Sega Saturn

The Sega Saturn - Sega's finest moment?

Sega's 32-bit marvel deserved to do so much better than it actually did. The good thing is, it could have done even worse if the rumoured name for the console had actually stuck until release... But I have to ask, if they had named it the "Gigadrive", would the Dreamcast have been known as the "Teradrive" instead?

Anyway, the Saturn was a remarkable console with remarkable games. I will always remember the first time I saw the menu system... I was impressed at the ability to play Graphics CDs (CD&G), and the options to alter the pitch of audio CDs, mute vocals etc made me realise the potential of this console for the budding Karaoke star... or indeed to start your own Karaoke-for-hire business.

It's at this point that home consoles began to have "save games", for which you needed a memory card. In the past, saves had been kept on the cartridge (either Non-volatile RAM or battery-powered RAM), or, for computers, on tape and disc. With the dawn of the Playstation and Saturn, it became necessary to save games via some kind of expandable memory as the games came on CDs. Whilst the Playstation adopted the policy of Memory Cards, the Saturn came with memory built in. However, it wasn't much, therefore expansion cartridges became available that plugged in the back.

Fighter's Megamix

The reasons behind moving to CD-based media are easy to see... CDs are cheap to produce (certainly a lot cheaper than cartridges), relatively hard-wearing (not as hard-wearing as cartridges, obviously), and they held up to 700Mb (remember how the Megadrive cartridges used to shout out about how they were a "24 Mega Cartridge"?), so it was easy to see why everybody was keen to move towards CD-based media rather than (comparatively) expensive chips and circuit boards.

What went wrong for Sega and this pretty much faultless console, then? To be honest, nobody really knows, and everybody looks back to Sega's Saturn and Dreamcast as the two consoles that should have done better. They had everything going for them, but at this stage, the 32-bits war was won by the Playstation and Sony's Publicity machine.

In my opinion, the inferior console won out. That's not to say that wasn't a classic in its own right, though. But that's for it's own article.