This may come as a shock to some of you, but the available emulation solutions for Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast just straight-up aren’t that good. The Saturn’s bizarre architecture (or, Bizarrchitecture™), combined with its bitter designation as the third-most beloved console of the 32/64-bit era, have lead to a long and storied history of emulators that don’t run that well and aren’t compatible with many games. Likewise, the Dreamcast emulation scene has only recently achieved workable results, but even the best emulators out there are only compatible with about 85% of the system’s official library.
Thus, one can understand the value of tricking an actual Sega Saturn or Sega Dreamcast to run “”””legally procured”””” copies of games stored on hard drives, solid-state drives, thumb drives, or SD cards. Not only are you saving a tremendous amount of space by converting your 100 percent legitimate collection of physical Dreamcast and Saturn games to digitally stored ISO disc images, you’re also ensuring that nothing from the experience is ever lost, since you’re playing the games on the actual hardware they were designed for.
Enter Terraonion’s Multi Optical Disc Emulator (or “MODE”), an FPGA-based disc drive replacement for Saturn and Dreamcast that does this exact thing. The kit is scheduled to ship in “late-June/early-July” and pre-orders are available at 182 euros ($197.56) a pop, shipping from Andorra included.
MODE isn’t the first disc drive replacement solution for the Saturn and/or Dreamcast, but it is (to my knowledge, anyway) the first unit that will work on either system, as well as the first kit that doesn’t require even one drop of solder to install. It’s completely region free, both in terms of which systems it plugs into and what kinds of games it’ll load, and since the actual console is still doing all the thinking, it’s compatible with 100 percent of the Saturn and Dreamcast’s respective catalogues. It has a SATA port with support for 2.5 inch solid-state drives and traditional hard drives, as well as a USB port for thumb drives and an SD card slot for, well, SD cards. There’s no M.2 NVMe connectivity, but considering that we’re talking about a damn Sega Saturn/Dreamcast, you don’t really need it either.
You can skip to 3:30 in the video above to hear Terraonion’s technical breakdown of how the MODE functions, but the gist is that load times will be faster than normal because there’s no laser to physically scan around a disc in search of the right data. The video also contains footage of the MODE’s UI, which can be configured as a simple list, or as a more aesthetically pleasing gallery of cover art. I never owned a Saturn, but I do still have the Dreamcast I got for Christmas hundreds of years ago. What’s to stop me from spending $200 on this thing and living my best life?
Oh, hold on, I’m being informed that … yes, reports are coming in that I don’t have $200 to spend on a disc drive conversion kit for an ancient video game system. We’ll be looking into the situation and will report back as — okay, I’m being told by the booth that there’s nothing to look into, I just “simply do not have an extra $200 to spend on something so nonessential in a time of global crisis,” according to my producer. Stay tuned as the situation develops.
(I have just been informed that the situation will not develop.)