Accessory Review: Zero Tolerance System Link Cable (GEN)

Technopop

 

Name: Zero Tolerance System Link Cable
Manufacturer: Accolade
Release Date: 1994
Platform: Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)
Launch Title: Zero Tolerance

 

(Editor’s Note: This Accessory was covered using it on two North American Sega Genesis consoles, two Genesis sets of hookups, two Genesis controllers and two North American copies of Zero Tolerance; all these articles are owned by the reviewer.)

 

The introduction of a game accessory has always been a complicated proposition. Regardless of its function, game accessories live and die based on a few aspects. The first aspect is the specific purpose of the device. The second being what the device does in conjunction with the given game or games and how its changes the overall experience. Another core area has to do with the build quality of the peripheral. Lastly, software support is also key for an accessory to have longevity.

With that criteria in mind, it may seem that the Zero Tolerance System Link Cable has gone down in history as being a complete disaster both a critical and commercial perspective. With it only being supported by one game, a late generation obscure first person shooter Zero Tolerance (GEN), it is easy to see why this device’s lifetime was woefully short. This is a shame because the link cable for Zero Tolerance managed to facilitate one of the best multiplayer first person shooter experiences of that generation; a generation populated with other such games with multiplayer like Doom (DOS) and Heretic (DOS).

Full View of the Zero Tolerance  System Link Cable (Mega Drive Version)Full View of the Zero Tolerance  System Link Cable (Mega Drive Version)

Full View of the Zero Tolerance System Link Cable (Mega Drive Version)

The only function of the Zero Tolerance Link Cable is to connect to Sega Genesis systems in order to create a pseudo serial link. This makes playing the cooperative mode in Zero Tolerance. Had the sequel aptly titled Beyond Zero Tolerance, his cable would have supported two titles. The lack of software support for the cable definitely prevented it from catching on.

Another detracting factor is that making the cooperative mode even possible requires two Genesis systems, two copies of Zero Tolerance, hookups for both systems, two television sets, two controllers and one link cable. With all of these stipulations and variables involved it is a tad too much to ask out of gamers in the year 1994. This is coupled with the fact that Zero Tolerance was obscure game released at the tail end of the Genesis’ lifetime and the fact that the link cable was only distributed through sending a mail order form to have it sent.

It is no wonder why this accessary was not popular and has become one of the rarest, commanding relatively high prices on the internet, provided they can even be found. When found the price of one of these cables runs at roughly $20-$30 sans shipping and handling. Being supporting only supported by one title it is a heavy price to pay for such a device.

The average price for a used copy of Zero Tolerance ranges from $8-$17 for either a loose cartridge or a complete copy. Buying two copies with a cable along with two anything else to conjure this experience on one’s own accord can be a potentially expensive proposition and one that even many retro gamers will be sure to avoid.

However, there are some great qualities to this cable. For one thing it is of a high build quality. It does not feel frail in any way. The data communication speed between both systems seems to be borderline instantaneous. When in play, the game instantly tracks where every entity is within the playing environment without any lag aside from what is seen with the single player experience.

A Detailed Diagram Showing How to Concoct Your Own ZT Link Cable

A Detailed Diagram Showing How to Concoct Your Own ZT Link Cable

For those who cannot afford the price of the cable are in luck. The remnants of the Technopop website, kept alive by founder Randel Reiss, reveal the technical details for creating a makeshift link cable with two cannibalized Sega Genesis controller cords. This is a good cheap alternative, provided that one has the aptitude for wire splicing and soldering. If not, the easy way out would just be to pay the extra cash to get the real deal.

As mentioned in our review of the game Zero Tolerance proper, the fun of the cooperative multiplayer mode in this title is unmatched for its era. The way that the game dynamics change with the inclusion of a compatriot is profoundly significant. It is a unique piece that offered system link capabilities for console gaming for the first time. However, the relatively high financial barrier to entry and the support of only one game makes this accessory nigh impossible to recommend to anyone who is not a diehard retro games, Zero Tolerance or Sega Genesis fan.

 

 

Rating III-V

Accessory Review: Action Replay 4M Plus Cartridge (SAT)

The Action 4M Plus Cartridge

The Action 4M Plus Cartridge

Name: Action Replay 4M Plus
Manufacturer: Datel
Platform: Sega Saturn
Release Date: 1997

 

(Editor’s Note: This accessory was covered using it on a North American Sega Saturn console.)

 

For a large number of gamers in the community who have played a great deal of games for a particular system, the importing of games from other distribution territories has grown into its own area of interest or obsession. There are a few reasons why import games have captured the attention of many in the gaming community. This hobby is one that has been around since the mid 1990’s and has not stopped since.

Some individuals import foreign versions of games they already have in their domestic collections. The reasoning behind this is that some titles, when they are localized for domestic audiences, sometimes suffer from content censorship or have alterations made to the overall mechanics and difficulty. One example of this the differences between the US and Japanese versions of Final Fantasy 4 and 6. Not only was the numbering of these titles incorrect, but changes were also made to censor both games’  uses of religious iconography and references to  Christianity. There are also numerous translation snafus in that mix. Another great example is the first Resident Evil or Biohazard as it is known in Japan. The intro cinematic is heavily censored along with other sequences in Resident Evil, even though the game is rated M.

Wipeout 2097 Saturn Cover Art

Wipeout 2097 Saturn Cover Art

Another reason has to do with ports of titles that may not have seen a domestic release. An instance of this occurring is the game Wipeout XL (a.k.a. Wipeout 2097 in Europe). Anyone remotely familiar with this franchise has at least heard of this game and knows it was a Playstation exclusive. However, this is only true in the US. We Americans were only able to play this on Sony’s 32-bit console, as where the Japanese and Europeans also had a version of Wipeout 2097/XL on the Sega Saturn. People who have played it claim it is in some ways better than the native Playstation version.

The biggest reason to import is to discover games that have only seen release in the respective territory in which they were developed. This mostly applies to Japanese only titles and European only games to a lesser extant. This issue is very pervasive with the Sega Saturn. The Saturn only has so many games in its US domestic library, but the Japanese library has many more titles under its belt. The Mobile Suit Gundam Blue Destiny trilogy, Deep Fear (Sega’s answer to Resident Evil 2), Princess Crown (the spiritual predecessor to Odin Sphere for the PS2) and Treasure’s Radiant Silvergun are just a few Japan only games that come to mind. There also exists a few Japan only fighting games that are known for their arcade perfect translation and overall polish.

 

Sega Saturn Modcip

Sega Saturn Modchip

 

There do exist ways to modify a system for playing import games and either requiring the physical modification of the console itself or just the use of software to bypass the region lockout code of the Saturn’s BIOS. There is also a way to play import titles that require propping the CD tray open and quickly, physically swapping a domestic game disc with an import one to get it to work.

This disc swapping method is not recommended for two reasons. Because this particular method requires keeping the tray open coupled with being in intimate proximity of the CD reading mechanism, potential damage to the reading lens can easily result. It is also a good way to potentially crack or chip your game disc from clumsy handling; this method requires a lot of dexterity. Even preforming the disc swap trick properly is not healthy for the CD reading machine because it puts unwarranted stress on it; not something you want to do for a nearly twenty year old device.

This is why one of the two most viable options includes the use of a modification chip. This chip is mounted to the section of the Saturn’s main board that is supposed to connect directly to the CD reading mechanism. This chip has a ribbon slot that completes a daisy chain between the main board and the reading machine. While this method does work well, it does also require  you to solder hot and cold wires to selects contact points directly on the power supply connection junction, which means that this mod is permanent. For someone who grew up with his or her Saturn and does not wish to physically alter the machine there is a great alternative.

Enter Action Replay, a series of cartridge based accessories that are intended to circumvent the regional lockout protection of various consoles. There have been three different versions made for the Sega Saturn, but the one we are going to focus on is the Action Replay 4M Plus. Unlike previous Sega Saturn revisions, this cartridge has four key features combined into one incredible accessory.

This Action Replay unit serves as a memory storage device for saving, deleting and transferring game save files to and from the system’s internal storage memory. This is very useful for users who have a Saturn that has a dead internal battery. Even with a fully functional machine, the internal memory only holds so many game saves. Being able to copy saves over to the Action Replay for future use is a godsend.

Another key feature is the main reason to own this accessory. This unit allow anyone to play Saturn titles from any region. The best part about this feature is that it is simply a software modification and does not require permanently altering your machine and potentially running the risk of bricking it.

The Action Replay 4M Plus also serves as a RAM expansion cartridge that is something required for select titles that require more memory to run at full graphics settings. This is mostly applicable to those Capcom fighting games that have near arcade perfect translations. With other previous revisions of Action Replay this was not possible because the region lockout feature already took up the only cartridge slot on the system.

Lastly, this device allows you to input cheat codes in order to modify or enhance your gaming experience. Tinkering with the cheat code feature can also allow players to access assets and other features on the game disc that may not have made it into the final release and is simple dead code on the disc. Doing this can sometimes render the game unplayable or prone to crashing, so caution is strongly advised.

The Action Replay 4M Plus is such a feature packed accessory and is a great all-in-one device that serves as the ultimate gateway into a side of the Sega Saturn that most players may not have seen before. It was definitely the case for us at the Solid State Gamer. Being able to play exclusives like Deep Fear (Sega’s answer to Resident Evil 2) was great along with playing all three Gundam Side Story Blue Destiny Games with the Saturn Twin Stick being a dream come true! However, there are so many more interesting Japan and Europe only games for the system. If you want to enter a whole new world of gaming possibilities with your Sega Saturn then the Action Replay 4M Plus is a must own.

 

 

Rating V-V