The Sega Saturn (セガサターン), is a video game console manufactured by Sega and was the successor to the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis (as opposed to add-ons such as the Sega 32X and Mega-CD). Initially released in 1994, the Saturn was a 32-bit compact disc-based system, and was a key player in what is now widely known as the fifth generation of video game consoles. The Saturn was first released on November 22, 1994 in Japan, May 11, 1995 in North America, and July 8, 1995 in Europe.
Depending on where you live, the Saturn could be described as either Sega's most successful console of all time (Japan) or one of their biggest commercial failures (North America). Despite being powerful for its time, its complex hardware and inability to meet rapidly evolving consumer expectations and demands put it in a distant third place in the Western world, but a combination of 2D sprite games, 3D arcade ports and strong marketing campaigns made the Saturn the most successful Sega console in Japan. Estimates for the total number of Saturns sold worldwide range from 10 million to 17 million.
The Saturn's main competitors were Sony's PlayStation released just a week after the Saturn in Japan, and the Nintendo 64 from September 1996. Its arcade counterpart was the Sega Titan Video (ST-V) system. It was replaced by the Sega Dreamcast in late 1998.
The Sega Saturn is the successor to the Mega Drive, though as a video game system it is almost entirely different. It is a "32-bit" console, marketed in such a way that it appeared to be an evolution of the "16-bit" era of video gaming dominated by the Mega Drive and Super NES (which in turn succeeded the "8-bit" Master System and NES, respectively).
This description, however, was initially fabricated - Sega of Japan originally claimed the Saturn was a "64-bit" console and some within Sega even chose to call it an "128-bit" machine, a number arrived at by cumulating processors rather than simply picking the main CPU. Alternatively some areas of Sega simply went down the "multi-processor" route, refusing to get drawn into the perceived differences between 32-bit and 64-bit. This was incidentally the last video game generation where these so-called "bit wars" were considered to matter.
The system uses CD-ROMs as its primary choice of media. Though it contains a cartridge slot, this is not used for games, but rather backup memory or RAM cartridges. The former was to extend the space for save games beyond that of the Saturn's internal memory, while the latter was used to augment the Saturn's limited memory and to avoid long CD load times.
The Saturn has two controller ports, and the standard Saturn controller builds on that seen in the six button Sega Mega Drive controller. It adds two shoulder buttons, first seen on the Super NES controller, bringing the amount of buttons up to nine. The 3D Control Pad, released later with NiGHTS into Dreams, would supply the console with an analogue stick and analogue shoulder buttons, the latter later being used in the Sega Dreamcast before being adopted by Nintendo and Microsoft for their GameCube and Xbox consoles, respectively.
The Sega Saturn hardware combined features from several Sega arcade systems. It has a multi-processor system, like arcade machines. Its geometry engine consists of three DSP math processors, two inside both Hitachi SH-2 CPU and one inside the SCU, which were all intended to be programmed in parallel using complex assembly language, similar to how Sega programmed 3D arcade games at the time.
The VDP1 was based on the Sega Model series, with a quad polygon engine based on the Model 1, along with the Model 2's texture mapping capability. The VDP1 is capable of drawing more polygons than the Model 1, but less than the Model 2. The Saturn was also influenced by the Sega Model 1's use of a separate graphics processor for the 2D backgrounds (based on the Sega System 24).
The Saturn's VDP2 was based on Sega System 32 technology (an evolution of Super Scaler technology), used for both 2D backgrounds and 3D planes; the latter can be manipulated as polygon objects. The VDP2's tiled infinite plane engine uses tilemap compression and a form of scanline/tiled rendering to draw large, detailed, 3D textured infinite planes (for things such as grounds, seas, walls, ceilings, skies, etc.), with perspective correction and a virtually unlimited draw distance (and capable of effects such as transparency, parallax scrolling, reflective water surfaces, fog/misting, fire, and heat haze), at a very high effective fillrate for its time.
The VDP2 draws 3D infinite planes as large as 4096×4096 pixels at 30 FPS, equivalent to a fillrate of over 500 MPixels/s, significantly larger than what any console or PC hardware were capable of with polygons at the time. It requires 1 million texture-mapped polygons/sec, with 500 pixels per polygon, to draw a textured 4096×4096 infinite plane at 30 FPS; the Dreamcast was the first home system capable of doing this with polygons, as it was the first home system that exceeded 500 MPixels/s polygon fillrate (using tiled rendering).
The Saturn was known for its difficult 3D development environment (especially for third-party developers), including its complex parallel processing hardware architecture, requiring familiarity with assembly language, lack of an operating system, and initial lack of C language support, useful development tools and graphics software libraries. Sega provided DTS support for these features in late 1995. However, the C language development tools were not very well optimized for Saturn hardware, only tapping into a fraction of the Saturn's power, compared to assembly language which could tap into most of the Saturn's power.
Only a handful of developers were able to squeeze most of the power out of the second SH-2 CPU, and even fewer utilized the SCU DSP, as its assembly code was more complex than the SH-2. Assembly language was often used by Japanese and British developers, but rarely used by American developers who preferred C language. The VDP1 rendered quadrilateral polygons, which, despite being used by the most powerful gaming system at the time (Sega Model 2 arcade system), did not become industry standard for 3D graphics, compared to the more widely used triangle polygons.
The VDP2's tiled infinite plane engine, which could draw large 3D infinite planes with a much higher draw distance, texture details and effective fillrate than polygons at the time, was unfamiliar to most developers who relied on polygons to construct 3D planes. Sega's first-party 3D games often utilized both CPU, the DSP, and/or both VDP, but the hardware's complexity and difficult 3D development environment led to most third-party developers only utilizing a single CPU and the VDP1, just a portion of the Saturn's power, for 3D games. While the VDP2 was under-utilized for 3D games, it was frequently used for 2D games, where the VDP1 draws sprites and the VDP2 draws scrolling backgrounds.
- Main article: Sega Saturn consoles.
There are a variety of Sega Saturn models of different shapes and colours, as well as novelty units, such as the Game & Car Navi HiSaturn. Differences between systems are not as drastic as seen with the Sega Mega Drive - the same basic feature set and component designs were used throughout the console's lifespan in all regions.
First seen on launch day in Japan (1994-11-22), the HST-3200 (later revised and released as the HST-3210, although the differences aside from a BIOS update are not fully understood), commonly referred to as the "grey Saturn" (although during development it had a metallic finish), was the basis for all Sega Saturns released between the Japanese launch and early 1996. These Saturns use blue "oval" buttons, mounted to black plastic at the front of the unit, and have both "power" and "access" LEDs similar to the Sega Mega-CD.
The Saturn saw variants produced by Hitachi and Victor as the HiSaturn and V-Saturn respectively, though aside from altered BIOSes and aesthetics (and bundles/pricing) these do not deviate much from the Sega designs. Novelty value sees these models worth slightly more in pre-owned markets - fewer were produced than the Sega models, but compatibility rates are much the same.
Overseas versions are physically identical (save for region encoding), but use black plastic throughout.
Released in March 1996, the HST-3220 stands as the only significant change to the Saturn's design, although functionality wise, the only feature omitted is the "access" LED seen in previous models. Reportedly the change in colour scheme was made to appeal to younger and female demographics.
These "white" Saturns likely cost less to produce (they were certainly sold for a lot less in Japan), but from a user perspective the change is largely negligible - the console is roughly the same size and has no problems running any Saturn software. White Saturns opt for grey "circle" power and reset buttons and a pink "open" button for lifting the lid.
It is rumoured, though not proven, that the HST-3220 has a faster disc reading time than its earlier counterparts, meaning quicker loading screens in games.
When brought overseas the console continued to be shipped only in black, although the North American and European models have different coloured buttons. In 1998 Sega started releasing special versions of these consoles with semi-transparent plastic under the "This is cool" brand - only 30,000 units were produced. Again aside from aesthetic differences the consoles are interchangeable.
Some of the Japanese colour designs were also brought to Brazil.
Japanese "This is Cool" model
- Main CPU: 2× Hitachi SH-2 @ 28.6364 MHz
- System coprocesor: Custom Saturn Control Unit (SCU), with DSP for geometry processing and DMA controller for system control
- System control processor: 32‑bit fixed‑point registers/instructions, interrupt controller, DMA controller, 3 DMA channels
- Math coprocessor: Geometry DSP @ 14.3 MHz, 32‑bit fixed‑point instructions, 6 parallel instructions per cycle, 85.8 MIPS (6 MIPS per MHz)
- CD‑ROM CPU: Hitachi SH1 32‑bit RISC processor @ 20 MHz (20 MIPS) (controlling the CD‑ROM)
- Contains internal DAC and internal math processor
- Bus width: 32‑bit internal, 16‑bit external
- Microcontroller: Hitachi HD404920 (4‑bit MCU) "System Manager & Peripheral Control" (SMPC) @ 4 MHz
- RTC: 1 MHz (real‑time clock)
- Instruction set: 4‑bit instructions, 890 ns per instruction, 1.123595 MIPS
- Bus width: 10‑bit internal, 8‑bit external
- Sega/Hitachi VDP1 @ 28.6364 MHz: Handles sprite/texture and polygon drawing
- Bus width: 48‑bit (3x 16‑bit)
- Word length: 16-bit
- Sega/Yamaha VDP2 @ 28.6364 MHz: Backgrounds, scrolling, Handles background, scroll and 3D rotation planes
- Bus width: 32‑bit
- Word length: 32-bit
- Sony CXA1645M RGB‑Composite Video Encoder
- Graphics pipeline:
- 3 DSP geometry processors: 2× SH-2 DSP, SCU DSP
- 2 VDP rendering processors: VDP1 for sprites/textures/polygons, VDP2 for planes/backgrounds/textures
- Refresh rate: 30–60 Hz (NTSC), 25–50 Hz (PAL)
- Frame rate: 1–60 FPS (NTSC), 1–50 FPS (PAL)
- Color depth: 16-bit RGB to 32‑bit RGBA (24‑bit color with 8‑bit alpha transparency)
- Color palette: 16,777,216 (VDP2), 32,768 (VDP1)
- Colors on screen: 256 to 16,777,216 (VDP2), 256 to 32,768 (VDP1)
- VDP2 colors per background: 16 colors (4-bit) to 16,777,216 colors (24-bit)
- VDP1 colors per sprite/polygon: 16 colors (4-bit) to 32,768 colors (15-bit)
- CLUT: Virtually unlimited number of CLUTs
- MPEG Video CD Card: 704×480 resolution, 30 frames/sec, 16‑bit audio with 44.1 kHz sampling, up to 72 minutes on one CD
- DSP geometry processing: 160.25464 MIPS (74.45464 MIPS SH-2, 85.8 MIPS SCU)
- Fixed-point operations: 85.9092 MOPS (57.2728 MOPS SH-2, 28.6364 MOPS SCU)
- Flat shading T&L calculations: 116 ops/poly, 740,596 polys/s (493,731 polys/s SH-2, 246,865 polys/s SCU)
- Gouraud shading T&L calculations: 180 ops/poly, 477,273 polys/s (318,182 polys/s SH-2, 159,091 polys/s SCU)
- DSP–VDP transmission bus bandwidth: 57.2728 MB/s (16-bit, 28.6364 MHz)
- Maximum polygon transfer: 740,596 polys/s (23.699072 MB/s, 32 bytes/poly)
- SCU math coprocessor: Geometry DSP @ 14.3182 MHz, 32‑bit fixed‑point instructions
- Parallel units: 32/48-bit ALU (arithmetic logic unit), 48/64‑bit Multiplier, 32-bit instruction decoder
- Internal: 4 parallel buses, 32-bit per bus, 128-bit overall bus width, 3 buses at 14.3182 MHz, 1 bus at 28.6364 MHz
- External: 32-bit, 28.6364 MHz
- Cache RAM: 2 KB (1 KB data, 1 KB program)
- Instructions: 6 parallel instructions/cycle (one instruction per unit/bus), 85.8 MIPS (6 MIPS/MHz)
- Fixed-point operations: 28.6364 MOPS (million operations/second), 2 MOPS/MHz (2 parallel operations/cycle)
- Capabilities: Matrix and vector calculations, 3D point transformations, lighting calculations, fixed-point calculations, faster than SH-2, can use DMA to directly fetch and store vertex data, floating-point operations, geometry transformations, voxel rendering acceleration, fast coordinate transformations, lighting computations
- Notes: Can only be programmed with assembly language, more difficult to program than SH-2
- Main article: VDP1 (Saturn).
- VDP1 @ 28.6364 MHz: Handles sprite/texture and polygon drawing, color calculation and shading, geometry
- Versions: Sega 315‑5883 (Hitachi HD64440) Video Display Processor 1 (VDP1), Sega 315‑5689 VDP1
- Adjustable video clock rate: 28.6364 MHz or 26.8426 MHz (NTSC), 28.4375 MHz or 26.8426 MHz (PAL)
- Parallel bus structure: 3 parallel data buses (dual framebuffers, polygon/texture/sprite RAM), 48-bit bus width (16-bit per bus), 171.8184 MB/s bandwidth (57.2728 MB/s per bus)
- Parallel rendering operations: 85.9092 million operations/cycles per sec (28.6364 MHz polygon/texture/sprite RAM, 28.6364 MHz draw/render framebuffer, 28.6364 MHz display/erase framebuffer)
- Color palette: 32,768 colors (15-bit RGB) to 16,777,216 (24-bit VDP2 CRAM palette, accessible by VDP1)
- Colors on screen: 32,768 colors (15-bit RGB) to 1,048,576 colors (15-bit RGB, 32 transparency levels)
- Colors per pixel: 32,768 colors (16bpp, 15-bit RGB), 256 colors (8bpp, 8-bit palette)
- Features: Alpha blending, clipping, luminance, shadows, transparency (32 levels of transparency using VDP2), per-pixel transparency, flat shading, Gouraud shading, edge anti‑aliasing
- Framebuffer capabilities: Double buffering, dual 256 KB framebuffers, rotation & scaling, VDP1 framebuffer can be rotated as bitmap layer by VDP2
- Framebuffer resolution: 512×256, 512×512, 1024×256
- Overscan resolution: 1708×263 (NTSC), 1820×313 (PAL), 852×525 (31KC), 848×562 (HDTV)
- Sprite/Texture capabilities: Rotation & scaling, flipping, distortion, warping, vertical and horizontal line scrolling, virtually unlimited color lookup tables, System 24/32 sprite rendering system
- Sprite/Texture size: 8×1 to 504×255 texels
- Colors per sprite/texture in Lo-Res: 16, 64, 128, 256, and 32,768
- Colors per sprite/texture in Hi-Res: 16, 64, 128, and 256
- Maximum texels per scanline: 3624 (NTSC), 3640 (PAL)
- Maximum sprites/textures per scanline: 453 (NTSC), 455 (PAL)
- Polygon capabilities: Texture mapping, lighting, shading, wire‑frame, flat shading, Gouraud shading, quad polygons, perspective correct forward texture mapping
- Sprite/Texture/Polygon RAM: 512 KB
- Sprite/Polygon size: 32 bytes (flat shading), 40 bytes (Gouraud shading), 64–96 bytes (shadows), 72–104 bytes (shadows, Gouraud shading)
- Texture size: 4 bytes (8×1 texels, 16 colors) to 251.02 KB (504×255 texels, 32,758 colors)
- Maximum sprites per frame: 16,383 (virtually unlimited), 13,106 (Gouraud shading), 5461–8191 (shadows)
- Maximum polygons per frame: 16,384 (flat shading), 16,383 (texture mapping), 13,107 (Gouraud shading), 13,106 (texture mapping, Gouraud shading), 8192 (shadows), 8191 (texture mapping, shadows), 7281 (texture mapping, shadows, Gouraud shading)
- Framebuffer fillrate: 57.2728 MPixels/s (28.6364 MPixels/s per framebuffer)
- Draw/Render framebuffer: 28.6364 MPixels/s opaque (1 cycle/pixel), 4.772733 MPixels/s shadowed/translucent (6 cycles/pixel)
- Display/Erase framebuffer: 28.6364 MPixels/s (15.72864 MPixels/s display, 14.418 MPixels/s erase/write)
- Texture mapping fillrate: 28.574516 MTexels/s (504×255 textures), 18.205923 MTexels/s (8×8 textures)
- Gouraud shading: 28.519749 MTexels/s (504×255 textures), 10.373941 MTexels/s (8×8 textures)
- Polygon rendering performance:
- 740,596 polys/s: Flat shading, 12,343–16,384 polys/scene, 38-pixel polys
- 500,000 polys/s: Flat shading, lighting, 8333–16,384 polys/scene, 57-pixel polys
- 407,152 polys/s: Gouraud shading, lighting, 6785–16,384 polys/scene, 32-pixel polys
- Texture mapping performance:
- 488,120 polys/s: Lighting, 8135–16,352 polys/scene, 32-texel textures (1–257 KB)
- 200,000 polys/s: Gouraud shading, lighting, 3333–16,352 polys/scene, 32-texel textures (1–381 KB)
- Main article: VDP2 (Saturn).
- VDP2 @ 28.6364 MHz: Handles background, scroll and 3D rotation planes
- Versions: Sega 315‑5890 (Yamaha) Video Display Processor 2 (VDP2), Yamaha 315‑5690 VDP2
- Adjustable video clock rate: 28.6364 MHz (NTSC), 28.4375 MHz (PAL)
- Features: Transparency (32 levels of transparency, can also be applied to VDP1 polygons/sprites), shadowing, 2 windows for special calculations, matrix calculations
- 3D infinite planes: Can be manipulated as polygon objects, used for grounds, walls, ceilings, seas, skies, etc.
- Visual effects: Water, fire, fog, heat haze, misting, reflective water surfaces
- Planes: 7 layers, 2–6 simultaneous layers (1–4 scrolling 2D backgrounds, 1–2 rotating 3D playfields, 1 back screen)
- 2D scrolling backgrounds: Scrolling, parallax scrolling, single-axis 2D rotation
- NBG0: 16–16,777,216 colors, tilemap (1024×1024 to 2048×2048) or bitmap (512×256 to 1024×512), column/row/line scrolling, scaling
- NBG1: 16–32,768 colors, tilemap (1024×1024 to 2048×2048) or bitmap (512×256 to 1024×512), column/row/line scrolling, scaling
- NBG2/NBG3: 16–256 colors, tilemap (1024×1024 to 2048×2048)
- 3D rotating playfields: Scrolling, scaling, dual-axis 3D rotation, 3D infinite ground planes, perspective correct 3D rotation, can be manipulated as polygon objects
- RBG0: 16–16,777,216 colors, tilemap (2048×2048 to 4096×4096) or bitmap (512×256 to 512×512)
- RBG1: 16–16,777,216 colors, tilemap (2048×2048 to 4096×4096)
- Back screen: 1 plain background, 1 to 240 colors (1 color/scanline)
- Tilemap capabilities: 8×8 and 16×16 tile sizes, scroll plane up to 8192×8192 pixels, rotating 3D infinite planes up to 4096×4096 pixels each, tile compression, tiled rendering, virtually unlimited draw distance
- Bitmap capabilities: Bitmap layers can be used as additional framebuffer (with full transparency), displays VDP1 framebuffer as additional bitmap layer, can rotate VDP1 framebuffer
- Color palette: 16,777,216 colors (24-bit), 32,768 colors (15-bit), 65,536 colors (15-bit with transparency)
- Colors per plane: 16,777,216 colors (3 planes, Lo-Res), 32,768 colors (4 planes), 16–256 colors (6 planes)
- Bitmap fillrate:
- 2D scrolling planes: 14.21875–114.5456 MPixels/s
- 16,777,216 colors on screen: 14.3182 MPixels/s (NTSC), 14.21875 MPixels/s (PAL), 2 cycles/pixel
- 32,768 colors per plane: 28.6364 MPixels/s (NTSC), 28.4375 MPixels/s (PAL), 1 pixel/cycle
- 256 colors per plane: 57.2728 MPixels/s (NTSC), 56.875 MPixels/s (PAL), 2 pixels/cycle
- 16 colors per plane: 114.5456 MPixels/s (NTSC), 113.75 MPixels/s (PAL), 4 pixels/cycle
- 3D rotating playfield: 14.3182 MPixels/s (NTSC), 14.21875 MPixels/s (PAL), 2 cycles/pixel
- Tilemap fillrate: 2x 128×128 to 512×512 tiles/frame, 1.96608–7.86432 million tiles/sec
- 2D scrolling planes: 2x 1024×1024 to 2048×2048 pixels/frame, 125.82912–503.31648 MPixels/s (effective fillrate)
- 3D rotating playfields: 2048×2048 to 4096×4096 pixels/frame, 251.65824–503.31648 MPixels/s (effective fillrate)
- Effective polygon fillrate: 1 million texture-mapped polygons/sec, 500 texels/polygon
The Saturn supported the following display resolutions:
- 320×224 (Lo‑Res)
- 320×240 (Lo‑Res)
- 320×256 (Lo-Res, PAL)
- 352×224 (Lo‑Res)
- 352×240 (Lo‑Res)
- 352×256 (PAL)
- 640×256 (PAL)
- 704×256 (PAL)
- 320×512 (PAL)
- 352×512 (PAL)
- 640×448 (Hi‑Res)
- 640×480 (Hi‑Res)
- 640×512 (Hi‑Res, PAL)
- 704×448 (Hi‑Res)
- 704×480 (Hi‑Res)
- 704×512 (Hi‑Res, PAL)
- Main article: Saturn Custom Sound Processor.
- Audio channels: 32
- Sound formats: PCM, FM, MIDI, LFO
- PCM sampling: 16‑bit and 8‑bit audio depth, 44.1 kHz sampling sate (CD quality), up to 32 PCM channels
- FM synthesis: 1–4 operators per FM channel, up to 32 FM channels (1‑operator) or 8 FM channels (4‑operator)
- LFO waveforms: 4 waveform types (Sawtooth, rectangular, triangular, white noise), up to 32 LFO channels
- CD‑DA: 1 streaming CD‑DA channel (16‑bit PCM, 44.1 kHz) from CD
- Stereo audio output
- System RAM: 4640 KB (4.53125 MB)
- 2 MB Work RAM (32‑bit, 28.6364 MHz)
- 1.5 MB VRAM (SDRAM, 80-bit, 28.6364 MHz)
- 512 KB Sound Ram (FPM DRAM, 16‑bit, 20 MHz)
- 512 KB CD‑ROM cache (sub‑system buffer data cache, FPM DRAM, 16‑bit, 20 MHz)
- 32 KB battery backup NVRAM/SRAM (8‑bit, 10 MHz)
- System ROM: 512 KB BIOS MROM/EPROM (16‑bit, 10 MHz)
- Internal processor cache: 39,408 bytes (38.484375 KB)
- SH2: 8 KB cache (4 KB per SH2)
- SH1: 4 KB cache
- SCU DSP: 2 KB RAM (1 KB program, 1 KB data)
- SMPC: 20,976 bytes (496 bytes 4‑bit RAM, 20 KB 10‑bit ROM)
- VDP2: 4 KB on‑chip color RAM
- Optional cartridge RAM: 512 KB to 4.5 MB
- Optional Video CD Card memory: 1 MB (512 KB buffer RAM, 512 KB program ROM)
System RAM buses, all connected through the SCU:
- System bus (32‑bit, 28.6364 MHz)
- SH2 (×2), SCU, SMPC <‑> Work RAM (2× SDRAM, 2× FPM DRAM), battery backup SRAM
- Video sub‑system buses (80-bit, 28.6364 MHz)
- SCU <-> VDP1, VDP2 (16-bit)
- VDP1 <‑> Polygon/Texture/Sprite VRAM (SDRAM, 16-bit)
- VDP1 <‑> Framebuffer 0 VRAM (SDRAM, 16-bit)
- VDP1 <‑> Framebuffer 1 VRAM (SDRAM, 16-bit)
- VDP2 <‑> Background VRAM (2× SDRAM, 32-bit)
- Sound sub‑system bus — SCU, 68EC000, SCSP <‑> Sound RAM (FPM DRAM) (16-bit, 28.6364 MHz)
- CD‑ROM sub‑system bus — SCU, SH1 <‑> CD‑ROM cache/buffer RAM (FPM DRAM) (16-bit, 28.6364 MHz)
- System RAM bandwidth: 480.9096 MB/s (7 buses, 144-bit bus width)
- System bus RAM: 114.5456 MB/s (32‑bit, 28.6364 MHz)
- Work RAM: 114.5456 MB/s (114.5456 MB/s SDRAM, 88.888888 MB/s FPM DRAM)
- Battery backup SRAM: 10 MB/s (8‑bit, 10 MHz)
- VRAM: 286.364 MB/s (SDRAM, 4 buses, 80-bit bus width, 28.6364 MHz)
- VDP1: 171.8184 MB/s (114.5456 MB/s framebuffers, 57.2728 MB/s polygons/textures/sprites) (48-bit)
- VDP2: 114.5456 MB/s (backgrounds) (32-bit)
- Sound RAM: 40 MB/s (FPM DRAM, 16‑bit, 20 MHz)
- CD‑ROM cache/buffer: 40 MB/s (FPM DRAM, 16‑bit, 20 MHz)
- System ROM bandwidth: 20 MB/s (16‑bit, 10 MHz)
- Internal processor bandwidth:
- SH2 cache: 229.0912 MB/s (114.5456 MB/s per SH2)
- SH1 cache: 80 MB/s (32‑bit, 20 MHz)
- SCU DSP RAM: 286 MB/s (171.6 MB/s for 3 buses, 114.4 MB/s for 1 bus)
- SMPC: 7 MB/s (2 MB/s RAM, 5 MB/s ROM)
- 68EC000: 22.6 MB/s (16‑bit, 11.3 MHz)
- SCSP: 67.8 MB/s (24‑bit, 22.6 MHz)
- VDP: 286.364 MB/s (171.8184 MB/s VDP1, 114.5456 MB/s VDP2 color RAM)
- Main article: List of Sega Saturn accessories.
- Two 16‑bit bidirectional parallel I/O ports
- High-speed serial communications port (Both SH2 SCI channels and SCSP MIDI)
- Cartridge connector
- Internal expansion port for video decoder card
- Composite video/stereo (JP Part No: HSS-0106)
- NTSC/PAL RF (US Part No.: MK-80116, JP Part No.: HSS-0110)
- S-Video compatible (JP Part No.: HSS-0105)
- RGB compatible (JP Part No.: HSS-0109)
- EDTV compatible (optional)
- Main article: List of Sega Saturn accessories.
- AC120 volts; 60 Hz (US)
- AC240 volts; 50 Hz (EU)
- AC200 volts; 60 Hz (JP)
- 4 volt lithium battery to power non-volatile RAM and SMPC internal real-time clock
- Power Consumption: 25 W
Dimensions (US/European model)
- Width: 260 mm (10.2 in)
- Length: 230 mm (9.0 in)
- Height: 89 mm (3.2 in)
VDP1 transparency rendering quirk causes strips of pixels to be rewritten to framebuffer for 2-point (scaled) and 4-point (quadrangle) "sprites", applying the transparency effect multiple times. Rarely seen in commercial games (e.g. Robotica explosions), later titles implemented software transparency to correctly render transparent polygons (e.g. Dural in Virtua Fighter Kids).
The VDP1 supports per-pixel transparency between different polygons/sprites in the VDP1 framebuffer, or between VDP1 and VDP2 layers, but not both at the same time, with the VDP2's transparency overriding the VDP1's transparency. In addition, the VDP1 takes six times longer to draw transparent pixels than opaque pixels. The VDP2, in comparison, has no issues with transparency, nor does the use of transparency affect the VDP2's performance.
There are several ways to overcome the VDP1's transparency issues. The most common method used by Saturn games is to fake transparency with dithering, using a mesh that gets blended by a television's Composite or S-Video cable. Another method is to use the VDP2's hardware transparency, by using a VDP2 bitmap layer as an additional transparent framebuffer, copying transparent assets from the VDP1 framebuffer to a VDP2 bitmap framebuffer layer (e.g. the transparent polygons in Burning Rangers). Another method is software transparency, programming the CPU with software code.
- Main article: Sega Saturn/Hardware comparison.
- Main article: History of the Sega Saturn.
Japanese Saturn software usually came packaged in standard jewel cases, much like music CDs. They also came with spinecards - three-fold pieces of light cardboard that hug the spine of the jewel case. These are very valuable for collectors who wish to claim a game is "complete". The spinecard also indicates that the CD is for use with a Sega Saturn console - specifically Japanese NTSC systems. There were also jewel case quad CD cases, and a variant of the single case which was slightly thicker and VERY hard to replace.
Most of the time the spinecard will have a gold and black background with the Japanese Saturn logo and lettering printed vertically. Saturn collection games will have red and white spinecard with white lettering, the Saturn Collection logo under that, and the 2,800 yen price featured prominently. Manual is included with the cover seen through the front of the jewel case. The left side of the manual will usually have a bar similar in design to the spinecard. The Japanese SEGA rating, if there is one, will be included on the manual front (usually on one of the corners). There is also the insert on the back which may feature artwork or screenshots from the game. A black bar on the bottom of the insert contains information much like
the spinecard, licensing information, et cetera.
The Japanese packaging was adopted in smaller Asian markets such as South Korea and China.
North American packaging
Sega of America adopted very simple packaging in the beginning, the likes of which hadn't been seen since the Sega Master System
The US used much larger jewel cases identical to the US Sega Mega-CD jewel cases, since many of these were in fact leftover Sega CD jewel cases. The US case has a white spine containing a 30 degree stripe pattern in gray, with white outlined lettering displaying the words "Sega Saturn". Oddly some US packaging seems to have taken a step backwards in terms of aesthetics - with minimal front artwork almost akin to the Sega Master System.
There are many flaws with the US packaging:
- Their sheer size made them more vulnerable to cracking.
- The mechanism that keeps the cover closed wears out quickly if the cover is opened and closed too much
- There is too much empty space inside the case. If the CD ever came off the case's spindle on its own (caused by rough handling of the case), the CD ends up being tossed around the inside of the case, causing either huge amount of scratches on the disc from careful handling of the case or shattering the disc from continued rough handling of the case.
European cases come in two variants, both designed and engineered by Sega. One has a strong plastic design similar to the cases used with the Mega Drive and Master System (but taller, thinner and slightly more secure). The other feels far cheaper, being literally two pieces of plastic held together by a cardboard cover. Though the former was more preferred by the consumer, the latter was more common as it was cheaper to produce.
Both European cases has a solid black spine, with white lettering displaying the words "Sega Saturn". The manual slides in the case just like a normal jewel case and there is a back insert with information about the game. Like the American cases they are still too big and can lead to discs moving about and becoming scratched, though this may be to compensate for large multi-language manuals.
Some European boxes were wrapped in a transparent plastic shell after manufacture for extra security.
Brazilian games were packaged in cardboard boxes, with a CD sleeve inside to keep the disc secure.
The Saturn is notoriously hard to emulate due to its complex architecture (dual processors, etc.), but three notable emulators do exist:
- SSF is a highly compatible emulator, which is in continual development by a single developer.
- GiriGiri was initially based on an abandoned emulator by Sega themselves, and was considered the best until development ceased and SSF overtook it.
- Yabause is an open-source effort to create a Saturn emulator.
Software that plays files in the Saturn Sound Format, which stores audio ripped from games, does so through emulation of the audio-related code only.
List of games
- Main article: List of Saturn games.
- Main article: Sega Saturn/Magazine articles.
Print advert in Sega Visions
(US) #24: "May 1995" (1995-xx-xx)
Print advert in Game Players (US) Vol. 8 No. 11 "November 1995" (1995-xx-xx)
Print advert in Electronic Gaming Monthly (US) #77: "December 1995" (1995-xx-xx)
Print advert in Next Generation
(US) #18: "June 1996" (1996-05-21)also published in:
- GamePro (US) #93: "June 1996" (1996-xx-xx)
Print advert in Player One
(FR) #57: "Octobre 1995" (1995-xx-xx)also published in:
- CD Consoles (FR) #11: "Novembre 1995" (1995-xx-xx)
Print advert in CD Consoles (FR) #12: "Décembre 1995" (1995-xx-xx)
Print advert in Hobby Consolas (ES) #46: "Julio 1995" (1995-xx-xx)
Print advert in Hyper
(AU) #21: "August 1995" (1995-xx-xx)also published in:
- Hyper (AU) #20: "July 1995" (1995-xx-xx)
US (Who? 15 second variant)
North American/European/Australian/Brazilian logo
- Dave's Sega Saturn Page - Famous fansite that was extremely popular during the Saturn's heyday (no longer updated).
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 File:CVG UK 164.pdf, page 7
- ↑ File:CVG UK 165.pdf, page 30
- ↑ File:ConsolesMicro FR 01.pdf, page 13
- ↑ File:SegaMagazin DE 21.pdf, page 6
- ↑ File:HobbyConsolas ES 050.pdf, page 26
- ↑ File:HobbyConsolas ES 046.pdf, page 28
- ↑ File:SegaSaturn94JPCatalog.pdf
- ↑ File:Edge UK 024.pdf, page 9
- ↑ File:Hyper AU 003.pdf, page 8
- ↑ File:SSM UK 24.pdf, page 25
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 File:Edge UK 030.pdf, page 99
- ↑ File:MAXIMUM UK 06.pdf, page 127
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 File:Hitachi SuperH Programming Manual.pdf
- ↑ 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 14.13 14.14 14.15 14.16 File:Sega Service Manual - Sega Saturn (PAL) - 013-1 - June 1995.pdf
- ↑ File:ST-103-R1-040194.pdf, page 23
- ↑ File:SH-2A.pdf, page 2
- ↑ SH7040, SH7041, SH7042, SH7043, SH7044, SH7045, Renesas
- ↑ File:Hitachi SuperH Programming Manual.pdf, page 31
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 19.7 File:ST-103-R1-040194.pdf
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 File:ST-097-R5-072694.pdf
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 File:ST-TECH.pdf, page 157
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 22.7 22.8 Sega Saturn (MAME)
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 File:HD40491 datasheet.pdf
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 File:ST-077-R2-052594.pdf
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 Sega Saturn FAQ (January 8, 2000)
- ↑ http://www.drolez.com/retro/
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 28.2 File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf
- ↑ 29.0 29.1 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 6
- ↑ 30.0 30.1 30.2 File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 24
- ↑ 31.0 31.1 31.2 STV VDP2 (MAME)
- ↑ 32.0 32.1 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 18
- ↑ 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 STV VDP1 (MAME)
- ↑ 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 34.4 34.5 34.6 File:NextGeneration US 24.pdf, page 64
- ↑ File:ST-103-R1-040194.pdf, page 17
- ↑ 36.0 36.1 Design of Digital Systems and Devices (page 95)
- ↑ 37.0 37.1 37.2 File:13-APR-94.pdf, page 8
- ↑ 38.0 38.1 38.2 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 40
- ↑ 39.0 39.1 File:ST-097-R5-072694.pdf, page 93
- ↑ 40.0 40.1 40.2 File:ST-TECH.pdf, page 149
- ↑ File:ST-TECH.pdf, page 152
- ↑ File:ST-103-R1-040194.pdf, page 25
- ↑ File:ST-TECH.pdf, page 163
- ↑ The State of Sega Saturn Homebrew
- ↑ File:Sega Service Manual - Sega Saturn (PAL) - 013-1 - June 1995.pdf, page 34
- ↑ File:TUTORIAL.pdf, page 11
- ↑ 47.0 47.1 47.2 File:ST-TECH.pdf, page 147
- ↑ File:ST-TECH.pdf, page 135
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 34
- ↑ 50.0 50.1 50.2 50.3 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 110
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 24
- ↑ 52.0 52.1 File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 177
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 149
- ↑ 54.0 54.1 54.2 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 64
- ↑ Sega Saturn Tech Specs
- ↑ Sega System 24 Hardware Notes (2013-06-16)
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 119
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 29
- ↑ 59.0 59.1 59.2 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 52
- ↑ File:ST-238-R1-051795.pdf
- ↑ 61.0 61.1 File:ST-238-R1-051795.pdf, page 232
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 81
- ↑ 63.0 63.1 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 75
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 39
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 35
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 65
- ↑ File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 61
- ↑ 68.0 68.1 68.2 File:TUTORIAL.pdf, page 8
- ↑ File:TUTORIAL.pdf, page 15
- ↑ 70.0 70.1 File:SegaVisions US 24.pdf, page 14
- ↑ 71.0 71.1 File:ST-013-R3-061694.pdf, page 41
- ↑ 72.0 72.1 Saturn VDP1 hardware notes (2003-05-17)
- ↑ File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 163
- ↑ 74.0 74.1 File:TUTORIAL.pdf, page 223
- ↑ 75.0 75.1 File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 132
- ↑ 76.0 76.1 File:13-APR-94.pdf, page 12
- ↑ File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 23
- ↑ File:13-APR-94.pdf, page 28
- ↑ File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 54
- ↑ File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 79
- ↑ File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 360
- ↑ File:ST-058-R2-060194.pdf, page 49
- ↑ File:ST-TECH.pdf, page 142
- ↑ File:ST-103-R1-040194.pdf, page 39
- ↑ 85.0 85.1 File:HM5241605 datasheet.pdf
- ↑ 86.0 86.1 File:TC514260B datasheet.pdf
- ↑ 87.0 87.1 File:UPD4504161 datasheet.pdf
- ↑ File:HM514270D datasheet.pdf
- ↑ File:SRM20256L datasheet.pdf
- ↑ File:TC574200D datasheet.pdf
- ↑ File:GamePro US 093.pdf, page 22
- ↑ File:CDConsoles FR 11.pdf, page 89
- ↑ File:Hyper AU 022.pdf, page 11