Sega Master System Overview
Active from 1986-1992*
Z80 @ 3.58 MHz
8 kB RAM
*in United States
Most Americans aren't aware that before the "blue blur," Sonic the Hedgehog, captured imaginations on these shores speeding through the sleek, black Genesis, Sega got a substantial start in the earlier 8 bit period with its Master System home console. It was released in 1985 in Japan and 1986 to compete with the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES had quite the head start, and the Master System never achieved its numbers.
What the Master System did achieve is a library of very solid games that took advantage of its technical superiority over the NES. Noteworthy titles include the Alex Kidd series, Phantasy Star, and arguably the best home version of R-Type. It demonstrated stunning 3D in games like Outrun and Space Harrier, both of which were available in "real" 3D with a glasses peripheral. The system was actively sold and supported for over a decade, and popular titles such as Sonic were also released, and performed strikingly well on the older hardware.
Sega released a number of versions of the console, including what is essentially a portable version in the Game Gear. They also released a system adapter that could be plugged into Genesis consoles to allow it to play Master System Games. You could also use Genesis controllers in the Master System.
For collectors and retro players, the Master System is a great choice. Consoles are inexpensive and widely available, and much of the library can also be had on the cheap. Most PAL games from Europe will play with little or no problems on American systems, making for a larger pool to collect titles.
- Eric Ruck