Sega Master System
Sega Master System (North America)
North American model of the Sega Master System
Developer(s) Sega
Release Date(s) Japan
October 20, 1985 (Mark III)
North America
June 1986
September 1987
October 1987 (Master System)
September 4, 1989
Price(s) $100 USD at launch
Colors Grey
Units Shipped Worldwide: 10-13 million
Japan: 1 million (as of 1986)
United States: 2 million (as of 1993)
Western Europe: 6.8 million ( as of December 1993)
Brazil: 2 million (as of 2005)
Best-selling game Alex Kidd in Miracle World

The Sega Master System (マスターシステム Masutā Shisutemu) is a video game console developed and released by the Sega Corporation in 1985. Initially designed as the Sega Mark III, the Sega Master System was backwards compatible with early SG-1000 titles. In addition to backwards compatibility, Master System cartridges could be played on Sega's later Mega Drive console by way of using its Power Base accessory.

Late in the Master System's life, Sega contracted Tonka to market the console. However, as a toy manufacturer, Tonka had no experience or knowledge of electronic games and their marketing skills proved extremely poor.

History Edit

The Master System's initial form, the Sega Mark III, was first released on Sunday, October 20, 1985. The Sega Mark III sold 1 million units in its first year on sale in Japan alone, however, the sales never matched up with Nintendo's dominant sales in Japan.

In America, Sega fell behind Nintendo drastically and needed to find a way to shorten losses with the dying system. Sega contracted Tonka to market the Sega Mark III, however, this led to further poor marking. The system itself lost its third-party support to Nintendo, and had exhausted its lifetime on the market. In 1989, Sega assumed control over their marketing from Tonka and began production of the Sega Genesis and Master System II.

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Technical specifications Edit

  • CPU
    • The Master System's CPU is an 8-bit Zilog Z80.[32] The maximum addressable memory is 64 kB.
  • Video
    • Graphics: VDP (Video Display Processor) derived from Texas Instruments TMS9918A
      • Up to 32 simultaneous colors available (one 16-color palette for sprites or background, an additional 16-color palette for background only) from a palette of 64 (can also show 64 simultaneous colors using programming tricks)
      • Screen resolutions 256×192 and 256×224. PAL/SECAM also supports 256×240
      • 8×8 pixel characters, max 463 (due to VRAM space limitation)
      • 8×8 or 8×16 pixel sprites, max 64
      • Horizontal, vertical, and partial screen scrolling
  • Audio
    • Sound (PSG): Texas Instruments SN76489 (note that the Sega Master System, Game Gear, and Mega Drive used a slightly altered clone of the newer SN76489A, while the older SG-series used the original SN76489)
      • 4 channel mono sound (3 Square Waves, 1 White noise)
      • 3 tone generators, 10 octaves each, 1 white noise generator
    • Sound (FM): Yamaha YM2413
      • Mono FM synthesis
      • Switchable between 9 tone channels or 6 tone channels + 5 percussion channels
      • Included as a built-in "accessory" with the Japanese Master System (1987)
      • Supported by certain games only
  • Onboard RAM
    • Boot ROM: 64 kbit (8 KB) to 2048 kbit (256 KB), depending on built-in game
    • Main RAM: 64 kbit (8 KB), can be supplemented by game cartridges
    • Video RAM: 128 kbit (16 KB)
    • Game Card slot (not available in the Master System II)
    • Game Cartridge slot (not included on newer Brazilian models, as these have built-in games)
      • Japanese and South Korean consoles used 44-pin cartridges, the same shape as SG-1000 cartridges
      • All other consoles use 50-pin cartridges[33] with a wider shape
      • The difference in cartridge style is a form of regional lockout
    • Expansion slot
      • Unused, pinout compatible with 50-pin cartridges (but opposite gender) in all regions
  • Dimensions
    • Width: 365 mm
    • Depth: 170 mm
    • Height: 69 mm

Accessories Edit

Sega Cards Edit

The Master System sported credit card-sized "Sega Cards" that were retailed for cheaper prices than cartridges but had lower storage capacity. The SMS also featured accessories such as a light gun and 3D glasses which were designed to work with a range of specially coded games.

Light Phaser Edit

A light gun peripheral, the Light Phaser, was designed after the Zillion gun from the Japanese anime series of the same name. Though the initial color of the gun was black, Tec Toy also released a blue Light Phaser in Brazil. Only a few games utilized the Light Phaser, notably the following:

  • Assault City
  • Gangster Town
  • Laser Ghost
  • Marksman Shooting
  • Missile Defense 3-D
  • Operation: Wolf
  • Rambo III
  • Rescue Mission
  • Safari Hunt
  • Shooting Gallery
  • Space Gun
  • Trap Shooting
  • Wanted

SegaScope 3-D Glasses Edit

Sega also developed SegaScope 3-D Glasses, LCD shutter glasses that rapidly alternate between the left and right lenses being opaque. The Master System glasses can only be used in the original Master System, since the card port is not found in the Master System II.