Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tech: Xbox Live Arcade's Sega Saturn Renaissance

The reasons behind the failure of the Sega Saturn videogame console are well-documented - an astronomical $399 asking price, a confusing marketing campaign, a complex architecture that was hard to develop for, etc. Despite these failings, the Saturn had a strong following in Japan, and many of that country's developers made some spectacular games late in the console's life. Here are a couple of such titles, both from Treasure, that have been ported to the Xbox Live Arcade:

Radiant Silvergun



I have a different take on Radiant Silvergun than most reviewers, since my friend er0k bought the game when it was first released. As such, I played RS regularly during college, and I'm pretty familiar with its merits and faults: to make a long story short, it's a great shoot-'em-up, easily one of the best ever made, but it lacks the elegance and pacing of my favorite shooter, Ikaruga.

The XBLA port ticks off all the boxes you'd expect. In addition to the arcade and story modes in the original Saturn game, there's optional enhanced graphical effects, online leaderboards, and downloadable replays of top players. The only downside is the inability to use the Saturn controller - the Xbox 360's control stick (and famously unresponsive d-pad) are suboptimal for sneaking in-between bullets.

Rating: 92/100

Guardian Heroes

Guardian Heroes is a member of an archaic genre - the sidescrolling fantasy brawler (think Golden Axe and D&D: Tower of Doom/Shadow Over Mystara). You know the drill...walk your character from left to right, beat up hordes of hapless mooks with swords or sorcery, and fight off giant bosses:



For the most part, Guardian Heroes for Xbox Live is a dynamite, must-have port, since it removes the slowdown that plagued the original Saturn game, and adds in online coop play. The multiple characters and branching path system give the game some replay value, too, which is more than can be said for most sidescrolling brawlers. About the only criticism I have is the netcode - the original game's 2-player mode was made for two people playing on the same physical console, and playing the XBLA port's 2-player over the Internet means that you'll get worse-than-usual lag and disconnections.

Rating: 83/100

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