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Saturn is the sixth planet :)

posted on June 1st, 2007 by christian

Let’s do some Saturn speculation. The original Panzer Dragoon was just released on Gametap this week. After months of waiting to get my hands on this classic, I fired the baby up, only to watch as it ran at a cripplingly slow, unplayable framerate. Now my machine isn’t the beefiest thing on the block, but it can still run a good deal of modern games at above minimum specs. If it can do Half Life 2 at 1024, why the hell not Panzer Dragoon?

The basic answer is simple; the game’s recommended specs ask for 512 megs of RAM, 128 meg card, and a CPU better than 2.0 Ghz (My machine fulfills two of those three criteria). But why such ridiculous specs for such an old game? It was the first of many clues, and after putting the pieces together, I can safely say that Gametap is in fact emulating the Sega Saturn.

Myself and at least a few others speculated on this issue when Saturn games were first announced for the service. Every remaining Saturn fan knows that the console is the nemesis of the emulation community, thanks to its crazy multi-CPU architecture. While a good PC emulator finally exists with the newer versions of SSF, Sega themselves have been rather quiet all these years. I know they bought out the GiriGiri project, and some other gobbley-gook, but that’s about it. Because of the confusion, many thought that Gametap would simply release the handful of Saturn games that received PC ports and be done with it.

While that may still be the case, at this point it doesn’t seem plausible.The specs for Panzer Dragoon aren’t just high; they’re quite similar to the requirements for running SSF at good speeds. They’re also much greater than the specs for this little gem. Furthermore, if my studies of emulation are any clue, most emulators rely on the CPU rather than your video card, which is quite the opposite of most PC games. That would explain why my Athlon 2500+ can barely run the game. Finally, exiting the game brings up a custom Gametap options menu, the same that comes up in their (poor) Dreamcast emulator.

So what does this all mean? Nothing at the moment, aside from the fact that I can’t play it at all. But if my speculation is correct, then the future holds the possibility of many more games coming our way. If Panzer Dragoon Saga became available for all to play, I’m not quite sure what the gaming community would do. And considering the Gametap service already features several Japanese Genesis releases, there is precedent for the possibility of seeing some Saturn games that never reached our shores.

Now who knows where to find a cheap socket A CPU around these Internets?

4 Comments

  1. jay said on June 1, 2007:

    I couldn’t get my PC to run GiriGiri at a decent rate when I tried a while back. Shining Force 3 and I suppose other RPG are fine, but if there’s one sure way to ruin Radiant Silvergun, it’s by playing it at 60% speed with a keyboard.

    If Gametap offered a lot of titles I’d contemplate using it, then realize my PC sucks.

  2. Matt said on June 1, 2007:

    This probably cancels out any hopes of getting Saturn games to run on Wii. Daaaaaaaaaamn.

  3. chris said on June 1, 2007:

    Part of the problem is that the Saturn just hasn’t been emulated very well anywhere. There doesn’t seem to be enough push for development of a really stable and reliable emulator (vs PSX and N64, which are pretty good). Even SSF isn’t particularly reliable or fast (I tried running my Saturn games on it before I went for an actual Saturn). So fan translations are also unlikely for a while for the Saturn too. Hopefully commercial demand will bring decent emulation in the form of stuff like Gametap.

  4. christian said on June 2, 2007:

    Interesting post Christ. I’ve heard people swear that SSF will run some games as well or better as the Saturn – if you’ve got 3 Ghz or processing power and gobs of RAM. Even if that’s the case, its better to have something work well for a monster rig than not to work well. Still, you’re right in that if there were more demand, I’m sure more efficient software would be written. Seems that in everything it does, the Saturn gets left behind :(

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