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Retro Review - Sega Master System

By Edited Jul 6, 2016 1 1

Classic Sega console gone, but not forgotten

While many gamers were consumed with the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Atari 2600 during the 1980's, there was another console that many gamers were playing. That system was none other than Sega's forgotten child, the Master System.

Master System

My original Sega Master System, circa 1988.

The Master System originally came out in 1986 and we re-released several times. It was amusing to most kids at the time who owned the NES to see someone who had a Master System, as it was not a common console at the time. The system itself was completely different to it's Nintendo counterpart, right down to how the games themselves were placed in the system.


The Master System had two unique areas for game input, the top and bottom.

Most of the games that were available were cartridge games. Of course, with the system being 8-bit, the cartridges used the full capability that the console had to offer. The cartridges snapped into the top of the console where a retractable door is conveniently placed. The Master System also sported games in the form of a card. The card style games were normally 4-bit games and were rare to see even back in the 80's. The only card game I own (and have seen) is My Hero. (I will do reviews on old games from time to time)

Master System 2

Old school hook-up at it's finest.

The Master System was fairly simple to run to your television. (As were all consoles during the 80's) The part that strikes me funny now is the channel switch. In this age of HDMI cables, hardly anyone would get the humour behind this, but it is amusing to 80's and 90's kids.


The Master System Controller was great for it's simplicity.

The controller was scheme was very basic, but fairly responsive. The buttons were labeled '1' and '2' and the first button was always the start button for every game. The directional pad was responsive, but could also be tight at times. From personal experience, moving back and forth in the original Double Dragon (Sega released the original arcade port for this system, which was far superior to Nintendo's) with moves where you had to spin around could be a little bit tough with inexperience.

Light Phaser

The Light Phaser is my favourite console gun of all-time.

The Light Phaser was far easier to use than Nintendo's Zapper. The key the Phaser was actually in the trigger itself as it was far more responsive than the Zapper and didn't make that terrible spring noise that the Zapper made. Gun games for most consoles during this time frame didn't exactly come in huge numbers, but Sega had a few decent shooters. (Safari Hunt, Rescue Mission, and Missile Defense 3D)

So, what happened to the Master System?

Nintendo did. While there were a good number of fun games available for the Master System, none were even close to the popularity that Super Mario Bros. enjoyed. In fact, if you asked 10 gamers who are aged 25 and up what the top 10 games for the Master System were, they may not even know a single one. Even I have a hard time naming various games that were available for this system, and I advocate it. (Maybe the only popular series with sequels from the Master System were the Alex Kidd games and they haven't stood the test of time)

Third party support was a problem for Sega. (Ironic in the fact that they now produce third party games) While there were other companies making games for the console, it was far too late as Nintendo dominated the market and developers were jumping on board.

Sega should be commended for a few things with this system. They dared to break away from just using cartridge games in an era dominated by them. The Master System was one of the first consoles to ship with games built into the system. (My consoles features 'Hang on' and 'Safari Hunt') As well, the Master System spawned some game series that have lasted throughout the years, notably Shinobi and Phantasy Star. As mentioned earlier, the Master System was also the debut of the Double Dragon for home gaming.

Oh, how I miss thee. If only Sonic had came out a few years earlier.



Dec 9, 2009 3:33am
Thats a flashback. I never owned this sytem But i did get to play one.
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