Now, that Gamerankings.com has been defunct for years. We don’t really have a good data-base of Sega Saturn critical scores for its games out there. Metacritic, is relatively new and doesn’t really track games for the system.
So, finding a source to make this list was more difficult than previous top fives that we have made, as I had go old school, literally.
For this article I used EGM’s (Fall 1998) Video Game Buyer’s magazine as the reference. I could have used the Editor’s top picks for the system in the magazine, but instead I went to their informative review data base (which kept track of all of their review scores for the system’s games) at the end of the magazine.
The games here are ranked on their actual numerical score value from the four reviewers who, at the time, reviewed the listed titles.
The Sega Saturn and JRPGs
The Sega Saturn was not home to Square Soft’s golden era of games, but it had it’s own great set of titles. Keep in mind that the only games listed here are JRPGs released in the US. This eliminates great titles such as “Grandia” (which was later ported to the PlayStation) from contention.
5. Albert’s Odyssey – 8.0 8.0 9.0 8.0 (Total Rating: 33.0)
Working Design’s was a JRPG publishing powerhouse during the 1990’s decade. It had a publishing run in the Sega Saturn that lasted a few years, before jumping ship to Sony’s waters. One of its best Sega Saturn RPGs was the turn-based, story driven adventure that was Albert’s Odyssey.
I suspect that given the Saturn’s abysmal sales, and thus consequently, Albert’s Odyssey’s own struggles, not many played the game. Those that did, however, only have positive things to say about it.
EGM loved the game’s Graphics, storyline and fantastic soundtrack. Albert’s Odyssey is a game that deserves a “remaster/port” to newer consoles, as a whole generation of JRPG lovers regrettably missed on playing it.
4. Dark Savior – 8.5 8.5 8.5 8.0 (Total Rating: 33.5)
As an Action-Adventure/RPG hybrid, Dark Savior was brilliant. Made by the same team that brought us the awesome (but difficult to control), LandStalker (Genesis/Megadrive), Dark Savior provided an interesting, and equally engrossing game.
Perhaps due to the frustrating nature of some of The LandStalker’s challenges, Dark Savior was designed as an easy game, which was a focal point of the critics that disliked the game at the time. Clearly, EGM was impressed though.
Dark Savior’s multiple story branches, item system, and blend of puzzle, platforming, and fighting gameplay styles made it a unique game on the market back in 1996.
The game was one of the Saturn’s early 3-D showings (though characters were 2-D sprites), and it was greatly praised for its visual’s on the system.
3. Shinning Force III – Scores: 9.0 8.5 9.0 9.0 (Total Rating: 35.5)
Shining Force was a strange title, mainly because it was incomplete on the US and Europe. In America, we only received ‘Scenario 1’, and never the final two Scenarios (which were released in Japan).
Despite being an incomplete work, the game game was widely praised as one of the great turn-based tactical RPGs ever made. The game combined traditional Strategy Turn-based combat, with actual exploration while not fighting battles. In that sense, Shining Force III was played like a traditional Final Fantasy, rather than just a simple Strategy-RPG.
Shinning Force was praised for its deep gameplay, beautiful visuals, amazing music (Motoi Sakuraba of Star Ocean, Dark Souls, and Tales fame composed it) and engrossing tale. It was one of the Sega Saturn’s finest moments, and one of the biggest tragedies about the system was that we never received remaining two scenarios.
2. Dragon Force – Scores:9.5 9.5 9.0 8.0 (Total Rating: 36.0)
Asked players who played Dragon Force, and many will say that it is the greatest Tactical-RPG ever. It is perhaps, on this regard (the tactical RPG genre), the only match for Squaresoft’s brilliant Final Fantasy Tactics.
This Sega developed, but Working Design’s published game featured 8 (one for each monarch) different storylines for players to follow through. Every path was equally engrossing with critics praising the games over all focus on story telling as one of its greatest assets.
The game’s military battles and tight gameplay also received praise from critics, calling these battles the “Most awe-inspiring” seen within a video game at the time. The love for Dragon Force did not come just from EGM, but from critics in other publications as well.
If you own a Sega Saturn, Dragon Force is a must play, though the same can be said for every game on this list, and finding them on ebay/amazon will be an undertaking that will likely cost you over $2,ooo.
But hey! Money was made to be spent, right?…Right?
1. Panzer Dragoon Saga – Scores: 9.5 9.5 9.5 10 (Total Rating: ( Total Rating: 38.5)
Ah, Panzer Dragoon Saga! The greatest J-RPG that almost no one has ever played. Finding someone who has played this game is as hard as finding an unicorn. But somehow, the game earned a reputation for being Sega’s answer to Final Fantasy VII, though it was a vastly different RPG.
Plagued by development difficulties and a dying system in the Sega Saturn, Panzer Dragoon Saga did not enjoy a good marketing campaign, and not enough copies were printed. A working copy will cost you as much as an used car today.
All that said, Panzer Dragoon Saga is generally recognized not only as the greatest JRPG on the Sega Saturn, but its greatest game, period. Only the existence of Ocarina of Time (and perhaps, Metal Gear Solid) kept PDS from winning a large number of Game of the Year Award coronations in 1998.
The game featured some of the most impressive 3-D graphics in the era (on a system not known for polygonal prowess), an incredible storyline, fresh battle system, and a haunting soundtrack. It was clear from all of the critical praise that the game received, that Team Andromeda (the developers) had crafted a timeless masterpiece.
Some critics even claimed that it was better than Square’s magnum opus. Panzer Dragoon Saga has retained its legendary status to this day, even if it only enjoyed a small fraction of the success that Square’s Role-Playing Games on the rival PlayStation console enjoyed.
One Final Note on These Top Sega Saturn RPGs
Sega has the potential to release what would become one of the most wanted, and probably, best collections of all time, if it were to consider releasing these titles within a single “Sega Hits: Role-Playing Collection” of sorts.
It is a shame that many (if not all) of these games never had the proper chance to reach a wider audience, and while Panzer Dragoon Saga’s original source code has been lost, emulation potentially bring this game back to life for the millions of JRPG players that missed on it while playing on the more popular PlayStation on the late 1990s.
Here is to hope!
Agree with the author? Couldn’t disagree more and are frothing at the mouth to tell him? Leave a comment here, on Facebook or send an email and make sure to follow Never Ending Realm on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!