Saturn Reviews B

Bases Loaded '96: Double Header
Grade: D+
Publisher: Jaleco (1996)
Reviewed: 2007/4/19
Rating: Kids to Adults


screenshotThis has got to be the weirdest [expletive] baseball game I've ever played. I'm still not sure what to make of it. In a feeble attempt to convey a 3D look, Jaleco rendered the players on the pitcher/batter screen in a style that calls to mind Pinocchio or those hideous nutcracker soldiers. With perfectly round heads and visible joints, these guys look positively freaky!

Once the ball is put into play however, Bases Loaded '96 takes on a completely different look, with flat fielders that are pixelated beyond belief! Blocky graphics of this magnitude might be appropriate for an Atari 2600 game, but on the Saturn it's just embarrassing! There's no way to slide into bases, and dives are useless because they get no distance at all (your fielder just stretches out on the ground). And why is there an umpire where the second baseman should be?

Also odd is how the game goes awkwardly silent between innings as a huge black and white picture of the leadoff batter is displayed. All of the major league teams are included, but there are only eight stadiums, and frankly they look awful. It sounds like a mess, but believe it or not, Bases Loaded '96 is not a bad baseball game at its core.

The contests are nicely paced, the controls are responsive, and the CPU plays an intelligent game. If you could play this with your eyes closed, you'd probably enjoy it. It's just a shame the players had to look like animated dolls spawned from the bowels of hell. Equally likely to send chills up your spine is the game's shrill, otherworldly organ music. Bases Loaded '96 is the evil clown marionette of baseball games. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Batman Forever The Arcade Game
Grade: F
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/12/18
Rating: Kids to adults (animated violence)

screenshotWhen you turn on this game you're greeted with impressive views of the sleek Batmobile as dramatic music booms in the background. The character selection screen renders Batman and Robin with rotating 3D models that look simply amazing. There's no reason to suspect you're about to play one of the worst video games in history, but you are. Batman Forever is meant to be a side-scrolling brawler along the lines of Streets of Rage, but it's an unmitigated disaster.

The graphics are dark and muddled, and the characters are severely pixelated when they scale out. The poor frame-rate, coupled with flashing point values, raining icons, and flying bodies make it hard to tell what the [expletive] is going on. Sometimes you can't even find Batman in the midst of the chaos! The stages offer sharp digitized backdrops, but there's minimal interaction with the scenery. Can someone tell me why wrecking balls keep falling from the sky?

The characters slide around as if they were on ice-skates. The control scheme crams a half-dozen functions into three buttons, leaving most of the buttons unused! You can only hold one power-up at a time, and since it's triggered with the punch button, it's hard to use them strategically. Batman has an annoying habit of latching onto anything in the vicinity, so while trying to reach a power-up you'll keep grabbing nearby goons. Ugh!

When you do snag an icon, a deep, guttural voice utters something unintelligible. Some power-ups make you invincible and others inexplicably shrink you! According to the manual certain icons are meant to have "random" effects. Really? The back of the box boasts how the "unique combo system allows up to 400 hits". Apparently Acclaim was trying to see how many bad ideas they could cram into a single game.

Batman Forever seems easy at first, but once a baddie gets his dirty mitts on you he'll drain your entire life meter. Adding insult to injury, the action is plagued by rampant slow-down - incomprehensible for a 2D game on the Saturn. A two-player mode lets Batman and Robin fight together, but that just doubles the confusion. If you're still not convinced that the game's designer was clueless, consider that the high score screen lets you enter four letters.

The sweeping orchestrated musical score is lifted from the film but it's completely wasted. This game is even more shameful when you consider all of the excellent Batman titles that appeared on the 16-bit systems. My friend Eric got Batman Forever for Christmas in 1996 and afterward he vowed to never buy another game by Acclaim. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: med
Our high score: 171170
1 or 2 players 

Batsugun (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Banpresto (1996)
Reviewed: 2009/5/15

screenshotAs one of my favorite Saturn shooters, Batsugun delivers high-powered vertical action with arcade appeal. The screen is only slightly cropped, and the bright, crisp graphics look like something you'd see in a Neo Geo game. The first stage is peculiar in that it's hard to tell if it takes place underwater or in outer space. The bubbles ultimately give it away, but those roving tanks look very much out of place patrolling the sea floor.

Subsequent stages feature sparkling shorelines and scenic waterfalls, and I like how they are layered to convey a sense of depth. The shooting action is pretty standard as you can toggle between two gun configurations and unleash "bombs" to deal widespread damage. There's a lot of stuff happening on the screen, but the frame rate keeps up with the action nicely. Destroyed enemies leave golden "checkmarks" in their wake to collect, and I like how point values sometimes appear on the screen.

The electronic soundtrack is exceptionally good, and the music in the opening stage sounds like something you might hear in Thunder Force 3 (Genesis, 1991). As much as I like Batsugun, I'll be the first to admit the game suffers from "diarrhea of the firepower". By the third stage, you're spraying missiles like a freakin' fountain outside of a Vegas hotel! When your missiles literally consume the entire screen, lesser enemies are instantly disintegrated before they can even make an entrance!

As you can imagine, the two-player coop mode is just too much. Also problematic is how your ship can drift partially off the bottom of the screen, making it fair game to unseen missiles. Batsugun's over-the-top gameplay isn't unique for the Saturn, but it's undeniably fun, and its slick visuals give it a leg up over the competition. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Battle Arena Toshinden Remix
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2004/3/31
Rating: Teen


screenshotThis 3D fighter originally made its debut on the Playstation in 1995, where it impressed the heck out of video game players who weren't accustomed to such advanced 3D graphics in a fighting game. This "remixed" version for the Saturn is not only a minor disaster, but also a major embarrassment for a system that had an inferiority complex to begin with.

I took the time to compare this game side-to-side with its Playstation counterpart, and the difference is night and day. The characters models in this Saturn version look downright ugly, and the textures are pitiful compared to the smooth, polished Playstation graphics. Blonde bombshell Sophia looks like a linebacker with those huge shoulders, and the backgrounds are plain and boring.

Even the gameplay feels slow and laborious, and the control is far from responsive. Toshinden Remix offers neither the depth of a Virtua Fighter 2 nor the style of Fighting Vipers, and the computer AI is atrocious. Using Sophia, I was able to strike my opponent with the same attack about 25 times in a row to win a match. If this is the remixed version, I'm glad I missed out on the original. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Battle Garegga (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1998)
Reviewed: 2020/5/2

screenshotThis import will set you back a few bucks but it's not the worst investment you can make. Perhaps it's the baseball fan in me, but I always want to pronounce this Battle Galarraga. Battle Garegga is a hyper-kinetic vertical shooter where you blast tanks, planes, boats, and cannons while weaving through their torrents of missiles. I own a lot of shooters for the Saturn, and to be honest they're all pretty similar. Still, I can't seem to get enough of this one.

The first thing that caught my eye was the publisher, Electronic Arts. Why didn't they release this in the USA? The game lets you choose between four planes, each of which manages to be formidable without resorting to gimmicks. Your main guns are awesome, but special attacks pack a few surprises as well. One plane unleashes a devastating flamethrower, while another deploys heat-seeking missiles from the rear, effectively delaying the destruction by a second or two. Enemy explosions come in 31 flavors including bright flames that flare out across the screen. There's a lot of falling icons to collect, and while I don't know what any of them mean, you definitely want to go after the bigger ones.

Garegga's graphics are the sharpest and most high-resolution I've seen on the Saturn. You could argue they are too fine. Incoming missiles look like skinny gray pencils and tend to get lost in all the flying shrapnel. Stages feature storm clouds, desert valleys, and factories with layer upon layer of armaments. The colors are bland but I dig the retro-futuristic vibe. Each stage is relatively short and the bosses never overstay their welcome. Only the final stage which reprises all of the previous bosses feels tiresome. Battle Garegga is an exhilarating title, delivering the sharpest shooting action you'll find on the system. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Battle Monsters
Grade: F
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Reviewed: 2010/6/15
Rating: Teen 13+ (animated violence, animated blood)

screenshotMortal Kombat spawned dozens of shameless copycats, and Battle Monsters is particularly cringe-worthy. This one-on-one fighter falters on every level. How long did it take Acclaim to come up with that title? The fighters are an unlikeably weird collection of digitized human freaks and computer-generated beasts.

La Pa is a ballerina who continuously shouts "hi!" while relentlessly beating you down. Skythe is decked out in a goofy bird outfit, Deathman is a dead-ringer for Frankenstein, and Headless Harn carries his head in one hand as he fights. Naga is meant to resemble Medusa, but her motion-capture actor lacks female proportions. She's a man baby yeah! Chili and Pepper are a pair of hideous laughing clowns with white skin and wild red hair. Clowns are creepy in general, but this duo is especially disturbing.

The gameplay is a mess. The choppy animation makes it hard to track the fighters as they frantically hop around, and constant scaling results in rampant pixelation. The AI is a complete joke, with CPU opponents dealing as much damage to themselves as they do to you. When they're not falling flat on their backs after jumping off a platform, they're pulling statues down on top of themselves.

The stage designs are horrible. In the one with floating islands, the illusion of depth is so poor that it looks like you're going to hit your head on those things! The multi-level temple stage is a nightmare to navigate, and the generic cave stage looks like something from an NES title. Two huge sets of flickering candles serve as the most unsightly health meters ever seen in a video game. I sometimes use the adage "so bad it's good", but Battle Monsters is so bad that it goes overshoots good and goes all the way back around to bad again, where it lands with a resounding thud. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 82500
1 or 2 players 

Bug Too!
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2013/7/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis sequel addresses one major problem of the original game, namely its highly unimaginative stages. Bug Too's opening set of stages ("Weevil Dead 2") features a horror theme with plenty of macabre sights and hair-raising sound effects. A dark mansion looms in the distance as you navigate between floating islands adorned with gravestones and iron fences. Screams and groans can be heard over a haunting organ theme. Enemies are bugs dressed as zombies and vampires, but their wacky animations are hard to make out. Adding fog effects to this stage was probably not the best idea.

Another notable stage boasts an Indiana Jones theme with gorgeous exotic locations. Other stages that would seem to have potential (carnival, space, psychedelic) are pretty blah. The game plays just like the original Bug, as you explore confined mazes while pouncing on enemies and collecting gems. There are a few more hazards and puzzles - for better or worse. Certain stages feature paths that loop around, prompting you to ask, "Wasn't I already here?"

The platform action is mediocre. In some cases you can walk straight down a wall, and sometimes you'll plunge to your death. The jumping is forgiving but the collision detection is not. Bonus stages offer a variety of mini-games like a space shooter, a racing game, and a Q*bert homage. Bug Too also offers a choice of playable characters, including an ethnically insensitive bug sporting an Afro and platform shoes ("Chill homie!"). The new characters don't add much except for their wacky animations and voice clips. Bug Too is saddled with the same issues as the first game, but at least it offers a few memorable sights and sounds. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Bug!
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2013/7/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen it came to 2D platformers, Sega perfected the art. Bug tries to take the action to the third dimension via an awkward hybrid of 2D characters and blocky 3D scenery. The star of the game is a zany insect who spouts cringe-worthy one-liners like "watch it, buddy!", "ooo- hurt me!", and "buzz off!" His corny animations and goofy voice (performed by a female no doubt) are serious turn-offs. Bug can move on all axis (including ceilings and walls) but his movements are slow and confined to narrow paths.

The gameplay is pretty standard as you jump between platforms, pounce on creatures, ride levitating platforms, and collect floating gems. Modest scaling effects convey the illusion of moving into or out of the screen, but the depth perception sucks. Pouncing on grasshoppers and dung beetles is satisfying thanks to exaggerated sound effects, but the collision detection is lousy, and it's hard to tell who's taking damage. The repetitive stages twist and turn all over the place, and there are hidden areas and bonus objects to discover.

Despite taking place on a "movie set", the stages are incredibly generic. You can pretty much guess all the environments: forest, desert, swamp, snow, etc. The underwater stage is best thanks to its soothing blue visuals and relaxing steel drum music. The bosses are another highlight, including a rock-tossing giant and a fish-throwing octopus. Bug's graphics aren't anything to write home about. The characters are rendered in a pseudo-3D style but they appear surprisingly pixelated. They don't even compare to the characters in Donkey Kong Country (SNES, 1993). Checkpoints are few and far between, and you'll stare in disbelief the first time you realize you need to restart a stage from the very beginning.

Special icons let you spit at or zap enemies, but these abilities are short-lived. The close camera makes it hard to anticipate and react to dangers ahead, and cheap hits abound. The bonus stages are of the "fly through the rings" variety that were so popular in the 90's. Like the lead character, the music tries to be zany but is mostly just annoying. Continues are available but the convoluted save system is the worst ever devised. The "game over" screen actually features the bug sticking out his exaggerated ass. Not exactly Sega's proudest moment! I realize Baby Got Back was a hit at the time, but c'mon now! Bug has it moments but it should be a heck of a lot more fun than it is. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.


Bulk Slash (Japan)
Grade: B
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1997)
Reviewed: 2017/3/16

screenshotIt's a shame Bulk Slash was never released in America because this is a 3D title with the charm of a 2D shooter. We're talking about rapid-fire shooting, memorable bosses, and pumping electronic music. You control a robot who toggles between flying and running on foot. Your rapid-fire cannon is effective, and if you wait for it to charge you can unleash eight heat-seeking missiles at once. Most missions involve destroying a series of targets scattered across an island.

Flying is a fast way to get around and allows you to lock onto multiple enemies from the air. My initial instinct was to go for bombing runs but there's really not enough room (or visibility) to execute these effectively. You're better off dropping down to the ground and slashing at protective tanks and cannons with your powerful sword. In classic 2D games pixelated graphics are considered an endearing trait, and Bulk Slash made me feel the same way about Saturn's 3D graphics. It's satisfying to blast angular cannons into chunky flying shards. The explosions are satisfying and leave all sorts of power-ups and bonus icons in their wake.

Bulk Slash boasts some impressive scenery, with the rainy city at night serving as a showcase stage. Early on you have the option of teaming up with a bubbly girl who talks non-stop and screams bloody murder when you take a hit. She actually does provide a valuable service, and that's directing you to your next target. Targets can be hidden in the scenery, sometimes tucked between skyscrapers or in an enclosed arena.

Bulk Slash is fun but hamstrung by the Saturn hardware. You can't see very far and the draw-in is excessive. The streets are very narrow and sometimes claustrophobia-inducing. Don't get too excited when you see "mission complete" because the boss is yet to come! Using the triggers to turn isn't particularly intuitive or precise, and trying to keep a flying boss in your line of sight can be a disorienting experience. If you die in battle you'll have to restart the stage from the beginning. Still, Bulk Slash has a likeable arcade style that keeps you coming back. It even records high scores. This is a game unlike anything I've played before, and coming from me that's saying a lot. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 216,720
1 player 

Burning Rangers
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1998)
Reviewed: 2006/3/14
Rating: Everyone (animated violence)

screenshotAs the last Saturn title developed by the Sonic Team, Burning Rangers is often mentioned in the same breath as great Saturn exclusives like Nights into Dreams, Panzer Dragoon, and Sega Rally. Having mentally prepared myself for the video game experience of a lifetime, I was initially somewhat disappointed. Although the box boasts about "brilliant 3D graphics", in fact the visuals are excessively pixelated, with visible seams in the scenery and clipping problems galore.

Burning Rangers does boast some original gameplay however, which ultimately won me over. You control a futuristic, jetpack-equipped, fire-fighting soldier who extinguishes flames with blasts of a laser weapon. As you traverse the floors of a power planet, marine research laboratory, and space station, you'll extinguish flames, rescue whiny victims, and battle the obligatory bosses. Blasting fires is fun and satisfying, especially when you first hold down the fire button to charge your shot. Explosions occur randomly in your path, but these are preceded by a whistling sound, so you have time to pull down immediately in order to leap back.

The game's packaging mentions something about "8 levels", but in fact there are only three, and skilled gamers will probably whiz through this game in about an hour. Burning Rangers makes a big deal out of its "voice-directed navigation system", but all that means is a woman's voice tells you where to go. You'll be glad she's there, because the metallic hallways and generic rooms all look pretty much the same. The underwater stage is especially confusing to navigate with all of its identical-looking tunnels.

By far the most helpful thing the woman tells you is "you're going the wrong way". Other voices are less helpful, like the guy who urges you to "hurry up - but don't rush!" Rescuing civilians should be satisfying, but you may opt to leave them for dead when you hear how pathetic and whiny they are. Cowering woman: "Why is this happening to me?" Ranger: "I'm here to rescue you, you ungrateful [expletive]!" Okay, I added the expletive myself, but it was well deserved. Burning Ranger may not have lived up to the hype but it still provides more entertainment value than most Saturn titles. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


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