Sega Saturn File Formats

Edit on Github | Updated: 07 July 2020

The Sega Saturn was the second released Sega console which used CD-ROM to distribute its games, one of the benefits of the CD-ROM format is many times more space than a cartridge. One of the downsides compared to cartridges however was the slower loading times as reading from a CD is much slower than reading from a ROM chip.

Unlike most cartridge based ROM chips CDs have a standard File System to read files from and so instead of everything being in a giant blob of binary and burned to a chip, the game could be split into multiple files.

Also the consoles would not have enough RAM to hold all the game assets so games would have to stream assets into memory when needed. So it would only read the texture or sound files used in a particular level and ignore the rest.

This makes it slightly easier to do some basic modding of Saturn assets compared to a ROM based console such as the Mega Drive, as you can normally pinpoint the asset you want down to a particular file and sometimes they have file extensions that tell you exactly what format the file is.

Executable Code Formats

Executables (COF)

Sega Saturn Executables are actually COF/COFF (Common Object File Format) files which is a precursor to the ELF executable format that is used on most future console platforms.

ABS files

ABS files seem to be the output of the LNK command and are specified in .lnk makefiles. Each sample in the SDK builds an ABS file along with the COFF executable. They both seem to be a collection of object libraries (assembled code) but not sure the difference between the formats.

Sometimes these are listed as “Execution files” so I am not sure if cof is the default executable format or not anymore.

ABS Files are listed in the documentation as “Absolute load module file “


Video Formats

Due to the large amount of cheap storage available thank to the CD format, game started incorporating full video files, these tended to be in a couple of standard video formats.

CPK - Cinepak-compressed video

One fairly common format for storing video in Sega Saturn games is to the the Cinepak-compressed video format known as CPK 1. This format uses uncompressed PCM audio and it can even be used without the video component, normally with the .SND file extension.

AVI - Audio Video Interleave

The Sega Saturn had support for Audio Video Interleave (AVI) video files and was widley used in games such as Devil Summoner. You will notice that these files start with the magic header RIFF, this is due to AVI being a subformat based on the Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF) 2.

TGQ - Video Files

Electronic Arts TGQ - MultimediaWiki


Image formats

RGB Files

doyousketch2/SatRGB: Extract RGB images from Sega Saturn files


Audio Formats

SEQ files

mistydemeo/seq2mid: Tool and documentation for the Sega Saturn SEQ format

AIF files

Audio Formats in Saturn Games - Mini-Revver


Other Formats

PCS

A quick look at the PCS File format from the Sega Saturn game Exhumed/Powerslave:

MDT and MDP

MDT and MDP File Formats · TrekkiesUnite118/GrandiaTranslation Wiki

PRS Files

PRS compression - Sega Retro

Grandia

TrekkiesUnite118/GrandiaTranslation: Collection of Tools and Info for Translating Grandia for the Sega Saturn.

DSK

Virtual Disc image used by developers when using the Mirage CD Emulator.


References