Back in March I was inspired by a Caddicarus video on YouTube to have a look at a classic PlayStation demo disc. I enjoyed it and decided that I would have a go at doing it again down the line. However, I’ve decided to switch consoles and have a look at a SEGA Saturn demo disc due to recently having my Saturn returned to me by my sister. I had bequeathed my Saturn to her so that she would have something to do during lockdown, seeing as we both live on our lonesome (don’t worry, the hand-off was according to social distancing guidelines, and the Saturn itself had been cleaned). She has since gone and bought herself a Nintendo Switch though, so she didn’t need the Saturn anymore and returned it to me. Whilst putting away my collection, I noticed a demo disc called SEGA Saturn Preview Volume 1 and decided to give it a look-see.
Like with my last Demo Disc Retrospective, I will be looking at the quality of the demo disc itself (time given to play, whether the games themselves are playable, how far along the games are in their development cycle, etc.), as well as deciding whether the demos would actually make me want to buy the games they are advertising (which is ultimately what a demo disc’s job is). SEGA Saturn Preview Volume 1 was packed in with the console itself in parts of Europe, mostly France, and as such it is the equivalent to the demo 1 disc that came with the original PlayStation. I don’t think it’s quite as impressive as that particular disc because it doesn’t include the (for the time) mesmerising T-Rex and Manta Ray demos, mainly because that was the sort of 3D the Saturn wasn’t really cut out for.
The disc itself has a nice enough menu setup, and if you leave the screen without selecting anything, a little cutscene will play that looks good for the time. In a nice touch, you can view all of the controls for each game on the menu screen before you actually enter the game itself, which certainly makes tackling each game a fair bit easier, especially as sometimes the controls for the game aren’t actually shown when you boot up a demo.
We open up the disc with a game from Acclaim, which the menu describes as a “blasting game”, which seems to be the go-to description for any game that involves shooting. We are greeted to a classic fuzzy Saturn 3D intro to start us off as, bless its heart, such a thing was never really the console’s strong suit due to everyone always struggling with the complicated two-processor setup within. The game itself is a lot like Doom/Duke Nukem 3D in that it’s a first-person shooter where you explore a map taking out baddies and trying to find the item you need so you can advance to the next part of the level. Facehuggers and even actual Xenomorphs will try to take you apart, entrails by entrails, as you make your way through foreboding corridors. You only get five minutes to play until the demo kicks you out, but that’s enough to give you an idea of what the game is all about.
Would I Buy It?
I think so, based off this, yeah, even though it might be a tad too scary for my cowardly tastes. It succeeds in creating an atmospheric and unnerving world, and the monsters do look scary, even though they are a bit fuzzy around the edges. For 1996 on a fifth gen console, it looks alright, and I thought it played well, even if the Saturn pad has never been especially good at first-person shooters due to the rubbish shoulder buttons and the six face buttons just being in a bit of an awkward layout for shooting stuff comfortably.
We follow Alien Trilogy with Tomb Raider from Core Design. Sadly, this is what’s known as an “auto-demo”, which means you don’t actually get to play it yourself and instead have to watch someone else play the game. Graphically, the game looks pretty rough at this stage, even for the mid 90s, but the gameplay is well represented, and the demo shows you everything from combat to the swimming sections. It’s a pretty impressive demo from a gameplay perspective.
Would I Buy It?
Yeah, I think so. Graphical ugliness aside, this made the game look all kinds of fun to play and was a pretty effective advertising tool.
Next on the docket is Exhumed from Lobotomy Software Inc. This demo is also just video footage and would appear to be another “blasting game” (i.e. FPS) with an Egyptian theme. The footage we get to see is pretty short and mostly seems to be a display of the explosive weaponry on offer. The explosions look good at least.
Would I Buy It?
Based solely off this, I’d probably have to say no, mainly because we just didn’t get to see enough of it. I’d maybe keep my eye out for it if it was set to be on another demo disc or something, but that’s about it. The best thing I can say in its favour is that it looked, from the brief glimpses we got, that it was at least on par with FPSs you’d get on the PC from the same era.
Loaded is a game from Gremlin Interactive, which tends to set the warning alarms off for me as a lot of the games they made tended to be hot garbage. We get a pretty good video intro and then get shown a character selection screen where we can only select one of six characters. That’s one heck of a tease right there. This one is a top-down third-person shooter where you run around shooting everything in sight. Along with your standard weapon, you can also release a gigantic bomb that destroys everything on the screen, which can be quite a lot seeing as quite a bit of the scenery can be destroyed too. The gameplay feels like it could be fun, but sadly, the graphics let it down due to it being far too easy for characters to blend into the background along with their weapon attacks, which makes accurate dodging and shooting back very difficult. It really feels like there could be a lot of good action here, but the blurry visuals make the game unpleasant to play.
Would I Buy It?
Not based off of this, no. If another demo came out where the visuals had been improved so that you could actually see what you and the enemies were doing, then I would give it a second chance.
NHL Powerplay ‘96
We finally get a break from shooting people to shooting pucks instead in the form of NHL Powerplay ’96 from Virgin Interactive. You get to play five minutes of a game between New York and Colorado, but unfortunately, any Rangers will be disappointed as you will only be able to play as the other team. There’s no commentary, and you just get the crowd noise, but that sounds okay, and you get the appropriate thuds when you check people. The controls took a bit to get used to, which meant I was penned in quite a lot at first, but eventually, I was able to get into the opposing team’s third and grind out a dull 0-0, which often seems to happen to me when I play these sorts of games. The game isn’t amazing to play or anything like that, but it’s serviceable hockey action, and the graphics aren’t bad for an early fifth gen game either. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.
Would I Buy It?
If I saw it discounted in a bargain bin, then I might consider it, but I doubt I’d buy it brand new at full price. It’s not a bad game, but it didn’t really grip me either.
Keio Flying Squadron 2
We close out the disc with a frankly bonkers action-adventure 2DpPlatformer in the form of Keio Flying Squadron 2. This game is VERY Japanese but in all the ways I like as we open up with an animated sequence where huts get blown asunder as it seems like numerous factions are fighting over who gets to have some special orbs. You play as someone who seems to be a Playboy Bunny on her day off, and you have to work your way through an almost Rayman-like level. It’s bright, colourful and positively off its noggin, and I really enjoyed it! You only get to play one level, but it feels like it’s right up my street.
Would I Buy It?
If it wasn’t so disgustingly expensive, then I would have bought it already, but you’re looking at about £300 for a PAL version of the game, which goes beyond eye-watering to eye-flooding. It’s a shame as this seems like oodles of wacky Japanese fun, and I would have loved to play it more. Oh well, that’s what happens with this sort of stuff sometimes, I guess.
And that’s all for SEGA Saturn Preview Volume 1! It’s not a bad disc or anything, but I can’t help but think that you’d want a bit more with a pack-in demo disc. Really, the whole point of SEGA Saturn Preview Volume 1 is that it’s supposed to convince a new adopter to part with some more cash so that they will start building up a collection for the console they’ve just bought. I know comparing the Saturn to the PlayStation isn’t really a fair fight because Sony’s machine was made with 3D in mind when SEGA’s wasn’t, but I still remember pretty much everything from that demo 1 disc that came with the PlayStation, and it was a fantastic introduction to the console for a newcomer that immediately made me want to buy loads more games, whereas SEGA Saturn Preview Volume 1 really only got me excited a couple of times. It seems to me like it would have made more sense to put more on the disc to really sell the heck out of the console, and the fact they didn’t feels like a missed opportunity.