We all live with the knowledge that everything put together eventually falls apart, but in the case of consoles based around optical media, the issue is pretty grave. Optical drives are prone to all kinds of problems – especially when they're over 20 years old – and as a result, many of the CD-based systems out there will develop difficulties which can lead to them becoming totally useless.
That's where the guys over at Terraonion come in. The company has already solved this issue on the PC Engine and Mega Drive / Genesis, but its next project is on a whole new level – it's an optical disc emulator which effectively replaces the disc drive inside your Sega Saturn or Dreamcast, giving your machine a whole new lease of life.
The Terraonion MODE (Multi Optical Disc Emulator) works on both consoles and is compatible with hard drives, thumb drives and MicroSD cards. It boasts auto region-patching so you can play games from any region no matter what console you have, and it auto-detects which system it has been installed into. No soldering is needed, but you will naturally have to be confident enough to remove your console's optical drive and attach the MODE to the mainboard.
Thanks to the use of an FPGA chip, Terraonion is promising 100% compatibility with all Saturn and Dreamcast software and is also claiming that seek times will be reduced to zero as there's no disc loading required.
Of course, such a device requires you to use disc images, which you can either create yourself from your own game collection or obtain online if you're feeling brave. If you're a serious collector and worry about damaging your expensive games by playing them, this could be the dream ticket.
The Terraonion MODE costs €182.00 / £160 / $197 and is expected to ship in late-June or early-July. Could we see a similar device created for the GameCube? Time will tell.