Two men. One unappreciated console. These are the Sega Saturn Chronicles.
MATT is 32 years old, and has owned a Saturn since December 1996. JAMES is 22 years old, and acquired his Saturn in February 2015.
Virtua Fighter 2 – Sega, 1996
MATT: I got this game as part of the “3 Free Games” promotion Sega held around Christmas ‘96. At the time, Virtua Fighter 2 was considered by many to be the pinnacle of 3D fighting games, but it hasn’t held up as well as I would have hoped. The graphics, a huge jump up from the original title, still look decent, and the music still gets me sufficiently pumped. But the fighting just isn’t as fun as I remember. Computer opponents at the default difficulty can drain 75 percent of your life bar in a single combo, and even with the time-tested combos and strategies of my youth, James was still able to beat me about half the time with random jump kicks and cheap ring-outs. Setting the difficulty down and breezing through arcade mode can still be a fun experience, but I can’t recommend VF2 in any kind a serious competitive capacity. Thumbs up overall, but there are better Saturn games. 6/10.
JAMES: As a relative newcomer to fighting games not ending in "Kombat," I was excited to get acquainted with a granddaddy of the 3D fighting genre. Unfortunately this granddad was the kind who touches his Jamaican nurses inappropriately. I know this was the mid ‘90s, but I was under the impression that fun had been invented by that point. Moon jumps that never should have left the beta stage, ring-outs which are so stupid and unsatisfying I just wish they could have at least put a banana peel at the edge of the stage or something, the dull pace of each fight makes me wish I was playing a more refined fighter like Tekken or Soul Calibur, and the difficulty is so high it doesn't make me want to get better to beat the next foe, it just makes me want to stand up and walk away leaving my Saturn running till it inevitably dies. Which pretty much sums up how this game makes me feel, like impending death is closing in on us all. 2/10
Fighting Vipers – Sega, 1996
MATT: A tough-as-nails, hard-hitting, grandma-slapping, face-humping slugfest! With the same control scheme as Virtua Fighter 2 (and possibly even the same game engine), Fighting Vipers is nearly identical to its predecessor, but with the action sped up and cages preventing the lame ring-outs VF2 is known for. Each ridiculous fighter is clad in some kind of armor that takes damage as the round progresses. Specific moves can shatter weakened armor, making the recipient more vulnerable. Using an armor buster to end a round sends your opponent sailing through the arena’s cage, and in the case of one stage, off the side of 10,000 foot tall elevator. Nothing like slapping 14-year-old skateboarder Picky with a guitar and watching him fall to his doom, only to return unscathed for the next round. Thumbs up! 8/10.
JAMES: If you took Virtua Fighter and made it suck considerably less, you would get this game. If I'm honest, I really can’t tell what the motif of this game is. I played as a special needs skateboarder and fought other knee pad-clad skating enthusiasts, and also for some reason the front man to a Poison tribute band. But in fairness, the armor system is actually really innovative and I'm surprised it didn't catch on with a bigger name franchise. Ring-outs are way more awesome here, combos are easier and more intuitive, and the characters are reasonably detailed for the time. That being said, the cast is mostly forgettable, stages are all bland aside from the high rise elevator, music wasn't impressive, the multiplayer was super shallow, and can we talk about the final boss for a second? He's a man named BM. Matt has told me it stands for "Battle Master." I am of the opinion it stands for "Bland Man" (worst megaman boss ever). He's as muscle bound as he is generic! He kinda has a Mayan High Priest thing going on with his head piece and matching paw gloves which had promise, but he doesn't really own it to its potential and THAT is disappointing. Go big or go home BM! Also, he can be beat in 2 rounds straight by spamming kick. Overall kinda fun but I will literally forget about this game the second I stop typing this review. 6/10.
NiGHTS into Dreams – Sega, 1996
MATT: NiGHTS had a whimsical mystique surrounding it, mostly becuase it came bundled with a “3D controller” that was the predecessor to the Dreamcast’s strange circle design. Honestly, the analog stick doesn’t add much to the experience. You’re just a well off with a standard D-pad. That being said, I’m not sure why everyone loved his game. At its core, it’s an on-rails 2D flying game in a 3D package, and flying through rings for points is too close to the oft-maligned Superman on Nintendo 64 for comfort. There’s some entertainment value to be had with this title, but I never bothered to finish it. If I’m gonna play NiGHTS, it’s going to be Christmas NiGHTS. (I’m sure we’ll get to that one eventually.) Thumbs down. 5/10.
JAMES: Have you ever dreamed of playing as a cross dressing Sonic the Hedgehog, listening to some child shout at you in manic Japanese, having no idea what the f**k is going on or what your objective is, all while attempting to navigate with a butchered perspective and flight simulator controls? Well, your dreams (and my nightmares) have inexplicably been made reality in this unbelievably stupid game which somehow warranted a sequel on the Wii like 15 years later. Its times like this that I'm glad you died, Sega. 1/10.