Saturn FAQ for newbies version 1.4, compiled by Lucan Duran ( )

Last compiled and updated January 1, 2000

----- Notes -----


This is a FAQ based on the many messages I read in newsgroups. I can't 
say that I am the "author" of this FAQ because most of the information 
in this file did not come from me. I'm only a guy that compiled the 
information in a text file. This FAQ is the result of the contributions 
made by many people. There are too many so I can't credit everyone (in 
addition, I don't have everyone's names and e-mail addresses). If 
you've been a contributor of useful information in the Sega newsgroups, 
consider yourself thanked because this would not exist without your 
contributions and the contributions of those just like you. Some people 
have also e-mailed me with some questions and I have incorporated some 
of them into this FAQ as well.

If you're a newbie trying to understand the ins and outs of owning a 
Saturn, then I hope that this file is useful.

----- History -----

Version 1.4 (January 1, 2000) - Added one all-caps paragraph in the 
"Notes" section above. Updated the "Street Fighter Zero 3 will probable 
be the last game to utilize the cart (4MB)" sentence. (Final Fight 
Revenge may take its place as the "last 4MB cart" game.) Updated the 
"Satcast" answer.

Version 1.3 (October 4, 1999) - Added information regarding playing 
Genesis/Megadrive games, 32X games, and Sega CD games on a Saturn. 
Added information regarding playing Saturn games on a Dreamcast. Some 
changes in the "notes" section above have been made as well. Added a 
list of games the VCD/MPEG card is compatible with.

Version 1.2 (August 8, 1999) - Added information regarding third party 
cartridges' circuit board thickness.

Version 1.1 (??/??/??) - Corrected the mistake of saying that the 
official 1MB cartridge was a grey cartridge. The cartridge is black 
with a red label. Added the additional Q&A regarding the Sega Satellite 
and Turbokey 4M. Added some compatibility issues of the 4-in-1 with 
Panzer Dragoon Saga (PDS for short). Also added my own personal story 
with third party cartridges.

Version 1.0 (??/??/??) - Answers very frequently asked questions in 
Usenet (newsgroup) messages.

Q: Can I play Genesis/Megadrive cartridges, 32X games, or Sega CD games 
on a Saturn?

A: No. The Saturn is not backwards compatible with the previous 
generations of Sega's video game systems. The Saturn's cartridge slot 
was not built to play 16-bit (or 8-bit Master System) cartridge games. 
Any attempts to play those games on a Saturn can result in damaging 
your cartridges and/or your Saturn. As for Sega CD games, just because 
the Saturn is a CD-based system, that does not mean that the system can 
play Sega CD games - it can't. If you want to play the old Sega games, 
you'll need the old Sega systems.

Q: Can I play Saturn games on a Dreamcast?

A: No. Saturn games are not forward compatible with the Dreamcast. The 
Dreamcast is not backward compatible with the Saturn.

Q: I heard that Sega was going to make a "Satcast" to allow Saturn 
games to be played on a Dreamcast. Is this true?

A: No. It's a lie/rumor started by a video game web site as an April 
Fool's joke. Sadly, many people were gullible and swallowed this joke 
as the real thing. All stories of backwards compatibility on the 
Dreamcast are false. There is no such thing as a Satcast, there will 
never be such a thing as a Satcast, and anyone who believes or hopes in 
such a program or hardware will only wait in vain.

Q: My Saturn doesn't save any game data and I always have to input the 
date to get the game to boot. What's wrong with my system?

A: The battery in your Saturn is dead. There's a panel on the back of 
your Saturn you can open. Open it and there should be a round battery 
inside (there should be a ribbon you can pull). The battery will say 
something like, "xx2032." The "xx" varies by the manufacturer. It's the 
same type of battery used in most PCs for CMOS backup and clock data. 
(For some reason, people don't seem to read this information in the 
manual. A lot of people must have bought used Saturns without the 

Q: Where can I buy a new battery?

A: Try Wal-mart or computer stores.

Q: Can I play import games on my US Saturn?

A: Without doing something first, no. In order to play import games, 
you need to do one of the following:
1.) Buy a converter cartridge (ST Key or a 4-in-1 cartridge)
2.) Have someone install a territory joggle switch (See  for better information.)
3.) Buy an import Saturn console (this doesn't apply to you if you have 
a US Saturn)

1.) The cartridge known as the ST-Key has one purpose: to defeat 
territory lockouts. It does nothing else.
The 4-in-1 cartridge does the followig things:
a.) Provides 4MB (or 1MB) of additional RAM for games that require 
them. (Mostly fighting games.)
b.) Provides 1 megabit (not "byte"; 128KB to put it another way) of 
flash RAM to save game data.
c.) You can enter cheat codes and connect it to a Datel communication 
card to directly transfer codes from your PC.
d.) Acts as a converter cartridge.
The 4-in-1 card is a very popular item among Saturn owners who play 
imports. These converter cartridges "trick" the Saturn into thinking 
that the disc is not outside the territory that it was intended for. 
This does have a minor issue in terms of taking a little longer to load 
a game when you turn on the power.

2.) The territory joggle switch frees up the cartridge port so if you 
happen to run out of space on your 4-in-1 cart, having the open slot 
will enable  you to use another cartridge. installs 
switches for a reasonable price. (Highly recommended. They installed 
the switch in my Saturn.) If you prefer to have a store local to you 
install the switch for you, try asking various vendors to see if they 
provide such a service. With the switch, the loading of the game is 
direct and there is no "tricking" of the system to make it think that 
an import disc is a US disc.

3.) This is the least cost effective method but you don't have to worry 
about mods or converter cartridges at all.

Q: What's a 5-in-1 cart?

A: It's a 4-in-1 cart. There are currently two explanations for how the 
"5-in-1" came into existence. (See  for a better explanation.)

1.) The older 4-in-1 carts had 4MB of RAM but didn't have a 1MB mode 
for games that required a 1MB cartridge. Some games became glitchy with 
the 4MB cart (Samurai Spirits IV is such a game). The newer 4-in-1 
carts have a switch you can toggle (so I'm told) between 4MB and 1MB. 
Some people (and game dealers) then started calling the cartridge a "5 
in 1" but there are still only FOUR components inside.

2.) Some games that required a 4MB cartridge (Vampire Savior, Marvel 
Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Dungeons and Dragons Collection) were 
not compatible with the 4-in-1 as is. With minor soldiering 
modification to the cart, the games do work. The "modification" does 
not add another component to the cartridge but some people call the 4-
in-1 a 5-in-1 because of the modification. Just as additional 
information, the 4-in-1 carts should not be assumed to be forward 
compatible with future games that require or take advantage of the 4MB 
cart. (Street Fighter Zero 3 will probably the last Saturn game that 
requires the 4MB cart. Final Fight Revenge may take its place as the 
"last" game if Capcom actually does release it. Final Fight Revenge's 
release date is TBA 2000.)

Q: What's with all these cartridges?

A: The ST-Key and the 4-in-1 were explained. They are non-official 
cartridges. There are four types of official cartridges.

1.) 1MB cartridge: Provides the Saturn with 1MB of additional RAM for 
games that require them (mostly fighting games). (Black cartridge, red 
2.) 4MB cartridge: Provides the Saturn with 4MB of additional RAM for 
games that require them (mostly fighting games). (Transparent black 
cartridge, blue label.)
3.) Power memory cartridge: Provides 512KB (4 megabits) of flash RAM 
for saving game data. (Grey cartridge, white label.)
4.) KOF95 cartridge: I'll explain this one later.

The official cartriges only have one purpose.

Q: What's a "Sega Satellite" cartridge? Is it a Sega product? What is a 
Turbokey 4M?

A: "Sega Satellite" is not a Sega product. It's basically the same 
cartridge as the ST-Key except it was made by a different manufacturer. 
The Turbokey 4M is basically a 4-in-1 cartridge made by a different 
company. Neither are affiliated with or endored by Sega. There may be 
other manufacturers' cartridges floating around here and there but it's 
almost impossible to list all the third party companies' products.

Q: If I plug in the 4MB (or 1MB) cartridge and load a game that doesn't 
require it, will the game run faster from the additional RAM the system 

A: Unlike your PC, your Saturn will not perform any better just because 
you plug in a cartridge that provides additional RAM. A game that 
doesn't require the cartridge will just ignore the additional RAM. 
Although most games will ignore the RAM, some games may be affected by 
it in a negative way (there may be pauses, sudden glitches, or other 
inexplicable incidents). If a game doesn't require additional RAM, it's 
better not to insert the cartridge in the first place.

Example: If I play Grandia with the 1MB cartridge plugged in, the game 
will pause for about 10-15 seconds in a battle scene, then resume. It's 
not that big a of a deal but I can't imagine that it's a good thing. If 
there's a cartridge plugged into my Saturn when I play Grandia, it'll 
be a game data backup cartridge and *NOT* a RAM cartridge used for 
(mostly) fighting games.

Q: Same question, except what if I'm using the 4-in-1 cart?

A: The 4-in-1 acts only as converter for games that don't require the 
additional RAM. No one to my knowledge has ever had a problem with 
glitches or pauses in the game because of the 4-in-1 cartridge 
providing more RAM than a game needs. NEVER pull out the 4-in-1 while 
the power is on. If you don't have a switch installed in your Saturn 
and if you're using a 4-in-1 to play imports, just leave the cartridge 
in until you turn the power off.

Note: Someone in the newsgroups experienced some problems with Panzer 
Dragoon Saga (Panzer Dragoon Azel, if you playing an import copy) while 
using the 4-in-1 cart. Someone gave an explanation that PDS won't allow 
you do use cheat cartridges so the 4-in-1 will not work with it.

Q: Can I swap cartridges while I'm playing a game?

A: If you don't care about damaging your console and cartridges, yes. 
As a general rule, NEVER swap components while the power is on.

Q: I found a third-party backup cartridge for $10. Is this a good deal?

----- old answer -----
A: Basically, you're gambling with a third party backup cartridges. 
Third party cartridges use a somewhat unreliable hardware compression 
to provide "twice" the space of official Sega cartridges. (Some generic 
cartridges have 16 times the capacity of official cartridges. You're 
*really* asking for trouble with that one.) Unlike Winzip (which is 
reliable), it is not compression by software. Although some people 
haven't had problems with third party cartridges, a large number of 
people that have bought them in the past have lost hundreds of hours of 
game data which resulted in tons of bickerings by e-mail and Usenet 
messages. Official cartridges have a significantly smaller number of 
defects compared to the third party backup cartridges - so if you can 
find an official one at $50 compared to the generic at $10, it's better 
to go with the official one if you cherish your game data. If you want 
to save the money and get the generic brand, then that's a calculated 
risk on your part. You may lose game data - you may not.

Not all third party products are bad. This is only information for 
Saturn backup cartridges (not to be confused with CDR "backups").

My own personal story with a third party cartridge: Amazingly, I 
haven't lost any data on it yet. I never dropped the cartridge and 
always kept it in a cool, dry place. Even so, I don't use it as my 
primary backup cartridge after I read all of the problems people have 
had with them (I use the official Sega cartridge as my primary). Even 
so, I test the third party (Interact) cartridge once in a while to see 
if it still functions. It does - sometimes. As I said, I haven't lost 
any data on it yet but my Saturn won't always recognize the fact that 
the cartridge is plugged in. That's a big red flag right there...
----- old answer end -----

----- new -----
Upon closer inspection, the Interact cartridge has a thicker circuit 
board than the official Sega cartridge. What does this mean? It means 
that using such a cartridge can widen the Saturn's Cartridge slot, 
making the pin connections with other cartridges difficult. Using such 
a cartridge basically damages your console. If you use such a cartridge 
and then use another cartridge, then the cartridge with the regular 
circuit board thickness will not have a proper pin connection with the 
console, thanks to the widening of the slot from the thicker circuit 
board. The fact that the console will not always recognize that a 
cartridge is plugged in can be attributed to the widening of the slot.

Take note of the thickness of ALL third party cartridges, including the 
ST Key and 4-in-1 carts. If you plan on using one cartridge and only 
one cartridge, then that's another story; but it's still not a good 
idea to use a cartridge that has a thicker circuit board than the 
official Sega cartridge.
----- end new -----

Q: You said, "Third party cartridges use a somewhat unreliable hardware 
compression to provide 'twice' the space of official Sega cartridges." 
After doing the math, the 4-in-1 provides 1/4 the backup space of an 
official cart. Is the saved data on a 4-in-1 compressed as well?

A: Yes.

Q: I have an import KOF95 and my 4-in-1 can't play it!

A: KOF '95 requires both the KOF95 cartridge and the CD. KOF95's 
cartridge is actually a ROM cartridge. ROMs are just like the Nintendo 
and Neo Geo cartridges. If you don't have the KOF95 cartridge and have 
only the CD, there's no way you can play the game. I hope the game CD 
came with the KOF95 cartridge when you bought it.

This brings up another issue: You can't have a 4-in-1 cartridge plugged 
into your if you want to play KOF95. You need a modified console with a 
territory joggle switch or a Japanese console. You can "swap" the 
cartridges while the power is on, but that is not something that's 
recommended even for hardcore Saturn gamers (hardcore Saturn gamers 
would either buy a Japanese console or have a switch installed).

Q: How do I play with Saturn CDRs/backups?

A: Use them as frisbees. ^_^

Q: Come on, seriously. How do I get my Saturn to play CDR games?

A: Seriously, if you're asking this question, you shouldn't bother with 
CDRs because it's not as easy to play CDRs on a Saturn as it is on a 
PSX. If you're asking this question, you're a newbie and clueless (I 
don't mean that in a negative way). CDRs are definitely not for you.

Q: I only want to have and play backups for games I have. Help me out 
here, please?

A: Based on what I read from the various sites on the internet, I can't 
recommend it. Although it's not the only thing you need to do, you need 
to use a "swap" method similar to (but not identical with) the PSX. You 
need to do this while the power is on AND while the CD is spinning. A 
"hot swap" such as this can damage the CDs (both the CD that you're 
loading with and the CDR) and/or damage the internal mechanisms of your 
Saturn. Legal issues aside, if you choose to play Saturn CDRs, you're 
taking a risk with your machine. If you insist on playing CDR games, 
then that's your risk to take. As for more specific and detailed 
instructions on how to play CDR games on a Saturn, you'll have to ask 
someone else.

Q: Well, this is about that panel that can be removed so I can replace 
my battery. It looks like I can plug something else in there. What is 
it for?

A: That's a place where you can plug in a Saturn video decoder card. If 
you have the video decoder card, you can play VCD movie discs on your 
Saturn. Some games can also use the video card to give you improved 
movie images. Not all games that have movies can take advantage of the 
card. Chances are, you'll never buy one and you won't need to worry 
about it unless you eventually become a hardcore Saturn fanatic. If you 
do become one, you'll know a lot more than what this FAQ explains about 
the video card. This topic probably doesn't belong in a newbie FAQ, but 
it's still a valid question.

If you want to know more about the VCD card and what games take 
advantage of it, here's a list (it may not be complete):

Lunar Silver Star Story complete MPEG version (the only game that 
requires the card)
Sakura Taisen Hangumi Tsuushin
Sakura Taisen Nekki Radio Show (a.k.a. Steam Radio Show)
Chisato Moritaka disc
Moon Cradle
Wangan Deadheat + Triangle Love
Falcom Classics 1 (disc 2 of the limited edition)
Gungriffon 1

Q: What's with the "communication port" in the back of my Saturn?

A: That's where you can plug in a link cable. There are a few games 
(VERY few games) that take advantage of it. Gungriffon 2 (import only) 
is such a game. If you have 2 copies of such a game, 2 saturns, and 2 
TVs, you can use one link cable to play a head-to-head game with a 
friend. (The great part is the fact that you don't have to deal with 
the "split screen" nonsense.) Again, this issue probably doesn't belong 
in a newbie FAQ but it's still a valid question.