The Dreamcast might have been Sega's last effort in the console hardware market, but the Saturn was the system that bought the once mighty manufacturer to the point of disaster. Launched in November 1994 and May/June 1995 in the US and UK, Sega's first CD-based console had a complicated architecture. It was based on not just one but two Hitachi Super-H1 28MHz RISC processors - apocryphally because a nervous Sega, worried by the 3D horsepower of the Sony PlayStation, threw another one in at the last minute. The twin CPUs were complemented by two 32-bit video processors, a Yamaha audio DSP, 2MB of RAM and 1.5MB of VRAM, with a Motorola 68EC000 processor trafficking data between the lot.
At the time, this was a lot for developers to get their head around. Writing good Saturn code required a lot of careful division of processing tasks and resource scheduling (as both CPUs shared the same RAM). What's more, the Saturn's 3D hardware used quads rather than the usual triangles for rendering, improving precision but making the system even more complex to work with. Legendarily, many games only used one of the CPUs and left the other sitting idle and it was only with the launch of Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop and Sega Rally that the system was seen running at anything like its full power.
Crippled by an expensive £399 launch price and graphically impressive but uninspired - not to mention Sonic-less - software line-up, the Saturn failed to take off in the UK, and it wasn't long before the PlayStation was taking all the hype. By 1997 Sega's own management was writing off the Saturn in interviews and talking about the next console. Despite this, the Saturn was a lot more successful in Japan, where it became known for 2D shoot-em-ups, fighting games and anime-styled RPGs. As late as 2000 Saturn games were still creeping onto the market in the Far East.