|Fast facts on Sega Master System|
|Variants: Sega Mark III, Sega Master System II, Sega Game Box 9, Tectoy Master System Super Compact, Super Gam*Boy, Super Gam*Boy II|
|Add-ons: Demo Unit II, Telecon Pack, 3-D Glasses|
|Main processor: Zilog Z80|
|Built-in games: Hang-On, Hang-On / Safari Hunt, Missile Defense 3-D, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Sonic the Hedgehog|
The Sega Master System (セガ・マスターシステム) or SMS, is a cartridge-based video game console manufactured by Sega. It is a rebranding of the Sega Mark III intended for western markets, which in turn was a successor to the SG-1000 and SG-1000 II. In South Korea the Master System was distributed by Samsung and known as the Gam*Boy (겜보이) and later Aladdin Boy (알라딘 보이). It was codenamed the Sega Mark IV during development.
The Sega Master System was the first of Sega's consoles to see widespread distribution, and went head-to-head with Nintendo's Famicom/NES across the world. Though it was unsuccessful at dethroning Nintendo in Japan and North America, the Master System was able to outperform other rivals (notably the Atari 7800) in those regions. The Master System found its greatest success in Europe and South America, regions where it outsold the NES. Worldwide, it hit second place in the third generation of video game consoles, selling over 16 million units worldwide, including over 1.7 million in Japan, 2 million in the United States, 5 million in Brazil, nearly 7 million in Western Europe, and 720,000 in South Korea. This paved the way for its successor, the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis), gaining wider worldwide success.
The "Sega Master System" name is a relatively later creation, adopted towards the end of the 1980s after a release in Japan, Australia and a series of price drops and "improved" bundles forced the "Master System" name into use. During its first few years of service, the Master System was simply known as the Sega System or in some countries, just the Sega. It has also been (incorrectly) referred to as the Sega Master or Master. Depending on the package, the console may have also been referred to as the Sega Base System, Sega Super System, Sega Video Game System or Sega SegaScope 3-D System, with the console unit itself being referred to as the Sega Power Base.
The original 1986 model Sega Master System took a radically different approach to its outward design to the Mark III, released a year prior. The main unit, commonly referred to as the "Power Base" is a black 3D trapezium with red/orange highlights, measuring 143/8 inches in width, 65/8 inches deep and 23/4 inches in height. After a one-inch base, the machine is formed upward and inward to form the cartridge slot plateau.
The Master System takes much of its design cues from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), released in 1983 in Japan and 1985 in the US, with detachable controllers and power and reset buttons. But like prior Sega consoles (and virtually all cartridge-based systems going forward), the Master System is a top-loading machine. It also contains a card slot for the handful of games distributed on Sega Card, and curiously, a diagram or vague instructions as to how the system works (i.e. insert a cartridge, power the system on, and use the control pads to manipulate an image on a television screen). The Master System also has a built-in "pause" button for stopping play.
The Master System is a hybrid 8/16-bit console. The Z80 is an 8/16-bit CPU, with an 8-bit bus width and using 8-bit and 16-bit registers. Its VDP is a 16-bit graphics processor, with a 16-bit bus width and using 8-bit and 16-bit registers. In comparison, the NES is an 8-bit console, with an 8-bit Ricoh CPU and 8-bit PPU graphics chip. The Master System's CPU and VDP also have higher clock rates and faster bandwidths than the CPU and PPU of the NES, and the Master System's VDP displays 16 colors per tile, compared to 4 colors per tile for the NES PPU. The Master System was thus a more powerful console than the NES.
The Master System has an introduction screen which appears each time the system is turned on (with or without a game inserted). The Sega logo slowly "slides" into view mid-screen (with accompanying sound effect), and the text "Master System" appears underneath, with the two-tone "Sega" tune also being played during this sequence.
Unlike the NES, the Master System displays an instructional screen if the system is turned on without having a cart or card inserted, though as Sega moved to using built-in software, the console instead began to automatically load the built-in game instead. Early original Master Systems also contain the "easter egg" Snail Maze minigame - these earlier revisions of the console's BIOS are known to have trouble playing some later cartridges, including games published by Codemasters and later Brazillian releases by Tec Toy.
The 1987 Japanese release, whose design was also brought to South Korea, makes a number of important changes. Aside from adjusting the the cartridge slot, it has the Mark III's FM Sound Unit built-in from the get go, and supports the 3D Glasses without the need for an adapter (which usually plugs into the card slot).
Japanese Master Systems are quite difficult to spot, even though the cartridge size is smaller. They can be identified by the text on the left hand side of the unit - Western models read "Master System/Power Base", while Japanese systems simply read "Master System".
Master Systems have an expansion slot on the base of the system, in anticipation of future add-ons should Sega choose to release some. No such peripherals were ever released, and by mid-1990 Sega had conceded that the port had no practical purpose.
After a period of decline and the rise of the newly-released Sega Mega Drive, Sega constructed the Sega Master System II for overseas markets. There is virtually no resemblance to the earlier model, opting for smooth curves and rounded corners more akin to the Mega Drive, and is a great deal smaller (and, as a result, cheaper to manufacture).
The Master System II removes many features (usually unpopular ones) in an effort to cut costs. There is no card port (and by extension, no 3D Glasses support), the unused expansion port was removed and the reset button has been omitted in favour of a larger pause button. The swinging, hinged cartridge slot doors of the original model are replaced with a sliding cover (which cannot be closed with a cartridge inserted), and the number of video output options reduced (usually to just RF). Also missing is a power LED and the BIOS screen introducing the console when powered on.
Each region has its own set of cosmetic differences. In Brazil the system is known as the Master System III Compact, and in South Korea it was released twice, first as the Super Gam*Boy II and later the Aladdin Boy.
RF Converter: MGB3-VU3401, 8E388 PCB Component Side Markings: (c) SEGA 1988 : SEGA (R) M4 POWERBASE / NTSC 171-5533-01 : 837-6629 19 AUG 1988 CON2: 35 Pin Card Slot 209-5020 K16R CON3: 50 Pin Cartridge Slot PSB4D255-4R1 M18R CON4: 50 Pin Card Edge IC1: Zilog Z0840004PSC Z80CPU 8828 SL0965 IC2: 0821EX SEGA MPR-11460 W46 IC3: NEC JAPAN D4168C-20 8829P5007 IC4: SEGA (R) 315-5216 120U 8820 Z79 IC5: SEGA 315-5124 2602B 84 18 89 B IC6: NEC JAPAN D4168C-15-SG 8828XX215 IC7: NEC JAPAN D4168C-15-SG 8828XX215 IC9: SONY 8M09 CXA1145
SMS Control Pad Information:
5 4 3 2 1 9 8 7 6
Can Game Gear games be played on the SMS?
The Game Gear can run SMS carts, of course, but that is due to intentional backwards compatibility of the GG to the SMS, and such does not work in reverse. The only hardware difference known between the two on a chip level is that the GG can define 4096 possible colors, while the SMS can only define 64 colors. As the GG has more colors, it has a different method of setting each of the color registers than the SMS did: The SMS color can be determined by one byte and hence only needed one register, whereas a number from 0 to 4095 needs two bytes, and so the GG VDP has two color registers. Game Gear games which use the expanded graphics mode will run on an SMS, but with scrambled colors; the lack of a "Start" button also prevents many Game Gear games from being played. Several Game Gear games were straight ports of their SMS counterparts and will run through the use of a flash cart or homemade cartridge adapter.
In France, the original Master System (and the SMS II, which had the A/V port instead of RF jack) were sold with an RGB lead (model 3085). One end plugs into the SMS, the other into the SCART/Peritel socket on a TV, via a small box in the lead, labeled 'Adapteur R.V.B.'. As it utilizes RGB, it gives a sharper and more vibrant picture compared to RF or composite video. The box contains a small PCB, the purpose of which is to provide the blanking and function switching signals, so that the TV can automatically switch to RGB input.
AU (Master System II)
|Sega Home Video Game Systems|
|SG-1000||SG-1000 II||Mega Drive||Mega Drive II|
|SC-3000||Mega-CD||Mega-CD II||Genesis 3|
|Sega Mark III||Saturn|
|Master System||Master System II|
|Sega Master System Hardware|
|Master System Variations||Asia | North America | Europe | South America|
|Add-ons||Demo Unit II | Telecon Pack | FM Sound Unit | 3-D Glasses|
|Game Controllers||SJ-152 | Control Pad | 3-D Glasses | Control Stick | Handle Controller | Light Phaser | Paddle Control | Rapid Fire Unit | Sports Pad | SG Commander|
|Misc. Hardware||Action Replay | Card Catcher | Action Case | Freedom Connection | Playkit|
|Unreleased Accessories||Floppy Disk Drive|
|Consoles on a Chip||Arcade Gamer Portable | Coby TF-DVD560 | DVD Karaoke Game DVT-G100 | Fun Play 20-in-1 | Master System 3 | Master System Evolution | Master System Handy | PlayPal Plug & Play | Poga | Time Plug & Play on TV|