- Original release year: 1998
- Consoles: Sega Saturn
The mid to later 90s were a relatively dark period for Sega (until the Dreamcast came out – then Sega kicked ass again… for about a year), the company who were once at the forefront of the console wars and even led the pack for a short while, with the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis. Support for the Sega Saturn was dwindling and Nintendo’s N64 and Sony’s Playstation were proving to be far more successful (especially the latter), boasting some of the generation’s most popular games, like Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation and Mario 64, Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Goldeneye 007 for the N64. The Saturn, on the other hand was really lacking any proper mainstream successes.
In reality, it’s a great shame that the Saturn is often forgotten about, because it has some truly remarkable, amazing games, particularly if you open up your library to imports (particularly the Japanese imports, as the console was actually very popular in Japan).
Towards the end of the Saturn’s lifespan, Sega released a few gems that really started to showcase the power of the Saturn’s hardware. Sonic Team’s Burning Rangers was one of those titles.
The concept behind Burning Rangers is really unique and Sonic Team really nailed the atmosphere and feel for the game. You play as a ‘Burning Ranger’, essentially a fire fighter, but in a futuristic period, with jetpacks and the ability to instantly teleport hostages to a safe location once found (and providing you have at least 5 energy crystals).
In Burning Rangers, there are four different stages to play, all based on different emergencies around the galaxy. Each stage is a unique environment, for example, in the second stage you find yourself battling blazing fires in an underwater base. The main enemy in each stage is the fire that you need to fight, but there are other hazards to look out for such as protection measures, and each stage ends with a boss battle in classic Sonic Team style. Each stage really creates he feeling that you are in a building that is blazing with fire. Despite the 32-bit era graphics, you really feel like you are inside a burning down building at that it is a race against time to save the people stuck inside and put the ever explosive fire out with your water laser type gun (I don’t know, it’s the future!).
Each stage, although generally having a fairly linear path, is open to exploration too. By exploring, you may find alternative routes, but more often than not, this is how you will find the majority of the civilians you can save. At the end of each stage, like most Sonic Team titles, you get a breakdown of your score and an overall ranking. It also tells you how many civilians there are to save in the stage and how many you saved. This adds replay value to each stage.
In addition to replaying levels to find all the civilians and trying to improve your score, there’s also passwords you receive that allow you to play as different characters. Once you complete the game, there’s even a level randomiser ability unlocked that remixes corridors and civilian locations to give you a slightly different experience.
Overall, Burning Rangers is a must have for any Saturn owner. Although the game has aged moderately in terms of its controls, as well as the graphics (whilst pushing the Saturn to its 3D limits) being a bit shit, it’s still a lot of fun today and there’s yet to be another game released quite like it. It’s sad that Sega never developed Burning Rangers into a series or explored the idea of creating further games as I would have loved to have seen the game created into something with a bit more depth and longevity to it, with more modern controls and graphics. Alas, it was not to be and the Saturn title remains to be the only way to enjoy this great title.