Saturday, December 28, 2013

The SEGA Master System !!!!!

The Game Changer is here !!! Now lets talk about one of the most over looked under appreciated consoles released in North America, and thats coming from this Nintendo Famicom Fanboy….

Personal History:
Way back in 1986 I was in 4th Grade and on Christmas like many other kids I received a Nintendo Entertainment System from my Uncle (and the choir sings) and for the whole year fell in love with Mario and the many other titles on the amazing Hardware that made my 2600 look like a steaming pile. But ! The following Christmas while I was drooling over my Golden Legend of Zelda cartridge my best friend Joey called me and told me to come to his apartment immediately !! Running full speed down the block and across the street I leapt the staircase to his apt door and rudely shot past his mother and powered through his bedroom door only to be stopped in my tracks as my eyes fixated on the TV screen displaying the awesome sight that was After Burner in his HOME !!! Reaching over to the Console Joey paused the game so I could slowly approach the technical masterpiece with no distraction. As I got closer it appeared to be a sophisticated piece of machinery possibly not for kids as it had technical blueprints displayed on its smooth sleek black shell. The dark red offsetting its dark exterior further insisted to me that this was not a bright friendly child's toy. Before I could speak Joey turned back towards me holding its packaging which also had a pattern on it that made it seem very "High Tech" and the next words I heard were " its the Master System !" The "Master System". I had seen the ads in Marvel comics and on TV where the showed a Phaser and 3d glasses and I was very aware of SEGA's role in the Arcade Cabinet world but I was not prepared to so taken back by it and certainly not on my second Nintendo Christmas. I was very amazed by the Graphics and how they seemed to be better than the NES's and the images just seemed so much clearer and detailed (this was due to the fact that the sega had over 2 times as many colors). We played Alex Kidd and the Lost stars next. Later when I got home I was still very happy with my NES and amazed by the world of Zelda but from that day forward a small part of me was always looking towards the Sega Library.

After Burner

Look at the color palette in Space Harrier compared to Nes games.

Years later I was excited when in Junior High a kid Joey and I had gone to grade school with mentioned he wanted to get money to buy an Game Boy and offered to sell me his Sega and 10 games for 28 dollars.  ( I had already saved and bought my own Game Boy read here) I ran home and told my dad of the deal assured him it was a great price and asked if I could spend my money on it and also for a ride as he lived a bus route away and the deal would take place after dinner time. My dad made me feel like it was a big favor and drove me in the rain to a house I wasn't sure of the location of (that made dad happier I'm sure). Once the home was found I ran up these tall stairs to met his smiling outgoing friendly father and scowling lil brother (lil bro wanted the SEGA for his own). The kid showed me Spy Hunter in all its colorful detailed glory running on the console to demonstrate that it worked and then showed me the RF hook up and ports. We quickly exchanged money in front of his still grinning father and then I thanked them all, now smiling wide myself I ran with "My SMS" down the long wet stairs to my waiting father who asked if I had "every thing" and then we pulled away. I returned home so excited ran in to my room and started to hook up my new Master System next to my still loved NES. I hooked it up which didn't seem hard as I had done the same many times with my NES and Atari. When I excitedly pressed the power button it didn't turn on….. I tried several times and then asked my dad whom just reminded me that he told me to ask how to use it and get "everything". I called my classmate and ran through it with him trying it again and again. His dad suggested I bring it back and we look at it together and we double check how they had it set up. My father reluctantly drove me quietly back in the rain and I ran like hell was on my heels up the wet stairs to be greeted by a still smiling Dad that offered me a soda and showed me to my friends room. We set it up and figured maybe I had the channel 3/4 selector mixed up and so I left again thankful, waving and running…..

Back home again it was still the same story but now my Dad was checking on me and the scenario was for some reason upsetting him. I was determined to get it working but my Father was more in favor of me just bringing it back since "I didn't know what I was doing" or it didn't work. So after another call and an even quieter drive back to my friends house I slowly and sadly climbed the stairs in the rain once again and was met by a disappointed friend and a Father that was trying to smile and was curious to why we couldn't just spend a minute to figure this out together, not knowing the answer myself I took the blame and offered an apology and thanks and returned home wet and saddened that a long time dream had feel through……

Don't fret for me though, years later I have acquired a SEGA Master System II and am very happy with it… oh and I hooked it up just fine.

My collection is ever growing.

To this day I still have no clue what was the cause of the malfunction as I have then and now always hooked up "all " my own consoles and electronics.

Now the Sega Story :
In 1983 SEGA had entered the home console market with the SG-1000 a technacally system similar to the Atari 2600 and Coleco-Vision with ports of SEGA's Zaxxon and Future Spy. Unfortunately Atari collapsed the Video Game market in the USA and then the World (Thanks Boner). Sega's SG-1000 went down the tubes taking its profits and financial stability with it. Purchased by Japanese company CSK and re-named Sega Enterprises in 1984 a follow up console was proposed the SG-1000 Mark II. The Mark II was an attempt to gain ground on the now empty home console gaming market, unfortunately for Sega their competitors Nintendo had the same idea and released the Nintendo Family Computer or Famicom one full year earlier. Another revision quickly came to battle in the console war. The SG-1000 Mark III was a great piece of hardware in 1985 when it launch at home in Japan with Fm sound and twice as many color capabilities than the Nintendo offering but… without software there is no Hardware. Nintendo in that first year had optioned ALL the third party developers and LOCKED them in to the now infamous contracts that stated they could NOT publish their NES titles and Arcade ports on any other hardware. Releasing cheaper SEGA Card titles games not on cart but flat credit cards was an attempt to keep costs down and profits up, but this didn't help. Sega undoubtedly had great Arcade ports of their own and a technically superior  machine by the numbers but with Nintendo having all the other companies in its corner it was Sega vs the World. Determined to make things work Sega attempted to capitalize on a trick called "re-programing" where they would use a "legal loop hole" to buy and build a game already in contract by Nintendo but completely build a new version of it internally at Sega making it technically the same but different game, while this trick worked it was costly. NEC would later use this same trick against Sega and Nintendo on its PC Engine system aka the Turbo-Grafx 16. Sega scrambled to Launch the MarkIII in North America re-named the impressive sounding Sega Master System. But much to Sega's dismay they arrived once again in this new region too late as well…. Nintendo Had also been here in the States for a year and re-issued the same contracts to the old and the new publishers alike on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Sega's loses weighed heavy and forced the Execs to sell off N.American distribution rights to Tonka an American company well known for its popular large metal construction toys. Back in Japan the company tried to re-release a Mark III that looked like the N. American version (?????) and as you may have guessed this did NOTHING for sales. Meanwhile Tonka was failing at trying to learn how to swim in the middle of the video game market. Many blame Tonka for the American failure of the Master System but close inspection shows that it was a sinking ship when sold to them. Yes the Toy Truck company passed on some games that were selling well in other regions but the Master System was already fighting to grab 10% of Nintendo's domain. Back at HQ in Japan the execs were once again looking for someway to gain a footing let alone get ahead of Nintendo, and then it appeared before them..

The OG Sega SG 1000

The SG 1000 Mark II
The SG 1000 Mark III

Nintendo was doing so well at home and on US shores that when it released the Pal NES in Europe at the end of 1986 it launched with a inflated price and small ad campaign, this seemed cocky to some at the time  and were put off by the display. Many households in the UK and Europe still enjoyed their Home Computers for gaming as "Taping" was all the rage (Taping is the coping of software aka pirating). Sega became aware of this over sight and leapt at the chance to become Europe's premiere Home Console. Wisely Sega partnered themselves with Mastertronic a UK company known for releasing inexpensive games on the PC. the European Master System was released to empty market just before Christmas season 1987. The European marketing played the strengths and pushed the "Arcade action in your Home" angle as many were familiar with the Sega arcade library. The launch titles reflected the pitch perfectly, games like Out Run, Space Harrier, Shinobi & After Burner were at the core of the Arcade experience for any gamer. No more loading times on cheap Micro PCs for these gamers the satisfaction was instant and the same could be said for Mastertronic whom did so well that they were acquired by Richard Branson's Mega company Virgin. Later in N.America Sega bought back the distribution rights from a suffering Tonka and released the repackaged Master System II. The fresh look for the console didn't do much in the US for sales despite coming with the company's mascot Alex Kidd built in to the hardware as a free game. The Master System II removed any chance of playing the cheaper abandoned Sega Card titles or the 3d Glasses. The redesign was also seen in Europe and moved a few more consoles at a reduced price in the already SEGA claimed territory. With the 16 bit Mega Drive/ Genesis already announced and on its way not much could be done to save the US sales but Europe continued to release titles that were meant for the Mega Drive like Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Mortal Kombat, Mercs and many more…

North American Master System !

The N. American Master System II

Sega still looking for more ground to release its fading 8-bit Master System and possibly find a future home for its coming console looked to South America this time mainly Brazil. The country was hungry for a Home Console feeling abandoned and left behind welcomed the Sega Master System with open arms in 1989 which was to say the least was late in the consoles career. Brazilian company Tec Toy developed the 3rd wave of Master System game well in to the 1990's…. Yup I said 90's !! Many console revisions were released by Tec Toy like wireless his and her Master Systems known as "The Compact" a Master System III with a Sonic the Hedgehog graphic on the shell as well as the Sonic game built in as Alex Kidd's the previous Sega mascots had been before. But most importantly is the fact that Tec Toy kept releasing GAMES !!! Titles like Streets of Rage 2, Ecco the Dolphin 1 & 2, Battle Toads and Street Fighter II !! The Company even decided to release Sega Game Gear games on the Home Console since the Game Gear was just a portable Master System from a hardware standpoint. And 2008 saw the release of a Sonic themed Tec Toy Master System with 6 button pads known as the "Evolution"

Wireless… oh yes !

Built in games

Ladies & Gentlemen the 2008 Evolution !!!

Many great games were available on the Mark III / Master System Phantasy Star, Double Dragon, Wonder Boy, Ghost Busters, After Burner, Out Run, Space Harrier Alex Kidd, Shinobi, Kenseiden, ninja Gaiden, Choplifter, Zillion, R-type, Govellious and the list goes on. The console receives much love in the European and Brazilian Markets as it was their answer to home gaming but it has almost no foot print sadly in my home region of North America. The lack of interest in the States shows in the price tags placed on the resale of the Console and Games which one would think would have a "rare" status due to the small release and library but if know one hears a tree… you know the rest. Now Don't hit me with hate mail I clearly love the system and a small rise in price recently shows a growing interest in America but I believe its mostly due to Retro Gameing as a whole getting larger. But for those wanting to relive their Sega Love or finally get a hold of it like myself there is great news !!! The UK, Euro, Austrailian and Brazlian games ALL work in our NTSC system !! I probably just created a price increase and competition but hey were all apart of a community.

Any way I hope you enjoyed this look back at a great console from a great company that no longer fights in the console wars that it created…… but that is another story……..

Follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Flickr @finalbossnyc and keep your eyes peeled for our new years eve contest coming soon exclusively on the social media sites !!

                 watch my master system unboxing day here on youtube  or embedded below

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