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Saturn Emulation: SSF Tutorial

About SSF

This tutorial is to help you with SFF. It is known as the #1 Sega Saturn emulator. Emulation quality isn't quite perfect yet, but so far it's pretty good. You should appreciate this because Saturn emulation has had a sour history. It was only until the late 2000's that Saturn emulators were emulating at a near perfect quality, versus PSX emulation that reached its level of near perfect quality in the early 2000's. The Sega Saturn has 6 processors, and it wasn't easy for emulator authors to emulate them.

*If you would like to download SSF I have it in my emulators page.

Extracting, Placement & Starting Up

I suggest you make a new folder called "Saturn" within a folder called "Emulation". You don't have to, but it makes things a little easier for you if you're not too computer literate. Extract all the contents of this emulator's zip file into the Saturn folder. If you don't know how to extract files from a zip file then read this. It'll be easier if you toss all your Saturn ISOs into this folder too. Double-click on "SSF" to open it.

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DirectX (XAudio2Create error)

Windows only comes with the latest version of DirectX. You need the full package of DirectX which contains all the necessary legacy files. Without it SSF may not open, giving you errors such as this:

XAudio2Create() error.
File : ./XAudio2.cpp
Line : 219
Function : XAudio2_Initialize

What is DirectX? Think of it as a bundle of support files that help games run better, provided by Microsoft (for free). Anyway, you need to install the full DirectX package. You can download it here: DirectX End-User Runtime Web Installer (284 KB). This installer promises to install all the legacy files that correct issues such as this XAudio2 error.

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Saturn BIOS

Most games require the Saturn BIOS in order to boot or emulate properly. SSF will fool you into thinking it doesn't need the BIOS, but really it does.

Saturn BIOS bundle (2.18 MB) - The BIOS files for NA, UK, and JP.

Saturn STV BIOS bundle (1.67 MB) - The STV BIOS files.

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Setting up the BIOS

1. It's best to extract the contents of the BIOS zip files into SSF's folder. It's easier this way.

2. Click on the Option menu, then Option; like so.

3. You'll arrive here. In the "Saturn BIOS" box, click the Browse button.

4. The "Select Saturn BIOS file" window will pop up, which is this window. Click on "us_100.bin", then click Open.

5. Back in the Options window, in the "ST-V BIOS" box, click the Browse button.

6. The "Select STV BIOS file" window will pop up, which is this window. Click on "stv110.bin", then click Open.

7. Click OK and you're done. The BIOS is now configured!

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Q: SSF opens so tiny!

SSF initially opens up small (as shown toward the right). Just wait a few moments. SSF will eventually load into an expanded window, as any other traditional emulator looks like.

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Setting up your keyboard or gamepad

1. Click on the Options menu then Option, as shown here.

2. Click the Controller tab.

3. You'll arrive to this screen. Click the Redefine button.

4. Follow the prompt that pops up and press the keys on your keyboard or gamepad button that you would like the given button to be assigned to.

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Booting CD games

Just open SSF to boot games. Really, it's that simple! If you inserted the game while SSF is open, close it and re-open it.

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Booting CD images (ISO)

Unfortunately, SSF does not support booting ISO files. However, there are two things you can do to work around that:

1. Use a virtual CD-ROM program to trick SSF into thinking your ISO is a CD in your CD-ROM. You can use Virtual CloneDrive for that; it's free. However, virtual CD-ROM programs only support common CD image formats such as ISO and BIN. If your game is in an obscure format such as NRG, IMG, UIF, DAA, CDI, XBX, B51, BWI, etc. - a virtual CD-ROM program is not an option.
2. Burn the ISO as a valid Saturn game. Go here for directions.

Booting CD images with Virtual CloneDrive

1. Download and install Virtual CloneDrive.

2. Next we need to configure CloneDrive in SSF. Open SSF. Click on the Option menu then Option; like so.

3. Look in the "CD Drive" box. Click the drop-down and choose ELBY CLONEDRIVE, as shown here.

4. Click OK and close SSF. You'll get a weird "SSF?????" message - ignore it. I'm assuming that message is lost Japanese telling you to restart SSF.

5. Because you installed CloneDrive, a CD icon should now be in the lower right (next to the time). Right-click this icon, click Drive then Mount.

6. The "Virtual CloneDrive Drive" window will pop up. If your Saturn CD image is an ISO then you'll see it here. If it's a BIN then you need to click CloneCD/DVD Images in the lower right, then click Other Images; as shown here. If your Saturn game doesn't show up then its format isn't supported. Anyhow, click on your Saturn game and click Open.

7. Now open SSF and your Saturn game should automatically be booting up.

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Q: I get a black screen when I boot games!

This is tricky. Consider the following:

• First of all, give SSF a minute or two before you decide that nothing is happening; maybe the game takes a while to boot.

• Did you setup the BIOS? You should - most games require it.

• See if the game you're trying to play even works with SSF - check the compatibility list.

• If this is a Saturn ISO that you downloaded, perhaps it's bad. Try this:

• I've been told that sometimes bad ISOs can be repaired. Try using CDmage's "Scan for Corruption" feature, then use "Fix Corruption" if it finds anything.

• Try downloading the game from another place.

• There's a possibility that your game will run with an older version of SSF. Go to my emulators page and download the zip containing all SSF releases. Try running your game with them to see if it works.

• If nothing works, and you've even tried multiple games but all lead to a black screen, then your computer is not compatible with SSF. Sorry. SSF requires the following processors:

SSF requires the processor to have the SSE2 instruction set, so a Pentium 4, Pentium M, Opteron, Athlon 64, Sempron (64bit), Turion 64 or better are necessary to run it.

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Q: I get a “Direct3D9::_initializeDirect3D9” error

Upon booting a game, you might receive this error:

IDirect3DDevice9::CreatePixelShader() error.
File : ./Direct3D9.cpp
Line : 1180
Function : Direct3D9::_initializeDirect3D9

Unlike other SSF errors, this one is actually fixable! You need to make a small edit to “ssf.ini“. So go into SSF's folder and look for ssf.ini. Double-click on it, and it should open up in Notepad. Scroll to the bottom and look for “WindowX” & “WindowY”. As shown here, enter '50' for these attributes. Save and close. Open SSF and the error should be gone.

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Full screen mode

Simply press Alt+Enter to have SSF enter full screen mode. Then press Alt+Enter again to exit full screen mode.

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Screen renders

SSF offers two filters for rendering the screen: Scanline and Bilinear Filtering. To enable them:

1. Go to the Option menu and click Option, like so.

2. Click on the Screen tab, and you'll arrive here.

2. Put a check in either "Scanline" or "Bilinear Filtering", or both! Look below for samples of these filters. Click OK when you're done.

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Highslide JS


Highslide JS


Save States

Save states save the exact spot you are in a game. To save a state, go to the File menu then State Save, as shown here. Then go to State Load to recall it.

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Capturing screen shots

To capture a screen shot, go to the File menu then Snapshot, as shown here. SSF will toss the screen shot into the "Snapshot" folder within SSF's folder.

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Improving performance

It can't be helped that SSF is a buggy emulator. However there are a few things we can do to improve game performance and maybe even prevent/workaround crashes.

1. Click on the Option menu, then click Option.

2. Click on the Screen tab. As shown here remove the check from Auto Field Skip, and add checks to VSynch Wait (Window) and VSynch Wait (Fullscreen).

3. Click on the Program 4 tab. As shown here add a check to Deinterlace (Very Slow).

4. Click on the EZ Setting tab. As shown here I circled two settings:

Full Compatibility - Set this option for the broadest game compatibility possible with SSF.
Highest Compatibility - Some games like "Spiritual Assassin Taromaru" and "Datyona: CE" run best with this setting.

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Q: SSF crashes on start!

This can be tricky because this could be caused by many things.

• In most cases, this happens simply because you don't have the latest version of DirectX installed - so go here to download the latest version.

• See if the game you're trying to play even works with SSF - check the compatibility list.

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Q: SSF crashes mid game and gives CPK error

At certain points in a game, SSF may suddenly crash and give you this error: “CPK error 0x00000301”. Particularly, this happens in Dragon Force 2 when you select a kingdom. Unfortunately there is no fix for this problem. The game you're playing is not compatible with SSF.

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Q: I keep getting disc read errors!

SSF might repeatedly prompt you with disc read errors - even if you're using an ISO with virtual CD-ROM software. There are a few things you can try:

Attempt #1 - Play with the compatibility settings. You find it by going to Option > Option > EZ Setting tab. Maybe try the lowest compatibility setting just to get past the point of the game giving you disc read errors. Then set it back to Full Compatibility until you get disc read errors again. Does this not resolve it? Try the next attempt...

Attempt #2 - Try different versions of SSF. The last time I updated this tutorial, the latest version of SSF was 0.12 beta R4. Avid users of SSF have told me that 0.12 beta R3 is actually more stable than R4. Using R3 seems to be the least prone to give you disc read errors. Does this not resolve it? Try the next attempt...

Attempt #3 - Lastly, I would question your ISO. Maybe it's partially corrupt or in a format that isn't so friendly. So try a different ISO; download the game from somewhere else.

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Q: Audio is out of sync!

In some games you'll encounter out of sync audio, which is very annoying. Games such as Keio 2, Twinkle Star Sprites, and Spiritual Assassin Taromaru are effected by this bug. To resolve this use SSF version 0.11, or older. Go to my emulators page to download older releases of SSF.

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Q: Where can I download Saturn games?

Ah, the golden question. Downloading games is a little tricky since the Saturn isn't exactly a popular system. ROM sites are your only option. It's not a pleasant experience - get ready to get bombarded by pop-ups and confusing download pages.

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Copying Saturn games

It's ridiculously easy to copy Saturn games. The CD copy feature of any burning software can easily create a working copy for Saturn emulators (I recommend ImgBurn; it's free). However remember that copies do not work on the actual Sega Saturn system.

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Burning Saturn games from CD images (ISO)

If your CD image is in ISO or BIN format...
Things are much easier if your Saturn game is in a common format like ISO or BIN. You can burn it with any major burning software. If you're too poor (like me) for the good burning software, there's Imgburn, a 100% free burning program.

Burning with Imgburn...
Click Write image file to disk, then click the magnifying glass to select the cue sheet. Lower write speed to around 4x-12x. Then click the large pretty picture of the CD to burn.

Note: Do not use a DVD-R or DVD-RW CDs for burning Saturn games! You must use a CD-R or CD-RW CDs.

If your CD image is in NRG, IMG, UIF, DAA, CDI, XBX, B51, BWI, or other...
These formats are exclusive to specific burning software. You need to Google around to find what program is associated with that format. Through that program you can burn the game. However, these exclusive burning programs usually require purchase in order to use. If you want my opinion, I say just forget about the obscure format and download the game from somewhere else to get it in ISO or BIN format.

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