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Thread: Sega Master System

  1. #1

    Sega Master System

    I don't want steer Kaneda's survey thread off-topic and I think this would be a good one to have on its own(and I already wrote most of this stuff a while ago for another site anyway). As I'm sure many TNL'ers know I have a big interest in exposing quality underdog games. Various pre-NES consoles and computers are also underappreciated but I think I have devoted threads to nearly every good one of those before. I haven't done an SMS thread like this.

    The reason I feel so strongly about this system in particular is because it happens to be the dismissed competitor of the the most one-sided console battle ever, at least in North America and Japan. The NES is probably the most nostalgically loved system of all time due to this market dominance and the average age of gamers so it tends to overpower most gamers' view of that era.I think most people that thoroughly played both consoles would agree that, like the 16-bit era, some types of games were better on Nintendo and some on Sega.

    I understand some people here have no interest in classic gaming and that's fine. This thread is for those who enjoy 8-bit games, want a better understanding of the that era, or those who grew up with the system. Including the Atari 7800 in the discussion is certainly welcome too.

    For those who don't know, the Sega Master System was a console released in Japan in the fall of 1985 under the name Sega Mark III. It made its North American debut in the summer of 1986, the same year as the NES was distributed nationwide. The European SMS launch was in 1987.

    Anyway here are a bunch of cool games for the system -

    Alex Kidd in Miracle World - It's often compared to Super Mario Bros. although personally I don't think it's as good. Still, it's a platform classic and was different than anything else in the genre 20 years ago with its various vehicles and stuff.

    Alex Kidd in Shinobi World - This is my favourite game in the AK series. It's more Shinobi than Alex Kidd but it has its own style. I just wish the game wasn't so short. It would have been cool if they kept the Mario spoof in too.

    Asterix - This platformer is the best use of the license. The sequel(Asterix and the Secret Mission) is good too. Avoid the Euro-developed one called The Great Rescue.

    Astro Warrior - For the old-school shooter fans. It loops after three levels but it's challenging.

    Battle OutRun - 8-bit racing games don't age that well but this is one of the best. It's more of a Chase HQ clone than an Out Run game though.

    BMX Trial: Alex Kidd - This overhead racing spin off is the best of the Japan exclusive paddle controller games.

    Bomber Raid - Similar to Capcom's 194x series.

    Bubble Bobble/Final Bubble Bobble - The best version of the original Bubble Bobble. It has twice as many levels as the arcade game plus new bosses and hidden rooms. The feel of the game is much closer to the arcade than the NES and computer ports.

    California Games - This port took a serious audio downgrade from the C64 original but other than that it's an improvement.

    Castle of Illusion - Different and not as good as the Genesis Mickey game but worth checking out. It had some sequels too - Land of Illusion and Legend of Illusion.

    Choplifter - Excellent shoot and rescue game that has aged incredibly well. There weren't too many games with 5 or so layers of parallax in 1986 so the effect was really impressive. It's based on the arcade version which is a remake of the Apple II original.

    Cyborg Hunter - This is a neat action/adventure similar to Metroid although it's more linear. Keep in mind you need two controllers to play it.

    Double Dragon - I do think the NES version plays better but this has two-player in the main game which made it worth playing.

    Enduro Racer

    Fantasy Zone - There are better home ports available now but the patterns are different enough to make this still worth playing.

    Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa Opa - Not an arcade port but an excellent SMS original.

    Fantasy Zone: The Maze/Opa Opa - Fantasy Zone meets Pac-Man. A must for maze chase fans.

    Gangster Town - The first car chase in a home gun game? Probably. SMS gun games in general have aged incredibly well.

    Gauntlet - Quality port of the arcade game.

    Ghouls 'N Ghosts - There are various better ports on more advanced hardware but if you're a hardcore fan of the game I would recommend it; the hidden item rooms give it its own feel.

    Golden Axe Warrior - It has Golden Axe in the title but it's really a shameless rip off of the first Zelda game. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in quality.

    Golvellius - This is another Zelda-like game except this mixes overhead and side views. This version is much improved over the MSX games and has lots of classic Compile style.

    Impossible Mission - The most advanced port of the Epyx classic. The voices sound a bit better in the C64 game though.

    Kenseiden - This samurai game is often compared to Castlevania although I think it's better than any of the NES games in that series.

    Kung Fu Kid - Addictive jump and kicker. It's a sequel to the SG-1000 game Dragon Wang.

    Lord of the Sword - A good sidescrolling adventure but it's a little cruel with its limited continues.

    Master of Darkness - Castlevania fans should check this out as it's an obvious attempt by SIMS to copy it. I think 'vania has more style but this is well made too.

    Megumi Rescue - Originally an Aicom game according to the title screen. This is a neat "trampoline bouncer" action game where you rescue people out of burning buildings. Flying Hero on the Famicom is similar.

    Missile Defense 3-D - 3d glasses plus good gun game equals one cool and unique game.

    Ninja Gaiden - An original Ninja Gaiden game by SIMS. I don't think the art direction and level design are as good as Tecmo's NES games but it's still a great game.


    OutRun 3-D - The first SMS Out Run is mostly good for nostalgia today but this follow up is unique because of the 3d glasses.

    Paperboy - The sound isn't great but other than that it's one of the best versions.

    Penguin Land - One of the most charming and well designed puzzle games ever. The level editor is a nice bonus.

    Phantasy Star - RPGs don't age well but this was revolutionary at the time. You won't find a better JRPG from that era.

    Power Strike II - The first SMS Power Strike game was the same as the MSX2 game minus a couple levels. This is an original game in Compile's Aleste series and it's amazing, much better than the first and a strong contender for best 8-bit shooter.

    Psycho Fox - A follow up to the NES game Kid Kool and a predecessor to the Mega Drive/Genesis game Magical Hat/Decapattack. The controls bug me but otherwise it's good stuff.

    Quartet - Similar to the arcade game but not a port. I prefer the arcade game for multiplayer but this one for single player. The Japanese version is slightly superior since they ruined Mary's design in the Western release.

    Rambo III - Similar to Operation Wolf(which is also on SMS).

    Rescue Mission - Highly addictive gun game.


    Robocop versus the Terminator(EU) - This is probably my favourite Western developed SMS game and I originally dismissed it as merely a downgrade. It's similar to the Genesis game but it's more fun to play and has a cooler soundtrack(by Mark Cooksey) that is reminiscent of '80s computer gaming.

    R-Type - Not as good as the PCE version but this port by Compile was still amazing at the time. It has an exclusive hidden level too.

    Safari Hunt - It's like Nintendo's Duck Hunt except with much better variety and graphics.

    Shinobi - Still the best home version of the classic(the PCE version is off in many ways). I like it as much as the arcade game.

    Sonic The Hedgehog - The Genesis game is better but this has its own appeal. It was developed by Ancient and has Yuzo Koshiro tunes.

    Sonic Chaos - This is my favourite 8-bit Sonic although I can see how some would prefer the faster pace of the first two.

    Shooting Gallery - Cool gun game. Like Missile Defense 3-D it was programmed and designed by Marble Madness creator Mark Cerny when he worked at Sega of Japan in the mid-late '80s.

    Space Harrier

    Space Harrier 3-D - The first SMS Space Harrier was jaw dropping at the time but I would rather play other versions today. This one though is a completely different game made for the 3d glasses.

    Thunder Blade - It lacks the fancy scaling of the arcade game but it's still a great 8-bit shooter.

    Time Soldiers - A port of the Alpha Denshi arcade game.

    Ultima IV - I would say this is the only console Ultima game that does justice to the computer versions. I find the game too dated to play today but it was impressive in its day.

    Wonder Boy - NES gamers will know it by Hudson's downgraded version called Adventure Island.

    Wonder Boy in Monster Land - This one is more adventure-like than its predecessor. It's also an arcade port. I think this version is better than the arcade one because of the controls and the mostly redone soundtrack which is way more memorable.

    Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap - The best game of the 8-bit era. Seriously. It's the Master System's SMB3 as far as quality goes. Westone's platform/adventure does everything right from the excellent world design making using of multiple character forms you can transform into to Sakimoto's excellent soundtrack. It was ported to PCE but that version looks and feels off.

    Zillion - Impossible Mission meets Metroid with classic Sega style. Like Metroid, it has aged somewhat and it helps to have played it back in the day but it's still rewarding. The more action oriented sequel isn't as good.

    Your opinions, additions, etc. on the system or anything related?

  2. #2
    I hate video games, but I always read these threads.

    Good write up, as usual.

  3. Thumbs Up

    I love my Master System. The Wonder Boy and Zillion games are must haves, and others like Phantasy Star and Golvellius (still waiting for that sequel on a console people actually own) are still getting play from me to this day. There are lots of great titles out there.

    Oh yeah, you only need three words anyway:

    Maze Hunter 3D

  4. To any one interested in checking any of these games out. Rescue Mission is a must play.

  5. Great thread. Still fire up the Master System now and then to play Miracle World or Psycho Fox (my personal fave tied with Miracle World, love that 'lil Birdfly attack) My other top two picks (action/platform wise) are Alex Kidd in Shinobi World (got lucky and snagged a brand new and sealed copy for $50 back in '99 off ebay) and Wonder Boy III the Dragon's Trap. Also, Safari Hunt was darn good alternative to Duck Hunt. Bought some new Sega 3D glasses last year. Space Harrier 3D, Maze Hunter and Zaxxon 3D are pretty slick. And I still would like to get SMS R-TYPE as it has a secret vanilla level not found in any other version.
    Last edited by 1CCOSA; 01 Jun 2006 at 05:55 PM.

  6. I don't remember Double Dragon looking like that at all...

  7. I was one of those poor schmucks that begged and begged my parents for an NES and ended up getting the Master System. I was PISSED at first, but I eventually realized how awesome the system was. I spent an ungodly amount of time playing Space Harrier and Action Fighter that summer.

    Its good to see Wonder Boy III getting some love, that game freaking rules.

  8. SMS have many great games, too bad the 3rd party support is so dismal and Tonka's distribution was abyssal as well. Still, I have enjoyed (and finished) Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Golvellius, Kenseiden, Phantasy Star and many others. Space Harrier's conversion really surprised me, but Enduro Racer was complete crap.

  9. Excellent thread OP. I grew up a huge Sega fan (though I did own the NES as well) and I always had a soft spot for the SMS.

    Some other games that I enjoyed were:

    Y's: Vanished Omens - yep..nowhere near as good as the originals but it was the first Y's I've ever played and I think its the first english Y's in the US

    Zillion 2: Triformation - Not a bad game at all and had some decent graphics at the time. No Opa-Opa cameo from what I remember and not as good a the original but still fine.

    Aladdin (Euro only) - A port of the GameGear version and its quite nice for a 8 bit game.

    Black Belt - I assume this is just a renamed Fist of the North Star game. A basic action game but it has some nice parallax scrolling at the time and decent looking boss battles.

    Cloud Master - An ok and very japanese shmup with some colorful graphics.

    Deep Duck Trouble starring Donald Duck - Another quality Disney game though I don't like it as much as the Mickey titles.

    Ghostbusters - Another game that isn't so hot now but its MILES better than the hideous NES version. The looping Ghostbusters theme music you hear throughout the game drove me nuts.

    Rastan - Not arcade perfect by any means but back then it was the only decent port available.

    You seemed to have covered the other better games.

    I LOVED those dang 3D glasses and some games like Blade Eagle 3D, Mazehunter and Zaxxon 3D were pretty neat. I also dug those itty bitty joysticks that you could screw into the d-pad. Also, how can you not mention that hidden snail maze game?!
    Last edited by raystorm; 01 Jun 2006 at 06:07 PM.

  10. I can't believe how good Ninja Gaiden looked on the SMS, and I'd never heard of Golden Axe Warrior before this thread.
    Last edited by Jeremy; 01 Jun 2006 at 07:15 PM.
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