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Doctor Octagon

The Sega Master System - Why Isn't There More Love?

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Pat & Ian asked a good question on The Completely Unnecessary Podcast this week: Why isn't there more love for the Sega Master System? Their question is a good one but I think their answers are lacking something.

 

There's always more nostalgic love for what was most popular at the time. Look at the nostalgic movies that get all the love now, most of them were what was popular when we were younger. The same is true in video gaming. The NES dominated that generation, and even the Atari 7800 was outselling the Sega Master System based on price.

 

The Master System was a GREAT console, I think it had the best graphics of the era and some of the best games. You can't go wrong with Phantasy Star, and I disagree with Pat & Ian that people wouldn't have been interested in playing OutRun or Shinobi on the Master System. If you were back in 1986, and the Genesis was a good 3-4 years away before it really got going, those were great titles on a really cool game system. It's growth was stunted because it didn't take off the way the NES did with Mario, etc. but that didn't mean there weren't great reasons to own a Sega Master System, or of course an Atari 7800.

 

I do agree with Pat & Ian that "only 2 kids at every school had a Sega Master System" that sounds about right, and that Sega lost interest in supporting the Master System in America when they were close to releasing the Sega Genesis and knew it would blow the doors off of everything else around.

 

What do you think?

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I think Pat was a mainstream kid and is a fairly mainstream guy even now, and to anyone mainstream the outsider always appears strange and confusing. "Oh it doesn't play Mario? Why would anybody want this?" Because Phantasy Star and Space Harrier. And Ian hates talking or thinking about anything outside of his comfort zone, he'd rather lean back in his chair and noodle at this thumbs.

 

I think there is a lot of love for the Sega Master System today, buts it's proportional to Nintendo and the amount of love they received in 1987ish. You have to admit the SMS looked like the control panel off of a Stealth fighter! It took game cards and the graphics were pretty great for the time.

Edited by Yo-Yo

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I don't think a lot of people even know what it is. Sega Master System probably had the smallest impact on the culture of any system from that time. Comparatively even more people knew about ColecoVision in 1983 than MasterSystem in 1988. Nintendo was everywhere. Movies, TV shows, it's presence was huge! The same could be said about Atari during the 2600 years, and I think some of that cache carried over in minds of the public when they saw the 7800 and recognized it as an Atari. Before the Genesis I don't think most people knew what Sega was. Maybe they would recognize it from Frogger? The Master System wasn't really on the cover of magazines, cereal boxes, or cartoons. I don't think the general public really had much of an awareness of Sega until the Genesis showed up, and it's hard to reminisce about something that you never knew of or cared about in the first place.

 

But get a group of gamers together in a room who've actually spent time playing the Sega Master system, and I think a lot of them would have some pretty positive things to say.

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Love my SMS. Truly I don't give it the love and attention it deserves, par for the course with my collection these days. I DO recall seeing in the department store back in the day on display and thinking it seemed cooler than the NES and from what I could tell graphically more powerful. Of course same old story, everyone I knew already had a NES and I was not exactly in a position to make different choices back then as cool as I thought it was. So I never owned the console or had much to do with it back during the original run. Fortunately I picked up a pretty sweet package back in the day including the original model, some games and even the 3D goggles, I later supplemented the goggles with a third party yet compatible pair off Ebay. Here is the package I got, I posted a video about 3 years ago about it. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X-IXFelZyQ

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  • Marketing. The SMS was HUGE in Europe due to marketing. But Sega allowed Tonka, the truck people, to market it and it failed.

The early box art looked so bland compared to other systems.

Nintendo kept many third party companies from making games on other system, like the SMS.

The limited library. Again, places like Europe and Brazil enjoyed a much greater library (For instance MK never came to the US). And sadly, some of the best titles in America didn't show up until the final years of the system.

It didn't play Super Mario.  Super Mario basically revived the video game market alone and put NES systems in homes. Yes, other games like Zelda and Punch Out would later cement the dominance of the NES, but Super Mario was the foundation.

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I bought a Master System for one reason and one reason only:  Phantasy Star.

I was the ONLY kid I knew who had one, and I never picked up any other games for it.  I could only get them at Toys R' Us, and they were too expensive to risk bad titles.

As it stands, I paid 74.99 for Phantasy Star, and I think the system was 129.99 when I got it.

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I enjoy the Master System and have the model 1 from 1986. The one when you start the console up without a cart and hold up plus the two buttons on the controller you activate Snail Maze. I enjoy Hang-On, Safari Hunt, Astro Warrior, Outrun, Sonic 1 and 2 were good, Fantasy Zone, Golden Axe Warrior, Phantasy Star, Shinobi, Alex Kid Series, and Wonderboy. Even Ninja Gaiden was released for it. I think only a dozen games were released as a Sega Card. It is not region locked for PAL games which is a plus. I always like the color palette the system produced plus the sound.

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I think the Master System was in the shadow of other great systems like the NES, and Sega didn't really become that popular until the release of the Genesis, which, let's be honest here, was a great system (though I can't speak for other people on this forum). The Master System was pretty good though.

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As an aside, the Master System is the next classic console I want to pursue. It has a modest library, sure, but it is by no means a miniscule one. Over 300 titles, I believe, which is nothing to sniff at. Add to that the console has NO region lock between NTSC and PAL Master Systems, meaning pretty much all the best European exclusive titles can be played on an American SMS, so it's an importer's dream.

 

A great system, and a worthy predecessor to the Genesis.

Edited by LeeJ07

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