Console Hackers Commander Very Fast Sega Saturn Switch Game Emulator
Last week, publisher City Connection released new versions arcade / Sega Saturn shmups Cotton 2, Cotton boomerang, and Guardian force for PS4 and Switch. It wasn’t long before Switch DIY enthusiasts to GBAtemp realized that they could inject other Saturn games into the City Connection emulator, which turned out to be very good.
A small background. City Connection gave each game a separate $ 24 (AUD) version, but also bundled them into a $ 61 (AUD) package called Cotton Guardian Force Saturn Hommage. The company calls its emulation technology ZebraEngine. While every game looks great in action, they would have a very serious problem with input lageven on PS4. The publisher is aware of the problem and promises updates to fix it hopefully.
In the meantime, Switch enthusiasts have figured out how to mine the emulator that runs all three games from the late ’90s. Based on various clues, ZebraEngine is almost certainly a variant of SSF, a closed-source Saturn emulator that began development over 20 years ago. SSF has fairly good compatibility and performance, characteristics which have been confirmed by the members of GBAtemp putting ZebraEngine to the test.
So far, they have figured out how to inject arbitrary images from Sega Saturn ROM into the emulator, with results ranging from good to great. Some games don’t work, others suffer from noticeable input lag similar to the official City Connection Cotton and Guardian force emulations. But a surprising number works fantastically with zero issues and better performance than all previous Switch-based Saturn emulators, such as Yaba Sanshiro and RetroArch Yabause core, have managed to pull together.
GBAtemp enthusiasts have been busy putting the new emulator to the test and so far report that the best games, including Nights in dreams, Radiant Silver Pistol, Panzer Dragon / Zwei, Guardian hero, Burning prowlers, Savior of Darkness, Mechanical knight, Astal, dragon strength, and Elevator action feedback work perfectly or almost perfectly. The emulator also supports 4MB RAM expansion sets, because Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows on Mystara and Revenge of the Final Fight work well.
Read more: Collecting Sega Saturn games is a total nightmare
The community is now trying to figure out how to fully extract the ZebraEngine emulator from the Cotton / Guardian force assets that surround it, with the aim of being able to spawn and launch standalone Sega Saturn games from the Switch main menu, like all other official versions. Similar game loaders are a common occurrence on hacked systems like 3DS and PS Vita, making it easy to jump to emulated favorites with minimal hassle.
The catch is, playing with the newly discovered emulator requires either a launch switch capable of running custom firmware, or a hardware-modified switch that can do the same, both of which are a bit hard to find. Even so, it’s super cool to see Sega Saturn, an underrated and hard to emulate system, unexpectedly perform so well on Nintendo’s relatively underpowered laptop. To wonder what other exploits could be possible.