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Sega Saturn hits stores with 64-bit action

So you've seen the bald-headed lady with the rings around her noggin', and you're wondering, What's up with this? Well, she's Sega's way of telling you the new 64-bit Saturn system has arrived _ and a few months ahead of schedule at that. Let's take a look at the Saturn, and another "super system" we've been playing lately _ the Phillips CDi player.

The Sega Saturn _ You've been waiting for 64-bit action, and here it is. Arcade-quality graphics and sound right in your own living room.

The Saturn is a world you've never seen before _ well, okay, maybe in the arcades. The action and graphics here are as good as any you'll ever see in a game you've gotta plunk down a quarter to play.

Now, right off the bat, you'll be plunking down a lot more than a quarter to play the Saturn. Try around $400. Sure, it's a lot, but this is the wave of the future.

Unfortunately, the Saturn software has yet to catch up with the system capabilities. Most of the games are the same kinds of things we've been playing on 16-bit machines for years _ flying shooters, hand-to-hand fighting games, side-level run 'n' shoot scrollers. But that makes sense if you think about it. The software hasn't caught up with the technology yet _ but with new systems, it always takes a while. Programers have to get used to working with the new specifications. They've been designing games for 16-bits, and now they're in new territory. It'll take some time for them to figure out what they can do.

For now, what's out there is pretty good. Panzer Dragon is the most incredible flying shooter you've ever seen _ you ride on the back of a flying dragon and can blast away in virtual 3-D. Virtua Fighter is as good a hand-to-hand game as we've seen _ it almost feels real (but it doesn't hurt).

If you've got the money, go ahead and take the trip to Saturn now. You won't be disappointed. If things are a little tight, hold on a while. Sony's 64-bit machine is due out this fall, and Nintendo's is coming in April. With three systems like this on the market, prices will drop.

Phillips CDi Player _ Got some money, honey? You'll need some _ $500 or $600 bucks to get in this game. But once you get there, boy, what you'll find. Games that are indistinguishable from arcade classics _ even seamless animation like you see in arcade games like Dragon's Lair.

You can also watch movies on compact disc with quality comparable to any cable television system _ movies like Forrest Gump and The Firm. Which also means you get hitchless live-action interactive games that unreel footage as you play along, like one based on the syndicated Hulk Hogan TV series Thunder in Paradise.

Game titles include Mario and Zelda games unavailable on any other platform. Hotel Mario features the Mario Bros. trying to rescue Princess Toadstool from Bowser, who's hidden her in one of seven motels in the kingdom. Link: The Faces of Evil features 70 playfields, as does Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon.

The Phillips CDi also lets you experience interactive music, like Xplora 1: Peter Gabriel's Secret World, and The Cranberries' "doors and windows".

Got a question? An inside tip you'd like to share? Write to Chip and Jonathan Carter, Xpress, The Floridian, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731-1121. While they cannot respond individually, they will answer questions of general interest in their column.

1994 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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