Super SD System 3 - Full ODE for the PCE/ TurboGrafx + RGB (Mini-Review/Discussion)

Yesterday I received a relatively pricey yet fancy piece of kit in the mail, TerraOnion’s Super SD System 3 for the PC Engine. For those who aren’t aware, this went up for preorder on the NeoSD Store back in December. First units began shipping in January, and were promptly put on hold due to a design error (more on that later). Revised boards began shipping a few weeks ago, including my unit.

So what does it do? It attaches to the expansion port on the back of a PC Engine and gives you RGB video out with no extra mods needed. The multi-out is designed to the Genesis/Mega Drive 2 standard, and I can confirm it works with a CSYNC Genesis 2 cable (I’m using a Packapunch cable from Retro Gaming Cables).

More exciting, it has an SD card slot, which allows you to run both Hucard and CD Images directly from the SD. That’s right, this thing is a complete ODE, using an FPGA to emulate the CD Drive, and run images from any region. Also, since it’s running off SD, there’s little to no loading times: music tracks start instantly, and games load very quickly compared to original hardware. Booting games is FAST too, with no flashing/loading times like some Everdrives.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. The SSD3 also negates the need for any Systems Cards that normally go with the CD Rom attachment. As long as you have the correct BIOS on your SD card, you do not need a CD Card in your PC Engine to run CD games. And switching the BIOS is easy through the boot-up menu, for those few games that have compatibility errors. FINALLY, this thing includes Arcade card compatibility as well, so Arcade games work without the card too.

System compatibility is relatively high: TerraOnion claim that the system will work on every PC Engine variant that has the expansion port (Sorry Duo owners!). This includes the PC Engine, CoreGrafx (Which I use), CoreGrafx 2, TurboGrafx 16 NTSC & PAL, and the SuperGrafx. SuperGrafx enhanced games will apparently run from the SD card fine, though I have no way of testing this.

TerraOnion are the creators of the NeoSD Neo Geo flashcart, and this is only their second product. Being relatively new on the scene vs some other designers, plus the high price tag of the product, it was a bit of a gamble ordering one right away. And sure enough as I mentioned there were some growing pains: there was a design error where digital and analog signals were not grounded correctly, causing some video and audio noise. Some of the first board that were shipped had this error, and to TerraOnion’s credit, they halted shipping the units in order to redesign the board to fix the issue. They’re also offering a trade in program for anyone who got one of the original boards.

So, what about my impressions? I played with the system for only an hour and a half yesterday, and came away very impressed. Everything seems to be working as it should: Hucard games ran fine, as did CD Rom games, I tried a few North American and Japanese ones of each. The only game I played for more than 10 minutes was Akumajou Dracula X (Rondo of Blood), which was extremely impressive. I can confirm that despite no seeking time needed for audio tracks, no redbook audio played out of sync in the cutscenes I watched, such as the early one in Stage 2 where Richter rescues Maria.

I have very little history with PCE hardware, so there could be flaws I’m not noticing. A few things I did notice was that volume on CD Audio seemed to vary from game to game, not sure if this happens on real hardware. Things seemed balanced once I dialed the volume up or down, but CD games seemed to be consistently louder than Hucard games. Likewise, I noticed a bit of audio distortion on some CD games, will have to do more testing here as I’m not sure if its an issue with compression on my end, or the actual games had that distortion. Would love some help with someone using an actual CD ROM drive here: do you know of any games that either have or are 100% free of distortion? I’d love to compare vs the SSD3.

The menu system is interesting: it’s a bit more in depth than your typical Krikzz Everdrive menu. Eventually TerraOnion will be releasing a tool that will scan your SD card, and create screenshots for the menu when you select games/give you information on the game. As it stands right now, navigating the menu is a bit clunky: the Run button is used to open folders, and you have to hit the Select button to switch between Hucard and CD-Rom loading. It’s a bit of a nitpick though, and once a game is running, everything is fine. There are some quality of life toggles such as disabling the “Push Run” screen when loading CD-ROM games, being able to auto-boot the last game loaded, and even an in-game toggle to return to the menu. I’ve heard the In-Game toggle can cause compatibility errors, so I’ve left it off for now and haven’t messed with it at all.

As for video quality: I have the new board and am running through a Framemeister and have noticed no video noise. That being said, some other users have been reporting noise when using a complete LPF free setup, such as the OSSC with LPF off. I can’t speak to their impressions, and will be doing some more testing later tonight and will post my results. I also wasn’t able to notice any Jailbars on my system, which is a plus! The SSD3 will not eliminate jailbars if you have them on your hardware though, there’s no way to get rid of them without modding your system. If you have an RGB modded system already, you can still use the system’s regular video out with the SSD3, so those with OSSCs, or those who can notice video noise, that’s always an option. CD Audio will not route through the system internal sound out though, so you would still have to take audio from the back of the SSD3 in this situation.

Overall, the system is very, very impressive. As someone who’s very unfamiliar with the PC Engine library, I’m really excited to dig into some long lost (to me) Retro gems. Finishing Rondo of Blood will be first on my list, along with some Hucard games such as Splatterhouse, and the really fun Japanese exclusive Die Hard. Eventually I’ll get to the Ys series, Neutopia, and maybe I’ll finally start trying to “git gud” at shmups.

Hopefully this helps inform anyone who hadn’t heard of this device, or is on the fence. I’ll be messing with it a lot over the next week, so please ask questions! I’m happy to run specific games, take pictures, and try to help out in anyway possible. Suggestions on awesome games to play are also appreciated :slight_smile:


I’m looking forward to getting mine, whenever it ships. I’m way at the end of the line, though. Seems like they’re still working on January orders and I just ordered last week.

I’m concerned about jailbars on my unmodded CoreGrafx. I hope they don’t manifest too much. It’d be nice if I could get someone to do the mod for me; I don’t trust myself nearly enough with a soldering iron to change the capacitors.

Still really tempted by this, but I already spent $$$ getting a Duo R, modding it for RGB, making my own RGB cable, getting a Turbo Everdrive, an Arcade Card Duo, a Tennokoe Bank, and yeah stupid expensive extra controller for my current setup.

If this existed when I started I’d probably save a bit overall. But since I already have all that stuff I guess I’ll stick to CD-Rs like a sucker.

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Despite all the drama it actually looks like a great quality piece of kit!

I was reading the official forum thread this morning, and they seem really worn out by the RGB issue, to the point where the guy has proclaimed that no future product from them will feature RGB output. Too bad.

I don’t like to talk negatively about other forums, however I don’t think the issues TerraOnion had with the RGB output were helped by the particular forum where they chose to host their official support: something which they’ve said is changing as they will be launching their own forum sometime in the near future. Many posters are/were quite vitriolic and downright mean on that forum, and that soured a lot of the discussion that was taking place.

There’s a fair amount of drama on both sides of the discussion in certain places, and I’ve tried to stay away from that in my thread here, as I think the product itself should be the main point of discussion. And I’m really happy with the product!

Well, relevant to this product, he said they will not be doing any further adjustments or investigations on how to clean up the picture for those people who don’t have noise-free images. I’m not saying he should, but I think the information is relevant for those interested.

One sticking point I have is that he says that people can stick with their existing modded output ports, but in their advertising they make that sound like it’s a bad option, and there’s no way to hear CD audio if you do that. Giving up CD audio isn’t a solution at all. They should have included separate audio out on the back of the unit and then I think that would be peachy.

A dedicated 5mm Audio out (or even L/R RCA) would be a cool feature, but you can achieve the same thing by plugging in a Genesis 2 Composite cable and just using the audio RCA jacks to tap the sound. Again, maybe not as convenient, however if you’re enough of an enthusiast to have an RGB modded system, you probably already have, or have the means to build/acquire a cable that would do the job.

I don’t own a PCE with an expansion port, but the going recommendation for a long time AFAIK has been to use something that makes use of the RGB output on the expansion port. Direct cables connecting to that, the GrafxBooster, getting an IFU and RGB modding that.

For this unit it seems completely essential to have RGB output.

The cd audio issues were also reported by MLIG. I’m sure a firmware fix will take care of this.

What was the drama related to RGB? Really don’t want to go hunting through another forum to find out since I’ve been limiting myself to just this one as a way to not waste so much time just browsing the interwebs and actually play games lately.

To quickly paraphrase: basically there were concerns about the RGB output based on the specifications of the device. A number of people were very vocal that the developers of the product were going to get it wrong. Another group of posters were convinced that people were nitpicking and that everything would be fine. Some nasty stuff was said from both sides to each other.

The device started shipping and had issues with video/audio interference. The developers reached out and with some help from the community were able to solve the issue quickly, and stopped shipping the old batch to focus on the new ones. Some people were very happy, and some people were still very rude (to put it politely).

Now with the new device, there’s more talk of video noise. Unfortunately any sort of issue tends to be escalated to hyperbolic extremes in some corners of the internet, so I don’t blame the TerraOnion team getting frustrated and mentioning that they’re not going to do video out on any of the products going forward, considering it seems to be dominating discussion rather than the main draw of the system: ODE.

Yes, looks like the Devs have already said they’re going to look at audio output levels once Spring Break is over, and everything should be fixable in a firmware update. Early reports from those testing the device before launch said compatibility issues were fixed very quickly, so I have no doubts this will be fixed soon.

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Hmm to be fair this recap fails to mention that the devs themselves acted like major asshats, but like you said it was a messy affair all around from all sides. Thankfully at the end of the day the devs opted to make it right, but they need someone on their team that knows how to interact with the public.

Thanks for the explanation. When drama over RGB was mentioned I just couldn’t imagine what about RGB support could cause drama, but there you go.

Damn, this looks amazing.

I was following the thread when this all went down and the devs handled this very poorly.

#1 They were comparing their RGB output with stock composite output. They even admitted to not having an RGB PCE inhouse to compare with.

#2 They didn’t use a true ground. How the fuck do you not do this, grounds are kind of important in analog AV

#3 They charged early adopters to send their faulty units back for repairs even though “they felt there wasn’t actually a problem”

@BTails I’m really glad you got a solid product in the end! I’m heading to Japan soon and I can totally see a little PCE coming home with me!

Maybe throw some Pop’N Music PS2 releases in that suitcase while you’re at it :smiley:

They really do need a person with a cooler head about all this interacting with the public. Strange seeing neutrally worded posts with honest feedback (foremost meant to help them) illicit such strong negative responses instead. edit: I see further in that neodev gave a more measured response. Seems knowledgeable and thinks it’s basically a lottery with some PCE systems noisier than others.

If by no RGB, they mean HDMI going forward like the Super NT, I guess that’s fine. They should go that route if it’s less trouble and less expensive. Maybe sell a DAC on the side for those that have CRTs.

It haves save States?

No Save States. They might come with a firmware update, but the devs already said it would be a long shot.