Getting games for free, getting games machines for free... they become less significant events in life, than if - say - you'd blown a quarter of your monthly income ordering a Mega Drive from the Special Reserve catalogue, even though you were a teenage father living with his parents, and were meant to be saving for your own home, and ohhhh... didn't your mo-mah and po-pah tell you just how irresponsible you were being by wasting money on video games...?!
What I do remember is this: I definitely had an import Sega Saturn, and I'm pretty sure I didn't pay money for it, and I'm pretty sure that Sega hadn't given it to us. Where we got it from, I've no idea, but we definitely got a freebie - no way could I have afforded the six hundred quid that importers were asking for Japanese versions. I remember this, because I recall bringing it home from work all excited, and only then realising that a) I didn't have the right sort of plug, and b) Just that really.
I had to go out the next day to buy what was then called a "step-down converter", which - I discovered - cost around sixty quid that I really didn't have. I could've asked my Teletext bosses to buy one on expenses, but it was readily apparent that they barely tolerated Digitiser at that stage, so I had to dip into my own barren pocket.
Although, as it transpired, finding one anywhere in my local vicinity proved almost impossible - and the one I did eventually buy, from a shop which sold everything from World War 2 gas masks to various types of nozzles, was the size of a VW Beetle.
When I did finally get the Saturn powered up, I discovered I could only play games in black and white. You know: like in olden times.
By the time Sega announced the Saturn, Digitiser was on-side again. A new PR guy had worked hard to make up for the bewildering hostility of his predecessor, and it helped that we actually liked the look of Sega's next-gen machine.
Alright, it was a bit of a featureless black slab - and everyone agreed that the metallic champagne-coloured demo units were far nicer, and the logo looked like a tapeworm curled around a squash ball. However, we were prepared to put the messy final days of the Mega Drive, and its tawdry fling with the 32X, behind us. A new era, a new Sega. We were optimistic.
What a shame then that the Saturn had one of the most bizarrely botched launches in video game history.
A surprise US release - months ahead of the previously-stated launch date - was announced at a press conference by Sega's CEO Tom Kalinske. In fact, as he spoke, the Saturn was already in the hands of select US retailers, he told them, on a day which was dubbed awkwardly as "Saturnday". It's hard to know whether scholars of Roman history were applauding or face-palming.
While this surprise launch might've appeared like a stroke of genius, giving Sega a massive head start on Sony's much-hyped PlayStation, as well Nintendo's next machine, it upset many US retailers who weren't informed about the 30,000 Saturns being shipped to their rivals. So irritated were some, that they refused to stock Sega products from that point onwards.
The surprise launch backfired in other ways, when Sony was able to undercut the Saturn's launch price for its PlayStation, by a fruity $100. The European launch was also brought forward to the summer, taking the market - and, indeed, Sega Europe - by surprise. Consequently, it hit stores with virtually no publicity.
When Sega did get its act together, it mostly targeted young adults with its marketing - continuing the trend of ageing up every successive generation of hardware with its audience; the Master System was aimed at kids, and the Mega Drive was aimed at adolescents. Just as well Sega got out of the hardware game, as now they'd be selling their machines to octogenarians. Perhaps with a built-in stoma bag.
In the face of all that, the early launch wasn't enough to give the Saturn the edge. Within days of its autumn release, the PlayStation had sold more units than the Saturn had managed in the previous five months.
Hey! Here's something I can tell you: when I first played on the Saturn, even in black and white, I was genuinely blown away. My first Saturn game, as with most - because it was a pack-in game - was Virtua Fighter.
The impact of it was massive; to my eyes, it was a near-perfect home version of a game that had already been stunningly advanced when it had appeared in the arcades.
When the Saturn reached the UK in the summer of 1995, the other launch titles also impressed - Clockwork Knight was a cute side-scrolling platformer, and Daytona USA - while riddled with pop-up, and lacking in frame rate - was a playable and addictive port of the arcade game.
I attended a Sega presentation which previewed what was coming up - Bug! looked good, and even the snippet we saw of Sonic X-Treme, while somewhat on the muddy side, suggested the Sega mascot was going to make a solid debut in 3D.
Indeed, we might've remained impressed, had the PlayStation not been lurking on the horizon. There was no more stark demonstration of the gulf in capabilities between the two systems than their respective race 'em up launch titles.
As much as I had enjoyed Daytona USA, there was little denying that the PlayStation's Ridge Racer, as a tech demo, blew the Saturn out of the water. For all intents and purposes, that was game over for Sega's beleaguered Mega Drive follow-up.
Sega may have made mistakes, but it was Sony that really killed the Saturn. The 1996 release of the Nintendo 64 - and Super Mario 64 - put the final boot in.
Everything to do with the PlayStation was spot-on, and Sega simply couldn't compete with an aggressive Sony, and the company's huge marketing budget - around five times what Sega had allocated to the Saturn. Additionally, Sony positioned itself as particularly attractive to third-party developers and publishers, by undercutting its rivals.
While Nintendo impressed with Super Mario 64, as a demonstration of what its new console could do, it didn't help that Sega cancelled Sonic X-Treme.
Their flagship character's only proper appearance on the Saturn (providing you don't include the Mario Kart-esque riffs of Sonic R, or the Mega Drive compilation Sonic Jam) came in the form of Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island - an isometric nonsense that could've been handled by the Mega Drive.
THE FINAL FAILURE
The commercial failure of the Saturn - it sold fewer than 10 million units worldwide (less than the Wii U!!!) - lead to lay-offs and resignations at Sega, and put the company into last place globally, with a meagre 12% share of the overall games market. Emergency price-cuts and the release of high-profile games, demonstrating new graphical capabilities, did nothing to lift the Saturn's chances.
Frankly, the Saturn deserved better.
For all its faults as a system, it was decent hardware - the joypad was the best there had been at that point - and it played host to some of the most startlingly original games ever seen; Burning Rangers, Guardian Heroes, Sega Rally, Virtua Cop, Nights Into Dreams, Fighters Megamix, Panzer Dragoon and Tomb Raider (developed with the original intention of being a Saturn exclusive, before becoming synonymous with the PlayStation). What's more, it should've been the beat 'em up connoisseur's console of choice.
And yet, the ultimate legacy of the Saturn is the Sega you see today - anaemic, flailing, a shadow of its former self. Its final roll of the hardware dice, coming just three years after the Saturn launch, would be more confident, more assured - but prove to be too little too late.
A TRIBUTE TO THE MEGA DRIVE - BY MR BIFFO