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Thread: Sega Saturn's Expansion Port... and The one Add-On that should've been made!!!!!!!!

  1. #31
    ESWAT Veteran Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    I don't think I've ever seen more than a hand-waving description of the MPEG expansion port. Since it was transferring decoded video and sound at VCD rates, it was probably a single 32 bit reasonably fast bus. Just data - no analog video and other stuff... the MPEG card decoded the data stream which was then just copied into the Saturn vram and sound ram.

    The cart port has been fairly well documented. It's a 16 bit bus with speeds about the same as roms of the time. You could adjust the speed a certain amount, but it wasn't particularly fast... the AR carts usually did like 15 clock cycle accesses to their ram. The cart is split into two regions with their own select lines - one meant for control registers, and the other for rom or ram. That's how the Saturn RAM carts work: the control section allows you to ID the cart and set the ram access cycle rate; the other section allows you to read/write the ram. The control section is smaller than the ram/rom section (naturally).

    If the rom section has a proper header in it, you can boot from the rom. There is a Saturn homebrew game that uses that so that you can run the game on any stock Saturn.

  2. #32
    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    I don't think I've ever seen more than a hand-waving description of the MPEG expansion port. Since it was transferring decoded video and sound at VCD rates, it was probably a single 32 bit reasonably fast bus. Just data - no analog video and other stuff... the MPEG card decoded the data stream which was then just copied into the Saturn vram and sound ram.
    For 24-bit color output, you'd need to use VDP2 directly, right?
    So wouldn't you need a bit of added hardware (or software) to convert to VDP2 cell format, or did VDP2 allow linear bitmaps?

    Or can you directly write 32-bit pixels to the VDP1 framebuffer and have VDP2 read that out as 24-bit RGB? (I know VDP1 can't output 24-bit itself -other than 256 color indexed or 16-bit indexed using CRAM -or is that only for VDP2?)


    The cart port has been fairly well documented. It's a 16 bit bus with speeds about the same as roms of the time. You could adjust the speed a certain amount, but it wasn't particularly fast... the AR carts usually did like 15 clock cycle accesses to their ram. The cart is split into two regions with their own select lines - one meant for control registers, and the other for rom or ram. That's how the Saturn RAM carts work: the control section allows you to ID the cart and set the ram access cycle rate; the other section allows you to read/write the ram. The control section is smaller than the ram/rom section (naturally).

    If the rom section has a proper header in it, you can boot from the rom. There is a Saturn homebrew game that uses that so that you can run the game on any stock Saturn.
    The bus speed restrictions apply to both ROM and RAM then?

    What was the higher limit for the bus speeds used? (15 cycle waits for the SH2s sounds like it wouldn't be much different from the Genesis cart slot in speed, actually that would be oddly slow at ~500 ns, if that's 15 ~28.6 MHz cycles)
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

  3. #33
    I DON'T LIKE POKEMON Hero of Algol j_factor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    If the rom section has a proper header in it, you can boot from the rom. There is a Saturn homebrew game that uses that so that you can run the game on any stock Saturn.
    What game is this?


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  4. #34
    ESWAT Veteran Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    For 24-bit color output, you'd need to use VDP2 directly, right?
    So wouldn't you need a bit of added hardware (or software) to convert to VDP2 cell format, or did VDP2 allow linear bitmaps?

    Or can you directly write 32-bit pixels to the VDP1 framebuffer and have VDP2 read that out as 24-bit RGB? (I know VDP1 can't output 24-bit itself -other than 256 color indexed or 16-bit indexed using CRAM -or is that only for VDP2?)
    I think the MPEG module puts the data in tile format, like the SVP puts the data in tile format for VR. Even if it didn't, it's easy enough to change the format on the fly, it just makes you use more CPU power than you would have otherwise.



    The bus speed restrictions apply to both ROM and RAM then?
    Depends on the cart. The DRAM carts have their own timing.


    What was the higher limit for the bus speeds used? (15 cycle waits for the SH2s sounds like it wouldn't be much different from the Genesis cart slot in speed, actually that would be oddly slow at ~500 ns, if that's 15 ~28.6 MHz cycles)
    The official ram carts use timing that makes it 1/4 the speed of the work ram in the Saturn. You can use burst read mode on the ram (filling a cache line in the cpu), and you can use the SH2 or SCU DMA to read the ram. You can't use burst writing from the CPU, and can only use SH2 DMA for writing.

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    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    Depends on the cart. The DRAM carts have their own timing.
    So it wouldn't be limited by the cart slot other than the 16-bit bus?

    Would the same sort of thing technically apply to the Genesis cart slot? (though I guess that's exactly what the MCD uses already, a fully asynchronous interface with independent onboard clock and RAM running at a different speed -unlike the 32x oriented around the MD clock speed and DRAM framebuffers at almost 1/2 the rated speed compared to the full-speed MCD program/word RAM -if I'm not mistaken)


    The official ram carts use timing that makes it 1/4 the speed of the work ram in the Saturn. You can use burst read mode on the ram (filling a cache line in the cpu), and you can use the SH2 or SCU DMA to read the ram. You can't use burst writing from the CPU, and can only use SH2 DMA for writing.
    So 1/4 the speed of SDRAM (1/2 the speed of DRAM) or 1/4 the speed of Saturn DRAM?
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

  6. #36
    ESWAT Veteran Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    So it wouldn't be limited by the cart slot other than the 16-bit bus?
    Yes, it would be more the device than the bus limiting the speed.


    Would the same sort of thing technically apply to the Genesis cart slot? (though I guess that's exactly what the MCD uses already, a fully asynchronous interface with independent onboard clock and RAM running at a different speed -unlike the 32x oriented around the MD clock speed and DRAM framebuffers at almost 1/2 the rated speed compared to the full-speed MCD program/word RAM -if I'm not mistaken)
    No, the Genesis cart uses the "standard" 68000 bus cycle with no wait states for the cart. You would have to generate your own /DTACK signal to insert wait states for slower devices, and there's no way to be faster.

    The 32X is different - the SH2 can be programmed for each region (the cart is one region, the hardware another, and the SDRAM yet another). The bus is 2 cycles + whatever you set the wait states for the region . So you can access the 32X cart faster or slower by changing a register in the SH2. That's assuming there's no collision between SH2s or with the MD 68000, of course.


    So 1/4 the speed of SDRAM (1/2 the speed of DRAM) or 1/4 the speed of Saturn DRAM?
    The docs say "Work RAM" which I believe was the slower DRAM, not the SDRAM. I could be mistaken... I'd have to go back and check the Saturn architecture manual to make sure I've got the names of the various blocks right.

  7. #37
    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    The 32X is different - the SH2 can be programmed for each region (the cart is one region, the hardware another, and the SDRAM yet another). The bus is 2 cycles + whatever you set the wait states for the region . So you can access the 32X cart faster or slower by changing a register in the SH2. That's assuming there's no collision between SH2s or with the MD 68000, of course.
    So carts accessed by the SH2s aren't limited to the 68k bus speed? (is the SRAM/PSRAM of modern flash carts locked at the 68k bus speed, or can that be faster for the SH2s as well?)
    And by 68k bus speed do you mean the 68k clock speed, or including the 4 cycle access times of the 68k?

    The docs say "Work RAM" which I believe was the slower DRAM, not the SDRAM. I could be mistaken... I'd have to go back and check the Saturn architecture manual to make sure I've got the names of the various blocks right.
    If that's the case it would mean the cart RAM would be 1/8 the SH2 clock speed and thus the same bandwidth as the Amiga's DRAM. (280 ns random access DRAM on a 16-bit bus -the DRAM used as "150 ns" rated referring to the CAS timing, but without page mode usage, you were stuck only with full random accesses at much slower speed)
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

  8. #38
    Mastering your Systems Shining Hero TmEE's Avatar
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    MPEG connector has a 16bit bus on it, and Cartslot has MPEG connector bus + A bus of the Saturn, both 16 bit. Only 32bit bus is the SH2 bus (called C bus), the rest is 16bits wide. MPEG bus goes to VDP2 directly.
    A but connects SCU, cartslot and CD drive. B bus connects VDP1, VDP2 and sound part. A, B and C buses end up in the SCU. Audio is all digitally mixed together so no CPU power is needed for that, and I believe video coming from the MPEG bus is directly overlayed by VDP2 (?)
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    ESWAT Veteran Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    So carts accessed by the SH2s aren't limited to the 68k bus speed? (is the SRAM/PSRAM of modern flash carts locked at the 68k bus speed, or can that be faster for the SH2s as well?)
    An old Genesis cart might rely on 68000 timing - for example, having an access time that is just barely fast enough to work on the 68000. However, to work with the 32X, the cart has to be fast enough to work with the 32X default timing, which is faster than the 68000 timing. So if a flash carts works with the 32X, it can't be locked at 68000 speeds. Honestly, I'm sure that all they do is output the data as soon as possible when selected, and hold the output until they are no longer selected. As long as the access time from the selection asserted is fast enough, it works for anything. The 68000 just starts looking for the data later than the 32X, and holds the cart selected longer as well.

    One of these days, I'll do some timing tests on the the various flash carts with the 32X to see where they top out at. I'm sure most of them can be accessed faster than they are.

    And by 68k bus speed do you mean the 68k clock speed, or including the 4 cycle access times of the 68k?
    Yes. That's part of the reason there are limits to overclocking the Genesis - if you get too fast, the standard 4 cycle bus access becomes too fast for the carts to reliably be read. That wouldn't happen with 32X compatible flash carts since they are made for faster accessing... which would be interesting as another test.


    If that's the case it would mean the cart RAM would be 1/8 the SH2 clock speed and thus the same bandwidth as the Amiga's DRAM. (280 ns random access DRAM on a 16-bit bus -the DRAM used as "150 ns" rated referring to the CAS timing, but without page mode usage, you were stuck only with full random accesses at much slower speed)
    Which would make sense at the time given they'd be using as cheap a memory chip as was available to keep the price down.

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    Since it was mentioned I have a few questions about the 4MB ram cart.

    -How much would it have helped with a port of Quake.
    -Was it really needed for Final Fight Revenge which looks more like a 1st gen Saturn game not a late gen game.
    -Why was the loading time so bad on D&D? Was it because the game had characters and scenes compare to the Vs. games? Thus load the backgrounds and characters and load during the Round 1 scene.
    -Why didn't that game support 4 players?
    -How would CPS3 games turned out?

    Oh yeah the rumored Saturn upggrade was suppose to us some variation of the Power VR PCX2 chipset.

    Last edited by Da_Shocker; 12-07-2010 at 04:23 PM.

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    I think D&D collection was just unoptimized. Wasn't it released around when Capcom was shifting most of their focus to the Dreamcast? Street Fighter Alpha 3 shows some signs of this too. The loading isn't as optimized as the other RAM cart fighters.

    If I remember correctly Capcom did have a few last CPS2 games planned for the Saturn like Marvel vs Capcom that if Dreamcast didn't come out as soon as it did they were going to release. Considering how similar Saturn and CPS3 are in specs aside from RAM it wouldn't surprise me if some CPS3 games were planned but not until after they were done with CPS2 stuff.

  12. #42
    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TmEE View Post
    MPEG connector has a 16bit bus on it, and Cartslot has MPEG connector bus + A bus of the Saturn, both 16 bit. Only 32bit bus is the SH2 bus (called C bus), the rest is 16bits wide. MPEG bus goes to VDP2 directly.
    A but connects SCU, cartslot and CD drive. B bus connects VDP1, VDP2 and sound part. A, B and C buses end up in the SCU. Audio is all digitally mixed together so no CPU power is needed for that, and I believe video coming from the MPEG bus is directly overlayed by VDP2 (?)
    Huh? The SH2 bus is the only 32-bit bus inside the Saturn? (the VDPs and SH1 are all 16-bit?)

    That would make the bandwidth a fair bit less competitive with the PSX (or others in general)... though it would also make multi-bus expansion more realistic. (ie Sega could have used significantly less memory on the initial Saturn but provided expansion)


    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    An old Genesis cart might rely on 68000 timing - for example, having an access time that is just barely fast enough to work on the 68000. However, to work with the 32X, the cart has to be fast enough to work with the 32X default timing, which is faster than the 68000 timing. So if a flash carts works with the 32X, it can't be locked at 68000 speeds. Honestly, I'm sure that all they do is output the data as soon as possible when selected, and hold the output until they are no longer selected. As long as the access time from the selection asserted is fast enough, it works for anything. The 68000 just starts looking for the data later than the 32X, and holds the cart selected longer as well.

    One of these days, I'll do some timing tests on the the various flash carts with the 32X to see where they top out at. I'm sure most of them can be accessed faster than they are.
    So, technically speaking, the 32x could have had RAM/ROM accessed through the cart slot as fast as the SDRAM?

    Yes. That's part of the reason there are limits to overclocking the Genesis - if you get too fast, the standard 4 cycle bus access becomes too fast for the carts to reliably be read. That wouldn't happen with 32X compatible flash carts since they are made for faster accessing... which would be interesting as another test.
    You'd hit the PSRAM speeds too, but for some really slow ROM you'd hit the limit there first. (and with PSRAM the speed varies by model too, probably part of the reason why late model 1s overclock better than earlier ones -went from 150 ns to 120 ns to 100 ns- though by the time you get to the VA7 model or model 2s, they have the new VDP ASIC that's really timing sensitive and doesn't like much more than 10 MHz on an asynchronous overclock)

    Which would make sense at the time given they'd be using as cheap a memory chip as was available to keep the price down.
    Yeah, but even low-end fast page mode DRAM should have been far faster than the Amiga's asynchronous DRAM... unless using a simpler DRAM controller that didn't support page mode accessing was used or perhaps also power consumption concerns forcing lower clock rates. (with fast page mode, cheap RAM should have been 1/3 or 1/2 the SDRAM speed -like 32x framebuffers, but without fast page mode possible, the speed drops dramatically down to full random accesses, but even then it should have been 1/6 to 1/5 the SH2 speed, not 1/8)




    One add-on for the Saturn that really might have made a difference could have been some sort of floating point coprocessor.
    RAM gives you more animation and more/higher res/higher depth textures (uncompressed), but won't help with actual system performance otherwise, especially for 3D... an FPU OTOH would have made working with quads much easier and increased overall geometry performance and thus polygon rates (within the fill-rate limits of the VDPs of course, though avoiding things like folding quads as Quake did, would double fill rate as well as you eliminate the overdraw and you also have more efficient RAM usage as you don't waste on prewarped textures). And that also leaves more CPU resource and the SCU DSP free for other tasks including decompression which would thus stretch RAM further without even having to add more memory.
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 12-07-2010 at 07:17 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

  13. #43
    ESWAT Veteran Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    Huh? The SH2 bus is the only 32-bit bus inside the Saturn? (the VDPs and SH1 are all 16-bit?)

    That would make the bandwidth a fair bit less competitive with the PSX (or others in general)... though it would also make multi-bus expansion more realistic. (ie Sega could have used significantly less memory on the initial Saturn but provided expansion)
    I think that's the primary difference between the hi work ram (the SDRAM) and the low work ram (the DRAM). I'd love to see schematics of the Saturn. That would answer quite a few questions, especially about the MPEG card port.



    So, technically speaking, the 32x could have had RAM/ROM accessed through the cart slot as fast as the SDRAM?
    Yes. You couldn't do burst (I think that requires a few extra control lines), but you could do high speed SRAM/ROM. It would improve some things, like leaving sprites or wall textures in rom. Hmm - I should try that with Wolf32X: in the init, set the rom region faster and see how it affects the game.


    One add-on for the Saturn that really might have made a difference could have been some sort of floating point coprocessor.
    RAM gives you more animation and more/higher res/higher depth textures (uncompressed), but won't help with actual system performance otherwise, especially for 3D... an FPU OTOH would have made working with quads much easier and increased overall geometry performance and thus polygon rates (within the fill-rate limits of the VDPs of course, though avoiding things like folding quads as Quake did, would double fill rate as well as you eliminate the overdraw and you also have more efficient RAM usage as you don't waste on prewarped textures). And that also leaves more CPU resource and the SCU DSP free for other tasks including decompression which would thus stretch RAM further without even having to add more memory.
    By the time it mattered, SEGA was looking to ditch the Saturn for the Dreamcast. Maybe they could have had the FPU as part of the MPEG card. It might have helped spur sales if it not only decoded MPEG, but also doubled the polygon rate.


    Quote Originally Posted by Da_Shocker View Post
    Since it was mentioned I have a few questions about the 4MB ram cart.

    -How much would it have helped with a port of Quake.
    A lot. Quake ran on the N64 in 4MB, and the NDS homebrew Quake port uses 4MB. I've thought of porting QuakeDS to the Saturn (with the 4MB ARP of course).


    -Was it really needed for Final Fight Revenge which looks more like a 1st gen Saturn game not a late gen game.
    It's not what it looks like that matters, it's how much space it all takes. The extra ram in the Saturn was good for storing extra characters and/or extra frames of animation for the characters. The stock Saturn had more ram, and it came in handy on 2D games. With the extra ram, you could have all the characters and animations as the original.

  14. #44
    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    I think that's the primary difference between the hi work ram (the SDRAM) and the low work ram (the DRAM). I'd love to see schematics of the Saturn. That would answer quite a few questions, especially about the MPEG card port.
    Hmm, I'd thought the main difference with the slow DRAM block was it being composed of slower/cheaper FPM DRAM (like the Sega CD, Jaguar, and 3DO -save for 3do VRAM- and 32x framebuffers) and that it was thus 1/2 the speed but full 32-bits wide. (if it's 1/2 speed that would be 70 ns FPM DRAM, but if they used the same 80 ns FMP DRAM as the MCD, that would imply it was clocked slower -1/3 the SH2 speed if it had to be a direct integer division of 28.6 MHz so in that case it would be running slower than the MCD RAM's 12.5 MHz)

    Yes. You couldn't do burst (I think that requires a few extra control lines), but you could do high speed SRAM/ROM. It would improve some things, like leaving sprites or wall textures in rom. Hmm - I should try that with Wolf32X: in the init, set the rom region faster and see how it affects the game.
    Burst as in what burst EDO DRAM could do, or would that also include page mode of FMP DRAM being unusable?


    By the time it mattered, SEGA was looking to ditch the Saturn for the Dreamcast. Maybe they could have had the FPU as part of the MPEG card. It might have helped spur sales if it not only decoded MPEG, but also doubled the polygon rate.
    Yeah, but that would have been more expensive and the MPEG card was never a big seller especially given the lack of VCD popularity. (the Saturn didn't need the MPEG card for better streaming audio/video anyway as it could do pretty well with optimized custom codecs taking advantage of the onboard resources, probably not PSX quality let alone full VCD MPEG-1, but far far better than Cinepak with the SH2s, DSP, and 68k working together, or perhaps even a custom codec catering to the VDP2 tile format -not sure how far they could push it compared to MJPEG/H.261 but supposedly some games already used software MPEG-1 of some sort though perhaps it was actually H.261)

    In that respect though and especially given the Saturn's cost (for Sega to produce and what was passed on to consumers or lost to Sega if selling below cost) it might have been smart to cut more things out on the initial release and plan for incremental upgrades (or a single definitive upgrade) later on, especially with a more comprehensive expansion port than the cart slot. (ie 32-bit buses along with the natively 16-bit ones)


    It's not what it looks like that matters, it's how much space it all takes. The extra ram in the Saturn was good for storing extra characters and/or extra frames of animation for the characters. The stock Saturn had more ram, and it came in handy on 2D games. With the extra ram, you could have all the characters and animations as the original.
    Do you know if it was common practice to store some graphics compressed in RAM and decompress on the fly with the SH2(s)/DSP? (for 2D games you'd hardly need that resource, hell you could probably offload the game engine onto the 68k)
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post

    It's not what it looks like that matters, it's how much space it all takes. The extra ram in the Saturn was good for storing extra characters and/or extra frames of animation for the characters. The stock Saturn had more ram, and it came in handy on 2D games. With the extra ram, you could have all the characters and animations as the original.
    I take it you haven't played Final Fight Revenge (still need youtube help)

    <object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/RDqmmBq6XMY?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/RDqmmBq6XMY?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

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