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Ten Sega Saturn Games That Need the HD Treatment

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Posted by: Joe Donato

For the majority of its existence, the Sega Saturn was my favorite console of all time. It affected me so profoundly that before the 360 came out, I was all but ready to give up on games. The Saturn, short-lived and painfully difficult to design games for, didn't have a large library. It did, however, bear host to a handful of passionately designed masterpieces, some so ahead of their time that they left me wanting for years.

Thanks to some bizarre engineering, the Saturn has been largely ignored in the recent HD remake movement. Games that have been revisited on modern consoles are almost always based on inferior PC versions. This has made the Saturn one of the only older consoles worth keeping plugged in. Meanwhile XBLA and PSN have made other Sega consoles like the Dreamcast nearly obsolete.

With HD visuals and a downloadable market, there's never been a more appropriate time to revisit these relics. Thankfully, someone is stepping up—HD remakes of both Guardian Heroes and Radiant Silvergun are on the way courtesy of Treasure. If they can bring these classics to downloadable services, why can't more Saturn classics follow suit?

With that in mind, here are ten of the Saturn's finest games, the kinds that could do with a modern sprucing up. These are the games you should be knocking down Sega's doors for. They're games that you've probably never played, and if you're one of the lucky few that have, you know these gems deserve a larger audience.

10. Dragon Force

I have a confession to make. I've played every game on this list but one, and that game is Dragon Force. It may seem foolish to blindly recommend a game I haven't played, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anything but praise for this one. It's a strategy RPG that pits hordes of 2D sprites in Braveheart-style conflicts. With so many little dudes kicking ass on-screen at once (up to two hundred of them!), the game still looks pretty cool today. The HD treatment would make this game's unique combat even better for a whole new generation of strategy RPG fans.

9. A Kinect/Move Lightgun Shooter Collection

If you're talking about Sega lightgun shooters, the Saturn got the best of the bunch: Virtua Cop 1 and 2, and the original House of the Dead. Toss in L.A. Machineguns and you have my childhood arcade experience in a nutshell. The only problem is that modern HDTVs don't play nice with lightgun games. Motion tech like the Move and Kinect could potentially fix that, and I can think of no better excuse to jump around my living room than a well-placed justice shot in Virtua Cop.

8. Enemy Zero

In the pantheon of FMV games like Night Trap and Myst, few are regarded as classics. Enemy Zero isn't exactly a classic either, but the sense of loneliness and fear it establishes is still impressive today. Played from a first-person view, the game mixes slow adventure gameplay with survival horror against invisible enemies. If Dead Space 2 is the game equivalent of James Cameron's Aliens, Enemy Zero is more the cerebral horror of Ridley Scott's Alien. How cool would it be if they redid the whole game in modern, Hollywood-quality CG? Of course it would never happen, but I'd settle for modern polygonal graphics and better voice acting.

7. NiGHTS into Dreams

One of the commercial failings of the Saturn was its lack of a true Sonic game. In hindsight that seems a bit hilarious, and despite the money it probably cost Sega, we all got something much, much better. NiGHTS into Dreams took Sonic's ground speed and applied it to dream-flight. Put the spirit of Sonic in a fresh, hyper-colorful dreamworld and you're only starting to get the idea. And no, NiGHTS 2 doesn't count.

6. Burning Rangers

Burning Rangers ahead of NiGHTS? Blasphemy, I know, but Burning Rangers was a good game that could be made great in a carefully redesigned HD makeover. The Saturn struggled to keep up with the effects this game tossed its way, and the technical issues took away from what was at its core an incredibly unique experience. The rush of fighting fires in dark, futuristic, and explosive scenarios was exciting at the time, and still fresh today. With some moody lighting and modern fire effects, a Burning Rangers update could be the true classic the Saturn just couldn't handle.

5. Death Tank Zwei

Sorry Snowblind, despite good intentions, your version of Death Tank on XBLA didn't compare to the perfect simplicity of Death Tank Zwei on Saturn. For those who missed it, Death Tank is a seven-player take on Worms or Scorched Earth, only the game is played in real-time rather than taking turns. The result is total madness and a treasure trove of amazing moments. It's the perfect party game—exactly why the XBLA version didn't quite work, as it only supported four players locally. Figure out a way to get seven players in front of a single 360 or PS3, keep the visuals simple but sharp, don't futz with the gameplay, and you'll have multiplayer heaven.

4. Saturn Bomberman

Despite their best efforts, Hudson never made a Bomberman game as good as Saturn Bomberman. Their more recent downloadable offerings were solid, but they never reached the immeasurable highs of an eight-player Saturn Bomberman party. With its inventive arenas and perfect selection of power-ups (including rideable dinosaurs!), Saturn Bomberman offered the most heated and technical gameplay the series has ever had. The game even went one step further, tossing in an eye-blistering 10-player map that didn't quite work on the Saturn, but would be perfect on today's massive 1080p displays.

3. Panzer Dragoon & Panzer Dragoon Zwei

With many people complaining that games like Child of Eden are too short, it seems only fair that Panzer Dragoon and its sequel, Zwei, be collected into one HD remake. Yeah, the rail-shooter isn't as well-regarded as it once was, but these games not only establish the universe for one of the greatest RPGs of all time, they're some of the most perfectly-paced linear action games ever made. Call of Duty could learn a thing or two.

2. Shining Force III

While Final Fantasy Tactics may offer more depth, there are few strategy RPGs that are as immediately enjoyable as Shining Force III. Its narrative, chock full of political intrigue and RPG staples, may come off as a bit cliché now, but the gameplay is as fun as ever. If a developer were feeling particularly generous, they'd finally release an English translation of the game's second and third episodes, two concurrent narratives that put the entire experience at a whopping 120 hours of gameplay.

1. Panzer Dragoon Saga

As a Saturn owner, I was a bit late to the Final Fantasy VII bandwagon. When I finally played it a year or two after release, I was pretty confused by all the hype. I enjoyed it enough, but it didn't hold a candle to a quiet little masterpiece called Panzer Dragoon Saga. Still, today, the game is one of the few that's actually worth its collector-fueled $200+ asking price. Saga sits comfortably alongside untouchable works of art like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. It offers a truly strange and unique world, with a desolate cast of characters that put some of Square's best efforts to shame. It's a dark, lonely, and emotionally powerful game that quite honestly changed my life. That may be more praise than it can ever live up to, but this is an RPG that any true fan of video games deserves an opportunity to play.

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