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Saturn Region Free Bios Vs Switchless Mod

Tobyrieper

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I've been doing a lot of research into the various region switching mods and I can't find the definitive answer. What is difference between the switchless region mod and the region free bios? Albeit the start animation. Also I'm not talking about 50/60hz. I have sw4 middle pins permanently connected as I don't want to bother with any other than 60hz.

I rather not mess around with the bios again and thinking of just doing the switchless mod.
 

Nopileus

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The region free BIOS will simply boot games from all regions while the swtichless mod still needs to be manually set to the games region via button combinations.
Installation of the switchless mod is easier but overall a messy affair while the BIOS just replaces the existing chip with two little extra wires.

You can get the region free BIOS with any startup animation you want as well.
 

Tobyrieper

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The region free Bios would be easier if it hadn't had the adhesive but I don't like how messy the switchless mod is. I'll probably pop the bios in then and leave me connected to 60hz. Less hassle.
 

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There's also the option to use an AR to boot any region. That's what I do on my Japanese Saturn and it works perfectly.
 

Tobyrieper

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I do have the AR (think it's a clone) it works really well. I know there's a couple of games out there that need their own rom cart but I don't think I'll ever play those games so it's all good :D if it ain't broke , don't fix it!what I may do though is just change the jumper settings to USA region as apart from a couple of JPN games that's all I play :D not bothered about the Saturn start up logo.
 

Tobyrieper

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(Double post - bad connection, sorry)

Something to add: I have noticed on some games the image shifts to the right and there's some slight overscan, is there anything I can do console side to remedy this?
 

Druid II

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The switchless thing will use a microcontroller to change the region of the motherboard, you control this with the reset switch. This makes the console physically turn into a different region machine as far as software is concerned. The boot animation does not change, but if you have a non-Japanese machine, you'll see the different region codes in the Settings menu of the cd player.

AR will just patch this region code value on the fly, but you have to go through its boot menu when playing. It also blocks the cart slot and it cannot save in-game: you can only save from the AR menu. And the cart has a tendency to corrupt its own firmware - if this happens you can still re-flash it, but you'd lose your saved games in the process. The physical region code of the game stays the same however, so games checking the region after booting will play according to the region of your console.

Region-free bios knocks out the region detection from the boot rom, allowing all games to boot regardless of region. This is by far the comfiest solution as you don't need to mess with multiple resetting or going through an AR on every boot, games will just boot directly. The downside is that installing it is more difficult because you need to remove an SMD chip without damaging the board - on some revisions this chip is on the bottom of the console, and is glued down in a way that a heat gun won't be enough to remove it, so there's a chance you can damage the console if you are not careful.

The region-free bios also does not change the physical region code of the console, so games checking these will act according to the native region of the console. However I only know of two games to do this, one is Soukyugurentai which runs in half-broken English (a code remnant of the ST-V arcade versions localization), and I forgot what the other title was.

The upside to region-free bios is that you can change the boot animation by installing the bios of a different machine. Note that all bios versions are compatible with all Saturn hardware, just don't use the very first version of the Japanese, V-Saturn, or Hi-Saturn bios files, since those got a second revision with some bugfixes (they don't boot if the CD Drive is disconnected, while the later units will boot showing some errors).

I personally use a normal memory cart for in-game saving, plus a region free boot rom. Sometimes I change it out for the 4mb RAM cart, but truth is that most of those games aren't that much worth playing on the Saturn. In the 90s they were the best ports in existence, but by now the Saturn versions aren't that relevant anymore.
 

Druid II

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(Double post - bad connection, sorry)

Something to add: I have noticed on some games the image shifts to the right and there's some slight overscan, is there anything I can do console side to remedy this?

That's just the sync signal being weird cause a 60Hz modded Saturn isn't doing proper NTSC timing. You can either change the main oscillator to permanently convert the unit to NTSC output, or just use an NTSC Saturn in the first place.
But it could be also your TV being not calibrated.
 

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However I only know of two games to do this, one is Soukyugurentai which runs in half-broken English (a code remnant of the ST-V arcade versions localization), and I forgot what the other title was.

believe that the other one is In The Hunt.
 

Tobyrieper

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That's just the sync signal being weird cause a 60Hz modded Saturn isn't doing proper NTSC timing. You can either change the main oscillator to permanently convert the unit to NTSC output, or just use an NTSC Saturn in the first place.
But it could be also your TV being not calibrated.

Thanks bud, it may be worth a mention that everything works fine now. Die Hard Arcade isn't cut off at the bottom anymore. I did go ahead with the region switch less mod. It works flawlessly. It's actually quite an easy mod to perform. I rather not mess with the bios until I get some plastic tool to help lever the chip off the adhesive. The first time I tried a scratched some traces trying to lever the chipw. I didn't pull any pads though. Patience is key :) I may not even bother with the bios as my console already does what it needs too.

Thankfully with the 50/60 one pin on the sw4 is directly connected to pin 79 of the vdp so no broken legs (I hate lifting legs up off large ICs with many pins).

Thanks for your in depth explanation Druid II. That's really helped me choose what's best for my needs. Mod chip and multi region switch less mod. I use the AR for memory but on hearing what you've said about the firmware corrupting... I may sell it. What cArd would you reccomend?
There's so many to choose from!
Cheers! :)
 

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That's just the sync signal being weird cause a 60Hz modded Saturn isn't doing proper NTSC timing. You can either change the main oscillator to permanently convert the unit to NTSC output, or just use an NTSC Saturn in the first place.

There is also the really fancy option of installing a switchable clock generator as i have done, the switch is connected to the oscillator and pin79 so i get a correct 50 and 60hz.
I'd consider this advanced SMD soldering though, not at all a simple job.
 

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I've read this thread and other similar ones, and I still don't get it... :confused:
I own a PAL model 1 sega saturn and I want to:

1)be able play backups from every region (NTSC-U, PAL, NTSC-J) - obviously I need the phantom mod for this...
2)automatically or manually (switchless) change to the correct region frequency accordingly (e.g. PAL -> 50hz, NTSC -> 60hz)
3)install fram (for saves) and not having to set the clock every time at startup
4)keep the european startup sequence

So the question is which is the right mod combo for me?
Phantom + FRAM + Region Free Bios + DFO + battery in place?
Phantom + FRAM + Switchless mod + battery in place?
Phantom + FRAM + Region Free Bios + Switchless mod + battery in place?
Maybe not a battery in place?
etc etc etc...
 

Druid II

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1)be able play backups from every region (NTSC-U, PAL, NTSC-J) - obviously I need the phantom mod for this...
2)automatically or manually (switchless) change to the correct region frequency accordingly (e.g. PAL -> 50hz, NTSC -> 60hz)
3)install fram (for saves) and not having to set the clock every time at startup
4)keep the european startup sequence

1. modchip for backups, plus region free bios for all regions to boot (or, just always patch your backups prior burning and then you don't need the region free bios)

2. cannot be done automatically because it requires reading the actual disc and parsing the data. Only the Rhea/Phoebe can do it, which is a drive replacement. Also you don't WANT to do this automatically because most PAL games are not optimized and run better in 60hz anyway, so you'd need to shift around on a per-game basis.
So you need either the switchless mod, or install a manual switch. I prefer the manual switch, and model 1 PAL units have a pre-made slot for them on the PCB, so you can install it hidden away without needing to drill holes in the case.
Or just get a 2nd Saturn; one for PAL games one for NTSC games.
Also once you have the unit running in 60Hz, there's very little point in running 50Hz games anymore - and scalers work better with NTSC units than PAL ones modded for 60hz (PAL60 units output 59.81Hz instead of 59.97Hz standard, which confuses some devices).

3. You have to put a battery in to prevent setting the clock every time. You can dick around by removing the CR2032 slot and adding a larger battery holder for more heavy duty batteries, like C or D types, but it's not worth it IMO. A stack of 2032s is less hassle and pretty cheap.

4. either do not touch the bios, or if you install a region free bios, make sure it is the PAL one that is patched out.
 

provato

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Thank you Druid for your answer, let me explain a little further how I have my system setup to understand what I'm aiming for.
I use a RGB cable from retrogamingcables.co.uk (RGC) connected to a big PAL CRT TV that can do all resolutions (Sony Trinitron KV-29FX30E).
(I like CRTs for lightgun compatibility and scanlines originality)
I'd like to play PAL backup CD-Rs in PAL50, because that's what I'm used to here in PALland. BUT! I still want to be able to play those same PAL games in 60 hz for comparison. Of course I'd like to play NTSC (J and US) CD-R backups on their native resolutions.
I will do the fram upgrade with the ramtron chip because it's easy for me with my hot air rework station, but I will keep the battery also for timekeeping. What I don't know is whether I just directly swap sram with fram, or are any extra wire connections needed to the main board?
As for save games, I will wait for the satiator to come out and transfer them for the memory cartridges and internal memory to my pc for archiving.

From what I understand from my studying so far, I don't even need the region free bios, I only need the switchless mod + phantom and change to the correct region (red, orange or green led) before putting the CD-R in. And I can also change region on the fly after the game is loaded. Right?

PS: last but not least, I've read that the crystal in the PAL saturn is a little different from the crystal in the NTSC one. Will that be an issue when playing NTSC games on a PAL saturn?
 

Trimesh

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Everything is pin for pin except pin 22 - that's a secondary (active high) chip select on the uDP43257 that Sega used and an (active low) output enable signal on the FRAM. Since CE/ controls the outputs too, you can just lift pin 22 and wire the pin to ground.

You can't change the region on the fly without a reset because the jumpers are only read on reset - you can switch video mode without a reset (so make sure that the switchless mod you are using allows you to change video mode without changing region). I personally found that a combination of the region-free boot ROM and a soft 50/60Hz switch worked better for me.
 

provato

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Everything is pin for pin except pin 22 - that's a secondary (active high) chip select on the uDP43257 that Sega used and an (active low) output enable signal on the FRAM. Since CE/ controls the outputs too, you can just lift pin 22 and wire the pin to ground.

You can't change the region on the fly without a reset because the jumpers are only read on reset - you can switch video mode without a reset (so make sure that the switchless mod you are using allows you to change video mode without changing region). I personally found that a combination of the region-free boot ROM and a soft 50/60Hz switch worked better for me.

crystal clear as always mr. Trimesh :) I'll ground pin 22 of the fram to the nearest ground point
However there are three questions still remaining about region & frequency:
1)Let's say I have my switchless mod set to PAL 50, put in a PAL game and then while playing the game I long press the reset button and change to NTSC-US. Will the game crash? Or will it just change to 60 Hz and play normally?
2)Let's say I change my switchless mod to NTSC-US and then reset the console to keep this setting active. Will a NTSC-US game boot normally (without needing a region-free bios)?
3)Will NTSC-US and NTSC-J games run properly on a PAL console in general, or is the PAL saturn crystal not producing the correct frequency and these games play a bit more slowly?

Edit:
I think I found the answers to 1) and 2) in https://knzl.at/saturnmod/ , which is written by Seb, the original author of the switchless mod.
1)long pressing less than 1,25 sec on the fly will only change the frequency (50/60 Hz) and not the region
2)Yes Ntsc-us and ntsc-j discs will work fine with the switchless mod only - no need for region free bios!

So my preferred mod combo will be phantom + FRAM + switchless mod + battery in place.

But question 3) is still unanswered... do I also need a dfo mod, and how do I combine it with the switchless mod?
 
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Druid II

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All NTSC games will run fine on a PAL Saturn modded to 60hz output on the vdp2. The only problem you'll have is that some scalers and other digital input devices may not like the signal, since it now does 59.81Hz instead of ntsc standard 59.97Hz. But no games will be affected, other than those optimized to only run in either 50Hz or 60Hz.

The switchless mod was not working to a lot of people and it's a bit of a pain to install. Since you have a PAL model 1 and you have a heat gun, I'd recommend the region free bios, and for 50/60Hz switching you can install a OS102011MS2QN1 or OS102011MA1QN1 in the slot marked SW4 next to the battery. Cut off one of the ground contacts on the switch and it's a perfect fit, and it's short enough to go under the MPEG slot too. It's the simplest mod, since the board was designed for it!
 

provato

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All NTSC games will run fine on a PAL Saturn modded to 60hz output on the vdp2. The only problem you'll have is that some scalers and other digital input devices may not like the signal, since it now does 59.81Hz instead of ntsc standard 59.97Hz. But no games will be affected, other than those optimized to only run in either 50Hz or 60Hz.

The switchless mod was not working to a lot of people and it's a bit of a pain to install. Since you have a PAL model 1 and you have a heat gun, I'd recommend the region free bios, and for 50/60Hz switching you can install a OS102011MS2QN1 or OS102011MA1QN1 in the slot marked SW4 next to the battery. Cut off one of the ground contacts on the switch and it's a perfect fit, and it's short enough to go under the MPEG slot too. It's the simplest mod, since the board was designed for it!

Thanks for your recommendations, but I like a good challenge when it comes to modding.
I already found a way to install dfo + switchless mod to my system for perfect syncing on all regions - all selectable from the reset button.
I'll upload my log of adding these mods in a single post when I finish.
 

Trimesh

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One thing you should be aware of is that depending on which exact Saturn model you have the DFO mod may not work reliably. The basic issue is that the system already uses a PLL clock synthesizer and switching the reference clock causes it to unlock, which disables the outputs.

What happens next depends on how long it takes to relock and reenable the clocks. If it's fast, then everything carries on as normal - if it's slow, then the SDRAM can lose data because it hasn't been refreshed and the system then crashes some time later.

This is variable based on both the model and the specific parts being used in it.
 
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