Sega Saturn

Manufacturer: Sega
Predecessor: -
Successor: Dreamcast
Release Date: 21/11/1994
Discontinued Date: 31/12/1999
Additional Sizes: -
Display Palette: 16.7 million colors
Initial Price: JP¥44,800 | US$399 | UK£399.99
Supported Game Media:

The (not so happy) History of Sega Saturn

Sega Saturn is a home video game console that was released in Japan on November 22, 1994, and in North America on May 11, 1995, as well as in Europe on July 8, 1995. As the successor to the successful Sega Genesis, it was part of the fifth generation of video game consoles. In addition to its dual-CPU architecture and eight processors, Saturn uses CD-ROMs for its games, which include portings of arcade games as well as originals.

Sega's groundbreaking 3D Model 1 arcade hardware debuted in 1992, the same year Sega Saturn was developed. With the introduction of the PlayStation in 1994, Sega added another video display processor to better compete with Sony's upcoming PlayStation. Saturn was designed around a new CPU developed by the Japanese electronics company Hitachi. A deputy general manager of Sega's research and development, Hideki Sato, supervised the Saturn development. Hideki Okamura, the project manager for Saturn, explained that the project began two years before it was showcased at the Tokyo Toy Show in June 1994; the Saturn name was initially only a codename. But, it was cool, so they used it as the main name after all.

However, 16-bit games and consoles continued to represent 64% of the video game market in 1995 despite the launch of the PlayStation and Saturn. Genesis' popularity was underestimated by Sega, and its inventory was insufficient to meet demand. Although Sega dominated the U.S. video game market in 1995 with 43% of the dollar share and sold more than 2 million Genesis systems, Kalinske estimated that "we could have sold another 300,000 Genesis systems during November/December." Based on the relative performance of Saturn and Genesis in Japan, Nakayama chose to focus on Saturn over Genesis, contributing significantly to the miscalculation. So, in the United States, where Sega Saturn was launched four months earlier than expected, Sega Saturn failed to sell in large numbers, regardless of how successful it was in Japan.


  • Media : CD-ROM, CD+G, CD+EG, Video CD, Mini CD, Photo CD, e-book

  • CPU: 2× Hitachi SH-2 @ 28.6 MHz

  • Memory: 2 MB RAM, 1.5 MB VRAM, 512 KB sound RAM, expandable with Extended RAM Cartridge

  • Storage: Internal RAM, cartridge

  • Graphics: VDP1 & VDP2 video display processors

  • Sound: Yamaha YMF292

  • Online services: Sega NetLink

Sega Saturn Controller

In the original Saturn, two controller ports can be found on the front. Rather than using the traditional 9-pin Genesis controller ports, Sega chose to use larger metal ones. With the Sega Saturn Multi-tap, up to six controllers could be plugged in at once. In addition, Saturn works with Genesis controllers too; the controller plugs into both systems.

Sega Saturn Games

Nights into Dreams, Panzer Dragoon, and Virtua Fighter are three of Saturn's most well-regarded games, however, its reputation is mixed because of their complicated hardware design and lack of third-party support. During the development of the system and after its discontinuation, Sega's management has been criticized.

Sega's arcade ports provide the majority of Saturn's library, including Daytona USA, The House of the Dead, Last Bronx, Sega Rally Championship, Virtua Cop, Virtua Fighter, and Virtual-On. In addition to Darkstalkers 3, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, and Street Fighter Alpha 3, Saturn ports featured faithful recreations of their arcade counterparts. Sega AM2's Fighters Megamix combines characters from Fighting Vipers and Virtua Fighter to positive reviews; Saturn exclusives include Panzer Dragoon Saga, Dragon Force, and Guardian Heroes. 

No Soni(c), no honey

The Sega Technical Institute (STI) in the United States was tasked by Sega with developing Sonic the Hedgehog's first fully 3D entry at the same time as Sonic Team was working on Nights into Dreams. After several prototypes of hardware for other platforms were discarded (including the 32X), Sonic X-treme was re-developed for Saturn, featuring a fisheye lens camera that rotated levels with Sonic. To meet their December 1996 deadline, the developers worked 16 to 20 hours a day after Nakayama ordered the game to be reworked around the engine used for boss battles. Following the ultimatum of Nights programmer Yuji Naka, Stolar revoked STI's access to Sonic Team's Nights into Dreams engine. Sonic X-Treme was canceled in early 1997 after programmer Ofer Alon resigned and designers Chris Senn and Chris Coffin became ill. Instead of working on a Saturn game, Sonic Adventure was developed for Dreamcast. As a result of changes in management at Sega of America, STI was disbanded in 1996. It has been speculated that a completed X-treme may have had an impact on the market, as said by journalists and fans. 

Sonic X-treme was canceled, so Saturn didn't get an exclusive Sonic game—instead, it got an enhanced version of Sonic 3D Blast, a compilation game called Sonic Jam, and a racing game called Sonic R.