Seeing this screen? Sorry, but your saved games are gone.
So, your Saturn wiped out all of your saves? We can fix that.
As you know, the Saturn uses internal storage for saved games, rather than the memory cards most other CD-era systems used. What you might not not know, however, is that the Saturn uses a battery - like a computer's CMOS battery - to achieve this.
The battery powers an RTC, or Real-Time Clock chip, which is basically like a watch that's running all the time, which is why devices like the Saturn and your computer always know what time it is, even when they've been unplugged. This is also why your microwave loses the time after it's been unplugged, as there's no power source for the internal clock.
This clock chip also keeps active the Saturn's internal RAM, where your saved games are written. It works like a computer's RAM - once it's turned off (the battery dies) everything within it is wiped clean.
So, if your Sega Saturn won't save, don't toss it out or donate it to Goodwill. This is the easiest and cheapest issue to fix.
First, you'll need a replacement battery. Do not search eBay or Amazon or anywhere else for a Sega Saturn battery - sellers will often brand this battery specifically as a Sega Saturn Replacement Battery and overcharge, sometimes upwards of $10. What you're looking for is a "coin" battery, labeled CR-2032. I got mine at Fry's Electronics for $1.75, but you may be able to find one cheaper online.
Step 1 - Open the battery door.
First off, open the battery door on the back of the Saturn as shown above.
You can now see the battery. Fight off the invading cats as they try to 'help' you.
Just press down on the clip and pull out. If you're already lost, there's nothing I can do to help you. Go ahead and just send your Saturn to me. I'll take good care of it.
Step 2 - Lift up the battery.
Gently, with your fingernail under the battery, pry it out by pushing up. If you have no fingernails, use a very, very small screwdriver, as pictured. Don't try to force in a large one and be careful, it should pop out with minimal effort.
Step 3 - Put in the new battery.
Before inserting the new battery, you may want to give the inside a shot or two of compressed air - my battery holder and this whole section were covered in dust. When you're ready, insert the battery as shown - lettering facing up - into the battery holder, inside the clip. With your finger, gently push down until it snaps into place. Put the battery cover back on, and you're done.
No, really, that's it. You just fixed your Saturn.
Fire it up and put in today's date to be sure. Unplug the Saturn and wait a few minutes, then power it back up. If it saved the date and boots into your game, you're all set, and it should save your games for several years.
As an aside, you may want to buy a Sega Saturn Backup Cartridge for backing up your save games to avoid this issue in the future. You'll still need to replace the save battery, but having the backup means nothing is lost. Sadly, though, these aren't cheap.
Enjoy your properly-saving Saturn!