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Sega Saturn NetLink Guide

January 11, 2015

I have a soft spot for old consoles with online and networking capabilities – especially consoles that have dial-up modems available. During the last month or so I have been playing with the Sega Saturn NetLink dial-up modem.

Sega Saturn NetLink Front and Read View

The modem originally allowed you to browse the internet and play NetLink compatible games with other people using the X-Band service or direct dial “Quick Link.” Although the X-Band service was shutdown long ago, you can still browse the internet (HTML 2.0) and dial people directly to play games with. They currently sell for about $8-$30 on eBay.

 

NetLink Games

These are the US NetLink compatible games:

  • Daytona USA CCE NetLink Edition (eBay) – No NetLink logo
  • Duke Nukem 3D (eBay / Amazon) – All versions
  • Saturn Bomberman (eBay / Amazon) – All versions
  • Sega Rally (eBay) – Only with NetLink logo
  • Virtual On (eBay) – Only with NetLink logo

This logo will be in the top left corner of most NetLink compatible games:

Sega Saturn NetLink Playable Logo

Daytona USA CCE NetLink Edition is the only NetLink compatible game that has no NetLink logo. Look for “NetLink” printed on the disc and a black and white supplementary manual behind the standard manual. This game is extremely rare. When it pops up on eBay it goes for well over $1,000.

In my opinion, Saturn Bomberman and Sega Rally are the must have games if you plan on using a NetLink. I would say Daytona USA CCE NetLink Edition is also a must have, but it is absurdly priced.

 

How to play with someone else who has a NetLink modem?

You each need the following:

  • Sega Saturn (eBay /Amazon)
  • NetLink Modem (eBay / Amazon) (Web Browser CD not needed for gaming)
  • NetLink Game
  • Analog Phone Service

It is pretty straight forward. Just plug your modems into the phone jack, fire up the systems with the game in it, decide who hosts, and the non-hosting player will dial the host. It is as simple as that.

Sega Saturn NetLink Play

Is it possible to connect with a VOIP router?

I have not heard of anyone successfully connecting with a VOIP router. That is not to say it is impossible, but these modems are extremely fickle. Too much latency and it will disconnect you. People tend to think it is the internet latency that is the issue. That might be part of the problem but the real issue is the speed in which the router encodes/decodes audio. It can take a few hundred milliseconds for encoding/decoding alone. When using a VOIP to analog line configuration there is about a 200-300ms delay. When using a VOIP to VOIP configuration there is a 400-600ms delay. That is not including regular internet latency of 30-100ms.

 

How to connect two Sega Saturns locally to play NetLink games?

Keep in mind that this is not system linking. You can’t just plug one modem directly into another and expect it to work. You will need some extra equipment in order to get the NetLinks talking to each other. There are two ways you can do this. Method 1 is easy and more expensive. Method 2 is a significantly harder and cheaper than method 1.

Method 1

You will need:

  • 2 Sega Saturns (eBay /Amazon)
  • 2 NetLink Modems (eBay / Amazon) (Web Browser CD not needed for gaming)
  • 2 NetLink Games
  • A Telephone Line Simulator (TLS) (eBay / Amazon)

The telephone line simulator provides the proper voltages and tones needed in order for the NetLinks to work properly. I am using a Teltone TLS-3.

WP_20150111_016

Just connect the NetLinks to the TLS, and have one Saturn dial the other (102 is the number to the second port on my TLS).

Sega Saturn NetLink Local Link Diagram TLS

Sega Saturn NetLink Play 2

Method 2

I am not responsible for any damage to your system or injury to yourself if you choose to use this method. If you don’t understand what is actually happening in this method then please don’t use it. Be careful of the 90 volts AC ring voltage!

You will need:

  • 2 Sega Saturns (eBay /Amazon)
  • 2 NetLink Modems (eBay / Amazon) (Web Browser CD not needed for gaming)
  • 2 NetLink Games
  • Unlocked Linksys PAP2T VOIP Router (eBay / Amazon) (Other VOIP routers may work but you will have to do the research on that)
  • 4 (or more) Port Telephone Splitter (eBay) (Optional)
  • 4PDT Switch (eBay)
  • 9VDC Source (eBay) (Battery or AC Adapter)
  • 300 Ohm Resistor (eBay)
  • Wire

What you do in method 2 is set up a VOIP router to act as a ringdown circuit. It will supply the idle line voltage (-48 VDC) and ring voltage (90 VAC 20 Hz) to the NetLink modems. Once the dialing NetLink opens the line, the VOIP router will ring the host NetLink. A custom switch is then used to manually switch the NetLinks to connect directly to each other while totally bypassing the VOIP router.

Sega Saturn NetLink Local Link Diagram VOIP and Swtich

 

Here is how to wire the switch:

VOIP Ringdown Bypass Switch

J1 and J4 are each connected to a system and J2 and J3 are connected to the VOIP router ports 1 and 2. The ports are a front view. If you don’t want to use a phone splitter you can cut phone cables and wire it all the same way.

To use the switch, start with it in the VOIP router position. Set Saturn 1 up to wait for a call. Have Saturn 2 dial nothing or 1 digit. Once Saturn 1 displays “Answering Phone…”, listen for the relay in the NetLink to click. Once this happens, flip the switch to bypass the router. Both Saturns should say “Establishing Connection…”, “Exchanging Information…”, then proceed to a black screen with character icons and taunts. At that point you know you are connected properly.

 

NetLink Demonstration

 

How to browse the internet with a NetLink modem?

  • Sega Saturn (eBay / Amazon)
  • NetLink Modem (eBay / Amazon) (Web Browser CD is needed)
  • Analog Phone Service along with Dial-UP ISP  OR  Linksys PAP2T VOIP router and Netopia R2020

In order to browse the internet you need the CD that originally came with the NetLink. Keep in mind that most web pages will not be compatible with the HTML 2.0 browser on the NetLink CD. If you have a dial-up ISP, then dial into it and you should be good to go. If not, follow this guide I wrote for the Sega Dreamcast.

 

From → Networking, Saturn, Sega

One Comment
  1. zipper permalink

    Awesome! Thanks for this tutorial.

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