Thursday, August 31, 2006

The History of Sega Masters (worse 8-bit mainstream console)

The Sega Master System (SMS for short) is an 8-bit cartridge-based gaming console that was manufactured by Sega. Its original Japanese incarnation was the SG-1000 Mark III. In the European market, this console launched Sega onto a competitive level comparable to Nintendo, due to its wider availability, but failed to put a dent in the North American and Japanese markets. The Master System was released as a direct competitor to the NES/Famicom. The system ultimately failed to topple its Nintendo competitor, but has enjoyed over a decade of life in secondary markets, especially Brazil.

The SG-1000 Mark III came after the SG-1000 Mark I and SG-1000 Mark II. It was released in Japan on October 20, 1985. Typical of the era, game consoles had a mascot character, Sega Master Systems's being Alex Kidd.

The system was redesigned and sold in the United States under the name Sega Master System in June 1986, the year after the Nintendo Entertainment System was released. The console sold for $200. The Master System was subsequently released in other locales and markets, including a second release in Japan in 1987 under the new Master System name.

Though the Master System was a more technically advanced piece of hardware than the NES, it did not attain the same level of popularity among consumers in the United States. Its lack of success in the U.S. has been attributed to various causes, among them the difference in game titles available for each platform and the slightly later release date of the Master System. The licensing agreement that Nintendo had with its third-party game developers had a profound impact. The agreement stated, in effect, that developers would exclusively produce games for the NES. The Master System sold 125,000 consoles in the first four months. In the same period, the NES would net 2,000,000.

Nintendo had 90% of the North American market at the time. Hayao Nakayama, then CEO of Sega, decided not to use too much effort to market the console in the NES-dominated market. In 1988, the rights to the Master System in North America were sold to Tonka, but its popularity continued to decline. The move was considered a very bad one, since Tonka had never marketed a video game system and had no idea what to do with it.

In 1990, Sega was having success with its Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis and as a result took back the rights from Tonka for the SMS. They designed the Sega Master System II, a newer console which was smaller and sleeker but which, to keep production costs low, lacked the reset button and card slot of the original. In an effort to counter Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers the new system would include a built-in Alex Kidd in Miracle World, or later Sonic the Hedgehog, playable without any cartridges. Sega did everything in its power to market the system, but nothing came out of it.

By 1992, the Master System's sales were virtually nonexistent in North America and sales in this market ceased. Sales were poor in Japan as well, due to the dominance of the main competitor from Nintendo, the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom).

In Europe, Sega marketed the Master System in many countries, including several in which Nintendo did not sell its consoles. It had some success in Germany, where it was distributed by Ariolasoft since Winter 1987. The Europeans had garnered lots of third party support for the SMS and as a result, it was able to outsell the NES in Europe. Nintendo was forced to get licensing for some popular SMS titles in that market. The Master System was supported until 1996 in Europe. It was discontinued so that Sega could concentrate on the new Sega Saturn console. Sales of the SMS in Australia were not as strong as the NES enjoyed there, however the SMS was able to gain greater market share than it had in North America[citation needed]. However in New Zealand it was largely successful - due to NES having a weak influence - and was supported until 1997.

Brazil was one of the SMS' most successful markets. It was marketed in that country by Tec Toy, Sega's Brazilian distributor. A Sega Master System III (and even a semi-portable SMS VI) had been released in that market and several games had been translated into Portuguese. The characters in the said games had been modified so that they appealed to Brazilian mainstream audiences (for example, Wonder Boy in Monster Land featured Mônica, the main character from a popular children's comic book in Brazil, created by Maurício de Sousa). Brazil also produced 100% national titles, like Sítio do Pica Pau Amarelo (based on Monteiro Lobato workmanship) and Castelo Ra-Tim-Bum (from TV Cultura series). Brazil was also where the first several Sonic the Hedgehog Game Gear titles started out. Tails, one of the characters, made his worldwide debut in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Master System. That title would later be ported to the Game Gear in other markets.

The most notable Master System step in Brazil was the compact 100% wireless system developed by Tec Toy. The console transmit the A/V signal in radio frequency, dispensing cable connections. It was produced from 1994 to 1997 and is still a target for console collectors.

Later in its life in Brazil, Game Gear games had been ported to the Master System and several original Brazilian titles were made for the system. Tec Toy also produced a licensed version of the wildly popular fighting game Street Fighter II for the Master System. Despite the limitations of the console, the game turned out to be fairly well received. The console production was familiar to the Brazilians, which explains the success in that market.

The Sega Master System is still being produced in Brazil. The latest version is the "Master System III Collection". It uses the same design as the North American Master System II (Master System III in Brazil), but is white and comes in three versions: one with 74 games built-in, other with 105 games built-in and another with 112 games built-in on an internal ROM. However, in Brazil it is hard to find the 3D Glasses, the Light Phaser and even cartridges, leaving most Brazilians with only built-in games.

Overall, the SMS was mildly successful worldwide, but failed to capture the Japanese and North American markets. Sega learned from its mistakes and made the succeeding Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis wildly popular in Europe, Brazil, and North America.

Sega Master System game controller was considered extremely durable. However, there were only 2 buttons, one of which additionally performed the function of the traditional "Start" button; The pause button was on the game console itself. The original controllers, like Sega's previous systems, had the cord emerging from the side; at some later point they changed to the now-typical top emerging cord. When the game Street Fighter II was released (in Brazil only), a new six-button model similar to the Sega Mega Drive controller was also released. The current Brazilian Master System consoles come with two of those six-button controllers.

* CPU: 8-bit Zilog Z80A
o 3.54 MHz for PAL/SECAM, 3.57 MHz for NTSC
* Graphics: VDP (Video Display Processor) derived from Texas Instruments TMS9918
o Up to 32 simultaneous colors available (16 for sprites, 16 for background) from a palette of 64 (can also show 64 simultaneous colors using programming tricks)
o Screen resolutions 256×192 and 256×224. PAL/SECAM also supports 256×240
o 8×8 pixel characters, max 488 (due to VRAM space limitation)
o 8×8 or 8×16 pixel sprites, max 64
o Horizontal, diagonal, vertical, and partial screen scrolling
* Sound (PSG): Texas Instruments SN76489
o 4 channel mono sound
o 3 sound generators, 4 octaves each, 1 white noise generator
* Sound (FM): Yamaha YM2413
o 9 channel mono FM sound
o built into Japanese Master System (Sega Mark III)
o supported by certain games only
* ROM: 64 kbit (8 kB) to 2048 kbit (256 kB), depending on built-in game
* Main RAM: 64 kbit (8 kB)
* Video RAM: 128 kbit (16 kB)
* Game Card slot (not available in the Master System II)
* Game Cartridge slot
o Japanese and South Korean consoles use 44-pin cartridges, same shape as Mark I and Mark II
o All other consoles use 50-pin cartridges with a different shape
o The difference in cartridge style is a form of regional lockout
o Cartridge Pinout
* Expansion slot

NES history

Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, is an 8-bit video game console released by Nintendo in North America, Brazil, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Its Japanese equivalent is known as the Nintendo Family Computer or Famicom. The most successful gaming console of its time in Asia and North America (Nintendo claims to have sold over 60 million NES units worldwide), it helped revitalize the video game industry following the video game crash of 1983, and set the standard for subsequent consoles in everything from game design to business practices. The NES was the first console for which the manufacturer openly courted third-party developers.

Following a series of arcade game successes in the early 1980s, Nintendo made plans to produce a cartridge-based console. Masayuki Uemura designed the system, which was released in Japan on July 15, 1983 for ¥14,800 alongside three ports of Nintendo's successful arcade games Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. The Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom) was slow to gather momentum: during its first year, many criticized the system as unreliable, prone to programming errors and rampant freezing. Following a product recall and a reissue with a new motherboard, the Famicom’s popularity soared, becoming the best-selling game console in Japan by the end of 1984. Encouraged by their successes, Nintendo soon turned their attentions to the North American market.

Nintendo entered into negotiations with Atari to release the Famicom under Atari’s name as the name "Nintendo Enhanced Video System." This deal eventually fell through Subsequent plans to market a Famicom console in North America featuring a keyboard, cassette data recorder, wireless joystick controller, and a special BASIC cartridge under the name "Nintendo Advanced Video System" likewise never materialized. Finally, in June 1985 Nintendo unveiled its American version of the Famicom at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Nintendo rolled out its first systems to limited American markets on October 18, 1985, following up with a full-fledged North American release of the console in February of the following year. Nintendo simultaneously released eighteen launch titles: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan's Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Stack-Up, Super Mario Bros., Tennis, Wild Gunman, and Wrecking Crew.

In Europe and Australasia, the system was released to two separate marketing regions (A and B). Distribution in region B, consisting of most of mainland Europe (excluding Italy), was handled by a number of different companies, with Nintendo responsible for most cartridge releases; most of region B saw a 1986 release. Mattel handled distribution for region A, consisting of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, starting the following year. Not until 1990 did Nintendo's newly created European branch take over distribution throughout Europe. Despite the system's lackluster performance outside of Japan and North America, by 1990 the NES had become the best-selling console in video game history.

As the 1990s dawned, however, renewed competition from technologically superior systems such as the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive (known as the Sega Genesis in North America) marked the end of the NES’s dominance. Eclipsed by Nintendo’s own Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the NES’s user base gradually waned. Nintendo continued to support the system in America through the first half of the decade, even releasing a new version of the console, the NES 2, to address many of the design flaws in the original NES hardware. By 1995, though, in the wake of ever decreasing sales and the lack of new software titles, Nintendo of America officially discontinued the NES. Despite this, Nintendo of Japan kept producing new Nintendo Famicoms for a niche market up until October 2003, when Nintendo of Japan officially discontinued the line. Even as developers ceased production for the NES, a number of high-profile video game franchises and series for the NES were transitioned to newer consoles and remain popular to this day. Nintendo's own Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid franchises began life on the NES, as did Capcom's Mega Man franchise, Konami's Castlevania series, and Square Enix's Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy franchises.

In the years following the official "death" of the NES in the west, a collector’s market based around video rental shops, garage sales and flea markets led some gamers to rediscover the NES. Coupled with the growth of console emulation, the late 1990s saw something of a second golden age for the NES. The secondhand market began to dry up after 2000, and finding ROMs no longer represented the challenge it had in the past. Parallel to the rise of interest in emulation was the emergence of a dedicated NES hardware "modding" scene. Such hobbyists perform tasks such as moving the NES to a completely new case, or just dissecting it for parts or fun. The controllers are particular targets for modding, often being adapted to connect with personal computers by way of a parallel or USB port. Some NES modders have transformed the console into a portable system by adding AA batteries and an LED or LCD screen.

For its North American release, the NES was released in two different configurations, or "bundles." The console deck itself was identical, but each bundle was packaged with different Game Paks and accessories. The first of these sets, the Control Deck, retailed from US$199.99, and included the console itself, two game controllers, and a Super Mario Bros. game pak. The second bundle, the Deluxe Set, retailed for $249.99 and consisted of the console, a R.O.B., an NES Zapper, and two game paks: Duck Hunt and Gyromite.

For the remainder of the NES's commercial lifespan in North America, Nintendo frequently repackaged the console in new configurations to capitalize on newer accessories or popular game titles. Subsequent bundle packages included the NES Action Set, released in November 1988 for $199.99, which replaced both of the earlier two sets, and included the console, the NES Zapper, two game controllers, and a multicart version of Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. The Action Set became the most successful of the packages released by Nintendo. In December 1990, to coincide with the release of the Power Pad floor mat controller, Nintendo released a new Power Set bundle, consisting of the console, the Power Pad, the NES Zapper, two controllers, and a multicart containing Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet.[12] That same month, a Sports Set bundle was released, including the console, an NES Satellite infrared wireless multitap adaptor, four game controllers, and a multicart featuring Super Spike V'Ball and Nintendo World Cup.

Two more bundle packages were released using the original model NES console. The Challenge Set, which included the console, two controllers, and a Super Mario Bros. 3 game pak, and the Basic Set, which included only the console and two controllers with no pack-in cartridge. Finally, the redesigned NES 2 was released as part of the final Nintendo-released bundle package, once again under the name Control Deck, including the new style NES 2 console, and two redesigned "dogbone" game controllers. Released in October 1993, this final bundle retailed for $49.99, and remained in production until the discontinuation of the NES in 1995.

Although the Japanese Famicom and the international NES included essentially the same hardware, there were certain key differences between the two systems:

* Different case design. The Famicom featured a top-loading cartridge slot, a 15-pin expansion port located on the unit’s front panel for accessories (as the controllers were hard-wired to the back of the console), and a red and white color scheme. The NES featured a front-loading cartridge slot (often jokingly compared to a toaster), and a more subdued gray, black and red color scheme. An expansion port was found on the bottom of the unit, and the cartridge connector pinout was changed.

* 60-pin vs. 72-pin cartridges. The original Famicom and the re-released AV Family Computer both utilized a 60-pin cartridge design, which resulted in smaller cartridges than the NES (and the NES 2), which utilized a 72-pin design. Four pins were used for the 10NES lockout chip. Ten pins were added that connected a cartridge directly to the expansion port on the bottom of the unit. Finally, two pins that allowed cartridges to provide their own sound expansion chips were removed, a regrettable decision. Many early games (such as StackUp) released in North America were simply Famicom cartridges attached to an adapter (such as the T89 Cartridge Converter) to allow them to fit inside the NES hardware. Nintendo did this to reduce costs and inventory by using the same cartridge boards in America and Japan.

* A number of peripheral devices and software packages were released in for the Famicom. Few of these devices were ever released outside of Japan.

o Famicom Disk System (FDS). Although not included with the original system, a popular floppy disk drive peripheral was released for the Famicom in Japan only. Nintendo never released the Famicom Disk System outside of Japan, citing concerns about software bootlegging. Notable games released for the FDS include Doki Doki Panic, a special edition of Metroid, and the original Super Mario Bros. 2.

o Famicom BASIC was an implementation of BASIC for the Famicom. It allowed the user to program his or her own games. Many programmers got their first experience on programming for the console this way.

o Famicom MODEM was a modem that allowed connection to a Nintendo server which provided content such as jokes, news (mainly about Nintendo), game tips, weather reports for Japan and allowed a small number of programs to be downloaded.

* External sound chips. The Famicom had two cartridge pins that allowed cartridges to provide external sound enhancements. They were originally intended to facilitate the Famicom Disk System’s external sound chip. These pins were removed from the cartridge port of the NES, and relocated to the bottom expansion port. As a result, individual cartridges could not make use of this functionality, and many NES localizations suffered from inferior sound compared to their equivalent Famicom versions. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is a notable example of this problem.

* Hardwired controllers. The Famicom’s original design includes hardwired, non-removable controllers. In addition, the second controller featured an internal microphone for use with certain games. Both the controllers and the microphone were subsequently dropped from the redesigned AV Famicom in favor of the two seven-pin controller ports on the front panel used in the NES from its inception.

* Lockout circuitry. The Famicom contained no lockout hardware, and, as a result, unlicensed cartridges (both legitimate and bootleg) were extremely common throughout Japan and the Far East. The original NES (but not the top-loading NES 2) contained the 10NES lockout chip, which significantly increased the challenges faced by unlicensed developers. Tinkerers at home in later years discovered that disassembling the NES and cutting the fourth pin of the lockout chip (a process now legal with the expiration of the NES patent) would cut power to the chip, removing all effects and greatly improving the console’s ability to play legal games, as well as bootlegs and converted imports. The European release of the console used a regional lockout system that prevented cartridges released in region A from being played on region B consoles, and vice versa.

* Audio/video output. The original Famicom featured an RF modulator plug for audio/video output, while the original NES featured both an RF modulator and RCA composite output cables. The AV Famicom featured only RCA composite output, and the top-loading NES featured only RF modulator output.

The game controller used for the both the NES and Famicom featured a brick-like design with a simple four button layout: two round buttons labelled "B" and "A," a "Start" button, and a "Select" button. Additionally, the controllers utilized the cross-shaped D-pad, designed by Nintendo employee Gunpei Yokoi for Nintendo Game & Watch systems, to replace the bulkier joysticks on earlier gaming consoles' controllers.

The original model Famicom featured two game controllers, both of which were hardwired to the back of the console. The second controller lacked the "Start" and "Select" buttons, but featured a small microphone. Relatively few games made use of this feature. The earliest produced Famicom units initially had squared A and B buttons. This was changed to the circular designs because of the square buttons being caught in the controller casing when pressed down. The NES dropped the hardwired controllers, instead featuring two custom 7-pin ports on the front of the console. Also in contrast to the Famicom, the controllers included with the NES were identical to each other—the second controller lacked the microphone that was present on the Famicom model, and possessed the same "Start" and "Select" buttons as the primary controller.

A number of special controllers designed for use with specific games were released for the system, though very few such devices proved particularly popular. Such devices included, but were not limited to, the NES Zapper (a light gun), the Power Pad, and the ill-fated R.O.B. and Power Glove. The original Famicom featured a deepened DA-15 expansion port on the front of the unit, which was used to connect most auxiliary devices. On the NES, these special controllers were generally connected to one of the two control ports on the front of the unit.

Near the end of the NES’s lifespan, upon the release of the AV Famicom and the top-loading NES 2, the design of the game controllers was modified slightly. Though the original button layout was retained, the redesigned device abandoned the "brick" shell in favor of a "dog bone" shape reminiscent of the controllers of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. In addition, the AV Famicom joined its international counterpart and dropped the hardwired controllers in favor of detachable controller ports. However, the controllers included with the Famicom AV, despite being the "dog bone" type, had cables which were a short three feet long, as opposed to the standard six feet of NES controllers.

In recent years the original NES controller has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the system. Nintendo has mimicked the look of the controller in several recent products, from promotional merchandise to limited edition versions of the Game Boy Advance SP and Game Boy Micro handheld game consoles.

When Nintendo released the NES in the United States, the design styling was deliberately different from that of other game consoles. Nintendo wanted to distinguish their product from those of competitors, and to avoid the generally poor reputation that game consoles had acquired following the video game crash of 1983. One result of this philosophy was a front-loading zero insertion force (ZIF) cartridge socket designed to resemble the front-loading mechanism of a VCR.

Problems with the 10NES lockout chip frequently resulted in the system’s most infamous problem: the blinking red power light, in which the system appears to turn itself on and off repeatedly. The lockout chip was quite finicky, requiring precise timing in order to permit the system to boot. Dirty, aging, and bent connectors would oftentimes disrupt the timing, resulting in the blink effect. User attempts to solve this problem ranged from blowing air onto the cartridge connectors to slapping the side of the system after inserting a cartridge.

Nintendo’s near monopoly on the home video game market left it with a degree of influence over the industry exceeding even that of Atari during its heyday in the early 1980s. Many of Nintendo’s business practices during this period were heavily criticized, and may have played some role in the erosion of Nintendo’s market share throughout the 1990s. Unlike Atari, who never actively courted third-party developers, and went so far as to go to court to attempt to force Activision to cease production of Atari 2600 games, Nintendo had anticipated and encouraged the involvement of third-party software developers—strictly on Nintendo’s terms. To this end, a 10NES authentication chip was placed in every console, and in every officially licensed cartridge. If the console’s chip could not detect a counterpart chip inside the cartridge, the game would not be loaded.

Referred as "inventory management" by Nintendo of America public relations executive Peter Main, Nintendo would refuse to fill all retailer orders. Retailers, many of whom derived a large percentage of their profit from sales of Nintendo-based hardware and software (at one point, Toys "R" Us reported 17% of its sales and 22% of its profits were from Nintendo merchandise), could do little to stop these practices. In 1988, over 33 million NES cartridges were sold in the United States, but estimates suggest that the realistic demand was closer to 45 million. Because Nintendo controlled the production of all cartridges, they were able to enforce these rules on their third-party developers

Following the introduction of Sega’s Mega Drive/Genesis, Nintendo began to face real competition in the industry, and in the early 1990s was forced to reevaluate its stance towards its developers, many of whom had begun to defect to other systems. When the console was reissued as the NES 2, the 10NES chip was omitted from the console, marking the end of Nintendo’s most notorious hold over its third-party developers.

A thriving market of unlicensed NES hardware clones emerged during the heyday of the console’s popularity. Initially, such clones were popular in markets where Nintendo never issued a legitimate version of the system. In particular, the Dendy, an unlicensed hardware clone produced in Russia and other nations of the former Soviet Union, emerged as the most popular video game console of its time in that setting, and enjoyed a degree of fame roughly equivalent to the that experienced by the NES/Famicom in North America and Japan. The unlicensed clone market has persisted, and even flourished, following Nintendo’s discontinuation of the NES. As the NES fades into memory, many such systems have adopted case designs which mimic more recent game consoles. NES clones resembling the Sega Genesis, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and even current systems like the Nintendo GameCube, the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox have been produced. Some of the more exotic of these systems have gone beyond the functionality of the original hardware, and have included variations such as a portable system with a color LCD (e.g. Pocket Famicom). Others have been produced with certain specialized markets in mind, including various "educational computer packages" which include copies of some of the NES’s educational titles and come complete with a clone of the Famicom BASIC keyboard, transforming the system into a rather primitive personal computer.

As was the case with unlicensed software titles, Nintendo has typically gone to the courts to prohibit the manufacture and sale of unlicensed cloned hardware. Many of the clone vendors have included built-in copies of licensed Nintendo software, which constitutes copyright infringement in most countries. As recently as 2004, Nintendo of America has filed suits against manufacturers of the Power Player Super Joy III, an NES clone system that had been sold in North America, Europe, and Australia.

Although most hardware clones were not produced under license by Nintendo, one exception is the Twin Famicom, produced by Sharp Corporation. The Twin Famicom was compatible with both Famicom cartridges and Famicom Disk System disks. It was available in two colors (red and black) and used similar hardwired controllers to the original Famicom, but featured a different case design.

Technical specifications

* Dimensions
o North America:
+ 'toaster' version: 10" width x 8" length x 2.5" height (note that when open, the door over the cartridge slot goes another 1" high)
+ toploader version: 6" width x 7" length x 1 1/2" height
+ cartridge: 5.5" length x 4.1" width
o Japan:
+ cartridge: 3" length x 5.3" width
* CPU: Ricoh 8-bit processor based on MOS Technology 6502 core, custom sound hardware, and a restricted DMA controller on-die
o Region differences
+ NTSC version, named RP2A03, runs at 1.79 MHz; this CPU was also used in PlayChoice-10 and Nintendo Vs. Series
+ PAL version, named RP2A07, runs at 1.66 MHz
o Main RAM: 2 KiB plus expanded RAM if present on the cartridge
o ROM: Up to 49128 bytes (just shy of 48 KiB) for ROM, expanded RAM, and cartridge I/O; bank switching can expand this by orders of magnitude
o Audio: Five sound channels
+ 2 pulse-wave channels, variable duty cycle (25%, 50%, 75%, 87.5%), 16-level volume control, hardware pitch-bend support, supporting frequencies from 54 Hz to 28 kHz.
+ 1 triangle-wave channel, fixed volume, supporting frequencies from 27 Hz to 56 kHz
+ 1 white-noise channel, 16-level volume control, supporting two modes (by adjusting inputs on a linear feedback shift register) at 16 preprogrammed frequencies
+ 1 delta pulse-code modulation (DPCM) channel with 6 bits of range, using 1-bit delta encoding at 16 preprogrammed sample rates from 4.2 kHz to 33.5 kHz, also capable of playing standard PCM sound by writing individual 7-bit values at timed intervals.
* Picture processing unit (PPU): Ricoh custom-made video processor
o Regional differences
+ NTSC version, named RP2C02, runs at 5.37 MHz and outputs composite video
+ PAL version, named RP2C07, runs at 5.32 MHz and outputs composite video
+ PlayChoice-10 version, named RP2C03, runs at 5.37 MHz and outputs RGB video (at NTSC frequencies)
+ Nintendo Vs. Series versions, named RP2C04 and RP2C05, run at 5.37 MHz and output RGB video (at NTSC frequencies) using irregular palettes to prevent easy ROM swapping of games
o Palette: 48 colors and 5 grays in base palette; red, green, and blue can be individually darkened at specific screen regions using carefully timed code.
o Onscreen colors: 25 colors on one scanline (background color + 4 sets of 3 tile colors + 4 sets of 3 sprite colors), not including color de-emphasis
o Hardware-supported sprites
+ Maximum onscreen sprites: 64 (without reloading sprites mid-screen)
+ Sprite sizes: 8×8 or 8×16 pixels (selected globally for all sprites)
+ Maximum number of sprites on one scanline: 8, using a flag to indicate when additional sprites are dropped (to allow the software to rotate sprite priorities, causing flicker)
o PPU internal memory: 256 bytes of on-die sprite position/attribute RAM ("OAM") and 28 bytes of on-die palette RAM (allowing for selection of background and sprite colors) on separate buses internal to the PPU
o PPU external memory (Video RAM): 2 KiB of RAM for tile maps and attributes on the NES board and 8 KiB of tile pattern ROM or RAM on the cartridge (with bankswitching, virtually any amount can be used within manufacture cost)
o Scrolling layers: 1 layer, though horizontal scrolling can be changed on a per-scanline basis (as can vertical scrolling via more advanced programming methods)
o Display resolution: 256×240 pixels, though NTSC games usually used only 256×224, as the top and bottom 8 scanlines are not visible on most television sets (see overscan); for additional video memory bandwidth, it was possible to turn off the screen before the raster reached the very bottom.
o Video output
+ Original NES: RCA composite output and RF modulator output
+ Original Famicom (Japan) and NES 2: RF modulator output only
+ AV Famicom: Composite video output only, via a Nintendo proprietary 12-pin "multi out" connector first introduced for the Super Famicom/SNES.
+ PlayChoice 10: inverted RGB video output

Friday, August 25, 2006

The piece of shit Turbomud-16 <--

Consoles Sold 5 million

The PC Engine is a video game console first released in Japan by NEC on October 30, 1987. The system was released in late August, 1989 as TurboGrafx-16 for the North American market. A PAL version of the system also saw a very limited release in the UK and continental Europe in 1990 as "Turbografx" (not including the "16" in the title, and uncapitalized "g" in "grafx").

The TurboGrafx-16 was an eight-bit system with a 16-bit graphics chip, capable of displaying 482 colors at once.

The PC Engine was a collaborative effort between Japanese software maker Hudson Soft (which maintains a chip-making division) and NEC. Hudson was looking for financial backing for a game console they had designed, and NEC was looking to get into the lucrative game market. The PC Engine was and is a very small video game console, due primarily to a very efficient three-chip architecture and its use of HuCards, credit-card sized data cartridges. "HuCard" (Hudson Card; also referred to as "TurboChip" in North America) was derived from Hudson Soft. The cards were the size of a credit card (but slightly thicker) and thus were somewhat similar to the card format used by the Sega Master System for budget games. Unlike the Sega Master System (which also supported cartridges), however, the TurboGrafx-16 used HuCards exclusively. TG-16 featured an enhanced MOS Technology 65C02 processor and a custom 16-bit graphics processor, as well as a custom video encoder chip, all designed by Hudson. The HES logo found on the manual of every Japanese game stood for "Hudson Entertainment System".

It was the first console to have an optional CD module, allowing the standard benefits of the CD medium: more storage, cheaper media costs, and redbook audio. The efficient design, backing of many of Japan's major software producers, and the additional CD ROM capabilities gave the PC Engine a very wide variety of software, with several hundred games for both the HuCard and CD formats.

The PC Engine was extremely popular in Japan, beating Nintendo's Famicom in sales soon after its release, with no fewer than twelve systems released from 1987 to 1993. It was capable of up to 482 colors at once in several resolutions, and featured very robust sprite handling abilities. The Hudson-designed chroma encoder delivered a video signal more vibrant and colourful than both the Famicom and the Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis and is largely regarded as the equal to Nintendo's Super Famicom, although that system was not released until 1990.

As graphics technology improved, gamers continued to stick to the PC Engine despite its shortcomings. Erotic games were a key factor in making the PC Engine popular, and this popularity was maintained far past the lifespan of a regular video game console. New games were released for the PC Engine up until 1999.

Despite the system's success, it started to lose ground to the Super Famicom. NEC made one final effort to resuscitate the system with the release of the Arcade Card expansion, bringing the total amount of RAM up to a then-massive 2048K; many Arcade Card games were conversions of popular Neo-Geo titles. The additional memory even allowed the system to display pre-rendered 3D polygon graphics well beyond what the competing Super Famicom and Megadrive/Mega-CD could offer. By this time, however, it was too late -- only a relative handful of Arcade Card games were ever produced, and the expansion was never released in the U.S.

The TurboGrafx-16 was the first video game console in North America to have a CD-ROM peripheral (following the pioneering spirit of the PC-Engine CD-ROM add-on in Japan, although the FM Towns Marty was the first console to have a built-in CD-ROM). The TurboGrafx CD debuted at a prohibitive $399.99 (and did not include a pack-in game). Monster Lair (a.k.a. Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair) and Fighting Street (a.k.a. Street Fighter) were the initial TurboGrafx-CD titles. Ys Book I & II soon followed and was instantly recognized as the "must-have" TurboGrafx-CD game (and continues to be highly regarded today). The TurboGrafx-CD catalog grew at a snail's pace compared to the library of TurboChip (HuCard) titles.

The TurboGrafx-CD came packaged in a very large box, 85% of which was filled with protective styrofoam inserts. By some accounts, no other video game console (or peripheral) has been packaged in such an overkill manner. To be fair, though, the TurboGrafx-CD did come with a large plastic "carrying case" that could comfortably hold the TurboGrafx-16 base system, TurboGrafx-CD, all AC adapters, 2–3 controllers, and a few games.

Although the TurboGrafx-CD library was relatively small, North Americans could draw from a wide range of Japanese software since there was no region protection on TG-CD / PC Engine CD-ROM software. Many mail order (and some brick-and-mortar) import stores advertised Japanese PCE CD and HuCard titles in the video game publications of the era.

NOTE: While there was no region-protection on CD games, there were several different CD formats: CD, Super CD (SCD) and, later, Arcade CD (ACD). TurboGrafx-CD, equipped with the original System Card (version 2.01), could play all Japanese and North American CD games. TurboGrafx-CD, equipped with the updated Super System Card (version 3.01), could play all Japanese and North American SCD and CD format games. The Arcade System Cards (for playing Arcade CD titles) were never released in North America.

Rivalry with Nintendo and Sega

In North America, the TurboGrafx-16 was first released in late August of 1989, in New York and Los Angeles. Initially, the TurboGrafx was marketed as a direct competitor to the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and early television ads touted TG-16's superior graphics and sound. These early television ads featured a brief montage of TG-16's launch titles: Blazing Lazers, China Warrior, Vigilante, Alien Crush, etc. Of course, TG-16 was also in direct competition with the Sega Genesis, which had had its own New York/Los Angeles test-market launch two weeks prior, on August 14 (Note: the launch dates can be confusing. Part of the confusion, perhaps, lies in the fact that both TG-16 and the Genesis were first test-marketed in New York and Los Angeles, then given national launches. However, it is known that the Genesis' initial test-launch occurred two weeks prior to TG-16's[1]). The Genesis launch was accompanied by an ad campaign mocking NEC's claim that the TurboGrafx-16 was the first 16-bit console.

Another problem for the TG-16 was its limited hardware. The Genesis only came with one controller, but it provided a port for a second; the TG-16 only had one controller port. Players who wanted to take advantage of the simultaneous multiplayer modes in their games were required to buy, in addition to the necessary extra controllers, the Turbo Tap (an accessory which permitted five controllers to be plugged into the system). Another problem in the battle against the Genesis were the pack-in games (game included with purchase): The Genesis originally came with the impressive arcade translation of Altered Beast (1989), which included big, bold sprites and colors as well as impressive digital sound effects. The TG-16's initial pack-in game was Keith Courage in Alpha Zones (1989), a modest action platform game that did not show off the capabilities of the TG-16 in nearly the same way Altered Beast did for the Genesis (or Super Mario World later did for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System [SNES]).

The Genesis' Japanese counterpart, the Sega Mega Drive, was less popular than the NEC console, the PC Engine. In North America, however, the situation was reversed, and the Genesis is mainly remembered there for its rivalry with the Super Nintendo, not with the TurboGrafx-16.

Both Sega and NEC released CD peripherals (Mega-CD versus Turbo CD), color handhelds (Sega Game Gear versus TurboExpress), and even "TV Tuners" for their respective handheld systems. While Sega outperformed NEC in North America, both companies' peripherals and handhelds were not terribly popular overall.

In 1994, comic book-like ads featuring Johnny Turbo were published by TTi. The ads mocked Sega, in particular the Mega-CD. By this point it was too little too late, the TG-16 had been defeated by the Genesis in the marketplace, which was by then dominated by the battle between the Genesis and the Super Nintendo.

Ironically, many TurboGrafx-16 games are currently planned to be available with the "Virtual Console" option for Nintendo's upcoming console: Wii.

Struggles in North America

Initially, the TurboGrafx-16 sold well in North America, but it generally suffered from a lack of support from third-party software developers and publishers. One reason for this was that many larger software companies such as Konami supported the PC Engine in Japan, but also produced games for Nintendo. Nintendo at the time had engaged in anti-competitive practices that were later ruled illegal, such as enforcing exclusive contracts and punishing developers who developed for more than one system with "chip shortages" around the holiday seasons. As a result of this practice, many developers were compelled to pick the immensely popular NES over the upstart NEC console, resulting in a catch-22 for the TurboGrafx-16 — most developers would only consider taking a risk on the TG-16 if it were more popular, and yet it could not become more popular because only a handful of North American publishers would support it. Accordingly, most of the games published for the TG-16 were produced by NEC and Hudson Soft.

The TurboGrafx-16 was originally marketed by NEC Home Electronics based in Wood Dale, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. As the system's popularity tanked, the platform was handed over to a new company called Turbo Technologies Incorporated (TTI), based in Los Angeles. This company was comprised mainly of former NEC Home Electronics and Hudson Soft employees, and it essentially took over all marketing and first-party software development for the struggling system.

Another reason for the TG-16's lack of success in North America was the system's marketing. NEC of Japan's marketing campaign for the PC Engine was mainly targeted to the largest metropolitan areas in the country. This proved to be quite successful there, but when the same kind of marketing was used in the much larger and more diverse North American market, it resulted in a lack of public awareness outside of the big cities. The TG-16 ended up being far more competitive and popular in certain local markets such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, while in smaller and more spread-out areas, it failed miserably.

By 1991, the Sega Genesis had clearly surpassed the TurboGrafx-16, putting NEC's console in a distant fourth place in the video game market (Nintendo held the #2 and 3 places with the brand new SNES and the aging but still potent NES). NEC, who was relatively new to the market, had an increasingly difficult time convincing consumers who already owned a Sega or Nintendo system to give the TG-16 a try.

Compounding the problem was that the vast majority of the titles that made the system so successful in Japan were produced for the CD-ROM add-on. In the American market, this add-on was difficult to find outside of large cities, and it was widely considered to be overpriced (debuting at nearly $400). TTI tried to address this issue by releasing a combination system called the TurboDuo, as well as dropping the price of the CD add-on to around $150. Unfortunately, at $300, the cost of the TurboDuo was still too steep for most American consumers, even when NEC took the bold step of including seven pack-in titles and a coupon book with the system. Despite all these efforts, the company failed to attract much of a mainstream audience.

Many of the CD games for the Turbo platform were innovative and well-received, but the cost of the add-on system was a strong deterrent to buyers, especially when the competition sold for considerably less. Some Japanese games, such as Demon Castle Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys, Far East of Eden 2 and Snatcher, never made it to North American shelves.

In the handheld market, the TurboExpress further suffered from short battery life, a hefty price tag, and a large number of units that were missing pixels in their displays (due mainly to the fact that TFT LCD manufacturing technology was still in its infancy at the time).

Today, the TurboGrafx-16 is mainly known for its much-vaunted shoot 'em ups, its competition with the Sega Genesis, advertising flop Johnny Turbo, and the Bonk games. After the system died, NEC decided to concentrate on the Japanese market, where it had had much more success.

In 1994 NEC released a new console, the Japan-only PC-FX, a 32-bit system with a tower-like design; it enjoyed a small but steady stream of games until 1998, when NEC finally abandoned the video games industry. NEC would then partner with former rival Sega, providing a version of its PowerVR 2 Chipset for the Sega Dreamcast.

There is a niche collector's market for TurboGrafx games and Japanese imports, mainly centered around the system's many arcade ports of shooters. Spurring this interest is the fact that Turbo ports from the arcade tended to be closer to the original than Sega Genesis/Sega Mega Drive or NES versions, in terms of graphics and sound. Hudson Soft also released some shooters which were exclusive to the Turbo, such as Super Air Zonk, Gate of Thunder, Soldier Blade, Super Star Soldier, Star Parodia (Japan). The most famous North American shooter is probably Blazing Lazers (Gunhead in Japan) and was featured in all of the early television ads.

After the demise of TTi, Turbo Zone Direct (TZD), mail-order company, became the de facto source for new TG-16 / Duo hardware, accessories and software.

The brief "Johnny Turbo" series of advertisements have become part of gaming's pop culture. Many folks without direct experience with TG-16 consoles or its games have heard of the infamous "Johnny Turbo".

Many PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 games will be available for download on Wii's Virtual Console download service, according to Nintendo's president Satoru Iwata. Not all games will be available; only some titles (mostly a "best hits" approach) will be selected. The number of games selected is still unknown.

teh sNEs <--- Not Coolest console ever

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, also known as Super Nintendo, Super NES or SNES, is a 16-bit video game console released by Nintendo in North America, Brazil, Europe, and Australia. In Japan it is known as the Super Famicom (Super Family Computer). In South Korea, it is known as the Super Comboy and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was Nintendo's second home console, following the Nintendo Entertainment System (often abbreviated to NES, released as the Famicom in Japan). Whereas the earlier system had struggled in the PAL region and large parts of Asia, the SNES proved to be a global success, albeit one that could not match its predecessor's popularity in Southeast Asia and North America—due in part to increased competition from Sega's Mega Drive console (released in North America as the Genesis). Despite its relatively late start, the SNES became the best selling console of the 16-bit era.

Even as the original NES/Famicom was at the height of its popularity, several companies were launching their own consoles. In 1987 and 1988, respectively, NEC and Sega launched their contenders: the PC Engine (known stateside as the TurboGrafx-16) and the Mega Drive (one of the first 16-bit home gaming systems). Although the NES would continue to dominate the video game industry for years to come, Nintendo's hardware was beginning to show its age, and though Nintendo executives initially showed little interest in developing a new system, Sega and NEC's growing market share with consoles like the Mega Drive (Sega Genesis) and the PC Engine soon forced Nintendo to reconsider.
The Super Famicom's American redesign wasn't used for PAL consoles as the NES's had been.

Masayuki Uemura, the man responsible for designing the Famicom several years earlier, was put in charge of the design of the console and the Super Famicom was released in Japan on November 21, 1990 for ¥25,000. An instant phenomenal blockbuster, Nintendo's initial shipment of 300,000 units quickly sold out within hours. The system was so phenomenally popular that it was said to have attracted the attention of the Yakuza, leading to the decision to ship the devices at night in order to avoid robbery. In Japan, the Super Famicom effortlessly outsold its chief rival, the Mega Drive, and Nintendo retained control over approximately 85% of the Japanese console market thanks, in part, to Nintendo's retention of most of its key third party developers from the Famicom, including Capcom, Konami, Tecmo, Square Co., Ltd., Koei, and Enix.

Nine months later, in August of 1991 (the earliest sources indicate August 13; exact determination of the date is not possible due to the uncoordinated nature of North American retail video game releases during that era), the Super Famicom was released in North America with a newly redesigned case as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The release was an exciting surprise for North American gamers, since Nintendo had been advertising a launch date of September 9. Initially sold for a price of $199 USD, the North American package included the game Super Mario World. The SNES was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in April of 1992 for £150, with a German release following a few weeks later. The PAL versions of the console looked identical to the Japanese Super Famicom, except for labeling.

Nintendo's Japanese market dominance was, however, not repeated in the American and PAL markets. By the time of launch the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis had already become firmly entrenched in the US and PAL marketplace, helped by the lower cost of the Mega Drive/Genesis console and games, Sega's aggressive marketing in North America, and overall popularity of the console alone. In addition many US gamers had come to expect backwards compatibility from console developers (as was the case with the Atari 2600 and 7800), but the SNES was not designed to play NES cartridges.

Rivalry between Nintendo and Sega produced what is possibly the most notorious console war in gaming history. Nintendo would never achieve market leadership in the PAL region, and did not manage to do so in the U.S. until 1994, benefiting from Sega's pulling out of the market and its continued production of SNES and its games well after the 32-bit era of gaming had started.

In the period of the early 1990s, a blue-collar anti-Japanese sentiment had grown to maturity. While the NES was accused of shoddy construction and poor planning, the SNES was rumored to be a tool of outright economic war. The SNES was incompatible with several American-brand TVs, causing the screen to hop 3-5 times a second, or (in very rare cases) even outright backfire on the TV set. Nintendo fixed all units aftermarket free of charge, but the theory held on for years.

By 1996, the 16-bit era of gaming had ended, and a new generation of consoles, including Nintendo's own Nintendo 64, caused the popularity of the SNES to wane. In October 1997, Nintendo released a redesigned SNES 2 in North America for $99 USD (which included the pack-in game Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island). Like the earlier NES 2, the new model was designed to be slimmer and lighter than its predecessor but lacked S-Video and RGB output, and would prove to be among the last major SNES-related releases in America. A similar redesigned Super Famicom Jr. was released in Japan around the same time. All of the American cases from the original NES to the SNES 2 were designed by Lance Barr.

Nintendo ceased production of the SNES in 1999. In Japan, the Super Famicom continued to be produced until September 2003 (also some new games were produced until the year 2000). In recent years, many SNES titles have been ported to the handheld Game Boy Advance, which has similar video capabilities. Some video game critics consider the SNES era "the golden age of video games," citing the many groundbreaking games and classics made for the system, whereas others question this romanticism.

In 2005, it was announced that Super NES will be available as downloadable games for Nintendo's upcoming console Wii, via the Virtual Console service. So far, it is expected that all first-party games released in America will be available, though there is no word yet on third-party or Japanese or European-only games yet.

Game paks, depending on which market they were released in, were of different shapes. The North American model had a rectangular bottom that had inset grooves which when inserted complemented the console's shape whereas the Japanese, Korean, and PAL cartridges had a smoothed curve on the front of the cartridges with no inset grooves. Since the North American console has protruding grooves, the Japanese/PAL game paks could not be inserted without the removal of these grooves and North American game paks being completely rectangular could not fit into the slightly curved opening of the Japanese and PAL console units.

Additionally, a regional lockout chip within the console and in each game pak prevented PAL games from being played on Japanese/North American consoles and vice versa despite the fact that PAL and Japanese cartridges fit in each other's consoles. The Japanese and North American machines had the same region chip, so once the difference in the shape of the game paks was overcome, game paks were interchangeable.

The simplest way to play the Japanese and PAL game paks in the North American system was to use a Game Genie cheat device with the small rectangular piece of plastic from its top removed. This not only circumvents the problem of different game pak shapes but also removes any problem with lockout chips due to the internal design of the Game Genie.

Alternatively, various other adapters or physical modification of the console could overcome regional lockout. Plastic tabs within the game pak slot could be removed (by snapping or cutting them off), allowing a Super Famicom game pak to fit in the North American console; however, care had to be taken not to damage the game pak port.

The working chip lockout system had the hardware in the console act as a lock while the chip inside the game pak was a key. Disconnecting pin 4 of the console's lockout chip caused a situation where there were two keys and no locks. This meant that the lockout chips would not operate and could not halt the console. Games towards the end of the console's lifecycle, such as Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, could detect this deadlock situation and refuse to run, so it later became common to install a switch that disconnected and connected the lockout chip as required.

PAL consoles often faced another modification. Instead of being re-coded, most PAL games were simply slowed down from 60 Hz to 50 Hz, resulting in 17.5% slower gameplay and sound effects. Additionally, PAL's higher resolution was not taken advantage of, and the extra scanlines were blank, creating large black bars that letterboxed the image. This practice was common across all consoles at the time, but created a squashed and out of proportion picture. As most PAL TVs support a 60 Hz variant of PAL and the SNES hardware made such a thing quite simple to add, a switch to select 50 or 60 Hz operation was often added. Some games, such as Super Mario Kart, were sped up for the PAL market to partially counter this problem, and running these at 60 Hz resulted in even faster gameplay than normal.

As an additional form of region lockout, later games would check that the SNES was running at the speed the game was expecting. PAL games would refuse to run on 60 Hz machines and NTSC games would refuse to run on 50 Hz machines. The solution was to start the game in the native speed and then flick the switch once the region check had successfully completed.

There was an adaptor made by various third parties designed to circumvent the regional lockout issues. A player could plug the device into the SNES (either version) and then place a game that would normally not run on that particular SNES unit (e.g. a rectangular game pak that would not run in the SNES unit designed for round cartridges) into the top. Then, into the back or behind the first game pak, the player would insert another game that would work on this SNES unit. The adaptor would read the game from the main port and use the regional lockout chip programming from the back one.

Throughout the course of its life, a number of peripherals were released which added to the functionality of the SNES. Many of these devices were modeled after earlier add-ons for the NES: the Super Scope was a light gun similar to the NES Zapper (though the Super Scope featured wireless capabilities) and the Super Advantage was an arcade-style joystick with adjustable turbo settings akin to the NES Advantage. Nintendo also released the SNES Mouse in conjunction with its Mario Paint title. Hudson Soft, under license from Nintendo, released the Super Multitap, a multiplayer adaptor for use with its popular series of Bomberman games. It allowed support for up to eight players, although probably the only game to support 8 players is Dino Dini's Soccer.

One of the most interesting and successful first-party peripherals released for the SNES was the Super Game Boy, an adaptor cartridge allowing games designed for Nintendo's portable Game Boy system to be played on the SNES. The Super Game Boy touted a number of feature enhancements over the Game Boy, including color support (in reality, merely the ability to substitute a different color palette: the games themselves were still limited to four colors) and custom screen borders.

Like the NES before it, the SNES saw its fair share of unlicensed third-party peripherals, including a new version of the Game Genie cheat cartridge designed for use with SNES games and a variety of game copier devices. In general, Nintendo proved to be somewhat more tolerant of unlicensed SNES peripherals than they had been with NES peripherals.

Around 1993 Nintendo suffered from software piracy, with the introduction of copybox devices like the Super Wildcard and Super Pro Fighter Q. These devices from Hong Kong were supposedly sold to create a backup of a cartridge, in the event that it would break. Most people used it to play copied ROM images that could be downloaded from BBSes and the internet, or to create copies of rented video games, all activities illegal under federal law.

Japan saw the release of the Satellaview, a modem which attached to the Super Famicom's expansion port and connected to the St. GIGA satellite radio station. Users of the Satellaview could download gaming news and specially designed games, which were frequently either remakes of or sequels to older Famicom titles, released in installments. Satellaview signals were broadcast from April 23, 1995 through June 30, 2000. In the United States, the similar but relatively short-lived XBAND allowed users to connect to a network via a dial-up modem to compete against other players around the country.

During the SNES's life, Nintendo contracted with two different companies to develop a CD-ROM-based peripheral for the console. Ultimately, negotiations with both Sony and Philips fell through, and the two companies went on to develop their own consoles based on their initial dealings with Nintendo (the PlayStation and the CD-i respectively), Philips also gaining the right to release a series of CD-i titles based on popular Nintendo franchises.


Like the NES before it, the SNES has retained interest among its fans even following its decline in the marketplace. It has continued to thrive on the second-hand market and through console emulation. Many gamers discovered the SNES after its decline. The SNES has taken much the same revival path as the NES.

Emulation projects began in 1996 with projects such as "VSMC" and "Super Pasofami," which, despite some important initial gains, did not last long past 1998. During that time, two competing emulation projects--Snes96 and Snes97--merged forming a new initiative entitled Snes9x. In early 1998, SNES enthusiasts began programming a console emulator named ZSNES. From then on, these two emulators have continued to offer the most complete emulation of the system and its various add-on chips like the Super FX Chip, although development continues on other emulators as well.

Nintendo took the same stance against the distribution of SNES ROM image files and emulation as it did with the NES, insisting that they represented flagrant software piracy. Proponents of SNES emulation cite as arguments for their continued distribution: the discontinued production of the SNES, the right of the owner of the respective game to make a personal backup, the frailty of SNES cartridges (even though cartridges are far more durable than optical discs), and the lack of certain foreign imports. Starting in the 128-bit era, both Nintendo and emulation proponents began to have a less active stance on this issue.

Despite Nintendo's attempts to stop the proliferation of such projects, ROM files continue to be available on the Internet. Since the console's discontinuation, second-hand market decline, and rapid growth of the Internet, finding the files has become less of a challenge than it had been with the NES. Most general ROM sites offer files for the SNES.

The SNES was one of the first systems to attract the attention of amateur fan translators: Final Fantasy V was the first major work of fan translation, and was completed in 1997.

Many sites that offer SNES ROMs for download claim it that is legal to download and play them for up to 24 hours. This is not true and is still copyright infringement. The 24 hour "rule" is a long practiced device to gain trust and generate traffic on ROM distributing sites.

Along the same lines, the newest claim relates to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA]. It is claimed that the law enables ROMs and emulation as long as the original method of use, or a current method, is unavailable. Example: if a game for the SNES isn't available on a current generation console or PC CD-ROM playable by modern PCs, it may be emulated. Noted here as a claim, the veracity is unknown.

It is argued that these issues are the reason that prompted Nintendo to plan the Virtual Console service for the Wii console in an attempt to combat console emulation and piracy.

Technical specifications

The design of the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom was unusual for its time. It featured a low-performance CPU supported by powerful custom chips for sound and video processing. This approach would become common in subsequent video game hardware, but at the time it was new to game developers. As a result early third-party games were of low technical quality. Developers later became accustomed to the system, and were able to take advantage of its full potential. It was the first console capable of applied acoustics in video game audio sold in North America, Europe, and Japan.

o Core: Nintendo custom '5A22', believed to be produced by Ricoh; based around a 16-bit CMD/GTE 65c816 (a version, not predecessor[citation needed], of the WDC 65C816, used by the Apple IIGS personal computer).
o The CPU internally contains support circuitry for:
+ Fast unsigned integer multiplication and division
+ Generating an IRQ interrupt every frame at a specific horizontal raster line, vertical raster line, or at a single point in the raster scan
+ The ability to block or allow the NMI interrupts on Vblank coming from the Picture Processing Unit
+ Automatically or manually polling the game controllers or other peripheral devices
+ A memory-mapped 8-bit GPIO Port
+ A DMA unit, supporting two primary modes, general DMA (for block transfers, at a rate of 2.68 MB/s) and Hblank DMA (for transferring small data sets at the end of each scanline, outside of the active display period)
+ Controlling the access speed to or from any area in the memory map
o The CPU, as a whole, employs a variable-speed system bus, with bus access times determined by the memory location accessed. The possible clock speeds were 1.79, 2.68 and 3.58 Megahertz. But for most purposes the bus runs at 2.68 MHz and drops to 1.79 MHz when accessing certain PPU registers. It works at approximately 1.5 MIPS (using strictly 16-bit instructions) and has a theoretical peak of 1.79 million 16-bit adds per second.
o The SNES/SFC 5A22 CPU has direct access to 128KB of Work RAM.
* Sound
o Sound Controller Chip: 8-bit Sony SPC700 CPU for controlling the DSP; running at an effective clock rate around 1.024 MHz.
+ Sound RAM: 64KB shared between SPC700 and S-SMP.
+ Memory Cycle Time: 279 milliseconds
o Main Sound Chip : Sony S-SMP
+ Hardware ADPCM decompression
+ 8-channel PCM
+ Hardware sound effects pitch modulation, echo effect with feedback (for reverberation) with 8-tap FIR filter, and ADSR and 'GAIN' (discretely controlled) volume envelopes.
+ Polyphony of 8 notes per voice
o SFx sound chip : Sony\Nintendo S-DSP
+ 3-channel PCM
o Low-pass filter for improved quality of low-frequency (bass) tones
o Pulse Code Modulator: 16-bit ADPCM (if programmer uses 4-bit compressed ADPCM samples, expanded to 16-bit resolution, processed with an additional 4-point Gaussian sound interpolation).
o Although the SNES is normally only able to output stereo sound, a few games (such as Jurassic Park) use Dolby Pro-Logic to create surround sound embedded in the stereo sound signals.
o Note - while not directly related to SNES hardware, the standard extension for SNES audio subsystem state files saved by emulators is .SPC, a format used by SPC players.
* Video
o Picture Processor Unit: 15-bit
o Video RAM: 128KB
+ 64KB of VRAM for sprite and layers effect like transparency
+ 64KB of VRAM for screen maps (for 'background' layers) and tile sets (for backgrounds and objects);
+ 512 + 32 bytes of 'OAM' (Object Attribute Memory) for objects; 512 bytes of 'CGRAM' for palette data.
o Palette: 256 entries; 15-bit color depth (RGB555) for a total of 32,768 colors.
o Maximum colors per layer per scanline: 256.
o Maximum colors on-screen: 4,096 without alpha and 32,768 (using color arithmetic for transparency effects).
o Maximum colors per sprite: 128
o Resolution: between 256x224 and 512x448. Most games used common resolutions like 256x224, 256x240, 512x224 pixels since higher resolutions caused slowdown, flicker, and/or had increased limitations on layers and colors (due to memory bandwidth constraints); the higher resolutions were used for less processor-intensive games, in-game menus, text, and high resolution images.
+ Resolution 512x224 named pseudo high-resolution is sometimes used for color blending between two sprites with dithering technique. For example: Kirby's Dream Land 3 (aka Hoshi no Kirby 3 in Japan).
o Maximum onscreen objects (sprites): 128 (32 per line, up to 34, 8x8 tiles per line).
o Maximum number of sprite pixels on one scanline: 256. The renderer was designed such that it would drop the frontmost sprites instead of the rearmost sprites if a scanline exceeded the limit, allowing for creative clipping effects.
o Most common display modes: pixel-to-pixel Mode 1 (16 colors (4-bit) per tile; 3 scrolling layers) and per scanline affine mapped Mode 7 (256 colors per tile; one rotating/scaling layer).
* Game cartridge size
o 2 to 32-Mbit (0.25 to 4 MB) which can be accessed at two selectable speeds ('SlowROM' and 'FastROM'). Upon power up, the SlowROM speed is selected by default, unless the game's program code tells it to run at the faster speed. This allowed ROM techology to scale with the system, as all early games were SlowROM, and then most became FastROM towards the end of the SNES/SFC's commercial market lifetime.
o Custom address decoders employed bank switching techniques to allow for larger sizes, eg. 48-Mbit (6 MB) for Star Ocean and Tales of Phantasia.
* Power adapter
o Transformer Input: NTSC: 120 volts AC, 60Hz, 17 watts, PAL: 240 volts AC, 50 Hz, 17 watts
o Transformer Output: 10 volts DC, 850 mA (NTSC), 9 volts AC, 1.3 A (PAL)
* Game controllers
o Controller Response: 16ms
o 2 seven-pin controller ports in the front of the machine
* Connectors and switches (may vary between console versions)
o Bottom
+ Expansion port on the bottom, allowing for Satellaview and a planned CD-ROM expansion, which eventually became the PlayStation.
o Back
+ RF output, offering only mono-sound and not very good picture quality.
+ Channel 3/4 switch, controlling on which RF channel the audio and video are output.
+ Multi-out, a connector identical to the one on Nintendo64 and GameCube. Outputs stereo (and Dolby Pro-Logic) sound, composite and S-Video signals, and on PAL versions of the console, also RGB signals.
+ Power input
o Top
+ Cartridge connector
+ Power switch
+ Reset button
+ Power indicator
o Front
+ 2 seven-pin controller ports

Enhancement chips

As part of the overall plan for the SNES/SFC, rather than include an expensive CPU that would still become obsolete in a few years, the hardware designers made it easy to interface special coprocessor chips to the console. Rather than require a complicated upgrade procedure found in the IBM PC Compatible world of computers, these certain enhancement chips were included inside the plug-in game cartridges themselves if needed for a specific game. This is most often characterized by an extra set of small leads under the cartridge.

* Super FX: Developed by Argonaut Software, the Super FX chip is a supplemental RISC CPU that was included in certain game cartridges to perform functions that the main CPU could not feasibly do. The chip was primarily used to create 3D game worlds made with polygons, texture mapping and light source shading. Some 3D game carts that this chip can be found in are Star Fox, Doom, Dirt Trax FX, Stunt Race FX, Vortex, and Winter Gold. The chip however could also be used to enhance 2D games such as Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. This chip went through three revisions, first starting out as a Chip-on-Board epoxy glob-top in the earliest Star Fox cartridges, labeled as Mario Chip-1. Within a year, the chip was given a more conventional surface-mount package and labeled as the Super FX GSU-1, which was used in various games. Finally, the design was tweaked to become the Super FX GSU-2 chip, which had a larger address bus and was manufactured with an improved semiconductor process to allow it to reach its target clock speed of 21 MHz. Although the pinouts and maximum clock speed differ, the instruction set for the Mario Chip-1, FX 1, and FX 2 chips are identical. Star Fox 2, Comanche, and FX Fighter, all games designed to take advantage of the increased power of the Super FX GSU-2, were developed but never released for the SNES/SFC, disappointing many followers of the technology at the time.

* DSP-1: This fixed-point Digital Signal Processor chip was created to allow programmers to generate more enhanced Mode 7 rotation and scaling effects in their games, and to perform very fast vector-based calculations. The chip can be found most notably in Pilotwings and Super Mario Kart, as well as a few other games. Later revisions of the chip, the 1A and 1B, were functionally the same but included bugfixes in their internal math calculations.

* DSP-2: A bitmap scaling and bitplane conversion chip used only in one game cartridge, Atari's port of Dungeon Master to the SNES console.

* DSP-3: An assistant chip used only in one Japanese game for the Super Famicom titled SD Gundam GX. Although this chip does handle graphics decompression and bitplane conversion, a large portion of memory inside this chip is dedicated to rendering a very complicated title screen, leading one to the likely conclusion that its inclusion was more intended to prevent the game from being easily pirated.

* DSP-4: A DSP used in only one game cartridge, Top Gear 3000. It primarily helped out with drawing the race track, especially during the times that the track branched into multiple paths, which was a unique feature of this type of game at the time.

* S-DD1 chip : Other than its normal processing and copy protection duties, this chip was primarily a graphics decompression chip. This allowed games to be bigger than normal by compressing the graphics data. Games that used this chip were Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Star Ocean. The game developers found it to be cheaper to add a specialized decompression chip rather than to add extra ROM space.

* C4 chip: A chip created by Capcom. This chip was used to handle the wireframe effects, perform more general trigonometric calculations, and to help out with sprite positioning and rotation. The chip was used in Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3.

* SA-1 chip: This is an ASIC chipset with a 65c816 8/16-bit processor core, clocked at 10 MHz, containing some extra circuitry specified by Nintendo, including some fast RAM, a memory mapper, DMA, several programmable timers, and the region lockout chip. The SA-1 was a multipurpose chip that allowed games such as Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Super Mario RPG to stay competitive in the changing marketplace during the aging SNES/SFC's final years.

* SGB CPU chip: This chip was used only inside the Super Game Boy peripheral and possessed a core identical to the CPU in a regular handheld Game Boy. Because the Super Nintendo was not powerful enough to use software emulation to simulate the Game Boy, circuitry equivalent to an entire Game Boy had to sit inside of the cartridge. The SGB CPU ran the main program from the inserted Game Boy cartridge, but relied upon the host Super Nintendo system to write to memory mapped registers the state of the gamepad buttons and to copy out the video frame buffer. Audio from the SGB CPU was passed along two pins on the SNES cartridge connector to be mixed with the SNES audio output.

Genesis: 2nd best Sega console

The Sega Genesis as a 16-bit video game console released by Sega in Japan (1988), Europe (1990) and most of the rest of the world.


Although the Sega Master System had proved a success in Brazil and Europe, it failed to ignite much interest in the North American or Japanese markets, which by the mid-to-late 1980s were both dominated by Nintendo with 95% and 92% market shares respectively. Hoping to dramatically increase their share, Sega set about creating a new machine that would be at least as powerful as the then most impressive hardware on the market - the 16-bit Commodore Amiga and Atari ST home computers.

Since the System 16 made by Sega was very popular, Hayao Nakayama, Sega's CEO at the time, decided to make their new home system utilize a 16-bit architecture. The final design was ported to the arcade, and eventually used in the Mega-Tech, Mega-Play and System-C arcade machines. Any game made for the Mega Drive hardware could easily be ported to these systems.

The first name Sega considered for their console was the MK-1601, but they ultimately decided to call it the "Sega Mega Drive". "Mega" had the connotation of superiority, and "Drive" had the connotation of speed and power. Sega used the name Mega Drive for the Japanese, European, Asian, Australian and Brazilian versions of the console. The North American version went by the name "Genesis" due to a trademark dispute, while the South Korean versions were called Super Gam*Boy (?????) and Super Aladdin Boy (transliterated from ???????; this was the Korean version of Mega Drive 2). The Korean-market consoles were licensed and distributed by Samsung Electronics.

North American release and further development

In 1987, Sega announced a North American release date for the system of January 9, 1989, making it the second console to feature a 16-bit CPU (the first one being the Mattel Intellivision) and the first to feature single-instruction 32-bit arithmetic. Sega was not able to meet the initial release date and U.S. sales began on August 14, 1989 in New York City and Los Angeles[2] with a suggested retail price of $200 at launch. The Genesis was released in the rest of North America on September 15 of the same year with the price reduced slightly to $190.

The Genesis initially competed against the 8-bit NES, over which it had superior graphics and sound. Nonetheless, it had a hard time overcoming Nintendo's ubiquitous presence in the consumer's home and the huge catalog of popular games already available for it. In an attempt to build themselves a significant consumer base, Sega decided to focus on slightly older buyers, especially young men in their late teens and early 20s who would have more disposable income and who were anxious for more "grown-up" titles with more mature content and/or more in-depth game play. As such, Sega released titles such as Altered Beast and the Phantasy Star series. Although the NES and Nintendo's impending SNES were still threats to Sega's market share, they had forced the theoretically competitive TurboGrafx 16 system into relative obscurity, thanks in part to NEC's poor North American marketing campaign.

Eventually, the main competition for the Genesis became Nintendo's 16-bit SNES, over which it had a head start in terms of user base and number of games, reversing the problem Sega had faced against the NES. The Genesis continued to hold on to a healthy fan base composed significantly of RPG and sports games fans. The release of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991 began to threaten Nintendo's up-to-then stranglehold on the number one console position in the USA. Sonic was released to replace former mascot Alex Kidd, and to provide the "killer app" that Sega needed. This sparked what was arguably the greatest console war in North American video gaming history.

By 1992, Sega was enjoying a stronghold on the market, holding a 55% market share in North America. Faced with a slight recession in sales and a brief loss of market share to the SNES, Sega again looked to Sonic to rejuvenate sales. The release of the highly anticipated Sonic the Hedgehog 2, coinciding with an aggressive ad campaign that took shots at Nintendo, fueled Genesis sales a while longer and boosted Sega's market share percentage back up, to an astounding 65%.

Less than a year later, in 1993, Sega released a redesigned version of the console at a newly reduced price. By consolidating the internal chipset onto a smaller, unified motherboard, Sega was able to both physically reduce the system's size and bring down production costs by simplifying the assembly procedure and reducing the number of integrated circuits required for each unit.

Aside from the release of the Sega CD and 32X add-ons for the Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega's last big announcement came in the form of a partnership with Time Warner in the U.S. to offer a subscription-based service called Sega Channel, which would allow subscribers to "download" games on a month-by-month basis.

Decline in market share

The failures of the Sega CD and 32X, a lack of effective advertising, and disputes between Sega of America and Sega of Japan had taken their toll on the company. By 1994, Sega's market share had dropped from 65% to 35%, and the official announcements of newer, more powerful consoles, such as the Saturn, Playstation, and N64 signaled that the 16-bit era was drawing to a close. Interest in the Genesis suffered greatly as a result, compounding its already falling sales. In 1996, less than a year after the debut of their Saturn console, Sega quickly brought their participation in the 16-bit era to an end by discontinuing production of the Genesis and its associated accessories. This obviously angered consumers around the world who had bought the Sega CD and 32X attachments only to see Sega abandon all support. This can, at least in slight, be seen as a contributing factor to the downfall of Sega as a console manufacturer. (see Video game market).

Resurgent popularity

In recent years, there has been something of a revival of interest in the Mega Drive/Genesis, led largely by the grey market trade in both unlicensed cartridges (for instance, the biblically themed output of Wisdom Tree) and dumped ROMs, which are played through emulators such as Kega Fusion, GENS, or Genecyst. There is also a trend towards home programming, using the PC-based SGCC.

In the 2000s, there came a trend toward plug-and-play TV games, and Radica has released licensed, self-contained versions of the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in both North America (as the Play TV Legends Sega Genesis) and Europe (as the Sega Mega Drive 6-in-1 Plug 'n' Play), which contain six popular games in a small box and control pad. It does not have a cartridge slot, and thus is a dedicated console. However, Benjamin Heckendorn, of Atari portablizing fame, has proven that it is possible to connect a cartridge slot with some soldering.

The GameTap subscription gaming service includes a Genesis emulator, and has several dozen licensed Genesis games in its catalog.

On March 23, 2006, it was announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose California that Nintendo will offer Sega Mega Drive/Genesis game ports on the Wii home console. However it is not yet clear whether this includes all titles in the console's back catalogue. The announcement also stated that PC Engine games would be available for download to the virtual console.

On May 22, 2006 Super Fighter Team released the Beggar Prince, a game translated from a 1996 Chinese original. It is the first commercial Sega Megadrive game since 1998 in the North American market. It was released worldwide.

Variations of the Mega Drive/Sega Genesis

Main article: Variations of the Sega Mega Drive

During its lifespan, the Mega Drive and Genesis quite possibly received more officially licensed variations than any other console. While only one major design revision of the console was created during its lifespan, each region has its own peculiarities and unique items, while other variations were exercises in reducing costs (such as the removal of the little-used 9-pin EXT. port) or expanding the capabilities of the Mega Drive/Genesis.

Technical specifications


Main processor: 16-bit Motorola 68000 (or equivalent)

* Runs at 7.61 MHz in PAL consoles, 7.67 MHz in NTSC consoles.
* Some systems contained clones of the Motorola 68000 manufactured by Hitachi and Signetics.
* Signetics 68K only found in early revisions as this CPU is known to be inefficient.

Secondary processor: 8-bit Zilog Z80 (or equivalent)

* Runs at 3.55 MHz in PAL consoles, 3.58 MHz in NTSC consoles
* Used as main CPU in Master System compatibility mode.


Boot ROM: 2 KB

* Known as the "Trademark Security System" (TMSS)
* When console is started, it checks the game for certain code given to licensed developers
* Unlicensed games without the code are thus locked out
* If a game is properly licensed, the ROM will display "Produced by or under license from Sega Enterprises Ltd."
* Boot ROM is not present on earlier versions of the Mega Drive and Genesis
* Some earlier games not designed for the TMSS may not work in later consoles

Main RAM: 64 KBytes

* Part of M68000 address space

Video RAM: 64 KBytes

* Cannot be accessed directly by CPU, must be read and written via VDP (Video Display Processor - see below)

Secondary RAM: 8 KBytes

* Part of Z80 address space
* Used as main RAM in Master System compatibility mode

Audio RAM: 8 KBytes

Cartridge memory area: up to 4 MBytes (32 Megabits)

* Part of M68000 address space
* Game cartridges larger than 4 MBytes must use bank switching


The Mega Drive has a dedicated VDP (Video Display Processor) for playfield and sprite control. This is an improved version of the Sega Master System VDP, which in turn is derived from the Texas Instruments TMS9918. It contains both mode 4 (for Master System compatibility) and mode 5 (for native Genesis games). However, Master System programs can switch the VDP into mode 5 and make use of advanced VDP features. This page only discusses mode 5 capabilities.

Planes: 4 (2 scrolling playfields, 1 sprite plane, 1 'window' plane), per-tile priority

Sprites: Up to 64 (32H)/80 (40H) on-screen, 16/20 per line, 256/320 pixels per line, per-sprite priority

Palette: 512 colors (1536 using shadow/highlight mode)

On-screen colors: 64 × 9-bit words of color RAM, 4 lines of 15 colors plus transparent, allowing 61 on-screen colors (up to 1536 via raster effects and shadow/highlight)

Screen resolution: 256x224 (32Hx28V), 320x224 (40Hx28V), 256x240 (32Hx30V, PAL only), 320x240 (40Hx30V, PAL only)

* Interlace mode 1 provides no increase in resolution, but still generates a true interlaced signal
* Interlace mode 2 can provide double the vertical resolution (i.e. 320×448 for NTSC, 320x480 for PAL). Used in Sonic 2 for two-player split screen

Scroll size: Width and height independently set to 32, 64, or 128 cells as VRAM allows


Main sound chip: Yamaha YM2612

* Six FM channels, four operators each; channel 6 can be used for PCM data or as a regular channel
* Programmable low-frequency oscillator and stereo panning

Secondary sound chip: Texas Instruments SN76489 compatible device built into VDP.

* Four-channel PSG (Programmable Sound Generator)
* Three square wave channels, one white noise channel
* Programmable tone/noise and attenuation
* Used for Master System compatibility mode as well as to supplement FM
* Different random noise generation compared to a real SN76489/SN76489A chip

Inputs and outputs

RF output: RCA jack connects to TV antenna input

* Exists on original model European and Asian Mega Drive and North American Genesis only
* Other models must use external RF modulator which plugs into A/V output

A/V output: DIN connector with composite video, RGB video, and audio outputs

* Mega Drive and the first model Genesis have an 8-pin DIN socket (same as Sega Master System) which supports mono audio only
* Mega Drive 2, Multimega, and other models have a 9-pin mini DIN socket with both mono and stereo audio

Power input: positive tip barrel connector. Requires 9-10 volts DC, 0.85-1.2 A depending on model

Headphone output: Amplified 3.5-mm stereo jack on front of console with volume control

* Exists only on original model Mega Drive and Genesis units
* Provides stereo audio on models which have the mono 8-pin DIN A/V output
* Also suitable for passive speakers
* Can be used for mixing audio from the SegaCD

"EXT" port: DE-9F (9-pin female D-connector) on back of console

* Used with the Meganet modem peripheral, released only in Japan
* Exists on all first-model Japanese and Asian Mega Drive units, and on early American Genesis and European Mega Drive units
* May have been used for game selection on arcade adaptations of the Mega Drive / Genesis console

Control pad inputs: two DE-9M (9-pin male D-connectors) on front of console

Expansion port: Edge connector on bottom right hand side of console

* used almost exclusively for Sega Mega-CD connection
* not present on Genesis 3 model
* also used for the Sega Genesis 6 Cart Demo Unit (DS-16) in stores.


The Sega Saturn is a 32-bit video game console, first released on November 22, 1994 in Japan, May 1995 in North America and July 8, 1995 in Europe. Approximately 170,000 machines were sold the first day of the Japanese launch. 5,000 were sold in the weekend following the United Kingdom launch.

At one time, the Sega Saturn held second place in the console wars, placing it above Nintendo's Super Famicom in Japan and Nintendo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in North America and Europe, but the Saturn slowly lost market share to Sony's PlayStation and, outside Japan, the cartridge-based Nintendo 64.

The Japanese Saturn was rushed to the market, just a few weeks ahead of its rival, Sony's PlayStation. This led to very few games being available at launch.

The system was supported in North America and Europe until late 1998, and in Japan until the end of 2000. The last official game for the system, Yukyu Gensokyoku Perpetual Collection, was released by Mediaworks in December that year. Interestingly, a game called Sega Saturn: Lost & Found VOL #1 was released in the US by Older Games in August of 2004 (although it is not playable with a retail, unmodified Saturn).

Sega's 27-member Away Team, comprising employees from every aspect of hardware engineering, product development and marketing, worked exclusively for two years to ensure the Sega Saturn's hardware and design met the precise needs of both the U.S. and Japanese markets. The Saturn was a powerful machine for the time, but its design, with two CPUs and 6 other processors, made harnessing its power extremely difficult. Rumours suggest that the original plan called for a single processor, but a second one was added late in development to increase potential performance.

One very fast central processor would be preferable. I don't think that all programmers have the ability to program two CPUs - most can only get about one-and-a-half times the speed you can get from one SH-2. I think only one out of 100 programmers is good enough to get that kind of speed out of the Saturn.

Third-party development was further hindered by the initial lack of useful software libraries and development tools, requiring developers to write in assembly language to achieve decent performance. Programmers would often utilize only one CPU to simplify development in titles such as Alien Trilogy.

The main disadvantage of the dual CPU architecture was that both processors shared the same bus, and besides 4K of on-chip memory, all data and program code for both CPUs was located in the same shared 2 MB of main memory. This meant that without very careful division of processing, the second CPU would often have to wait while the first CPU was working, reducing its processing ability.

The hardware also lacked light sourcing and hardware video decompression support. Nevertheless, when properly utilized, the dual processors in the Saturn could produce impressive results such as the 1997 ports of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D by Lobotomy Software, and later games like Burning Rangers were able to achieve true transparency effects on hardware that used simple polygon stipples as a replacement for transparency effects in the past.

From a market viewpoint, the architectural design problems of the Saturn meant that it quickly lost third party support to the PlayStation. Unlike the Playstation's use of triangles as its basic geometric primitive, the Saturn rendered quadrilaterals. This proved a hindrance as most industry standard design tools were based around triangles, and multiplatform games were usually developed with triangles and the Playstation's larger market share in mind.

If used correctly the quadrilateral rendering of the Saturn would show less texture distortion than was common on Playstation titles, as demonstrated by several cross-platform titles such as Wipeout and Destruction Derby. The quadrilateral-focussed hardware and a 50% greater amount of video RAM also gave the Saturn an advantage for 2D game engines and attracted many developers of RPGs, arcade games and traditional 2D fighting games. A 4 MB RAM cart, released only in Japan, boosted available memory even further for games such as Capcom's X-Men Vs Street Fighter.

Tomb Raider was originally designed for the Saturn's quadrilateral-based hardware and as a result was incapable of displaying levels containing any triangular parts. This restriction remained in place for most of the 32-bit sequels. In the other hand, the quadrilateral ability allowed the Saturn to render First-person shooter games better than other consoles at the time, games like Quake, Powerslave, Duke Nukem 3D, HeXen. Also, the extra video RAM allowed larger levels than in PlayStation versions.

A true example of the Saturn's capability is widely considered to be the systems version of Shenmue, Yu Suzuki's multi-million dollar project that would eventually find a new home on the Saturn's successor, the Sega Dreamcast. Work on the title is believed to have been fairly complete, and several technical demos and gameplay footage have since been released to the public. The footage displays a system capable of producing fully rendered, entirely 3D locations and characters. The quality of image Suzuki and his team were able to achieve is quite extraordinary considering the Saturn's infamously complicated hardware. Certainly, Shenmue was graphically superior to anything that had been produced on the Saturn before it.

Performance in the North American and European marketplace

The Saturn was launched almost four months ahead of schedule in North America and Europe. This was announced at 1995's E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) where Sega representatives were engaged in a public relations battle with Sony. This surprise move resulted in very few sales due to the USD$399 price of the system, versus the announced Playstation launch price of USD$299, and the lack of available software at launch.

In North America, Sega chose to ship Saturn units only to four select retailers which caused a great deal of animosity from unselected companies, including Wal-Mart and KB Toys. Additionally the summer launch broke with the tradition of launching in early fall to coincide with the Christmas shopping season [2]. Sega also struggled against distrust amongst gaming consumers after a series of quickly discontinued add-on peripherals to the Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis, including the Sega CD system and the Sega 32X.

Asian models

In Japan Sega licensed the rights to produce Saturns to their hardware partners - Hitachi, who provided the CPUs and several other chips, and JVC who produced the CD drives for most models, although functionally identical Sanyo drives were sometimes used. SunSeibu released a model with a 7-CD changer for use in hotels. The concept of a multi-game player for hotel use is very common in Japan.

Sega HST-3200
Sega Saturn
Sega Skeleton Saturn
Sega Derby Saturn
Hitachi Hi-Saturn
JVC/Victor V-Saturn RG-JX1
JVC/Victor V-Saturn RG-JX2
Samsung Saturn

All North American models are black in color and were produced by Sega.

MK-80000 7/95 - 3/96
MK-80000A 3/96 - 9/96
MK-80001 7/96 - 98

European and Australian Saturns are identical as both regions share the same AC voltage and TV standard. There is no internal variation between PAL and SÉCAM machines as all were shipped with SCART leads. All models are black and externally quite similar to the North American variations. PAL and SECAM machines will have "PAL" next to the BIOS revision number on the system settings screen instead of "NTSC".


In North America the existing tall, single hinged case design used for Sega CD games was adopted for Saturn titles. The cases incorporate a white spine containing a 30 degree stripe pattern in gray, with white outlined lettering displaying the words "Sega Saturn". The manual slides into the case in the same manner as the liner notes in a normal jewel case, and the cover often carries a back insert with information about the game. The manuals were substantially larger than standard CD manuals, and as a result had more room for art.

These cases had several problems:

* Their sheer size made them vulnerable to cracking.
* The mechanism that keeps the cover closed wears out quickly if the cover is opened and closed too much
* There is sufficient empty space inside the case that if the CD comes loose of the case's spindle then it can easily suffer scratching or be shattered during case transportation. Some games (especially early in the system's life) came with a foam brick to keep the disc from falling off the spindle.

Games packaged with the system or a peripheral such as Virtua Fighter and NiGHTS Into Dreams often came in a standard CD Jewel case.


* Two Hitachi SuperH-2 7604 32-Bit RISC processors at 28.2 MHz (50-MIPS) - each has 4 kB on-chip cache, of which 2 kB can alternatively be used as directly addressable RAM
* SH-1 32-bit RISC processor (controlling the CD-ROM)
* Custom VDP 1 32-bit video display processor (running at 7.1590 MHz on NTSC Systems, 6.7116 MHz for PAL Systems)
* Custom VDP 2 32-bit video display processor (running at 7.1590 MHz on NTSC Systems, 6.7116 MHz for PAL Systems)
* Custom Saturn Control Unit (SCU) with DSP for geometry processing and DMA controller
* Motorola 68EC000 sound processor
* Yamaha FH1 DSP sound processor, "Sega Custom Sound Processor" (SCSP)
* Hitachi 4-bit MCU, "System Manager & Peripheral Control" (SMPC)


* 1 MB (8 Megabits) SDRAM
* 1 MB (8 Megabits) DRAM, combined with SDRAM to make the main 2 MB memory area
* 512KB (4 Megabits) VDP2 video RAM
* 4K VDP2 on-chip color RAM
* 512KB (4 Megabits) audio RAM
* 512KB (4 Megabits) CD-ROM cache
* 32KB nonvolatile RAM (battery backup)
* 512KB (4 Megabits) BIOS ROM


* Saturn Custom Sound Processor


* VDP1 32-bit video display processor
* VDP2 32-bit background and scroll plane video display processor


* Saturn double-speed CD-ROM drive


* Two 7-bit bidirectional parallel I/O ports
* High-speed serial communications port (Both SH2 SCI channels and SCSP MIDI)
* Cartridge connector
* Internal expansion port for MPEG adapter card
* Composite video/stereo (standard)
* NTSC/PAL RF (optional)
* S-Video compatible (optional)
* RGB compatible (optional)
* EDTV compatible (optional)
* HDTV compatible (optional - never used)


* Saturn digital gamepad (D-pad, Start button, 6 face buttons, 2 triggers)
* Analog gamepad (introduced with NiGHTS Into Dreams)
* "Stunner" lightgun (introduced with Virtua Cop)
* Cobra light gun by Nuby, Also was compatible with non GunCon PlayStation games
* Multitap (up to 10 players)
* Sega NetLink
* Netlink PS/2 Keyboard Adapter (for use with Netlink modem)
* 1.44 MB 3.5" disk drive (interfaces with serial port, supported by only a few games)
* Arcade Racer Joystick
* DirectLink
* Various MPEG cards allowing VCD playback using the Saturn (containing various MPEG video/audio decoder ASICs)
* RAM expansion cartridges (1 MB and 4 MB versions; expands Saturn RAM up to 6.5 MB)
* Backup data Memory Cartridges
* Action Replay/ Game Shark cheat devices

Power source

* AC120 volts; 60 Hz (US)
* AC240 volts; 50 Hz (EU)
* AC100 volts; 60 Hz (JP)
* 3 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: 83 mm (3.2 in)