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All Saturn Games In Order: Mid-1996 Round-Up

An explanation of what we're doing here can be found in my introduction post.

If you want to catch up on what went on with the Saturn in 1995, you should check out that year's Round-Up.

If you want to jog your memory on what Sony was up to in the first half of 1996, check that Round-Up.

This Round-Up covers the following entries of All Saturn Games In Order:

Part 09: January - Wing Arms, NFL Quarterback Club '96, Mortal Kombat II, World Cup Golf: Professional Edition, Darius Gaiden, Hang-On GP

Part 10: February - Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior's Dream, Cyberia, The Horde, Clockwork Knight 2, Defcon 5, College Slam, Johnny Bazookatone

Part 11: March - Winning Post, Revolution X, D, Criticom, Battle Arena Toshinden Remix, Magic Carpet, Night Warriors: Darkstalker's Revenge, Congo: The Movie: The Lost City of Zinj

Part 12: April - X-Men: Children of the Atom, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, Guardian Heroes

Part 13: May - wipEout, Iron Storm: World Advanced Strategy, Earthworm Jim 2, Slam 'n' Jam 96: Featuring Magic and Kareem, Rise 2: Resurrection, WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, Striker '96

Part 14: June (Part 1) - Virtual Open Tennis, In The Hunt, NBA Action, Skeleton Warriors, Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball

Part 15: June (Part 2) - Shellshock, Baku Baku Animal, Gungriffon, Creature Shock: Special Edition, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, Road Rash

Part 16: June (Part 3) - Shockwave Assault, Shining Wisdom, Golden Axe: The Duel, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Worms

**This post is also featured on my site, fifthgengaming.blog, and can be found here.**

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Early 1996

Anyone who only looked at the numbers coming out of 1995 would have thought things were going okay for Sega, but anyone paying close enough attention would have seen the impending cliff they were marching towards. In the U.S., the four different hardware SKUs they had on the market were able to hold onto 43% of the national console market share, despite the shellacking they had received from the launch of the PlayStation. Additionally, they were still going neck-and-neck with Sony back in Japan and, looking at the worldwide picture, SNES sales were slowing down at a much faster rate than the Genesis. It may have seemed at Sega of Japan that their mission to get one over on those bastards at Nintendo was succeeding. Finally, Sega's arcade business in Japan was still going strong, at least according to their balance sheet, likely as a result of their increased market share as the arcade industry as a whole began contracting.

I tried really hard to be positive in that paragraph, but even then, I couldn't make it through without qualifications. Sega was in the process of being ejected from the European market, their first-party game development pipeline was a mess, and while the Genesis would sell well into '96, the Saturn needed to get some legs under it for overall sales to survive into '97. The PlayStation was in the process of running away with next gen sales in North America and rapidly catching up in Japan. While Virtua Fighter 2 helped to prop the system up in Japan in '95, the killer apps scheduled for '96 weren't encouraging. A lot of the difficulties with getting game projects out the door boiled down to the cumbersome system design, which would weigh down any and all efforts to salvage the Saturn. To top it all off, while arcade revenues were healthy for the time being, it was unmistakable that arcades were overall on the decline and that the effects would catch up to Sega eventually.

See, the arcade business is doing fine. Disregard the other numbers.
See, the arcade business is doing fine. Disregard the other numbers.

This exacerbated the infamous deterioration in the relationship between Sega of Japan and Sega of America. By the end of the '95 holiday season it would have been obvious at SoA that the Saturn's position was unrecoverable in North America, yet SoJ either didn't believe it or didn't care. Details surrounding the breakdown in working relationships across the ocean have been well-documented elsewhere and I have nothing new to add. For our purposes, know that the CEO of Sega of America, Tom Kalinske, was firmly on his way out by the mid-point of '96. SoA wouldn't have been a particularly fun place to exist at this time. But enough business history, the main event of the year was in May. What can be learned from Sega's E3 showing?

From Next Generation Magazine No. 11, Nov. 1995
From Next Generation Magazine No. 11, Nov. 1995

That weekend in the middle of May 1996 made it abundantly clear to the wider North American game industry and media that the Saturn had already failed. The cornerstones of Sega's showing were the nothingburger that was NiGHTS into Dreams, the doomed Sonic X-Treme, the arcade version of Virtua Fighter 3, and the Saturn internet adapter that no one ever used. That was up against Sony's massive line-up and the sheer spectacle that was the N64 unveiling. Even if Sonic X-treme was a real video game, it would have paled in comparison to Mario 64 which was only a few yards away on the show floor. To make matters worse, Sony flexed their deep pockets by surprise announcing a price drop for the PlayStation down to $199, in turn forcing Sega and Nintendo to hurriedly match the price. If there was one positive from the whole exercise, it was that Virtua Fighter 3 running on Sega System 3 tech impressed allcomers. Surely it wouldn't be that hard to translate System 3 games to the Saturn, right?...Right?

For anyone like me who enjoys staring at old B-roll, take a look at this illicit camcorder walkthrough of the E3 '96 show floor. You can see just how irrelevant the Saturn already was only one year after launch.

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Math is Fun

It is now time for the glorious return of the BORQ! The first six months of 1996 saw 48 games released for the Saturn, 47 of which could be ranked. That brings us up to 95 total entries in our Ranking of All Saturn Games, a suspiciously divisible number if I've ever seen one. This allows us to split the list into even quintiles of 19 games each, with the top quintile scoring 5's down to the bottom quintile scoring 1's. Right now, we only want to look at the '96 released games, so let's see how they look grouped by system of origin.

No Caption Provided

We see results that are mostly in line with what we've come to expect from previous analyses. Like the PS1 in the first half of '96, the quality of exclusives and arcade ports is still above and beyond any other category, though here we can see that for the first time the original titles have surpassed arcade ports. Sega-published games like Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, Guardian Heroes, and Wing Arms were doing all the heavy lifting in terms of quality, with Capcom's fighting game support keeping the arcade ports above water now that Sega has running out of System 1 and 2 games to bring over.

No Caption Provided

Looking at it by development region; we can see that Japanese games are even more of a dominant force than on the PS1 in the same period. In fact, the quality gap is the largest we've yet seen between Japan and everywhere else. European support in both quantity and quality has not only failed to significantly improve over 1995, but in some ways has gotten worse. This is all consistent with the business history, so I can't say I'm too surprised. What is surprising is the overall 2.87 BORQ for the period. This indicates that the overall quality of these 47 games in the first half of '96 are notably worse than the 48 games from '95. Considering that the 1st and 3rd highest games in the ranking came out in this period, it really goes to show how much dreck the system was otherwise saddled with.

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Looking at the breakdown by blog entry, we can get a better idea for why the overall period performed so badly and how a single outlier could hide the system's otherwise middling performance. April 1996 might end up being the best month of BORQ for any of these 32-bit systems once everything is said and done. It's an edge case where only three games were released, and they were all classics.

Now, there are a lot of other analyses that could be done around multi-platform games and genre distributions, but that's time consuming and hard. I'll leave those problems for future me to deal with for 1996 GOTY. Man, future me's going to be real busy. But enough of this nerd shit, what about the thing which matters the most, the masculine urge to handle balls?

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SpĆ¼rts

Throw that pigskin for a slam-dunk triple play, 'cause it's time for virtual athletics. Only eight sports games made it onto the Saturn in the first half of '96, compared to the 14 released on the PS1. That proves beyond any doubt that all the cool kids were buying PlayStations. Anyway, let's see how those 8 games compare with each other.

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You better salute the damn flag; Baseball is at the top where it should be! America! Besides that, we can see that most of these sports games are kinda junk. But what's the overall picture so far for the Saturn?

No Caption Provided

Man, NBA Jam is a good game. Other than that, we can see the other three legitimate sports besides Basketball are tied up from 2nd to 4th. It's going to be a tight race to see who pulls ahead over time. The Golf genre being that low may come as a surprise to the uninitiated, but keep in mind that it was kind of a shit genre until Mario Golf and Tiger Woods PGA Tour games started coming out at the turn of the century. I am again saving the cross-console sports comparisons for the end of 1996, because I'm lazy.

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Housekeeping

Yeah, it's been quite a hiatus. Between life stuff and hitting a low-poly wall with my King's Field III write-up, I haven't gotten anything published for like three months. I'm personally very dissatisfied with this state of affairs, so I've shelved my half-finished FromSoft thing and I'm getting back on my normal bullshit. With that in mind, next time we're going to close out the Jaguar in 1994 before finally returning to our main programming of the PS1 in July '96.

Even though I haven't had any posts recently, I participated in last month's Giantbomb Community Endurance Run with several hours of the 3DO Fun Zone (No Fun Allowed), I occasionally appear on the Off The Deep End podcast sporting different audio issues with each appearance, and I stream weird trash kinda regularly over on https://www.twitch.tv/fifthgenerationgaming.

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Unused Screenshot Hall of Fame

Wing Arms

Just...everything about the texturing
Just...everything about the texturing

NFL Quarterback Club '96

Graphic design is my passion
Graphic design is my passion

Hang-On GP

Oh god the texture warping
Oh god the texture warping

Clockwork Knight 2

CLOCKWORK
CLOCKWORK

Defcon 5

The dark secret is that this game is mostly menus
The dark secret is that this game is mostly menus

Winning Post

My stud fee is higher
My stud fee is higher

Battle Arena Toshinden Remix

The Saturn can't handle transparencies
The Saturn can't handle transparencies
Yes, I'm asking you
Yes, I'm asking you

Guardian Heroes

Name that Pokemon!
Name that Pokemon!

Shining Wisdom

You said it, not me
You said it, not me
Fair
Fair

Golden Axe - The Duel

Knife perverts are the worst
Knife perverts are the worst
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