Last Updated on May 4, 2023
In its less than three-year run in the U.K., the less-than-popular Sega Saturn quietly went about amassing quality games across broad genres only for follow-ups to be abandoned or else not considered at all. I am not trying to suggest that sequels would have created success for the machine outside of Japan, but it might have helped.
Fat chance of course, as Sega deemed it sensible to just stop releasing top-tier titles after the Christmas season of 1997. That Sega Rally follow-up never stood a chance, but will be my first stop in this personal list of Sega’s own Saturn sequels that were never on the horizon, but which I kept waiting for anyway.
A Saturn sequel to the much heralded original arcade conversion felt like it should have been something of a shoo-in, despite the fact that it would be an original title. Rally had been one of the rare games that made PlayStation owners sit up and go green, and well it might. It had the looks, the frame rate and even a more than functional split-screen. Basically, the hard work had already been done to boost up a sequel. Some fresh tracks, perhaps a flurry of licensed cars and a sky blue soundtrack.
So what happened? Well, Sega’s in-house development specialists, CS Team, who had been responsible for the conversion, having quaffed the praise of their efforts, were told that instead of making an original follow up they should go and mess about with a new conversion of Daytona. So they did and no one appreciated it. Not a sausage. It had and continues to have, the reputation of being worse than the first effort of conversion. Sega called it Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition but everyone else called it a waste of time and wondered what had happened to another easy right, maybe?
But there was time and it was an obvious move for Sega to make, particularly outside of Japan where Sega Rally had made cultural inroads against Sony. Even if not for that reason then there was the supremacy of how the developers had managed to take the steering wheel controls of the arcade and make them work wholesale on a digital pad. That was breakthrough stuff, but such was the story of Sega Rally on Saturn and the next game that never came; breakthrough after breakthrough until discarded.
Game over yeah…
Virtua Cop was one of those arcade fancies that had a reputation beyond question. It looked better, ran smoother, and the pitiless crime pigs that you shot reacted kind-of-realistically reacted to where you had gone bang-bang with your plastic gun. It had authority down your local coin vendor.
Then the developers at AM2 went ahead and designed the bespoke Sega Graphics Library engine to bring the whole thing home. And like Rally, no one had anything to compete with it. Unlike Rally though, it did get a sequel in the form of a conversion of the arcade sequel. It was more of the same, but bigger and better still, apart from the new scoring system.
The first used to multiplier bar that increased both your score and the tension of losing a life and starting the bar over again. In the sequel you had to cap three justice slugs into each bad boy to multiply. It wasn’t as satisfying but being a canny bunch, AM2 brought the option to play with the original scoring with Virtua Cop 2. All very good stuff.
A sensible move would have been for Sega to commission a final game. The engine to run it had proved itself twice over and it wasn’t like anyone was asking them to reinvent the wheel. Just think up a few dodgy settings like an inner city canal or a car boot sale and throw some polygons up for us to shoot down. It’s not like we hadn’t already paid for the guns. I bought two of them immediately and I did think that it behoved Sega to keep providing the ammunition.
They gave me that conversion of House of the Dead instead. Enough said.
Ora Ora Ora!
Virtua Fighter 2 was, at the arcade and at home, the definitive example of the genre. Another AM2 game, their work on the Saturn conversion was so thorough it was both a feather in the machines’ cap and salt in the eye of the competition. What would the next Virtua Fighter look like? Two things, as it turned out.
In the arcade, Virtua Fighter 3 was the best looking thing that you could play with for fifty pence a go. There was talk of some sort of modular steroid that would be used to make a conversion to Saturn conceivable. That didn’t happen, but what we did get was a combo-pack variant of Virtua Fighter combined with AM2s other poly fighter conversion, Fighting Vipers.
They called it Fighters Megamix, but I called it pulling my leg. Now, I liked Fighting Vipers a lot, with its lower resolution characters but smart lighting effects. It had a very different aesthetic to Virtua and jamming them together with the graphics set to Vipers made Akira and company appear vividly ugly. They did have a whole parade of their Virtua Fighter 3 move sets, and that was great, but it wasn’t where Virtua Fighter should have ended, and we all knew where it should have.
Virtua Fighter 2.5 is what we never got. More high resolutions with the moves that we got from Megamix. Plus Janet from that game, as she was a kind of carry-over from Virtua Fighter 3. No one expected the Saturn to produce those undulating stages of Virtua Fighter 3, and we wouldn’t have minded anyway. Fighters Megamix gave us the new moves but jumbled it up all over the place without me even having to mention the ridiculous secret characters.
Virtua Fighter 2.5. So near and yet…
NiGHTS Into Dreams. My favourite game by some considerable margin and one I have written about on this very website. It was also another game that I bought a Sega peripheral for. It looked like a Wagon Wheel but the sensitivity of its analogue cup took a dump on Nintendo’s effort. That game and that controller were a portal to a type of gaming synaesthesia that was hitherto unknown.
I wanted another one. But did I? What chance that even the heroes at Sonic Team could balance it all just so again, while inevitably adding and tinkering?
I didn’t want it. I could live with the cost of the peripheral, especially as it could be used in Sega Rally to great effect. But I did hope they’d shoot up another one as they had gone to the effort of making a whole new controller.
I didn’t want it, but I couldn’t help but hope for it. A better game than my favourite? Really? No, I didn’t want anything to do with the disappointment. Sega beat me to the punch though and doubled down on not doing any more NiGHTS for the Saturn. There wasn’t even a whisper.
Not that I wanted it. I was just checking…
John is a writer and gardener. He comes with various 90’s Sega attachments and is the author of The Meifod Claw and other works. His favorite tree is a copper beech and he would like his coffee black without sugar, thank you.