SaturnDave (Sega Saturn, SHIRO!)


The Floppy Disk Drive remains one of the more obscure, misunderstood, and underdeveloped pieces of SEGA Saturn hardware ever released. A SEGA-branded external drive which accepts standard floppy disks, it connects to the Saturn via the little-used Communications Port on the rear of the console. Initially meant as a heavy user’s ultimate save file destination as well as a storage space for certain online (SEGA Saturn Networks) and homebrew (Game Basic, Dezaemon 2) applications, this brilliant device – like so many SEGA peripherals – came along at the wrong time in the console’s life cycle. Ultimately relegated to no more than a semi-functional curiosity, its story is nevertheless fascinating. Here, we will explore the device itself, the firmware that shipped with the unit, and the support it received from developers – namely, which North American Saturn games are compatible with the device. Before diving in, it is important to explore context – for it, as much as any other factor, played a role in how the product was supported and how it fared in the greater story of the Saturn’s lifecycle.


The changing gamer

The Saturn was conceived during the waning days of the industry’s ‘niche’ era; a time where the consumer base was a small, often sophisticated group primarily served by dedicated companies like Nintendo and SEGA. It was common for gamers to comprehend the technology behind their games, to spend untold piles of quarters at the arcades, and even to take their systems with them as they traveled. Being a gamer was almost a sub-culture phenomenon. The PlayStation’s arrival – more precisely, the novel way in which Sony managed their console – ushered in sweeping changes to the videogame consumer landscape, resulting in a significant market expansion, product standardization, and consumer ease-of-use. As the Fifth Generation progressed, traditional users found themselves increasingly displaced by new, casual gamers – an ultimately much larger consumer group. Indeed, one of Sony’s most significant contributions to the industry as a whole over the course of the first PlayStation’s run was expanding the consumer base to include this new segment. Consequently, a demand for plug-and-play arose, in lieu of convoluted setups or complicated hardware choices.

Standardization cometh

Up to and including the Saturn, it was relatively common for various additional peripherals, devices, and hardware configurations to be a core part of the end-user experience. NEC up-sold their PC Engine (TurboGrafx) line with attachments such as the Turbo Tap, the Turbo-booster or the TurboGrafx-CD unit, Atari’s Jaguar got a CD add-on, and even Nintendo marketed the Super Game Boy, Super Scope Six, and the Super FX microchip. Meanwhile, SEGA’s various forays into peripherals, add-on systems, and optional hardware attachments are… legendary. To one extent or another, everyone was doing extra hardware. Once Sony had established market dominance, this was a trend that very quickly declined. Standardization was not only good for the consumer, it was good for a company’s bottom line.

You can’t save to a compact disc

The Fifth Generation also saw the beginning of the shift to optical discs as the media of choice for games, in turn bringing about a challenge in how to write save files. Nintendo, the lone major holdout, continued to use cartridges capable of storing save files right in their ROMs (an underutilized Memory Pak was released as well). Sony opted for simple yet highly marketable 128 kilobyte Memory Cards capable of holding 15 save blocks apiece, which were euphorically heralded by consumers as a clever and brilliant product. Never one to over-engineer (cough, cough), SEGA offered their users multiple ways to address saving games.

Everyone is familiar with the Memory Manager. Here, the two panels represent Internal RAM (red) and the optional Cartridge RAM (blue).

Unlike its chief rivals, the stock Saturn shipped with 32 kilobytes of on-board memory in the form of VRAM (Volatile RAM), powered by a non-rechargeable CR2032 battery. This was ¼ of the memory of a PlayStation Memory Card but was built-in to the base system (no separate purchase required), and was much more efficiently parceled into 461 blocks rather than Sony’s 15. Games were written to use as much or as little memory as the programmer deemed necessary, and the base unit’s 461 blocks was often enough to hold roughly a dozen save files. With an average reported 12 month battery life, this save space would prove relatively sufficient for casual Saturn users. However SEGA’s more hardcore fans required a stronger solution.

To address the issue right from the start, SEGA wrote support for two external memory devices into its development libraries – one that made use of the parallel port (cartridge slot), and a second one that took advantage of the seldom-used serial port (communications connector) on the back of the unit. The common Backup RAM Cartridges – called Power Memory in Japan – made an immediate appearance and were ultimately adopted as the external memory device of choice in all regions. Sporting a massive 512 kilobytes translating to 8,080 blocks of memory or roughly 17 times the internal amount, they were sufficient for most hardcore gamers. In Japan, they were even released in various colors or with special edition stickers.

North American Saturn memory cartridge box.
North America got some RAM Cartridge stickers, too, courtesy of Working Designs. Their games Dragon Force and Magic Knight Rayearth included RAM stickers.

Nevertheless, there were some applications that consumed so much memory that even the RAM Cartridges swiftly ran out of space. Racing games’ ghost cars or replay files, for instance, were HUGE. So were any games with massively custom levels – games that made it to the West such as SimCity 2000 or Virtual Hydlide, or Japan exclusives such as Game Basic or Dezaemon 2. An even more robust save file solution was called for.

Enter the Floppy Disk Drive

The Floppy Disk Drive is the same physical length as a SEGA Saturn unit.

Finally released in July 1996 exclusively in Japan, this peripheral plugs in to the serial port at the rear of Saturn units. It requires its own power supply (adapter is included in purchase) and accepts standard, commercially available 3.5 inch MF-2HD, high density floppy disks. Using both sides of the disks, designated as partitions 0 and 1, each disk holds an amazing 1.44 MB of data which translates to 22,784 blocks of Saturn memory. That’s roughly 50 times what the stock console ships with. Although the Floppy Disk Drive was expensive, retailing at ¥9,800 (roughly USD $100, or USD $170 in 2020 dollars), floppy disks themselves were cheap. A few dollars spent on a pack of 10 diskettes yielded nearly a quarter million blocks of Saturn memory – functionally, this was limitless save storage.

Notice the instructions to include all three storage devices when writing save file data. This is a page out of the official SEGA save file documentation.

The above sounds amazing, but (there is ALWAYS a ‘but’ with amazing-sounding Saturn hardware!) the FDD enjoys only very limited direct support. A small number of games support it natively, a few more support it in a roundabout or incomplete way, and the majority of games are not written to look for the Floppy Disk Drive at all. That said, the lack of direct game support does not mean the peripheral is useless. Files can be copied from either on-board or cartridge memory and onto floppy disks (and vice versa), creating a very cheap – if not as convenient as it could have been – memory solution.

FDD Operator Disc

Included in the box is the FDD Operator Disc, necessary to interface with the floppy drive. The Operator Disc is a Japanese Saturn CD which loads similar to any other Saturn game. Think of it as a flash firmware update to the BIOS’ Memory Manager which allows one to copy files from either the Internal RAM or the RAM Cartridge onto floppy disks. By pressing left or right on the Memory Manager’s device screen, the various devices can be addressed and manipulated.

It is interesting that support for a removable external device would be written into even the earliest Saturn development libraries and documentation. The documentation is quite thorough, even detailing how to select directories and including support for up to 20 partitions per device! Any developer using the Saturn’s libraries when writing save file functionality could have included – and indeed, was encouraged to include – support for external devices as an option, even if the peripherals themselves were not available at the time the game was being written. That, perhaps, is one of the great strikes against the FDD achieving perfect compatibility with commercial games – the unit was released 20 months after the debut of the Saturn, by which time gamers who needed additional memory had purchased RAM Cartridges. Programmers, therefore, had less incentive to expressly write for expanded memory support, especially with such high RAM Cartridge adoption. Coupled with the inexorable trend to simplify and streamline hardware and with the declining popularity of floppy diskettes as storage media, the device was 32X’ed before it ever launched.

From the SEGA save file manual.

Actual compatibility is… quite complicated, actually

In research and testing for this feature, every single North American Saturn game was put through its paces, and surprisingly, a solid 10% of all releases demonstrate either full, partial, or even potential compatibility with the External Device! However, there are two major limiting factors which cut down the actual number of compatible titles significantly. First, the Saturn’s dashboard doesn’t provide a user interface to hardware connected to the Communications Port, meaning that a stock Saturn may read but will not display the FDD’s contents nor allow the user to move / copy / delete files stored on the FDD. Second, the FDD handles save space differently compared to Internal or Cartridge RAM, and the Saturn’s development documentation does not make this clear – quite possibly because the device was not yet finalized at the time the documentation was written. That complicates matters because unless a game was expressly written to take this space allocation variance into account, interfacing with the FDD will sometimes produce strange, unintended effects.

Saturn documentation indicates that ‘additional libraries will be distributed by SEGA for accessing external memory devices’. Taken from the Saturn Boot ROM User Manual.

In depth, the first concern deals with the BIOS. The BIOS (basic input / output system) is the start-up firmware physically built-in to each Saturn, and it controls the Saturn’s initialization, dashboard behavior as well as its interaction with external components, such as controllers, memory cards, disks, etc. The BIOS boots the start-up animation, the CD player, and, crucially, the Memory Manager. The stock Saturn BIOS (all revisions) allows for the management of both on-board RAM and Cartridge RAM to facilitate copying and deleting of files, but not for files on any location accessed via the communications (serial) port. When the FDD was released, the included FDD Operator Disc extended the Memory Manager’s capabilities and facilitated access to floppy disks’ partitions. With the new firmware, files can be freely moved or copied between the four save locations: internal RAM (red panel), Cartridge (blue panel), and the two floppy disk partitions (green panels). Unfortunately, once the FDD Operator Disc is removed or the Saturn is powered down or reset, the ‘firmware update’ is lost. More consequently, it is not possible to launch a game disc with the firmware upgrade in place, because the FDD Operator Disc occupies the disc tray. This limits FDD compatibility to the manner in which save files were implemented on a per-game basis.

The second concern is more complicated. On-board RAM divides its 32kb of memory into 461 blocks of Saturn memory. The RAM Cartridge takes its much larger 512kb of space and parcels it out into 8,080 blocks… but the minimum file management unit on a RAM Cartridge is four blocks, compared to the Internal Memory’s one. This means that each save file consumes space in multiples of four. Take an empty RAM Cartridge (8,080 free blocks) and write a 1-block save file onto it, and the remaining free blocks will be reduced to 8,076, not 8,079. The file will still display as a 1-block file and only use up one block’s worth of memory, but it has effectively consumed one ‘file allocation unit’ which means that it reduces the available memory by 4 blocks. Now, if a file were 65 blocks in size, then 68 blocks would be subtracted from available memory as 68 is the next closest multiple of four. Over and above this, the Saturn seems to be efficient at reclaiming some of this fragmented space, and deleting save files of a certain number will sometimes yield a slightly different number of remaining blocks than expected. For example, removing a 50 block file may increase your available space by anywhere from 47 to 53 blocks. This could also be down to individual games were programmed. If a programmer was aware of file unit sizes, they could conceivably write their save file to take exactly the space required and no more. Naturally, any save files whose blocks are a multiple of 4 consume just the right amount of memory on the RAM Cartridge.

How does this work on a floppy diskette? The FDD’s minimum file allocation unit is a gargantuan 64 blocks. A 1-block save file on the FDD will still display as a 1-block file, but will reduce available space by 64 blocks, from 11,392 to 11,328. In principle this is no different than what happens with Cartridge RAM; it is simply done on a much larger scale. However, Saturn developer documentation did not outline these minimum file allocation units. This made no difference to Internal RAM, where the file allocation unit is one to one with each memory block, and it made very little / no noticeable difference on Cartridge RAM, because at worst, an empty, 8,080 block Cartridge would read as 2,020 available units – still plenty of space for save files. On the FDD however, if a game is not written to take the 64-block file allocation into account, the Saturn will interpret an empty diskette partition to have only 178 free blocks, because 11,392 free blocks divided by 64 blocks per file allocation unit ends up looking an awful lot like there are only 178 blocks of free memory. If a game’s save file is larger than 178 blocks (and plenty are), then the game may incorrectly interpret that there is insufficient room to save a file. This effect is seen in several North American Saturn games, and this further limits perfectly compatible titles from correctly interfacing with the FDD, resulting in only partial or limited compatibility.

The FDD’s usefulness lies in handling very large save files with cheap, readily-available diskettes.

Why was it done this way? That is uncertain… possibilities include the physical sector structure of floppy diskettes themselves, or perhaps it was a way to bring read and write speeds up to an acceptable level. The fact that this is how it was designed is not an issue per se. The lack of programmer documentation around it, is.

One last, important issue to consider lies with the FDD Operator Disc itself. It is a Japanese disc and so will only load on Japanese Saturn systems. Whilst Saturn hardware is not region-locked (the MPEG cards being the only exception) and the FDD will function with any region Saturn, software is nearly always region specific, and the Operator Disc is no exception. Should the region lock be defeated in the same manner as playing any other import game, the disc will boot… but the menus are entirely in Japanese with no option to change them to English. Setting the console’s language to English in the dashboard does not have the expected effect of also changing the firmware’s language to English. The screenshots dotting this page are taken from emulation, where the FDD Operator Disc seems to have been integrated into the main library: other languages are available as well, all controlled by what is sent in the dashboard. However on actual Saturn hardware, the user is restricted to navigating the Memory Manager menus in Japanese. As a small consolation, the menu options are exactly as they are in English menus, so players should be able to navigate their way relatively easily.

So Close…

Conceivably, an updated (hacked) BIOS or an alternate launcher that accounts for the FDD could be introduced to real hardware, and that would instantly bring the number of fully compatible North American games up to a whopping 28, or potentially even more. Most of these games are either sports games which produce very large files for tracking entire seasons of play, or simulation-heavy games that save entire cities or worlds.

For the curious, the Saturn writes to floppy disks in a proprietary format which is unknown to PCs. PCs are not able to read the disks – so, no backing up of saves on a PC, no hacking save files and re-uploading them to the Saturn environment, and no sharing of save files via the internet.

Show Me The Money!

So… is an investment in a genuine Floppy Disk Drive worth the substantial asking price for a Saturn gamer in the 2020s? The answer, for most, is going to be a resounding no. There are too many barriers to overcome: from the Japanese menus to the Japanese-region FDD Operator Disc to unreliable compatibility with games written to take advantage of Expanded Memory. Casual Saturn gamers will do just fine with the on-board RAM whilst more serious Saturn fans will make out nicely with one or more cartridges. The North American and European cartridges are pricey, however they are not region-locked, and OEM Japanese cartridges can be had for much cheaper.

Stepping away from OEM hardware, various after-market memory options offer essentially endless save space, or enable other features, such as the Pseudo Saturn launcher, or double as the 1MB and 4MB carts required for some games. Further, optical drive emulators, and emulation in general, is quashing the need for this peripheral. Today, the Floppy Disk Drive is only for the hardest of the hardcore Saturn fans who want to see all the weird and wonderful things that their console is capable of.

The Floppy Disk Drive and the Memory Cartridge (Japanese 2nd generation packaging)

With the technical exposition out of the way, let’s dive in to each and every North American Saturn game and check out how they interact with the Floppy Disk Drive to unlock Expanded Memory.

External Device Compatibility, Title by Title

All North American titles were tested two ways – first on real SEGA Saturns running BIOS version NTSC-4-v1.00a with a Floppy Disk Drive connected, then in pure emulation (albeit with original Saturn discs) using the popular Saturn emulator SSF. Interestingly, the upgraded Memory Manager on the FDD Operator Disc appears to be integrated into SSF, and the Saturn Dashboard allows the interfacing with the FDD as if it were connected and as if the FDD Operator disc was inserted, and translated. When games are launched in SSF with FDD emulation enabled, the virtual Saturn can correctly interface with the virtual Floppy Drive and this massively increases compatibility rates. Further, because actual memory in SSF is limitless, the strange effect of dividing blocks into file allocation units does not impact maximum file size, so the Saturn interprets the FDD as always having sufficient room to save files. In effect, SSF overcomes all of the FDD’s shortcomings.

Here are the test results, organized alphabetically:

All Star Baseball ’97 feat. Frank Thomas

The game features both the American and Canadian flags on the title screen.

This Acclaim game is the sequel to the previous year’s Frank ‘Big Hurt’ Thomas Baseball. It is an extremely average game in virtually all aspects. Critics of the time called the game ‘generic’, and repeatedly highlighted that other baseball series (namely, SEGA’s own World Series Baseball games) had matured beyond what was on offer here. Not a bad game – just a plain one. This one-or-two player game is exclusive to North America.

Looks good, plays average.

If this game is played on real hardware with the FDD connected, the game will crash (freeze) when the Saturn tries to access the device on game start-up. Fooling the Saturn by only plugging the FDD in after the game has booted works to a degree, but anytime any saving function is accessed in-game, the game looks at all save locations and crashes once it accesses the FDD. This is a rare case of the FDD making the original game virtually unplayable.

There are actually three save options here, and the cursor lies on the un-named (and therefore invisible) ‘External Device’, just below Cartridge Memory.

Very different story in emulation – the game does not crash and allows the player to select the External Device to save games, however, the option is untitled. On the memory destination selection screen, System and Cartridge memory is listed, but the cursor will actually move to the third option, which is unnamed and invisible (but exists) in this game. Surprisingly, the game is fully compatible with the FDD in emulation, despite the lack of a name for the device. Possibly a case of the programmer following SEGA’s development tables yet not bothering to flesh out a save option for a device which did not exist at the time.

Here, the game is saving to the virtual FDD.
Compatibility Report CardAll Star Baseball ’97 feat. Frank Thomas
Real HardwareNoGame crashes anytime FDD is accessed
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility, although External Memory is not explicitly named

Arcade’s Greatest Hits

The first of the two Arcade’s Greatest Hits games.

Midway published two of these compilations; this is the first. The disc features self-contained, emulated versions of six classic arcade titles, as well as a history section and media gallery for each game. These bonus sections are a very welcome addition, detailing (and narrating!) facts, figures and trivia relevant to each title. The games included on the disc are Robotron 2084, Defender, Defender II, Joust, Sinistar, and Bubbles. Happily, Digital Eclipse’ programmer Dan Filner saw fit to include compatibility with External Memory, and the game correctly interfaces with the FDD on both real hardware and in emulation. All three save locations are available from the pause menu. Each game in the collection creates its own small save file to keep track of high scores.

Save your high scores from each of the emulated games!

One quirk here is that the game doesn’t take the file allocation minimums into account, and displays both Cartridge and External free space incorrectly. However, because the game’s save files are small, this does not impact functionality.

Both Arcade’s Greatest Hits games share the same underlying engine, and both read all available save locations. Note that file allocation units are not accounted for, however the game’s save files are small enough that it does not matter.
Compatibility Report CardArcade’s Greatest Hits
Real HardwareYesFull and complete compatibility
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Arcade’s Greatest Hits – The Atari Collection Volume 1

This was the second of the two Arcade’s Greatest Hits games.

Dan Filner, Digital Eclipse’s programmer on the two Arcade’s Greatest Hits compilations, appears to have more explicitly coded for the FDD in the second game. However, the game still incorrectly interprets free save space in both cartridge RAM by a factor of 4 and in Expanded Memory by a factor of 64. This means that a blank floppy disk will read as having 178 free blocks only. 178 multiplied by 64 gives 11,392, or the full block set of one partition of a floppy disk.

The amount of free blocks is not read accurately by the game.

The game has arguably the far better selection of retro games, featuring absolute classics such as Tempest, Defender, Battle Zone, Super Breakout, Asteroids and Centipede. Similar to the first compilation, the game features a documentary for each title, this time including interviews with the programmers and designers of the arcade originals. Excellent stuff.

Off-load your best Super Breakout scores onto a floppy disk!
Compatibility Report CardArcade’s Greatest Hits – The Atari Collection Vol. 1
Real HardwareYesFull and complete compatibility
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility


The most unlikely games seem to feature FDD support.

Casper gets his own Saturn game! Play as the friendly ghost himself and overcome traps, obstacles, and even your ghost ‘friends’ in this cute-as-a-button game. Based on the 1995 family film, the game made an appearance on the Saturn as well as the PlayStation, 3DO and Game Boy Color.

Damn straight I found a tuna fish sandwich!

This game is programmed to support the FDD but only on a fully-enabled BIOS, such as the firmware update found on the FDD Operator Disc – and unfortunately, stock Saturn BIOS do not communicate with the FDD directly. The External Device, including the choice of which partition of a floppy disk to save to, is therefore only visible in emulation. On real hardware, the lack of BIOS support means this functionality is dormant.

When starting a new game, the full range of memory options is available for selection… sadly, only in emulation.

It is a shame that there are so many titles that are held back from perfect FDD compatibility simply due to BIOS restrictions and due to the file allocation standards employed on the final unit. These don’t seem like overly hard hurdles to overcome for a determined programmer, do they?

Compatibility Report CardCasper
Real HardwareNoGame does not interface with the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Crusader: No Remorse

This one gets very close to perfect compatibility.

Rise, super-soldier (or red Clone Trooper, it seems), and take up arms against the evil World Economic Consortium in this dystopian isometric-viewpoint action game. Ported over from the PC original, the Saturn game employs a lower resolution and, because environments are small and detailed, this detracts from the original PC experience somewhat. Still, a fun little title that was really well received on the PC, becoming Origin Systems’ biggest title up to that point in the company’s history.

You can select between absolute or tank cardinal controls.

This port was programmed by Realtime Associates, and features an almost perfect in-game interface with the FDD. The game natively allows saving to any of the three devices in emulation and on real hardware, with a ‘twist’. The game states that 256 blocks of memory are needed, however a successful save in on-board or cartridge RAM seems to initially consume only 194 blocks. It is possible that in more complex levels, 256 block are required. Still, the game does not account for the file unit minimums on the FDD and can only see 178 free blocks on a clean diskette, returning a ‘not enough space’ message when trying to save to the FDD in either emulation or on real hardware.

Oh come on! That’s not right – look!

Peter Kolarov, programmer Saturn version of Crusader: No Remorse, Realtime Associates

However, should an existing save file be manually moved to the FDD via the Saturn’s Memory Manager / FDD Operator Disc, then the game will correctly load and update the save file on the FDD, both in emulation and on real hardware. It seems odd that the memory system encounters issues in emulation, however with a bit of manual file management, everything works out and the FDD is useful in-game.

Compatibility Report CardCrusader: No Remorse
Real HardwareYesGame interprets insufficient room on FDD, but will load and update files manually moved to diskette
Emulation (SSF)YesGame interprets insufficient room on FDD, but will load and update files manually moved to diskette

Daytona USA

The original Daytona shows FDD compatibility in emulation only.

Say what?? Is the original Daytona USA compatible with the Floppy Disk Drive? Seems to be, in emulation at least.

The first Daytona was not an especially polished game, and its presentation screens are somewhat bare. Many features that would go on to become standards of racing games are either only partly implemented or are missing entirely. Want to change your tachometer from miles to kilometres or vice versa? Sure, but you must enter a secret code for that! Want to play a 2-player race against a friend (or enemy)? Nope, you’re out of luck! Yes, this was the original Daytona – fun as hell, warts and all.

Blue, blue skies…

The game saves course and lap records automagically, without player input as to when to save or where to save to. When no Daytona file exists, it first checks on-board RAM and creates a file there. If full, the game moves on to Cartridge RAM if present and writes a save file. If both locations are full (or no Cartridge RAM is present) and the game needs to write a file, then the game will try to move on to the External Device. Because SSF integrates the FDD Operator Disc’s functions, Daytona USA is able to save to diskettes if no other locations are available. Wherever the game’s file is located, the game will continue to update at that location, and – in emulation only – this includes the FDD’s first partition.

High scores can be auto-saved and updated on the FDD.

When playing on real hardware, the game will create a new save file either in Internal or Cartridge RAM, and will not recognize any files on the FDD. Should both Internal and Cartridge RAM be full / unavailable and the FDD present, the game will still ignore the device and present a warning screen that no file can be saved.

Compatibility Report CardDaytona USA
Real HardwareNoGame unsuccessful at read/write functions
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Fighters MegaMix

AM2’s first original Saturn game!

Released in 1997, Fighters MegaMix is a celebration of AM2’s arcade heritage. Featuring fighters from the Virtua Fighter series and from Fighting Vipers, the game also includes nods to Virtua Cop, Daytona USA, Sonic The Fighters, Rent-A-Hero, and several other AM2 creations. Unlike the precise, high speed chess match that the Virtua Fighter games are known for, this plays more like a fast-and-loose party game. Think Capcom’s Power Stone and you’re halfway there.

The game features realtime lighting effects.

The game marginally recognizes the presence of the FDD in emulation, and will acknowledge if a Fighters MegaMix file is present on the FDD (having been manually copied there), but will refuse to load it and offer the below warning screen. Interestingly, contrary to the warning screen, no ‘new save file’ is actually created, and the existing file on the FDD is not updated in any way. This is likely – once more – to the minimum units of 64 blocks on the FDD. Sadly, there is no effect at all on real hardware – this likely due to the underdeveloped BIOS. A real case of FDD compatibility blocked at every turn.

If a MegaMix file exists in Internal or Cartridge RAM, the game loads no problem. If a file exists on the FDD (emulation only), the game will try – but fail – to load it.
Compatibility Report CardFighters MegaMix
Real HardwareNoGame does not interface with the FDD
Emulation (SSF)NoGame will recognize its own save file on FDD but refuse to load or update it

Frank Thomas ‘Big Hurt’ Baseball

Play ball in this quasi-prequel to All-Star Baseball ’97!

Released in June of 1996, this game made an appearance on both the Saturn and PlayStation, as well as the Genesis and Super NES. Yes, it was transition time in the industry. Overall, the game was received as mediocre – lacking in key gameplay options and not doing anything spectacular to differentiate itself from other baseball titles. Featuring an MLBPA (but no MLB) license, it relied on the ‘Big Hurt’ branding for authenticity.

Thanks to the many options, the feel of each game can range from simulation to arcade.

The game boasts a very strange save system. It offers Season, Playoffs, and a few other long-term gameplay modes, but incredibly, will only allow Season to save. Want to play through an entire playoff run? Buckle up, baseball fan, because you’ll have to do it all in one sitting. ONLY a SINGLE Season save file is allowed.

That said, the game is fully compatible with the FDD in emulation, and like its successor, the External Device is an ‘un-named’ option.

Well! The System and Cartridge backups are each ‘named’, whereas Expanded Memory is just ‘No-Name Backup Device’. Still, it works.

On real hardware, the game tries to read the FDD as part of its boot process, and crashes at the Acclaim legal screen. Should the game launch with the FDD disconnected from the Saturn, the game boots fine. Even if the FDD is connected after the game has booted, the moment the game tries to access any memory functions, it freezes. This joins All Star Baseball ’97 as the only titles to crash with the FDD.

Compatibility Report CardFrank Thomas ‘Big Hurt’ Baseball
Real HardwareNoGame crashes anytime FDD is accessed
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Galactic Attack

This is a great game.

In 1995, Acclaim brought over Taito’s excellent Layer Section (a.k.a RayForce) and re-named it Galactic Attack. For decades, this underrated gem remained one of the most affordable Saturn schmups. One or two players tackle seven stages in succession, shooting at enemies ahead or using the static cross-hairs to lock on to enemies below the plane of action. This game features TATE mode for the authentic arcade feel.

Use your cross-hairs to target and destroy ships below you, before they fly up and engage you more directly.

In the Options menu, ‘record’ can be set to on or off. This is a bad translation; ‘record’ sets whether a tiny save file will be written to record game settings, such as difficulty, audio options, and so on. There is nothing else written to the game’s save file. Utterly unnecessary to get full enjoyment out of the title, yet handy to save yourself 30 seconds of setting your options prior to a gaming session.

‘Record’ on/off simply means: do you want a small save file to remember your options for next time?

The game never asks where to write this tiny little save file; it defaults to on-board RAM, then goes to Cartridge RAM, and finally, to the External Device. The catch? This only happens – once again – in emulation. On real hardware, the Saturn communicates with the FDD as if to write the file, but nothing is ever saved. Should the file be manually moved, the game will still fail to read it.

Compatibility Report CardGalactic Attack
Real HardwareNoGame unsuccessful at read/write functions
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Impact Racing

This Acclaim title is surprisingly fun.

This is a game that deserves more love. Essentially a hybrid racing and car combat game, the goal is to finish the prerequisite number of laps before time runs out whilst destroying your opposition! There are forward-shooting weapons to unleash and mines to drop, and whilst destroying the opposition is not required, it does grant access to bonus stages in which the player tries to win permanent car upgrades. With a very steady frame rate, this is a good game.

This is the third level. The two cars on-screen should be getting destroyed!

Compatibility with the FDD is complicated. On real hardware, only System and Cartridge are available as valid save locations. If a file is moved to a floppy disk, the game will recognize it but refuse to load it, and present a warning screen. No updates or edits to the file will take place. In emulation, the game will only allow saving to on-board or cartridge RAM, however existing files on the second partition only of the Floppy Drive will be read, and can be updated. Very strange behavior with this particular title.

In Emulation, the game will load from the FDD.
Compatibility Report CardImpact Racing
Real HardwareNoGame will recognize its own file on the FDD but refuse to load or update it
Emulation (SSF)YesPartial compatibility – file must be manually moved to the 2nd partition only

Madden 97

The great John Madden.

Football is the biggest sport in North America, yet oddly both SEGA and EA Sports sat out the ’96 editions of sports games on the then-new 32-bit consoles. Instead, Sony’s above-average NFL GameDay stole the overall limelight that year, whilst the Saturn played host to Acclaim’s Quarterback Club ’96 and Digital Pictures’ ‘interesting’ Quarterback Attack. The following season however, competition arrived. Digital Pictures bowed out, Acclaim followed up with Quarterback Club ’97, SEGA whimpered onto the gridiron with the weak NFL ’97 and EA cleaned house with Madden 97 – an excellent 32-bit update of their acclaimed 16-bit series. This game was fantastic and was rapturously received by critics and gamers alike.

The game is really good.

EA Sports’ titles are a logical fit to take advantage of the expanded memory capacity of the FDD, seeing as their games are stats-heavy, memory-intensive sports simulations. Surprisingly, this is one title that is fully compatible with the FDD on real hardware as well as in emulation – although the file allocation minimums causes the game to mis-read the amount of free space on diskettes, as seen in the gallery below.

However, despite reading only 178 blocks per partition, the game will nevertheless correctly save options, seasons, etc. onto diskettes without issue in emulation and on real hardware.

There is one small quirk – on real hardware, the game will recognize the FDD and display it as an external save device, but should the player shift to another memory location – internal or cartridge – it is not possible to select external memory again. In order to maintain full functionality, the player must not de-select the external backup when picking a place to save.

Compatibility Report CardMadden 97
Real HardwareYesFull compatibility; must not de-select external RAM
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Madden 98

EA’s 1998 line-up had a generally cleaner and more consistent look and feel than the 1997 line-up.

The annual Madden football game update, and unfortunately, the last one to hit the Saturn. Your typical stats and other season-relevant figures have been updated, and the game now sports a much cleaner, more broadcast-style presentation. The gameplay remains as good as ever. This is the premier Saturn football game.

The best football game on the Saturn.

Madden 98 seems to be somewhat less FDD-friendly than its predecessor. On real hardware, the game is not compatible at all. In emulation, the game will read and display the Floppy Drive, but once it is de-selected, it cannot be selected again. This is similar how how Madden 97 behaved on real hardware. Interestingly, the game correctly interprets the number of available save blocks in all locations… however, once again FDD compatibility on a real SEGA Saturn seems to be at the mercy of a BIOS that needs an update.

Compatibility Report CardMadden 98
Real HardwareNoGame does not interface with the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull functionality; must not de-select external RAM

NBA Action

The Saturn’s first NBA game!

The Saturn’s first NBA game is heavy on detail and options. Take on the NBA in this respectable title, and try to win the championship. Featuring all play types – exhibition, season, playoff – as well as trades and build-a-player, the game leaves a significant memory footprint.

NBA Action… in action.

Support for the External Device is baked in, and is mentioned in the game manual. In SSF, any and all save or memory functions work equally across all save locations. On a real Saturn, the FDD seems un-selectable, likely because the game mis-interprets the available room on the diskette owing to the file allocation system. However, any and all files – season, playoffs, build-a-player – that are manually moved to the FDD from either internal or Cartridge RAM will subsequently work. The game will be able to read and update these files properly.

Compatibility Report CardNBA Action
Real HardwareYesNear-full compatibility; must manually copy files onto FDD one time for the game to correctly interface with the device thereafter
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

NBA Jam Extreme

Not to be confused with the excellent NBA Jam: Tournament Edition

Saturn gamers were treated to two NBA Jam games; first, the Midway-produced NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, followed by Acclaim Sports’ own NBA Jam Extreme. Extreme is basically NBA Jam but, for the first time, using polygonal players instead of sprites. Not as well received, the game is nevertheless fun… but it certainly feels different from traditional NBA Jam! The game is for up to four players.

The polygonal models look at the same time more realistic and more clunky than previous NBA Jam sprite efforts.

Because this is strictly an arcade interpretation of the sport, there are no season or playoff modes – just jam sessions. Individual gamers’ statistics – such as wins and losses – are tracked via a username system. By entering a username, birth month and day, the game will keep track of each user’s stats. The title saves these stats at the conclusion of each game, and auto-selects a save destination in reverse order – first trying the FDD, followed by Cartridge RAM, and finally, on-board memory. In emulation, the effect works perfectly. On real hardware, the game successfully accesses the FDD, however returns an error message saying the file cannot be read properly.

Here is the game’s save file on diskette – in emulation.
Compatibility Report CardNBA Jam Extreme
Real HardwareNoGame reads files saved to FDD but returns a ‘cannot properly save to external device’ message
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

NBA Live 97

The NBA’s 1990s tagline was ‘I Love This Game’

EA Sports. A name besmirched at present, but quite respected in the 90s for realistic, stats-heavy, and most importantly, well-playing sports games. NBA Live 97 was the first EA NBA game to arrive on the Saturn (and PlayStation) in the jump to 32-bit machines, although the title still appeared on both the Genesis and SNES. EA Canada handled the masterful PlayStation version, whilst Saturn porting duties were offloaded to Realtime Associates… and unfortunately, the later Saturn version did not perform nearly as well as the lead (PlayStation) version. Shame.

Whether season or playoff, all three devices are available to handle save files. Notice the background image is the American Saturn controller.

There is a trend here whereas anytime Realtime Associates seemed to have been involved in a Saturn game, the odds of FDD compatibility rise. So is the case for NBA Live 97. Luckily, the game seems to sort out file allocation units and can correctly read and write to diskettes on both real hardware and in emulation without issue.

A great NBA game, poorly ported to the Saturn.
Compatibility Report CardNBA Live 97
Real HardwareYesFull and complete compatibility
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

NBA Live 98

The Live games are quite good! The Saturn ports are less than excellent.

The second, and final NBA Live game on the Saturn, this one was once again converted over by Realtime Associates. Similar to last year, the PlayStation version garnered much praise whilst the Saturn edition was seen as lackluster in comparison. One giant compromise is the failure to implement live play-by-play on the Saturn game – a feature present on the PlayStation disc. Alas, this was also the final year that the Live franchise appeared on the Saturn, Genesis and Super NES, with NBA Live 99 making an appearance on the PlayStation and, for the first time, the Nintendo 64.

The External Device is available.

With the previous year’s game being fully compatible, it would stand to reason that the ’98 edition works as well. Unfortunately, although real hardware will recognize the FDD and present it as a valid save location, should it be selected, the game will attempt to read the diskettes and, getting tripped up on the file allocation units, will determine that the diskettes are un-formatted, and kick the player back to the Saturn dashboard to ‘sort it out’. There is no practical way to force the game to correctly interface with the FDD.

Of course, functionality is perfect in emulation.

Compatibility Report CardNBA Live 98
Real HardwareNoGame interfaces with FDD but mis-reads diskettes as needing formatting
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

NHL All Star Hockey

Weeeeeee are the championsssss, my frieeendddd….

Gray Matter programmed this game, and whilst it is not on the list of the best Saturn hockey games, you can’t fault the developer for skimping out on detail. There is a lot packed in here from a hockey, gameplay, and technical perspective. The developers were clearing trying to display as much authentic detail as possible.

The level of real-life accurate detail in the game is staggering.

This was the first 32-bit NHL game to arrive, and whilst it absolutely nailed down the presentation, it failed hard in the gameplay department. Reams of options, from create-a-player to trades to new season (with variable no. of games to be played) to full playoffs, this 1-to-12 player game tried to cover all its, erm, bases. The letdown was shoddy control and unfriendly camera angles which did not always present the scaling player sprites against the 3D ice surface very well.

Better hockey games would come along.

NHL All Star Hockey‘s manual coyly calls out using ‘peripheral storage components’ to save files, and indeed, the game shows a good degree of FDD compatibility on real hardware as well as perfect compatibility in emulation.

On real hardware, the system will interpret ‘insufficient room’ on the diskettes, again likely due to the 64x file allocation quirk. However, any and all NHL All Star Hockey files manually moved to the FDD will then be read, accessed, loaded and updated correctly in-game. This includes general options, build-a-player, roster, season, and playoff files. This is very handy as the game consumes plenty of memory if all of its features are used. In this sense, a one-time move of the files onto the FDD affords the game perfect FDD compatibility on real hardware.

Compatibility Report CardNHL All Star Hockey
Real HardwareYesNear-full compatibility; must manually copy files onto FDD one time for the game to correctly interface with the device thereafter
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Panzer Dragoon Saga

This masterpiece is fully compatible with the FDD!

The masterful conclusion to the Saturn Panzer trilogy, Saga is one of the greatest games of the 32-bit generation. Join Edge on his quest as he pursues the forces of Craymen for killing his excavation crew and stealing a mysterious human-like artifact from the ruins. The story explodes from there as Edge finds himself in the middle of a titanic struggle between the Empire, Craymen’s rebel forces, the mysterious Seekers, and the will of the Ancients. A masterfully executed fusion of role-playing exploration with turn-based combat and featuring stunning locales and a captivating storyline, this game rightly finds itself at the top of many ‘Best of Saturn’ lists.

Grandiose, evocative and mesmerizing.

Specifically coded to account for the FDD, Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the rare games that features explicit, full and complete compatibility with the device. The device is accessed correctly, and file size / allocation is properly accounted for. All versions and regions of the title are fully compatible.

Here, we see icons for all three save locations, including the FDD (Expanded Memory)
Each location allows up to three save files.
There are never sufficient superlatives to bestow upon this gem.

It is a complete joy for the Saturn aficionado to have this crown jewel of a game display perfect compatibility with one of SEGA’s lesser-known peripherals.

Compatibility Report CardPanzer Dragoon Saga
Real HardwareYesFull and complete compatibility
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Pebble Beach Golf Links

T&E Soft produced several golf games.

Join Craig Stadler at Pebble Beach for a round of golf! A North American launch title, this is a competent game made better by the inclusion of the Walrus himself. Digitized sprites are overlain on a 3D golf course which only updates in fixed camera angles rather than following the ball in real-time. Still, it is a well-done-for-its-time, relaxing golf game.

Bet you can’t get it inside mine! Ahhhhh…. that will never get old.

There is no reaction from the Floppy Disk Drive on real hardware – however, gamers can select to save to either partition of a diskette in emulation! Another tragic case of compatibility being so close, yet so far away, most likely due to the BIOS.

Here we are. On real hardware, only options 1 and 2 are available 🙁
Compatibility Report CardPebble Beach Golf Links
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

PGA Tour 97

Being an EA Sports title, it bears the PGA license and features real pro golfers.

Part of EA Sports’ 1997 line-up, this is Electronic Arts’ only golf game on the SEGA Saturn. Not at all in the upper echelon of golf games, this travesty falls prey to absurd loading times. Take a swing… and then wait five seconds for your golfer to execute the action on-screen. Ugh… how in the world did this get past quality control?

Not good at all.

So, Floppy Disk Drive compatibility… NiGHTS into Dreams? Nope. Tomb Raider? No sir. PGA Tour 97? Ding ding ding, correct!!! To be fair, the game is compatible with the External Device only in emulation – the game does not interface with the FDD on real hardware at all.

Bonus fact: Craig Stadler makes an appearance in this game, too! Holy jeebers, the Walrus just shot up to Legendary Status amongst Saturn heroes. Here, he is one of the many pro golfers that can be selected (this is a licensed EA Sports game, after all). Funny that Stadler is not selectable in his own Pebble Beach game, but is playable here. Never though you could get it inside his, in Pebble Beach? Well, you CAN here. Boom. Mic drop.

Compatibility Report CardPGA Tour 97
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Road & Track Presents The Need for Speed

The first in a series that endures to this day.

Electronic Arts’ Road and Track Presents The Need for Speed is the first in a long line of racers that endures to the present day. The game was initially developed for the 3DO; this is a good port of the game. Need for Speed features many tracks, a respectable frame rate, and a longer draw distance than most racers. It feels somewhat less of an arcade experience than SEGA’s arcade conversions, however still plays well and offers much more content to keep racing fans satisfied. Don’t miss out on this one – it’s a good game!

Race in cities, deserts, forest, or sea coasts. Many tracks to choose from.

The game’s manual mentions saving to either Internal, Cartridge, or External devices in several places, and indeed, this proves to be the case. In emulation, the game is perfectly compatible. Maddeningly, on real hardware, the game doesn’t interface with the FDD at all. This is a real shame – the small file sizes the game produces would have fit on the FDD even if the game didn’t take the file allocation units into consideration… alas, it is not meant to be.

Compatibility Report CardRoad & Track Presents The Need for Speed
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Shockwave Assault

Isn’t it odd that third parties show more compatibility with the FDD than SEGA’s own efforts?

Electronic Arts’ Shockwave Assault is a port of a 3DO in-the-cockpit shooting game and its expansion pack. You are dispatched to handle an alien invasion force and must do battle in various areas around the globe. Later in the game (i.e., the included expansion pack – called Operation Jumpgate), the battle spills over to the rest of the solar system. The game is laden with FMV and fairly solid acting, giving it that very distinct early 90s vibe, yet despite the complex storyline and competent presentation, gameplay boils down to a repetitive and sometimes frustrating exercise in shooting and dodging. Not a horrible little title, but not a game that will set your Saturn on fire.

This should have been a blue sky, otherwise the city and water below are lit too bright for nighttime. FAIL.

When starting a new game, the player creates a ‘pilot’, which essentially becomes the save file for the adventure. Progress is automatically saved at the end of each level, and to re-start a game at a later time, the gamer loads their desired pilot to resume from where they last left off. The gamer selects where to save the pilot – Internal RAM, Cartridge RAM, or External Device – and this is where the file remains.

“All your base are belong to us.”

Paradox was the team tasked with converting the title over to the Saturn, and main programmer Ian Sabine did good on ensuring the FDD was fully and completely supported.

Compatibility Report CardShockwave Assault
Real HardwareYesFull and complete compatibility
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

SimCity 2000

This excellent early ‘Sim’ game received a competent Saturn port.

Saturn’s SimCity 2000 was the first console port of the game, and it was a good one. Featuring several enhancements over the 1993 PC original, the game was well received, although admittedly it highlighted a time of uncertainty in what type of games the new generation of consoles would host. Time would go on to show that, at least for the moment, games that originated on the PC were still best suited for PCs.

It’s amazing how much the Saturn must ‘remember’ for each city-file.

One of the first games released on the Saturn, SimCity 2000 is a memory-heavy title. Each file has to take into account an entire map’s worth of city building adventure, and Maxis must be commended for somehow making it all squeeze into a 461-block save file!

Of course, 461 happens to be the entire system memory, so the game highly recommends a backup option. Indeed, the manual speaks of both Cartridge Memory as well as an External Device to save game files.

In Emulation only, the External Device option is fully functional.

In emulation, the game will present the External Device as an option, and will fully function as a huge backup location. Unfortunately, real hardware does not interface with the FDD at all. This is a shame – it is precisely for the huge save files of games like SimCity 2000 that Expanded Memory becomes ideal!

Compatibility Report CardSimCity 2000
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Slam ‘n Jam ’96 feat. Magic & Kareem

Crystal Dynamics released this in the brief time the company tried to field a sports line. It is an un-remarkable sequel to Slam ‘n Jam ’95, released on the 3DO the previous year. The game features a cornucopia of options including season & playoff; however, it lacks NBA or NBPA licenses. That means the teams and players – aside from the titular Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – are entirely fictional.

No team names, because… no NBA license.

Once again, this is a title that was programmed using SEGA’s recommended save file protocols, and in emulation, the game exhibits perfect compatibility with the FDD, including both partitions. Sadly, no dice on real hardware.

Compatibility Report CardSlam ‘n Jam ’96
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Space Jam

Who will win? The Acme All-Stars, or the Monstars?

Conceptually, Space Jam is a neat game. Take the arcade-y style of NBA Jam, exchange the NBA license for a movie license, and watch the title sell, sell, sell! To be fair, the game plays relatively well for a trick basketball game and even makes an effort to somewhat follow the movie’s storyline. Interspersing the basketball shenanigans are mini games which, if bested, can provide little boosts and bonuses in the main game.

One of two Saturn titles to feature a McDonald’s logo. Can you guess the other game?

The game, like most on this list, is programmed to take advantage of the FDD but the option does not manifest on real hardware. In emulation, we once again have a game that can take advantage of the Floppy Disk Drive.

Another in the long line of exemplars of emulation bringing out long-dormant FDD compatibility.
Compatibility Report CardSpace Jam
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Ten Pin Alley

What a beautiful title screen! (cough, cough)

Perhaps the greatest bowling game to hit the American Saturn (cough, cough… it’s the ONLY bowling game to hit the American Saturn), this one looks, sounds, and plays very clunky. The game relies on a timing pendulum system similar to golf games of the time for its deliveries, thereby bringing in an element of skill… however, the characters animate poorly and look odd. Only with the power of additional players and alcoholic beverage consumption does this title become a ‘solid’ party title. Not the Saturn’s finest hour, however in emulation, the FDD is fully supported. The game is exclusive to North America.

You can do it, generic bowler person!

On real hardware, there is no effect at all with the FDD. This is a shame.

Compatibility Report CardTen Pin Alley
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Valora Valley Golf

The CRAZIEST golf game on the Saturn!

Sensing an opportunity in a bare 1995 Saturn line-up and bolstered by the warm reception of their previous title, Pebble Beach Golf Links, T&E Soft double-dipped to bring us Valora Valley Golf, ominously known as The Hyper Golf: Devil’s Course in Japan. Gameplay is nearly identical to Pebble Beach Golf Links but with added trick shots, and set in wild and fantastic environments. Ever wanted to casually golf near an active volcano? Step right up! This game is for you!

Watch out for the magma… said no golfer, ever.

Like Pebble Beach, the game seems primed for FDD compatibility, but like so many games on this list, does not interface with the device at all. In emulation, of course we have full compatibility.

Once again, all that is missing is a BIOS robust enough to activate these features on real hardware.
Compatibility Report CardValora Valley Golf
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

Virtual Hydlide

This game is so bad that it’s good!

T&E Soft are at it again, this time presenting Virtual Hydlide, an over-the-shoulder third person action RPG with randomly generating worlds. The game was published by Atlus in North America and unfortunately, really shows its age. The FMV comprises a mix of obvious blue-screen acting and bad visual effects and the game world is a pixelly exercise in low framerate pain. The dad-bod hero of the story, Jim (not Sir James the Brave… just ‘Jim’) must brave several dungeons in order to free the three fairies of Fairyland so that they can recombine into the princess. This game is so bad that it’s good, in a very cheesy, B-movie sort of way.

Brave Jim begins his noble quest.

Like with T&E Soft’s two Saturn golf outings, the game is FDD-ready and responds fully in emulation. Unfortunately, the game has no way of interacting with the FDD on real hardware. This is a shame as each file is very large, owing to the random world generation. Games like this is what the FDD was designed for.

A little bit crisper than T&E Soft’s earlier memory screens, but still only reachable in emulation.
Compatibility Report CardVirtual Hydlide
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)YesFull and complete compatibility

World Cup Golf: Professional Edition

A rather obscure golf title, programmed by Arc Developments and published in North America by US Gold Sports, this game plays out on the beautiful Dorado Beach golf course in Puerto Rico. The game started life as a 3DO title and received mildly positive reviews at the time. Its unique feature is that rather than the camera following the ball in real time (something no golf game had managed at this point), the player is treated to an FMV flyover of the course, from the perspective of a ball being tee’d off. A tiny golf ball sprite is then overlaid on the video. The FMV sequence is always the same, but the trajectory of the ball is dependent on the player’s stroke. It looks pretty cool, until the ball sprite begins to drop wherever it was shot and the flyover continues, as this ruins the illusion somewhat. Still, a very clever solution for its day.

Golf games took great leaps forward later on in the 32/64-bit generation.

The game has no compatibility with the FDD but it must have been planned at some point; in emulation, when selecting a save location, external RAM is displayed as an option. However, there is no actual effect if it is selected and it remains a seemingly un-implemented placeholder.

‘External’ only shows up in emulation, but doesn’t actually function.
Compatibility Report CardWorld Cup Golf: Professional Edition
Real HardwareNoGame never accesses the FDD
Emulation (SSF)NoEvidence that FDD support was planned but never implemented

There they are – all the North American titles that are compatible to any degree with the Floppy Disk Drive. Of these, nine work to a functional degree, ranging from slightly un-optimized or somewhat glitchy to fully and seamlessly compatible on real Saturn hardware. The remainder is seemingly only held back by an underdeveloped system firmware. Seeing the Saturn correctly handle an External Device is especially neat – it is likely very few gamers have seen some of the options and screens that emulation has been able to unlock, in terms of the external storage. Would things have been different had the Saturn achieved much deeper market penetration? That remains hard to say. SEGA would have needed to release an update to the BIOS either through a hardware revision for new Saturn units, or some other type of flash delivery to existing hardware – perhaps something could have been built in to the FDD itself, rather than coming on the separate FDD Operator Disc. The device’s eventual low-key 1996 release in Japan and subsequent omission from official peripheral lists once again demonstrates an unfocused, market tone-deaf side of SEGA. Lucky for us, this deficiency was offset by the brilliance of the firm’s engineers, the passion of the programmers who developed for the console, and the love its fans – and that includes YOU, dear reader – bestowed upon the company’s penultimate home console.

But Wait… There’s More!

Aside from games that are compatible with the Floppy Drive, there are also the three Worldwide Soccer games that deserve special mention. Each iteration of the series features a fully-fledged Backup Utility in its options; effectively, an enhanced Memory Manager of sorts. The utility displays the same data as the Memory Manager whist also displaying each file’s date stamp, and includes functions such as selecting multiple files at once and sorting by various categories. Most usefully, it displays ten files on screen at a time, compared to five in the Memory Manager.

The utility will read both on-board RAM as well as Cartridge RAM, and in emulation, will also read both partitions of a floppy diskette. There is some very minor graphical corruption when reading the 2nd partition of a diskette, however functionality remains perfect. Also of note: clearly, whomever wrote the Backup Utility had a beautiful eye for detail, as the shadowing of the save location labels is colored to match the actual Memory Manager – red for Saturn RAM, blue for Cartridge RAM, and green for External Device. We love you, Unknown Programmer!!

The Backup Utility is embedded in all versions of the WorldWide Soccer games. Here, the date has been changed to YYYY-MM-DD format. In the gallery above, it is MM-DD-HH-Min

One last point… all testing was performed on the North American library. It is inevitable that dozens of other games from the European and especially Japanese libraries support the FDD as well.

We Need a Perfected BIOS

What would the perfect BIOS look like for those who still play Saturn in the 2020s? Here are some quality-of-life features that would make sense to add to a hypothetical Saturn BIOS file; some of these are minor implementations whilst some would surely be a monstrous challenge to write. Still, let us cast our dream!

  • Region-free – will boot discs from all regions (this already exists!)
  • Option to bypass disc authentication (i.e., gain System Disc functionality)
  • Correct interface with the Floppy Disk Drive – build in the functions of the FDD Operator Disc firmware
  • While we’re at it, build in Photo and eBook Operator Discs firmware as well. Also, if possible to do in firmware, building in VCD support would be the cherry on top of the delicious Saturn cake
  • Enhanced Memory Manager:
    • Read ALL save locations, including Floppy Disk Drive or any other removable storage device accessed through ANY of the Saturn’s ports
    • Ability to select multiple files at once
    • A ‘move file’ function (rather than the two-step copy, then delete)
    • A larger display of files on screen at a time, similar to what is seen in the Backup Utility in the Worldwide Soccer games
    • A date stamp displayed on each save file in addition to all currently displayed data
    • A facility to enable local system-to-system save file transfer via the Battle Cable (Taisen Cable)
    • A facility to enable global system-to-system save file transfer via the NetLink modem
    • The ability to use NetLink to upload and download save files to and from a server or website
  • For the sake of continuity and consistency: keep the look and aesthetic of the current dashboard.
  • Purely for looks: if a Saturn disc is detected in the disc tray while in the dashboard, change the icon from the generic disc-with-a-ring to an actual Saturn icon, matching the region the disc is coded to.

Programmers! A special call to arms: can any of you tinker with the Saturn’s BIOS to produce some or all of the above? In many ways, such a BIOS would supplant the need for the vast majority of after-market modifications available for the Saturn. Would this be a difficult hack to make? Does anyone want to take up the challenge? WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Fun Fact! The single biggest save file in the North American save file set comes from a surprising game: Hexen’s save file takes up a mind-boggling 3801 blocks of memory! The game features support for the RAM Cartridge, which manages to hold no more than two Hexen files at a time before being out of space. Thankfully, the game also supports password save. Perfect for FDD compatibility! Alas… no dice. The game does not interface with the floppy drive.

Hexen holds the record as the BIGGEST North American save file.


It is a sad fact that many of SEGA’s hardware ventures underperformed on the market, and that the company had no compunctions about abandoning some of their products shortly after launching them. Although the FDD enjoyed some relevancy in Japan in conjunction with network games (Dragon’s Dream), and with special game-building titles (Game Basic, Dezaemon 2) where the idea was to trade diskettes with homemade titles between Saturn users, the device never reached mass market acceptance. When it did finally surface in 1996, the device was used for applications somewhat different than initially envisioned, and was never really exploited as a cheap mass storage device.

Support for the FDD (or, more precisely, any external memory device accessed via the Communications Connector) was included in all of the early Saturn development libraries, but as the device failed to materialize, references to it were quietly dropped. Subsequent Saturn technical manuals feature stricter controls and revised instructions for writing save files to Cartridge RAM, as SEGA planned on releasing much higher capacity memory cartridges in the future. If these new instructions were followed when coding, then the games being written would be forward-compatible with the new XL RAM Cartridges. Alas, as the Saturn market floundered in the West, these ‘super cartridges’ never made it off the drawing boards. As for the FDD, the North American games that support it today do so only because programmers adhered to that early Saturn documentation. Today, loading an FDD-compatible game and watching it interface with the unit as it spins up and its little green access light illuminates is less about utility and more about breathing life into a long-forgotten ghost of SEGA’s brilliant – and never fully realized – Saturn past.

Compatibility Round-up

North American TitleCompatible Emulation SSF (28 games)Compatible Real Hardware (9 games)
All Star Baseball ’97 feat. Frank ThomasYesCrashes Game
Arcade’s Greatest Hits (Williams)YesYes
Arcade’s Greatest Hits The Atari Collection Vol. 1YesYes
Crusader: No RemorseYesYes – near full
Daytona USAYesNo
Fighters MegaMixBrokenNo
Frank Thomas ‘Big Hurt’ BaseballYesCrashes Game
Galactic AttackYesNo
Impact RacingPartialNo
Madden 97YesYes – near full
Madden 98YesNo
NBA ActionYesYes – near full
NBA Jam ExtremeYesNo
NBA Live 97YesYes
NBA Live 98YesBroken
NHL All Star HockeyYesYes – near full
Panzer Dragoon SagaYesYes
Pebble Beach Golf LinksYesNo
PGA Tour 97YesNo
Road & Track Presents The Need for SpeedYesNo
Shockwave AssaultYesYes
SimCity 2000YesNo
Slam ‘n Jam ’96 feat. Magic & KareemYesNo
Space JamYesNo
Ten Pin AlleyYesNo
Valora Valley GolfYesNo
Virtual HydlideYesNo
World Cup Golf: Professional EditionUnimplementedNo

Special note: the author of this piece is not a programmer and does not have the ability to further interpret technical detail about the file management system or possibilities such as updating (hacking) the BIOS or introducing some kind of pseudo-firmware update. SEGA Saturn, Shiro! prides itself on accuracy of information. Any feedback or technical corrections to the article are most welcome!

This article is dedicated to A Murder of Crows. You are responsible for showing me down this rabbit hole, my friend.

Peter Malek

A Saturn fan since the beginning, Peter plays Saturn almost exclusively. For Peter, Saturn represents a moment in time where 2D games were at their best, 3D was just rising, and fascinating gaming ‘firsts’ were commonplace.  There are very few Saturn games that Peter cannot find some enjoyment in!

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