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Rebirth

Written by cafealpha 6 comments
Today is some kind of special day for me : among many other things, this is the anniversary of Jean-Luc Le Ténia, the best French singer in the world ! Jean-Luc would had be 45 years old today but unfortunately is no longer here to celebrate today with us.

Today is also the 4th anniversary of Gamer's Cartridge initial public release. For more than three years, this project was the occasion to meet many people, to loose hair on many bug and -I hope- to have contributed in a better Saturn community

Jean-Luc Le Ténia is no longer here, Gamer's Cartridge production was frozen (not to say discontinued) last year because of enough free time lacking to assemble new cartridges. And Saturn gamers are now either using Action Replay (reliable expansion RAM but no backup memory) or "all-in-one" cartridge (backup memory but sometimes buggy expansion RAM) to play their favorite games.


To makes things a little brighter, the best I can do is to develop a new Pseudo Saturn Kai fitting more nowadays needs and situation :
  • Built-in support with latest ODEs
  • In-game save data access for Satiator ODE
  • Save data storage on cartridge flash ROM

As a consequence of my free time being limited from this year, I thought in stopping non-priority projects to focus on other (not necessarily Saturn) ones. But on the other side, if I don't improve Pseudo Saturn Kai, I'm not sure that somebody else would do it for me !

So if the Saturn community shows enough interest, I would like to contribute to a newer Pseudo Saturn Kai

And to measure if the community is interested or not, I'm making Pseudo Saturn Kai development crowdfunding-based.
Principle is simple : the more interest (support) from the community, the more free time I allocate on Pseudo Saturn Kai. And the less interest from community, the more free time I spend on other projects.


My new patreon page

I don't plan to make a living in developing Pseudo Saturn Kai, and for this reason all the development made so far was done on a altruist basis.
All the development made so far (cheat codes, Rhea/Phoebe support etc) was cool but honestly a lot of work. So with your help I would like to find enough energy to give it birth again

Read more Rebirth

Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.324 - 2019' Cherry Picked Best Selection

Written by cafealpha 8 comments
As usual I'm not very on time for sending my best wishes  but I hope that everyone spent a nice Christmas and are appreciating winter vacations
To add even more fun to theses vacations, I'm happy to announce that latest flavor of Pseudo Saturn Kai is -finally- publicly available !

To be frank, there are no new major feature for Pseudo Saturn Kai in this release : the most important news is not hidden in Pseudo Saturn Kai itself, but in Save Data Manager, with a new edition of Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager, featuring 11 new opus !

Regarding this new edition of Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager, I really want to thank each respective contributor for their passionate work in shmup creation :
 - mk2, designer of DAIOH Huricane Special
 - WANG, designer of Houkou Tiger
 - Krissewyse, designer of Sonic Shooter, Last Soldier and several other unique shmup games



HouKou Tiger in action on my dev Saturn
Also featuring screenshots gallery of DAIOH Hurricane

I also would like to give a special thanks to Dezaemon DB (wiki) for all his support around floppy disk emulation in Gamer's Cartridge and motivating me in developing a new blend of Save Game Manager for Dezaemon 2, which then turned into Save Game Manager 3 (released on last Winter) and Save Game Manager 4, freshly releasing right now.
Unfortunately I didn't received any news from Dezaemon DB for more than two years, but I continue to believe he will be back in action in Dezaemon community someday.


Regarding Pseudo Saturn Kai itself, majority of changes in this release concern fixes in automatic game loader and cheat codes list. So if previous version of Pseudo Saturn Kai installed on your cartridge are working fine with your favorite games library, then ... theses games will continue to play fine with latest version.
But if you are experiencing problems with a game, it is worth trying this latest version. If even after that, some problematic games still doesn't wants to boot, then please consider verifying how well Pseudo Saturn Kai can fix hardware problems of your cartridge

All theses improvements were directed by privateye, who really deserve warm thanks for this huge work !!
It's a big task to get a project working more or less correctly as it was in previous releases of Pseudo Saturn Kai. But it's an even bigger task when trying to fix all the little details around that project Without privateye, Pseudo Saturn Kai certainly wouldn't had its edges polished so well


And, Gamer's Cartridge users may appreciate that a problem sometimes happening when retrieving Saturn date and time has been fixed in this release.
This bug was introduced in previous (6.314) version because I didn't checked enough side effects of modification done at that time to add support for wireless pads.
Concretely speaking, this fixes the file time stamp of save data files as well as folder naming (which is based on Saturn date) when dumping save(s) to SD card.
Except that, Gamer's Cartridge support is equivalent to previous version, so if you don't want to brick your Gamer's Cartridge (risk is super low, but I can't assert it to be zero), then continuing using previous version may be a wise choice. After all, rather than upgrading to latest firmware, the most important is to play your favorite games

Related links :
 - Pseudo Saturn Kai download page


Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.324 - 2019' Cherry Picked Best Selection

NinPen Manmaru translation patch update

Written by cafealpha no comments
Just a small article to inform that NinPen Manmaru translation patch was updated recently : I was reported that the game freezes after beating the final boss and that this could be fixed by using original (Japanese) script file instead of the translated one during that moment.

So this update of the translation patch is just a lazy implementation of what's described above : before overwriting script files with translated ones, the file used after beating final boss is renamed so that Japanese one is kept

At some moment I wanted to do something better regarding this translation project, such as translating in-game images :

Me trying to convert images to
standard format : the cut scene

In-game image correctly converted on second try

But that concerns so few screens (typically, regarding memory cartridge setup) that the game is playable as-is.
And also, I'm not that motivated to do translation work to then see physical copies for sale on some kind of stores for retro-gaming; so far I did my best to make my projects available for a large majority of players (Pseudo Saturn Kai itself doesn't costs a dime and can be installed on cheap Action Replay-ish cartridges, there are no kind of advertisement nor crowdfunding requests on my homepage, etc), so on the other side it's quite frustrating to see other retro gaming teams making cash on other people's work ...


To end on a positive note, I would like to add from the fact it could be verified that -except the small problem above- the game could work fine until last boss, it's fairly sure that the two "NINMES.DA" and "NINOMAKE.DA" are not necessary to play the game.
Consequently the "Press Enter to continue patching at your own risks" message caused by theses two files can be safely ignored during the patching process

Ninpen Manmaru - 忍ペンまん丸
Translation page available here.

Read more NinPen Manmaru translation patch update

Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager 3 : test on CD-R

Written by cafealpha 4 comments
As indicated in the title of this article, I tried to verify if Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager 3 (DZ2SGM3) is working correctly from CD-R on an unmodded Saturn.


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 ODE


② 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 : none.


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 !



SMALL REQUEST : 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

Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 : Easter Egg !

Written by cafealpha no comments
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 !

During the last years, I was gathering Gamer's Cartridges with custom 3D printed shells and PCBs from various production batches and different times of the development of the cartridge.
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
Custom cartridge shell .
Thanks to zone66x for designing
and printing them


Rules :
 - 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 !

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