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SSF is a closed-source Sega Saturn emulator known for being the most compatible for a long time.
SSF was once renowned as being the best Saturn emulator from its inception in the early 2000s till around mid-2010s when a slate of newer and open-source Saturn emulation software was first launched. These included the Mednafen versions from the late 2010s and onwards with much improved Saturn compatibility, and two WIP derivatives of the old Yabause base called Kronos and Yaba Sanshiro. SSF is superior to Yabause and was initially superior to Mednafen with its early Saturn core versions for compatibility, but SSF is closed-source and was made for Windows only until it was released to Android devices in 28 January 2021. Before the Android release, source code alongside several older builds were uploaded to GitHub in 26 January 2021 and newer builds were uploaded there afterwards, but there were no commits made to the GitHub source code since then. A large number of Saturn games require manual and persnickety editing in the emulator's configuration options to run properly, which makes SSF less easier to use in comparison to other Saturn emulators, and more recently, trojan detections in recent versions caused this emulator to become a risk for some computers. Despite this, SSF remains largely clean and it is recommended for users with older PCs.
The author Shima was, for a time, probably the longest-time active developer on any emulator from the emulator's public launch (Labelled 'SSF 001') in 1999 till 20 years later in late November 2019. It is unknown when the first ever version was released publicly, however, the next version of 'SSF 002' was released on 5th December 1999.
A major update to 0.12 improved compatibility for certain games and broke others. It added support for some of the games such as Astal (needs "Enable SH2 Cache"). Keep both versions, pre- and post-0.12 just in case. To raise compatibility, you can try with "No Bios" enabled or disabled, and you'll want to start with the MaxCompatibility (slow) option, then try with the faster options (that do not always work).
For some time, SSF requires either an external virtual drive or a specific loader to read disc images. Close and restart the emulator (as it says in the Japanese dialogue popup appearing) whenever you modify the options for them to take effect. Since Preview Version R4, SSF no longer requires mounting ISO files in a virtual drive to run them, though it is largely experimental and may cause crashes. Please see below for recommendations.
Even though it has a "No Bios" option, you'll sometimes need the BIOS files, of course specifying the correct region in the options.
Some useful commands:
- F7: Pause and Load State (Press 0-9 to choose)
- Shift + F7: Pause and Save State (Press 0-9 to choose)
- Numeral Pad 1-6: Disable 2D layers. Useful for sprite rips. Keep in mind this often causes 3D games to crash, and they already have lower compatibility than 2D one when it comes to general emulations.
- You can change the speed of emulation under options up to 4x.
Guides and Info
- Shima's FAQ about compatibility issues. Note that this is Japanese-to-English Google Translate, and has a very shoddy syntax as a result.
- An user called 'FreeckyCake' has produced an useful, detailed overview and guide to setting up SSF and uploaded it to a website in early December 2021. It also contains 15 table of content items and small information on decent alternatives such as Mednafen and RetroArch's cores of Beetle Saturn and Kronos, although the user probably didn't try Mednafen with a GUI frontend, which marred his experience somewhat.
- The website FantasyAnime, which is well known for hosting fan-translation patches for many SNES RPGs among others has detailed guides for many advanced emulators of old consoles before 2000 and 2010. They have a much more detailed guide than FreeckyCake's guide above to setting up and running SSF, which was last updated on March 2022.
A rough translation of Shima's FAQ about compatibility issues with various games and fixes for them. The original can be found here.
The configuration closest to accurate hardware emulation would be: Enable "Bus Wait". Set "Bus Wait Clock" to 0. Enable "SH2 DMA Real Transfer". Alternatively, "Setting5" (holding the 5 keyboard button at startup) achieves similar results.
- Character sprites in SNK games don't appear: Change "Cartridge" to "1MBytes RAM Cartridge".
- Flickering in FMVs: Enable "Check Cycle Pattern".
- No sound: Enable "Memory Access Wait".
- Stuttering sound: Enable "Scanline Base Timing".
- Astal, Denpa Shounenteki Game : Enable "SH2 Cache".
- Baroque (FMV issues): Enable "Check Sprite Priority".
- Castlevania Symphony of the Night (fix for data select screen), Macross Do You Remember Love, World Heroes Perfect: Enable "VDP2 RAM Revision Access".
- Chaos Seed: Enable "Check Cycle Pattern". Enable "VDP2 RAM Revision Access".
- Daina ☆ Airan, Deep Fear, Mr. Bones, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter: Enable "Memory Access Wait".
- Dark Savior: Enable "Bus Wait" (fix for logo). Enable "VDP2 RAM Revision Access" (fix for save data screen).
- Daytona USA Circuit Edition: Enable "VDP2 RAM Revision Access".
- Galjan: Enable "SH2 DMA Real Transfer".
- Gokujou Parodius Da! Deluxe Pack (aka Fantastic Journey): Enable "Bus Wait", Set "Bus Wait Clock" to 0.
- Grandia (FMV issues): Set "Dot Clock" on 3.7 or above. Set "SlaveSH2 Speed" to 90%, Set "EZ Setting" to Highest.
- Idol Janshi Suchie-Pai II (fix for cutscenes): Enable "Check Cycle Pattern" and "VDP2 RAM Revision Access".
- Lunar Silver Star Story (FMV issues): Enable "SCU DMA Delay Interrupt".
- Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter (fix for sound noise): Disable "Sound Thread".
- Megaman X3, Pro Mahjong Kiwame S: Set "Dot Clock" to 3.7 or above. Set "1Block Clock" to a value as low as possible.
- Quovadis 2 (fix for FMVs): Set "Dot Clock" to 3.0 or above, and "EZ Setting" to "High".
- Riglord Saga 2: Set "Dot Clock" to 3 or above.
- Ruri Iro no Yuki (fix for company logo among other stuff): Enable "Check Cycle Pattern".
- Sol Divide: Set "Dot Clock" to 3.4 or above.
- Sonic Jam: Set "Dot Clock" to 2.7 or above. Enable "Check Cycle Pattern" (fix for 2P Mode in Sonic 2).
- Taito Chase HQ Plus SCI: Enable "CD Track/Index".
- Toshinden URA (if FMVs skip): Set "1Block Clock" to 50. Disable "Check SlaveSH2 Idle Loop". Enable "Bus Wait". Set "Bus Wait Clock" to 1. Enable "Enable Instruction Cache".
- The Tower: Enable "VDP2 RAM Write Timing".
- Thunder Hawk II, Whizz: Enable "Bus Wait".
- Virtua Fighter 2: Enable "VDP2 RAM Revision Access" (fix for key config screen). Enable "Memory Access Wait".
SSF Drag and Drop Loader
The best option for SSF. Put it in your SSF directory. It works with normal Saturn filenames. Just drag and drop the game file, like Mednafen.
This loader allows you to use disc image without having to mount them at all with the only major caveat being that it requires you to convert your rips to .CHD beforehand using chdman or one of it's forks.
Cheating with CEP
- download CEP and prepare your CODELIST.TXT file. You can find an example with some codes and an handy converter here.
- start SSF.exe and wait for the game to load, then click About->cep, and leave the dialog with the base address opened.
- start cep.exe
- click "Process" tab, and select the correct emulator version and code type (usually "60codes")
- make sure the address in the field in the 2nd line matches the one in SSF (NO NEED TO CLICK "Search"). Usually it won't match and you will have to change a few digits.
- click "Codes" tab, select the current game and the cheat codes you want to enable
- click the "On" button to activate codes
Free Virtual Drive Software
As said above one of the ways to get SSF to use disc images is using a virtual disc drive. Sadly, most of the good free ones don't work with SSF for one reason or another. They either have a bunch of adware or they don't support some formats. The ones that do work (along with some that don't) will be listed below.
As of Preview Version R4, you can mount CD images that use .cue and .bin files by going to Options > Peripherals, then in the CD Image section, select Enable, then select the .cue file of your choosing, and restart the emulator. Mind you that this feature is still experimental, ergo the game will likely crash at certain points, so it's best to use the software below.
.mds/.mdf & .ccd/.img/.sub files are fine, though.
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(You can mostly ignore the program by stopping it from running on startup, or you can install the program while completely offline using an offline installer and the crapware will fail to install itself and won't cause any further issues at any point)
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- 'ZarkonD' (30 November 2019). Thread: 'SSF (Saturn emulator) has been actively developed by the same single author for 20 years now.'. Reddit
- 'FreeckyCake' (3 Dec 2021). SSF Emulator Guide For Beginners (Saturn Emulator). Reddit
- 'FreeckyCake' (3 Dec 2021). How to Play Sega Saturn Games on Your Windows PC. Altar of Gaming
- SSF Tutorial. FantasyAnime (31 March 2022)
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