Whilst the 32X and Mega-CD were bridging the gap between the Mega
Drive (Genesis) and the upcoming 32-bit CD-based console in America, Sega of
Japan worked in the background on the latter with the aim of developing the
most powerful 2D/3D console in the market that would surpass the specs of
their main rival at the time: the 3DO. Development of the Saturn took about
2 and half years and was released in Japan in November 1994. Initial sales
were encouraging and the Saturn did exceptionally well.
The release day in the US was to be 'Saturnday' on September 2, 1995.
Sega realized though that Sony was releasing the Playstation at the same
time and decided to gamble and get the Saturn on store shelves 4 months
early. Not only did the announcement take third-party software developers
by surprise, but it also meant that Sony would have more time to put some
finishing touches on their Playstation, draw up a well-planned strategy and
learn from the pitfalls of the Saturn. One thing that Sony did on release
of the Playstation was to slash its price to $299, making it $100 cheaper
than the Saturn. This move, along with much better marketing than that of
Sega of America, reaped havoc on the Saturn's place in the market and
ultimately caused its annihilation (sorry).
The Saturn's initial library of games was limited, although it did
eventually get lots of first-class arcade games ported to the system. One
issue with third-party developers was the two parallel processors that made
up the heart of the system. Apparently, many developers didn't quite
understand how to make full use of the processors and were limited by the
fact that only one processor could gain access to memory registers at a
time. Unfortunately, developers did not realize the full potential of the
Saturn until the end of its lifetime in 1998 when some of the best games for
the system such as Panzer Dragoon Saga and Shining Force III were released.
I guess it was just too late.
Porting Japanese games over also proved to be a difficulty issue.
Many top games never made it to the American market. Some excellent ones
that were ported included: XMen vs Street Fighter, Marvel vs Street Fighter
and Capcom's Vampire Savior.
At the back of the Saturn exists a cartridge slot that was used for
memory expansion packs, the NetLink 28.8 modem as well as other epansions.
The Saturn saw its end in late 1998. About 250 games were released
for it in total. It retailed for $399.
CPU: Two 32-bit SH-2 (28.6MHz) RISC processors
RAM: 2MB, Video RAM: 1.5MB
Colors: 16.7 million
Polygons: 200,000 texture-mapped, 500,000 flat-shaded per second
Game Media: CD-ROM
Sound: 32-channel PCM, 8-channel FM stereo