Introducing… SEGA Saturn. Via Nintendo.
Yep, them there are words that’d probably have gotten you drawn and quartered in the bloodstained playgrounds of the ’90s Console War, but hey, I’m just doing a story here. Spare me. Sacrilegious though it may sound, tinkerers of the Big N’s newest console have found a way to get classic Saturn games running on it at remarkable speed – and their solution is actually far less complex than you might imagine.
Recently, publisher City Connection re-released a handful of Saturn shoot-em-ups for the Switch, including the Cotton games and Guardian Force, which naturally run on a proprietary in-software emulator. Sensing that an opportunity had been handed to them on a particularly well-polished silver platter, hackers on popular site GBATemp got to work on mucking about with said emulator to see what could be done. And, as Kotaku reports, the results are rather impressive.
City Connection’s Saturn releases
“City Connection gave each game a separate $18 release, but also collected them together in one $45 package called Cotton Guardian Force Saturn Tribute,” they explain. “The company calls its emulation technology ZebraEngine.” It’s this engine specifically which has turned out to be exploitable. “Based on various clues, ZebraEngine is almost certainly a variant of SSF, a closed-source Saturn emulator that started development over 20 years ago. SSF has pretty good compatibility and performance, traits which have been borne out by GBAtemp members putting ZebraEngine through its paces.”
And just how does this tie back to the Switch? “So far they’ve figured out how to inject arbitrary Sega Saturn ROM images into the emulator, with results that are good to great.” Fantastic! So we can play all our Saturn favourites on the go? Well, as ever, there’s a catch. As all of this requires messing with the Switch firmware itself – something Nintendo is staunchly against – which in turn requires a console running non-current patches, you need a Switch from its launch era. And which has never been connected to the internet. At all. Right. So, in other words, you might be better off just buying an actual Saturn, eh?
Even so, this is still a cool discovery, and a testament to the enterprising spirit of folks online. Just imagine playing NiGHTS on the toilet (not to be confused with Balan Wonderworld, which is like playing NiGHTS in a toilet).
Are you interested by this outcome? Let us know!