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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

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

Pseudo Saturn Kai PRO edition - RC1

Written by cafealpha no comments
Once upon a night, I wanted to verify Pseudo Saturn Kai products lineup and realized PRO edition was recently added !

The PRO edition itself was based on same technology as lite one, but requiring a small subscription (in one-digit dollar range) in order to allow installation. In other words, the same contents as lite (free of charge) edition, but financially supporting firmware development and maintenance costs.

Pseudo Saturn Kai PRO edition was so popular that it was attracting enough money to cover my daily personal expenses and at some point it was even enough for apartment rent as well as family's cost of fuel and light ! On the other hand, Pseudo Saturn Kai PRO edition support team was greedier and greedier about new features, visual improvements of the firmware's UI, and the longer it went the more oppressed I was to maintain Pseudo Saturn Kai code base.

And then, the poor man's alarm clock (= in simpler words, light of the morning sun) woke me covered in sweat and experiencing high heart pulsations.
I had to verify this was a nightmare ! ... But before that it was time to start the day with laundry, because procrastinating the laundry duty delays all the subsequent tasks after that until the end of the day

So during my earliest spare moment during that day (somewhere between 6:30PM and 7PM), I could verify that everything was normal regarding Pseudo Saturn Kai project : the lite version free for everybody, and the full version also free but usable only in my hardware projects.
So no deadline, no pressure, and no impatient users ! I was relieved because I have enough of that at regular work !!

~ Development of Pseudo Saturn Kai PRO edition ~
By Mr Quino, from Mafalda  #1212


"Wow, look at what I saw in the newspaper :
a millionaire died from overwork !"
"Yeah, there are such kind of stupid people who
get accustomed to millions and then can't stop."


"And they want more ! Again !"
"Again ! Again millions !"


"Again ! AGAIN ! AGAIN !"





On a more serious note, I'm glad to announce that release candidate version for next release of Pseudo Saturn Kai is ready !
This RC version was thoroughly tested by same beta testers who followed development from last public release, so the risk of bricking cartridge or facing bugs bigger than an elephant are quite low.
I'm however not confident about usage in unusual configuration, so that I would like it to be tested by a few more people for my peace of mind before putting it on the wild.

So if you are volunteer for testing (and reporting me testing results) please contact me by PM on segaxtreme forums, or by email from my contact page.

On the other hand, if you just want to use latest version and don't plan to give testing feedback, then please *don't* contact me and wait patiently for one week or two until RC version becomes publicly available.

What's new in upcoming next release : basically there aren't new major feature available (like cheat codes in previous v6.274 release), but enough changes and/or improvements to make everybody wanting to upgrade.
  • 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.

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

To shortly sum up the changelog, Rhea/Phoebe ODE users will be happy to find that this release will allow usage of cheat codes without the need of any cartridge  And some Rhea users shall also appreciate Pseudo Saturn Kai finally loading Panzer Dragoon Saga correctly.
There are also some fixes and improvements around cheat codes (available for everybody, not requiring ODE or any special cartridge) and I sincerely hope theses will contribute to make more people enjoying playing Saturn


Rare footage of Pseudo Saturn Kai development room.
Foreground : me preparing next beta.
Background : privateye testing latest beta.

Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai PRO edition - RC1

Happy new year 2019 !

Written by cafealpha 4 comments
As indicated in the title, I wish you an happy new year for 2019 !
Did you decided about your promises for this new year ? Personally I didn't and just plan to continue having fun with my Saturn

And, I hope that the new freshly released Pseudo Saturn Kai bringed you even more fun with your beloved Saturn If you want more rings for Sonic, or doing off-track tourism in Sega Rally without minding about remaining time until next check point, this is now possible thanks to cheat codes feature


In an unrelated note, it's funny to notice that people pre-flashing Action Replay cartridges had short winter holidays, because Action Replay with new logo on label were found around one week after Pseudo Saturn Kai release
Custom Pseudo Saturn Kai logo
Thanks to Alien^PDX for finding it

The design is questionable : why such aspect ratio for the logo ?! I guess it's to see it when cartridge is plugged, but I personally think it's a bit too "stomped" Anyway, that's still better than the original Action Replay logo !

Read more Happy new year 2019 !

Various Pseudo Saturn cartridges

Written by cafealpha no comments
Long time no see ! It's a super long while I wanted to write about several kinds of Pseudo Saturn cartridges (other than the usual Action Replay/Gameshark couple) but as a lot of things in this blog, always postponed it.

But recently I discovered a cartridge that breaks all records in term of extra cheap design and appropriation of other people's work that now I really want to terminate this article

(Note : it's already 10 13 14 29 days after the creation of this article, and it is still not published yet ... but I do my best to finish it )


Disclaimer : I am not affiliated with the designers or developers or sellers of the cartridges below. The reviews below are just my personal opinion and may not reflect the exact contents or behavior of the cartridges. And in case of questions regarding theses cartridges, please contact their sellers instead of me.
Also, please try theses cartridges at your own risks : whatever it may be, I'm not responsible about any damage caused to your Saturn, your cartridges, your dog, your house or anything else !

And let it be clear : the first purpose of this article is to inform users that such kind of not so usual cartridges exist, so that potential users can consider about theses cartridges for their own usage.
But if a cartridge deserves to be flamed, then I don't refrain about that, especially when it concerns the appropriation of other's people work.



Saturn NinjaDrive


From what I could see, that's an Action Replay cartridge with custom label and Pseudo Saturn Kai pre-installed. The "deluxe" edition features a stylish box for the cartridge.
It probably would had been appreciated to indicate that Pseudo Saturn Kai is installed rather to rebrand everything under a different name ...

Pros :
 - The price without stylish box is not that bad
 - Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installed
Con :
 - It would had been fair to indicate that cartridge is made from Action Replay cart
 - There's no indication about which firmware is installed



Saturn Unlocker



That's in the same range of contents (and price) as NinjaDrive : Action Replay with Pseudo Saturn Kai pre-installed. At least there's no attempt to hide about what is installed.
A description video at the lower half of the cartridge's page shows that Pseudo Saturn 0.832 is installed, which doesn't works at all on some Japanese model 1 Saturn The video itself is quite old, so let's hope that latest version of Pseudo Saturn Kai is installed on the cartridges now

Pros :
 - Classy box and label, a must have on your collection shelf
 - Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installed
Con :
 - It would had been fair to indicate that cartridge is made from Action Replay cart
 - Maybe a bit expensive ?



All in One RAM Backup Cartridge


All in one cartridge, front side.
Picture credits : SaturnGuru.

I couldn't find an official homepage for this "all in one" cartridge, but this is paradoxically the most valuable cartridge in this article
This cartridge model features both Action Replay support (boot ROM and 1MB/4MB expansion RAM) and 512KB backup memory storage. In simple words, it is the result of Action Replay and official memory cartridges blended together.

The backup memory is implemented with its own flash ROM chip, in the fashion as official backup memory cartridges, thus shall provide a 99% compatible (I keep the last 1% just in case of any eventual picky game that would cause problem, but this would be surprising such one exist) and in-game support for cartridge backup memory.

Using dedicated flash ROM for backup memory unfortunately means that it will be corrupted and finally no longer accessible after many write cycles, but ... this is how official cartridges worked too
However, since boot ROM and backup memory are stored in physically different flash ROM chips, the cartridge will still boot Pseudo Saturn Kai even if backup memory chip is damaged, which is one point over Action Replay where damage of backup memory ROM means the loss of nearly all other features.

Regarding firmware installed, the ebay pages selling this cartridge model I could see so far clearly mention that latest Pseudo Saturn Kai version (v6.074 at current time) is installed, and even explain the basis regarding cartridge usage such as loading a game, or accessing Save Data Manager, etc, which is quite a fair and remarkable way of doing

A review with only praises may look a bit biased (and no, I didn't received any money nor even any email from seller of this cartridge), so I would like to critic about the electronics parts used in this cartridges : theses are the same as used in Action Replay or official backup memory cartridges.
As a consequence, the technology used is no longer produced, thus probably coming from shady old stock, or counterfeit chips factory, or recycled from vintage devices. In each case, this means that in the long term, quality may not be at the meet.


An interesting related question is "Why releasing such cartridge around 20 years late ? This could exist at the time Action Replay cartridge development was still active !".
My guess about this question is that Action Replay development and/or sales team wanted to put everything (boot ROM and cartridge memory) in a single flash ROM chip, giving birth to the "if a ROM feature breaks, the whole cartridge is bricked" cartridge architecture used in Action Replay carts.

I personally like to write to flash ROM only when upgrading cartridge firmware, so that I dropped backup memory support on Pseudo Saturn Kai lite.
So my second guess is that it motivated someone to finally merge Action Replay and backup memory cartridge in a single one ? If this guess is right, then I'm glad to have indirectly contributed to the development of this cartridge

And yes, I am the only one responsible of this backup memory feature no longer available after installing Pseudo Saturn Kai. That's a deliberate choice to avoid cartridge bricking and I will never add a feature for that, so don't hesitate to share your hate towards me in the comments of this article 


As an extra note, I could notice that several hardware variation for this cartridge model may exist, so anyone interested in purchasing such "all in one" cartridge should carefully verify it's item description page as well as features list indicated at the back side of the cartridge.
All in one cartridge : list of features available.
Picture credits : SaturnGuru.

And finally, please enjoy a picture of each sides of the cartridge PCB Theses pictures clearly indicate how the cartridge works, and were a great help when preparing this article.

All in one cartridge font side.
Left half : expansion RAM and glue logic for each chips.
Right half : flash ROM chips for cartridge firmware.
Picture credits : SaturnGuru.

All in one cartridge rear side.
Flash ROM for cartridge backup memory.
Picture credits : SaturnGuru.

Pros :
 - Supports basically nearly all the Saturn games library
   (Except the couple of games requiring their own ROM cartridge, and those others eventually not compatible with Pseudo Saturn Kai)
 - Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installed
 - There's no attempt to hide that Pseudo Saturn Kai is installed
Con :
 - Cartridge backup memory may deteriorate after heavy usage.


Edit (2019/01/09) : there is also some kind of "dual boot" cartridge that seems to allow to select among two firmwares which one to boot.

Dual boot cartridge, front side
Thanks to toze3 for informing me about this cartridge

Dual boot cartridge, rear side
Thanks to toze3 for informing me about this cartridge



Saturn PASS

You're full of all theses cartridges to digest in a single article ? That's bad for you, because I kept the most greasy dish for the last time

Saturn PASS cartridge

This is a very simple cartridge with only boot ROM, and nothing else : no cartridge shell, and not even decoupling capacitors near the ROM chip ...
The decoupling capacitors protect neighboring components against voltage spikes : as theses apparently don't have any functional purpose, they are sometimes removed by cheap device cloners ...

Additionally, ROM chip used seems to be a UV EPROM, easily identifiable with the small round window at the center of the chip.

UV EPROM chip detail
Yes, I did hit the snapshot key around 10 times to get
the right moment when UV window is visible
(Screenshot from this video)

As a consequence, firmware update requires dedicated device to illuminate the chip with UV light prior writing of the ROM and basically can't be easily done on user side.

Additionally from being technically difficult to upgrade, Saturn PASS users will also have to enjoy the custom firmware pre-installed : apparently it's a stripped version of Pseudo Saturn (or it will be an huge coincidence that log message under "Loading CD" is the same in both firmwares) with only the bare minimum remaining :
 - No boot menu
 - "Pseudo Saturn" name changed to "Saturn PASS"
 - Addition of URL to Saturn PASS homepage
 - Removal of Pseudo Saturn credits

Saturn PASS boot screen
For unknown reason they left as-is the
log display in is_audio_cd function.
(Screenshot from this video)

Pseudo Saturn is open source, so anyone with enough skills is free to change things in the firmware to their preferences. But rebranding the whole thing and trashing credits to original development team is not how open source works.
So if someone wants to thank somebody for Saturn PASS to exist, they should refer to credits displayed in Pseudo Saturn :
Copyright 2011-2015 Pseudo Saturn Team
http://github.com/cyberwarriorx/pseudosaturn
At a glance, removal of boot menu and only keeping the Pseudo Saturn exploit sounds a good idea, because that's one step less to do on user side before playing a game.
But except that point, it's complete crap : extra features (to verify if cartridge is working correctly or not, or to verify version of Saturn internals, etc) are no longer available, as well as credits page too.

Personally, I derived Kai from Pseudo Saturn specifically for adding features other than Pseudo Saturn exploit : memory cartridge support in previous releases, cheat codes in next release(s), and probably something more in future release(s). So removing all the menus and extra features just to spare the push of one button to play a game is "no, I won't do that"

Pseudo Saturn Kai credits page is probably just a feature to boost my own ego, but I am not the only one listed there, and everybody credited contributed for free : done on their free time and without financial compensation. So muting them is definitely not an option. Also, I made several graphic improvements when displaying credits, so I hope you will enjoy them in next release

To finish on a positive note about Saturn PASS, it should be mentioned that its price is relatively reasonable : 350 Thai Bath = around 10 US Dollars, which makes this cartridge affordable for Thailand users

Pro :
 - Affordable for Thailand users.
Cons :
 - Poor hardware design.
 - Can't upgrade firmware.
 - No credits to original firmware developers.

PS : I heard about this cartridge from furrtek. Special thanks to him for the information

Read more Various Pseudo Saturn cartridges

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