Sega's 32-bit Saturn console wasn't the success story the company had hoped for, and its failure against the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64 is considered by critics to be one of the many reasons the Japanese company walked away from producing domestic hardware.
However, the machine is home to some of the best titles of the period, and was blessed with amazing 2D games - many of which were exclusive to Japan, where the console performed better commercially than it did in the west. The issue for collectors and fans is that the Saturn hardware is getting a bit long in the tooth these days, and like all CD-based systems, is more prone to failure than older, cartridge-based machines. That means as time goes by we're going to see more and more faulty - and therefore useless - Saturns on the market.
Thankfully hacker James Laird Wah - also known as Dr Abrasive - has been working on a way of loading games onto a Saturn console via USB since 2013, and it appears he has finally cracked it.
Wah's journey began when he decided to investigate the console's multi-channel sound chip. To use the chip, he wanted to write software for the Saturn. Homebrew on the Saturn requires a mod chip - which isn't produced these days - and self-created CDs. Convinced he could do better, Wah spent the next few years reverse-engineering the console with the aim of loading code via a USB connection. This process is already available as a mod for other CD-based consoles, such as the 3DO.
The biggest stumbling block was the Saturn's hardware-based DRM, which required discs to have a mark (called a "wobble") that was physically etched into the CD itself. Wah has had to emulate the disc drive over USB in order to overcome this.
You can view the entire process here, but the magic moment comes at the 17 minute mark:
Wah states that he's still working on the hack and it's not ready for distribution just yet. However, he's moving towards that goal and that could mean an explosion of interest in what many regard as Sega's most underrated home system. It also means that games like Panzer Dragoon Saga - which creator Yukio Futatsugi claims Sega no longer has the source code for - will be playable for generations to come.