Saturnday: Ranking the Sega Saturn Choice Cuts By Trailer Quality

Welcome to Saturnday, a new column about the Sega Saturn appearing on Saturdays. You get it!

The Sega Saturn Choice Cuts was a demo disc packaged with new console units in 1995, the first year of its release in the US. When I received my Sega Saturn for my birthday (July 1, start planning your gift giving now), I also received Virtua Fighter (bundled with the console) and Panzer Dragoon. Despite owning these two mid-90s gems, my Choice Cuts demo disc got a lot of play.

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Credit to Generation 16 for the upload of Choice Cuts

Choice Cuts is a half hour of pure mid-90s marketing bliss for Sega’s first foray into 32-bit console production. It begins with a general trailer, featuring a powerful genie man (???) heralding the almost-new-millennium (lol), followed by the incredible introduction of a guy I’m going to call Kip.

Kip looks and acts like a guy Cher Horowitz is desperately trying to keep away from Tai. Kip’s the everyman for 1995. The hat, the striped t-shirt, the Chucks with ska shorts. He games! Doesn’t everyone, brah? Kip introduces us to world of “revolutionary sports and arcade gameplay” and “brand new 3D experiences” we’ve never seen before. Sports and arcade gameplay, huh? That US marketing machine sure does know what Clockwork Knight is!

I love Sega Saturn Choice Cuts. The grim industrial menu music, the “graphic design is my passion” backgrounds, the guitar riff when you move the menu cursor. It’s all great. I wanted to rank the games on the disc in order of how much their trailers made me want to play the game.

12) Black Fire

Black Fire appears to be a game, based on its trailer, where you sit in a mostly stationary cockpit and wait for planes to image flicker into existence and shoot them before they fly into you. It looks bad. The trailer song is bad. The texture pop-in is game-breaking. I don’t understand this game and I don’t believe it’s a “choice cut” of the original Saturn lineup.

But how was the actual game?

Bad, apparently. I never played it but I’ve also never met anyone who has.

11) Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach Golf Links asks the question: what if you could manipulate a Mortal Kombat model of famous golfer Craig Stadler in a graphical interface powered by what appears to be Microsoft Excel? This trailer doesn’t exactly get me pumped to play a round of The King’s Game. Not even the promo music used during commercial breaks on ESPN2’s billiards coverage saves this sorry trailer. Sorry, Craig.

But how was the actual game?

It’s a perfectly fine facsimile of golf in 1995. It’s ugly and laggy but it was fine. My dad played it a lot.

10) VR Virtua Racing

Virtua Racing is the racing equivalent of Virtua Fighter in the sense that it was originally an early-90s arcade game meant to test their Model 1 graphics. This Saturn port got a pretty ho-hum trailer especially compared to its Daytona USA counterpart earlier in the list. It’s unmemorable at best.

But how was the actual game?

Eh, it was fine. There’s very little heft to the racing itself and even fewer modes to try. Replayability was in the toilet due to its 1:1 arcade port. Still, its extremely low-poly visuals are charming even in 2019.

9) Bug!

Did you know that the Sega Saturn launched without a Sonic game? That seems impossible, right? That left the door open to other teams to create mascot-based games that could be the face of Saturn. Realtime Associates made Bug!, a US-developed launch title for the Saturn in the States. Did the Choice Cuts trailer do it right? Not really! Not only does the trailer oscillate between an old UI removed upon release and its release UI, but at several moments the protagonist (Bug) completely disappears during its invincibility frames. It’s not great!

But how was the actual game?

Underrated! Though Bug’s voice acting could be grating, it paved the way for 2.5D games like Yoshi’s Crafted WorldBug!‘s sequel, Bug Too!, is not great. Bug didn’t become Sega’s new mascot.

8) NHL All-Star Hockey

This trailer looks terrible because the actual game looks terrible. The team at Sega of America wanted to take its excellent Genesis games and translate them to 3D, but it looked like barf then and it looks like turbo barf now. This trailer is basically fine because it plainly displays NHL All-Star Hockey precisely as it is. It loses points because not a single goal is scored in the trailer. Yikes.

But how was the actual game?

Not exactly bursting with features and definitely lacking in the looks department, NHL All-Star Hockey was a rushed first pass at 32-bit hockey.

7) Solar Eclipse

Metal, FMV, and ship to ship combat? Hell right. They don’t do nearly enough to sell Solar Eclipse‘s cheesy full motion video cutscenes, which hurts the trailer. Doesn’t help that the game is butt ugly in any era.

But how was the actual game?

Pretty not great! But guess what? It was developed by Crystal Dynamics, makers of the acclaimed Tomb Raider reboots and the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, kids.

6) Panzer Dragoon

This trailer has the widest conveyed vibe to actual vibe ratio of the bunch, which hurts it a lot. Panzer Dragoon is an impenetrable, strange experience. It’s wild that it even exists and no 60-second promo could do it justice. It does show a few great set pieces from the game, including the canal chase and the desert worm fight.

But how was the actual game?

Panzer Dragoon rules. If you missed it the first time around, the remaster coming for Switch should be a treat. Zwei and Saga next, please.

5) Clockwork Knight

This 2D platformer gets a lively trailer with a fitting song, though it doesn’t properly convey the totally bonkers soundtrack of the actual game. Though the trailer earns a ton of points by showing a lot of its environments, which range from kid’s bedrooms to kitchens to attics, it loses some points by inexplicably showing you the final boss battle. It’s not like Clockwork Knight is a narrative masterwork, but this is still an odd inclusion.

But how was the actual game?

Pretty good! It’s clunky and floaty but it had so many good ideas going on it was easy to ignore these things. Definitely better than Bug!

4) Myst

The Saturn port of the PC classic Myst gets a New Age jazz trailer like you walked into a dentist’s office that also sells healing crystals. In other words, it kind of nails the Myst vibe. It doesn’t show too much of the game, but enough to make me forget that no one should ever play a point and click adventure game with a controller.

But how was the actual game?

It’s a classic for a reason! I don’t think the puzzle design really holds up but the environments and Myst aesthetic are just so strong. I’d play it where you can use a mouse, though.

3) Worldwide Soccer

The trailer for Worldwide Soccer actually kind of whips. The butt rock is solid and showing off the replay system was smart because good replays in sports games were super rare at the time. Also, those graphics are honestly pretty great for 1995. A solid piece of marketing.

But how was the actual game?

It was fine. Feature-light and totally lacking by today’s standards, but for arcade soccer in 1995, this was fine.

 

2) Virtua Fighter

Though the trailer loses a couple points for being poorly cut and bizarrely-paced, the percussive song and emphasis on grappling moves perfectly highlight Virtua Fighter‘s core competencies. I really love those sparse backgrounds, too. It allows focus on the characters and combat, both extremely strong suits for the series.

But how was the actual game?

A total classic, of course. Its superior sequel, Virtua Fighter 2, was already out in arcades by the time the Saturn version of Virtua Fighter came out. There were actually three Virtua Fighter releases on Saturn in 1995. This was followed by Remix, which is just a reskin of Virtua Fighter with better textures and some extra content. The Saturn release of Virtua Fighter 2 came out at the end of the year. No other 3D fighting game feels like Virtua Fighter, and that’s mighty impressive.

1) Daytona USA

This trailer bangs. It’s got everything. Pit crews, butt rock, cool mountain environments, and speed. My god, the speed. No other racing game in 1995 felt as fast as Daytona USA. This trailer nails that point and stands tall as the most compelling game in Choice Cuts.

But how was the actual game?

Honestly? Disappointing. It had three tracks, no major additions from the arcade version, and the most painfully infectious track music ever. Good luck getting DAYTONAAAAAAAAAAAAAA LET’S GO AWAY out of your head. At least the frame rate was high.

The Real Winner of Sega Saturn Choice Cuts

It’s obviously this very proud dad.

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John Warren

I miss Texas sometimes. Wheelchair person. Professional wrestling is humanity's greatest achievement. He/his, y'all.

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