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How to fix your cartridge with Pseudo Saturn Kai

Written by cafealpha 6 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


#1  - Gorka said :

When I read the title of this article I thought "what the H*** does he mean?"
Ha ha, there is no doubt that you have a good sense of humor.

#2  - cafealpha said :

Sorry for the delay !
Main purpose of this article is to reduce the amount of support requests not related to my projects. But an article "just" about that is clearly not funny so I added a generous pinch of humor on it ♪

#3  - vbt said :

great FAQ, issues on card are reported also on grandia translation
PSK gave a second life to many saturns ! congrats to you, cwx & jhl !

#4  - cafealpha said :

Yeah, I heard about this problem from Grandia translation tester ... which ended in being caused by laser requiring some tuning. Pseudo Saturn Kai was fine.
As you say, Pseudo Saturn Kai made many people playing Saturn = more problems being reported. So globally speaking that's a good thing but on my side it's boring to answer the same things over and over again :)

#5  - Dani said :

Hi, first of all thanks for all your work.
In my case I have have arrived here because my AR "works", but I can't load games that require 1 or 4MB RAM expansion. I have seen in several forums your opinion that the problem is the use of recycled components. I understand and can accept that.
My question is if we can change any component of the AR to try to revive them. For example, my AR has 2 HD74HC157P and 2 KM48C2100AJ-7.
All these components have a cost of about € 5.
Considering that this is a 2010 or earlier cartridge (without warranty) is it worth the try? Thank you.

#6  - cafealpha said :

Sorry for the delay ! December is a busy month ...
The couple of HC157 and DRAM is the main culprit in the case of a cartridge booting correctly but with expansion RAM issues. So replacing them may fix the cartridge but of course I can't guarantee that for a particular case. So choosing to replace these chips or buy another cart is up to you : if you are in "challenger mood" you probably may want to replace the chips because as you mentioned it won't be significant loss in the case the operation is a failure.
BTW, if your Action Replay cart is like mine, the PCB patterns may be in poor state (with copper layer looking like deformed with small bubbles) and in that case you will need to take care in not damaging the traces when removing the chips. Also, please note that in the case of a problem your cartridge still should be usable to load CD-Rs.


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