A video looking into how the Sega Saturn handled transparencies


I found this to be a really interesting video. I had some understanding of how developers got real transparencies to work on the Sega Saturn, but this goes really in-depth (admittedly it does get quite technical). Among the games shown are also Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Saga.


Thanks for the link I enjoyed it. Not much more than I had already pieced together from various sources and my own observations, your introduction got my hopes up that it would be even more technical than that, but cool to see the examples and the effort of it. I especially appreciated the Panzer Dragoon example, it has ever been a personal annoyance that no one else seemed to notice the blending effect of the lasers.

It’s too bad that he’s biased to only Japanese games (other than Sonic R technically) because Lobotomy’s games are the most powerful example of effectively turning those limitations of the spec into an advantage, the lighting effects in Exhumed are singular for the time. Burning Rangers is impressive ‘for the Saturn’ as it were, but it’s more like proving a point at any cost. And I think the full screen smoke effects in Azel or the water effects in Zwei would have made better examples than the ones he chose, but I’m just picking nits.

The mention of VDP1 blending as I think “six times slower” than normal rendering, or something like that stood out for me, I wish he had gone more in depth on that. And while I agree with the point about balancing what’s possible with what is appropriate resource allocation, on principle, I will still call Symphony of the Night a garbage port job, there is a limit.


panzer dragoons water was 2d? thats why it flowed


Yes. It was a 2D illusion.

The Wendigo spell in Shining Force 3 was fully transparent, however.


so the water was just a rotated backround layer like in mode 7 in fzero?


Yes basically all water or ‘land’ surfaces in the Saturn games are exactly that. However unlike the limitations of the SNES Mode 7 where the perspective shift is itself a sort of hard-coded raster effect, the VDP2 fields can apply perspective on any axis, and then simple raster effects can also be applied - which is why the waviness of the water planes is always a little odd looking, it’s limited to horizonatal shifts, but it still works great. There’s a number of PSX games that conspicuously lack even effects like that since it has no way to apply isolated raster effects (only full scene) and it can’t efficiently emulate it from the texture mapping.