Sega Saturn finally cracked saving the console from extinction

first_imgIf you wanted to, you can still play old cartridge-based games on classic consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis. For the most part, those systems still work even decades later (and even if they don’t, there’s always the Retron 5). Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about disk-based systems like the Sega Saturn.It has been over twenty years since the debut of Sega’s penultimate system, which means that the old disk readers are starting to fail. This doesn’t bode well for anyone who wants to play Saturn games, but thankfully, someone has stepped up to the challenge of ensuring that the system doesn’t go the way of the dinosaurs.Engineer James Laird-Wah bought a Saturn while traveling in Japan and wanted to see if he could make it read games via USB. Laird-Wah has some experience in this field. “Dr. Abrasive,” as he is known on the internet, managed to engineer a ROM-reading cartridge for the Game Boy called Drag ‘n Derp.If anyone was up to the challenge, it was this man and he succeeded.What makes the Sega Saturn so hard to crack is that each of the system’s games has a physical mark on them. The disk reader would detect this wobble to verify if it was a genuine Saturn game. This mark is something that can’t be replicated with a CD burner so Laird-Wah had to get creative.After finding a mod chip for the system, a component that is itself hard to source, Dr. Abrasive got to work. By using the peripheral slot on the back of the Saturn, Laird-Wah was able to bypass the disk drive completely. He was able to read and write files from a USB drive to a running system, allowing users to play and save games.The project is a work in progress and not available to buy (yet). However, this is the furthest anyone has come to ensuring a Saturn continues to function even after its disc drive has failed. That’s going to happen with increasing regularity, meaning there’s a growing market for Dr. Abrasive’s workaround. And as a nice added side effect, Abrasive’s work to unlock the black box that is the disc drive interface has helped pushed forward Saturn emulation significantly.last_img