The Sega Saturn

Nowadays I’m exclusively a PC gamer. But that’s only because the Sega Saturn retired circa 1999. Which was the same year I got my first PC. Coincidence?


If Sega Saturn titles were still being released today, I suspect I would never have owned a PC in my life. You wouldn’t be reading this blog post because I wouldn’t have been able to write it. I’d be too busy playing Shining Force VI instead, or Panzer Dragoon Saga Zwei, having the time of my goddamn life.

In the theory of infinite universes, in one of them the Saturn won the console war and there were no more console generations, because it was gameplay that people loved, and they recognized gameplay had reached its zenith, and that it was a waste of time and money to develop new technology which could only be used to improve graphics.


Death Tank Zwei: the apogee of gameplay. Graphics optional.

But ladies and gentlemen, in this universe the Saturn didn’t win, so we look back on the Saturn as a curious relic which failed in business terms. But for the game loving gamer who loves games, it was a resounding success.

The real success of the Saturn was its architectural complexity, which acted as a barrier to entry to developers of middling ability, ensuring that 100% of all games that were actually released for the Saturn were stone cold classics.


Wait, that’s not true. In fact, many developers DID have a go at the Saturn without having a sodding clue how to work with it. They did their best, bless them, but many of the games came out piss poor, forever tarnishing Saturn’s reputation as a 3D console.

But when a developer came along that could make the Saturn sing, oh how it sang. There WERE stone cold classics, and enough of them.

guardian heroes nights sega rally radiant silvergunpanzer dragoon saga saturn-bomberman shining force 3 street-fighter-alpha2 panzer dragoon zwei burning rangers

Anyway, my nostalgia hard-on for the Saturn only gets more fierce at the enigma and mystique surrounding this arcane and baffling hardware. When hobbyists crack it open to look at the innards it’s like wiping the dust off an obscure relic from an ancient civilisation found buried under a pyramid in Atlantis. People still don’t know how it works, 20 years on. Nobody can emulate it properly, despite later more powerful consoles being emulated nearly perfectly. The Saturn is like trying to solve the Stargate.

So when honest-to-god geniuses come along that DO understand something about the Saturn’s inner workings, it feels like a real life James Spader coming to save our ignorant minds with nerd heroics. Check out the video below.

I watched this video and thought “ahh. Now I see how we landed on the moon”.

Here’s another one of an amazing Chinese guy explaining how graphics work on the Saturn. See how the subject matter is so trivially simple and mundane for his genius brain that he decides to do the whole video in a second language he’s learning, just to keep things interesting for himself.

So the Saturn, then. S’cool.

cool saturn

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