It took one eye blink from previous article
to directly arrive on today, the last day of September ... time flies
And, in application of the contract between my Saturn projects and PPCenter
, I have to write at least one blog article per month
My remaining free time for this month is around 20 minutes, so I'm hurrying up to write an article
is the entity which manages the hobbies I do on my spare time. As a consequence, it also manages the revenues earned from my homebrew projects
, which is why I should finish this damn article if I want to eat something else than cup noodles during next month
So I hope this Q&D article will please you, and in the meantime of this page being loaded, don't forget to send me a donation
! Every little bit helps and contribute to pay my the gasoline for my car as well as three meals per day
Custom Cartridge Shells
(as indicated in the title)
A while ago, I finally decided to put public the page about custom shells for my cartridges. Theses were designed, 3D-printed and offered by Zone66x
: he is the only one to deserves the credits for this hard work
Main interest of theses custom shells is to have their shape carefully designed to hold SD card on the top of the cartridge : with regular shell made from Action Replay shells, the SD card sticks out by 2-3 mm, which was improved on custom shells with have enclosure to be at the same height of SD card's.
Another good point is that theses shells were prototyped in several shapes and colors ! I personally like transparent shells like this one
About the points that put the advantage on Action Replay shells is the solidity : Action Replay shells are way more stronger, but this was expected because theses are "just" prototypes. I suppose that using commercial 3D printing service and appropriate material would provide stronger shells, but I didn't tested things this far.
IMPORTANT : theses custom shells were offered, hence the cartridges using theses shells are not for sale and for my own collection or for friends, etc.
If you want a Gamer's Cartridge
and are OK to get an Action Replay shell instead of custom one, then please check their order page
from time to time and use the order form when it is available
Read more Custom Cartridge Shells : The Gallery
Sorry for the clickbait title, but I'm sorry to say that it's not possible to fix your Action Replay (or any similar clone) with Pseudo Saturn Kai
Below are common myths wrongly related with Pseudo Saturn Kai : theses are detailed in this blog article in the hope it will help users with similar problems, and also to -hopefully- relieve my emails inbox regarding theses inquiries ...
Q1 : Expansion RAM no longer works ! Will reflashing Pseudo Saturn Kai help something ?
A1 : It won't change anything ! Expansion RAM is a cartridge hardware feature and consequently Pseudo Saturn Kai (software side of the cartridge) doesn't have any interaction with it.
→ If your cartridge is experiencing troubles with expansion RAM, it's likely to be related to cartridge connection or cartridge itself. So rather than e-mailing me, it's more relevant to contact the manufacturer or re-seller of your cartridge about this kind of issue.
Generally speaking, all Action Replay cartridges and their clones are using legacy electronic components no longer manufactured for nearly a decade. So even if your cartridge was sold as "brand new", it may either contain refurbished chips, or counterfeit chips, or both : there's not a lot to expect regarding quality.
Q2 : Cartridge self test feature in Pseudo Saturn Kai doesn't reports any problem : does it means that the hardware of my cartridge is working correctly ? And consequently does it means that the XYZ problem I'm experiencing is related to Pseudo Saturn Kai ?A2
: Cartridge self test feature just tests the bare minimum of the cartridge
: if it fails, then there is certainly a problem around hardware. Conversely, it doesn't means anything when no problem is reported.
BTW, I developed this self test feature to quickly test the hardware of a cartridge, and not to get a proof that hardware is not guilty when a problem happens ! It's always exhausting to read stuff like "cartridge self test passed, so my XYZ problem is caused by Pseudo Saturn Kai" ...
Q3 : I heard that game XYZ isn't compatible with Pseudo Saturn Kai ? Is that true !? Hurry up to fix that !A3
: There are many causes of incompatibility other than Pseudo Saturn Kai :
- Frequency incompatibility : Pseudo Saturn Kai bypasses game region check, but isn't any help regarding frequency compatibility : if a game was tailored to work on a PAL console, it may then not work correctly on a NTSC one and vice-versa.
Simple countermeasure to this problem is to use game from same region of the Saturn where it will played on. And if it is not available then complete countermeasure is to add a frequency mod on your Saturn, or eventually to use a both NTSC and PAL Saturns for playing games of each regions.
- CD-R and Saturn laser affinity : Saturn wasn't developed to play games from CD-R, which may be harder to read than official CD-ROM.
So if a game doesn't wants to boot, then it's worth trying with another brand of CD-R, or to burn it at different speed etc.
- Disc image dump quality : iso+mp3 format was good when downloading few tenth of MB cost time and money but is an aberration regarding compatibility.
Nowadays, downloading large files is not a real problem hence bin+cue format should be considered as the bare minimum requirement that usually plays well but may cause problems with some games.
And, most accurate dumps are usually found in format supported by Rhea and Phoebe and should be preferred if you want to avoid problem(s) caused by discs badly dumped.
Additionally, I would like to remind that Pseudo Saturn Kai main role is to play CD-R backup copy of games from your collection, so if you want to ask me about the not playing iso or bin dump of the game you don't even own, then you're about to knock to the wrong door
→ First, purchase the original CD-ROM of your game, and test if it works on your Saturn or not : if it doesn't play, then supported frequency and/or hardware problem on Saturn side should be considered before asserting anything about Pseudo Saturn Kai. If the original game plays correctly it is then time to copy it on CD-R and then preserve original game preciously
Finally, it would be appreciated from users (you) to report non-working dumps to the webmaster of the page where theses were downloaded from : this would help whole community regarding preservation of Saturn games.
Q4 : Are you earning royalties from Action Replay (and
other clones) cartridge manufacturers ? If yes, then hurry up to fix my
hardware problem !A4
: I don't earn anything from
legacy cartridge manufacturers : you paid $35 for your Action Replay
cartridge ? I received $0 from it. You paid $60 for a red "all-in-one" ©®TM
cartridge ? I received $0 from it.
Also, I never begged any crowdfunding to develop Pseudo Saturn Kai, and even preferred to nullify my donate page
rather than receiving donation related to Pseudo Saturn Kai. You paid
$0 for Pseudo Saturn Kai to be developed ? I did it during hundred of
hours of my free time and sometimes with high doses of motivation
And while restricting Pseudo Saturn Kai usage to my own projects (USB dev cart
and Gamer's Cartridge
would had significantly simplified software architecture, I did my best
to keep Pseudo Saturn Kai compatible with other legacy cartridges so
that a wide range of users can enjoy playing Saturn.
Maybe that looks
simple to do, but it's really not : the more complex the
software architecture is, the more likely development becomes difficult,
or that unexpected problem happens in the meanwhile.
So if your cartridge is experiencing a problem, it would be appreciated if its manufacturer could be blamed instead of me
This Q4 / A4 is an half-joke : so far I wasn't asked about that, but it is mentioned here to put emphasis on all the time and energy it cost to develop Pseudo Saturn Kai (I started its development at the end of 2014 !), and all the returns I have from it ("fix my flaky cartridge", "fix support for that poorly dumped game") ...
It took time, but I could find a card a bit linked to customer support from my Dragon Ball cards collection
, and hope you will appreciate it ... the card, not my customer support skills
Read more How to fix your cartridge with Pseudo Saturn Kai
Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager 3 (Beta v6.212)
The reason this video was taken is that somebody contacted me to know if DZ2SGM3 works correctly with an "all-in-one" ©®TM red cartridge. But as I don't own such kind of cartridge, I did my best with the few things I can use here.
Initial goal was to test public version (v6.274, 2018/12/28) with official memory cartridge on Saturn with modchip installed, but ...
- My modded Saturn was buried too deep in my closet; I was too lazy to exhume it ...
- The CD-R on which I burned public version of DZ2SGM3 didn't wanted to be read from Saturn; I was too lazy to re-burn it ...
So this ended in testing on an unmodded Saturn with Gamer's Cartridge
I couldn't test it by myself, but I'm confident DZ2SGM3 can be used on official memory cartridge and on "all-in-one" ©®TM
red cartridge too. "It works, trust me I'm an engineer !"
I did my best to develop DZ2SGM3, but as of a self-produced project (developed on my free time, didn't begged any money for it and on the contrary, I pay my homepage provider to host it), I don't have the budget nor the time to test on all combinations of backup memory cartridges and modchips/ODE/Pseudo Saturn cartridge/whatever with this application.
So if someone is owning an "all-in-one" ©®TM
red cartridge and appreciating shooting-up games, that would be cool to receive some feedback about DZ2SGM3 compatibility in the comments of this article
Additionally, I'm also sometimes asked what kind of cartridge is required to play Dezaemon 2 games.
The answer is both simple but also a bit complex too, so maybe it would be a good idea to write about it in this blog
The simple answer is "DZ2SGM3 is compatible with any cartridge providing in-game backup memory feature".
→ DZ2SGM3 was developed simply as an application using standard backup API detailed by SEGA and should work with any cartridge supported by this standard backup API.
Even if I'm the main developer and manufacturer of Gamer's Cartridge
, that's not a reason to restrict my software projects to this specific kind cartridge
I kept support for a wide range of backup devices for the simple reason that it's cool to make more and more people appreciating games on Saturn
The complex answer comes from the two following points :
- There are many kind of cartridges, and not all provide in-game backup memory
- As DZ2SGM3 is not an official application, it is required for the Saturn to be able to boot applications from CD-R
Rather than writing boring theory about the internals of each kind of cartridge (is there somebody other than me interested in that ?), let's simply detail the compatibility status and the pro and cons and also the additional requirements needed to get DZ2SGM working for each kind of cartridge
① Official Memory Cartridge
That's the official memory cartridge, sold by Sega during the good old times Saturn was still a commercial product.
Because of that, production of theses cartridges stopped around 20 years ago and consequently cartridges available today may damage easily.
The only advantage is that it's an official product, made with genuine electronic parts ... but it's now a bit too late if you want any official support for repairing a broken cartridge
It's not possible to install Pseudo Saturn Kai on such kind of cartridge, so additional mod (installation of modchip or ODE) is required to use DZ2SGM.Pro
: Official product from Sega.Cons
: Contents may suddenly corrupt : don't use to store important save data.Additional requirement
: modchip or ODE② Action Replay
The super famous Action Replay : main advantage is from being relatively cheap, widely available, and to provide 1MB/4MB expansion memory.
Disadvantage is that technology used in theses cartridge didn't changed significantly for the last 20 years and that in the meanwhile production of this technology (flash ROM and RAM) stopped. For that reason, quality may not be at the meet even if cartridge is sold as "brand new".
In-game backup memory feature is not available for such kind of cartridge : even if advertised as featuring "4M memory card", this is available only from cartridge :games aren't able to access it.
Additionally, this "4M memory card" is a bit ambiguous because it refers to the best effort when save data buffer (internally stored in cartridge 4M expansion memory) can be compressed into lower half of cartridge flash ROM = 128 KB ... if data can't be compressed then an error message will be displayed.
It would had been more honest to advertise that as "Guaranteed 128KB, maximum 4MB memory card not accessible from game", but this is a bit less sexy in term of advertising
Because of the lack of in-game memory feature, it is required to use a separate backup device (such as Saturn floppy disk drive) to use DZ2SGM.Pro
: Widely available, relatively cheap, and provides 1MB/4MB expansion memory.Cons
: In-game backup memory feature not supported.Additional requirement
: Saturn floppy disk drive.③ Gameshark, and other clones
That's Action Replay without 1MB/4MB expansion memory and usually worse overall quality : if you have one still working, it is worth trying to use it but if that's not the case then considering for (at least) an Action Replay is usually wise decision.
Similarly to Action Replay, because of the lack of in-game memory feature it is required to use a separate backup device (such as Saturn floppy disk drive) to use DZ2SGM.Pro
: Worth using if you found a spare cartridge still in working condition.Cons
: No 1MB/4MB expansion memory. Poor hardware quality.Additional requirement
: Saturn floppy disk drive.④ Memory Card Plus
That's more or less a Gameshark with a specific firmware installed. Main advantage of this firmware is that it allows games to directly access cartridge backup memory.
Similarly to Gameshark, hardware quality is questionable, which makes backup memory to be easily corrupted. Additionally, backup memory capacity is around 200 KB so that it usually can't handle more than three Dezaemon 2 user games.
Installation of Pseudo Saturn Kai will remove backup memory feature, so additional mod (installation of modchip or ODE) is required to use DZ2SGM.
The little side story about this cartridge is that its unique way of handling backup memory gave me the idea and motivation to develop Gamer's Cartridge
Back in end of 2012, I thought only mapped memory chip could be accessed as in-game backup memory.
But seeing that this cartridge was featuring only boot ROM (I tried to dump backup memory ROM, but didn't found anything there and instead there was a small firmware and save data stored in boot ROM area) made me realizing that anything could actually be shown as backup memory device to a game, which was the start point of Gamer's Cartridge project.Pro
: This gave me the idea to develop Gamer's Cartridge !Cons
: Access is not so reliable : whole contents can be wiped after writing one save there. Installing Pseudo Saturn Kai removes the memory cartridge feature.Additional requirement
: modchip or ODE.⑤ "all-in-one" ©®TM red cartridge
That's the equivalent of Action Replay and official memory cartridge blended in a single PCB. Main advantage is to feature theses two cartridges in a single one, which is convenient for playing a wide range of games.
Major disadvantage is that similarly to Action Replay and official memory cartridge, technology used didn't changed significantly for the last 20 years and that in the meanwhile production of this technology (flash ROM and RAM) stopped. For that reason, quality may not be at the meet even if cartridge is sold as "brand new".
Additionally, similarly to official memory cartridge there is only limited save data integrity check available (file system is rudimentary, and only the first bytes of the ROM are check to verify if a backup memory cartridge is available or not), which is a design flaw from SEGA : it works fine in ideal conditions of cartridge correctly inserted and ROM not corrupted, but will ask to format the cartridge in all other cases.
That's acceptable if you just want to copy save data (there are plenty available
in Pseudo Saturn Kai Save Data Manager
, so have fun with them !) and play a little to a game, but not recommended if you want to play a RPG and won't stand to suddenly lose all your progression in the game.Pro
: Both official Memory and Action Replay in a same cartridge.Cons
: Contents may suddenly corrupt : don't use to store important save data.Additional requirement
⑥ Gamer's Cartridge
Well, that's my own cartridge project, so my opinion may be a bit biased, but it's recommended if you don't want your saves to be corrupted : as SD card file system is used, it is significantly stronger than the file system used on official memory cartridge.
It is also handy if you want to backup or share your save data because exporting saves to PC can be done by simply copying files from SD card.
Additionally, it features virtual floppy disk device support, which doubles the number of Dezaemon 2 user games simultaneously available : it is limited to 5 games with other backup memory cartridges (and count may be lower because of ROM size limitation) while a total of 10 games (5 on cartridge device, and 5 other ones on virtual floppy disk) can be handled by Gamer's Cartridge.
Moreover, DZ2SGM can be accessed directly from SD card so that there's no need to swap between DZ2SGM CD-R and Dezaemon 2 CD-ROM.
Major lack of this cartridge is the non-availability of expansion RAM. Also, as SD card access is not super fast, save data access is a bit slower than on other cartridges.
Pro : No risk of losing saves because of data corruption. Data can be easily backed up to PC or shared with other gamers.
Cons : Limited availability. 1MB/4MB expansion memory not available.
Additional requirement : none, and DZ2SGM can be run from SD card.
DISCLAIMER : play Dezaemon 2 (and other Saturn games) at your own risks ! I'm not responsible of any eventual damages caused to your save data, you Saturn, your cartridge, your dog or anything else !
: I don't have the budget nor the free time to test DZ2SGM3 on all combinations and variations of cartridge and ODEs.
So it would be very appreciated to receive feedback about if it works on your own Saturn setup
Feedback can be left by simply adding a comment at the bottom of this article : it is free, doesn't requires any kind of registration, and takes something like 5 minutes to be written ♪ In advance, thank you for the feedbacks
Read more Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager 3 : test on CD-R
That's a bit late for Easter, but did someone noticed the one hidden in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 ?
Easter Egg in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314
This can be triggered by a key combo from Pseudo Saturn Kai main menu and ODE image selection menu. It's available in both lite and full versions of the firmware and can also be triggered from RmenuKai too.
Keys sequence was changed after taking the video above, so don't try to guess it from there ! Unsurprisingly, keys sequence is more complex in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314
Why such kind of technical demo in Pseudo Saturn Kai ? Simply because it was fun to implement
Additionally, this is also a small wink to the good old times I was daily using a TI-89 calculator : this Easter egg was ported from Voxel2Space demo
by Kai Kostack
I still keep using my TI-89
, but way less more than when I was a student. It's actually quite handy to do quick math
or binary to (hexa)decimal conversions at work : the more Windows evolves, the more horrible its builtin calculator becomes (seriously, my eyes are about to bleed each time I see the Windows 10 calculator
), so it's good to have a physical calculator at reach of hands
Let's play a game with this Easter egg : the first one to find the correct keys combo will be rewarded by a Gamer's Cartridge
from my own collection !
Rather than just putting on sale, theses are kept for good occasions, and finding this keys combo is one of such kind of good occasions
and printing them
- Post the correct keys combo in the comments of this article. - This is limited to one Gamer's Cartridge, for one lucky Pseudo Saturn Kai user.
- Don't forget to indicate an email address where you can be contacted !
This is necessary for offering the reward.
- Choice of the Gamer's Cartridge shell color etc is at my own discretion. - Application will end in December 31st, 2019 : if nobody find the key combo until that time, I shall re-use this Gamer's Cartridge for similar kind of games with my Saturn projects.
Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 : Easter Egg !
I was recently asked about the instructions to compile Pseudo Saturn Kai from sources archive provided with Pseudo Saturn Kai binaries, so let's write a short blog article to make things clear to everyone.
The simple answer is : Pseudo Saturn Kai can't be compiled with theses sources.
End of simple answer. Those who want more details can refer to the few lines below.
Technically, some sources files are missing from source archive, preventing someone from opening sources archive, making some few changes, and installing it on a cartridge.
Why ? For the simple reason nobody won't help me if ...
- Some dude takes sources, change logo and credits page and then release this as "Pseudo Saturn Kai Gold Edition made by some dude".
- Some dude adds a major new feature to Pseudo Saturn Kai, and start doing business by making this firmware (and the cartridges compatible with it) available for paying.
This dude will eventually forget to release any source, but who care about that except me and few other nerds ...
Maybe I would be told this I'm overthinking, but case 1 and 2 above already exist. Theses are detailed in another blog entry
, and deserve a look if your time allows it.
Concretely speaking, there is one model using Pseudo Saturn sources (whose sources are fully available, and with build instructions too), hacked to don't show any startup menu (why not would you say, it's more convenient for the consumer), and consequently not showing any credits nor any mention it was made from Pseudo Saturn ... why not would you say, but that's a massive NO for me, and the Pseudo Saturn team will certainly not appreciate that too.
Some other projects are using fancy case and label instead of Action Replay ones (I'm OK with that, especially because Action Replay design guidelines are completely outdated), but don't mention anything about Pseudo Saturn Kai on their covers and labels until booting the cartridge and discovering ... a vanilla version of Pseudo Saturn Kai without any mention of the fancy product name advertised on the cartridge box and label
I'm sorry for the consumers
who were expecting firmware design to be unified with cartridge box and label : this wasn't done because some few files are missing in Pseudo Saturn Kai sources !
This case of "some people are making money from rebranded homebrew projects" is also detailed on Segaxtreme forums
, which deserves a look if your time allows it.
The thread there is not by me, nor about Pseudo Saturn Kai, so I hope how real the fact is that there are people making money from other people's hard work ... that's maybe normal in any work place (
), but that's a dick move in such a small Saturn homebrew community.
To sum up the bulky paragraph above, the way of sharing Pseudo Saturn Kai source code is not how it works in free software world.
In an ideal world, everybody share source code, and everybody other make contributions, and the project is getting brighter by brighter.
So if the story stops here, I'm the bad one, but in real world, people deface the credits page, rebrand the projects under fancy names and start making cash and show business from projects they didn't contributed on ... Maybe it's selfish from me, but I don't want that and consequently removed few files from Pseudo Saturn Kai source code.
And if I may add an additional paragraph about Pseudo Saturn Kai, I would like to say it is quite open in the magic world of application to play games on Saturn real hardware : modchips are completely closed-sources, ODE too.
In Pseudo Saturn Kai, the sources of the exploit to play CD-Rs, as well as the ones to redirect memory devices to SD card are available.
The source code of the implementation of cheat codes engine is available too. I coded it from scratch because sources of Action Replay firmware are not open source ...
To add a bit of melodramatic taste to this blog article, I would like to say I spent the last four years developing Pseudo Saturn Kai.
I didn't asked for any payment about it. The next day after I received a $5 donation for it, I changed my donation page
from "send money here if you want" to "send me kind message or a comment on my blog".
While four years seems a long period for just two or three features, you probably may want to look at Pseudo Saturn Kai credits page, and all the people who contributed to it.
Theses two or three feature are not the kind of thing someone develop, test, re-test, fix, and keep testing more and more during a weekend. From my own experience, normal people don't continue development so far and just give up development after a couple of weeks.
And, I won't appreciate this credits page to be defaced. Not for my nick to be removed (I'm listed there only one time), but for the respect to all the contributors being lost.
And while I developed custom cartridge using Pseudo Saturn Kai
, I kept support for Action Replay cartridge and their clones. That may sound obvious, but technically speaking it isn't, mostly because Action Replay have limited ROM size.
At some point of Pseudo Saturn Kai development, I hesitated to put cheat codes feature in a ROM portion larger than current one, but unavailable from Action Replay cartridges.
This would had made more cheat codes available, but the feature itself usable on Gamer's Cartridge only. I choose to keep a reasonable size for cheat codes list, so that it would be available for everyone on Action Replay cartridges
Words count for this initially expected "short" article is about to reach four digits soon (it's 827 words now), and as I doubt a lot of people will read it entirely, it's probably time to conclude :
- No full sources for Pseudo Saturn Kai
- If you want to make you own Saturn cartridge firmware, then feel free to use Pseudo Saturn sources as a starting point.
- Feel free to technically refer to Pseudo Saturn Kai source code, and to merge whatever you find interesting there to your project.
Still begging for Pseudo Saturn Kai full source code ? No problem, I shall make it available to everyone ... if there's not a physical disaster on my dev laptop or its SSD in the meanwhile.
At that time, this will definitely be the end of Pseudo Saturn Kai development. For you, and for me too.
Read more Compiling Pseudo Saturn Kai