Can Sega dare challenge the almighty NES?

Isn't Sega Great!? I know I'm happy here.

In 1986, I saw some really awesome arcade games at the time. Games like Space Harrier and Out Run really blew me away back then with their amazing 3D graphics and their fast action packed game play plus they all sometime in common; they were all made by the company Sega. Needless to say I started to become a fan of them that year. Now out comes this new game system by this company themselves to challenge the then kingpin 8-bit NES. The oddly named Sega Master System boast a strong 8-bit Z80 Cpu processor, a max of 32 colours on screen out of 64, and many of their popular arcade hits would be ported to their console here as well. Sounds good, eh? The SMS was released in Canada thanks to the Toy company Irwin and early sightings of the games looked even better than most of the 8-bit Nintendo games available (at least on the screen shots anyway).

It seemed great on paper but I was very disappointed to find weak arcade translations of some of my favourites like After Burner, Space Harrier, Thunder Blade and many others games with horrible 3D frame rates and sloppy arcade-like game play. These particular 3D Master system games often bored too quickly for me and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thinks that way either. The list of problems don't end there I'm afraid. Although the Master system had a stronger graphics processor than the NES, the Master had some lousy music and sound capabilities (oddly enough the Japanese SMS sounds way better) and the games could only to be paused by pressing the Pause button on the machine itself which is a step backwards in gaming. Perhaps the nail in the coffin for the SMS was a strict Nintendo third party clause saying if you produced games for the NES than you couldn't make games for the competition. Because of all these combined problems, Sega (much like Atari and their 7800) got hammered by new comer Nintendo and there giant NES game machine.

Sega did not give up the fight though, it was cool to see a real two-player version of Double Dragon (although it kind of sucks) and a home version of R TYPE (which was released by Nintendo in the arcades, btw) plus we can't forget about Phantasy Star, a four Meg role playing game that killed any RPG (even Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior for NES) for the old Nintendo. The Sega Master System has a full list of great games like Alex Kidd in Shinobi World and some nice accessories as well, here are some of the toys you can for the system:

Sega Master System II

She is the Master and been a very bad boy!

Since I already did an amazing review of the great original Sega Master System here is one for the harder too find sequel. This little beauty here is the more compact 8-bit Sega Master System II and if you love you some Sega then maybe this tiny console with it's new features might interest ya here? First a little background though. The unit looks a bit more like the first Sega Genesis then the more blocky original Master System and now you have to open up a tray to insert the cartridge. The SMS II was released way back in 1990 for $99 Canadian and it meant to be a cheaper alternative to the then aging original console but to cut cost Sega had to take out a few features too like the Card slot and video outputs. That's definitely disappointing.

It isn't all bad though. The system no longer has that annoying Sega theme playing before each game starts and now there is just no sound a simple logo and that's it. One of the best reasons to pick up this old unit is the free game you get inside here. Another cool thing about the system is the fun Alex Kidd in Miracle World comes with it.

The game is easily one of the best and most popular games for the system and way better then getting that crappy Hang On, eh? In Europe the SMS II came with other free games like Sonic the Hedgehog so there are others units out there to find with different titles if you are has nerdy as me.

Although the unit has the amazing Alex Kidd in Miracle World built right in and the new look is pretty cool too, overall though the SMS Power Base II is not recommend over the previous console. The reason for this is because you don't get the Card serial port so you can't play any of the special Card games or even 3D Sega Scope games as well. That's over 10 games right there you can't play. The SMS II also has no Reset button or A/V outputs to help keep the cost down for the unit even though these systems usually go for more money on auction sites since it's a rarer console now. If you don't care about the 3D and card games out there and you just want to play the standard cartridge games then this is still a good system to have especially if you find some cool games with it like Wonder Boy III and Phantasy Star. You also have to love a system called the Master System, eh? Be the Master of your domain.

SMS II overall rating: 70/100

3D Glasses
These expensive black specs will only work with certain games like Maze Hunter 3D, Missile Defence 3D, Zaxxon 3D, and Out Run 3D but they add unique looking 3D effects to a machine with no true 3D capabilities. You can try and play these games on your system without the glasses but they will only look ultra fuzzy and blurry to the average gamer. These glasses are a rare find but are worth a look.

SMS Controller
These things kind of stink to be honest. The square D-pad is way too unresponsive and there are only two action buttons as well, plus if that wasn't bad enough, you can't pause your game from the joy pad either like you could from a NES controller. These small controllers are even backward compatible on some systems like the Atari 2600 and 7800 to some degree. You can even use a Genesis controller for the SMS if you want.

Light Phaser
The Sega Master System version of the Light Gun works on such games like Safari Hunt, Shooting Gallery,
Gangster Town, and more. The Phaser is fairly light and comfortable so it's very easy to use.

Bottomline: The SMS sure had its share of ups and downs but don't forget some of the games here that are actually fun to play. You can buy a
Genesis, then the Master Converter for under 20 bucks (it will only work on a Sega Genesis 1 and Sega CDX though and some games may not hard correctly) and avoid the Master system if you can but if you can't find the Master Converter and you're wondering about some of the SMS games then don't be afraid to go for the Sega Master System with a copy of Phantasy Star too. This system may surprise you!

Rating: 72/100
The SMS can be a very good system if you can find the right games for it.
Find The Sega Master System on eBay here!

Rare Scale: 3/10
it can be hard to find a Sega master system with those evasive those special 3D glasses but that's it really.


*Actually stronger than the 8-bit NES.
*Some units have built in games.
*European games are fully compatible and some are really good.

*Awful sound capabilities
*To pause your game you need to press a button on the system itself.
*Lack of most third party support thanks to a Nintendo clause.

Common Sega Master games: Rare Sega Master games: eBay
Astro Warrior
Double Dragon
Great Baseball
Great Football
Great Golf
Hang on/Safari Hunt
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Buster Douglas Boxing
Castle of Illusion featuring Mickey Mouse
Golden Axe Warrior
Joe Montana Football
Out Run 3D
Power Strike
Slap Shot
Sonic the Hedgehog (Last game released here)

StarSoldier's Super Sexy Top Ten Sega Master games:
(yeah right, as if Phantasy Star wouldn't win)
#1. PHANTASY STAR (Sega, 1988)
2. WONDER BOY III The Dragon's Trap (Sega, 1989)
4. GANGSTER TOWN (Sega, 1987)
5. GHOULS N' GHOSTS (Sega/Capcom, 1990)
6. ZILLION (Sega, 1988)
7. Y'S (Sega/Falcom, 1989)
8. GOLVELLIUS (Sega/Compile, 1989)
9. CASTLE OF ILLUSION (Sega, 1990)
10. OUT RUN (Sega, 1989)

Most Disappointing SMS game:
HANG ON (Dishonourable Mention)

The Worst SMS game:
Great Ice Hockey
F 16 (Dishonourable Mention)

Most Underrated SMS game:
Y'S (Honourable Mention)

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