Category Archives: Sega

Sega is a multinational arcade and video game developer, producer, and hardware manufacturer headquartered in Japan.

Return of the TV Tuners

One of my original objectives in creating this site was to discover and share dead features of old consoles which can, at least partially, be brought back to life. For example, the Sega Saturn NetLink can still be played long-distance over analog telephone lines and many online games for the Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2 can still be played on either their original servers or private servers. Onto the point of this article: many handheld devices of the past, like the Game Gear and the Turbo Express, had a TV Tuner add-on which they would use to display analog broadcasts from the major television networks. Unfortunately, after the United State’s switch from analog to digital television transmission, it would seem that these old TV Tuner add-ons would become useless.  Not so!  Of course its still not possible to pick up a usable signal everywhere you go, but with a few (relatively) cheap purchases, its easy to broadcast your own analog signal to pick up on any TV Tuner around the house.

Blonder Tongue Analog BroadcastMost of the specifics for this guide are from Phil’s Old Radios, “Creating a Home TV Transmitter“. Links to other useful guides on analog broadcasting can be found at the end of this article. The first and most important thing you’ll need is called an “agile modulator”: “modulator” because it “modulates” the audio/video signal it receives in order to transmit it, and “agile” because it can transmit on different channels. There are many different brands, but they should all work similarly, and the recent switch to digital broadcasting means that these analog units can usually be found for relatively cheap, $50 or less, on eBay. Like the guide on Phil’s Old Radios, I’ll be using a Blonder Tongue AM60 unit (pictured above), but the process should be similar for other units. You will also need a TV antennae, so if you don’t still have one laying around, you can pick up a cheap one like this. Most TV antennae sold now are marketed for the new digital “HDTV” broadcasts, but ones resembling the old “rabbit ear” antennae as pictured below should still work to transmit analog signals. You will also need a special adapter: male coaxial (or “F”) to female RCA (or “phono”), as explained below.

analog3 TV antennae

Blonder Tongue backAs can be seen in the picture to the left, hooking up a source to the agile modulator is reasonably simple. Anything that can output with composite connectors, like VHS and DVD players or even video game consoles, can be used as a source. Because the agile modulator has separate “Video In” and “Audio In” jacks, an RF connector as found on many VHS players and early video game consoles cannot be used if you want to transmit sound as well. Theoretically, an S-Video connector could probably be used, but you would have to find an “F connector” to S-Video adapter. The source must be connected as shown below, with the previously mentioned adapter used to connect the yellow video composite cable to the coaxial-type “Video In” port. The “IF In” port must also be connected to the “IF Out” port as shown. (IF stands for intermediate frequency). My model came with the small coaxial cable shown, but any standard coaxial cable should do. Finally, the antennae is connected to the “RF Out” port.
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The Sega Pluto: It’s Not a Planet Either…

The Sega Pluto

Sega released their 32-bit console, the Sega Saturn, on the heels of the popular Genesis (Mega Drive) and its host of add-ons, so its not surprising that a prototype combining the Genesis with its expensive add-on, the 32x, and originally set to release around the same time was codenamed the Sega Neptune. The Neptune was never released and though it may have been a cool concept, it was probably a good business decision in the end – Sega had already wasted enough resources on Genesis add-ons and didn’t need to cannibalize sales of the newly released Saturn. Of course, you can stuff a 32x into a Genesis model 2 yourself to create your own Neptune, but somehow its not quite the same.

The Sega Neptune

Sega Neptune prototype, a Genesis with built in 32x.

Sega NetLink

The NetLink allowed for long-distance multiplayer.

This brings us to the only real hardware add-on for the Saturn in North America, the NetLink, which allowed for direct peer-to-peer linking over telephone lines for long-distance multiplayer. Because it didn’t require connection to a central server (like the now-defunct Xband) the NetLink can still be used for long-distance multiplayer to this day, provided that analog phone lines are used rather than digital phone lines. If you really want, you can even invest in a telephone line simulator to connect two NetLinks together for local multiplayer. That’s right, the DirectLink isn’t the only local System Link for the Saturn! For more information on the NetLink in general, I’d recommend checking out the NetLink League Forums.

Sega PlutoKnowing Sega’s penchant for add-ons and console redesigns in the past, one may speculate that Sega may at one time have considered something similar to the Neptune that integrated a NetLink unit directly into a Saturn console, perhaps even codenamed the Sega Pluto…? (Side Note: It’s no wonder they switched tactics with the Dreamcast name, they ran out of planets, even for 1996 standards!) Well in April, it was confirmed by a post on the Assemblr forums from former Sega employee “Super Magnetic” that this was indeed the case. Though he didn’t start working for Sega until after the project had been discontinued and so didn’t work on the Pluto project himself, he did manage to get his hands on an actual, working prototype unit which he claims to be the second of only two units ever produced. Super Magnetic was kind enough to post-up several pictures of what he dubbed “console” porn which I will share as well. I highly recommend checking out his topic on Assemblr – he shares a bit of what it was like working for Sega and goes into much more detail about the unit itself.

Sega Pluto (bottom) Sega Pluto (back) Sega Pluto (side)
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F-Zero AX reborn on the Gamecube!

F-Zero GX, one of the GameCube’s finest futuristic racers, was born as the first collaboration between Nintendo and Sega after the latter’s ill-fated departure from the console manufacturing business.  It thus made sense that the game’s developer, Sega’s internal studio Amusement Vision, would be tasked with a simultaneous build of F-Zero for the Triforce arcade board, co-developed by Nintendo and Sega (and Capcom, thus “tri”) and based primarily on Gamecube architecture.  Unsurprisingly, this arcade version would be called F-Zero AX. Cross-play elements were implemented between the games with use of a Gamecube memory card so that custom vehicles from GX can be played in AX and several tracks, vehicles, and custom machine parts from the arcade can be unlocked in GX.  Granted, all of these arcade unlockables CAN be unlocked without tracking down an AX arcade machine, but it essentially takes 100% completion of the game, which can certainly be a daunting task for what is regarded as one of the Gamecube’s most challenging games.

Fast forward nearly ten years to November 2012 when Ralf, a prolific Action Replay coder of the GSCentral forums, had been fiddling around some with the source code and unused files included in F-Zero GX and discovered that nearly all of F-Zero AX had been included on the GX regular retail release disc.  Since that time, he’s updated the code to allow for Pilot Points, to load Garage Data from F-Zero GX, and partial MAG card emulation.  The latest version of Ralf’s code will be placed after the jump.

To use the code, you need to have an Action Replay disc for the Gamecube which, unfortunately, doesn’t come cheap.  To make things even more complicated, there were two separate variations of Action Replay developed for the Gamecube:  an earlier release which allows you to input your own custom codes in addition to the codes provided by Action Replay, and a later release which (supposedly) works with the Wii but does NOT allow you to import your own custom codes and so can NOT be used to play F-Zero AX.  These newer Action Replay discs are all marked as v1.20 or higher and are visually different from the earlier Gamecube only version, as shown below.

Old Action Replay New Action Replay

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Saturn, Dreamcast, and GameCube Galore!

I apologize for the lack of posts recently (although I doubt anyone has actually been following this recently so I feel as though I’m apologizing to an empty room). I’ve been slowly adding some information here and there as I’ve been finding it, and I believe the Dreamcast Vs. Link section is completely up-to-date (thanks to Online Consoles). I need to find a decent way of citing to provide a little more believability to the info – I almost wish Blogger had a more Wiki based system. I’ve already somewhat replicated the Wiki look in the system pages as they are, after all.

Update: With the new site, I’ve implemented an actual Wiki for storing and organizing information regarding system linking (and more!) of consoles, as well as a more “wiki” feel to posts and the forums as well.

Laksters Multiplayer SetupAnyways, so as to provide something new, I thought I’d post a picture of my current (current as in, a month-and-a-half ago) multiplayer gaming set-up. As you could probably guess from the title of this website, my main focus, at least for now, is on the system linking capabilities of older systems, so obviously that means I need to have two of each!

For the Saturn, I’ve got two Netlink modems, and although I don’t have an analog telephone line to be able to call out and play other people, I DO have a telephone line simulator which means that the Netlink can effectively act as a System Link! Unfortunately, the only Netlink game I have two copies of is Duke Nukem 3D at the moment, but it’s still a blast to play! I also have a DirectLink (the actual System Link for the Saturn) but the only title I’ve been able to play with it so far is the Japanese version of Daytona USA. I’m definitely hoping to pick up a few more titles to try with it in the future.  Also worth noting, I managed to pick up two Japanese Saturn Modems a few months ago. For the time being though, they’re as useless as an XBAND modem…

For the Dreamcast I’ve so far only had time to play a few rounds of Quake III Arena online. I actually haven’t been able to get both online at once though because one of my two telephone line simulators keeps acting up, but hopefully someday I’ll get them both working properly… I’m also VERY excited to say that I just recently acquired an OFFICIAL Sega Dreamcast Vs. Link cable! It was rather expensive but completely worth it in my opinion, even if it can only work with five games or so. I won’t be able to try out any games with it until August, though.

And finally, the GameCube! These were my first forray into LAN/Online Play (I got the BBAs when they were still being produced) and though there’s a very limited game library for both, I still really enjoy it. I’ve been able to connect all three LAN games: 1080 Avalanche, Kirby’s Air Ride, and Mario Kart: Double Dash, at least once. And I’ve also played a few games of Phantasy Star Online (I have both the regular and Plus versions) on the SCHTHACK private servers, even connecting both Cubes at once for a sort of long-distance LAN. If you notice the Orange controller in the picture, it came bundled with a Spice Orange Japanese console which I got primarily to play the Japan-only online RPG Homeland (although since I’ve only played it briefly once, I haven’t progressed through the game enough yet to connect it to the internet). The only game I don’t have yet is Phantasy Star: Episode III, which I’ll definitely pick up sometime in the future.