How a Dirty Old Sega Master System Turned Me on to Retro Gaming
As a child born in U.S. in the mid-to-late eighties, I knew only of the Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari 2600/5200/7800 trio up until Sega taught me that "Genesis Do what Nintendon't." It wasn't until I began to grow fascinated with the history of Sega as a company during recent years that I discovered they had manufactured several consoles before the Genesis, and that one of them was available in the states.
When I came across a cheap Sega Master System and some games, I decided to buy them for curiosity's sake. I couldn't help but wonder what I had missed out on while I was busy playing the NES. Could the Master System have games to match or even eclipse my beloved Castlevania or Zelda games? Well, there's a handful of enjoyable games on the Master System, but the vast majority of games for it are underwhelming at best. To me, however, that handful of games makes the system worth owning and playing.
Games Above and Below: After Burner, Alex Kidd the Lost Stars, Choplifter, Black Belt, Fantasy Zone, Ghost House, Lord of the Sword, Maze Hunter 3D, Missile Defense 3D, Monopoly, Parlour Games, Phantasy Star, Rampage, Rastan, Rescue Mission, Space Harrier, Space Harrier 3-D, Teddy Boy, Time Soldiers, Vigilante, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, and Zaxxon 3D. There are also several cartridges not pictured.
I was quickly surprised by how much sheer fun I was having playing through these old games. I honestly enjoyed every game listed above to some degree, and was immensely impressed by the games Phantasy Star and Maze Hunter 3-D. You may have noticed a couple of the boxes are skinnier than others. This is because along with using cartridge games, the Master System also had some games available on credit card sized cards which slid into a separate port on the console. These tended to be simpler pick up and play style games.
The Sega Master System controller is very similar to the NES controller but offered grooves for more comfortable gameplay. The directional pad had 8 directions instead of 4 and I consider it more natural feeling. Some variations of the control had a screw in small control stick which was placed in the center of the d-pad. I also have two controllers which have the cord protruding from the side, but these controllers seem to be much more problematic and shoddier than the alternative. The major downfall of the Master System controller is the lack of a start or select button. Instead, the pause button can be found on the console itself, like on previous Atari consoles. This limits the controls in certain games, and in some cases hurts the gameplay experience.
Like the NES and it's Zapper, the Master System featured a "light gun" known as the Light Phazer. Most of the games that utilize it are mediocre, but the game which was usually used to showcase the gun, Safari Hunt, is like the NES's Duck Hunt on crack, and in my humble opinion a much better game. Safari Hunt is a simplistic 8-bit shooting game which manages to raise my heart rate, and that says a lot about the games addictive quality.
The Master System also features an arcade style stick controller, like the NES Advantage, but much smaller. In fact, it's hardly bigger than the standard controller. For some reason, the Master System's control stick is the reverse of every other common one I've seen. This never made a difference to me during gameplay, and I've talked to a number of people who actually preferred this setup.
The Master System also features a trackball controller, much like you would find on golf and bowling games in the arcade. I haven't had a chance to try it out on a proper game, so I can't really comment much on this one other than I think it's neat.
You may have noticed that I have several 3-D Master System titles. These have to do with the fact that I have one more accessory to share with the class, which is what really sets the Master System apart from other consoles, but you'll have to wait as that little piece of hardware will get it's own dedicated article in due time.