Author Topic: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?  (Read 1555 times)

Artabasdos

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Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« on: March 20, 2017, 03:35:42 PM »
The Saturn is known for being a 2D powerhouse, especially with the likes of the 4MB RAM cart. However, looking at the PC FX's specs, it seems it is pretty capable too. So, does anyone know the answer?
« Last Edit: March 20, 2017, 07:31:47 PM by Artabasdos »

SignOfZeta

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2017, 05:42:28 PM »
Nobody ever made shit for FX so there's no way to know. I'd assume the Saturn obliterates it though, especially with that four mega meter rammer.

Artabasdos

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2017, 11:56:34 PM »
Nobody ever made shit for FX so there's no way to know. I'd assume the Saturn obliterates it though, especially with that four mega meter rammer.
Well, the PC FX got 60 odd games lol. Not quite up there with the Saturn's 1500+, but it has to be better than the Atari Jaguar!

majors

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2017, 01:46:53 AM »
... but it has to be better than the Atari Jaguar!
Low bar.
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Necromancer

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2017, 02:50:15 AM »
The Saturn is more capable in pretty much every way.  The only thing the PC-FX has that's superior is more background layers.

That said, the PC-FX's capabilities aren't so terribly out classed that it couldn't pull off nice ports of most any of the Saturn's 2D games.
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Gypsy

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2017, 04:33:25 AM »
Nobody ever made shit for FX so there's no way to know. I'd assume the Saturn obliterates it though, especially with that four mega meter rammer.

This was my first thought when I saw the thread. Would have been cool to see what later release PC-FX games would have looked like but oh well.

exodus

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2017, 08:43:01 AM »
yeah, it's certainly the saturn across the board, especially when you add in the ram expansion.

Artabasdos

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2017, 09:43:46 AM »
The Saturn is more capable in pretty much every way.  The only thing the PC-FX has that's superior is more background layers.

That said, the PC-FX's capabilities aren't so terribly out classed that it couldn't pull off nice ports of most any of the Saturn's 2D games.

I'd say it would probably beat the PS1 & 3DO in 2D games.

SignOfZeta

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2017, 10:21:27 AM »
I'd say it beats anything made at that resolution for 2D. Yes it can't run Geo games perfectly but it can do things the Geo could never dream of.

SamIAm

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2017, 09:23:48 PM »
The PC-FX has several significant disadvantages, most of them related to sprites.

The biggest issue is that it can only draw 128 sprites on-screen at once. These come without any possible rotation or scaling effects, and they will flicker if you put too many of them on one horizontal line. Also, each sprite is limited to one 15/512 color sub-palette just like the PCE.

The Saturn's VDP1, by contrast, can draw so many sprite pixels that it can fill up the screen several times over. It could theoretically draw more background layers and sprites than the PC-FX without even using VDP2. It can rotate, scale, and otherwise warp sprites very freely, and it can draw them at a much greater color-depth. Of course, since it buffers everything, it never flickers.

The Playstation is no slouch, either. While the Saturn is so inefficient at making VDP1 sprites transparent over VDP2 backgrounds that most developers went with fake checkerboard transparencies, the Playstation doesn't have this problem, and it shows in a lot of games.

The problems for the PC-FX go on. It's got a significantly slower CPU, even against only one of the Saturn's SH2s. You're basically limited to 256x240 resolution if you want to use a lot of background layers, and there are no interlaced high-resolution modes. It can do one "Mode 7" layer and one transparent background layer, but no more than that. Video RAM for sprites and the CD drive buffer are only 256 kilobytes each vs. the Saturn's 512. Though it does potentially have more RAM for background tiles, that RAM is also where ADPCM goes, and there is plenty of motivation to want to store lots of that instead since the rest of the sound hardware is so obsolete.

About the only advantage that the PC-FX has over the Saturn is its FMV playback. You can start playing streaming FMV anytime without taxing any hardware other than the dedicated FMV chip, and you can mix it into games however you like. For example, you could easily make an auto-scrolling platformer or shooter that uses FMV as a background.

It certainly would have been possible to make beautifully animated action games for the PC-FX. It sounds like it would have been the most enjoyable system to program, too, and clever design probably could have gotten some surprises out of it. On the other hand, almost every graphically-fancy 2D game from the 32-bit era would have had to have been compromised in some way to run on the PC-FX with little room to compensate in other areas.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 09:27:26 PM by SamIAm »

fragmare

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2017, 11:11:43 PM »
Let's just cut all the bullshit.  Would it run Symphony of the Night?  ;)  lol

SignOfZeta

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2017, 03:49:44 AM »
It would flicker for sure.

What about Mr Bones?

I'd like to see a good Densha de Go! type game for FX since those work very well with FMV.

elmer

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2017, 09:07:02 AM »
It certainly would have been possible to make beautifully animated action games for the PC-FX. It sounds like it would have been the most enjoyable system to program, too, and clever design probably could have gotten some surprises out of it. On the other hand, almost every graphically-fancy 2D game from the 32-bit era would have had to have been compromised in some way to run on the PC-FX with little room to compensate in other areas.

This ... but with a few limits to my agreement.

Anything 2.5D or 3D (like Radiant Silvergun) would have needed the "3D" add-on in the PC-FXGA (basically a VDP1), to even start to compete, and then you might hit 3D-math performance issues with the V810 processor. OTOH ... it would have been able to pump out scaled & rotated sprites like mad!

But for a lot of the best 2D games that are relying on high-quality pixel art ... the Saturn's theoretical CPU power (it was MUCH lower in practical use) wouldn't be of any benefit at all.

After a quick look at YouTube ... I don't see that the PC-FX as-it-shipped would have had much trouble doing excellent versions of 2D games like Lunar or Princess Crown.

Sure, your backgrounds would probably be 256-wide instead of 320-wide ... but you could switch the PC-FX VDPs to 320-wide for the sprites if you don't mind losing its excellent multi-layer (I believe) transparency and using a Sega-style stipple-mask for shadows instead (probably not a good idea).

But where it would have dramatically lost against the Saturn in those games (in some sections) would be in the audio.

You'd *sometimes* need to keep the CD drive free for streaming new graphical assets into memory (on both the Saturn and the PC-FX), but the Saturn's audio hardware could still play back good music anyway.

Then the PC-FX would be limited to it's PC Engine sound, perhaps with an ADPCM instrument or two, and with no DSP-effects.

*PERHAPS* the PC-FX could have gotten away with streamed-ADPCM-audio, but the CD-seeking would have been rough on the drive.

Basically ... I think that the PC-FX could have done some really-nice 2D games, but there would always be *some* aspect where you'd say that the Saturn version was better.

The PC-FX's better FMV, and better transparency-control might have helped to mitigate those effects


But practically speaking, out-of-the-box, the Saturn has the more-powerful hardware ... it's just a huge PITA to program, and some of the limitations of the VDP1 and VDP2 can trip you up.

The PC-FX, OTOH, is a clean, simple and powerful architecture, just like the original PC Engine was in comparison to the limitations inherent in the "more-powerful" SNES and Genesis architectures.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2017, 10:21:15 AM by elmer »

SignOfZeta

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2017, 09:31:04 AM »
Yeah, you don't hear it often, but Saturn chip tunes are at times first rate. For example, Panzer Dragoon Saga.

SamIAm

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Re: Saturn vs PC FX; Which was the better 2D machine?
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2017, 03:51:08 PM »
Symphony of the Night is a tough one.

The PC-FX basically couldn't do a straight port. Whether it could do a "good-enough" port really depends on where you draw the line. The game is chock full of graphical flourishes that probably would have to be cut from a PC-FX port. Tons of things rotate and scale. Alucard himself seems to be animated with the help of multiple rotating limbs.

Princess Crown, by the way, also does a lot of animating with rotation/scaling/warping. The main character's sword, for example, is actually just one graphic that gets manipulated like crazy.

From a player's standpoint, I don't think that the PC-FX is best remembered as a system that could have kept up with the Saturn and Playstation graphically in 2D if it had only had the support. I try to appreciate it more as a dream-machine for people of the 16-bit-era school of design.

Minus the sound hardware, of course.