About Sega Saturn

The Sega Saturn is a 32-bit games console that was manufactured by The SEGA Corporation.
The Saturn was first launched in Japan on the 11th November 1994, the USA in May 1995 and the UK on July 8th 1995.

Sega Saturn Image

At launch it was clear the Saturn was an extremely powerful console, featuring dual 32-bit RISC processors and a CD quality 32 channel sound processor, It’s processing power was far in advance of it’s contemporary rivals at 50-MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second)

Compare this to the PlayStation’s 30-MIPS, Atari Jaguar’s 26.6 MIPS, PC Engine’s 15.5 MIPS and the Amiga CD32’s 3.5-MIPS and it becomes obvious that despite its limitations the Saturn had the  potential to become a dominant force in the ’90’s games market.

The Saturn’s quadrilateral rendering system also showed less texture distortion than the widely used triangular system used by other consoles at the time.

Hitachi SH2

“The SH2 has a high calculation efficiency. For magnifying, reducing, and rotating 2D and 3D graphics, it’s very fast. No chip can change coordinates as quickly.”
–Chief technician on the SH2 project, Hitachi.

Quadrilateral ability allowed the Saturn to render First-person shooter games more accurately than any other console of its era, a larger amount of video RAM also allowed larger levels and better draw distances than in most other console releases.

The Saturn was one of the few consoles to add hardware expandability, through it’s MPEG slot and Cartridge slot.
Both became a source of untapped potential, a 3D graphics hardware expansion for the MPEG slot reportedly never left the prototype stage, and the cartridge slot is rumoured to be able to address up to a staggering (for the time) 128MB of extra RAM, and could also be utilised to grab assets or boot entire games from cartridge. Sadly the maximum expansion to be released and supported was 4MB, and the only game to boot from cartridge has been the home-brew title Police Officer Smith.

The Saturn was also eventually able to achieve ‘true’ 3D transparency effects unlike many of its contemporary rivals, unfortunately as with many of the Saturn’s advances it came in only a few titles just as support for the system was ending, largely due to the continuing difficulty in programming the system.

Only 240 Saturn games saw release in Europe, and only 245 in the USA. Support and development finally ceased for the Saturn in Japan in 2000 as development shifted to the equally ill fated Dreamcast.

Technical Specifications:

Processors:
1. Hitachi SH2 32-Bit RISC @ 28.63MHz (25 MIPS)
2. Hitachi SH2 32-Bit RISC @ 28.63MHz (25 MIPS)
3. Hitachi SH1 32-Bit RISC (CD-ROM Controller)
4. VDP 1 32-Bit Video Display Processor @ 6.71 – 7.15MHz
5. VDP 2 32-Bit Video Display Processor @ 6.71 – 7.15MHz
6. System Control Unit (SCU) with DSP & DMA @ 14.3MHz
7. Motorola 68EC000 Sound Processor @ 11.3MHz
8. Yamaha FH1 (SCSP) Sound Processor @ 22.6MHz
9. Hitachi 4-Bit MCU System Manager & Peripheral Control

Memory:
Work RAM 16Mbit
Video RAM 12Mbit
Sound RAM 4Mbit
CD Buffer RAM 4Mbit
IPL ROM 4Mbit
Backup RAM 256Kbit

Graphics System:

VDP1
32-bit video display processor:
Sprite, Polygon, and Rendering engine
Dual 256 KB frame buffer for rotation and scaling effects
Texture Mapping
Gouraud Shading
512 KB Cache for Textures
200,000 Texture Mapped Polygons/Second
500,000 Flat Shaded Polygons/Second

“The Saturn is very fast at drawing single pixels using its processor, while the PlayStation has to go through its polygon engine. That gives the Saturn programmer more flexibility.”–Chief Programmer, Scavenger

VDP2
32-bit background and scroll plane video display processor:
Background Engine
5 Simultaneous Scrolling Backgrounds
2 Simultaneous Rotating Playfields
Up to 60 frames per second animation
24-Bit True Color Graphics
16.7 Million Available Color
32,768 Colors Display on Screen
704 x 480 Maximum Resolution

“It’s not difficult to use the VDP2, although it takes plenty of time to find an effective use for it. There are so many different ways in which it can be employed.”–Kazuhiro Hamada, Section Chief, Saturn Development Team”
Display Resolutions:
352 x 240 (Lo-Res Scanline)
640 x 240
704 x 480 (Hi-Res Progressive)

Storage:
‘Intelligent’ JVC-Victor Double Speed CD-ROM*
300 KB/Second Transfer Speed
Audio CD Compatible
Optional 512 KB Memory Cartridge for Game Save
*Drives were also manufactured by Hitachi or Sanyo.

Audio:
SCSP Digital Signal Processor (DSP) @ 22.6MHz
Motorola 68EC000 sound processor @ 11.3MHz
32 PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) Channels
8 FM (Frequency Modulation) Channels
44.1 KHz Sampling Rate