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Awesome Saturn Exclusives: Platformers

Silver Linings #6

Hello, and welcome back to Silver Linings where I find the positives in maligned pop culture.


This is the second of my lists looking back at the Sega Saturn.  When looking at why the Saturn failed like it did, many explanations were brought up.  There was the botched early launch that alienated retail channels.  There was the fact that the Saturn sold for $100 more than the Playstation and Nintendo 64, a handicap that didn't get reduced until the system was just about dead.  There was then-CEO Bernie Stolar's comment that the Saturn wasn't the future of Sega which killed consumer interest after only two years on the market.

Those were all valid points, but there was one explanation that doesn't get mentioned enough.  That was the fact that there were no Saturn-exclusive Sonic the Hedgehog games.  Sonic had become the driving force for Sega during the fourth generation.  The four Sonic platformers on the Genesis were the prime attractions for the system.  People bought the Sega CD just to play Sonic CD.  Most people would've ignored the 32X were it not for Knuckles Chaotix.  Sonic had become a major draw, but the Saturn didn't capitalize on that.  The only games with Sonic on the Saturn were Sonic 3D Blast (a poor isometric offering that played better on the Genesis), Sonic Jam (a re-release of the Genesis games), and Sonic R (a dismal Mario Kart clone).

Even though 2D was shifting to 3D at the time, mascot platformers were still a big deal in the fifth console generation.  People didn't mind that the Nintendo 64 only had TWO games at launch since one of them was Super Mario 64.  Even though platformers were never the Playstation's focus, the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series were among the system's biggest successes.  While the Saturn didn't have a Sonic game to pull in the crowds, the system still provided some great exclusive run-and-jump games worth loading up again.  Check them out!

Astal

Astal may be very basic in terms of story and mechanics, but it goes far toward showing how gorgeous 2D can be on the Saturn.  Every second it plays is a work of art.  The grabbing and throwing gameplay reminds me a lot of Super Mario Bros. 2 (Doki Doki Panic for the Japanese), and that's a VERY good thing.  It may not be a technical showcase, but it sure is an artistic one.

Bug Too!

The original Bug! was a proof of concept, designed to show that the Saturn could do polygonal environments for platformers.  However, the sequel took the concept and went crazy with it.  The levels creatively spoof movie cliches and are fun to navigate.  The glitches present in the original are gone.  The controls are tight, and the three playable characters are fun to play with. 

Clockwork Knight 1 & 2

One would almost think that the Clockwork Knight games inspired Pixar to make Toy Story.  These two games really capture what it's like to be a little kid playing with his/her toys.  The visuals are some of the Saturn's best, the levels are fun to explore, and the gameplay is easy to pick up.  It's just a shame these two games were so short (though the second has plenty of secrets to provide replay value).

Mr. Bones

It's almost a stretch to pigeonhole Mr. Bones as a platformer.  This game, which almost feels like it was culled from a lost Tim Burton script, dabbles in almost every gameplay style one could think of.  Virtually no two levels play alike.  Couple the insane variety with impressive visuals for the time and its very spooky atmosphere, and it's no wonder Mr. Bones became a cult classic for the Saturn.

Nights Into Dreams

I came very close to leaving Nights off the list since there was a re-release on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.  However, I can't deny that it carried the torch for Sonic Team during the Saturn era, and it's still a joy to play now.  The visuals show off what the Saturn could do, the pace finds the sweet spot between fast and leisurely, and the levels and boss fights are very imaginative.  Whether playing the Saturn original or the HD remasters, Nights Into Dreams deserves your attention.

Shinobi Legions

Unlike the Ninja Gaiden series which took itself very seriously, the Shinobi series always had a goofy nature to it, culminating with Shinobi Legions (Shinobi X in the PAL regions). The FMVs are adorably cheesy, and the digitized actors used for in-game characters have a charm to match their ridiculous appearances. However, the sword-swinging gameplay is just as solid as prior games in the series and just as tough. It's a shame that the series lost its goofiness when it was revived on the Playstation 2.


Even though these platformers couldn't make up for the loss of Sonic X-Treme at the time, they are still fun to play and worth dusting off the old Saturn to check out.  Are there any that I missed?  Let me know, and have fun!

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