Need for Speed - Sega Saturn and Playstation 1 Comparison

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Mouse Over Comparison Screenshots:

Rusty Springs

Saturn Gameplay Movies:
Menus and Load Time
Rusty Springs
Comparison Movies: (Divx Codec Required)

City Comparison 1
City Comparison 2

PS1 Gameplay Movies:
Menus and Load Time
Rusty Springs


The Need for Speed was originally released for the 3DO, Electronic Arts' first and only attempt to dominate the game console market. The game was then re-released and much improved on the Saturn in January of 1996 and then again on the PS1 in March of 1996. The Saturn and PS1 games are effectively the same and are at least on par with other racers on their respective platforms. The original 3DO game would have been limited to roughly 20,000 polygons per second, well below one quarter of the polygon counts of first gen Saturn and PS1 games. This makes for an interesting comparison on many levels. Electronic Arts was one of the first developers to begin publicly denouncing the Saturn's 3D capabilities while bloating the PS1's capabilities. According to EA representatives, the PS1 could actually display 360,000 polygons per second, while the Saturn was supposed to be limited to the 60,000 that Daytona USA ran with. In reality the PS1 and Saturn were both floating around 80,000 polygons per second in games released between 1995 and 1996. Were Electronic Arts' words based in reality their own software should have shown some kind of gap in polygon performance.


The Saturn game appears to be running at 320x224 and the PS1 at 320x240, which is more of an aspect ratio change than it is a resolution difference. The PS1 has a slightly longer view vertically, which results in being able to see underneath the car in chase view. The PS1 version is also implementing what appears to be static (i.e. not dynamic) gouraud shading on some track scenery in order to simulate time of day changes on some objects. In some cases the Saturn game simulates day changes with a simple texture map change, but it does not appear to be using gouraud shading. In addition, the PS1 game has a translucent shadow under the car and smoke from the tires is also translucent. The Saturn game has a solid black shadow under the car and sold gray smoke blooms from the tires. Both games run at the same framerate, which is typically close to 30 frames per second.

The gouraud shading of the PS1 version comes at the cost of overall picture quality since EA found it necessary to turn on the PS1's full screen dithering as well. As has been noted in other comparisons on this page, full screen dithering significantly lowers the color counts on screen in PS1 games. The somewhat smooth black gradients that the gouraud shading creates has the potential, however, to shoot the color counts up again. This is indicative in the respective file sizes of the movie files for the Saturn and PS1. The de-interlaced movie files for the PS1 version ran at roughly 1.7 MB per second while the Saturn files ran at 1.4MB per second. A difference of .2-.3 MB per second in file sizes can be attributed to many things, but this does seem consistent with the other movie files on this site that use gouraud shading.

Both games play with the same apparent controls, AI for other race cars and arcade style physics. The only notable difference is that the Head to Head mode on the PS1 game can be played either through split screen, or using the system link with two Playstations and two Televisions. The Saturn game does not make use of the later released NetLink.

The Saturn and PS1 games use the exact same CD Audio for music and digital sound efffects.


Had EA focused more on the ease of programming effects onto the PS1, rather than blowing the system's 3D capabilities up to unreasonable heights, this comparison would not be nearly as conclusive. Because EA and the media claimed a performance increase of over 600% for the PS1 in 1995-96, the absolute lack of any evidence in software exposes their flawed marketing scheme. The Saturn and PS1 games are identical in polygon counts and framerate, therefore neither game demonstrates the absolute superiority of one system over the other. The preference of one game over the other would more likely be based on system preference rather than any subjective impression of the games' respective graphics. Using AV cables would also eliminate the PS1 version's dithering, rendering the games almost identical.

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