I’ve always considered the Sega Saturn to be my “Premium Console” to collect games for. This is mainly due to two factors:
- North American Sega Saturn games are ridiculously expensive
- North American Sega Saturn games are very difficult to find
Those two distinct and important reasons mean finding a Saturn game out and about can be a challenge all on it’s own. Combining it with being a game worthwhile, as well as a game you can afford, makes it near impossible to find Saturn games, no matter where you look.
eBay, online auctions, and retro game stores are the places to go if you need to find something fast. Sadly, though, these premium services tend to be more expensive than need be. There is a local game store where I live that routinely has rare and hard to find games for sale, including Saturn games. However, there is such a mark-up on these games I consistently have to pass on purchasing. Despite this, the games still sell for what I would call an inflated price.
So what are you to do in you want to collect Sega Saturn games?
You’ve got a couple options. Look back up to the beginning of this post when I listed two things that hinder my Saturn collecting. There is something in common with each of those statements. “North American Sega Saturn games”.
Talk to a Saturn collector and eventually the topic will shift to prices of Japanese games being incredibly lower than the North America counterpart. For example, you could pay around $10-$15 for a Japanese copy of Sega’s action RPG game Shining Wisdom. Or you could pay $300 for a North American version. The drastic difference in dollars is due to demand: the North American market for Saturn games was very low, while the market in Japan was high. The Saturn sold much, much better in Japan, meaning there were more games produced and shipped to the island nation than there were to the United States. Scarcity and demand drive up value, hence the high price in North America. But higher supply in Japan and less demand means the prices stay low. Economy 101, right?
There is one inherent problem with Japanese Saturn games though… they are Japanese. Meaning they are usually written in Japanese. Unless you can speak Japanese you are more than likely not going to be able to fully enjoy your Japanese Saturn game. For this reason, having the North American version is obviously more desirable for native English speakers. But DAMN, $300! And that’s just one example. There are dozens of other examples of stupidly expensive NTSC Saturn games.
So what do we have so far? Saturn games are expensive. Saturn games are hard to find. Japanese Saturn games are in Japanese. With these in mind you might be wondering why I would even want to collect Saturn games anyway. The answer is kind of simple and basic:
No matter what game it is, if I see a Saturn case on a shelf somewhere, I’m looking at it. The North American Saturn games all came in the long plastic cases. You know, the ones no one really asked for, the size of VHS tapes, but contained only a CD?
Yeah, those! If I see one of those bad boys on a shelf, I’m taking a look and hoping I found Magic Knight Rayearth and not another copy of NHL ’97. It’s exhilarating to find them out and about, and even more rewarding when it’s a game for a decent enough price. I can still recall finding my copy of Mortal Kombat II at a used game store for just $10 a few years back. It was not about the game (though I love MKII), but rather the privilege of buying a Saturn game at all. It sounds silly, but that’s kind of how it is. It’s like I’m part of a cool, super-nerdy club, and only the truly dedicated are invited!
After collecting video games for over nearly 20 years (which will be a topic for another day, damn) I still only have just over 50 Saturn games. Several of those are Japanese copies, too. And many of them were gifted to me by a good friend! I never started collecting games to own every game in a console’s library, or to complete a series. Rather, I collected games because it was fun. And because they were games I wanted to play. With the Saturn that couldn’t be more true: there are so many games exclusive to the console that I would love to play! Games like Astal and the first House of the Dead are only on Saturn. Series like Bomberman and the aforementioned Shining Force had arguably their best games on the console. Other exclusives like Sega’s own Burning Rangers and Panzer Dragoon Saga remain exclusive to the console. And we haven’t even mentioned how many excellent fighting games the console has to its name!
Long story short, the Saturn is a premium console for a plethora of reasons. Whether you’re someone that likes to collect huge, expensive, noteworthy games, unique console exclusive, or well regarded video games many people haven’t even heard of, the Saturn is your machine of choice. I am happy to have found the few games I have so far, and I am happy to have played them. I am looking forward to many more years finding these obscure relics from a system nearly 30 years old.