|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, Sega System E|
|Add-ons: Demo Unit II, Telecon Pack, 3-D Glasses|
|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 outside of Japan, and went head-to-head with the Nintendo Entertainment System (the international version of the Famicom) across the world. Sega was unsuccessful at dethroning Nintendo in the key markets of Japan and North America. However, significant sales in Europe and South America saw the console outsell the NES in those regions, and supported as late as the mid-1990s in Europe and through to the present day in Brazil, receiving a large library of software in those regions. It is Sega's second most successful video game console of all time, with an estimated 20 million units sold worldwide, largely in Brazil and Europe.
The console was originally marketed as the Sega Video Game System or just the Sega System at launch, with "Master System" being the name of the launch bundle available in North America, which was followed by the deluxe "SegaScope 3-D System" set and the budget-priced "Base System" set. The bundles were named differently in Europe, with the Master System bundle being the equivalent of the budget Base System, followed by the Master System Plus and the Super System. Because the "Master System" was the most prevalent bundle in most regions and the fact that all the consoles had "Master System/Power Base" printed on them, it became the defacto name for the platform following the Sega Master System II redesign.
The Master System is essentially a rebadged Sega Mark III and so shares the majority of the same traits as Sega's earlier console. Like the Mark III and SG-1000, it is designed to play video games distributed on ROM cartridges (or Sega Card) through a compatible television.
The hardware builds on the design of the SG-1000, and so is completely backwards compatible with the older console. While on a technical level this also means a degree of SC-3000 support, no versions of the Master System were ever designed with the ability to expand into a home computer.
The Master System is a hybrid 8/16-bit console. Its CPU, a Zilog Z80, has an 8-bit data bus with both 8-bit and 16-bit registers, while its VDP is an 8/16-bit graphics processor, with a 16-bit data bus and using 8-bit and 16-bit registers. This combination of an 8-bit CPU with a 16-bit graphics processor was a precursor to the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16), a more powerful console that released in 1987 and began the 16-bit era, leading to the creation of the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis).
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 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
As was tradition with Sega consoles at the time, the handheld Sega Game Gear is backwards compatible with the Master System and can run Master System carts through an adapter. The only hardware difference known between the two on a chip level is that the Game Gear can define 4096 possible colors, while the Master System 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 Master System, but with scrambled colors.
Another hardware difference is resolution. The Game Gear has a lower resolution compared to the Master System.
The lack of a "Start" button on a Master System also prevents many Game Gear games from being played without minor changes, however in many cases Game Gear titles are identical to their Master System counterparts, resolution included, meaning it was very common to see both Master System and Game Gear releases of games in regions such as Europe.
Its main rival, the NES, is an entirely 8-bit console, with an 8-bit Ricoh 2A03 CPU and 8-bit Ricoh PPU graphics chip, each with an 8-bit data bus. The Master System's Z80 has a higher clock rate than the 2A03, but both output a similar number of instructions per second. The higher memory bus clock rate of the Z80 and the 16-bit data bus of the VDP gives the Master System a higher memory bandwidth than the NES. The Master System displays 16 colors per tile and 16 colors per sprite, like the Mega Drive, compared to 4 colors per tile and 4 colors per sprite for the NES. The Master System displays 32 colors on screen, compared to Nintendo's 25 colors on screen. The Master System also supports diagonal scrolling as well as line scrolling, allowing it to simulate parallax scrolling. The Master System is thus a more powerful console than the NES. On the other hand, the NES had a Ricoh sound chip that was more advanced than the PSG in Western Master System hardware, but not as advanced as the Yamaha FM synthesis chip in Japanese Master System hardware.
The Master System's main rivals in Europe were the home computers ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 (C64), and Commodore Amiga 500, the latter releasing a month after the Master System's European release in 1987; though, despite the rivalry, Sega supported these platforms as a third-party licensor of arcade ports. The Master System was the most powerful 8-bit home system, surpassing the NES, ZX and C64. Compared to the 16-bit Amiga 500, the Amiga 500 was generally more powerful overall, with a more powerful 68000 CPU, higher resolution, larger color palette, and superior audio capabilities (like the Mega Drive released a year later). However, the Master System had several advantages, including superior hardware sprite and tile capabilities and smoother scrolling. Its tilemap backgrounds require up to 64 times less processing, memory and bandwidth than the Amiga's bitmap backgrounds, allowing the Master System to produce smoother scrolling and animations. The Master System displays 32 hardware sprites on screen, compared to the Amiga's 8 hardware sprites. The Master System displays 32 colors on screen and 16 colors per sprite, while for the Amiga, colors range from 2 to 32 on screen and it displays 2 to 4 colors per sprite. The Amiga's parallax scrolling reduces performance and colors, while the Master System's line scrolling simulates parallax scrolling without affecting performance or colors. The Master System's cartridges also have faster loading than the Amiga's floppy disks.
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||32X||Dreamcast|
|Master System||Master System II|
|AI Computer||Game Gear|
|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|