Games That Pushed The Limits – Part 2
This is a continuation of my series on console games that made the best use of each console’s limited system resources.
Aliens vs Predator
There have only been a few times before the 21st century where I was amazed by how sweet a game looked in action. The only two that stay on the top of my mind are Sonic Adventure (on a pre-release Dreamcast) and Aliens vs Predator for the Atari Jaguar.
Of course, by today’s standards, the game looks pretty dated, but there was just something about how futuristic the game looked while most of were still playing on our SNES and Genesis. While it was the only game for the Jaguar that even tempted me to purchase Atari’s doomed console, I’m still intrigued about the game to this day.
When it was originally released, I was blown away by the graphics. Wolfenstien 3D was the only game that I had seen in this new genre and I felt that this was the holy grail of video gaming graphics. The textures accurately re-created the feel of the movies. The aliens could use a few more frames of animation for added realism, but this is a forgivable problem. AvP also had some really great sound effects to round out the package.
Full Review of Aliens vs Predator
As you can quickly see, the Jaguar was bascially the first console for good First Person Shooters. The graphics in Doom were nothing short of phenomenal in its day. The walls, ceiling, and floor are all texture-mapped. There was a great attention to detail on the Jaguar port, as it was actually programmed by John Carmac.
If you compare it to the 32X version, the Jaguar version is full screen, has multiple views of the monsters, has more levels, includes networking support, has a better resolution, and has more sound effects. Here are some screenshots to compare in order to visualize the difference
The only things missing from the Jaguar version of Doom are a few of the monsters, the music, and a level or two. Otherwise, Jaguar Doom is an incredible accomplishment because it mimics the PC game so closely. I’m sure that by adding another 4 megabits, the Jaguar port could have been a perfect PC clone.
Full Review of DOOM
Rayman’s graphics and sounds were beautifully engineered with some great themed levels full of soothing color and animation. All the graphics have been done using 65,000 colors and couldn’t look much better. The attention to detail on both the characters and scenery gives Rayman charmingly odd looks.
While gamers were getting excited by the early entries in 3D console gaming, Rayman showed that these more powerful consoles could be used to make some phenomenal 2D games as well.
Full Review of Rayman
- Iron Soldier – One of the Jaguar’s crowning achievements, Iron Soldier featured colorful graphics, a smooth frame rate and slick animation. The main complaint in the graphics departments is that about 90% of the buildings are just plain boxes with absolutely no texture mapping. (Review)
- Cybermorph – This pack-in title was the Jaguar’s first showcase game. It didn’t require any fancy FX chip like StarFox and was completely off-rails allowing you to fly anywhere you wanted. But overall it was a lousy game. (Review)
Overall, the graphics in this arcade fighter are very well done and extremely smooth. With the visual acceleration of the Jaguar CD, you’ll find that Primal Rage moves just as fast as the arcade version. However, with such accomplishments, it does bring its share of problems to the table with the addition of image break up, and slow down in some areas of the fight.
If you were to have one reason to buy a Jaguar CD, this would probably it — especially if you are a 2D fighter fan like myself.
Full Review of Primal Rage
Brain Dead 13
Following point and click games such as Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair, Brain Dead 13 places you in the midst of a rather unusual story line and you must guide your hero through several different scenarios. Visually, the game is one of the better-looking games in the genre and if you’re into these types of games, Brain Dead 13 is probably your best choice.
Not only does Brain Dead 13 contain some of the best full motion video to be seen on the Jaguar CD, but also doesn’t pause in between scenes like Dragon Lair. The game flows from scene to scene with only the slightest of delays.
Full Review of Brain Dead 13
Iron Soldier II
The best-selling Jaguar CD game, this sequel builds on the original’s mission-based gameplay, smooth animation, and cool explosions, but brings enhanced graphics and more advanced controls. The intro features some cool cinematics of your mech wandering around a city blowing everything to bits.
Full Review of Iron Soldier II
- Dragon’s Lair & Space Ace – These were strong FMV Arcade ports and were one of the better console versions, but still grainier than the arcade.
- Myst – One of the better ports on the Jaguar, it matches the PC version pretty well.
Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo
The 3DO is another one of those systems that many people have forgotten about because it didn’t have many titles that stood out. It’s also sad that the system died out before developers were able to learn the ins and outs of the system. The 3DO had some great hardware under the hood, but unfortunately, it primarily received ports from either the PC or other consoles — nothing that was optimized for the 3DO.
While the 3DO didn’t have a lot of prime-time 3D action, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo had enough eye candy to show off the system’s 2D muscle. SSF2 was the first Street Fighter game to promote big combos and flashy super move finishes. While the regular SNES and Genesis SSF2 ports got the job done, the 3DO brought the game much closer to the arcade original and was the only console for a while that featured the Turbo version — which introduced Akuma to the masses. It also topped the arcade version with CD-quality audio. The 3DO soundtrack even tops those of the Playstation and Saturn versions.
Full Review of Super Street Fighter II Turbo
If you couldn’t afford a Neo-Geo, the 3DO version of Samurai Shodown was your best bet if you wanted arcade-authentic graphics. Although the graphics in the 3DO version aren’t quite arcade perfect, they are the best of the three console versions. While all the scaling, character animation, sprites, and background graphics seem to be fully intact, the game lacks some of the parallax scrolling from the arcade.
If you had played the 3DO version of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, then you will have noticed the same problem with the parallax in that game. This probably isn’t the fault of the programmers—it’s just that the 3DO had some major problems doing this effect. However, the game does looks a little bit sharper then even the Neo Geo version. This, in a way, makes up for the lack of parallax and makes the game a little easier on the eyes.
Like the graphics, the sound in the 3DO is easily the closest to the originals — you probably won’t notice any differences at all. From the sound effects to the amazing traditional Japanese soundtrack, it’s all here.
Full Review of Samurai Shodown
- Jurassic Park Interactive – I played a demo of Jurassic Park Interactive back in ’93 and was amazed at how the game really made me feel like I was in the movie. I was severely disappointed that the Jurassic Park game for my Sega CD never was that exciting.
- Road Rash – This version of the biker classic blows the doors off of the Genesis, Sega CD, and SNES versions. It almost seems like a completely different game. The graphics, music, animation, and other little details (like the little old ladies crossing the street) make this 3DO title a real favorite. (Review)
- Night Trap and other FMV Games – Just like the Sega CD versions, these games showed off the full motion video capabilities of the console. However, the 3DO wasn’t tied down to the limitations of an aging 16-bit system and its small color palette. Instead, the 3DO versions of Night Trap and other games had not only bigger video frame sizes, but the colors were much more life-like.
Virtua Racing Deluxe
At a time when 3D games were only to be seen in cutting-edge arcade systems or PCs, Virtua Racing on the 32X was jaw-dropping. In fact, the 32X is still considered superior to the later Sega Saturn version.
The 32X did a wonderful job pushing the polygons in order to provide a smooth and enjoyable ride along a number a fun-filled tracks. As the Racing genre is one that definitely benefits from full 3D gameplay, Virtua Racing remained a dominate title until Sega Rally, Daytona USA (Saturn) and Gran Turisimo (Playstation) showed up on the later 32-bit systems.
Full Review of Virtua Racing Deluxe
While it doesn’t compare with Virtua Fighter Remix on the Saturn, Virtua Fighter on the 32X was another game that made the 32X attractive to die-hard Sega fans. (That is, before they knew the add-on was doomed) Like Virtua Racing, it pushed the 32X’s 3D capabilities — enough to hold gamers over until the Saturn launched.
The 32X version actually performs quite similar to the original Saturn version of Virtua Fighter. Both have their issues such as flickering polygons, but running off of a cartridge on the 32X has its advantages (no load times). Here is a really great side-by-side comparison of the Saturn and 32X ports of Virtua Fighter.
Full Review of Virtua Fighter
This was one of the first games I got for my 32X and it was very impressive to see so many polygons with textures running on expanded Genesis hardware. While it looks pretty bleh by today’s standards, this was a fascinating game at the time of its release.
I have to mention, however, that once the novelty of Metal Head’s graphics wears off, you will realize the the game is pretty slow and somewhat boring. But I consider it to be a good demonstration of what the 32X could do — especially considering developers didn’t have much time with the add-on.
Full Review of Metal Head
- Cosmic Carnage – The gameplay may have sucked, but this fighter had a zoom effect similar to Samurai Showdown and had armor that could be broken off. Those who do enjoy this game will remind you that Cosmic Carnage also utilized the 32X’s enhanced audio chip to produce some enjoyable tunes. (Review)
- Knuckles Chaotix – Chaotix combined the fast-action Sonic gameplay, bumped up the image quality with some beautiful colors and sprites, and added some additional physics to deal with the bungee element. Chaotix also utilized the zoom effect in additional to some sprite scaling. (Review)
- DOOM – While it wasn’t one of the best DOOM ports in existence, the 32X version was still fun to play and ran fairly well.
- All The Games That Could Have Been – The 32X was killed off very early in its life and there were a number of promising games that were slated for the 32X. Some examples are Alien Trilogy, Alien vs Predator, Castlevania V, Darkstalkers, and Virtua Hampster.
X-Men vs Street Fighter
To most gamers, the Saturn is simply known as the system that lost the console wars to the Sony Playstation. The Playstation was built from the ground up to be a superior 3D machine in a generation that was hungry for this new technology. So it was an oft-overlooked fact that the Saturn was far superior in the area of 2D gameplay.
Possibly the best example of how the Saturn was the place to go for arcade-authentic 2D fighters and shooters, X-Men vs Street Fighter took full advantage of the 4MB RAM cart in order to keep the tag team action quick and seamless in addition to minimizing load times.
The sprites were as big and beautiful as the real Capcom arcade version. If you try playing the Playstation version of the game prior to experiencing the Saturn port, you will quickly realize how limited the Playstation is in terms of 2D action. In fact, as if the less-impressive sprites weren’t depressing enough the PSX doesn’t even offer the tag-team feature — one of the main selling points of the game.
Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter wasn’t far behind XMvSF. It had a larger character roster, but I just don’t feel that it was as polished as Capcom’s first crossover fighter.
Full Review of X-Men vs. Street Fighter
Shining Force 3
The last great installment of the Shining Force series was an amazing game in terms of gameplay, graphics, and presentation. Camelot Software Planning pulled off software-based transparency effects for polygons, which was originally thought to be impossible on the Saturn. It’s part of the reason why the SSF emulator still isn’t rendering spell effects and such properly.
There’s also the fact that Camelot not only utilized both video processors for the game, but they also made use of the audio chip to help with the graphics as well. In order to cut load times the game streamed the data while you move your character around and target enemies — even before you even confirm your selection. Shining Force 3 was an amazing piece of software, especially given that Camelot Software Planning wasn’t a large development team.
Full Review of Shining Force III
While some claim that this shmup is overrated, there is no denying that Radiant Silvergun pushed the 2D limits of what a 32-bit console could do. Just as they did with Gunstar Heroes on the Genesis, Treasure pushed the Saturn to its limits with Radiant Silvergun, using a great mix of sprites and polygons throughout the game. Absolutely huge bosses and other objects fill the screen. Most of the bosses (and there’s a LOT of them) in the game are done in polygons, and actually can be taken apart piece by piece.
The graphics of Radiant Silvergun are rendered sprites over polygonal backgrounds. The foreground sprites are nothing special, but the backgrounds are intricate and beautiful and they even effect gameplay, providing obstacles and cover for your ship. The gameplay is punctuated by the beautiful explosions and intense firefights the fill your journeys. If you are a shooter fan and, for some strange reason, haven’t heard of this game — you must try it!
Full Review of Radiant Silvergun
Virtua Fighter 2
The Saturn’s strength was 2D graphics, but there are a few 3D games that really push the polygon capabilities in order to compete with the Playstation. Virtua Fighter 2 ran The Saturn shows its hardware muscle by employing it’s High Resolution 720×575 mode (highest for a console game at that time) while running at a smooth 60fps. The polygons in VF2 were a great step above the original Virtua Fighter and made the character look a bit more realistic. (Looking back, its fun to think I thought these looked life-like)
Sega originally was planning on bringing Virtua Fighter 3 to the Saturn (possibly utilizing the 4MB RAM cart), but as they saw the Playstation take over the market, they held off until they launched the Dreamcast and Virtua Fighter 3TB. The closest thing Saturn owners got was Fighters Megamix which took the models from Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers and threw in some of Virtua Fighter 3’s new moves. Megamix looked good, but lacked Virtua Fighter 2’s high-resolution feature.
Full Review of Virtua Fighter 2
Dead or Alive
A straight forward 3D fighting game based on the Virtua Fighter engine, it features slick and intuitive gameplay. This Saturn port looked stunning and many experts consider it slightly better than the Playstation version. Even in its Saturn form, Dead or Alive gain attention for its “jiggly” animation techniques.
It’s fun to look back at the 3D launch titles for the Saturn (Daytona USA and the original Virtua Fighter) to see how much progress was made. Sega seemed to rush ports of their popular arcade games to show that the Saturn had some 3D capabilities to counter the upcoming Playstation. So it’s amazing to see these later 3D titles show up when the developers had the time to learn the complicated architecture (there were many DSPs, individual controllers and chipsets).
Dead or Alive Review
Nights Into Dreams
Besides all of the exciting arcade ports, this game alone was one of the main reasons I wanted a Saturn. Sonic Team knew the Saturn wasn’t a 3D powerhouse so it created a “almost 3D” game that knocked everybody’s socks off. It was also the first game to bring out the Saturn’s bigger Saturn controller with an analog stick (which is an obvious parent to the Dreamcast controller).
Nights features a number of flashy colors, well-textured landscapes, and light-sourcing. Ground movement is full 360 degrees, with the ability to manipulate the camera to see a variety of viewpoints. However, you will quickly notice that most of the gameplay takes place in flight. Night’s flight mode is basically on rails, so you don’t have as much freedom as you might expect. However, the execution strikes a perfect balance of beauty and playablity. I couldn’t ask for much more (other than a Gamecube sequel!) Also worth noteing, is that Burning Rangers was a later Sonic Team title that used the Nights Into Dreams engine.
Full Review of Nights into Dreams
- Saturn Bomberman – This party classic isn’t on this list because of it’s cute sprites and animation, it is mentioned because it is the main motivation to stock up on Saturn Multi-Tap Adapters. Saturn Bomberman brings to possibility of 10 simultaneous human players to this classic franchise. (Review)
- Sonic Jam – considering the Sega had a hard time running a good Genesis emulator on the Dreamcast (with the Sega Smash Pack), it is amazing to see how good of a job they did emulating the 16-bit system on their 32-bit Saturn. On top of all this, the 3D “Sonic World” that greets you in this compilation is of high quality and may have been a start of the engine used for the elusive Sonic Xtreme. (Review)
- Panzer Dragoon Saga – This massive RPG took up a full 4 CDs and is regarded as one of the greatest non-Square/Enix RPGs of all time. The game is almost entirely 3D – the only noticeable use of the Saturn’s powerful 2D hardware is in the free-fly areas where it draws the ground as a far stretching 2D plane which you barely notice. The gorgeously smooth animation of the dragon, the surprisingly detailed areas you can walk around. (Review)
- Street Fighter Zero (Alpha) 3 – Yet another great example of how good the Saturn was with 2D. This late Capcom fighter not only utilized the 4MB RAM cart to hold every frame of animation from the arcade original, but it is probably one of the best console ports of Alpha 3. The only thing the PSX version has up on it is the controls are a bit tighter.
- Die Hard Arcade – I found Die Hard Arcade to be one of the best 3D arcade conversions to be found on the Saturn. The game engine allows zooming and panning to provide the best perspective of the beatemup action, but the game runs in a standard resolution (As opposed to the High-Res mode seen in VF2). The character animation is similar to Virtua Fighter 2 and also features texture-mapping, complete with facial features. (Review)