I recently posted Sega Saturn Magazine’s Top 50 Saturn Games. Sega Saturn Magazine, affectionately known as SSM for short, was a UK publication that ran 37 issues from November 1995 to November 1998. Despite a short 3 year run, SSM has never left the memory of its readers. Pick up any issue and it’s easy to see why. Their undeniable passion for all things Sega Saturn bled off the pages. Their screenshots were phenomenal, always showing off the best parts of a game. Their definitive showcases, in-depth reviews and exclusive insider interviews all helped to make SSM truly legendary. Best of all, their sense of wacky humor. They always brought a smile to my face and I found myself occasionally chuckling at their silliness. In short, Sega Saturn Magazine was and forever will be, unequivocally, the best gaming magazine ever.
On October 12, 2003, I began sharing SSM’s Top 50 Saturn Games list on the Neo Geo forums. Posting two entries a day, it ran for a month and went viral in the retro gaming community. Stirring much Sega Saturn discourse, the thread eventually caught the eye of two former Sega Saturn Magazine contributors: editor Richard Leadbetter and writer Gary Cutlack. Imagine my sheer joy and shock when almost exactly one year later, them SSM boys reached out to me to applaud my efforts in recreating their Top 50 list for all to partake. This led to an interview with both Gary Cutlack and Rich Leadbetter. We reminisced about all things Sega Saturn — their favorite Saturn games as well as recounting their halcyon days writing for the famed publication. So grab a cold one and kick back for a little stroll down memory lane
From: Gary Cutlack
Sent: Sunday, October 10, 2004 3:28 AM
Subject: Sega Saturn Magazine
Just had to say how much I enjoyed reading your incredible series of posts on the Neo-Geo forums about SSM’s top 50 Saturn games.
Playing and writing about Radiant Silvergun was by far the happiest period of my entire writing career, and although I’m still writing about games for UK mags, nothing will ever come close to those Saturn glory days again — and we were doing it for fans like you!
Those glorious scans you shared of Radiant Silvergun brings a tear to my eye, they really do..
SAGE SaTRUn 4 EvaaaAAH,
Gary (Cutlack, formerly of SSM)
Then shortly following, Rich Leadbetter sent me this…
Just like Gary, I’ve just checked out your brilliant SSM Top 50 thread on the Neo Geo forums. I remember the feature very well. In the run-up to Christmas we had to get issues out of the door in an insanely short amount of time, so we’d “bank” pages in the preceding months by coming up with the likes of Tips A-Zs and retrospective pieces.
Your presentation of the Top 50 in that thread was superb, and I also greatly enjoyed the excerpts of other parts of the magazine. Brought back many memories long since buried and could well inspire me to venture into my attic and dig out a few issues.
I must salute you for truly capturing the spirit of what the magazine was all about. To be honest, I think we were fortunate in that we were writing when Sega’s AM and CS teams were at their very best, when quality gaming had a certain purity to it untouched by the seismic changes to the market (and the accepted idea of what makes a “good game”) that Sony brought about. It was a golden period and I think that the magazine worked because we knew it, and the readers knew it.
Anyway, thanks for a very welcome trip back in time…
This led to me interviewing both men. Let’s begin with Gary Cutlack.
Where the hell are Sam Hickman, Lee Nutter (Chewbacca!), and last but not least Richard Leadbetter today? (Note: This was before Rich sent me his email). Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Well Lee’s editor of PSW which is on the other side of the office from me, so I have no choice but to engage in occasional polite conversation with him in the kitchen on the odd days when we both make cups of tea at the same time. Rich still does freelance for several mags, plus I believe he’s now more of a DVD author making cover discs for US game mags. Sam was before my time, so I have no idea of her whereabouts.
What are your top 10 favorite Saturn games? Any region.
These are. I’ve even put them in reverse order to enhance the thrill. How anyone can prefer Virtua Cop 2 over the first one’s perfect score multiplier system I’ll never know.
What was it like working on SSM, and what were the last couple months like before SSM was laid to rest?
It was all right. I just sort of sat there very quietly writing enthusiastic things, getting angry at Matt for removing my jokes and adding spelling mistakes, and hoping that Ed Lomas wouldn’t come round from the CVG office and make me pull his finger. Doing the last issue was pretty miserable, especially as we were all so excited about the prospect of gradually morphing it into a Dreamcast mag and, obviously, ruling the world with it for a thousand years. But the Saturn was SO dead by that point (months after Sega had stopped releasing games for it in the UK) there was no hope of it carrying on.
How real was the rivalry with Saturn Power? (Note: Saturn Power was a rival UK publication). Any particular memories in regards to this rivalry?
It was more institutional than personal — we were EMAP they were Future, and nobody liked Future. They were moderately capable people making an acceptable magazine in typical Future style, whereas we were SUPERHARDCOREWARRIORS crafting the very best thing we could do each month. They might think otherwise, but put some of the screenshots from both mags side-by-side and you’ll be able to tell who cared most and put the effort in (it was us).
Final question: any Saturn games you think SSM might have overrated? Or, which Saturn games were very good back in the day, but haven’t aged very well?
None were overrated. The Saturn REALLY WAS THAT GOOD!
And now, my interview with Rich Leadbetter.
From: Richard Leadbetter
Sent: Tuesday, October 12, 2004 2:17 AM
Subject: RE: Message from Rich Leadbetter
Where the hell are Sam Hickman, Lee Nutter (Chewbacca!), and the rest of the SSM gang (the ones who matter, anyway) today? Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Sam Hickman is editor of several kids’ magazines produced by the BBC. Lee Nutter is the editor of the PS2 mag, PSW. Gary Cutlack is the deputy editor of the UK mag, Xbox Gamer. Matt Yeo has also moved on to editing kids’ magazines. I run my own multimedia company, Digital Foundry. Those DVDs that have been bundled with the last few issues of EGM? That’s our work.
What are your top 10 favorite Saturn games today? Any region.
To be honest, none of us are massive Saturn fans any more to the extent that we regularly play Saturn games. I haven’t touched my Sega stuff in years. But there’s no denying the POWER of the Saturn. A top ten, in no particular order would be…
There are probably others but those are the ones that I still recall most fondly.
How real was the rivalry with Saturn Power? Any particular memories in regards to this rivalry?
There was never a rivalry in any real sense from our perspective. We got all the good games first, always sold far more copies and were totally focused on what we produced as opposed to looking over our shoulders at what other people were doing. We would spend hours getting the right screenshots, making the text entertaining and really working on championing some fantastic games. I simply didn’t see that in Saturn Power.
In truth, the readers read Saturn Power more than we did and generally tended to email or write in to tell us about it. Since it struck a chord with the readers and it gave them a chuckle, we’d throw in the odd sly comment but in truth we didn’t really give a toss. Our focus was elsewhere. The only rival from a quality perspective we had at the time was from CVG magazine, produced in the office right next to ours. OK so it was a multi-format mag, but in terms of sitting down, poring over an issue, reading every word and admiring their work, they were our closest rivals. CVG was the only other games mag we wanted to read. The fact that we were friends and could go to lunch with them and talk games and have a great time was a bonus. We used to play Quake on PC a lot.
Final question: what Saturn games do you think SSM might have overrated? Or, which Saturn games were very good back in the day, but haven’t aged very well?
You probably have a far more encyclopedic memory of our review scores than I have. But you’re right in that Saturn Bomberman was underrated. In terms of stuff overrated, some of the PlayStation ports have aged badly, and some decent games at the time (e.g. Soviet Strike) are now forgotten and almost totally irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. Some reviews may seem contentious now, but our primary focus in the mag was always the showcases. Our emphasis on dedicating more pages to the big games, championing them and making them feel more special was what we liked doing the most.
Hope you enjoyed those two interviews! I was absolutely floored when they reached out to me more than 15 years ago, and reading those interviews again brings back a lot of fun nostalgic memories for me. Although Super Nintendo will always be #1 in my heart, the Sega Saturn and all its great games will always be #2 in my book.
In these crazy uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are staying at home than ever. As a teacher I’ve been off work the past two weeks, and won’t be reporting back until May at the earliest. With most of us implementing shelter-in-place, this has afforded us more time to connect with those we hold dearest, as well as enjoy our indoor hobbies. Playing video games, binge watching shows and movies or reading a good book. For me, it’s all these things and a chance to update RVGFanatic a little more frequently. Work has kept me busy, as well as moving in with my girlfriend, so I haven’t been able to update as much as I would like. With all this extra down time, I can’t think of a better time than now to convert one of my most popular articles from my original site.
Sega Saturn Magazine was a UK publication that ran 37 issues back in the mid to late 1990s. It’s often considered the “Sega Saturn Bible” and is a favorite publication of many. Their passion bled through the pages, and to this day remains my favorite magazine, beating out even EGM, GameFan and Super Play.
In issue #28 (February of 1998), Sega Saturn Magazine published a list of their top 50 Saturn games. I’ve always been a fan of top lists; I enjoy comparing my opinion to those of others. Not everyone will agree on every ranking, but that’s all part of the fun. Just keep in mind that this list was compiled in late 1997, so you won’t be seeing later Saturn releases on this list, such as Burning Rangers, Panzer Dragoon Saga or Shining Force III.
I originally shared this Top 50 list on the Neo Geo forums back in October 2003. It became one of the most viewed links there. So popular, in fact, that two former Sega Saturn Magazine contributors (including the editor) reached out via private message to thank me personally for the fond trip down memory lane. Now, nearly 20 years later, I’m proud to share that list here on RVGFanatic. Enjoy!
#50: MASS DESTRUCTION (87%)
Best described as Return Fire meets Soviet Strike, the unambiguously titled Mass Destruction is a technically outstanding blaster.
“Yeah, there’s a loose mission structure to follow, but the meat and bones of Mass Destruction is just that — mass destruction. Running at a super-smooth 60 FPS and featuring some of the most incredible pyrotechnics we’ve ever seen, it’s just a shame they missed out the all-important two-player mode.” -Lee Nutter
#49: THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’95 (89%)
SNK’s greatest fighters from their legendary beat ‘em ups amass in this one 2D battling mega game! Action-packed fighting action guaranteed!
“Capcom have virtually owned the 2D fighting genre on Saturn, but this one SNK release shows that when it comes to true hardcore fighting games, the underdog are in a class of their own. KoF ’95 is probably the most lastable fighting game on the system… if you’re into SNK of course.” -Editor Rich Leadbetter
#48: SHINING WISDOM (N/A)
The last 2D game in the Shining Force series. Explore a fantasy realm and undertake a quest to save your homeland from destruction.
“Sega have always produced quality RPGs and Sonic Software Planning’s epic is no exception. While the visuals may look pretty basic, Shining Wisdom’s playability and grand scale are second-to-none. There are literally hundreds of characters to meet and magical spells to master. A deserved addition to the RPG fan’s library.” -Matt Yeo
#47: ENEMY ZERO (88%)
The best attempt yet at an ‘Interactive Movie,’ programmed by legendary Japanese nutters Warp. The 11th best selling Saturn game EVER in Japan!
“The Japanese loved it. We quite liked it as well, come to think of it, as the smooth sci-fi action and top quality rendered FMV makes for an enjoyable and deep experience, with a pretty tough challenge for all you Saturn owning adventure fans.” -Gary Cutlack
#46: ACTUA GOLF (90%)
Golf — hitting a ball around a field with a stick. Sounds crap, but it actually makes for a decent video game simulation.
“To convince your dad that games aren’t just about shooting and fighting, it’s essential to own a golf game. And you might as well buy a good one while you’re at it — Actua Golf scored 90% for its attention to detail, smooth 3D graphics and great control.” -Gary Cutlack
#45: PANDEMONIUM! (90%)
Resurrecting the neglected platform genre from its 16-bit glory days, Pandemonium! is the finest example of its kind on the Saturn.
“Incorporating classic 2D gameplay into a luscious 3D environment, Pandemonium! is a speedy and visually astounding platformer.” -Lee Nutter
#44: ATHLETE KINGS (90%)
One of the first games to be produced for the Saturn-based ST-V arcade board, and probably one of the best, featuring gorgeously smooth hi-res visuals… it’s AM3 magic!
“Tasty athletic girls in high-cut Lycra gear… lovely! Of course we’re only interested in the gameplay, and the button-bashing action made for an excellent sports game. It’s not the biggest game ever made, but beating your personal (and buddies’) bests presents a decent challenge that can last ages.” -Gary Cutlack
#43: DARK SAVIOR (92%)
Years in the making, this adventure has the same class and style as the epochal LandStalker on Mega Drive. Stunning adventuring, although RPG masters may find it too easy…
“The sheer quest in Dark Savior is one that all die-hard adventurers will savor — it’s quality. I completed the Japanese import, then played it through again when it came out here. Excellent.” -Rich Leadbetter
#42: DAYTONA CCE (90%)
The Rally conversion team tried their hand at recreating the awesome Daytona USA coin-op on the Saturn with mixed results.
“The highly anticipated update of the often maligned Daytona conversion is a mixed bag really. The myriad of improvements (two-player mode, new tracks and improved graphics) is commendable, but somehow the superlative gameplay has been lost in the conversion. It’s not really Daytona anymore, but a cool arcade racer nonetheless.” -Lee Nutter
#41: SPACE HULK (90%)
A corridor shoot ‘em up that tries to include more of a strategy element, with players responsible for positioning their troops as well as shooting.
“Do we want strategy in our shoot ‘em ups? Well, if you’re looking for something that’s a bit tougher and durable than most games, Space Hulk’s very complex levels and massive alien sprites should do the trick. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of mindless blasting for you shooting fans.” -Gary Cutlack
#40: SOVIET STRIKE (90%)
The inevitable 32-bit update of EA’s established Strike series arrives to much critical acclaim.
“Soviet Strike adheres to the same basic gameplay principles of the previous Strike games, but running on Sega’s powerhouse console, everything is done far better. More weapons, FMV clips, photo-realistic landscapes and a greater variety in the missions culminate in an awesome addition to the series.” -Lee Nutter
#39: JONAH LOMU RUGBY (91%)
The only authentic rugby simulation on the Saturn. Codemasters’ sporting star recreates the sights, sounds and smells of the big lads’ game. It’s a bit difficult to find in the shops, but the effort is more than worth it.
“While the world goes soccer crazy, Codemasters take a stab at one of the world’s roughest sports. Actual team stats, spot-on gameplay and bone-crunching matches ensure Jonah’s reputation (and tackle) remain intact. A welcome alternative to all those footie games.” -Matt Yeo
#38: MANX TT SUPERBIKE (91%)
The stunning Model 2 arcade racer was converted to the Saturn by Australian coders Tantalus, and they did a pretty good job too. But can they match the power of a true AM conversion?
“The one complaint that stops Manx TT from being a bit higher in this listing is the ridiculous number of tracks — just two. The graphics were the closest a racing game got to Sega Rally standards (at the time), and the racing action played bloody well too. Shame about the number of tracks.” -Gary Cutlack
#37: SATURN BOMBERMAN (90%)
The perfect party game. Hudsonsoft’s first Sega Bomberman outing offers loads of explosive fun with up to ten players trying to blow the living daylights out of each other. As Barry Norman would say: and why not?
“Bomberman’s a hit on every system. Excellent long term playability, multiple weapons and battle arenas, multi-tap compatibility and replay value galore. Although let down by a weak one-player game variation, this is still an essential purchase and a great party game.” -Matt Yeo
#36: CROC: LEGEND OF THE GOBBOS (91%)
Take on the evil Baron Dante in this multi-level, 3D platformer. Croc is set to be a big star and his first outing is a real hoot!
“Owing a big thanks to Mario 64, Croc’s adventures are perfectly pitched at both young and old players alike. Huge stages, tricky platforming action and hilarious bosses await intrepid players. Not an amazing Saturn game, but certainly in a league of its own.” -Matt Yeo
#35: SUPER PUZZLE FIGHTER II TURBO (86%)
Miniaturizing their cool Street Fighter characters (and others from DarkStalkers) and sticking them in a puzzle game made Capcom sound like they’ve gone mad…
“Fortunately Capcom’s masterful coding skills ensured that another gameplay classic emerged. Super-cute versions of Ryu, Chun-Li and the gang battle it out for 2D supremacy, and the gem-dropping gameplay makes for one of the best puzzle games this side of Buckaroo and Connect 4.” -Gary Cutlack
#34: BAKU BAKU ANIMAL (93%)
Not just another Tetris clone, as Sega’s cutesy Baku Baku Animal is arguably the finest example of the puzzle game genre.
“I hate this game. Buying it was the single worst mistake I’ve ever made. Baku Baku has single-handedly ruined my sex life. My girlfriend loves it, more than she loves me if truth be known. Bitch. No, just kidding, honest.” -Lee Nutter
#33: BUST-A-MOVE 3 (91%)
Another great puzzle game. Converted from the classic Taito arcade series, this one sees cute cartoon characters shooting colored bubbles all over the place… Intriguing…
“Puzzle games are fun, aren’t they? The graphics are always colorful and nice, and most contain simple gameplay that even your mum could understand. Bust-A-Move 3 would be especially popular with your mum because it’s great fun, and contains one of the best head-to-head two-player games there is. Cool.” -Gary Cutlack
#32: FIGHTING VIPERS (94%)
Tossing aside the realism of Virtua Fighter 2, Sega’s pseudo-sequel takes a more fantastical approach to the beat ‘em up genre.
“Adding weapons, barriers and armor to the established Virtua Fighter formula, AM2’s incredible Fighting Vipers conversion is a speedier and more brutal beat ‘em up than the more graceful VF series. Add to this the fact that as a conversion it’s virtually indistinguishable from the arcade, and we’re left with yet another top Saturn beat ‘em up. Ooh and you can watch AM2 play it too!” -Lee Nutter
#31: SEGA AGES (91%)
AM2’s arcade classics of the eighties: Space Harrier, Afterburner II and OutRun are gathered in one outstanding retro compilation.
“Sega’s graphics technology, coupled with AM2’s gameplay prowess, have led the arcade field for over a decade. These games (although aged) are still great fun — and OutRun in particular still ranks as one of the greats of the racing genre.” -Rich Leadbetter
Two epoch-making Taito platform games arrive on Saturn. The graphics might be crap, but the gameplay is golden.
“Bubble Bobble’s cool, but the real star of the show is Rainbow Islands. It might not be quite arcade perfect, but the depth of this game is astounding (there’s more to it than Mario 64). Couple that with perfect gameplay and I can’t recommend this enough.” -Rich Leadbetter
#29: LAST BRONX (92%)
Big men, little girls, bulging weapons — sounds like a dodgy porn flick. But it isn’t, it’s the awesome Last Bronx.
“The highly anticipated conversion of AM3’s first fighting foray certainly doesn’t disappoint. Excellent hi-res visuals, 60 FPS update and unequivocally violent gameplay culminates in one of the best 3D beat ‘em ups to grace the Saturn to date.” -Lee Nutter
#28: WIPEOUT 2097 (92%)
A speedy racing game that was one of the few reasons to buy a PlayStation… until it was converted (rather well too) to the Saturn!
“Cool futuristic racing, with eight tracks to race around. The hover cars handle really well, and the extra colorful courses all look fantastic in this Saturn conversion. Some of the special effects from the PlayStation version are missing, but who cares? It plays brilliantly and that’s what counts.” -Gary Cutlack
#27: MADDEN NFL ’98 (92%)
It was compulsory for every Mega Drive owner to have at least one Madden game, and the legendary US football series continued on the Saturn — just about the only EA sports title to continue the quality in the move to 32-bit…
“And it continued with style. One of the best multi-player games that consenting adults can enjoy, this ’98 update is faster, smoother and tougher than ever before. This year’s players and stats, and the ability to build your own team from scratch make Madden ’98 the best yet.” -Gary Cutlack
#26: STEEP SLOPE SLIDERS (92%)
The first Saturn snowboarding game to hit the UK and it’s a blast! 17 characters, six challenging courses and hundreds of cool tricks.
“Board stupid? You won’t be with Steep Slope Sliders, an amazing game that faithfully recreates the world’s most popular winter sport with incredible detail and much playability. Play the game as a straight forward racer and beat the clock or pull off blazing stunts to rack up massive scores. If you’ve never been snowboarding before, Steep Slope Sliders is the perfect downhill trainer.” -Matt Yeo
#25: WARCRAFT II: THE DARK SAGA (91%)
Electronic Arts attempt to grab a slice of the lucrative Command & Conquer action more than makes up for the absence of Red Alert.
“Taking a medieval slant on the strategy based Command & Conquer formula, EA’s Warcraft II plays virtually identical to Westwood Studio’s classic. With over 52 huge missions to complete and the Beyond the Portal expansion pack toss in for good measure, this is awesome stuff and well up there with Command & Conquer.” -Lee Nutter
#24: SONIC JAM (92%)
Dubbed as the “ultimate retro pack” in issue #22 of Sega Saturn Magazine, Sonic Jam shows off the Sonic Team at their very best.
“The Mega Drive Sonic series was the main reason that many people (myself included) first got into games. Putting all four games on one disc was a masterstroke for the Sonic Team, and with the mind-blowing Sonic World — this is an essential slice of the retro cake.” -Lee Nutter
#23: X-MEN: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM (92%)
Cyclops, Wolverine, Juggernaut and pals battle it out in one of the most outrageous 2D fighting games ever conceived.
“Before X-Men: Children of the Atom, no one knew the potential of Saturn’s 2D capabilities. X-Men showed the world that no machine can match the Saturn (sans Neo Geo of course). When COTA appeared, work at EMAP stopped completely and many happy hours were spent pummeling CVG’s Tom Guise (and others) into pulp as he squealed like a stinking pig… but I digress…” -Rich Leadbetter
#22: DAYTONA USA (92%)
The first conversion of AM2’s classic coin-op and arguably one of the finest racers on the Saturn.
“Yeah, the graphics are looking a bit crap now and the PAL conversion is quite poor. But the fact remains that AM2’s Daytona conversion sounds, feels and plays just like the coin-op, not something we could say about the more recent conversion.” -Lee Nutter
#21: GUARDIAN HEROES (93%)
Platform kings Treasure combine classic RPG elements with some hard-hitting, side-scrolling beat ‘em up action. Explore mystical lands inhabited by fair maidens and bizarre monsters.
“Only rivaling Capcom in terms of 2D mastery, Treasure’s epic adventure is an innovative and challenging game. The fact that Guardian Heroes manages to breathe new life into the stale scrolling beat ‘em up genre can’t be a bad thing either. A truly ace game.” -Matt Yeo
#20: NIGHT WARRIORS: DARKSTALKERS’ REVENGE (93%)
A classic 2D beat ‘em up featuring a gaggle of truly gruesome creatures. Capcom’s creature feature is also the first sequel to the demonic DarkStalkers.
“What other game lets you beat the crap out of vampires, a werewolf and even Frankenstein’s monster? Amazing cartoon animation, completely over-the-top moves and Capcom’s trademark quality gameplay make this a must-have title. Unique amongst beat ‘em ups.” -Lee Nutter
#19: QUAKE (93%)
The impossible has been made real with Lobotomy’s translation of id software’s graphically amazing PC shooting game.
“Quake on PC is my all-time favorite video game. There may be no Death Match (so Tom Guise AKA TipDrinker gets off lightly this time) but Lobotomy’s tweaks to the single-player game have made it a highly entertaining, challenging experience. And graphically speaking, this translation is untouchable.” -Rich Leadbetter
#18: SHINING THE HOLY ARK (93%)
It’s a new Shining game on the Saturn from Team Sonic. It’s 3D and it’s quality. Enough said.
“I didn’t want to review this because it started out so dull. Regardless I battled through the early stages and discovered what ranks as one of the single most compelling RPGs I’ve ever played. I’ve happy memories of this title — I love it loads and can’t wait for Shining Force III.” -Rich Leadbetter
#17: SONIC R (93%)
Designed by the legendary Sonic Team and programmed by British developer Travellers Tales, the first Sonic title to be programmed specifically for the Saturn is a joy to behold.
“Clearly the focal point of Sonic R is the mind-blowing graphics, with some jaw-dropping visuals and special effects rivaling those of Mario Kart 64. But rather than just being a graphical showcase for the Saturn, Sonic R is an awesome game to play. There’s a massive exploration element to it, secret routes to discover, hidden items to find and … well, let’s just say that this is fine Saturn gaming.” -Lee Nutter
#16: PANZER DRAGOON II ZWEI (93%)
A brilliant blasting game, this game features astounding 3D effects that no Saturn game or indeed PlayStation title has managed to match. And despite being easy to complete, there’s tons of lastability in it too.
“We all knew that this one was going to be awesome, but when we first sat down and played the finished article, Panzer Zwei was like a gift from the gods. The graphics redefined our expectations of what the Saturn was capable of — suddenly anything was possible. The different routes, morphing dragon and vast amounts of hidden stuff add immensely to the appeal.” -Rich Leadbetter
#15: COMMAND & CONQUER (94%)
PC games don’t convert well to consoles — most are way too complicated to appeal to us. So how did Command & Conquer score 94% in issue #15? Well, it’s a great game, that’s why.
“Beneath the bland exterior beats the heart of a warrior. A warrior of gameplay, because maneuvering your troops around the battlefield, building bases and attacking the enemy is simple to pick up, and the controls work perfectly. It even comes on two CD’s, each with different areas and scenarios for the two sides in the conflict. A very big game.” -Gary Cutlack
#14: SEGA WORLDWIDE SOCCER ’98 (91%)
Raising a swift index finger to the established FIFA and Actua brands, Sega Worldwide Soccer ’98 out-quaffs them in every conceivable way, being the best footy sim around.
“The arrival of Sega Worldwide Soccer ’97 heralded a new standard in the footy sim genre, but the crap keeper AI and lack of Premiership sides was a real drawback. SWWS ’98 redresses these criticisms whilst retaining the graphical finesse and rampant playability of the prequel. If you don’t own the prequel, this is the only soccer game worth bothering with.” -Lee Nutter
Genuinely frightening action adventure in which the sole purpose is to survive. Roam freely throughout the secluded mansion, mercilessly slaughtering the undead and solving the diverse range of puzzles. Awesome!
“For Capcom’s first foray into the realms of 3D, Resident Evil is an exceptional achievement. This shit-scary scenario, non-linear gameplay and tense atmosphere offers players an experience they’ll never dare to forget. Blasting the head clean off a zombie as a fountain of blood erupts from between its shoulders is quite simply the most satisfying moment in gaming history. Hugely ace stuff!” -Lee Nutter
#12: VIRTUAL ON (93%)
Eight different robots battle it out over different stages in AM3’s robot battler. A game of strategy as well as reflexes, this is one of the best two-player games on Saturn.
“Virtual On is a game of strategy — of brains over brawn. It’s also one of the best one-on-one titles you can get for the Saturn. The amount of strategies and tactics found in this game is frankly amazing. Not many people bought this — a shame because it’s in a class of its own.” -Rich Leadbetter
#11: VIRTUA COP (94%)
The first of the much vaunted “Big Three” for Christmas ’95, Virtua Cop is a staggeringly accurate conversion of the AM2 masterpiece which simply must be owned.
“After the appalling Lethal Enforcer games, Virtua Cop breathed fresh air into the dying genre. Using polygon-sensitive graphics as opposed to the dreadful FMV, players could reenact their favorite Tarantino shootouts in a socially acceptable way. It’s an absolute classic, though has been largely superseded by its mightily impressive sequel.” -Lee Nutter
#10: STREET FIGHTER COLLECTION (92%)
The ultimate 2D beat ‘em up collection! Capcom’s finest titles meet head-on in a two disc extravaganza. Play the original arcade perfect Super Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II Turbo and an updated version of Street Fighter Alpha 2.
“If you’re a hardcore Street Fighter fan then Virgin’s retro beat ‘em up compilation is a must-have item. The game that made Capcom the giant it is today is still the classic it always was and its inclusion here shows just how far the series has come over the years. This collection is still worth buying if you already own Street Fighter Alpha 2, although both Super Street Fighter II and Super Turbo are really starting to look dated.” -Matt Yeo
SPECIAL GUEST COMMENTARY #1
Excluding the Tekken series, I’m not the biggest fan of fighting games. Now, it hasn’t always been like this. I really enjoyed Street Fighter II Turbo back in the day, and I considered myself halfway decent. I used to play it late into the night with my then friends. It was the standard “loser passes the controller” setup that we had going, and the level of competition — as fierce as it was — was pretty even. Few people managed to hold on to the controller for more than three matches. Those were the times, but they are gone now. After that initial Street Fighter rush, I never played a 2D fighter again. Ever. But I’ll always have the memories.
SPECIAL GUEST COMMENTARY #2
I have a confession to make… I can no longer be called a TRANSFORMERS collector. ::GASP:: Wait!! Come back!! It’s not what you think. Actually, as of yesterday, I’ve become a *Action Figure* collector. Why? Let me spin the tale…
You see, I love collecting Transformers. They were a huge part of my childhood. I can remember going to Toys R Us and buying the latest Transformers toy, going home and spending the whole day totally focused on the joy of that new toy. They were a defining part of my youth and I’ll collect them and enjoy them for the rest of my life. Now, after I had “shed” the toy thing, I had become like any other teen… on the hunt for exciting adventures. Sounds like a porno but this ain’t Emanuel, so let’s keep it clean… and as for that new, exciting challenge… I found it. It was Street Fighter II.
I had always loved video games, but this one was different… it totally consumed me. I can remember going to the arcade, after school, with my friends and playing for hours. I remember drawing all the characters during my spare time… and history class. I loved the game, the stories, and thus… Street Fighter is one of my fondest memories.
#9: TOMB RAIDER (94%)
Arguably the best game of 1996, Core’s multi-format platform adventure became a massive success, thanks in no small part to the gravity-defying chest of a certain Miss Croft.
“From virtually every perspective, it’s damn near impossible to find fault with Core’s first real hit. This game is big — like really big. Split into 15 differently themed levels, each feature enormous 3D environments, comparable in sheer scale to those of Mario 64. The gameplay is no slouch either, with a vast array of puzzles to solve, tasks to perform and endangered wildlife to kill. But the real star of the show is of course, Lara Croft. With a versatile array of superbly animated acrobatic maneuvers at her disposal, Lara certainly has great things in front of her (sigh). Unfortunately not on any Sega machine.” -Lee Nutter
#8: EXHUMED (94%)
Lobotomy’s initial adventure was unfairly dubbed “Doom in Egypt.” In truth it’s one of the deepest action-packed adventures money can buy. One of the most criminally underrated games of all time. Known as PowerSlave in America.
“It took the whining and moaning of our own “Manual” Daniel Jevons to convince me to take this game seriously. When I started playing — and playing it properly — I realized that this adventure is a work of genius. Sega Saturn Magazine got behind Lobotomy in a big way and our prayers for them to convert Duke Nukem and Quake were answered. It’s also extremely cheap at £20 in most shops, so there’s no excuse not to own this classic.” -Rich Leadbetter
Rich Leadbetter and the rest of the SSM staff really did a lot for not only Exhumed, but for Lobotomy, the Saturn, and Saturn owners. They pushed Exhumed to the moon. Even after a massively impressive 94% review in issue #11, Exhumed sales were quite low in the weeks following. So, Rich, being the high quality gaming crusader that he was, sought to seek justice. And in issue #13, this was his editorial…
Rich’s editorial went a long way. The UK masses went out and bought the damn game en masse. Exhumed became a hit as rentals and sales went through the roof following Rich’s passionate plea. Exhumed often appeared in the top 10 rental list. Nice job, Rich. Way to champion the little guys!
And due to its smash success in the UK, GT Interactive saw fit to allow Lobotomy to program Saturn Quake. If it weren’t for Rich’s never-say-die attitude and Sega Saturn Magazine…
#7: MARVEL SUPER HEROES (95%)
The game they said couldn’t be done. Capcom’s most ambitious 2D fighting game arrives on the Saturn replete all the awesome visuals and playability that you could hope for. Senses-shattering!
“We got arcade Marvel Super Heroes in the office at about the same time that the finished Saturn X-Men appeared. I remember comparing the two and thinking, ‘no way will this ever come to the Sega machine.’ Whilst the conversion isn’t perfect, it’s incredible in every way that matters. The rich visuals are beyond compare, but it’s the combo system that really makes this game. And Doctor Doom is ace.” -Rich Leadbetter
#6: VIRTUA COP 2 (95%)
Following the unprecedented success of the seminal Virtua Cop conversion, AM2 reaffirmed their position as the greatest coders of Sega’s machine with this stunning sequel. Time Crisis? HA!
“The most important thing to mention about Virtua Cop 2 is that it is huge — approximately twice the size of its predecessor in fact. Each of the three levels feature multiple routes about halfway through, making the sequel a less linear affair than the first game. Each of these levels are densely packed with destructible scenery and of course, hod-loads of bad guys. There’s also some stunning set pieces in there — the car chase sequence in particular stands out in my mind. Yeah, it might not be as close a conversion as the less ambitious Virtua Cop, but AM2 have pulled off a miracle in getting the Saturn to emulate the Model 2 coin-op so well. Everyone must own this game.” -Lee Nutter
#5: FIGHTERS MEGAMIX (95%)
AM2’s greatest creations clash in a 3D beat ‘em up of unparalleled proportions! Virtua Fighters meet Fighting Vipers for some hard-hitting 3D beat ‘em up shenanigans. If you want speed and action, get this!
“The Saturn is blessed with a number of awesome 3D beat ‘em ups but Fighters Megamix is something else. A staggering 32 characters, Vipers’ armor-breakers, Virtua Fighter 3 moves, enclosed arenas and secrets galore make this a premier Saturn title. Even if you own both Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers, there are still plenty of new features and playable faces to get to grips with. Loads of depth and playability makes Fighters Megamix one game you can’t live without!” -Matt Yeo
#4: DUKE NUKEM 3D (97%)
One of the most action-packed politically incorrect 3D blasting games imaginable. Lobotomy promised us an excellent translation but the final product defies belief. The best game released this year.
“The speed and action contained in Saturn Duke Nukem just blew me away. Couple the playability with Lobotomy’s incredible 3D engine and you have a game that’s just as cool as the PC game — and sometimes superior. And it hoses down the PlayStation game. Completely. I honestly don’t think I’ve played a game quite as satisfying as Saturn Duke for ages. On the higher difficulty levels the sense of carnage you get is almost intoxicating. Awesome!” -Rich Leadbetter
97freakin’ percent. That’s the massive rating Sega Saturn Magazine awarded Duke Nukem 3D. SSM were big fans of Lobotomy since the days of Exhumed. SSM was there every step of the way as Lobotomy converted Quake and Duke Nukem, with previews, showcases and interviews with the Lobotomy staff. Hell, Quake and Duke graced back-to-back covers! Fun fact #1: Lobotomy credited Rich Leadbetter under “Special Thanks” in Saturn Duke.
Fun Fact #2: Rich Leadbetter and Gary Cutlack contacted me back in October of 2004 to thank me for posting their Top 50 list. I had the extreme honor of interviewing both of them about their Sega Saturn memories — from working for the best magazine ever to their favorite Saturn games. Check it out here!
#3: NiGHTS: INTO DREAMS (96%)
Quite simply the most unique, innovative and beautifully crafted video game of all time, from the crack development team that brought you Sonic the Hedgehog and the explosive Burning Rangers (coming soon!)
“Whilst many were quick to criticize the Sonic Team’s creation for being a tad short and easy, what they consummately failed to appreciate was the true nature of the game. Whilst the sumptuous 3D visuals are enough to draw most gamers in, it’s the superlative retro style of gameplay which keeps them engrossed. Pulling off massive links, racking up huge scores, performing a diverse range of aerial stunts and watching the artificial life system evolve as you play is only a minuscule part of what NiGHTS has to offer. Admittedly, the game concept may appear bizarre at first and ‘immature’ even, but NiGHTS is a unique and lasting experience which simply must be owned by everyone who is serious about games.” -Lee Nutter
Sometime in mid-late ’96
I just got home from Toys R Us and have sampled both Mario 64 and NiGHTS. I came away impressed with both. Mario 64 is destined to become a classic for generations to come, and NiGHTS possesses a unique charm… the kind that might make it a cult classic for the ages. I wouldn’t be surprised if these two still have a large fan base decades later…
I remember the whole Mario 64 vs. Crash Bandicoot vs. NiGHTS thing. Good times those were. The battle of ’96. Each heavyweight representing its system. I’ll never forget that Saturday when I was at Toys R Us waiting in line to test play each game. It was an exciting time and rivalry — one I still have yet to feel in today’s generation of games. Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical. NiGHTS was something else to witness in 1996. It was poetry in motion. The music was off the charts. They sure as hell don’t make games like this anymore.
I love NiGHTS! If they ever make another one, here’s an idea. Imagine finding a secret underground passage underneath a tree, filled with gems and power-ups, or even better, a clan of Nightopians living in seclusion.
I loved NiGHTS so much that I bought the import. One of the most inspirational games I played in ’96. Only 2 games have EVER kept me up the entire night fueled from adrenaline… NiGHTS and the original Sonic. Yuji Naka and Sonic Team, thank you.
I just picked up my copy of the latest Next Generation magazine and along with it my copy of Christmas NiGHTS. What a great gift! I had forgotten how fun NiGHTS was to play. I couldn’t put it down last night until I had 23 of the 24 gifts. I was confused as to why I couldn’t get the 24th gift until I changed the date to earlier in the year and saw that the 24th gift was Christmas NiGHTS itself. I thought the Sonic into NiGHTS gimmick was a nice touch! I just want to thank Sega for giving me (and others) this very cool Christmas treat!
Being single and living alone, I usually don’t get into the Christmas spirit until I go to visit my folks a few days before Christmas. I just got Christmas NiGHTS and it actually gave me the Christmas spirit earlier than normal. Thank you Sega. Now I don’t have to buy a tree…
Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!
If you got this little gift of joy, whip it out. If not, go find it. Don’t look at me though. Mine ain’t going no where but inside my Saturn.
So, don’t forget…
Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!
Still copyless you say? Fool!
So, don’t forget…
Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!
You BETTER have a copy by now.
So, don’t forget…
Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!
So, don’t forget… but I don’t think I have to repeat myself any more. It’s tradition by now
This might sound sad but I owe Sega some major thanks. In 2000 I found myself alone on Christmas Eve, with only Christmas NiGHTS to keep me company. And you know what, it was a pretty good Christmas, all things considered. So thanks, Sega.
Wow, almost Christmas NiGHTS time already. I’ve played every year since its release on Christmas. Not only has it become tradition for me and many others, it’s become a staple for the holidays. When I was a kid growing up, Christmas just wasn’t Christmas unless you watched A Christmas Story, went to the parade, sang carols and sat on Santa’s lap at the mall. Well, for me anyhow, these days and, yes, still to this day — Christmas NiGHTS is the equivalent to all those, if not a little sweeter.
I agree! Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless you watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol, eat some gingerbread men and play some Christmas NiGHTS! It’s a legend all in itself. One in which I shall pass down to my kids and their kids. Sega made a lot of mistakes over the years but every time I play this, I say thank you for the great memories.
#2: SEGA RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP (97%)
Since its release in early 1996, Sega Rally has gone on to become the best selling Saturn game ever and the benchmark by which all other racers are judged. And rightly so, in our opinion.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why Sega Rally is such an incredible game. Maybe it’s the flawless conversion of the twenty times as expensive coin-op. Maybe it’s the feeling of gritty realism the programmers manage to convey, making you think you’re actually driving a Rally car, but there’s never so much realism that you’d have to know how to drive one yourself to play the game properly. Or could it be the decent smattering of Saturn specific modes, from the awesome split-screen two-player mode, to the ghost mode and custom car option. Who knows? The point is, two years on from its release and Sega Rally is still the best racer on any console bar none. Whilst other racers may boast superior graphics (and only just), none have surpassed Rally in terms of sheer playability. It’s a classic video game of our time.” -Lee Nutter
At one point in my life I poured so many hours into Sega Rally that, honest to gosh, I went out driving and heard a voice in my head say “Long medium left baby!” That’s when I knew I had crossed that line… no game but Rally has ever made me feel that way. Not even the almighty Tetris…
Sega Rally was one of the few video games my father actually played. He couldn’t understand how a man in his late 20’s could be interested in playing video games (NOTE: He was addicted to computer golf, but did not think of it as a video game).
Anyway, my niece and nephew were visiting and he asked me to bring over some games for them to play. I debated for about 5 seconds before I packed up the Saturn, steering wheel, and several games — including Sega Rally.
Sega Rally hardly left the machine for the other titles. Everyone was trying to get the best score. The game is just pure fun. I played it last night just to see if my memory was holding it in too high a place. Nope. I played it for a good two hours, loving every minute of it again.
As for my father… I overjoyed him last Christmas by giving him a Golden Tee arcade cabinet for his den.
After playing out my current batch of Saturn titles, I decided to start playing some of the older ones I hadn’t played in ages. I popped in Sega Rally, a game I had beaten many times before and much to my surprise it was just as if not more fun than it used to be. The excitement of Rally racing is still there after 6 months! I beat all my records and had a blast doing so. If anything this is a testament to its replay value and AM3’s care and love for the games they make.
9-8-99 (1 day before SEGA Dreamcast’s launch)
Nothing’s sweeter than practicing hard all night til you just manage to shave a half second off your career best. Man that is so satisfying. Words cannot do it justice. Even better is having a buddy watch you do it, trying to psych you out so you don’t beat his best time — and then handing the controller off to him with a smug smile saying “Your turn, champ.”
Rock on, SEGA Saturn.
Bring it on, SEGA Dreamcast!
True story. One Saturday night I stood up my girlfriend. I had an hour to go before the date began. I thought “eh, a little Sega Rally never hurt anybody.” Right? An hour quickly became two. My girlfriend called my phone but I left it upstairs. Eventually she came over to my place. She was about to blow her top when I told her to sit down and play. She looked like she was gonna kill me but I continued quickly.
“Look, I’ll give you a BIG lead. If you can beat me, I’ll promise to go to that … opera with you.”
I caught up with her on the last lap and was in position to win. But, purposely, I bumped into one of the railings and let her speed ahead for the win.
But really… I won. The opera? It wasn’t so bad.
OK — it was really bad. I hated it.
But, I didn’t get kicked in the balls. Or have my Saturn and Sega Rally copy chucked out the window. It balances out…
A month later we got engaged and 8 months later we got married. I had an hour before the wedding started. I thought “eh, a little Sega Rally never hurt anybody.” Right? …
#1: VIRTUA FIGHTER 2 (98%)
Virtua Fighter 2 remains the Saturn’s finest hour, bearing all the hallmarks of greatness that the Saturn stands for. For starters, it’s an AM2 arcade conversion — quite possibly their best one to date. The Saturn’s high resolution mode is used to create the most lifelike fighters yet seen on the system, and the super smooth 60 frames per second movement is uncannily realistic. But for all its technical accomplishments, the real joy with this game is its playability. Each of the characters battles away with REAL fighting techniques, they move and react just like real fighters would. And the possibilities with the 2,000 moves in the game make it virtually limitless in terms of lastability. When this arrived in coin-op form, it was such a step forward that arcade-goers across the globe took notice. And the Saturn version, bar small graphical compromises, is identical. A mammoth achievement — still.
“I remember seeing the first demo of Virtua Fighter 2 in motion on the Saturn. You couldn’t play it — you could only watch as two computer controlled opponents slugged it out. But I was spellbound. Months earlier we’d seen the Saturn seemingly having difficulties replicating the first Virtua Fighter, which had no texture mapping and half the frame rate. To see Virtua Fighter 2 on the Saturn with all the techniques, characters AND in hi-res was a revelation. Plain and simple. But technical issues aside, VF2 is more than a game, it is an art. On a trip to Japan, my old MAXIMUM colleague Gary Harrod brought back videos of expert VF2 players getting to grips with Akira and Jeffrey (my favorite fighter and his, respectively). What I saw on this video was light years ahead of my own skills. Watching these Japanese masters playing VF2 was like watching an entirely different game to the one I was playing. It was another revelation. These guys had taken the game’s precision controls and stunning physics to awesome effect, with combos and techniques I would spend the next few months attempting to emulate. It’s this huge lastability that makes VF2 superior to Fighters Megamix in my eyes. True, Megamix has more characters, but it lacks the precision gameplay and thus the aspiration for true mastery that VF2 has. And that’s why I think Virtua Fighter 2 is the best Saturn game money can buy.” -Rich Leadbetter
Just the other day I was at my friend’s house. He showed me Virtua Fighter 2 and, remembering the disaster the first Virtua Fighter port was, I prepared myself for a good chuckle or two. Then I played it. Well I’ll be. Virtua Fighter 2 is quite impressive. I feel a little jealous it’s not on the PlayStation. Perhaps there is legit competition in the Saturn just yet. It certainly has changed this diehard PlayStation user’s perceptions on what the Saturn is capable of.
-Brent ‘The Bone’ Bonds
I finally got my hands on Virtua Fighter 2 (for $49) this past Friday, and I must say… this game is truly awesome. Virtua Fighter 2 has been the first game I’ve purchased that has made feel like “OH my God, this is incredible!” I look at this game and simply can’t believe I’m playing this at home and I’ve played a LOT of games on a LOT of systems, and this game is just AWESOME!
I’ve written quite a few programs, and worked with a lot of graphics applications, and maybe this is why I am so impressed. To realize what is going on and what has to take place in order to bring you a game of this magnitude is simply mind-blowing.
I’d post more, but gotta get back to my Saturn.
Irvine Alumni, Class of 1994
University of Southern California
I just purchased a copy of Virtua Fighter 2 from Microplay and it is absolutely amazing!! At the first sight of the incredibly high-res display and fluid animation, I was blown away. What’s here folks is nothing short of a miracle. It’s the punch in the face Saturn owners have been waiting for! Here’s my quick review:
Graphics: 10 Sound: 9 Game Play: 10! Replay Value: 10!
Definitely THE best fighting game on any home system to date, and it’s just so damn fun to play, I could go on FOREVER about how great it is! BUY THIS GAME!! If you don’t, I’ll hire midgets to burn down your house.
In my gaming life, I can point to certain console moments that shall forever haunt me. Super Mario Brothers 3 on NES. Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis. Street Fighter II on SNES. Add Virtua Fighter 2 on Saturn to that list. I went with my dad and three friends to Toys R Us to buy it. Then we got home at 8 PM and played against each other for five straight hours. Imagine… four 12 year old kids huddled around a 27 inch TV for five straight hours on a Saturday night. You know whatever’s keeping their attention for THAT long has to be pretty special.
I was one of the biggest Street Fighter fans back in the early ’90s. Then came Virtua Fighter 2 and I found my new calling. I recall many hours spent at my local arcade attempting to master all 11 characters. I’d stay until they had to literally kick me out.
Then the Saturn version came out and blew away everything I expected. I swear I must have spent at least 1,000 hours on it. No game is perfect, but in my book Virtua Fighter 2 is VERY close.
-James Dat Nguyen
I don’t play games much today. In fact, the last game I really touched was Halo on XBOX when it came out. Yeah, it’s been a while. Anyway I still lurk from time to time and felt the need to chirp in.
There was once a golden age in gaming. It was the early ’90s. NES was still kicking, Genesis was coming into its own and SNES was just around the corner. Boy what great times. Then came the 32-bit war. It wasn’t quite as memorable as the previous generation of games but three words…
VIRTUA FIGHTER 2.
This game has the kind of magic where, sadly, not everyone will understand. To fully experience it, you must have a gaming group of friends — all equally skilled — and have get-togethers on occasion where you just feast on this game. It really is a marvel. The bouts can either be snap-snap-snap or long drawn-out epics. It’s as fun to watch as it is to play. This is the only way to truly appreciate Virtua Fighter 2.
All the guys I used to play this game with back in the day — they all got married and became fathers. I still talk to them and we kid around sometimes about the “good old days.” We still get together to play Virtua Fighter 2 every once in a long while… but for sure those times in 1996-1997 were priceless.
We like to joke around that one day we might be as old as Shun himself
I absolutely hated fighting games until I played Virtua Fighter 2 on May 1, 1997. I thought both 2D and 3D fighting games were stupid, boring and offered no depth whatsoever.
The day I got my Sega Saturn was the day that I changed my mind about fighters. I learned that deep fighting games did exist, I just had to find the ones made by Yu Suzuki. From 1997 up until 1999 my gaming group and I played on average six hours of Virtua Fighter 2 a week. That’s a lot of hours. The only reason why we stopped were due to life (marriage, college, whatever).
I used to feel the same way about racing games. I hated the genre. Thought it too was junk until I discovered my love of Sega Rally. Thanks to both these titles (both on Saturn of course) I “evolved” as a gamer.
-Glenn A. Rudy III
On this day I was considering getting back into the SNES scene after having been gone since the mid-late ’90s. I was making my daily gaming board rounds when I saw an intriguing topic over at the DigitPress forum.
“Super Play Magazine! Who read it? Who misses it?”
I love awesome retro gaming magazines. When I found out about SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE in 2001, I went on a long hunt before striking gold in late 2003. This Super Play topic, created by DP member theMot, couldn’t have been posted at a better time! I was still on the fence about buying a Super Nintendo, but the topic made me think “OK, if I DO come back, I’ll definitely look for that magazine.”
And of course, I did come back. January 17, 2006 is the official comeback date for yours truly. And so I began actively pursuing a complete Super Play set from that day forth.
The following is a chronicle of my nine month odyssey. It’s a journey that’s simply unbelievable. I always had confidence I would one day own Super Play, but I had no idea it’d be anything like what it turned out to be…
HAVE CONTACTS, WILL TRAVEL
In my history of online gaming-related activities I learned one very important thing as a collector/gamer, the more you network the better off you are. If people know what you’re looking for, you can find it easier. I’m not saying go post an ad so the whole world can see what you want, but you need to do some legwork if you want to attain something that is valuable and hard to come by. Having great contacts can help a lot.
And I had that in a guy located in the UK named James. He was always my go-to bloke. My brother from another mother. I could always count on King James.
James and I had traded several times over the years from 2001-2004, during my Saturn days. Back in the day he helped me get five Sega Saturn Magazines, after I had won a set of 29 off eBay. In addition to hooking me up with random PAL-only Saturn games over the years
He didn’t post often at this one Sega board, but I sent him a Private Message. It began an extremely LONG PM discussion between us…
DANGLING PSYCHIC ASSASSIN TAROMARU
-FEBRUARY 23, 2006-
I sent James the first PM on this day.
I told him if he knew any collectors who had a complete set of SUPER PLAY that I would be willing to trade that person my TAROMARU copy. Psychic Assassin Taromaru is one of the rarest and most expensive Sega Saturn imports. Enjoyed it as I did, I was willing to part with it for a (near) full set of Super Play Magazine. I also asked him if the magazine was like the Sega Saturn Magazine equivalent for the Super Nintendo.
You are correct – Super Play was indeed pretty much the equivalent of SSM but for SNES. Loads of good import coverage, lots of technical features, amazing artwork on every issue (provided by Wil Overton). Hard to find but a great mag. Will see what I can do on that front if you like. Would appreciate Issue 200 of EGM if you can get it for me.
So while James scoured the UK for Super Play, I scoured the States for EGM #200.
-MARCH 1, 2006-
Less than a week later, he had already found a potential match! I recall thinking to myself, “JAMES IS DA MAN!”
I may have a lead for you for the Super Play mags. I’ll need about a week but I know a guy that I think has a complete collection of Super Play mags and I know he is into his Saturn stuff so I may be able to work something out for you guys. I’m not entirely sure how many Super Play mags there were – I think it was around 37 or 38, maybe 40. I’m certain he has at least 1 to 35 and maybe some of the last issues too.
Once again, James had come through for me. Right?
WHEELS SET IN MOTION
-MARCH 18, 2006-
It had been close to 3 weeks since James and I last communicated. I was busy buying US SNES games left and right, continually looking for issue #200 and I knew I was in good hands because of our track record. There was nothing to worry about…
On this day James PM’ed me he’ll be meeting his collector friend over brunch to discuss Taromaru for the Super Play magazines, and find out exactly what condition and issue numbers they were.
His message made my day. The wheels were set in motion. Knowing James, I figured it was only a matter of time…
-APRIL 24, 2006-
More than a month passed since I last heard from him. Finally I received the following message.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Been unbelievably busy and had some problems with my PC. I’ve met the collector guy. He has the following issues:
Let me know your thoughts. I will continue to ask around for the few missing issues. All issues are in good condition.
I didn’t mind the month-plus delay after reading the good news. YES! That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear — that the collector guy had a large majority of the issues, and not something like 1, 5-7, 11-14, 17, 19, 25-28, 31, 33-35. You know, large gaps. It’s always nice to get nearly all of a set in one fell swoop.
“Let me know your thoughts” ??? My thoughts were HELL YEAH!
NOT SO FAST…
-MAY 2, 2006-
About a week later, James emailed me pictures of the collector’s set as I had requested. I was more than satisfied with how everything looked. I replied to James, “LET’S DO THIS.” Note: if it were years later and say 2013 I would probably have said “TAKE MY MONEY” or rather, “TAKE MY TAROMARU” but you get the point.
I was good to go, right? Not so fast…
25 DAYS OF SILENCE
-MAY 27, 2006-
This was unlike James. In the past he was always so quick on replies. But hey, he had great news when he finally broke the silence on this day.
Sorry for the delay but I can also get Issues 39, 40, 41, 43 and 44 of Super Play for you in addition to the ones listed before.
Everything looks good to go. The trade was Taromaru+EGM #200 (which I found) in exchange for the massive Super Play lot.
The long ongoing PM discussion, which started over three months ago on February 23, was going to finally conclude.
But as with most things in life… things don’t always go as you plan…
-JULY 31, 2006-
For over two months, James mysteriously vanished. He didn’t answer my PMs or emails. I was worried. I DIDN’T SEND TAROMARU YET. Let me tell you the kind of guy James is. He always shipped first in the past with me and said he would ship first in this transaction as well. That’s the kind of guy he was — he always wanted me to get the item first to see if I was satisfied with it.
So when he disappeared without a trace for two months, I was worried not just for our trade, but for his well-being in general. I mean, it was completely unlike him to go off the radar like that for so long and without a heads up.
In late July, I made a topic at the Sega board asking if anyone there had talked to him since late May.
I didn’t want to “air the laundry” like that, but he left me no other choice.
48 to 72 hours after I made the topic, James PM’ed me for the first time in over two months.
I’m really sorry mate I’ve had some things going on over the last couple of months and the whole trade thing was sadly at the bottom of a huge pile of other things.
I have always had fantastic trades with you and am very happy to continue with this trade.
I was just glad to hear from him and know that he was OK. The fact that the trade was officially back on was only the cherry atop the cake! I PM’ed him back joking “WISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!”
24 hours later he replied.
Haha, nice reference! Have packaged up the mags and will get them posted asap. Will confirm when they are on the way to you and provide a Tracking Number etc if I get given one (depends on the postal method I guess).
Apologies once again for the ridiculous delay – will be good to see this trade through.
NOW I WAS OFFICIALLY IN, RIGHT?
… Keep reading…
ONLY A MATTER OF TIME…
-AUGUST 6, 2006-
Not one week later, I received an update.
Just to keep you updated. The magazines are all packed up (currently in two separate boxes) and ready for posting. However after going to the Post Office to send them via the usual method is going to be way expensive and also means they won’t be insured. So I’m going to look at Courier options which means they should be delivered in around 3-4 days after they are sent, and they will be insured and it should work out cheaper to send. The thing is that I am away with work until next weekend so it will likely be next weekend that I actually send them.
Just letting you know that I am working on this and you will get the mags (eventually).
Just got to work out the details with the Couriers.
I was disappointed, since I figured they were already on the way. No matter, I’ve been waiting over six months now… what’s one more gonna hurt??
I told myself I needed to keep my eyes peeled, keep my options open. So I started searching for Super Play on eBay… hoping I’d find a complete set on offer which I could snipe. JUUUUUUST in case James somehow doesn’t come through…
FIVE DAYS LATER — GOLD
-AUGUST 11, 2006-
In an amazing stroke of luck, I punched in SUPER PLAY MAGAZINE on eBay and expected yet another empty search.
However, on this day there it was!
Super Play Issues 1-45 (missing # 9) plus 3 official Super Play Binders. Also includes Super Play Gold 1993 SNES Guide. HOLY CRAP! What were the odds, and what is happening here?! It sounds corny but it really, truly did feel like fate.
It was ALMOST the entire set, only missing issues number 9, 46 and 47 — WOW.
I put it on my watch list. It would end in six days… August 17, 2006. Even back in 2006, I had developed a special eBay bidding tactic that I was using since 2002. Tired of multiple bids only to be sniped at the end, I knew what I was going to do. One bid, maximum bid, punched in with about 3 seconds to go. Only way to do it on eBay, playa!
Alas, there was one tiny problem…
The auction was ending at 9:57 AM.
What was the problem? At the time I had to resort to use the library for my online duties. You see, my brother temporarily took our computer to his work place to get it fixed. And smart phones didn’t exist back in August 2006. Nor did I have a laptop at that time.
The library doesn’t open until 10 AM. On the surface, a bad stroke of luck, for sure.
But… when all else fails, AuctionStealer prevails! Note: AuctionStealer is a free site that automatically inputs your max bid without you having to manually do it. The catch, however, is that it inputs that bid with about 11 seconds to go… giving the competition plenty of time to outdo your bid. Therefore, it’s a nice bonus but only a last resort kind of tool.
So I entered my max on AuctionStealer, and prayed for the best…
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH ARRIVES
-AUGUST 17, 2006-
I was in no rush to get to the library and see if I had won or not. Oddly, I kind of put the whole thing to the back of my mind. One part of me felt “My max was so high, there’s no doubt I won” while another part felt “Don’t get your hopes up, some crazier fanatic came by in the last four seconds…”
When I got to the library that day it was roughly 5 PM. I went to my email. Here we go…
GOD BLESS AUCTIONSTEALER –I won! No one placed a bid in the last minute. UNBELIEVABLE!
Best of all, I won it for real cheap too! My bid didn’t reach the seller’s reserve, but she decided to sell it to me for a bit more than my winning bid. The whole ordeal was nothing short of incredible. Something I can genuinely call “once in a lifetime.”
Thursday, August 17, 2006 — within seven months, I procured my HOLY GRAIL. Not bad, considering it took me over two YEARS to get my hands on Sega Saturn Magazine.
Here are some auction stats.
I was the 13th bid of the auction
The guy I beat out, his maximum was GBP 48.79
My winning bid did not meet her reserve, but she sold it to me for GBP 55
GBP 55 equated, at the time, to roughly US $104.32
My max was GBP 88.88 …. or US $168.11
The 3rd highest bidder had a ridiculously low GBP 24.50 max
Why is the last one important? Had the GBP 48.79 guy NOT come along, I would have won at around GBP 25.50. If that were the case, would the seller have agreed to sell it for GBP 30? Doubt it. Maybe when she saw I won at 50 GBP, instead of relisting it she said “What the hell”and gave it to me for55.
In other words, if it weren’t for the 2nd highest bidder, who knows what would have happen with the reserve thing and all? She might have relisted it and I’d have to play the whole game again! Then maybe the bidders I outbidded would re-adjust their bidding strategy, etc. Lots of crazy scenarios that I’m glad is a moot point!
MORE AUCTION TID-BITS
There were four different bidders in all, me included
13 total bids
Auction went into the last day with zero bids
The 3 guys bidded multiple times in the last 15 hours or so, each outbidding the other
Lucky for me, they didn’t understand the power of smart sniping
12 bids between 3 guys before AuctionStealer input my bid — the 13th bid of the auction
AuctionStealer helped me snipe it with 11 seconds to go, my 1st and only bid
It’s ruthless, but that’s eBay for ya.
I paid Rachel $183.19 the very next day. Shipping surprisingly didn’t come out to cost an arm and leg — she only charged me 40 GBP. 183 dollars for 45 issues, including the hard-to-find 1993 GOLD issue? Not bad at all! Considering I paid $225 for 29 Sega Saturn Magazine issues in late 2003, this was a real bargain. It came out to be only about four dollars an issue (!)
FINAL AUCTION CRAZINESS
Probably the most important thing why the auction ended so cheaply… her auction title was:
SUPER PLAY MAGAZINES ISSUE 1-45 (MISSING ISSUE 9)
I owe lots of thanks to issue 9. Had she own that issue, maybe her title would have been:
SUPER PLAY MAGAZINES ISSUE 1-45 SNES
The “SNES” part would definitely would have led to more auction views and “Hmmm, wow, I didn’t know such a thing existed! I’ll bid and try to win it!” type of mentality. Instead, it was left only to those who were actively typing in “Super Play Magazine” on eBay. Back in 2006, Super Play wasn’t nearly as popular as it would become years later within diehard SNES circles. So, thank you issue number nine
Last but not least… after I shared this story on a message board, one guy actually told me the following…
WOW! Believe it or not, I actually had that auction on my watch list, and I was going to bid an INSANE amount of money on it. It could have gotten UGLY. However, I simply forgot what time it was ending, and I missed out! Though, after reading your incredible tale, I must say I’m glad you won ‘em
Wow! I got so incredibly lucky with this whole shebang that I can’t believe it. It only drives the point home that there are certain “scores” in one’s collecting life that truly stand out, and stand the test of time. For me, the Super Play snag is definitely it.
48 HOURS AFTER THE AUCTION WIN
-AUGUST 19, 2006-
Ironically, James informed me some “bad news” on this day. Reading his message, I was smiling, knowing my willingness to think outside the box made his bad news a moot point.
I’ve got some bad news buddy. I’ve been talking to various couriers (4 different ones up until now) and it is just too expensive to ship these mags to you. The cheapest I can get quoted is £150 which is over $280 dollars and that doesn’t even include insurance!
Even shipping the slowest method (6 to 8 weeks without insurance) is $250.
I just don’t have that sort of money spare at the moment and it is just too much. I’ve tried every combination of normal shipping: by sea, air, specialist courier. I’ve even tried breaking it down to 5 magazine bundles but no joy.
I’m not sure what to do though as I feel bad about this (especially with your patience over this prolonged trade).
Let me know your thoughts. I’m really sorry about this.
Imagine had I lost the auction. Imagine if I was complacent and never bothered to look for them on eBay. Let this be a lesson to all: BE PROACTIVE! Take matters into your own hands rather than sitting idly by.
I excitedly replied to James telling him about my win. This also cancelled our trade… I now had Taromaru to auction! I made $147 off it (the manual was missing the cover thus why it went for so “cheap”). $90 of that went to fund the incredibly rare and expensive Super Famicom import, Rendering Render: R2.
Yet I still wanted to do a trade with James. After all, I had EGM #200 and he had Super Play #9 (the auction was 1-45, but #9 missing). How nicely did that work out! Super Play 9 arrived in late August. It was my first experience of the magazine, and it blew me away. Itwasthe Sega Saturn Magazine equivalent for the SNES. And I could hardly wait to read the rest.
MEANWHILE… TROUBLE BACK ON THE FARM
I hadn’t heard back from Rachel yet… eventually she emailed me, “Sorry I didn’t ship the mags til September 2nd.”
I was a bit peeved. I paid 8/18, she didn’t send til 9/2 and didn’t tell me earlier!? It’ll be here sooner or later, I thought. While her feedback was 100%… the number was only 19. Not exactly the most comforting number in the world. Gotta think positive, though, I kept telling myself.
ONE MONTH LATER — NOTHING TO SHOW FOR
-SEPTEMBER 19, 2006-
Sent her an email. Never got a reply. Another unanswered email, and another, and another. I was starting to fear the worst. Maybe this whole thing was simply too good to be true.
-SEPTEMBER 24, 2006-
I emailed telling her in advance I’d file a dispute with Paypal on 9/30… the last day for me to do so (45-day window from August 17). I told her it was nothing personal, but only wise for anyone in my shoes to do so.
-SEPTEMBER 26, 2006-
She emailed back and understood my position. Said she’ll check with her post office to confirm when the package was shipped. It had been only her 2nd email, and I felt better after this. All I ask for is keeping an open line of communication.
-SEPTEMBER 30, 2006-
No Super Play yet, so I filed the dispute. By October 20 if they do not arrive, I’d be forced to escalate the dispute to a claim, due to the 20 day window period. Silence on Rachel’s end.
ALMOST TWO MONTHS AND NOTHING
-OCTOBER 13, 2006-
I finally hear back from her on this day.
Hi, I have been to the post office and had them look at the records. They say because of an admin issue the mags did not leave there post office until the 19th of sept.
I have gone mad at them and have asked what can be done. They say that nothing can be done because I did not have it tracked.
I have asked them what sort of time are we looking at and they have said 4 to 5 weeks from the sent date which is now the 19th of sept.
So we are looking at the 16th/17th of October which I am very sorry about, as I said I did have a right go at them for this but all they could do was say sorry.
Once again I am so sorry about the delay.
Please let me know on the 16th/17th if you have had the mags.
Thanks in advance.
I was very upset. No tracking number, admin issue, etc. It all spelled doom to me.
Being proactive again I PM’ed James to update him, asking if he’d be willing to send me his friend’s issues, provided I pay the insane $300 something shipping. He said he’d look into it. At this point, I was so desperate to get my hands on a SUPER PLAY set that I didn’t care HOW!
DISPUTE ESCALATED TO A CLAIM
-OCTOBER 20, 2006-
Still no Super Play. On this day I was forced to escalate the dispute into a claim so PayPal could look into it and hopefully refund me $183.
At this point I wasn’t surprised, just frustrated. Though I wanted my money back if worst came to worst — I rammed the fact home with Rachel that I rather have the magazines. “Should they arrive in November or later this month I’d gladly refund you whatever PayPal decides to give me back” I’ve always told her.
KEEPING HOPE ALIVE — WINNING ISSUES 46 AND 47
Also on this day I won off eBay the final two issues of Super Play. Number 46 and 47 — keeping hope alive that Rachel would come through and that I would have a complete set numbers 1-47 including the spinoff Super Play Gold 1993 SNES Guide issue.
What took place four days later… was one for the ages…
-TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2006-
I was filling out an application to graduate studies when I heard the mail truck rumbling. I peered out the window. The mail lady got out and went to the back of the truck. I wasn’t expecting ANY OTHER PACKAGE, so I knew THIS HAD TO BE IT!
She rung the door bell. I opened the door faster than a 5-year-old ripping into a present on Christmas morning.
“Can you help me carry this big box? It’s too heavy and I have a bad back,” she said.
It was then and there I knew that the moment… which I waited about nine months for, with so many twists, turns and heartbreaks… had finally come.
Of course, there still had to be a little drama.
It’d only be fitting, you see.
“RECEIVED IN DAMAGED CONDITION”
… was stamped on the box. My heart stopped.
“Wait, it came in damaged condition?”
“I’m sorry, it did. The box was split open. They had to tape it back up, as you can see.”
“Everything is intact, though, right?”
“Oh sure. We can’t take anything…”Her voice trailed off.
And here I’m thinking, “Oh right, sure lady! I’ve heard the horror stories; you don’t gotta play me for a fool!”
But I kept my cool, signed the pink slip and brought the box inside for inspection. How bad was it? I was almost too scared to find out…
Amazingly, everything was intact and in better condition than I thought. The magazines were MINT! No missing pages, no cut-outs; that’s probably the hardest thing to find with old magazines since so many people take such bad care of them. I was lucky, much like with Sega Saturn Magazine, that the previous owner kept them in immaculate condition.
I went to Paypal and happily cancelled the claim. Rachel was honest after all. The box stated it was shipped September 19, as she stated earlier, and not the 2nd.
The nine-plus months of agony had a very happy ending.
Super Play is an awesome magazine. I love retro magazines — I dig the whole archive thing. It’s truly a diehard SNES fan’s companion. Not only is it well written but it focused a ton on the Japanese side of things. They highlighted plenty of Japanese-only games and reviewed even the obscure ones like Syonen Ashibe. At that time (October 2006) I recently started an “Obscure Super Famicom Impressions” thread that was quickly picking up steam and growing in popularity. I thought I was doing something not many before me did — shining the spotlight on all these lesser known Super Famicom imports. So it blew my mind to see Super Play had done it 13 years before (1993).
LIFE IS ALL ABOUT TIMING…
After sharing my story on a gaming forum, one guy posted he was watching the same auction. He was going to bid an astronomical amount but he simply forgot what time it ended! Had he remembered, this “Holy Grail” might not even be in my collection today, or at the very least, I would have paid a LOT more. It made me appreciate my Super Play win even more. So much of life is being in the right place at the right time!
ON THE HOUSE???
The funny thing is, people ask me when the box arrived what did the postage state. The reason they asked was they didn’t understand how Rachel charged 40 GBP when James claimed it would be far too expensive to ship, at around US $280… so a few folks mentioned, “It doesn’t quite add up.”
She charged me only 40 GBP for shipping, so 55 (winning bid) plus 40 (S&H on her terms) was 95 GBP total, or about $183.19 US at the time. Well… I checked the box after people asked me what the shipping really was… it was….
So I guess she only made 9 GBP profit? Wow. She never asked me to repay her or even brought it up. I guess after all the drama I went through, it was on the house.
I’m a proud owner of the complete SUPER PLAY legacy. I consider this a personal Holy Grail in many ways. I can’t believe what this blasted publication made me endure, but honestly, in the end it was all worth it. It’s an incredible magazine I’m lucky enough to have acquired for so cheap and in such mint condition. Being a diehard SNES fan, this is easily the crowned jewel of my collection. I love my game collection, sure, but man, there’s nothing quite like SUPER PLAY. One of my favorite things to do is to pick a game off my shelf, play it for the very first time, form my own impressions and THEN check out what the ole Super Play boys thought of said game. I love comparing my thoughts to that of theirs — it’s all part of the fun.
As for James, we haven’t spoke since late October 2006. In 2007, the Sega board we used to post at went under some changes and I don’t think he even re-registered. He was slipping away toward the end of the old board anyway. The last word he had with me, he congratulated me on finally receiving the magazines. Wherever he is out there, I hope he’s doing well.
As for Rachel, after I cancelled the claim I left her positive feedback. Likewise. She apologized and told me the magazines belonged to her husband of many years. He obviously took very excellent care of them which I greatly appreciate.
It blows my mind that I’m coming up on the 10 year anniversary since these issues arrived — October 24, 2016. I look back with a real deep fondness. I remember reading all 48 Super Play issues cover to cover from Halloween through Christmas that year of 2006. It was a truly glorious time and I’m very nostalgic looking back at that time. It also coincided with my ongoing Obscure Super Famicom Impressions topic that I posted at several gaming boards, which led to the birth or RVGFanatic.com in January of 2007. It’s nuts to think it’s almost been 10 bloody years. Super Play Magazine has obviously grown in popularity and stature since 2006. It’s no longer obscure like it once was, and as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to find these vintage issues for a relatively good price and in solid condition. It makes me all the more grateful for such an epic eBay win nearly 10 years ago.
10 years later and I still occasionally read Super Play from time to time. I especially like to read them in the late Fall and early Winter seasons, as it takes me right back to late 2006 each and every single time. Shoot, all this talk of Super Play makes me want to delve right back in. Excuse me — I’ve got some reading to do now…