It took a while before the utter redundancy of the Video CD card accessory dawned on me. Maybe I’m slow, but maybe it’s just a sign of how effective Sega are at tomfoolery and chicanery that this Sega Saturn attachment could seem perfectly reasonable at first glance. In fact, it’s almost over-the-top ridiculous enough that your wallet could be out of your pocket and your hand preparing to hand over cash before you realise the truth: Sega were on drugs, and so are you. You install the card and your Saturn plays VCDs. Anyone remember those? Sub-Youtube quality CDs? I think I’ve got the Indian release of Apollo 13 lying around somewhere on Video CD. And VCD is exactly where that film should’ve stayed.
I’m sure Sony were watching from the wings to see how successful the Video CD Card would be. Its success (or lack thereof) was surely monitored closely by Sony, who had plans to meet overwhelming popular demand by releasing a $250 Playstation Betamax add-on. But Sony resisted. Their incredible restraint didn’t last for long however…
…since Sony revived the idea of game consoles and doomed video formats with their PSP-UMD marriage. And more recently Microsoft took a chance on the ill-fated HD-DVD format with their Xbox 360 add-on. *game show wrong answer buzzer*
Now I’m just poking fun here. Being silly. Messing around. I’m sure at the time there was a reasonable justification for the card’s existence. The Saturn Video CD card may be one of the more redundant console accessories, but there are many more of these on the Saturn alone that I’m missing out here – Hitachi’s karaoke and GPS attachments for instance, with the latter especially hilarious given the Saturn’s portability. But a far greater mystery to me is that, these days, VCD cards are considered desirable by suckers- sorry, collectors. Why? On eBay currently people are genuinely struggling to give away their redundant HD-DVD add ons for the Xbox 360! I can understand wanting an accessory that looks good, sleek or cool – I would love one of those Panasonic Q Gamecubes, for instance. Or the Derby/Skeleton version of the Saturn. Those are badass. But the VCD card sits inside the system. What’s there to brag about? You’d have to own a Derby/Skeleton Saturn for anyone to conceivably realise the card is even there! And even then your acquaintances better bring a damn good magnifying glass.
As well as the dearth of pirated movies on the VCD format, there’s also compatibility with about six Japan-only games total, its sole use being to improve the quality of cutscenes. There was even one game that required the VCD card, although that’s a bit of a technicality since in fact it was just an “MPEG edition” of an already released game, Lunar Silver Star Story. Imagine if that idea was revived today. Metal Gear Solid 4 Subsistence: MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 Edition anyone?
Hilariously enough, while RPGs and the Metal Gear Solid games seem like the only semi-plausible candidates for a hi-def cutscene treatment, prominent on the Sega Video CD card videogame compatibility list is Vatlva, notable for its party-friendly multiplayer and Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack, and certainly not an obvious candidate to use cutscenes as a selling point. Then again, if you’re a dedicated fan of toy car combat arena games (and their accompanying lore, presumably)…seriously what are you waiting for, go get this thing!!!
For completion’s sake, here’s a list I found of compatible games for the VCD card. No idea if this is definitive.
Lunar: Silver Star Story MPEG-ban (the only game that requires the card)
Sakura Taisen Hangumi Tsushin
Sakura Taisen Nekki Radio Show
Chisato Moritaka: Watarasebashi / Lala Sunshine
Wangan Deadheat & Triangle Love
Falcom Classics 1 (Disk 2 of the limited edition)
Gungriffon (Japanese version only)