SSF: A Nearly-Perfect Sega Saturn Emulator
Presented by: Mozgus
It’s no secret that many developer interviews in the mid-90’s cited the Sega Saturn as a very complex and challenging machine to work with. In fact, it’s one of the key factors which led to machine’s downfall in the face of the Sony Playstation. Developers struggled to produce the experiences they envisioned within the time-frame allotted. If such a console were so hard for experienced, professional programmers to work with, the notion of emulating the machine must strike fear and doubt into the hearts of all who dream it.
So how did just one person accomplish that which all others could never quite reach, including Sega itself? I wish I had that answer for you, but I’ve yet to find any kind of interview with this mysterious Japanese programmer, who goes by the alias, Shima. There’s bound to be some knowledge to be had in his forum, but we’ll need someone to translate.
What I can tell you, and this is pretty much inarguable, is that SSF is by far the best means of playing a Saturn without actually owning one. Game consoles don’t last forever, and without projects like this, entire libraries of software could essentially lose it’s function someday. This is why the importance of emulation should never be underestimated. If this backlog is authentic, Shima has been dedicated to the project for over 9 years now. Very impressive.
Yes, I know there are other attempts such as Giri Giri and Satourne, and I know they deserve respect too. However, this is more of a practical introduction to Saturn emulation, and as such, I feel that SSF is the most reliable and easy to setup, and produces the most authentic experience. I would provide technical guides and such, but fortunately, others have already done this for me.
The Basics of SSF
- To start with, SSF’s Wiki page provides a quick breakdown of what it is and what it does.
- The official SSF page can always be found here, or try this link for a Google Translation. You can also obtain the newest builds, although not always on the same release day, at Zophar’s Domain or the like.
- SSF Tribute’s FAQ is an absolutely essential read.
Requirements to Run SSF
- SSF does not require a BIOS file to run, however it will raise the compatibility rate of the app, so I suggest you find one. I dare not link to one, but if you’re reading this and clicking things I share, you’ve already got a tab open to a site that offers it.
- Check out the required hardware specs.
- It really just comes down to a powerful CPU. A video card merely needs Direct-X 9 functionality, and I’m not even completely sure that’s true.
- Regardless, updating your Direct-X couldn’t hurt.
- A very detailed guide to all of SSF’s configuration options can be found here.
- Although, in most cases, you only need to go to Option > EZ Setting > Set Highest Compatibility achieve the best results.
- If you have a decent dual-core CPU, this will not have any real performance impact.
What Games Work on SSF?
- Software compatibility lists can be found here, here, and here.
- Check out an absolutely gigantic selection of screenshots taken with SSF.
- For good measure, here’s a video I recorded of Panzer Dragoon Zwei running on SSF. It demonstrates how extremely close to perfect the emulation can be.
- Some games like Virtua Fighter 2 require the deinterlacing checked or they look pretty tore up. I assume it’s because the game runs in 480i, whereas most games are half that, and can’t display any interlacing to begin with.
- Deinterlacing can slowdown the gameplay if your CPU isn’t up to snuff.
Getting Support for SSF
- Please don’t ask for support in the comments here — here’s some links that can probably get you good answers quicker
- Zophar’s Domain Forum – General Emulation
- This thread in ngemu.com’s forum
- Racketboy’s emulation forum
Is SSF for you?
If you once owned a Saturn and have occasionally felt nostalgic about the titles you’ve let go, stop reading this and acquire SSF immediately. It should find a permanent home on your hard drive. For those who’ve never had a Saturn, I highly suggest you acquire some of Racket’s listed gems, by any means neccessary. You’re bound to find something fun in there. Although, perhaps you’re the historical type, and want to see which games defined the Saturn. Or maybe you’re strapped for time, and require the ones that still matter today. No wait, I’ve got it. You’re a penny pincher!
Ironically, the only people it might not be for are those who still have fully working Saturns, like myself. You see, SSF has yet to implement any real advantages over a Saturn, unless you just hate dealing with discs (you can rip your game discs to ISOs and play them mounted to virtual drives), or you hate replacing the internal CMOS save battery each year. It also offers no visual enhancements, besides de-interlacing and a full screen bilinear filter (not to be confused with texture filtering). Beggars can’t be choosers however, and I certainly agree that emulation accuracy needs to be nearly flawless before visual enhancements come to play.
While by no means recent news, I hope this overview gives you guys something new to mess around with for a while.