The kids are currently on winter holidays, I don't want unexpected and messy task at work before entering new years holidays, so today was spent at movie theater with kids
We went to see Dragon Ball Super - Broly, and it was cool !! I really appreciated the "フリーザー！「カコク」ってなんだ！？" from Goku just after Freezer used "過酷" word in a dramatic scene
So well, it seems it's the good moment to announce a new public section in my homepage, which is about Dragon Ball cards
More than 15 years ago (but it feels like last week ... I'm really getting old !), I spent many afternoons in scanning my collection of Dragon Ball cards, and then put everything on a CD-R ... because internet was paid for each minutes connected, and my maximum transfer speed at that time was around 7KB/s, hence not suitable for uploading hundreds of megabytes of data
All theses limitations are no longer a problem, so please enjoy my digital cards collection
Broly when I was a kid
Oh, I forgot to say that everything in more or less in its original state, including the html, so in advance I'm sorry for any reaction to Comic Sans MS font and flashy image background Also, the textual contents are left as-is in omelette du fromage language
But ... there's currently a bug so I shall re-release it soon
After everything will be fixed and verified, I shall make a proper announcement in this article, so if you don't want to flash your cartridge twice, please keep tuned for one day or two !
Edit (2018/12/31) : version v6.274 was released a couple of a days ago, and so far I didn't received major claims about it, so let's consider this version a stable one ! Please find below an overview of the changes and additions in this release.
What's new in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.274
Automatic Game Loader
So far in Pseudo Saturn Kai 6.074, user had to choose which game loader to choose before starting a game, but this is now done automatically on Pseudo Saturn Kai side. There's no magic around this feature : it just uses a list of games not compatible with CWX loader, and decides accordingly
Pseudo Saturn Kai boot menu
No need to worry about which loader to choose ♪
That's a big addition for this release. Its development spans around June 2017 to Spring 2018. The main features for cheat codes are :
Built-in : don't need to manually enter the cheat codes
User friendly : just push X button when booting a game, and then select the cheat(s) to enable.
Maintained by cafe-alpha () : rather than adding an "enter cheat codes by yourself" feature, I plan to continue improving and maintaining the cheat codes list
Back in 2015, I added a stub of alternate rmenu to Pseudo Saturn Kai, but didn't had the technical information regarding Rhea/Phoebe API so the feature was disabled in its unfinished state. And this summer, an enthusiast friend helped a lot to get this technical information, so that I could finally finish this feature Development of this feature was an occasion to bring usage of proportional font in image selection menu, thus showing more information on a single screen. Base of menu module was developed around 2010 without any consideration for proportional font, so development of this side feature was a nightmare, but I don't regret for having done it now it is finished
Image selection menu for Rhea/Phoebe ODEs
Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager 3
Dezaemon 2 is a shooting game maker application for Saturn. And Save Game Manager is a collection of user games for Dezaemon 2. By the past, there were two volumes released by Madroms : SGM1 in 2007 and SGM2 in 2008. And 10 years after that, SGM3 is released and contains some new user games as well as all the games from SGM1 and SGM3 : one SGM to rule them all
Special thanks to Dezaemon DB for gathering a community around Dezaemon 2, and dumping the user games
A stylish logo for Pseudo Saturn Kai
That's maybe a detail, but that was really missing from a long time ! Special thanks to Alien^PDX for the logo, and CyberWarriorX for putting me in touch with him
Pseudo Saturn Kai logo, 2017/12/31
Yes, taken one year ago !
In-game connectivity for USB dev cart
This uses cheat codes routine, hence requires at least a valid master code to be set. It can do USB connectivity while doing transfer with PC, but that's a bit slow (because of unoptimized C running from cartridge ROM), and consequently may cause glitches on some games.
As a countermeasure, there is another mode who does only USB connectivity (hence no cheat codes) but does it fast since the code for it is written directly in assembly and running in RAM.
That may be cool for game hacking, or looking for new cheat codes ... but I still need to add a proper cheat codes finder feature on SatLink before looking for cheat codes on my favorite games
to work correctly with Pseudo Saturn Kai cheat codes
Virtual Memory Cartridge support via USB dev cart
This is similar to "Virtual Memory Cartridge" used in Gamer's Cartridge, but access save data files on PC via USB dev cart instead of SD card.
That's convenient for save data hacking, or testing several saves, but for normal use then using SD card is (in my opinion) a better choice.
As a consequence, full firmware can now be installed on USB dev cart. But cartridges not using SST39SF040 flash chips are not supported (because there's not enough room in flash ROM) and in that case only lite firmware can be installed.
Written by cafealpha 5 comments
This article is not about my own development experience, but from my friend XRider. Thanks a lot to him for the good work and the permission to share his pictures
First, what is a X-Terminator cartridge ? It is a Saturn flash cartridge which provides the following features : - 1MB expansion RAM - Backup memory - Ability to play import games - Cheat codes - Ability to search cheat codes by using standalone "X-Assist" unit
X-Terminator cartridge and X-Assist Image taken from SegaRetro
X-Assist is particularly convenient because unlike Action Replay cartridges, it doesn't requires connection to a PC : it is true that connection to a PC provides more features (such as memory access, program upload, etc), but as "connection to PC" basically means "software support will be dropped someday", a standalone unit is a real treasure For example, do you remember that Action Replay cartridges initially had DB25 connector ? This was for connecting the cartridge to PC via the -sold separately- Comms Link board, whose used now obsolete ISA port, and consequently not supported on nowadays PCs and/or OS. There are some alternate solutions for connecting Action Replay to PC, whose major one is USB Data Link, but unfortunately it doesn't provides any software support for advanced features such as cheat codes search and testing. So if you want to search cheat codes for your favorite game, X-Terminator is a good choice ! ... Okay, the user interface is in Japanese, but that's just a detail : after 200 or 300 hours learning about it, it shouldn't cause any problems
On the other hands, the major limitations are probably the lack of 4MB expansion RAM support, and using flash ROM for storing backup save data (which on the long term may brick the cartridge), but for a cartridge developed more than 20 years ago, theses limitations are quite honorable
So, once upon a time, XRider found a X-Terminator cartridge. It was a cheap auction, but on the other hand the cartridge didn't boot anymore, and the X-Assist unit wasn't included
Normal people would add this cartridge to their collection or put it on display as a decorating vintage objet Other people with engineering and electronics education background would put it on their "to repair someday" cardboard, and don't touch it for the next 20 years because they are busy with other projects or work, or real life, or all of theses at once
But XRider is none of them. XRider owns soldering tools. And knows how to use them. And really wants to fix this marvelous cartridge
So, let's try to fix the cartridge ! The first step would be to start with the most common problem, which is broken flash ROM. In my opinion, this is the most difficult step, because it requires to desolder two chips for a total of 64 pins ! I personally can't do this because of lack of appropriate tools, so the alternate desoldering way I would had used would be to ... use a nipper and cut each pins
Fortunately, XRider likes work well done, so theses chips were removed in a clean way
X-Terminator cartridge, with flash ROM chips removed. Additionally, all capacitors are removed too : that's the occasion or never to replace them
Next step is a bit optional, and is about to dump removed flash ROM chips with flash ROM dumper device. This is the best way to verify if failure is due to corrupted flash ROM chips, and if still in working condition, this at least would be an occasion to dump the cartridge's firmware
Flash ROM chip on dumper device.
Dump is full of 0xFF bytes ... unless a miracle happens, theses flash ROM chips are no longer functioning But, this comforts us regarding initial supposition of broken flash ROM chips causing cartridge not booting
Just in case of, let's verify PCB traces around flash ROM chips while theses are removed : this takes only 5 minutes to check, and it would be frustrating to find that cartridge was not working because of broken trace after soldering new flash ROM chips
PCB traces : just requires a light source strong enough to be seen
What to do next ? Maybe use PLCC sockets so that future replacement of flash ROM chips would be easier ! That's a couple of weeks to wait for the postman, but worth the wait
PCB with PLCC32 sockets soldered
And then, simply replace the flash ROM chips
Next generation is here !
PCB with new flash ROM chips. Additionally, new capacitors are populated
One last step remaining ! Flash ROM is mounted, but ROM itself needs to be set up with X-Terminator firmware. The simplest way to do this is to use Pseudo Saturn Kai flasher utility : it obviously allows to install Pseudo Saturn Kai, but also several other legacy firmwares in the case someone would want to revert to initial firmware after trying Pseudo Saturn Kai.
Just select the ROM version you want to install, and follow on-screen instructions
Flashing in progress ! Will it work after that ?!
Yeehaw !!! It boot fine, mission done Let's try with Metal Slug ... Metal Slug works too ! So it seems there's no need to replace RAM chips
Everything finished ? No, there is a side quest remaining Among the couple of X-Terminator cartridges XRider owns, one X-Assist (pad and LCD unit used to search cheat codes) is missing. One X-Assist available ? And another one missing ? No problem : let's reverse engineer the first one and DIY the second one
The X-Assist features two PCBs : one for connection interfacing and pad, and another one for LCD, as pictured below.
X-Assist pad/interfacing board X-Assist LCD board
The LCD board is incredibly complex, but since it was manufactured as a whole and can still be purchased on auctions or second-hand market nowadays, there's no real interest to build it from scratch ! And I personally wouldn't try : that seems too much complex
So remaining is pad and interfacing board : fortunately it uses standard components and not any Gate Array Logic-ish components that would need to be reverse-engineered too. Simply speaking, it's like assembling LEGOs Multi-meter, a LCD board, electronic breadboard, a bunch of wires, few electronic components ... is there something missing ? Yes ! A LOT of motivation !!
X-Assist DIY prototype, in all its glory
It's so beautiful it deserves another picture !
Let's try for real ! Of course, after verifying any eventual short-circuit with a multi-meter No short-circuit ? It's then ready for the "first-lighting ceremony" (火入れ式), as it is nicknamed in my neighboring ... I don't know if that's a common expression in Japan or anywhere else, but I like its naming anyway
No sparks ? No smoke ? That looks good
At first glance, that seems working ! Let's try cheat codes search feature in order to be 100% sure ...
Search unit not found ?!
Arg, it was too early to sing victory X-Assist seems not being correctly detected by X-Terminator cartridge ... Since text could be sent to the LCD, let's assume nearly everything is working correctly, and that a small detail is causing this trouble ... after some head-scratching, XRider found what's wrong : a Zener diode that initially looked useless was used to return some ACK to X-Terminator cartridge when looking for its connection !
The X-Assist screen after adding the Zener diode : code search memory could be captured !
65535 candidate codes ?! I'm not sure if correct cheat code could be found this time, but at least the DIY X-Assist unit works correctly now
Additional informations are available in French on Darius forums :
Hrm, I feel old to hear over and over that games I played in my childhood are becoming vintage ... time flies
So well, I don't want to write an article for the anniversary of each Saturn game That's too depressing, and I prefer to use this time for other things The reason for this article is to help people wanting to play Panzer Dragoon Saga, but not from level 1, and failing to find appropriate save states for use on their Saturn.
There aren't many saves for Panzer Dragoon save files available for importing from Save Data Manager, but good quality saves can be found on Panzer Dragoon Legacy homepage :
The reason why theses saves aren't added to Pseudo Saturn Kai Save
Data Manager CDROM is because the readme included with theses saves states that saves can't be hosted elsewhere than on Panzer Dragoon Legacy. I personally think this is a pity, because theses saves are really
good. (2018/02/12 : it seems OK regarding copyright See the bottom of this article for details)
Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the few games not allowing in-game
usage of Gamer's Cartridge. A workaround to that is to use
Saturn's internal backup memory.
So, it is possible to import theses saves to Saturn's internal
backup memory by using Gamer's Cartridge and Save Data Import
1. Copy all save data folders from archive to SD card → SAVES
2. Insert Gamer's Cartridge into Saturn, power on Saturn
3. From main menu, select "Save Data Manager"
4. Select "Save Data Import"
5. Browse for save data file where to import from
Example : SAVES folder → saga_01 → BKRAM1.BIN
6. Select all saves with Y button and confirm import to internal
memory device with A button
Then, it is possible to use theses saves from the game. Unfortunately, Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the few games not supporting in-game memory cartridge support with Gamer's Cartridge, so the only workaround is to use Saturn internal backup memory. 2018/02/12 : the steps above are still valid, but work on Gamer's Cartridge only. Next release of Pseudo Saturn Kai will feature theses saves directly from Save Data Manager, so that theses will be available for Action Replay cartridges users too (See the bottom of this article for details)
I hope I will be able to make this game compatible with Gamer's Cartridge in the future ! I recently tried to find what's causing this game not working ... and realized it would be harder to fix (I thought game was re-authenticating CD-ROM just before starting to play, but I didn't found any code doing that) I'm not a genius programmer, but on the other hand, I don't give up on the first failure I meet, so hope next attempt to fix support for this game will be the good one
Update 2018/02/12 : I just received the agreement to add theses saves to Save Data Manager More details can be found on Panzer Dragoon Legacy forums, and screen copy of related posts are available here for the records. Special thanks to Solo_Wing, who solved this problem in a couple of messages ! Please keep the good work
Written by cafealpha no comments
Synthesis ... this is the kind of blog article posted at the end of December in normal blogs, but since this is not a normal blog, and that I can't respect any schedule for it, let's prepare this article at the beginning of January
Last year started well with an order of Gamer's Cartridge from IGK, who is administrator of Dezaemon DB homepage. More than administrating Dezaemon DB, he is also a dezaemoner who (among other titles) developed Biometal Nemesis, which deserves its youtube link in this blog :)
Biometal Nemesis - Click above if you like shmups
I really like the style of this Dezaemon game ! Thank you very much IGK for creating such gem
Thanks to IGK, it was possible to finish support of Saturn Floppy Disk Drive on Save Data Manager : initialization of this device is slightly different than with internal backup memory and backup memory cartridge, and consequently was causing troubles on various configurations such as no backup memory cartridge inserted, but floppy disk connected, etc. Fixing all possible patterns wouldn't had been possible without kind help and beta testing from IGK. Thank you
Save Data Manager (version around 2017/01/30)
Configuration when this screen was taken was no "backup memory cartridge inserted, and floppy disk connected", which was causing troubles because among other things, unavailable device in the middle of devices table wasn't supported.
Additionally, this was the occasion to add virtual floppy disk support on Gamer's Cartridge, making Saturn considering a floppy disk drive is available, even if not physically connected. Main purpose of this feature is to add 5 more save and load slots in Dezaemon 2, which, in addition of the 5 slots on backup memory cartridge, makes possible to manage up to 10 saves into a Dezaemon 2 session directly from a single SD card I don't remember exactly what was the trigger which started the addition of this feature, but I think that a suggestion from IGK like "it would be cool if floppy disk would be supported by Gamer's Cartridge too" and me "Ah yeah, that's a nice idea ... how many save slots do you want ?"
After that, IGK continued to surprise me by asking his friend beebaraka to draw a Dezaemon 2 themed label for Gamer's Cartridge ... As a result, I received images for two labels, which I personally consider as the masterpieces among Gamer's Cartridge label collection My preference goes to the white-themed label, but I suppose it's just a matter of personal taste.
Dezaemon 2 themed Gamer's Cartridges
Like shooting games ? Like DIY ? Theses cartridges are designed for you
In parallel of theses Dezaemon 2 adventures, generous contributors helped in dumping firmware of some exotic Saturn cartridges, and were successfully added to Pseudo Saturn Kai Save Data Manager. Most relevant dumps were for X-Terminator cartridge, and Urawaza Dataro cartridge : first one is a cartridge with extended support for cheat codes, especially with extra controller allowing in-game search of cheat codes. Later one provides special save data for several (around 34 IIRC) Japanese games. Special thanks to Madrom for providing dump of this cartridge !
All the points below contributed to prepare the "20170423" release of Pseudo Saturn Kai. Warm thanks to all contributors who could make it possible !
Second half of the year mostly concerned cheat codes addition to Pseudo Saturn Kai. It started in June (or May ... I don't remember correctly) from a Gamer's Cartridge user asking when cheat codes will be available in Pseudo Saturn Kai ... this reminded me I still had to finish that until next release
First working version of cheat codes
hander, with USB transfer support
It's not visible on this picture, but many polygons weren't
drawn because of performance issues.
Unlimited time cheat code working : it took me around
one month to fix missing polygons, because of unoptimized
implementation of cheat codes handler), but I did it
Cheat codes kept me busy for six solid months, basically in understanding to manage cheat codes in a similar way as is it done on Action Replay firmware, optimizing critical code, importing codes list, finishing cheat codes related interface, testing several games, etc. That's honestly a hard work, but this was also an occasion to add in-game USB transfer via USB dev cart. Thanks to this, the basis in order to fix or improve cheat codes is ready Proper PC software for cheat codes detection is still missing, but hopefully this will be done someday.
Akumajo Dracula-X illustration with Maria's inifinite jump cheat code.
This game was a nasty one regarding cheat code support, with very
tight CPU and RAM left for cheat codes handler. This was an occasion
to develop many cheat codes debug features
Summer was also the occasion for me to officially end manufacturing and support of USB dev cart : after 5 years involved in this adventure, I considered it was enough, because : 1. USB dev cart interests basically nobody 2. In the rare cases USB dev cart interests somebody, it is usually used for closed-source projects (But there are notable exceptions where USB dev cart contributed to Saturn open source projects. Big thanks to theses concerned peoples for making Saturn homebrew scene brighter )
I'm hesitating about the timing for next Pseudo Saturn Kai release : should I take some extra months in order to get proper cheat codes support for most popular games ? Or should I release it under few weeks with minimal cheat codes support (around an handful of games are currently tested and working), and hope to receive some feedback from users, so that I will eventually know which games need their cheat codes to be fixed ?
That's a very difficult choice : cheat codes is a niche feature (as everything else regarding Saturn !), so I shouldn't hope a lot of feedback. On the other hand, adding a cheat codes edition screen, and allowing cheat codes input on user side is (IMHO) a mistake too : maybe a motivated user would fix and/or add codes for some games, but rarely theses codes will be publicly available for everybody else, and in the other cases, user will simply consider Pseudo Saturn Kai cheat codes as a broken feature. Let's see ... I honestly don't have any precise idea when next release should be done. Any suggestion regarding this is welcome in the comments
Generally speaking, I'm tired about Pseudo Saturn Kai maintenance : I started it around two years ago (yes, largely over than nine thousands hours !!!), edit: that was around three years ago (I though we were at the beginning of year 2017 ), am finally seeing the end of my TODO list to realize that ... majority of users shifted to hardware ODE, or simply left the scene without any last final word ...
Well, whatever it may be, I continue development of Pseudo Saturn Kai because I went too far to stop so near of the end (that's quite a pragmatic argument, sorry), but also (and that's the most important), because that's a nice hobby, which is important in order to keep a balance between private and work
Also, my first steps in Pseudo Saturn Kai maintenance were made during my hospitalization for cancer, and keeping such hobby during theses hard times was worth gold. I don't know (and don't want to know) how things would had turned without my Saturn hobbies.
BTW, things concerning my health are getting well : I'm still undergoing periodical screening, which all were OK last year Last year was the celebration of 3 years all right after surgery, which is not bad for a cancer with 50-60% 5 years survival rate
Pokemon Go still not allowed in hospital. Fortunately, usage Saturn dev laptop isn't forbidden
To finish this article on a rant note (sorry if you went here for some final positive note ), I would like to say "thank you for nothing" to Rhea/Phoebe development team rmenu author. (← updated on 2018/06/20)
Why ? Reason is that I would like to add a rmenu equivalent to Pseudo Saturn Kai, but don't have any technical information to implement it, and it's not like I didn't asked about theses informations, but simply didn't received any relevant reply from concerned developer(s).
For a semi-commercial product, I can understand to keep schematics, source codes and other development resources private. But I don't request disclosure of theses resources, and just want some minimal information for interoperability, which isn't publicly available, and that's a pity.
Why is that a pity ? Because some cheat codes will certainly not work by having rmenu running between Pseudo Saturn Kai and Saturn game. I know there's the solution to use rmenu's full boot, which does a system reset of nearly everything (except Rhea/Phoebe, obviously) after selecting a game, so that cheat codes can be enabled after that ... but I really don't know anybody motivated to do this messy setup : everybody is using the rmenu's quick boot solution, right ?
Pseudo Saturn Kai's rmenu, dated 20151214. Latest version have some major improvements, such as scrolling title of select game, etc Because of lack of Rhea/Phoebe API, this feature is disabled.
I'm personally (and honestly) not concerned about this problem : my modded Saturn + USB dev cart are enough for my development needs, and I don't want to pay for a device costing an arm and a leg (plus a kidney when buying from ebay ...) and then having to do the reverse-engineering job for it after that ! So unless I got external help, clean support for Rhea/Phoebe will be done ... without me
From what I could found from static analysis of rmenu itself, version is checked by seeking to the last available data sector of the CD track, and game is selected by seeking to sectors just before that last available one.
After that's it's difficult to guess what data should be expected from Rhea/Phoebe without testing on real hardware. And reverse-engineering is usually a sluggish and hard work (I estimate the remaining as around a two weeks course ... and hope this to be a pessimistic estimation), and really would like to spend this time to other projects funnier.
2018/06/20 update : there will be proper support of Rhea/Phoebe image selection in Pseudo Saturn Kai, and consequently an user-friendly way of enabling cheat codes when using theses ODE
Very big thanks to Deunan Knute for the great job, providing the technical informations and everything else
And also I would like to thank privateye for contacting Deunan, his patience and great help in beta testing
Written by cafealpha 2 comments
Pseudo Saturn Kai 6.074 released ... more than three months ago Sorry for the late news, but that's still some quite acceptable delay in comparison to frequency I post articles in this blog
The release was initially announced on SegaXtreme forums, because it is my favorite forums for Saturn things (more than 11 years I registered to it ! Big thanks to the forum moderation/maintenance/support team for their steady good work ). Also the news was announced on SegaXtreme first ... because writing an article there takes less time than writing an article on my blog So since I'm a lazy person, let's slightly arrange this article from what I wrote on SegaXtreme forums !
What's new in this version ? Well, there's basically, not a lot of major features (sorry !), but fix of a critical bug affecting Gamer's Cartridge, and addition of some "minor, but that I wanted to add someday" features.
Features for Gamer's Cartridge users
Indirect Dump : Dump cartridge (boot cartridge, or official memory cartridge, or any other cartridge) by compressing its contents to internal backup memory, and then extracting it to SD card when Gamer's Cartridge is inserted. Because of small size of internal backup memory, it may be required to repeat the "insert memory cartridge → Indirect Dump → Turn off Saturn → Insert Gamer's Cartridge → Indirect Dump → Turn off Saturn" cycle several times, but at the end cartridge is dumped Requires some motivation and free time on user side (It took me 45 minutes in order to dump my good old very first official memory cartridge), but this way of dumping doesn't requires to unsolder cartridge memory chips, which is the most important for me ! Note : if you are the lucky owner of Saturn FDD, then floppy disc is used instead of internal backup memory, and consequently dump is significantly faster and simpler.
Left : Screen display after compressing dump data to internal backup memory Right : Screen display after writing dump data from internal backup memory to SD card Theses pictures were taken on Indirect Dump's first successful test
One extra application of this feature was to dump ROMs from legacy cartridges such as X-Terminator, Satellite, ST Key and "8MEG memory cartridge". Curious people wanting to test theses cartridges theses ROMs can found them available for flashing (at your own risks) in Pseudo Saturn Kai Save Data Manager. Special thanks to A Murder Of Crows, AtariBorn and SaturnGuru who dumped their cartridges ... and reported many bugs from early versions of Indirect Dump feature
Indirect Dump development : the cut scenes Left : dump data corruption (see below for details) Right : Dump file CRC check error. Fortunately, only dump computation routine was buggy, and dump feature itself was working
Save Data corruption bugfix : This corruption problem concerns saves on Saturn internal memory, with save data size making save sector allocation table finishing exactly at the end of a sector. Very few games are concerned, and the only example I could find so far is Albert Odyssey.
I found this problem when testing Indirect Dump : data compressed then written to internal save memory wasn't then correctly read and decompressed to SD card. I initially thought this problem to be caused by Indirect Dump itself, because at the time I had this problem, I just finished to mess with data alignment error when preparing indirect dump's compressed data, so thought that this was the next bug to fix regarding Indirect Dump Quick investigation showed that contents of read data wasn't as expected, with a small portion of data being same as data at unrelated offset ... so maybe a problem when compressing and adding header etc to Indirect Dump save data ? It took me then a around one hour of testing and code review until I was sure that culprit was actually not Indirect Dump itself, because re-read of save data didn't matched with written save data ! Then, testing Indirect Dump with same input data and virtual memory cartridge disabled worked as expected, which 99% confirmed that problem was located on virtual memory cartridge side !
So yes, "virtual memory cartridge" actually manages save data handling for all backup devices (internal save memory, memory cartridge, and even Saturn FDD too) : this is possible because Gamer's Cartridge hooks Saturn backup library at relatively high software level. In comparison with 1:1 hardware emulation of save memory cartridge, this has the advantage of being free of capacity limitation inherent to memory cartridge's chips, and also allows to store save data individually on SD card (two files per save, vs big file containing all saves for 1:1 cartridge emulation). On the other side, all the save data handling software has to be re-written, so care has to be taken when re-implementing it
So, this is quite an uncomfortable bug I have to face : save data are corrupted when being written to internal save memory, and Gamer's Cartridge was released around 6 months before, with consequently cartridges potentially corrupting save data in the wild. Fortunately, while being hard to find, the bug wasn't hard to fix Basically, this was a timing error when updating current save data block ID, as described below :
Internal Save Data corruption related source code Left : before fix Right : after fix
Since I really didn't want to fix half of the bug (and having to fix the remaining half on other release), next step is to add a test bench tool for internal save data memory access ! "Test bench" is a program that automatically tests a lot of patterns for a given function or module. Ideally, all major modules should have their test bench, but in the real world, making test bench programs takes time, so programs are usually manually tested with 2 or 3 patterns, and then developer prays for all other patterns being bug-free ... And to tell you the truth, this test bench was the largest one I wrote so far It's not impossible a bug to be still hidden in an untested pattern, but anyway I'm quite confident about the reliability of internal save data support now
Here is how test bench screen looks like on my dev environment :
SatLink and Yabause couple showing test bench screen. SatLink and Yabause : my best friends when testing Saturn programs
Screen copy above was taken after fixing internal save data support, and I forgot to take a similar screen copy when bug wasn't yet fixed ... latest Save Data Manager CDROM's + Gamer's Cartridge with firmwave 6.037 should display error in test bench screen, so it would be funny to try it ... maybe someday BTW, Test Bench is still available in Save Data Manager CD-ROM (it took me a bit of time to add test bench screen, so didn't wanted to remove it after fixing internal save data corruption bug !), but this test bench screen requires a trick in order to be accessed : did you found it ?
That's all about internal save data corruption : I fixed it, and checked a lot of patterns about internal save data access, so similar problem shouldn't happen in the future ! Additionally, I didn't received any feedback from users about this bug, so let's hope it didn't corrupted game saves elsewhere than on my dev laptop
Autodump : Automatically dump saves from internal backup memory to SD card, so that they can be restored in the case they are lost because of depleted CR2032 battery, or save data manipulation error, etc. With this feature, you won't have to say anymore "I lost all my saves because of that $%QTY@!#% CR2032 battery" Since this feature uses SD card, it is available on Gamer's Cartridge only. And no, I won't write save data into Action Replay's cartridge flash ROM : flash ROM chips are not designed in order to be written frequently, hence using flash ROM as read/write storage area may prematurely brick your Action Replay cartridge. If you're not convinced about flash ROM limited write cycles, I can make some "cartridge self destruction" feature that would continuously write and erase random data to flash ROM, but don't claim that your cartridge no longer boots after that
An alternate solution in order to keep internal save data change the chip holding internal save memory to a FRAM one that doesn't requires battery to retain saves data, as detailed in db-electronics.ca. (there are maybe other alternate solutions, so please let me know in the comments if I missed one)
The advantage of this FRAM mod is that saves are not lost when CR2032 battery is depleted. There are however several disadvantages : - This is an hardware mod, which requires to remove a chip, then solder another one, hence quite difficult to do. - CR2032 battery is still required in order to keep clock and language informations.
For being the developer of Pseudo Saturn Kai and Gamer's Cartridge, my opinion is a bit biased, but autodump is a better solution, because autodump is not an invasive mod (plug cartridge vs change chip on Saturn motherboard), and the FRAM solution doesn't allows to dump save data to modern media device. Anyway, I don't force you to like my projects, so if you don't like autodump, then don't use it
Virtual Floppy Disk Drive. Simulate Saturn Floppy Disc Drive (FDD) behavior, with save data stored on SD card. This feature Worked fine with Dezaemon 2, which can now handle 10 saves at once (5 saves from cartridge, and 5 other saves on FDD ), but I didn't tested for other games using FDD, so any feedback is welcome. This is a feature available on Gamer's Cartridge only too. Thanks to this feature, floppy disk access is available without having to plug any floppy disk drive to Saturn
Features for Action Replay and Gamer's Cartridge users
Proper support of FDD in Save Data Manager : Save Data Manager now supports both two partitions of Saturn floppy discs for all common operations such as copy, move, delete, import, dump, etc. Special thanks to Dezaemon DB for big assistance in beta testing
Backup devices informations from Save Data Manager : First device is internal backup memory : the easiest to handle Second device is backup memory cartridge, unconnected (zero partitions detected) in this picture Third device is FDD : two partitions, wrong unit ID returned, and always set at third position in devices information array, even when cartridge is not available. Basically, FDD is a real trouble-maker when trying to handle backup devices
Save Data Manager development cut scenes : trying to format FDD (format for both two partitions is displayed in a single picture) Don't worry about the horrible display of error messages : it's (finally) improved in version 6.074
Soft Reset Patch : Change the "A+B+C+Start key combo" soft reset from "exit to multiplayer screen" to system reset. This idea is not from me, but from neuroacid (rmenu developer).
More saves to import from Save Data Manager. The most noticeable addition is saves from Urawaza Dataro cartridge, containing quality saves for Japanese games. Special thanks to Madroms for dumping the cartridge, and providing me its dump file
Other : Fixed many bugs, and added other bugs ... the usual routine
(Not a software feature, but) future users of Gamer's Cartridge may appreciate the couple of new labels, designed by beebaraka-sensei (twitter) for artwork itself and Dezaemon DB (twitter) for the final editing of the labels. Many thanks to them for the very good work !
Dezaemon-themed labels ... could you find out the odd label ?
The design on theses labels is themed on Dezaemon 2, and as you can see, the Dezaemon character on the game cover grew in the right way I personally do appreciate the white themed one
Before being asked "where are the cheat codes ?", please let me reply :) Cheat codes support is still under development. Menu in order to select game and its cheat codes is 90% done, but the bit of code in order to apply codes is still TBD. I didn't touched this feature for around half a year mostly because of lack of free time, motivation, and being busy in developing other features. I plan to finish this for "next-next release" however. Update three months after writing the explanation above : cheat codes on Pseudo Saturn Kai are working on few games !! There are many things remaining until reaching an "OK to release" state, but at least the cheat codes core feature seems to work, which is quite a relief for me :)
By the way, there's a trick cheat codes selection menu in Pseudo Saturn Kai 6.074 : did you found it ? It won't do anything else than showing games list and cheats for each games, so it's not worth spending more than 10 minutes in looking for the appropriates key(s) combo and timing however.
Yes, this release have (at least) two Easter eggs available Coincidence with release timing during Easter period ? I think not
Apart from cheat codes, there are many other things scheduled for future releases : I initially planned to release everything at once, but had to make this intermediary release in order to fix the save data corruption bug on Gamer's Cartridge, so stay tuned
PS : Special thanks to Stac for beta testing All the features above wouldn't exist without his help !!!