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Long Live the Sega Saturn

The Sega Saturn could have been more than it was, especially outside of Japan. It’s a platform powerhouse that was bastardized into doing half ass 3D rendering. The dual processor setup was a response to competitors in the market and seen as a way of separating the background layers from polygon rendering. However, the industry was ready for 3D gaming and the PlayStation was able to provide.

One can only imagine what the Saturn could have amounted to had the timing been more right. Granted, the Japanese market loved it for years. Image a Master System/Genesis on a whole other level. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and now it’s intriguing to think about where it could have gone and what kind of games could have been developed had all that juice been squeezed.

Evidently the Saturn only handles uncompressed audio and has many individual audio channels. Audiophiles and musicians love this kind of thing.

Original Genesis games were usually just a few Megabytes in size. Although the CD-ROM can’t be accessed super fast, it does have a 700 MB capacity. So how could you leverage the extra space when you are making a game? That’s a lot of sprites!

The benefits of faster processor speed is pretty straight forward. Faster speed means more code can be executed and more things can happen in general. The Saturn sports two 28.6Mhz processors.The Genesis had a single 7.6MHz processor, so that’s quite a jump. One caveat being that the Saturn is limited by the fact that both processors rely on the same bus and this creates a tricky bottleneck. Working around this limitation requires more effort in developing the software.

Today there is a community growing around the Saturn where work is being done to keep it thriving. Developers are creating homebrew games, translating pre-existing games, and even creating new hardware to mitigate the aging optical drives. Communities like SegaXtreme can be joined via their Discord server.

Saturn games are written in the C programming language and can ran in Saturn emulators like Mednafen. If you are interesting learning more about this, I’d recommend checking out Emerald Nova on YouTube. He does live coding sessions every couple of weeks it seems. Other members of the of the SegaXtreme community pop in and give advice and share ideas.

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