An alternative way to play Sega Saturn gems

Retro-game collecting can be an expensive hobby, especially when collecting for the SEGA Saturn, particularly its North American releases. Whereas NTSC  Saturn consoles typically sell around $50 used on Amazon—NTSC game releases, such as Burning Rangers, Magic Knight Rayearth or Panzer Dragoon Saga can range anywhere from $400 to $600 used.

Why are these gems so pricey you might ask? This is largely due to the limited supply of Saturn games in North America, especially towards the end of Saturn’s lifecycle—it just wasn’t as popular in Europe or North America as it was in Japan.

Luckily, retro collectors looking to hunt down Saturn gems can relax because there is an easy solution that doesn’t even require purchasing an actual console. Thankfully, emulation performance and compatibility has grown increasingly better over the years.

SSF and Yabause are two of the most popular options for proper Saturn emulation, yet you’re going to get the best performance and compatibility with SSF. Conveniently, neither emulator requires ripping the BIOS from your console as both emulators feature options to turn on emulated BIOS.

Sometimes it’s usually much cheaper to import Saturn games from Japan. For example, Azel: Panzer Dragoon used will cost around $30 on Amazon as opposed to the NTSC release, which will cost $620 and higher used.

For certain games, mainly RPGs such as Azel: Panzer Dragoon, there will obviously be a language barrier if you don’t speak Japanese. Thankfully, in the case for Azel: Panzer Dragoon, there’s a good guide by Jeremy Prusak available on his website, Panzer Dragoon Saga OASIS .

Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • Alcohol 120% Free Edition
  • Retrolink USB SEGA Saturn Classic Controller
  • SSF Ver0.11 alpha R5
  • And of course, Saturn games!
  • OPTIONAL: Drop Box, Google Drive, or OneDrive

First, you’re going to need Alcohol 120% to rip and mount your game. You can download a Free Edition here. Playing your Saturn games with the disc in your CD-Drive is not recommended as it can wear the disc out.

Then you’re going to want to purchase a Retrolink USB SEGA Saturn Classic Controller for $19.95 and redefine the keys in SSF’s controller options as shown below.

Next, you’re going to need the SSF emulator, which can be downloaded here. You’ll probably find that Ver0.11 alpha R5 is the most stable, yet that greatly depends on your hardware. SSF’s system requirements isn’t steep at all and will work fine in Windows 10.

Finally, you’re going to need some games! The joy of importing Saturn games from Japan is that the jewel cases and cover artwork looks far sleeker than Saturn’s NTSC and PAL counterparts. Thus, Saturn games will display very nicely on the shelve!

OPTIONAL: After setting up your cartridge to “Backup RAM Cartridge” in SSF’s Peripheral options, it might be easier to manage save data by creating a shortcut of the “Backup” folder within SSF’s directory. Then place the shortcut in a cloud (Drop Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.). That way save data will automatically backup in case of a PC failure or other worst case scenario.

[Editors Note: SEGA Nerds doesn’t condone or support the act of privacy or illegally downloading of video games.]

About John Perkins

John's first glimpse into gaming & Sega's realm was with the Sega GameGear in ’94. His first game ever was Ecco the Dolphin. It was around this time he developed his love for the 90's cartoons based on Sonic the Hedgehog. He has been seduced by the following Sega games; NiGHTs, Panzer Dragoon, Shenmue, and Sonic. Currently, he is finishing his degree in Multimedia Studies & aspires to become an accomplished 3d animator. In the meantime, he enjoys retro-Saturn collecting & writing for Sega Nerds.

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  • Mednafen is glorious, “pixel perfect” emulator, and if you use it in your RetroArchr version with shader, it’s even better;)

    • It’s not something that worries me too much. In contrast, Mednafen in RetroArch is multi platform…
      If you have the console, you can download a bios for your backup 😉

  • stalepie

    If that Retrolink controller is not as good as the real thing, you can buy the USB adapters from Raphnet Tech (~$30) or Mayflash (~$15), or use other USB gamepads that have enough buttons. I find the Japanese Sega Saturn controller very good for 32-bit games and under (mostly, except PS1 games that use all four shoulder buttons can be tricky).

  • McHenryGames

    I remember when Saturn emulation was a pipe dream.