Category:Sega Master System

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The Sega Mark III was Sega's second video game console in Japan. Their first one was known as the SG-1000, which had an updated model called the SG-1000 II (which is where the "III" in "Mark III" comes from). Realizing the SG-1000 was not competitive enough with Nintendo's Family Computer, Sega significantly upgraded its hardware, which had been nearly identical to the ColecoVision and similar to the MSX computer platform, giving the Mark III graphical capabilities superior to both the MSX and the Famicom. The restyled international version of the SG-1000 Mark III was introduced under the names "Sega Base System" and "Sega Master System," though the former name soon disappeared.

All things considered, the Master System was probably the most powerful of the 8-bit systems,[1] although the NES was able to catch up somewhat with the help of add-on chips.

The Mark III was rereleased in Japanese with the Master System name and styling, and also with an FM synth card (never included in the international version) to enhance the quality of chiptunes. However, the Master System was discontinued early in Japan, soon after Sega introduced the 16-bit Mega Drive. The Master System lasted only a year or two longer in the United States, although its failure to gain ground was largely due to Nintendo trying to monopolize the market there, but it did gain a lot of ground in Europe and South America. Heck, games were still being developed for the Master System in Brazil by the mid-to-late 90s (such as a port of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition).

Although Sega's own series didn't really gain ground until the Genesis, their popular Phantasy Star series got its start here. Their handheld, the Game Gear, uses hardware quite compatible with the Master System, and converters exist to run games on each other.

  • The CPU, a Zilog Z80, runs at 3.55 or 3.58 MHz, depending on the region.
  • The graphics are handled by the Video Display Processor, a modified version of the TI 9918/9928 GPU MSX and Coleco also used.

  • Eight kilobytes of main RAM with 16 KB of Video RAM. Games like Phantasy Star I really showed all this memory off.
  • Video memory could be written during display, albeit more slowly than during vertical blanking.
  • ROM size ranged from 8 KB to 512 KB.

  • Like the NES, SMS sprites are 8x8 or 8x16 pixels, with up to 64 on screen.

  • Resolution was 256x224 pixels, with pixel-level scrolling.
  • Thirty-two colors were allowed on screen, out of 64 total.
  • Vertical scroll position could not be changed mid-frame, making status bars less detailed and pseudo-3D hilly terrain more difficult to draw.

  • The system's basic sound functionality included three tone generators, limited to a single square wave timbre, and a noise generator. This was the most noticeable area in which the Master System's hardware was noticeably inferior to that of the NES, though was still way ahead of what the Atari 7800 had to offer.
  • That is unless you lived in Japan, where the latter versions of the console included an FM synthesis chipset, giving it vastly superior sound capabilities to any other of the 8-bit systems, and even putting it on a par with what the Genesis later offered. Sadly none of the versions released outside of Japan included this chip, though it can be added to the console with some modifications.

  1. Unless you count the TurboGrafx-16, which technically relied on an 8-bit CPU, despite its 16-bit graphic and color processors.