Review by Swordlord

Reviewed: 07/16/03 | Updated: 07/16/03

Ignored for no good reason?

Why was the Nintendo Entertainment System preferred over the Sega Master System? What could the Master System have been now, if it had been successful in the United States and Japan? We may never know the true answer to these questions, but the Master System had a few good games and it's worth a try. The capabilities of the SMS were better than those of the NES. But Sega was both uninspired and unlucky with their first system released worldwide. The SMS went on to become quite popular in Europe and Australia, and even the most popular system in Brazil. Okay, now on with the review.

1)Software: The games are a lot like the NES games: 'Hang-On' is just a 'F-1 Race', but with motorcycles, while 'Safari Hunt' without a doubt will remind you of 'Duck Hunt'. The Master System has much fewer games than Nintendo's system. But that is mostly because Nintendo had a very smart, yet wicked, 3rd-party policy; the companies that made games for Nintendo were forbidden to make games for the SMS. Naturally, all good game companies were already taken. Because of that, I'll be a little lenient here. The vast majority of SMS games were created by Sega themselves and Tec Toy, a Brazilian company. The games are diversified and there actually are good fighting games for the SMS out there: 'Street Fighter II Turbo' and Mortal Kombat 1, II and 3; but don't look for them in North America, they were only released in Europe and Australia and/or Brazil. The acclaimed RPG 'Phantasy Star' was born on this console. Even the first Sega mascot (it wasn't always Sonic) came from a series of appreciated SMS games; his name: Alex Kidd. 23% out of 40%

2)Aspect: The second and third Master Systems have the usual look for cartridge consoles. The first model, however, seems more like an audio cassette player. It's a very interesting look, not bad. 4% out of 6%

3)Power: Like the NES, it is a 8-bit system. However, the graphics and sound of the SMS are much better than the Entertainment System's. There are 256 colours available on the palette of the SMS and 52 of them can appear on screen at the same time. The graphic capabilities were closer to the Genesis than to the NES, but they were probably never used at their maximum, even though 'Street Fighter II Turbo' comes close. The SMS was the most powerful system for a few years, and yet it was doomed to fail. 9% out of 15%

4)Fidelity: Granted, the SMS was, indeed, deprived of many good developers. But the way Sega and Tenka Toys marketed it was not inspired at all. Many good games cannot be found easily today and, if one manages to find them, the price is quite high. Thankfully, the software is generally compatible with any type of SMS, from any country. There are a few games that are incompatible, or that do not work perfectly, however, due to the 50-Hertz-to-60-Hertz conversion, or because of the memory. An often-raised problem is the 'Pause' button, which is positioned awkwardly -- on the console itself. Another problem would be that the SMS II cannot read games which were released on cards (think TG-16). The consoles themselves are not too hard to find, they're cheap and they work nicely. This still doesn't attract many buyers, though... except in Brazil. 14% out of 30%

5)Accessories: Many accessories were made for the Master System, but they are rare. Joysticks, light guns, joypads and control pads were available from different manufacturers. A paddle controller and a sports pad were invented, for particular games. A nice innovation was the 'Stunt Master' helmet, which sort of gives the idea of virtual reality, and so were the 3-D glasses invented by Sega (3-D-compatible games required, of course). Very interesting was the 'Rapid Fire Unit', which was connected between a controller and the console, allowing auto-fire capabilities for each button independently. And finally, there's even an arcade stick designed for left-handed people. One would never think this ill-fated system would have so many accessories, but there they are. 9% out of 9%

Total: 59% out of 100%. The system itself is much better than the final mark suggests. The lack of games on the American market and the rarity of the games are the major downsides of the Sega Master System. Nowadays, this system is only for collectors, or for experienced game players who wish to see their favourite games (Street Fighter, Sonic, Phantasy Star or Mortal Kombat) like they've never seen them before. This is the system that could have beaten the NES, but never had the chance. From Swordlord, one sword up!

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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