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A Tribute to Sega Saturn

The most misunderstood games console of all time?
Sega Saturn
- the most misunderstood games console of all time?

OK, so it may not have the 3D power of the other 32-bit consoles, it may have been obliterated by the PlayStation, and it may be tricky to program, but the Sega Saturn isn't all bad. In fact, it's not bad at all...

I've always had a soft spot for the Saturn. Even though I already owned a PlayStation when I bought the Sat, I was fascinated by its technology and the Sega style of games; the PSX titles are designed for "all audiences", whereas the original Sega titles were custom built for hard-core players, and something like Sega Rally or Virtua Cop 2 was just ridiculously difficult at first. However, the sheer thrill of mastering a game that really requires nerves of steel and split-second timing really is worth the effort!

Also, the Saturn is known to be the home of a range of truly weird games, as you'd expect from a system popular in Japan: take GunBluster XTO for example. It's a racing game with these "mini-4WD" model cars which have no steering. And you don't actually drive the thing, you coach the driver... Or how about Highway 2000 then: it's a standard racing game apart from the fact that, should you place 3rd or higher at the end, you see a picture of a bikini babe. I hear the Japanese version is a lot more obscene, anyone have a spare one?

To top it all up, a wide variety of add-ons is available for the Saturn to transform it into a web browser, Video CD or Photo CD player etc. etc. - and they all were available years before anything like them was introduced for the PlayStation. This page mainly presents the add-ons I've got in my personal collection; however, should I find something truly bizarre I'll try to put some info up.

And why put this page up, I hear you ask? This is my declaration of love for a system that's been abandoned by too many gamers and called 'crap' even though it's just different and very powerful in its on way. The Saturn is a great system, and it will always have a place under my telly.

As always, let us know if you've got anything to add or ask about this page. Or if you've got some spare games lying around, we're always interested in any we don't already have.


Tech bits - what is the Saturn?
The Saturn has been said to have some weird hardware, and if you take a look at the data below, it's easy to see why emulating it might not be the easiest thing around... In fact, I've yet to see any emulator getting beyond CD header reading and partial CPU emulation. Another apparent thing is that the Saturn was designed to be the ultimate 2D console - unfortunately, 3D was the way to go, and it wasn't as powerful on that front.

This info was adapted from http://www.midtown.net/~psykik/sega/sat-spec.html. Zophar maintains an excellent list of Work-In-Progress emulators at http://www.zophar.net/ (find "Sega Saturn" in the right-side column).



Processors (8)
-Two Hitachi SH2 32-bit RISC @ 28.6MHz
-One Hitachi SH1 32-bit RISC
-VDP 1 32-bit video display processor
-VDP 2 32-bit video display processor
-Saturn Control Unit (SCU)
-Motorola 68EC000 sound processor
-DSP sound processor

Memory
-2 Megabytes (16 megabits) RAM
-1.54 Megabytes (12 megabits) VRAM (Video RAM)
-540 Kilobytes (4 megabits) Audio RAM
-540 Kilobytes (4 megabits) CD-ROM Cache

Video
-VDP 1 32-bit video display processor
-sprite, polygon, and geometry engine
-dual 256KB frame buffers for rotation and scaling effects
-Texture Mapping
-Gouraud Shading
-512KB cache for textures
-VDP 2 32-bit background and scroll plane video display processor
-background engine
-5 simulataneous scrolling backgrounds
-2 simultaneous rotating playfields
-200,000 Texture Mapped Polygons/Second
-500,000 Flat Shaded Polygons/Second
-up to 60 frames per second animation
-24-bit true color graphics
-16.7 Million Available Colors
-320x224, 640x224, and 720x576 Resolution

Audio
-Yamaha 24-bit Digital Signal Processor @ 22.6MHz
-Motorola 68EC000 sound processor @ 11.3MHz
-32 PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) Channels
-8 FM (Frequency Modulation) Channels
-44.1 kHz Sampling Rate

Storage
-CD-ROM (2X)
-320 Kilobytes/Second Transfer Speed
-Audio CD Compatible
-CD+G Compatible
-CD+EG Compatible
-CD Single (8 cm CD) Compatible
-Optional - Video CD, Photo CD, EBook, Digital Karaoke
-Optional - 512KB Memory Cartridges for game save

Input/Output
-High speed serial communications port
-Internal 32-bit Expansion port
-Internal Multi AV Port for optional Video CD (MPEG) adapter
-Composite Video/Stereo (Standard)
-RF (Optional)
-S-Video Compatible (Optional)
-RGB Compatible (Optional)
-HDTV Compatible (Optional)
-Analog Control Pad (x2)

The main unit
My first version main unit in all its black plastic glory. This is a PAL unit, but looks similar to the US version. There was a later model, with larger gray reset/power switches and less weight. The control pad is actually from a newer model, the original pad is larger (but it just so happens that it's broken, the original ones were rather flaky)
The Saturn was released in at least two more versions: the white Saturn (see ours in the picture), the final Japanese model, and the Skeleton Saturn, a transparent special version. Also, there's the Hitachi Hi-Saturn and the JVC V-Saturn, as well as a weird GPS Navi Hi-Saturn. If you've got any of these to spare, send us mail. Like right now.
Virtua Stick
This is a sturdy piece of kit, an arcade controller designed especially for beat'em'ups and shoot'em'ups. Has adjustable auto-fire for each button.

A steering wheel controller and an analog controller are also available for the Saturn.
Virtua Gun
Sega has always known how to make light guns, and it came as a surprise to me that the Saturn gun looked exactly the same as the House Of The Dead arcade gun (even though the parts probably are cheaper).

It has good aim and the switches seem to be able to take a lot of abuse.
NetLink gear
From left:
- NetLink modem
- NetLink mouse
- NetLink PS/2 keyboard adapter

These gadgets transform the Saturn into a full-blown web browser with e-mail and IRC support. Especially when used with a keyboard, it's a fun thing, even though the software is a bit dated (who needs JavaScript anyway...)
Video CD card
This nice little piece of kit adds Video CD capabilities to the Saturn, allowing it to play VCDs in full screen. Now I just need some movies...
6 player multiplayer adaptor
Allows for 6 people to simultaneously enjoy the thrills of the Saturn. Not
that I've got any games to support it yet...
Keyboard

No image yet

Photo CD operating system

Apparently, allows you to view Photo CDs. Utterly useless but cool.

No image yet
Sega Saturn developer kit
No, we don't have one of these, so don't ask, but we received these cool pictures.


And what else?
As you'd probably guess, this being a Japanese machine, the above is just a fraction of the things available. These are the add-ons I've found while surfing the net:

Things we've got:
- Action Replay Plus - Now this is cool. A 4-megabyte RAM cartridge (the extra RAM is used by newer Japanese games), an import modification, extra save RAM, an Action Replay cheat module and a device to up/download data from a PC, all in one! Paid through the nose for it, though.
- SS Action Replay - As above, but without the 4 MB RAM expansion and PC port.
- ST Key converter - An adapter allowing for the use of import games. In fact, it is possible to modify the Saturn yourself, with no additional parts, but who wants to drill holes in the sexy case?

Things we haven't got:
- Memory card - An official Sega one would be nice to have, even though the Action Replays are much more useful.
- EG Word - Apparently, you could by a Canon printer and a keyboard to use the Saturn as a word processor. Weird eh?
- Floppy drive - The above link suggests that there is a floppy drive available as well...