Saturn Reviews O-Q

PGA Tour 97
Grade: D
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
Posted: 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 lag 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)
Posted: 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 incoming 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 are 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 pixelated 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.

1 player 

Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Posted: 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.

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1 player 

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

screenshotReleased near 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.

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1 player 

Pebble Beach Golf Links
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Posted: 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.

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1 to 4 players 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Lobotomy Software (1996)
Posted: 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 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.

1 player 

Primal Rage
Grade: B-
Publisher: Universal (1994)
Posted: 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.

Our high score: 130802
1 or 2 players 

Pro Pinball
Grade: B-
Publisher: Empire (1996)
Posted: 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)
Posted: 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.

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1 player 

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