SEGA Saturn Phoebe installation and setup

IMPORTANT: Doing any of the modifications on this page are entirely at your own risk.

Following on from my guide to installing a GDEMU clone in the Dreamcast, I finally managed to secure a genuine Phoebe for the Sega Saturn, direct from the creator.

The installation is very simple, but I figured a companion guide was still worth doing. I personally have a Type 3 Saturn, but the Phoebe board is compatible with all Type 2, 3, and 4 Saturns (these all have a 21-pin ribbon cable). If you have a Type 1 with a 20-pin cable you’ll need a Rhea board. The creator of the boards has a great page on his site for identifying which board you have, here. There are some solder pads on the Phoebe that are used to configure which ‘Type’ you are using it with. If you know the type you have when you order, the creator will configure it for you, otherwise if you don’t know (for example you might not have taken delivery of your new Saturn at that point) the guide here will show you which pads need to be bridged/not for each type.

Side note: My Saturn had a Phantom board installed which the maker of Phoebe said would interfere with the operation of his board, so that needed removing. Thankfully the Phantom drew power from a point on the underside of the CD-ROM daughterboard, so all I had to do was remove the Phantom at the same time as the CD-ROM, leaving it connected to that board. If you have a Phantom wired to your motherboard, you’ll need to desolder that first. And pro-tip time – if you have a Phantom (or anything else in other projects!) and it has been hot-glued in place, dab a little isopropyl alcohol on the glue itself and leave it for a minute, then it will lift straight off.

So, first thing to do is unscrew your Saturn. Yours may not be the same, but on mine, the right hand screw halfway down the case was a couple of mm shorter than the others, so pay attention to the screw lengths – you don’t want to break your case on reassembly.

MainScrews

With the screws removed, carefully hold the case together as you turn it the right way up, as the top half of the case does a job in holding the CD-ROM unit in position.

Once upright, carefully lift off the top half of the case. There are three things to remove from the CD-ROM board. The green power connector, the ribbon cable, and a retaining screw. For the power connector, gently lever it away from the pins using the housing, don’t pull at the cables themselves. For the ribbon, it’s a Low Insertion Force connector. Hold it firmly, as close to the connector as possible, and gently pull it upwards, using very slight lateral movements if necessary. Unscrew the small screw from the metal clip and set aside.

MainBoard

Next, move the retaining clip away from the CD-ROM unit, only far enough to clear the housing at this stage. Gently lift the CD-ROM unit straight up and out of your Saturn, and set aside.

Underneath, almost in the middle of the case, you’ll see a screw holding the other end of the strip that was held in place with the retaining screw you removed above. Unscrew that, set the strip aside, but put that central screw straight back in where it came from.

CentreScrew

Next, you can remove the end of the ribbon cable that is still attached to the motherboard on the right hand side. Gently remove this in the same way you took the other end out. Your Phoebe board will come with a replacement ribbon cable but keep this original one with your CD-ROM.

LiftRibbon

There are two methods for installation, one when using the board ‘bare’, and one when using a 3D-printed mount, so follow whichever applies for you.

Bare installation (no 3D-printed housing)

Now you need to prepare your Phoebe for installation. It comes with two standoffs that you need to insert into the two smaller holes on the underside of the board – that is, the side without the SD card slot. They will click into place.

StandoffPic

BareInSitu

Once dropped in place, in the orientation shown, connect the power connector to the white socket on the bottom left of the Phoebe, and the new ribbon cable with the connector strips face-up on the right hand side. The picture below shows the ribbon cable orientation only – note that it is not inserted in this image, you’ll need to push it all the way home, head-on.

PowerandCable

Once that’s done, you can install the other end of the ribbon cable into the socket on the motherboard. IMPORTANT: For a Type 3 Saturn (as mine is), and a Type 4, you’ll need a 180 degree twist in the cable, as the orientation of the socket is reversed. If you have a Type 2 it’s a straight drop in. Visually, you can usually tell the orientation as the wider part of the socket houses the pins, and it’s these pins that will make contact with the strips on the ribbon cable. The picture below shows this. The wider part of the socket is furthest away from the edge of the case in this image, and you can see the blue protective strip of the cable against the narrower edge of the socket.

RibbonMobo

RibbonFold

If you’re installing bare in this way, you can skip ahead to the software installation section.

3D-printed housing installation

I chose to use a housing for mine, and I went with the Rhea/Phoebe SD Card Tray V2 by twistedsymphony. It fits well, and has storage slots for extra SD cards. With this housing, you do not need the plastic standoffs attached to your Phoebe board.

The picture below shows where to place your 3D print. In this image I haven’t yet affixed the two halves of the print together with the board as detailed below. It’s just to show you where it goes.

3D_notjoined

The creator of the print mentions fixing the two pieces of the housing together, through the Phoebe, with a small screw. He does say it’s optional, as the whole thing sits on the existing support posts, but it does give some rigidity. I found an M3*10mm pan-headed cap screw to be perfect. This goes through one of the holes in the Phoebe that a standoff would be placed into if you were using it bare.

3DScrew

Once together, you can mount it on the supports. Depending on the quality of your print, it may go on really easily, or may need a little movement to get it to sit down on all four posts. It should be a good fit, with little to no gap between the print and the resting platform of the posts.

Posts

Once in place, connect the power connector to the white socket on the bottom left of the Phoebe, and the new ribbon cable with the connector strips face-up on the right hand side.

3dbothconnected

Once that’s done, you can install the other end of the ribbon cable into the socket on the motherboard. IMPORTANT: For a Type 3 Saturn (as mine is), and a Type 4, you’ll need a 180 degree twist in the cable, as the orientation of the socket is reversed. If you have a Type 2 it’s a straight drop in. Visually, you can usually tell the orientation as the wider part of the socket houses the pins, and it’s these pins that will make contact with the strips on the ribbon cable. The picture below shows this. The wider part of the socket is furthest away from the edge of the case in this image, and you can see the blue protective strip of the cable against the narrower edge of the socket.

RibbonMobo

InSitu

Now you can proceed to software and game installation!

Software setup and game installation

First, ensure your SD card is formatted as FAT32.

You can use the following file formats: CDI, CCD with IMG and SUB, MDS and MDF, or ISO for games with no audio tracks.

You can fill your card manually if you want, and use the button next to the SD card on the Phoebe to cycle through the images, which is a little long-winded. But if you do, as per the creator’s post: Create a folder called ’01’ on the root of your card, and leave it blank. then create sequentially numbered folders with one game in each.

An easier way is to use the same software to populate your card as the GDEMU uses, which is SD CARD MAKER For GDEMU V1.10 by MadSheep. Don’t worry about the name – it works on the Saturn, too, although there’s an extra step afterwards.

A big nod to consolesunleashed.com for the good visual tutorial on the combo of this and RMenu.

I’ve made the tools available here, but take no responsibility for their use or what they may do to your computer/SD card/consoles! Also, RMenu is available from a link on the Phoebe creator’s website here if you feel better using that.

Important: You may need to exclude all of the tools (including the ones you run directly from your SD card after you’ve copied them on there) from being scanned by your antivirus software. They’re hobbyist applications, and are mostly unsigned.

First, launch SD Card Maker with your SD Card inserted in your PC (Mac users, this software runs fine under a virtual machine installation of Windows).

The first thing to do is make sure that your SD card is showing as the corresponding system drive letter in the top left (press the refresh icon if it’s not found straight away), and ensure the Menu, VGA, and Region boxes are all unticked.

SDMaker1

Next, add your games. You can either press the green plus symbol in the top right to add via a file browser, or you can just drag and drop files into the list.

At the top right of the window you’ll see ‘Free Space’, telling you the capacity of your SD card, and just underneath, ‘Free Space After’, telling you the free space that would be left on the card if you finalised it with whatever is currently in the game list.

Two things to note on file naming and ordering. You can reorder them by:

  1. Using the green up and down arrows to move the selected title up or down one step at a time.
  2. Drag a title and drop it where you want it to be.
  3. Click on the ‘Name’ header to sort the entire list alphabetically, A-Z, or Z-A.
  4. You can add an empty folder using the blue folder with a white ‘+’ icon on it which will act as a separator, so that you can group titles.

NOTE: At this stage, some names will be different to the folder name (or filename in the case of image files) that you added. In the worst cases, when the files have not been tagged you will see a blank entry in the list, or they may be tagged with something they were built from, for example a homebrew game may have used an official release as its basis and may still have that tagged name! You cannot rename titles in this section of the application, but in the next bit of software you use you can, so its important that you make a note of which position your titles are in so that you can name them appropriately in the next step if they’re wildly different. If they’re obviously descriptive don’t worry about noting the position. In addition, be sure to place the titles where you want them to be AFTER you have renamed them in step 2, as you can’t reorder them there, either.

SDMaker2

Once you’ve put what you want on the card, and sorted them appropriately, click the big ‘SAVE’ button in the bottom right. The software will do its thing, and present you with a ‘done’ dialogue when finished.

SDMaker3

Next, from the unzipped RMenu_v0.2 folder you downloaded, drag the ’01’ folder to your SD card root, replacing the empty one there.

From the newly copied folder on your SD card, run the RMENU.exe file.

It will ask you if you want to Edit Game Titles?

RMenu1

Select yes or no, depending on your preference. If you choose yes, a text file will open in your default text editor application. Rename the titles here, Save, and Close.

RMenu2

If you choose ‘No’, RMenu will close. In both scenarios, you’ll now see an RMENU.iso file has appeared in the 01 folder on your SD card. This is the menu that will load at startup.

Before you fire up your Saturn, you may need to add an ‘ini’ file to your SD card root. This is a simple text file (.txt) you can create with Notepad, TextEdit, BBEdit etc. If nothing else, you should use it to let the Phoebe know which region your Saturn is. Phoebe has a region patcher built-in. So, if your console is a European PAL machine, you set that value in the ini file, and then if you run a Japan or USA image Phoebe will patch it on-the-fly to enable you to play it.

To set your region, your ini file must contain the following line:

auto_region = 6

The 6 tells Phoebe you have a Euro PAL. Other options are:

0 (or J): JAPAN
1 (or T): TAIWAN and PHILIPPINES
2 (or U): USA and CANADA
3 (or B): BRAZIL
4 (or K): KOREA
5 (or A): ASIA PAL
6 (or E): EUROPE PAL
7 (or L): LATIN AMERICA

There are other settings you can configure with the ini file, and are all detailed on the creator’s site here.

There is also a hardware mod you can perform to have Phoebe automatically switch the vertical refresh frequency between 50/60Hz depending on the game file you run. You can see details here. Alternatively, depending on the method of mod used, you may find that your existing 50/60Hz switched/switchless mods work fine with Phoebe, and you may prefer to use that. Neither mod is necessary to be able to play games from all regions, though.

That’s it, you can insert your SD card into your Saturn, boot up, and play!

One tip, if you want to use the A+B+C+Start reset option to get you back to the menu from in-game, you need to load each game with the Fast Boot setting from the RMenu game select screen. This is default behaviour when using RMenu.

RMenu does have limitations, though. The order of games is set at what they are when you compile the menu, and there’s not much else to it. It’s perfectly serviceable, but there’s an alternative – well, two.

RMenu or RMenuKai

If you have a Pseudo Saturn Kai cartridge you can continue to use that. But if you don’t, you can still use the excellent menu/launcher from it as it’s available as a standalone option in RMenuKai. You can download it here. I’ll deal with how to install it in a moment. First off, here’s a small Pros/Cons list I created:

RMenu

Pros
Simple
Fast Boot

Cons
No real sorting options
No in-built cheat database

RMenuKai

Pros
Extensive cheat database and enabler built-in (also has more cheats than the 4-in-1 cart)
Sorting by name / release date / folder ID, ascending and descending.
Autoboot last image used (if enabled)

Cons
No in-game button combo to reset
Can’t be used with Action Replay (or other) carts

If cheats are your thing, then RMenuKai is for you! It looks nice, too, and does have a few other features and customisation options. The ability to automatically boot into the last image you played is nice, too. If you’re someone who boots a game, plays it for 30 seconds and then goes on to the next one, then RMenu is for you. That said, if you were testing some images to see which you want to keep etc, then putting RMenu on your ‘test’ card, and RMenuKai on your ‘final’ card is a good option.

I’d suggest you try both and see which you prefer.

If you want to try out RMenuKai, you need to follow the guide above, then do these additional steps.

Download RMenuKai, unzip it and copy and replace the 0.bin file to:

SD card / 01 / BIN / RMENU

Once you’ve done that, you need to re-run RMenu.exe on your SD card from SD card / 01

And that’s it, just remember that you will need to re-do the steps above if you change the games on the card using SD Card Maker.

Enjoy your new Saturn ODE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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