CD player and enjoy whatever track you like!
It should also be noted that if you either break every toilet in the game or have a Quake save file on your Saturn, a minigame called Death Tank Zwei will be unlocked. I haven't had any time with this, but from what I've read in other reviews it is great multiplayer tank combat fun.
In closing: Duke Nukem 3D for the Sega Saturn is a great port, featuring all of the crude content and amazing gameplay you've come to expect from the franchise. Minor quibbles aside, this is one of the best Saturn games and is a must-play for Duke and FPS fans.
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