I’m not a peripherals kinda dude. I hate when people bang on about the one true way of playing things. Keyboard warriors shun those who prefer game-pads. People who prefer game-pads knock people who like anything else. Worst of all are racing game enthusiast who refuse to take players who use anything but a wheel seriously.
Not every occasion calls for a wheel. Or a game-pad. Or even a Keyboard and Mouse. Variety is the fucking spice of life, you guys!
Peripherals are just that – they’re extra options for those who choose to invest further into their hobby.
I recently made such an investment, and I told you guys about that in this post right here. Being a big, big arcade racer fan, I have wanted the SEGA Saturn Arcade Racer Joystick for years. I just, uh, never really got around to buying one. Games over peripherals and all that.
Well, NO LONGER! I’m a proud owner of the SEGA Saturn Arcade Racer Joystick!
What do I like about it?
- Full analogue control for certain games is only available when using this wheel.
- The sensitivity is, for me, more agreeable than the super-touchy 3D Controller options in most Saturn racers. 3D Controller support in Saturn racing games ranges from pretty good to god-awful, with lots of grey in the middle.
- It’s comfortable to use, and my skinny arms get a workout.
- The adjustable height is a godsend, and it fits nicely on my desk.
- The paddles are kinda cool – satisfying to use, for sure.
What don’t I like about it?
- There’s no analogue acceleration/braking. Hardly a deal-breaker when it comes to 32-bit racing games, but it would have been nice to have regardless.
- The build quality is OK, but it does have that cheap plastic feeling. Oh well.
- Compatibility is not 100%, but that’s hardly the fault of the wheel.
- That it wasn’t in my life sooner than Stardate 95804.17, that’s for fucking sure.
There was a bit of a learning curve with most games, as of course there would be, but I’ve taken to the wheel pretty damned quickly, all things considered.
Things I’ve learned I have to do to play with a wheel effectively:
- If you’ve got the choice, its cockpit/bumper-cam view all the way. This was the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make, and the one that hurt the most. I like looking at my chunky 3D cars from behind while I’m driving. Alas, most Saturn Racing games that support the Arcade Racer really, really sing in first-person. Le sigh.
- Light and shade. It’s all about that light and shade. Sometimes to the Left, Sometimes ALL THE WAY TO THE LEFT. Sometimes, only just to the left. No duh, I hear you say. I’m usually pretty heavy-handed, and it takes a lot of restraint for me to not just go-to-town on the Arcade Racer. I’m learning.
What hasn’t quite sunken in yet is that certain games in my collection have gone from games I really liked to games I absolutely fucking love now – a handful of games that really seem like they were built with this wheel in mind, first and foremost.
So after a week of full-on play, here are what I believe to be the TOP 5 RACING GAMES For The SEGA Saturn ARCADE RACER JOYSTICK – if you’ve got this peripheral, then these are the games that you absolutely must own.
All are perfectly playable otherwise (I’ll explain the differences along the way) but with the Arcade Racer? NEXT LEVEL.
It’s my list. If you disagree, tell me just how much down in the comments below.
5 – SEGA AGES OUT RUN
Out Run needs absolutely no introduction. Yu Suzuki’s classic holds up marvellously in the here-and-now, and hasn’t aged a bit. And this SEGA AGES stand-alone Japanese release is the best version of the classic arcade game, bar none.
My first Out Run experience wasn’t in an arcade though. To be honest, I don’t even remember coming across the arcade game in the flesh as a youngster at all. OutRunners? You betcha. Hang On? YEP! But never Out Run.
Nope, my first Out Run experience was with the (borked) PAL SEGA AGES compilation, and I fell madly in love with the game, instantly. The colours, the controls, the fucking music. Exactly the type of experience I’m drawn to, the perfect marriage of sights, sounds and mechanics.
I first started with the d-pad, but found it too sluggish, so I flicked that switch on my 3D Controller and never looked back. It still wasn’t perfect, mind. I always did find that using the analogue stick on the 3D Controller was a bit too touchy. Nothing that you couldn’t get over in the initial learning phase, though. And once I’d moved onto Manual Transmission from Auto, it just got better. No more slamming that brake, just a quick gear-shift down heading into a corner, then back up again once I was satisfied with my trajectory.
This would be the way that I played Out Run for years. It was great, and I couldn’t imagine that it could get any better.
But it can. It really can.
Out Run with the Arcade Racer is nigh-on flawless, I’ve gotta say. Those paddle-shifters make using Manual Transmission a breeze, and the sensitivity is a lot better than the stick on the 3D Controller. I think that the game could have reigned in the wheel travel a bit, since you’re stuck with a third-person viewpoint and all, but on the whole, Out Run is just better with the Arcade Racer.
I’m not quite as amazing at the game as I am with the 3D Controller yet – old habits die hard, and I’ve had to change my approach to many facets of the game, but I’m well and truly on my way.
Out Run is a must own regardless, but if you’ve got an Arcade Racer lying about, then you’re in for an experience so close to the coin-op, all that’s missing is the coins. And maybe the cigarette smell.
4 – WANGAN DEAD HEAT + REAL ARRANGE (HIGHWAY 2000)
Want some Ridge Racer-style action, but only have a SEGA Saturn? Then you really can’t go past Wangan Dead Heat (Highway 2000 in the west), or it’s slightly remixed successor, Wangan Dead Heat + Real Arrange.
What you will have to get past is the pervy angle the game takes and revels in. You’ve gotta impress those scantily clad Japanese women with your driving, don’tcha know! Girls aren’t my thing, if you get what I mean, but there’s a certain cheesy 90’s charm to the game I can’t help but find amusing. The (unskippable) closing FMV is so 90s it hurts. Love it.
So, uh, apart from the T & A, Wangan Dead Heat + Real Arrange is definitely the closest the Saturn ever got to a Ridge Racer-like experience, and the same brand of twitchy, on-rails drifting is in here. Sporting digital-only controls when played with a gamepad (the game pre-dates the 3D Controller), Wangan Dead Heat plays perfectly fine. Initiating a drift is intuitive and reliable, and control whilst in a drift is wild and ridiculously theatrical. Check it!
Yep. Wangan Dead Heat is 100% arcade racing all the way. You’ll know if it’s for you or not just by watching that video. It’s most definitely my bag.
Before I tried this one out with my Arcade Racer, I was a little worried that the crazy powersliding wouldn’t translate to a wheel very well. It didn’t look like it would, on paper at least, but I was happy to be proven utterly wrong. The drifting in Wangan Dead Heat is not just manageable with a wheel, but it’s super well executed, and a stand-out racing experience on the Saturn because of it.
The track selection is not too bad for such an early 3D racer, although they do feel a little samey initially. Still, the courses are of a decent length, and super fun to drive to boot. Vehicle selection is pretty neat too, with some crazy vehicles to unlock in the late-game, with my personal favourite being a stupendous futuristic floating helicopter. No pictures of that one, because you deserve to discover it on your own.
Wangan Dead Heat + Real Arrange shares a lot of similarities, on the surface at any rate, to games like Syutokoh Battle Drift King 97. They are, after all, part of the same series, so you will indeed notice some similar cars, scenery and stretches of road across the games. Wangan Dead Heat doesn’t play it so straight, though, and is a more silly, arcade-focused spin-off that just works.
The Arcade Racer really lifts this game into the stratosphere, to the point where it genuinely feels like a coin-op in your own home. The sensitivity is more twitchy than something like Drift King 97, but otherwise exceptionally well tuned to the wheel. The lighter handling and crazier drifting makes for an engaging arcade racer that fans really shouldn’t be without.
Get it in either its original Wangan form, or the less naughty western version, Highway 2000. You’ll be glad you did.
3 – SEGA RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 95/PLUS
If you don’t own any version of SEGA Rally Championship and you own a Saturn, then what are you even doing with your life?
One of the highest rated and best selling Saturn games, SEGA Rally Championship is a bona-fide classic. Everything about it is still amazing, and not even SEGA’s own sequels can touch this original. The Saturn port shocked all of us on release. After the troubled Daytona USA left most of the world questions the Saturn hardware, expectations for Rally were rock-bottom. If Daytona couldn’t make the transition to the home hardware in a respectable fashion, then what chance did poor SEGA Rally have?
Proving the naysayers wrong, AM2 hit it out of the fucking park.
Despite the lower resolution graphics, the frame-rate cut in half and a few less zebras, SEGA Rally became the go-to example of how to port down from more powerful hardware. Everything about it was magic, and whether you were rocking a regular gamepad, a 3D Controller or whatever, the controls were tight, responsive and like nothing else on the market.
The game has a kept it’s sterling reputation over the years, and though a little under-appreciated in modern times, you just can’t go wrong with SEGA Rally Championship.
So when I got my wheel, one of the very first games I had to try was Rally, my favourite game of all-time. I was so pumped to finally experience the game as it was meant to be played! Awesome!
Well, to say that I was disappointed with my first experience of Saturn Rally with the Arcade Racer would be an understatement.
I hated it. I loathed it.
The sensitivity of the wheel felt all over the place, and super touchy. I bounced from wall to wall to wall until I turned off my Saturn in disgust.
See, the mistake I made was that in going to SEGA Rally first, so soon after getting my Arcade Racer, I was completely unprepared and out of my depth. So after cutting my teeth on most of the other games on this list, I returned to Rally, and the rest is history. Having a better handle on the Arcade Racer opened me up to Rally more, and after an hour or so, I was beating the game on Easy. On Normal, I can get up to the bonus Lakeside track. Can’t beat it yet, but I’m getting mighty close!
What I love about SEGA Rally with a wheel is that I can now feel a big difference between the two main cars, something that gets a little lost when using the more sensitive 3D Controller. The Lancia Delta Group A and the Toyota Celica GT-Four feel like completely different cars now, both with their own quirks and handling style. And the bonus Lancia Stratos? It’s still a bitch of a car to tame, whichever way you cut it.
It took a while to acclimate to playing SEGA Rally with the Arcade Racer, but now that I have, there really is no going back. I still think the sensitivity isn’t as perfect as it could have been, and this is one game that really benefits from analogue acceleration and braking, so that’s my reason for not placing it higher up in this list. Still, it’s a must-have – give it the time it needs to win you over with a wheel, and you’re set!
2 – F1 LIVE INFORMATION/CHALLENGE
I always kinda liked this game. It was definitely on a rung lower than that of the SEGA Rally’s of the world, but F1 Live Information (F1 Challenge in the west) is a fun little racer that somehow manages to straddle the arcade/sim line fairly well for a game released in 1995.
The mechanics in F1 Live Information definitely lean more toward the arcade side of things. There are a few different settings you can change on your vehicle, and a pit lane visit or two is definitely recommended in each 8 lap race, but for the most part, it’s arcade-y, and it’s glorious.
With a gamepad, it’s the same old dealio – the d-pad is sufficient, but a tad slow. Analogue controls are better, but definitely more twitchy.
With a wheel, the game is transformed. If there is a game better tuned to the Arcade Racer than F1 Live Information, then I have not yet come across it. You really couldn’t ask for better – the sensitivity is absolutely perfect, and the range of motion it exhibits in play is spot-on. F1 Live Information was definitely made with the wheel in mind. Great stuff!
The pitch-perfect controls are the icing on the cake, but otherwise, there’s just a really great game here. Three real world tracks are included, those being Suzuka, Monte Carlo and Hockenheim, and on top of those are short, medium and long variations on a SEGA original track called SEGA Motor Land. The real courses are super nice to navigate, and Monte Carlo is, as always, a complete bitch. Just as it should be. SEGA Motor Land is a killer addition, and offers some variety in scenery, along with some more outlandish landmarks. I’m a big fan of this original course, and it gives me the warm and fuzzies to see the Red SEGA Bridge make an appearance here.
F1 Live Information features three difficulty settings from the off, Easy, Medium and Hard, with an unlockable fourth Extra Hard setting. The Easy setting is perfect for beginners, and includes some guided acceleration and braking, allowing the player to learn the courses without being punished. The Medium setting takes the training wheels off and gives you full control over your inputs, and Hard makes the AI Drivers smarter. I’m assuming Extra Hard bumps this up by a factor of ten, but I wouldn’t know, because I’ve not been able to beat the game on the regular Hard difficulty yet.
If you’re a racing fan, then you really need to own F1 Live Information (or Challenge), and if you own an Arcade Racer, then doubly so – it turns into one of the Saturn’s very best racing games, with a little more depth than your average arcade racer. It’s just a shame that we never got a sequel to this one. I would have absolutely loved to see a second game with the full set of Formula One tracks!
Absolutely, unequivocally recommended.
1 – DRIFT KING – SYUTOKOH BATTLE 97
(Japanese Import Only)
This one. THIS ONE RIGHT HERE.
A quick glace at the screenshots for Drift King ’97 , and you could be forgiven for mistaking it for Wangan Dead Heat. In a race, they’re very similar games when talking setting, atmosphere and tone. There’s a fair bit extra going on under the hood, but more on that later. One of the earliest games in Genki’s Shoutoku Battle series, Drift King ’97 is a great arcade racer. Sure, the selection of courses is a tad slim, and the roster of cars isn’t much larger, but this is 32-bit Arcade Racing done oh-so-right.
It’s a tough game, too. Starting out, you’re almost guaranteed to lose every battle, which takes place on a closed-circuit loop based on stretches of real-life Japanese Highway. It’s just you, a rival and basically every truck and bus in Japan ever. To successfully best your opponent, you’re going to need to lose in order to win. You win money either way, and it’s this money that you put into your vehicle. Fans of the Tokyo Extreme Racer/Tokyo Highway Battle games will know the drill – every upgrade you make, from your engine to the aerodynamics will make all the difference, and you live and die by your upgrades. So the gameplay loop is a bit like: Lose, Get Money, Upgrade, Lose, Get More Money, Upgrade, Lose Lose Lose, Money Money Money, Upgrade Upgrade Upgrade – WIN WIN WIN. Lose, Get Money, Upgrade – rinse-and-repeat.
The Shoutoku Battle series is defined by it’s heavy cars, especially in these earlier games. Drift King ’97 is a little different though. Whilst far weightier than something like Wangan Dead Heat, Drift King ’97 doesn’t nearly approach the heaviness of the games that were to follow.
With a controller? Things can feel a little sluggish initially, but once you know the courses well enough, you’ll be able to anticipate turns well ahead of time and carve neatly through each one. You know the drill – release the gas, hit the brake (or dedicated ‘drift’ button), then plant the gas again and you’re drifting! It’s satisfying, intense and a lot of fun. Weaving through the traffic is another matter entirely. With a gamepad, I had a lot of trouble avoiding all the trucks and buses, especially if they appeared out of nowhere while rounding a corner. Still, it’s pretty much gravy. More than servicable, Drift King ’97 is down-right excellent if you’re its target audience.
You can take my word for it too – I’ve only ever previously played this game with a gamepad.
But. Oh. My. GAHD.
With the Arcade Racer? This game goes from great to fucking phenomenal in about a second flat.
I actually won my first two races in a new game straight out of the gate – something that’s never happened to me before in Drift King 97. As good as the gamepad controls are, they absolutely can’t hold a candle to playing this game with a wheel. The sensitivity is perfect, and the level of control you have in the middle of a drift is bang-on perfect. Absolutely sublime. Traffic doesn’t pose as much of a problem with the wheel either, as the extra control and faster response times make short work of those lane-switching bastards. You’ll still hit all that traffic occasionally, for they have a nasty habit of hogging both lanes around corners, but otherwise, it’s a lot less painful than before. I really like dodging the traffic now, and get a weird kick out of it. Passing between two trucks and coming out completely unscathed ahead of them feels awesome, even if you’ll be clenching until you’re clear of them.
I’m so taken by the game that it’s become my first port of call when I’m hankering for a bit of that wheel action. The controls are deeply nuanced and have this addictive thang that keeps me coming back for more. The hours whittle away so fast, and though I’m still only racing three courses at the moment (and losing almost every time), it doesn’t matter. Each mistake I make is my own, and one I learn from – I’ll get a clean run one day, traffic be damned.
Drift King ’97 leans a little more on the ‘simmy’ side of arcade racers, and I put that down to the physics. It’s heavier than most, and you have to work for those perfect corners, but arcade racing snobs, don’t fret! You and I, we’re the same. I can assure you that it’s still an arcade racer through-and-through, no question.
The game has it’s flaws, that’s for sure. Being a Japan-only title, we’re pretty lucky that most everything in Drift King ’97 is in English – everything except the cut-scenes and the upgrades. With a bit of trial and error, you can make semi-educated guesses at what each one does, with only the odd english character and a price to go off. It’s no biggie though. A bigger deal is the traffic – their placements can certainly be obnoxious, at times. Lastly, there really is no running from the the fact that the game just doesn’t have a lot of content to offer the player. There’s lots to do with the included content, just not a whole lot of variety all up. In the context of a 32-bit arcade racer, it’s totally fine, but there are games with a lot more cars and tracks that you could play instead. What they haven’t got, though, is perfect controls. With a wheel. OK, F1 Live Information has perfect controls too, but it plays it a little more straight than Drift King ’97, and put solely down to my own, personal love of all things drifting in arcade racing games, this one nudges into first place. By a hair. A slightly thicker strand of hair, but a hair all the same.
So that’s my own, personal TOP 5 Games for the SEGA Saturn Arcade Racer Joystick. All are absolutely worth owning, and shine with the wheel. Whether they’re better with the Arcade Racer or not depends on your own preferences, but in my experience, each is enhanced with its use.
There’s a few games that I want to give honourable mentions to, though. Games that aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but are 100% improved by using a wheel. These three games suffer slightly without the Arcade Racer, and as such, should be on any Arcade Racer owners radar.
DAYTONA USA: (CHAMPIONSHIP CIRCUIT EDITION)
The Saturn never really did get the version of Daytona USA that it deserved, but with the Arcade Racer and a copy of Daytona USA (Championship) Circuit Edition, we get a taste of what that ultimate port could have been like.
Too slow with a regular d-pad, and too touchy with the 3D Controller, the Arcade Racer provides (almost) the perfect middle-ground for Daytona fans. I say almost, because not all cars in the game were created equal. A few of them control well, and the rest are terrible to use, no matter what input method you decide on.
Out of all the SEGA racing games on the Saturn, Daytona probably has the biggest learning curve to overcome, and that is true twice over if you’re using the Arcade Racer. Once you settle into the groove though, and you’re using a car that doesn’t suck, then it’s all SEGA Blue Skies up ahead.
GRAN CHASER / CYBER SPEEDWAY
It’s a real shame that Gran Chaser/Cyber Speedway featured such average controls out-of-the-box. I can imagine a TONNE of players back in the day throwing down the controller in disgust a few short minutes into the game.
Super slow with a d-pad, and crazy sensitive and wobbly with the 3D Controller, Gran Chaser makes it hard to love it. I do, and always have, but I’m not blind to it’s flaws.
Well, colour me surprised. Gran Chaser is a completely different game with a wheel. The Arcade Racer controls are crazy-good. Perfectly tuned sensitivity, each and every craft is a pleasure to drive. I’d call it the game that benefits most from the Arcade Racer, but Gran Chaser is technically playable without it, and there is one game that really deserves that title…
SUPER HANG ON GP ’95
Literally unplayable – a term thrown about with gay abandon by almost everybody on the internet, but what I can I say? It applies to Super Hang On GP ’95. At least when played with a gamepad or 3D Controller. Calling it an absolute nightmare is underselling the original experience real hard. Your steering was either on or off – there was no light and shade. This makes for a game that is just as hard to watch as it is to play. Case in point:
Enter the Arcade Racer.
Super Hang On GP ’95 is 150%+++ improved with the wheel. I couldn’t in good conscience recommend this game to anybody not packing one – it’s clear that the game just wasn’t tuned for play with anything but the wheel. Not exactly a smart move by SEGA to isolate 99.9% of players like that, eh?
The game still has its flaws. Hitting anything results in some ridiculous screen-shaking in first-person mode and I’m still not entirely sold on the strange braking mechanics, but I can have fun with it now. This is the game that benefits the most from using the Arcade Racer to play it, and as such, it’s a fairly easy recommendation for racing fans who meet the oddly specific criteria Super Hang On GP ’95 requires.
Do you agree with my list? Do you hate me for my list?
Jump down into the comments below and LET ME HAVE IT!
Tagged: 32-bit, 32bit, AM2, cars, Cyber Speedway, Daytona USA CCE, Daytona USA Circuit Edition, drift king 97, driving, driving games, F1 Challenge, F1 Live Information, Formula One, gameplay capture, Games, Genki, Gran Chaser, home ports, Japanese Games, japanese imports, Japanese Racing, Listicle, lists, Opinion, Out Run, racing, racing games, Real Hardware, saturn, SEGA, SEGA AGES, SEGA Rally Championship, SEGA Saturn, SEGA Saturn Arcade Racer Joystick, SEGA Saturn Steering Wheel, SEGA Saturn Wheel, Shoutoku Battle, Street Racing, Super Hang On GP '95, Tokyo Highway Battle, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, Wangan Dead Heat + Reall Arrange