Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Quick Sega Saturn Users' Guide

Okay, kids, what's the deal here? It's the year 2007, and I go out and pay good money - money better spent on vinyl records - on a videogames system from 1994. Aside from nostalgia, you may be wondering just why I chose Sega Saturn over, well, everything else. Or, maybe you're thinking of getting one yourself, and wondering what to do with it.

Well, I have a lot of reasons for getting a Saturn, and the top ones come down to some pretty simple words.

Internet. Imports. Swap Trick.

Am I getting through to you, Mister Beale? See the connection?

With some software on your PC, you can start downloading and burning Saturn games and play them immediately. You grab all those favorites from years ago, maybe some that you missed here and there. And then you start on the imports. That's where the real gold lies. There are so many great Saturn game in Japan, you'd have to wonder of Bernie Stolar, the man in charge of Sega of America's operations during the Saturn era, wasn't still on Sony's payroll. There has to be a conspiracy somewhere.

So here's what you need on your computer. This is just what I use, and everything can be found easily from various websites. Racketboy is especially useful. Go there.

Nero Burning Rom
Alcohol 120%
Bin2Iso (.bin to .iso)
MP32Wav (.mp3 to .wav)
Oggdrop XP (.ogg to .wav)
Sega Cue Maker
Saturn Region Patcher
Pro Action Replay

Again, this is just what's on my PC. First thing to do is to unscrew your Saturn, pop the lid, and find that part that the top door connects to. It's a little lever that tells the Saturn when the lid's open or closed. All you have to do is tape that lever shut with some masking tape. Now you can keep your lid open without any problems. Understand? Good. Put everything back together and put the screws back.

What this does is enable what's called the Swap Trick. This is so you can play CD-R's on your Saturn. Here's what happens. Put in a CD-R and turn on the power. After a few seconds, the laser eye will shoot over to the edge of the disk. It makes a loud sound - SKRRRRK!!

When you hear that sound, pop out your disk and replace it with a normal Saturn game disk. I'm using Virtua Fighter 2 because it's handy. The Saturn will click and whirl for a few seconds, and then the laser eye moves a second time - SKRRRRK!!

Swap the disks again, putting the CD-R back in. If you time it right, the game will run. Congrats! Now, don't be discouraged if this doesn't work the first time. The Saturn is very picky about this, so the timing is pretty precise. You may have to switch the power off and try again a few times before the game runs. Just be patient. Everything works fine.

Except for all of those coasters you'll burn trying to get the damned games to work. Dammit.

Like I've said before, imports are where the real Saturn action is. Radiant Silvergun, Silhouette Mirage, Soukyugurentai, Grandia, Symphony of the Night - those are only the most obvious finds. You'll find lots, lots more, especially if you're a fan of 2D games and shmups. And why would you bother with Saturn if you weren't? Needless to say, Saturn is the finest 2D games console ever made.

You use the Saturn Region Patcher to change the region on the Japanese or European games, and burn those in Alcohol 120%. You can use Nero for American games, but the funny thing is that Nero thinks your region patch is a problem - and removes it. Nice, jerk. So you have to use Alcohol for that.

Oh, and did you know some folks rip Saturn games and turn the music files into .ogg files? Did I wander into a Monty Python sketch?

If you're getting tired of swapping disks, you can get a mod chip, which runs about $30 and needs some soldering. Racketboy sells 'em. Then your CD-R's can play like any normal Saturn game.

The only other addition you'll need is a Pro Action Replay, a multi-featured cart that includes backup RAM and the 4MEG ram upgrade. You'll need that for a lot of later 2D games like Street Fighter Zero 3 and Metal Slug, yadda yadda. That runs another $25, and you can use the swap trick with it.

There ya go! You'll find lots of annoying, baffling problems down the road, but rest assured that I'm just as lost as you are. I'm adding the websites I frequent to the Links section, so be sure to visit those. And, of course, there's always Google. Happy hunting!

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