Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Three Warps to Saturn

Violent coughing to come again!
After a month without phlegm flew by
We now declare the return
of that cold you thought you left...
...in 2018!

Seriously, though... urrrrgh. I thought I was done with all that icky cold business from December, yet here I am sucking down cough drops and bringing up mucus, just like I did last month.
The Action Replay, an essential ingredient in
any Saturn owner's collection.
(image from estarland)
Yet despite my illness, I found the strength to pick up my Action Replay from the post office and hack it to run Pseudo Saturn Kai, a software backdoor that lets you run burned Saturn games without the need for a costly mod chip. Some things I learned from that experience...

 A "swap trick" is necessary to install Pseudo Saturn Kai, but it's not as tough as you've been led to believe! You'll need to open your Saturn first, then tape the lid button near the back of the system closed. After that, you pop in your burned disc, turn on your Saturn, wait for the intro to finish, and swap to an official disc. When the blue Sega logo appears, hit the reset button on the system, wait for the introduction to finish, then swap back to your burn. 

Look, I'll just let a professional explain how this works. It's probably smarter to listen for changes in the drive's motor speed than to watch for visual cues, but the window for swapping discs is incredibly generous. If you've been playing video games for a while (and you have, if you're at all interested in the Sega Saturn), you've got the reflexes to do this.

• Once you've got Pseudo Saturn Kai running, just select Pseudo Saturn Kai Lite from the menu that appears... it's the only version of the software that will fit on an Action Replay. (There are more advanced flash cartridges available for the Saturn, but they're also less common and more expensive. I'll just assume you're using the old storage-tighty whitey.) Press A, then when prompted, press A, B, and C together. Now leave the Saturn alone for about ten minutes! Don't reset it, don't unplug it, and get all the kids and pets out of the room while you're at it. No sense taking chances, right? Once the cartridge has been flashed, you'll be given a "write verification success" message at the bottom of the screen. Now you can press start and choose reset from the menu options that appear.

(Special thanks to the folks at PPCenter for explaining the process to me in a tutorial, so I could explain it to you. Also, I assume no responsibility for damage done to your cartridge or console. That probably won't happen, but I should mention this anyway as lawsuit repellent.)

 Here's the disappointing part. Pseudo Saturn Kai won't run every game in the Saturn library, and that includes heavy hitters like Metal Slug (ow), Saturn Bomberman (...OW), and Radiant Silvergun (OW! OW!). Most games will work... just not all the ones you probably wanted to play. Why a Saturn would have trouble playing its own games is kind of bewildering, but there's probably something about the Keebler magic Pseudo Saturn Kai is using to bypass the Saturn's security that makes this an issue. If you want a more consistently reliable (and expensive) Saturn hack, consider the Phantom Modchip instead.

It sure is! And it's deeply sad that we're still
having debates about this after all these years...
The Action Replay arrived just in time for me to try the recently released English translation of Linkle Liver Story. That's the action RPG from the developers of Crusader of Centy... and in all honesty, a name that will never not annoy me. The title is frustratingly stupid, but the game itself is quite pleasant, a Zelda-like action adventure that runs at a brisk pace and features charming quasi-furry characters. I'm already enjoying it way more than Shining Wisdom, and an English translation that doesn't mess with the game's balance or inject pop culture references that will seem as old as dirt twenty years from now is icing on the cake.

I'll be covering more Saturn games in the future... because even I'm sick of hearing myself talk about the PSP at this point.

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