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How to fix your cartridge with Pseudo Saturn Kai

Written by cafealpha 2 comments
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
「お父さんは、エンジニアリング以外のことは苦手なんです。」
だから、開発すら関わってないモノのサポートについては期待しないでね。

Read more How to fix your cartridge with Pseudo Saturn Kai

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

Written by cafealpha no 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 !

Happy Birthday Pseudo Saturn !

Written by cafealpha 2 comments
Just a small article to wish an happy birthday to Pseudo Saturn

I'm not sure about the exact birth date of Pseudo Saturn, but it seems to be around July 7th, 2014 as it was announced on Assembler Games forums at that date. The first commit of source code was on the next day, and as contributors of this projects are spread around several time zones, it's difficult to give an exact birth date.

(snip)
(Dated July 7th, 2014)



(Dated July 8th, 2014)

It is July 6th here, so I'm one day early to wish happy birthday to Pseudo Saturn, but as I will busy at home tomorrow (with non-Saturn things), and busy at work the day after tomorrow (with non-Saturn things too), it's better to wish this now than three months late

Now that I realize this project is already 5 years old, I feel a bit old But as at the moment of Pseudo Saturn initial release I was waiting for my turn of heavy surgery, it's cool to be alive 5 years after theses dark days for me

After adding virtual memory cartridge, then cheat codes and also doing some extra side quests (Dezaemon 2 Save Data Manager 3, cartridge-less cheat codes support for Rhea/Phoebe ODEs, etc) to Pseudo Saturn, I think I should take a little break regarding development of this project.

It's not an "I'm tired to continue that" farewell nor an "Everything is perfect in this project, so it should stay eternally as-is"; in fact Pseudo Saturn Kai was a reason to live (even if chemo is painful, or scars from surgery are hurting, or dudes at day work are boring), so I don't have plans to dump this project in a near future But on the other hand, I would like some extra time for other projects : I shall return back to Pseudo Saturn Kai development if theses other projects fail, or when I will miss the good old smell of Pseudo Saturn Kai source code


I was a bit in lack inspiration when choosing a closing picture, so please enjoy one about Vegeta from my collection.
I choose another picture of Vegeta in recovery machine as profile picture when registering on AG forums 5 years ago, to wish me a good recovery during relatively long (expected 3-5 weeks, but it latest 7 for me) hospitalization ... I'm still here so maybe it wasn't a bad choice 

Read more Happy Birthday Pseudo Saturn !

Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 - The newer the better

Written by cafealpha no comments
As indicated in the title : I'm glad to announce the release of Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.374 ! It is available for download at the usual address on my homepage.

This time, there aren't any "big" feature added, but rather a streak of small fixes as well as few minor improvements too. So don't wait to upgrade your cartridge and enjoy even more your favorite games with Pseudo Saturn

What's new :
  • Show error message when SD card is not inserted into Rhea/Phoebe ODE.
  • Added RmenuKai : enjoy cheat codes on Rhea/Phoebe even without cartridge !
  • Improved compatibility of JHL loader-only games with Rhea/Phoebe ODEs.
    (Panzer Dragoon Saga can now be correctly loaded from Rhea ODE)
  • Improvements in automatic selection of game in cheats codes feature.
  • Improvements regarding Virtual Memory Cartridge automatic settings.
  • Fixed support for some third party wireless pads.
RmenuKai for Rhea/Phoebe : test with cheat codes for NiGHTS
If you prefer hedgehogs, there is also a similar video with Sonic 3D.


And there's also a small Easter egg hidden in some menus ... will you be able to trigger it ?

What didn't changed :
  • Plays games backed up on CD-R, without the need of any hardware mod.
  • Comes with a bunch of pre-installed cheat codes.
  • Provides image selection menu for Rhea and Phoebe ODE.
  • Available for free and for everyone : it doesn't costs any license to install, and I didn't begged any money to develop Pseudo Saturn Kai too.

This version was thoroughly tested by same beta testers who followed development from last public release, but on the other hand it was tested by ... nobody else during beta testing phase ... this is probably a fault from me (it was announced for one week on segaxtreme forums, and ... for one day on this blog), but today is the third anniversary of initial release of Pseudo Saturn Kai as well as Gamer's Cartridge so I didn't wanted to miss this occasion 

So don't worry and happy playing ! I spent last 5 months in developing this version, and my favorite beta tester spent the same period in testing around twenty beta builds so it will run fine on your Saturn ! Trust me, I'm an engineer
 

Not my favorite PCB,
but at least it works.


It's time to pick up the kids at their Monday evening activities but I still have many tidbit stories to relate about ! So please stay tuned in future article(s)


Edit (2019/06/10) : it should be a good idea to add links for discussions on external sites :

Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 - The newer the better

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