Saturn Emulation FAQ May 2007

This FAQ Contains:

What is Giri Giri?
What is Satourne?
What is SSF?
What requirements do I need to run SSF?
Why is SSF so slow?
Whats this BIOS image I need to get the emulators working?
Where can I get this BIOS file?
Why doesnt the Saturn have ROMs for me to download and play?
Okay, I have the BIOS file, some Saturn CDs and SSF on my PC, what do I do now?
Help - I have it running but what keys do I use?
I ran SSF and nothing is happening. What did I do wrong?
Hey, your site says that game xxxxx should work and it doesnt. Why is this?

What is SSF?

SSF was the first Saturn emulator to actually run games and the inspiration for this site. Amazingly the emulator is developed by a single person called Shima and emulates almost all of the Saturn as of 2006, something many people thought was impossible. Its an impressive feat in coding but as such only runs full speed on a high-end PC.

What is Giri Giri?

Giri Giri was the second Saturn Emulation to run games but was discontinued as SEGA bought it for their downloadable Saturn games service in Japan. We are no longer supporting Giri Giri as due to SEGA buying it there is no legal version available anymore.

What is Satourne?

Satourne was the last Saturn emulator to be developed. Its releases are few and far between spending most of its time in private alpha/beta testing. As such I havent actually been able to run any games on it as the working games always seem to be limited to the private beta only. Generally I am not supporting Satourne myself but I will glady add entries to the compatibility list for it if anyone submits them.

What requirements do I need to run SSF?

All Saturn emulators need a fairly beefy PC to run due to the complexity of the hardware they emulate.


CPU - At least a Pentium 4 3.2Ghz or AMD64. SSF cannot run on a Pentium 3, Duron, Athlon XP or 32bit Semprons (Socket A) due to requiring SSE2 instructions not available in these and older CPUs. A Core 2 Duo E6300 is recommended for full-speed.

Sound card - Most modern sound chips should work fine. Realtek High Definition audio (built into many motherboards) is known to work well.

Graphics card - A fast Direct X 9 compliant graphics card. The SSF author recommended at least a GeForce 6600GT and I too have verified this works perfectly even the AGP version. In theory an ATI/AMD Radeon 9800 should also be fine but I am unable to test this. Intel graphics built in to many laptops and motherboards are too slow to run SSF properly.

CD-ROM drive - 8x speed ATAPI compliant minimum. Any modern IDE CD,DVD,HD-DVD or even Blu-ray drive should work. Some Blu-ray drives do not support CDs however so bear that in mind. Note that it IS possible to make copies of Saturn CDs and burn them onto DVDs (for example if your drive will not read CDs but you have a friend who can do this for you) but you MUST own the original CD or else you are breaking the law.


Direct X - DirectX 9 is REQUIRED.

Windows 2000, Windows XP (all versions), Windows XP 64Bit Edition.

Why is SSF so slow?

Your PC isnt fast enough.

SSF is now able to emulate the Saturn full-speed if you meet the specifications listed above. If your PC DOES meet the above and it still runs slow you might have found an incompatible game, have problems with your graphics drivers, your graphics card or a misconfiguration of your PC.

Why does the Saturn need such a powerful PC? The following should put things into perspective:

The Indisputable Logic of the Sega Saturn Design Sega views video games as a set of logical components -- and in the Sega Saturn assigns each component its own computer chip or subsystem. A total of eight microprocessors in the Sega Saturn (three of which are powerful 32-bit RISC chips) work together as a sophisticated suite of "coprocessors" to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The main components of the Sega Saturn architecture include:

  • Two SH2 32-bit RISC processors, which provide the main processing engine for the Sega Saturn and work in concert with the system's more specialized chips. Having dual processors means double the potential processing power. The SH2 was especially designed for the Sega Saturn by Hitachi.

  • Two sophisticated graphics processors derived from Sega's advanced arcade systems -- VDP1 and VDP2 (Video Digital Processor) -- each of which handles separate graphics tasks. VDP1, the advanced geometry engine, generates all of the character and gameplay images via polygons and sprites (graphical "objects"), while VDP2, the background and scrollplane processor, creates the graphics "behind" the gameplay. By applying special effects to polygons and sprites, VDP1 gives characters and other game elements three-dimensional realism. VDP2, meanwhile, can display as many as five background planes, as well as rotate two playfields, giving dynamic depth and perspective to gameplay.

By dividing up the graphics tasks in this way, the visuals are smooth, fast and able to move with "real-time" speed and fluidity, so that characters have lifelike motion. Working in tandem, the two video processors create a single visual experience that can't be mimicked by a single graphics chip.

  • A formidable Sega Custom Sound Processor (SCSP) from Yamaha, which includes a 128-step digital signal processor (DSP) and provides up to 32 voices and CD-quality audio. The audio subsystem also includes a 68EC000 chip that allows programmers to create sensational effects such as 3D sound and reverb. Because audio is handled by its own dedicated processor, its performance and capabilities are maximized. This creates the opportunity for phenomenal music sequences, sound effects and other audio extravagances.

  • A 32-bit SH1 chip that acts as the controller for the CD-ROM subsystem. Besides having this dedicated processor -- which is able to decompress data from the CD on the fly -- the Sega Saturn's double-speed CD-ROM drive also has its own dedicated 512K of cache memory. This means that none of the main system overhead goes into accessing data from the CD drive.

Because the CD drive functions independently and has its own memory cache, the Sega Saturn can optimize the CD medium to its fullest potential. Typically, a CD is used as a delivery mechanism only -- the game is loaded from the CD into the system's memory and that's that. With this optimized subsystem, a game can continually access video and other data from the CD as the game requires it. It also means that there will be a significant increase in the speed of loading the game and moving from level to level, so there's no slowdown in gameplay.

Thus, the massive storage of the CD is used to the greatest effect. It is something that no cartridge-based system or any competing CD-based system can provide.

  • An SMPC (System Manager and Peripheral Controller), which is built around a Hitachi microcontroller and manages input from peripherals such as the game controller.

  • A system control unit (SCU), which acts as the "glue" of the system and includes a DSP high math chip and a DMA memory handler. The SCU synchronizes the activities of various subsystems and processors through the bus system. It is the "conductor" of the Sega Saturn multiprocessor orchestra.

Whats this BIOS image I need to get the emulators working?

The BIOS image is the "basic input output system" code which tells the Saturn the basic things to do when you switch it on. It does other things too which we dont need to address here.
The important thing to know is that THIS is what tells the machine what a CD-ROM is, how to read it and also contains the CD Player and Memory Manager, therefore the emulator (or the real Saturn) cannot function without the BIOS.

Where can I get the BIOS file?

We have a link to the bios files on this site, just go to the DOWNLOADS page.
Please note: It is illegal to download the Saturn BIOS unless you own a REAL Sega Saturn machine. We do not support emulating the Saturn to play pirated games. You should be able to find old Saturn games extremely cheap on eBay or certain second-hand game stores.

I have used other emulators - why doesnt the Saturn have ROMs for me to download and play?

Technically it does but not what you are thinking. Most emulators run using ROMs because the consoles they emulate were based on Cartridges. Obviously its not easy to plug a cartridge into the PC so instead you download an IMAGE of the cartridge off the Internet commonly known as a ROM image.

The Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation don't run on cartridges though - they use CD-ROMs. As PCs can easily read CD-ROMs you do not need ROM files for Saturn emulators, they can read the CD directly from your PCs like any other CD. We do not support downloading ROM images for Saturn games, it is illegal and theres little excuse as Saturn games are still readily available on eBay or many second-hand stores.

Okay, I have the BIOS file, some Saturn CDs and SSF on my PC, what do I do now?

Save the BIOS image into the same directory as SSF and then load the SSF executable. Theres a few things you will have to configure before SSF will work.

Go into the Option menu and then select Option. Now follow the instructions for the options on this page:

Saturn BIOS: Click Browse and find the BIOS image you just saved and select it.
STV BIOS: Leave this blank. This site does not cover emulating the STV Arcade unit.
CD Drive: Make sure the drive you plan to use to load Saturn CDs is selected here.
Cartridge: Normally you will choose Backup RAM Cartridge (savegame RAM) but if you are playing a game that needs the Saturn RAM upgrades you will need to choose the relevant one here.
Area Code: The region the games you are playing are from. Generally it will be the area you live in. If you have any import games you will need to change this whenever you play them.

You may also want to configure the controller. If you have a joypad plugged into your PC you can use it for Saturn games by configuring it here.

Click Controller and then Redefine next to Player 1:A. It will ask you to press the relevant button on your pad you want to assign to the corresponding button on the Saturn pad. Please note, not all buttons on a PC joypad can necessarily be used. If you press a button and it doesnt move onto the next it probably is not supported and you will need to choose a different one. You can mix between the pad and keyboard if your pad doesnt have enough buttons as often you will only need say A and C buttons but not B in the game you are playing so B could be assigned to the keyboard.

Help - I have it running but what keys do I use?

The default keys (if you did not configure them above) are:

A,B,C = Z,X,C on keyboard,
X,Y,Z = S,D,F on keyboard,
Left, Right Trigger = A,G on keyboard,
Start = Enter on keyboard.

F1 = To open the CD-ROM drive
F2 = To close the CD-ROM drive
F3 = Reset the Saturn
F9 = To take a snapshot of the SSF screen
F11 = Window mode
F12 = Fullscreen mode
Q = Field skip +1
W = Field skip -1

To close SSF press the Escape key.

Finally, select EZ Setting and click Set under Highest Compatibility (Very Slow). Despite the name it is not very slow, it runs exactly the same on a Core 2 Duo as the other options except some games work which do not work on the other settings. However if you DO have speed issues you can always come back here again later and try a different option.

Now close SSF (all options require you to close and reopen SSF to apply), load it back up and the Saturn should boot.

I ran SSF and nothing is happening. What did I do wrong?

Be sure you followed the instructions above.

Also, make sure your CD-ROM drive is IDE ATAPI compliant as this is what SSF is designed for and will not work with SCSI or Proprietary CD-ROM drives.

Hey, your site says that game xxxxx should work and it doesnt. Why is this?

Compatibility in SSF is slowly increasing but on some rare occasions a new version of SSF may fail to run a game that an earlier version did. Also be sure you followed the instructions above for configuring SSF.

Please also bear in mind that there are different version of the same game out there and compatibility changes between them. Even two copies of a game from the same region may on rare occasions be different versions so there is a lot of variables to consider. And whats more, even two different PCs might run the emulators differently because you may have a different version of Windows, a different CPU, a different graphics card, incompatible graphics card drivers, etc.
ANY problems running something that is listed here as working then feel free to contact me via the Sega Gaming and Emulation club.

Also please bear in mind that a large percentage of information here is supplied by the visitors so if something is incorrect then the only way I will know this is if someone tells me. If ANYTHING is wrong please let me know and you will be credited (or not, your choice) for supplying the information.

This FAQ is the property of SSF Tribute. Please do not steal it just direct people to the site to view it for themselves.