Linux Gaming: Saturn Games – Part 3

Linux Gaming: Sega Saturn on ODROID-XU4

We are back with part 3 of Linux Gaming and this month, we’re looking at Sega Saturn games for the ODROID-XU3/XU4. Last time I talked about a lot of shoot ‘em ups, but this article has a good mix of different genres, although I did pick quite a few “mecha” games I enjoy. Since this is the most games I’ve covered in a single article so far, I’ve made an effort to keep each description shorter this time.

Although these games were tested on the ODROID-XU3/XU4, they should work just as well, if not better, on the upcoming ODROID-N1 as well. My initial tests for the ODROID-N1 were quite good, so it’s no surprise that the N1 handles Sega Saturn emulation well.

Macross – Do you remember Love

What I really stands out for me in this game are the amazing anime cutscenes. These are not your regular JRPG-styled cutscenes like in Popfull Mail; they’re straight out of the Japanese anime series Macross itself. The scenes are incredibly detailed, making it hard to believe you’re watching a cutscene in a game and not the actual anime.

Similar cutscenes can be found within the game itself: when you encounter a boss and when the screen shows an anime-style conversation between your character and the boss. The game is completely in Japanese, but it doesn’t interfere with enjoyment of the game, although you might miss some minor plot elements.

In this game you fly a transformable aircraft which can be turned into a mecha. Each stage has its advantages and disadvantages. Aircraft mode is very fast and easy to maneuver, but your weapons are somewhat weaker. Changing into a mecha strengthens your attacks, but you become slower, more sluggish in your movements, bigger, and with that easier to hit. Fighting through different stages, your form can be limited to one or two of the three options depending on your stage.

Figure 1 - Macross has three fighter stages, each with their own strengths and weaknesses
Figure 1 – Macross has three fighter stages, each with their own strengths and weaknesses

Figure 2 - Macross has three fighter stages, each with their own strengths and weaknesses
Figure 2 – Macross has three fighter stages, each with their own strengths and weaknesses

Figure 3 - Macross has three fighter stages, each with their own strengths and weaknesses
Figure 3 – Macross has three fighter stages, each with their own strengths and weaknesses

You also have three different weapons: auto-aiming missiles which you load and auto-target by holding a button, a fast machine gun, and a bomb that covers most of the screen, which helps you if you’re surrounded by enemies. As the enemies come at you in three planes (foreground, middleground, and background), the auto-aiming missiles are likely going to be your main attack.

The game allows you to save your game progress to the system memory. This is one of the few games that actually fits into the system memory, without complaining that the system memory has not enough space. The game is a good, solid shooter that’s fun to play and the anime cutscenes are simply amazing.

Magic Knight Rayearth

This game is based on an anime of the same name about three school girls who are transported to a magical world where the girls are told they are the Magic Knights and are suppose to save the world. The game starts with a long intro that features a mix of anime cutscenes, in-game graphics, and a lot of dialogue.

Magic Knight Rayearth was translated by Working Designs, a company that spent many years to porting Japanese games to the North American market and doing a incredible job, with accurate translations and without monotone voice acting. This was the last game they ever ported for Sega and the last official North America release for the Sega Saturn.

The game plays like an action-RPG similar to The Legend of Zelda or Beyond Oasis. You control the movements of all three girls at the same time, but only one is active. Hikaru (red girl) is part of a kendo club and uses a sword which is kind of short and hard to handle. Umi (blue girl) is part of a fencing club and uses a longer rapier for her attacks. Fuu (green girl) is part of an archery club and fights with a bow. They can also use magic: Hikaru possesses fire-based skills; Umi is skilled with water; and Fuu uses wind-based skills and healing spells.

Figure 4 - The three main characters of Magic Knight Rayearth, starting off on their adventure
Figure 4 – The three main characters of Magic Knight Rayearth, starting off on their adventure

The dialog in the game is well written, with voice-overs in some parts of the game. Every now and then you’ll encounter new people or situations, and with that, you are treated to another nice anime cutscene. All in all, this is a fun game to play. Roaming through different dungeons, you’re fighting lots of monsters while trying to find hidden treasures. Occasionally you find items that upgrade your health or magic, but each item only works once, so make sure you think about which girl is going to take it.

I like the bright colors and understandable gameplay. I also like that you can save your game process wherever you want and are encouraged to do so. The translation was well done, making this game a masterpiece for the Sega Saturn. I haven’t played much of this game, but I’ve seen a lot that I liked and I plan to keep playing for quite a while. You should definitely check this game out.

Figure 5 - Arriving at Presea’s home to get your first weapons
Figure 5 – Arriving at Presea’s home to get your first weapons

Figure 6 - On the way back from your first mission to gather Escudo
Figure 6 – On the way back from your first mission to gather Escudo

Mega Man 8–Anniversary Edition

I’m not a huge fan of the Mega Man series, but of all the games in this series I have played, this is probably the one I like the most. When it comes to graphics, I like good comic-style games. Games like Monkey Island 3, or Mega Man 8 are timeless due to their graphic style. They looked awesome back then and they still look awesome today. If you like 2D games this is as good as it gets. Although the game also exists for the PlayStation One, the Saturn version offers better music (PCM VS Midi), additional bosses (Cut Man and Wood Man), additional artworks, and so forth. The PS1 version also suffered from some minor graphical glitches.

Figure 7 - The level select menu in Mega Man 8
Figure 7 – The level select menu in Mega Man 8

From the level selection screen you can go to different worlds fight and different enemies and bosses. If you defeat them you get their powers to use against other enemies, same as all the Mega Man games. From the level selection screen you can also go “home” where you can exchange collected “screws” for special upgrades, such as different attack styles and other goodies.

Figure 8 - Upgrade-screen for Mega Man
Figure 8 – Upgrade-screen for Mega Man

Some of these upgrades make a big difference. A charged attack that no longer hits just one enemy but all enemies in line sounds like something I’d like to have. Mega Man 8 offers different level with different enemies, graphic style, and challenges.

Figure 9 - There are different levels in Mega Man 8, such as up in the sky
Figure 9 – There are different levels in Mega Man 8, such as up in the sky

Figure 10 - There are different levels in Mega Man 8, including inside a machine dungeon
Figure 10 – There are different levels in Mega Man 8, including inside a machine dungeon

Figure 11 - No Mega Man game is complete without boss battles!
Figure 11 – No Mega Man game is complete without boss battles!

Generally, this game is a fest of colors and beautifully drawn graphics. The awesome soundtrack just completes this wonderful experience. I highly recommend this Sega Saturn game for the ODROID-XU3/XU4/N1.

Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story I, II, and III

I’ve always said the Sega Saturn wasn’t made for 3D games and that developers should have stuck with 2D games. Boy, was that a lie!

It’s true that there are many consoles with better 3D capabilities than Sega Saturn, but the Saturn had its gems: games that made the most out of what the console had to offer, while still keeping up speed and playability. The Gundam series certainly fits that description.

Figure 12 - The 3D graphics in Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story are surprisingly good for the Sega Saturn
Figure 12 – The 3D graphics in Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story are surprisingly good for the Sega Saturn

My first Gundam 3D game was actually for the Sega Dreamcast. I instantly fell in love with it, but seeing the games for the Sega Saturn, I’m positive I would have also enjoyed them as a first experience. I definitely enjoy them now and I was surprised how well they played on my ODROID. I enjoy this game a lot, even if it’s sometimes hard to figure out the goal, as the game is completely in Japanese. Still, the gameplay is easy enough to understand and you can get into the action right away.

Figure 13 - Target an enemy and pound him until he’s destroyed
Figure 13 – Target an enemy and pound him until he’s destroyed

Use your Gundam to hunt down different enemies using a machine gun, your cannon, area weapon (like a grenade or missile), or a sword. I have to admit I haven’t entirely figured out how to make the sword work yet. The mission briefing is a little bit hard to understand since it’s in Japanese. It’s fully voiced, which is nice, but I don’t understand a word of it.

The first game in the series has a very minimal mission interface. You get an overall map but rarely see any mission points so it’s hard to figure out your goal. From the second game, the information screen gets a little bit more talkative and you can figure out from the icons, arrows, and blinking objects what your goal is gonna be.

Figure 14 - Your mission map in Mobile Suit Gundam 2 and 3, which you see before each mission
Figure 14 – Your mission map in Mobile Suit Gundam 2 and 3, which you see before each mission

Each level involves fighting different kinds of enemy Mecha/Gundam and an occasional harder boss that you need to defeat or scare off. These bosses can be really challenging as they move very quickly and may be hard to hit with your main cannon. Over the course of the game, and from one game of the series to the next, your Gundam will change, gaining better weapons that allow you to deal more damage and travel faster as you progress.

Figure 15 - New boss approaching...cutscenes are all in in-game graphics
Figure 15 – New boss approaching…cutscenes are all in in-game graphics

Figure 16 - Quick overview of your Gundam and its system
Figure 16 – Quick overview of your Gundam and its system

I really enjoy playing this game on the ODROID and highly recommend it to anyone that likes a good action game.

Mobile Suit Z Gundam

Yes, this is another Gundam game, and not the last one, as there is one more in the honorable mention section. However, this one is different than the previous ones. It’s not a 3D game, but 2D, which is closer to the Macross game mentioned earlier.

Mobile Suit Z allows you to switch your Gundam between a robot-style and a aircraft-style. Similar to Macross, your aircraft is faster and shoots quicker, but the Gundam is much more powerful, with access to additional attacks and weapons such as the ability to aim at background and foreground enemies, and a very strong and fast saber to kill your enemy.

Figure 17 - Aiming at an enemy in the background only works in Gangnam--erm--“Gundam-Style”
Figure 17 – Aiming at an enemy in the background only works in Gangnam–erm–“Gundam-Style”

Compared to the previously-mentioned Gundam games, this game is filled with anime cutscenes. Intro, before missions, after missions and even sometimes during missions you have anime cutscenes which fit the scenario quite well. Compared to Mobile Suit Z Gundam Zenpen Z no Kodou, this version is much easier to control as all your actions are mapped to different buttons, making it very easy to switch between attacks or aim at enemies in the background while slicing up enemies in the mid-ground.

Figure 18 - Slicing up some enemies with your saber is always rewarding and fun to look at
Figure 18 – Slicing up some enemies with your saber is always rewarding and fun to look at

At the end of a stage you’ll often encounter a boss which can take a lot more damage than other random enemies that are thrown at you all the time. I like is that there is always a conversation going on between the characters which makes it feel like you are right there in the moment.

Figure 19 - Before each boss fight there is a cutscene featuring you and your enemy
Figure 19 – Before each boss fight there is a cutscene featuring you and your enemy

In the upper left corner of the screen there are two bars: “Energy”, which is your health, and “Armor.” The latter regenerates over time so taking a few hits is not that bad. After each stage a progress screen shows you how well you did and how your character and Gundam improved. Over time, you’ll get a lot stronger, take more hits, regenerate a lot faster, and aim at more enemies at once. As usual, the game is done entirely in Japanese, but the gameplay is easy enough to understand.

Pocket Fighters

This game is best played with the 4MB memory expansion. It features many animated clips, and the extra memory helps to improve the animations. If you compare the Sega Saturn with the PS1, the two versions of Pocket Fighters are very close, but the Sega Saturn still has a bit more animations here and there, and an “Around the World” kick that is not present in the PS1 version. However, the PS1 version is available in English, while Saturn is Japanese only, although this doesn’t really affect the game. Since the Sega Saturn version runs very well on the XU3/XU4 (or ODROID-N1) it’s up to you which version you want to play.

Figure 20 - Originally you only see three male characters (see picture in the middle) but when you go to the left or right of either Ruy or Ken you’ll find two more “hidden” characters to choose from
Figure 20 – Originally you only see three male characters (see picture in the middle) but when you go to the left or right of either Ruy or Ken you’ll find two more “hidden” characters to choose from

Figure 21 - Originally you only see three male characters (see picture in the middle) but when you go to the left or right of either Ruy or Ken you’ll find two more “hidden” characters to choose from
Figure 21 – Originally you only see three male characters (see picture in the middle) but when you go to the left or right of either Ruy or Ken you’ll find two more “hidden” characters to choose from

Figure 22 - Originally you only see three male characters (see picture in the middle) but when you go to the left or right of either Ruy or Ken you’ll find two more “hidden” characters to choose from
Figure 22 – Originally you only see three male characters (see picture in the middle) but when you go to the left or right of either Ruy or Ken you’ll find two more “hidden” characters to choose from

This game plays like most fighting games, but with a fun “chibi” character style. During some combos the characters change their costumes numerous times, making the game look quite funny. It’s definitely not a fighting game that takes itself too seriously, giving it a unique style.

Figure 23 - A treasure chest with gems inside stands between the fighters at the start of each fight
Figure 23 – A treasure chest with gems inside stands between the fighters at the start of each fight

This game is also known as “Super Gem Fighters” on arcade machines. This name refers to you collect gems during fights either by opening a treasure chest or hitting the enemy.

Figure 24 - The gems you earn from fighting give the game its second name: Super Gem Fighters
Figure 24 – The gems you earn from fighting give the game its second name: Super Gem Fighters

Figure 25 - The gems you earn from fighting give the game its second name: Super Gem Fighters
Figure 25 – The gems you earn from fighting give the game its second name: Super Gem Fighters

If you’re able to hit a successful combo, the enemy will drop a treasure chest which has several gems of different size inside. This is probably probably one of my favorite fighting games, regardless of the system.

Robo Pit

This is another 3D Sega Saturn game that doesn’t disappoint. The graphics aren’t all that great, in fact, they are rather simple, but I think that is what actually saves this game. It runs rather well, but I don’t think it’s actually running at full spee, but it’s very playable and you probably won’t notice that it’s a bit slow.

In this game, you can build your own robot and use it to fight other robots in an arena (I guess that’s why it’s called Robo Pit in the first place). Your robot is customizable with a wide range of different body types, legs (for driving, jumping, or even flying), arms (which hold different weapons), and even eyes.

Figure 26 - The game menu is very simplistic, but it allows you to access all aspects of your robot and your career
Figure 26 – The game menu is very simplistic, but it allows you to access all aspects of your robot and your career

Figure 27 - Build your very own robot based on your preferences
Figure 27 – Build your very own robot based on your preferences

After creating and naming your robot, you march into battle. The battle are quite simple: smash, slice, shoot, or punch your enemy until his health bar hits zero, before your own bar goes down. Each fight gives you points which increase your rank, allowing you to fight even more, stronger enemies. After each fight your stats increase depending on how you did in battle. If you only use your left arm to attack, your left arm skill will increase while the right arm will stay the same. You get extra hit points, experience for your left and right arm, and defense depending on how you did in battle.

Figure 28 - Select an enemy and beat him - it’s as easy as that!
Figure 28 – Select an enemy and beat him – it’s as easy as that!

Figure 29 - Arenas are not very detailed, but it fits the game
Figure 29 – Arenas are not very detailed, but it fits the game

If you beat an enemy, you will get his arms and can use them as your own weapons. If you lose a fight, you will lose your own arm and have to switch with something in your inventory, so it’s best to keep some spares around, or collect them from weaker enemies.

The graphics are rather simple, especially the arena, but it fits the game perfectly. You can switch from a first-person perspective to two different third-person perspectives, whichever way you prefer. It’s quite a funny little game with not much story or deep stimulation. Just some good old “beat the crap out of your enemy and get a bonus.” It’s a nice game to kill half-hour or so, and I really like playing it on the ODROID.

Honorable Mentions

Marvel Super Heroes

I normally don’t like fighting games that much, but this game is actually quite good, and I only placed it here cause I already have so many other games above. Honestly this is a really good game. The character sprites are huge, and it features vibrant colors and awesome gameplay. It runs with a 1MB or 4MB RAM expansion pack for more animations.

Mega Man X3

Although this is not a bad game, I really prefer Mega Man 8. Mega Man X3 looks a lot more serious than other Mega Man games. In the intro video, cars and buildings in town are completely destroyed, giving the game a more sinister feeling. The characters are slightly bigger and seem more mature. I always pictured Mega Man as similar to Astro Boy: more of a kid fighting imaginative robot monsters. Mega Man X3 seems to be more serious than that. There are also some minor graphical glitches when walking, but nothing serious. It’s a good game, though.

There’s also Mega Man X4 but it seems to have issues with the controls. Using yabause-qt you are stuck when you try to go into the game, but with yabause-gtk it seems to work. It’s still not worth switching emulators, in my opinion.

Metal Black

Actually an interesting shoot ‘em up game. It’s very basic: a bunch of enemies come at you, you kill them, and every now and then you encounter a boss. What is different about this game is that your “power-ups” simply fall from the sky like flowers in the wind and you collect them. The more you collect, the stronger your main attack becomes (6 levels). The same energy is also used to start a “mega-attack” which deals a lot more damage and normally kills everything on the screen. The only issue I have with this game is that once you start your special attack, it completely drains your energy. I haven’t found a way to stop it. This means that after a special attack you’re very weak and do very little damage.

Metal Slug – Super Vehicle-001

This game is similar to the NeoGeo or PS1 version, although slightly superior to the PS1 version as the extra RAM on the Sega Saturn allowed for more sprites for animation. This version works fine although I have experienced some graphical glitches here and there. This game requires either a 1MB or 4MB memory extension pack to work.

Mobile Suit Z Gundam Zenpen Z no Kodou

This game is similar to Mobile Suit Z Gundam, but with slightly different controls. Instead of mapping each button of the controller for one attack, you have to use buttons to switch between weapons and use a single button for attack. It’s slightly inconvenient, therefore not as good as Mobile Suit Z Gundam.

Nights Into Dreams…

Some would probably kill me if I didn’t mention the game. Some might still kill me because it’s only a “footnote”. It’s an interesting game, but I only play it for a couple of minutes at a time. It’s not a go-to game for me as I rarely play it, but I can see why some people really like it. It works ok on the XU4, but slightly too slow. The 3D part slows the game down, so it might actually run better on the N1 or with real 3D.

Norse by Norsewest (aka Lost Vikings 2)

This is actually quite a good puzzle game, it’s just that I’m not a huge fan of these kind of games. Although I played the first Lost Vikings game on the Amiga CD32 for quite a while, it’s not one of my favorite games either. In this game you control three Vikings with different abilities, guiding them through different level, solving puzzles to defeat the evil Tomator! It’s a funny little game, with lots of voice acting and nice music, but it’s just not for me.

Panzer Dragoon Series

Many people seem to like Panzer Dragoon, and they are not bad games, I just think they should have not been brought to life on the Sega Saturn. The Saturn was all that good with 3D graphics. These games are purely 3D, and as such, they look rather bad, at least on the ODROID. They are also rather slow on the ODROID-XU4. They might have been good games on the real Sega Saturn, but on ODROID, they are just not that great. I kind of like Panzer Dragoon Saga (an RPG game in the series) but the graphics aren’t good. I bet these games would have been way better on the Sega Dreamcast.

The last game of the series, Panzer Dragoon Orta, was released for the original Xbox, and gives you an idea of what the game could have looked like had it been ported to the Dreamcast instead. Still, the Panzer Dragoon Saga RPG won several prizes and it’s easy to see why. However, it would be better if the graphics had aged better.

Parodius

Parodius actually comes with two games: Parodius and Fantastic Journey. It plays very much like Gradius and is suppose to be a parody of it. It has an interesting comic style and doesn’t take itself too seriously. You have plenty of different characters to choose from, all of which have their own individual weapon style and upgrades, making it fun to experiment with the different characters.

It also comes with an auto and semi-auto mode, where the PC handles your weapon upgrades so you can concentrate on shooting. This works well, and you will have a very strong attack in no time, as power ups are quite common. However, as with all Gradius-style games, you lose everything when you get destroyed.

Princess Crown

This is a lovely action RPG game with big character sprites and a real-time fighting system. I really like it, but would like it more if only I could understand what they are saying, since the game is completely in Japanese. It’s a shame, as I would have really enjoyed playing it.

Purikura Daisakusen

This is a virtually perfect arcade port. If you know the arcade version, you know the Sega Saturn version. You could probably call it a cute ‘em up, but instead of flying or any scrolling action, you actually walk by foot and fight your way through the levels. You have a tiny companion that slowly evolves as you progress, and has a special attack that can hit all enemies on the screen. I like this game due to the colorful sprites and lovely backgrounds, but the constantly “pew pew” sound effects for the shooting can get a little annoying.

Rabbit

This is another game that I only put down here because it’s already so full up top. Rabbit is another fighting game where you fight together with a “beast soul.” You and your enemy have an animal soul with you that can be called forth, allowing you to do special attacks. Once you’ve beaten an enemy, you collect their beast soul and can use it as an special attack on your next enemy. It’s a very interesting fighting game, although I don’t like all of the character sprites because some of them don’t look very polished. There are games with better graphics out there, but at least the fighting style is unique.

Radiant Silvergun

This is the first shoot ‘em up I really played for the Sega Saturn. I also covered it in my first article about the Sega Saturn for ODROID back in September 2016. What I really like about this game is availability of the different attacks. You have six different attacks, from auto-aiming over strong frontal attack, to attacks that shoot at enemies behind you. There are even electrical sparks that get stronger the longer you attack. The Sega Saturn controller had six action buttons, meaning that all attacks were mapped to a different button. There are more buttons to use, as the shoulder buttons activated a sword which could both attack and collect enemy bullets, making it perfect for avoiding hits. You could also launch an even bigger attack that would strike nearly the entire screen, hitting many enemies at once or simply dealing extra damage to bosses.

Radiant Silvergun was my first shoot ‘em up for the Sega Saturn and a good one at that. Although it’s made as a 3D game it plays rather nicely, which is somewhat rare on the Saturn. My default opinion about the Saturn is that it excels at 2D graphics and should have stayed away from 3D.

Rayman

I know that Rayman exists for many systems, and the PS1 version comes very close to the Saturn version, but the Saturn version is considered slightly superior. It has additional animation between loading screens, in between stages, and at certain bosses. The sound and music is also said to be better on the Saturn. Aside from that, the game itself is pretty much the same on all systems.

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