Shmups: Sega Saturn vs. Sony Playstation

 I don’t claim to be a shmup expert, but I did a lot of research on this subject about a year ago. The findings of “superior ports” are not a result of a great amount of testing on my part, but rather the general consensus that I found among the shmup community.

We all know how awesome the Saturn is when it comes to shmups and other 2D games, but it is a fact that Sony’s mainstream counterpart has plenty of shmups to to keep retro gamers happy. I want to compare and contrast each system’s shooter library in order to help shooter fans build the best shmup library they can.

I will try to provide links to game reviews when I can. This list will be a bit of a work in progress and I eventually hope to provide more documentation on each game and port. Please contribute any additional information you might have in the comments section.

Sony Playstation
Hardware pros:

  • Inexpensive, widely available
  • Can produce awesome 2D in the hands of talented programmers.
  • Backwards-compatible on the PS2.
  • Excellent emulation support

Hardware cons:

  • Not very import-friendly (internal mod is required)
  • Dontroller d-pad isn’t the best for shmups
  • Generally flimsy manufacturing.
  • Generally not as skilled in 2D processing

Exclusive games:

Superior versions:

Sega Saturn
 Hardware pros:

  • Capable of some truly amazing graphics
  • More RAM, built-in save memory
  • Quite arguably the best controller ever
  • Easy to play imports
  • System failure rate is very low compared to PS1.

Hardware cons:

  • Emulation has not matured
  • No backwards-compatibility options
  • Complex multi-processor architecture
  • 3D graphics processors were a last minute addition to the system.

Exclusive games:

Superior versions:

I gave the nod to Saturn versions of the Konami Packs/Parodius 3&4, even though the PS1 versions are identical from what I’ve heard, due to Saturn’s better controller and ease of importing. Same with Image Fight and Sonic Wings Special.

Overall, as you can see, Saturn has a larger and much more versatile library of shmups, but the PS1 has Raiden, R-Type, Tiger Heli/Kyukyoku Tiger, better versions of the ‘pachis (which should count for like, 10 games by themselves), and several others. Clearly the serious shmupper needs both systems to get the most out of 32-bit era home ports.

Feel free to correct me on any games or information I left out.

And just an FYI, I plan on doing more comparisons like Genesis vs. SNES, Dreamcast vs PS2, and other great matchups.

Additional Resources:
DigitalPress: Did You Know – PSX Shmups
SHMUPS! Saturn Profile
SHMUPS! Playstation Profile

Related Posts:
Dreamcast Shmups Library – 2D Shooters Galore
Survive Bullet Hell On Your Gameboy Advance

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23 Comments

  1. justin138 says:

    Ugh, shmups on the PSX d-pad..it makes my thumb hurt just thinking about it.

    Looking forward to a Genesis and SNES comparison.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That’s the kind of topic that I like, as long as the Saturn wins in the end 🙂 .

  3. Anonymous says:

    Alonzobots here, I said that psx version of Dodonpachi is better, and in many ways it is, but you can only play as one ship…which for me is fine since I only like the helicopter…but for some people that might bother them. The saturn version has quite a bit of slow down and looks kinda junky, especially compared to the arcade. Thats rather shocking considering the saturn should absolutely have been able to handle it, but it was just a very poorly made port.

  4. knight0fdragon says:

    I thought with a Gameshark, you can play imports, no internal mod is needed???(or else made this a con for saturn also?

  5. racketboy says:

    What system are you referring to?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I read on many sites that sega saturn’s 3d capabilities was NOT added in the last minute. He should check this before saying that.

  7. racketboy says:

    I know for a fact that it was added one later. That’s why there is two graphics processors. One is for 2D another is for 3D.

    Read this great piece on the history of the Saturn:
    http://www.eidolons-inn.net/segabase/SegaBase-Saturn(Part1).html

  8. insomnia says:

    Most PSX shooters are just plain ugly imo and not as effectful as those available for the Saturn. Also, the PSX controller, while excellent for RPGs and the like, isn’t that great for shooters.

  9. insomnia says:

    Also, please don’t refer to those SegaBase-articles as historical fact as they’ve been proven to have numerous factual errors.

  10. JF says:

    Capcom Generations 1 is not a Saturn exclusive, it was released for both PS1 and Saturn.

    Excelent site, congratulations.

  11. DU0 says:

    Are you sure about the controller thing?
    It’s like… The PSX controller has analog sticks wich are very neat when you need to control speed.
    I burnt Raiden to play on my PS2, though, and the analogs didn’t work =/

    And the Saturn 3D processor was not a last minute add to the console. A proof of it is that the first games that made it into the console were Daytona USA and Virtua FIghter, both fully 3D. It’s fun to think that Sonic didn’t debute this console, as it did on the Genesis and all the others ^^

  12. racketboy says:

    Yeah, I’m sure about the 3D thing — it’s a pretty established piece of trivia. It’s not as if the Saturn couldn’t do 3D without it, but it would have been even more limited.

    You may also notice that Virtua Fighter’s original port was very poor and Daytona wasn’t the greatest either. Probably due to a short deadline.

  13. Joey says:

    This topic is fairly old, but upon reading it, which I like ;D and don’t care to really point out very trivial things, but I will just say to set the record straight. That you guys are all right, just exaggerated somewhat. Originally Saturn was supposed to be 2D (which as racketboy states the reasoning for the dual processor configuration) but the 3D wasn’t really added “last minute”. Sega had been designing the console since 91′ and then sony raised the bar an entire year early at E3, giving SEGA about a 3rd of the time it took to finish its design, with a 3D engine. And then they still released earlier than the PS. But common, the idea of 3D is always in SEGAs thoughts, who’s to say they weren’t gonna do it anyway, regardless if Sony was… as far as the ports being not so great, this happens for many other reasons, mostly development of games, not capabilitys of said console.

  14. Pelger says:

    hello, I know this is old, but I just wanted to point that layer section 1 aka rayforce, is avaiable for PC too, so it’s not a saturn exclusive.

  15. dave says:

    PSX wins…flawless victory; fatality. Why? Revenue. Brand awareness. Units sold. Publications spawned and sold. Pretty, user-friendly and hip. Each new console is the same name with a number after it and it always stays in that upper tier. Where is sega saturn now? Where is sega now? Oh yeah – they bombed themselves into bankruptcy and bit the bullet – making software for other companies including their arch foil Nintendo. How humiliating…for Nintendo! Talk about charity! And the controller? Are you kidding? “The best controller ever”…? REALLY? Are you serious? I mean REALLY? That thing is tiny, lightweight and hideous. The d-pad is just weird. The majority of people lept at the dual shock controller, which I realise isnt the original, but still, what alternative did sega offer? The same tiny joke with a real d-pad? Gimme a break. And the conversions, the load times, numerous issues with load times, bad graphics here and there, and the big, ugly clunkiness of the thing. The Playstation was Sony’s weapon of mass market appeal, and defines a generation, as well as cementing its place in popular culture and puplic awareness as the console that made gaming cool. Numerous timeless classics were released on that badboy that remain unsurpassed today. The sega saturn is just that antique, “wow dude, I cant belive you still have your saturn! I wonder how much you can get for it on ebay?” It’s real nice that it has a cult following, but comparing it with the psx is delusional, never mind even suggesting that this is even a fair contest. I like how even this topic is old, the whole debate is an urn containing ashes…the ashes of sega’s ill-fated foray into the console market.

  16. racketboy says:

    Dave, you realize this post is comparing the 2D shooters on each platform, right?

  17. JesusSaves says:

    Dave, the Saturn beats the Playstation any day. It’s controller and aesthetics are far superior. The Playstation has Tekken 3. The Saturn has Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers, and Fighters Megamix. The Playstation has Crash Bandicoot. The Saturn has NiGHTS. Sure, the Playstation has the phenominal Spyro the Dragon, Ape Escape, and MediEvil, but the Saturn has half a million space shooters and Virtua Cop to boot.

  18. Alex says:

    Odd, I got the impression that Dodonpachi and Sonic Wings special were mostly better on Saturn from the shooter articles?

    Sonic Wings Special – Better sound on SAT, PS1 PAL version butchered

    Dodonpachi – PS1: “One annoyance is that in this version players will need to turn on the “Wait” option in the pause menu each time they begin, or else the game will run a bit too fast. Another inconvenience is that in 2P mode both participants must use the same ship – and even in 1P mode you’ve got to make your selection in the Options menu”
    SAT: Saturn mode (stage 0, hidden boss); Arcade version slowdown removed on SAT, making it the hardest version; Some effects and sounds are worse while PS1 is arcade perfect

  19. MarioKarter says:

    LOVE your articles. Just wanted to mention that I found another (not-so-great) vertical shmup for PS1 (maybe Japan only) at a store the other day. “Stahlfeder”, which in German means “Steel Feather”. Too easy and too many parts where nothing is happening for long periods of time. But not all bad.

  20. ORDLJU says:

    Another amazing article.

    I think the win goes to the Sega Saturn. Having read about the development that went into the thing in some article about the history of (the downfall of) Sega, you really have to respect what they were doing. The Saturn turned out to be a nightmare to program for and a commercial failure, but when they turned down what was to become the N64, they threw in their lot with real gamers, with the kind of people who can appreciate games like Radiant Silvergun and Cotton 2. When you boot up those games, you feel like you’re playing something special. And I think it was that, that ability to win out in schoolyard debates about the greatest console ever, that motivated Sega in their work. Not money. Let’s keep in mind that the late 90s were when Nintendo execs were stuffing their pockets with Pokemon royalty checks. And let’s not forget that the video game market today is basically split between Sony and Microsoft. SONY and MICROSOFT. At the end of an era when it was dominated by a one-time playing card manufacturer and a one-time pinball machine manufacturer, the Saturn was basically a Wild Bunch-style last stand… That’s the kind of awesomeness money can’t buy (and sadly wouldn’t want to, because so few can appreciate it).

    That being said, no true shoot em up fan can be without both consoles. Although I do prefer how the three-chip architecture of the Saturn handles sprites and gives then an almost analog feel (the same can be said of the PC Engine), you can’t argue with a perfect port of Cotton and superior ports of the Pachis.

  21. Andy P says:

    I absolutely love these articles. After stumbling. Upon them a year ago, I have been obsessed with retro collecting and shmups in particular. Maybe it’s just me, but have retro game prices risen across the board over the last year? It seems that certain titles that I sought out a year ago are now more expensive on average than last year. Maybe it’s just the titles that I’m looking for, but I think retro gaming is becoming more and more popular. I personally don’t care too much for modern gaming, as games today are starting to all look and play the sad. Save for motion devices and what not, when the major game releases are first person shooters, and they’re available on every system, there is something lost in the appeal. Given my penchant for shmups this may sound hypocritical, but I feel that games had more character in the late eighties and nineties than they do know. Ok, that was all over the place. Lord Karnage rules!

  22. jamie o says:

    For me it has to be the saturn,i have a few shooters like the deluxe packs off konami layersection and a few more,i have went through 5 ps1s yet still fire up my jap saturn every day.Gaming for me died when it went 3d only driving games did anything for me.Yet nearly 18 years later i still play my saturn shooters and the fine output of capcom and snk and,street fighter zero 3 kicks the subsequent version on dreamcasts arse.So Dave i think your off your rocker my friend you sound just like every other tosser that got into games because sony made them ‘cool’,run along yet another sheep.

  23. SatanSaves says:

    JesusSaves, what does that Saturn have that matches up to Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo 2, Ridge Racer Type 4, Need For Speed 3 and 4, Oddworld, Klonoa, Colony Wars, Final Fantasy, Parasite Eve, Vagrant Story, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Silent Hill, Dino Crisis, etc? Let’s not forget that PS1 has the superior version of RE1, as well as RE2 and 3 which Saturn lacks, and the superior version of Symphony of the Night. You’re right, the Saturn has some good shooters and fighters… Well so does the Playstation.