Over the history of Emulation Zone, weíve teased you with glimpses of one of the few remaining Holy Grails of console emulation, the Sega Saturn. The ill-fated machine played host in its short life to some legendary games which didnít appear on any other format, most famously Treasureís genre-defining shoot-Ďem-up Radiant Silvergun. A variety of emulators have attempted to tackle the complicated architecture of Segaís machine, with varyingly limited success. Until quite recently the best effort was Satourne, a French emulator requiring degrees in both rocket science AND brain surgery to operate, and with results that didnít really justify the trouble.

However, in a development thatís a first as far as Emu Zone can recall, the commercial games industry was a step ahead of the bedroom emulationists. In 2002, Sega of Japan announced a commercial Saturn emulator, running Saturn games via an online rental network, which turned out to be based on some unreleased code by a mystery programmer. The official emu never made it out of Japan, so Western enthusiasts were left out in the cold, until earlier this year a program called Giri Giri appeared.

Rumours, which have never been completely cleared up one way or the other, variously suggest that Giri Giri is either a hacked and translated version of the official emulator, or a leaked version direct from the coder, or something entirely separate that just magically appeared not long after the official prog (for which reason we canít direct you to a homepage, just in case), but the only thing emulation fans cared about was that finally, a working, widely-compatible Saturn emulator for the PC could be downloaded and played.

Even by high-end emu standards, Giri Giri needs a lot of processing power. Youíll need a fast PC *and* a pretty top-end graphics card to get max performance out of it (for reference, Emu Zoneís Athlon 2000XP and cheapo GeForce4 MX440 doesnít have quite the heft to pull off RSG at full speed with sound, though most games are fast enough to be eminently playable, and a truly harrowing sound-card transplant was also required), and depending on your operating system (it doesnít like Win XP very much) you may have to ďripĒ your original Saturn CDs down to ISO files before the emulator will play them. (This, of course, also gives rise to industry worries about illegal distribution of the ISO files, though at 100MB Ė 500MB for one game itís not going to be a mainstream piracy worry for quite some time.)

But anyhoo, Giri Giri is a tremendous piece of coding, and one which clearly demonstrates that perfect Saturn emulation is something that will be with the masses sooner rather than later. For now, especially if you have a ninja machine, enjoy something very close.


A quiet moment in Radiant Silvergun

"There's no need to take it so personally, guys."





Space Instigators (Atari VCS)

One of the worst things about the ever-shortening life cycle of games consoles (the gap between hardware generations now is barely half of what it was 20 years ago) is that coders never get the chance to push machines to their limits. Back in 1980, Atariís VCS conversion of Space Invaders was a triumph that almost single-handedly saved the VCS from a premature grave, but hardcore arcade-goers lamented the lack of anything other than the most passing resemblance to the titanic coin-op whose name it shared. Of course, everyone assumed that that was simply the best the primitive hardware could be expected to do, but some dedicated amateurs recently set out to prove that the VCS was capable of something a lot better, and the result was Space Instigators. Dragging new levels of performance out of the veteran machine, it leaves you to wonder just where we might be now if programmers could be arsed to learn how to code the hardware they have instead of simply getting the player to spend a fortune on expensive new gear every six months. Well, it makes Emu Zone wonder, anyway.



(Above) Not bad for a beginner, but...

(Left) Take a look at what you could have won.


Emulation Zone is brought to you in association with the International World Of Stuart Foundation.