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Eclipse / Saturn 2/ 64-bit/ Sega's Forgotten Adventure:

This text is the fruit of internet and magazine collections but also of a more personal reflection. I would like to point out that almost all the consoles mentioned are in my possession. I have always had a special attraction for this video game period which marks for me a video game crisis much less cited than that of the 80s. My article is therefore open to debate, it is even its primary interest when it allows to advance a dialogue that will shed light on the obscurantism of the events of Sega and not only of the 90s.

This article from  " Romain Villez " is based on rumours, it should not be taken at face value.

Upstream :

Little information circulates on this project, however it has always been the fruit of long reflections. The legend says that it is the presentation of the Playstation which will upset the strategy of Sega , it is true for the Saturn but not only! Indeed, for the company, 3D will not really be  performing (making 2D obsolete) only from about 1996 and therefore the performances will have to arrive at this time. This technology will therefore have to accompany 2D , 2D1/2 and FMV ( Full Motion Video ) and other cinematics ( Silicon Graphics stations) before really establishing itself. The arcade remains the showcase of 3D and it is the Model2 and its sequel which is a priority at the 3D level at Sega Japan .

The Sega Saturn

Sega Saturn.png
Sega 32 X.png

We must therefore go back to fully understand this situation, which we must admit is very complex! Sega communicates in this sense:

“Initiative is the key word! Continue to make the Megadrive last with its extensions ( Mega-CD and 32X capable of preparing the ground for its descendant, the Saturn ! An all-in-one, high-end equivalent, offering increased performance. The 32X is seen as a means of training to develop Saturn games at a low cost without forgetting to retain developers in this environment. The two machines are complementary."

More precisely, the 32X is the answer of the American branch which is not convinced by the Saturn and which is banking on 3D. The 32X is therefore a 3D Megadrive booster while waiting for a powerful console dedicated to this technology. Sega had refused to work with Sillicon Graphics for a new console that Sega US will pass on to Nintendo for its 64 . The company of the blue hedgehog had tried, in vain, to work on a common machine with Sony which will finally leave, on its side, the Playstation .

Possible logo (Sega/Sony alliance)

Playstation Sega Logo.png

Sega of America is jaded but has a huge advantage! They are aware of the strategies being prepared by the competition. Even Atari (which has a very loyal following in the United States )  is no longer a problem. Sega will inject $90 million into the company for the purchase of licenses. The  firm on the verge of bankruptcy is living in a drip thanks to the help of Sega . Extensions and consoles Jaguar–CD , Jag-Duo , VR-Jaguar , Modem , or Jaguar 2  are already condemned, Atari will close its doors in the first quarter of 1996. Thus Sega US imagines the upcoming transfer of titles in preparation on Jaguar (which is based on a 68000 with relatively simple textures for 3D, 2D capabilities and convincing video compression) on its 32X ( Neptune and why not coupled with the Mega-CD ) but also on Saturn like the games “ Black Ice The White Noise ”, “ Legion of the Undead ” and “ Dactyl Joust ”. 3DO , for its part, is unable to penetrate the market due to the excessive price of its machine and a complicated distribution, its mode of  marketing is the reason. Sega has a great relationship with Electronics Arts (of which 3DO founder Trip Hawkins is former CEO ) and doesn't really see this new console as long-term competition. It is even possible to consider future arrangements. On the other hand, Nintendo had really had great fears at that time. 

Sony Imagesoft a great ally of Sega-CD (Mega-CD US)

Sony ImageSoft logo.png

Sega 32X, the Mars project

The 3DO lost the war in 1995

Panasonic 3DO.png

The Mega-CD stopped mid-career in Europe. It is said that this project was named moon because of its bios which represented the moon

Sega Mega CD.png

​The Jaguar and its expansion CD

Atari Jaguar.png

Black Ice THe White Noise (Jaguar cd), a canceled major title. Spiritual ancestor of GTA III

Black Ice THe White Noise (Atari Jaguar cd).png

The Saturn is considered too weak!  The Americans do not perceive it with a good eye (bad memory of the Mega-CD ). They therefore opt to increase the lifespan of the Megadrive (which still sells very well in the West ) and to breathe new life into the losing Mega-CD .  before counter-attacking with a real new 3D machine from 1996. The point of view is therefore not to receive the Saturn too quickly but to wait for the arrival of qualitative and quantitative games for the launch, something to hold on to in the meantime the new machine in order to always be ahead. The Saturn is therefore considered a palliative while waiting for something better. For the Western world of Sega , it  is therefore an all in one ( Megadrive , Mega-Cd , 32X ) 2.0 with multimedia options. There is still a niche for the Saturn . Nintendo is reaching the limits of its 3D chipsets for its Super Nintendo ( SuperFX 1 & 2 ) in this year 1995 and the company is falling behind on its Ultra 64 ( Nintendo 64 ) project. Big N suffered a bitter failure with its Virtual Boy , so the marketing of the Saturn is possible to compete with the Playstation for lack of anything better, but its room for maneuver remains limited in the West .

As early as 1995 (thus before the American release of the Saturn ), Sega of America worked on a 64-bit cartridge console in order to cope with the arrival of the Nintendo 64 with a new partner, a fledgling company preparing to arrive in the world of PC graphics cards: " NVIDIA ". Sega will put around $7 million in investment capital. This project is based on the experience acquired by the company and on the impressive prospects of its new partner. Sega Japan will impose a quick refusal on this 64-bit project, the Saturn is coming  earlier than expected and it is the latter which is the only priority. Still, the idea of a 64-bit extension is far from shelved, quite the contrary.

The Nintendo 64, a mixed success that owes its survival to the Pokemon craze

Nintendo 64.png

 "You have to imagine SEGA well established on the market  having a certain lead against Nintendo and its future 64 while continuing to compete with the Super Nintendo and its improved cartridges. So imagine, in 1996, Nintendo arriving with its Nintendo 64 and Sega offering its Neptune at $150  (combined Megadrive 32X ) compatible Mega-CD at end of life (approximately $80), compatibility  Master System ( Master-Converter 2 designed by Sega Europe ),  a versatile package for the aftermarket. Don't forget a Saturn with new skin for $200 then just before the release of the competition, line up a 64-bit extension at less than $100 which exceeds the performance of the enemy brother! In short, on paper, the Sega galaxy is firing on all sides.

Sega Neptune

Sega Neptune prototype.png

MasterConverter 2

Sega Master Converter 2.png

In Japan , the Saturn matured in a very Japanese spirit . The Mega-CD did its job (competing with Nec and taking Nintendo by surprise) and enabled Sega to develop a distribution network on this new medium, a strategic alliance between manufacturers and distributors linked to the acquisition of licenses for the new format CDs (multiple licenses). The Gigadrive project has evolved well and the 2D power inside is breathtaking. The Model1 caused a sensation, Sega was named the undisputed leader in 3D, if not the inventor! Gigadrive becomes Jupiter (1992-93), the project is surely the alliance of Gigadrive added  to the performance of the Model1 in cartridge format with an SH1 processor, close to Motorola 's 68,000. A rise in power at the 3D level from Sega Japan is planned but it will remain light.

Little remains of this Jupiter project apart from the cartridge arcade system taken from the Saturn , the STV for " Sega Titan Video System " ( Titan being a moon of Saturn ).  On the other hand, the appearance of the CD-Rom support becomes obvious time for the capacities of storage and the audio that for the multimedia possibilities (numerous on Saturn with the Video-CD , the Karaoke and the Photo-CD ). The Saturn is launched and Jupiter abandoned! The design of the machine, well thought out upstream, makes it possible to absorb the additional cost of the CD medium. 

Early Saturn prototype

Early Sega Saturn Prototype.png

A remnant of the Jupiter project (STV System Cartridge)

Sega System STV.png

Sega Saturn Model 2 (Sega Japan)

Sega Saturn Model 2.png

The Teradrive (combined PC/Megadrive) would be at the origin of the Sega solar system in relation to the success of the company at the world level (1991). The year when the idea of a 32-bit console from the 32 arcade system began

Sega Teradrive.png

The Sega System 32

Sega System 32.png

The Marty 2 will be swept away by the arrival of new 32-bit consoles. Fujitsu withdraws from the market

Console Martyr 2 prototype.png

Contexte : 

A perfect 2D mastery (left) for a too tight 3D (right) on the Sega Saturn in its original project

In Game 2D.png
In Game 3D.png

In the arcade everything is fine. Sega switched to Model2 in 1993 and its  news  skills will serve the nascent Saturn . A bone was given to Sega of America with the Mars project ( 32X ). The Japanese vision is comforted by the action of the competitors. Nec turns to 2D and FMV preferring to abandon 3D for the moment, yet the firm had a big lead with its PowerVR1 . The same goes for Bandai , which even makes a dedicated console.  at the FMV, “ La Playdia ”, and is reluctant to use a 3D accelerator card in its new console, the “ Pipp!n ,” (under Apple license). In short, everything is fine for the best of worlds, except  … THAT !

Sony presents the demonstration of the T-Rex and specifies the arrival of the Playstation . The Saturn is literally out of the game in 3D! Sega Japan is going to double the 3D performances physically in a hurry, the cost and the complexity as a bonus calling into question all the future strategy and especially the innovative ideas of Sega of America .

« Should Sega have delayed the Saturn and speeded up their support for the 32X projects and  Neptune while waiting for a redesign of the said Saturn on the Western market, I still ask myself the question but one thing is certain, Sega of Japan would never have accepted this affront! » 

The Saturn is marketed in Japan and is successful, it is ahead of the Playstation for 6 months while Nec with its PC-FX suffers a bitter failure. Then the machine is hastily launched in the US to allow Sega to get ahead of Sony , against the advice of interested Americans . Poorly prepared, insufficient games, average quality linked to Sony 's very aggressive pricing policy, these problems weaken the console in the West from the outset. The European release, several months ahead of the Playstation , is a failure, the results are not good!


Console Nec PC-FX.png

Now back to Japan . While the Model2 reached its limits but still caused a sensation, Sega is preparing a new arcade system, the revolutionary Model3 . Sega is still confident, Bandai  has just been swept away since the Playdia is not selling and the Pipp!n is a disaster. Bandai calls to the rescue Sega , a vein attempt to refourguer its multimedia console offering however interesting elements (integrated modem, upgradable memory and processor allowing graphics acceleration).

​a Playdia, Bandai's other FMV drama

Bandai Playdia console.png

​The Pipp!n a failure of Bandai and Apple and attempted rapprochement with Sega in 1996

Bandai Pippin console.png

​The Playstation a success for Sony, a disaster for the  other console manufacturers

Playstation 1.png

The beginning of the new generation:

In Japan , it starts as usual with the arcade with the Americans of Lockheed Matin ( Real3D ) specialized in military and space simulation. They worked on the Model1 and 2 .  But this project has nothing to do. It will be so innovative that this terminal will remain unbeatable in 3D until 1998 (surpassed by Sega 's Naomi and Dreamcast systems, to say the firm's supremacy at that time). This card will remain the absolute reference!

iI740 too late (1998) for Sega and not efficient enough

iI740 Sega Card.png

There I see you coming, a console based on this technology would have literally destroyed the competition… yes, but no!

It should be known that the project will give birth with difficulty with a few months of delay. It was never intended for a console because of  its complexity and cost. The Model3 uses a Real3D/1000 card, its little sister (the Real3D/100 ) being reserved for professional use in 3D design, among others the famous Silicon Graphics workstations (1995-1996). It was not until 1998 that " Intel " released a consumer card based on this technology for the PC ( Intel i740 ), a cannibalized late version of the original card. She will be a failure. This proves that it was impossible for Sega to properly upgrade its Saturn with this technology, which nevertheless will serve as a reference both in terms of power and mastery of 3D environments.

But what does the revolutionary Model3 offer ?

Ah, so good:

  • A graphics card that works in dual (in pairs) and scalable with the abandonment of the architectural evolution of the Model 1 & 2 (use of triangles instead of quadratic textures and we will talk about it!)

  • Using an all-in-one system built into a graphics and texture board. A geometry engine was planned but canceled, in fact it was the central processor that performed this task (in detail below).

  • A powerful PowerPC 603 processor (low consumption, versatile which allows 3D acceleration) which will evolve on more efficient versions thereafter (66 to 166Mhz).

  • Use of an architecture based on components well mastered by the firm ( Zilog , 68000 , Yamaha sound card )

The Real3D/1000, the geometry chip is missing (the PowerPC takes over)

Real3D 1000.png

So this raw power is daunting:

  • Rendering: 60 million pixels,  over a million polygons per second (more than 3X more than the Playstation).

  • Resolution: 496x384

  • Support: texture mapping, trilinear filtering, micro-texturing, specular reflection, gouraud shading, flat shading, anti-aliasing, alpha blending.

Figure 2Racing Day's and the Limits of 3D Acceleration

Figure 2Racing Day's.png

Interestingly enough, the PowerPC 603 used is the same as the Pipp!n console. He notes very interesting elements on 3D acceleration because the processor alone is capable of displaying textured 3D, 2D elements (Racing Day's) and quality video compression, but its capacity quickly reaches its limits on the number of items to display. The fluidity of the whole suffers enormously. This system proves the usefulness of a dedicated 3D card.

The sensible combination of a graphics card therefore has a geometry processor and a graphics processor. The display of textures is left to the main processor. This assembly makes it possible to reduce the cost of the assembly and to consider a new console. 

Which also explains why the Real3D/100 had 3 separate processors: the geometry processor, the graphics processor and the texture processor because of its professional orientation and so I repeat to myself: “never intended to be on console!”

Scud Race sur Model3, ça dépote !

Scud Race Model3.png

​This snapshot proves the delay of SNK despite a powerful card

SNK game.png

Philips will also suffer a disaster with its CDI standard, losing $1 billion

Philips CDI console.png

You should know that the Model3 will oust a competitor " SNK ". Indeed the latter was working on a new 64-bit arcade terminal " Hyper Neo-geo 64 ". The goal was to transform it into a living room console. The power of the Model3 (also linked to the difficulties of mastering 3D by " SNK ") automatically eliminated this new machine. Nintendo will also suffer from this comparison with its arcade cabinet with an architecture similar to its Nintendo 64 . Sega becomes unbeatable in the terminals and succeeds in annihilating SNK with its new arcade and console approach yet in the very high end register.

The M2 attempt or the idea of the Saturn 2

As 3DO bogged down with its licensed console, Panasonic (main backer) came out  the F-Z10 , less expensive, in order to reach a wider audience. Very good titles were appearing (like the first Need For Speed ). Nothing to do, sales do not take off. However, the firm had a joker in its pocket, a revolutionary 64-bit module which was to be placed in the form of an extension in order to greatly increase the capacities of the machine.

This project made a strong impression but  this module was very complicated to use with the classic 3DO . A new dedicated console was therefore much more possible, but the company is running out of resources.

The 3DO FZ-10

3DO FZ-10 console.png

3DO will resolve to sell all rights to the M2 to Panasonic (known as Matsushita in Japan ) for $100 Million. The machine  this discreet fact at E3 1996 but behind the scenes…

Panasonic needs a video game leader. The firm will contact Sega which will be very receptive to the project, holding in this alliance a means of being able to market a 64-bit console at a lower cost and relatively quickly. This project does not call into question the Real3D agreements for the arcade, nor those with NVIDIA confined for the moment to the world of the graphics card for PC .

The talks are progressing well, the two companies agree on the essentials. Panasonic will produce the machine and support it in games and Sega will do the same. The M2 , code name of the future console, was continuously in development and therefore constantly evolving. Trip Hawkins  said: "The deal was practically done"

The 64-bit module additional to the 3DO

3DO 64 bits modul.png

The M2, a pre-Dreamcast look

M2 console prototype.png

Msa Racing, one of the few playable demos of the M2

The power of the M2 chip was impressive. According to Omid Kordestani , a 3DO spokesperson , the M2 could generate 1 million polygons per second with the graphics features disabled and 700,000 polygons per second with the features enabled. It was planned to manufacture M2 models with integrated DVD players, a machine ahead of its time and adaptable to all budgets. In addition, this system works using a PowerPC processor well known by the firm.

SEGA was therefore on the verge of buying a license and taking a considerable lead over the competition and de facto continuing its excellent relations with Electronics Arts to have the support of a consumer electronics giant, enough to make shadow to Sony .

Imsa Racing M2 Demo.png

On the day of the presentation when the first prototype chips left the factory, a mistake had been made (the story goes that a layer was missing at the metallization stage). All of the RAM used in the chip (graphics texture and DSP) could not work. The result was final, the demonstrations ran without textures and with major slowdowns, an unthinkable situation for SEGA , which withdrew from the project.

Panasonic will fix the problem but it was already too late. The project would be canceled in early 1997. Capcom began development of Power Stone as a 3DO M2 exclusive before moving it to the NAOMI system. The technology will be recycled in other machines ( Konami 's pop-up arcade system, media players etc.)

Eclipse the arrival of a new star.

This is the name of the project which is sufficiently unknown. It must be understood that the use of Uranus is not really possible in the Sega system. Its connotation is too reminiscent of our behind, without a second thought.

Eclipse, Sega's most misunderstood codename

Eclipse Sega code.png

"Hide what I would not dare to see!" This is a very trivial way to circumvent the problem. More precisely, this luminous superposition can have a double meaning. The fact of doubling the bodies for more power, eclipsing the old material or simply eclipsing the competition. Erase in the dark the opposition where only Sega 's halo shines (which surely proves the possibility of using the Saturn CD-Rom in this project mount (the idea of a cartridge holder is surely obsolete at this moment). "

An American idea:

On the American side, nothing is left to chance. The 64-bit console project evolves on a form of extension (with a possible console merging Saturn and extension?).

Pluto , rather a good idea (6 functional copies were produced, two still exist today)!

Making a new Saturn under the name of the planet Pluto was Sega of America 's other project. This project confirms one thing which is the abandonment of a cartridge console replacing the Sega Saturn . Pluto is therefore a very clever Saturn update, designed on cost reduction and based on the second mount of Saturn developed by Sega Japan . This new iteration should be aimed at a more adult audience (unlike the Japanese model) and therefore better able to compete with the Playstation .

Sega Pluto was ready to enter orbit

Sega Pluton prototype.png

With a more mature design and offering an internet possibility using a 28,800 baud modem (which will also be launched as a “ NetLink ” extension for the Sega Saturn on American soil and anecdotally in Europe ), the goal is simple, "to offer a new way of playing" that the competition does not offer (well those who remain) and this for the same price of a classic Saturn . The other revolutionary possibility is the possibility of connecting a hard disk which is not recognized in the bios of the prototypes but which is in fact completely logical.

The Sega NetLink

Sega NetLink

Nintendo will also try the modem and storage space. The results will be catastrophic

Nintendo DD64.png

Let me explain: The first reason is to avoid the problems of the Pipp!n (which will be released in the US under the name Pipp!n@tmark  with sales even more catastrophic than in Japan ), that is to say extensions of Ram extension to support new web formats (Java, JPEG …) but also to store its pages and backups online…  The other element is that the software part used for the internet would surely be offered in the games and that the updates would therefore work via CD-Rom support (simpler and that's what the Pipp!n uses). It is therefore this firmware that is missing in the “Pluto”.

What is most interesting is to take a step back on this new console which was to be released around the same time as the 64-bit expansion. Which therefore confirms that Eclipse is indeed an additional module and not a new console. The other relevant element is that we know that the latter was based on the evolution of the NV2 graphics card and the SH-3 which opened compatibilities on Windows CE and I believe that you have understood the interest of the disc drive and from the modem. This new Saturn was surely going to be part of a “ Home-Media Center ” theme, while being part of powerful 3D functions and online gaming.

The pillars of the future Dreamcast are laid!

Sonic  X-Treme :

Sonic X-Treme.png

Sonic X-Treme will be used quickly from the idea of a 64-bit console design, contributing in parallel to the development of the machine. Its design  will be as stormy as the console and expansion project but that's another story. However, we know that the project went from the 32X to the 64bit cartridge project (based on the future NV2 but developed on NV1 while waiting for its design) to finally be developed on Saturn . Sonic X-Treme was surely going to be compatible with the RAM extension which made it possible to offer adjusted 3D capacities in an attempt to cope with the Playstation (the price of RAM fell sharply in 1996). An adaptation on PC was planned in order to feed the NV2 card (still in development) which was to be released and therefore the possible new 64Bits mount which will quickly turn into a PC game compatible with DirectX graphics cards (perhaps the X of X- treme ). It will be canceled at the beginning of 1997, a few months before the end of development (period which marks the end of 64-bit projects).

Invading the PC world:

Sega and NVIDIA are working on the development of a graphics card for PC (distributed by Diamond under the name: " Diamond Edge ") close to the configuration of the Sega Saturn in order to be able to reach the emerging market of 3D cards on PC . The latter will not be able to flood the market, questionable sound quality, high price also linked to the failure of the Sega console which was not  not a purchase argument. However, the project will be profitable for the new partner in charge of development, which only had about thirty employees at the time.

NVIDIA's NV1 card

NV1  NVIDIA card.png

This card offers arguments that are very interesting and ahead of many things. It integrates audio processing, I/O and video processing on a single board. It was the first graphics card in the consumer domain to combine 3D rendering, video acceleration and GUI capabilities, a revolution that is still used today. It will evolve from 2mo to 4mo of Ram. Its average sound output was excused due to a technology transition. Some NV1 cards will correct this defect.

However, its main flaw is the same as the Sega console, the Saturn . Quadratic textures.

Figure, the quadratic gives results on impressive curves


Nvidia Chip Logo.png

It's actually simple, the quadratic relies  on four vertices and the triangular (which is the technique that has become established) uses 3 vertices. The use of 4 vertices makes it possible to quickly obtain quality curves which is much more complex by the use of triangles (see opposite).

​Creating simple shapes is faster due to the addition of a vertex, so this technique consumes less computing power.

On the other hand, this method is not suitable for complex irregular shapes such as 3D animated characters (which explains the visual differences between the Saturn and the Playstation ). This type of architecture was therefore very effective on first generation technologies such as the 32X where processor power was limited. But with advances in the middle of the 90s for data processing (exceeding one million polygons per second), it became increasingly easy to develop round shapes from triangles by increasing their number and reducing their sizes. The advantage of the quadratic disappears without correcting all of its problems which mainly concerned the detection of collisions (very difficult) and the realization of complex levels. The programmers were tearing their hair out!

Account time:

Let's first return to the end of the year 95. After a disappointing Christmas , which follows a frantic race forward throughout the year, Sega must do the accounts. If the results are not catastrophic, the reality is quite different since many so-called "sold" machines (out of the factory) are in fact in stores. The risk of accumulation of stocks is felt and the financial losses are likely to be colossal, the war chest has been squandered!

In March 1996 (end of the fiscal year in Japan ), it was decided to stop all supports and concentrate on the Saturn . It's the end of the 32X , the almost ready Megadrive/32X ( Neptune ) combo, the Mega-CD , the Master System , the Game-Gear  and the Nomad . Sega of America is furious because the profits on the Megadrive are still juicy and this short-term view risks amplifying the situation instead of correcting it

Sega Japan , sure of its decision, will work on a new cheaper version of Saturn adapted to a young audience (following a study) and will focus on a few accessories including the RAM extension which would have been used, for example, for the production of Tomb Raider 2 before Sony bought the exclusivity.

In Europe , the Mega-CD was badly suffering due to the bankruptcy of Commodore which weighed heavily on the English and German market. The staggering liquidation of stocks had led to a drop in CD volumes on all other formats. Sega Europe was counting on this year to recover its health on the market  16/32bits or only Nintendo was still present. The good sales of the Megadrive , the Master System (the Master Converter 2 had just been released in 1995) or the Game-Gear in France created misunderstanding about the Japanese decision.

The Game Gear, a great success in France (Mercury project)

Sega Game Gear.png

The Nomad, Portable Megadrive (Venus)

Sega Nomad.png

The Picture Magic (Janus-Juno moon project of Saturn), a graphic tablet for Saturn which recycles the 32X but sadly reserved only in Japan?

Picture Magic Sega Saturn.png

Even dead, Commodore with his CD-32 will annoy Sega

commodore CD-32.png

Meanwhile… A history of processors:

Do you remember the Model3 PowerPC ? Sega is looking for a processor capable of supporting its future 3D accelerator card. And that's good, Hitachi offers its new processor, the SH-3 (32 bits). 

More powerful than the PowerPC , the latter above all remains partially compatible with the SH-2 (which equips the Saturn ) while offering a fair price for low consumption (therefore less than  heater for possible future integration into a home console) and above all compatibility with Windows CE (and yes already).

The SH3 is integrated in many Windows CE compatible devices

It will be a success because we find it in many boxes (Home Media, mobile phone).


What we do know is that there are a total of 8 different types of processors and that Sega will work, in 1996, on two versions, the first during the initial release in order to evaluate the possibilities, then a second SH3 -E ( E for economical) having a DSP (it performs matrix/vector calculations such as 3D transformations and lighting faster like the Saturn 's SH-2 ). Through data extrapolation, we can determine which one is used for the future console project. 

On the Hitachi site we find the model that seems to be used and its different characteristics (September 1996):

“The SH7709A and SH7729 in this release include peripheral functions compatible with those of the SH7709 and, in response to these user needs, offer high performance by operating at a clock frequency of 133 MHz. At the same time, their performance has been improved by increasing the cache size to 16 KB. In addition, the power supply has been divided into two systems, one for internal use and the other for I/O of the chip. This allows the internal supply voltage to be reduced to 1.8 V, providing low power dissipation. Additionally, since an on-chip debug function has been added, real-time emulation is now possible even at high operating frequencies using the E10A PC Card Emulator as a development tool.

The SH7729 also provides DSP functionality. Although Hitachi has previously supplied SuperH models that add DSP functionality to the SH-1 and SH-2 products, the SH 7729 is the first model in the SH-3 line that offers DSP functionality. The provision of DSP functionality enables portable data processing equipment to meet the need for voice memo capability and high-speed processing of image data. These products additionally include 16 KB of on-chip RAM for storing data required for DSP processing such as JPEG and  ADPCM . These microprocessors can  access both a cached instruction and this internal memory in a single cycle, even when operating at 133 MHz, allowing for high-speed processing.

The Hitachi SH-3

In addition to the SH-3 processor core, on-chip features provided by the SH7709A and SH7729 include an MMU*3 , essential for operating systems supporting memory protection and virtual memory, a DMAC*4 , an A/D D /A converter, 32-bit timers, real-time clock, serial communication interface ( SCI ), and direct interfacing circuitry for a wide variety of memory types, including synchronous DRAM . These products are supplied in a 208-pin LQFP or 216-pin CSP package which is, except for the power pins, compatible with the SH7709 . In addition, these products are software compatible with the SuperH family, and thus allow rapid development of new systems using existing hardware and software resources. »

SH-3 Hitachi.png

We even find the price of the chip: 2100 Yen per unit for 133Mhz and 2000 Yen for the 100Mhz version (less likely).

Interestingly and often overlooked is that said processor is made by ST Microelectronics , the same manufacturer as the Real3D /100 and Real3DPro-1000 used in Model3 or NV1 used in Diamond Edge .

This time, Sega has a powerful processor to accompany an integrated graphics card by supporting the display of textures.

The new graphics card:

After the stage of NV1 , Sega wishes to develop, with its partner Nvidia , the NV2 . Yu Suzuki ,  the illustrious programmer in charge of the AM2 , directly delegated one of its best graphic designers who already had a strong experience on Real3D hardware and quite exceptional skills on graphic rendering in order to evaluate and advise the development of the new chip.

Design feedback from a 64-bit console:

And there will arise the problem, NVIDIA tries to convince Sega that the future is quadratic with demonstrations at all costs. If this approach may seem surprising these days, it must be understood that the hindsight on 3D technology is still weak and that each company has its own proprietary API (application programming interface) while working on Open GL compatibility (library free 3D). Nvidia supported the quadratic for the reason that this technology allowed the display of 3D objects with little power. The textures were actually stored in the card's memory and passed through the PCI port. If the first mount had suffered from a lack of power, the NV2 had to correct all the problems. Except that another concern pointed the tip of his nose. Microsoft released DirectX (at the end of 1995) with its own 3D library based on triangles, thus isolating the small company that is still Nvidia . Bugs in Windows 95 , recurring in its early days, added difficulties to the optimization of Microsoft 's library. Because yes Nvidia will try….

Vitua Fighter 3, a sweet dream on Saturn

Vitua Fighter 3 Sega Saturn.png

Sega of America  and the delegate from Japan harass Nvidia for using triangles. Several meetings tried to find solutions, to finally  try to adapt  development tools based on existing triangles such as 3D modelers to quadratic systems through the use of software emulation. As you can imagine, the bugs have multiplied and this software layer was slowing down the whole thing.

Sega was in doubt, it had a low-cost 2D/3D integrated graphics card with I/O and video and then sound management, but a quadratic system that no one wanted to reinforce with a patch for triangle management.

After manufacturing a few malfunctioning chips, Sega throws in the towel. The NV2 should be close to a million transistors including 4MB of Ram with surely a possible extension to 8MB. Sega will try in vain to recycle this technology in one of its products before completely abandoning the idea.

NV2 failure prompted NVIDIA CEO  to choose David Kirk as chief scientist who previously worked for software developer Crystal Dynamics (very close to 3DO ). The latter combined the company's 3D knowledge with his game development experience, which turned out to be judicious and in line with what Sega had asked for upstream, but it was too late. NVIDIA will find success with the NV3 and its RIVA 128 card. Nividia will become the giant we know today.

Its power should correspond to approximately 1/3  Model3 (which was composed of 2 Real3D/1000 all the same). The use of the Saturn in addition would have made it possible to boost the capacities by using the internal processors or to use the 2D functions of the machine for the background displays, thus making it possible to approach a ratio of 50%.

Looking for a chip:

Why a withdrawal with Real3D is impossible, one sentence sums up the situation:

Real3D said the console market business model does not create a win-win situation with Sega as it has in the high-end arcade market. »

It remained Nec/Videologic with its Power-VR1 but at this stage Sega was never interested, the card poorly supported Direct3D and OpenGL due to a proprietary API ( PowerSGL ). Clearly, this card was a repeat of NVIDIA 's flaws and did not offer bilinear filtering (fixed in its late April 1997 release).

It was only then that Sega became interested in PowerVR because it had very innovative functions such as Tile Rendering which did not display the hidden faces of objects (much less power to use). The arrival of the PowerVR2 confirmed the interest in this technology.

The end of initiatives!

But the reality is quite different, in 1997 Sega 's sales collapsed, the war was lost and Sony released its greatest hits at that time. The Nintendo 64 is well established in the USA , only Japan is still resisting but more and more difficult.

Strategically, releasing an extension would be dramatic because the necessary base of machines in homes is just, not counting  declining sales which are not encouraging. Releasing a module during this period is not a guarantee of sale. It would be technically outdated within 2 or 3 years maximum.

Sega will change strategy in 1996 by trying to offer better control of 3D like the game " Nights " (a new mascot) and its Pad 3D but it is insufficient, the Saturn remains less powerful in 3D.

The year 1997 will see a reaction from Sega in games enhanced from a technical point of view but it is not enough!

Nights, innovative but insufficient!

Nigths Sega Saturn.png

Radiant Silvergun, a major title reserved for Japan, which will do what is impossible to do on Playstation

Radiant Silvergun.png

In mid-March 1997, Bernie Stolar (President of Sega US ) met with Sega executives in Japan and succeeded in convincing them to begin the end of life of the Saturn , which he considered ill-conceived, by demonstrating that continuing exploitation of this console would worsen the company's financial situation. From this conclusion, you understand the stopping of 64-bit projects or titles like Sonic X-treme. Everything is ultimately connected.

For the Saturn , it's over! Japan will continue to prove that the bike has it in the belly but the biggest projects which were to demonstrate its full power will only be weakly distributed or canceled. Thus, Sonic Figther will be cancelled. Virtua Fighter 3 (finished) will be moved to the future Dreamcast just like Virtua Fighter RPG in preparation ( Shenmue ).

We owe this approach to Yu Suzuki , who through the expertise of his team through the various projects, had obtained an exceptional mastery of 3D by adding to that an optimization of the complex architecture of the Saturn (the audio processor was even used to optimize the 3D display). This strategy would have allowed this console to really prove its capabilities. Brand enthusiasts are still waiting for that day; but economically it would have been useless!

Sega will decide at this time to switch to the new 128-bit generation. Sega of US will work with the giant of the moment in terms of graphics card “ 3Dfx ”. S ega Japan will turn to “ Nec/Videologic ” and the amazing capabilities of its new “ PowerVR2 ” chip but that is another story….

The fully mastered Saturn no longer had to be ashamed of the competition (Demo / Shenmue Saturn)

Shenmue Saturn.png

This article is a digest of my archives stored for years. This is why it is difficult for me to give you the references. You can reach me at this address , I would be happy to answer you

On this long live Sega , long live the Saturn and long live the Dreamcast which is a long development process!

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