The idea for this article came from a discussion I followed in Community Master System on Facebook. The question was similar to that of the title and asked for people to choose between the first and second console model.
For me there is no doubt that the first model is technically better, but many people defended the second model. It may seem like a rather strange choice., but I understand these people. The second model was what they had in their childhood or adolescence., and then nostalgia speaks louder than the technical aspects.
I had a Master System II Tec Toy in my childhood, so when I decided to reacquire this island as an adult I did not think twice: I wanted the Master System II da Tec Toy.
My luck in this case is that Tec Toy's Master System II is one of the best versions of the console in Brazil. But with other consoles I've been somewhat torn between the technically best version and the one I had in my childhood, how I will tell you in the next articles in this series, that I will write if you approve this.
But leaving nostalgia aside, we have to answer the title question: what is the best version of the Master System? Let's look at it coolly and in detail below..
The best Master System in Brazil without modifications
Initially let's close our scope a little, considering only the consoles released in Brazil and without modifications. In the case of the Master System, it is the Tec Toy models.
Tec Toy has launched a large number of Master System models, and right away we can already discard all those newer models that no longer use the original hardware, but only emulators running on the latest low-cost hardware. They have a lot of incompatibilities and all the latest ones don't even have a cartridge slot anymore..
Of the Master Systems that use Sega's original hardware, we have the first model, which includes the first Master System and the Master System II, and we have the second model, released in Brazil as Master System III.
Master System III is a cost-cutting review. In it they left out the A/V output, for best quality, and it was just the horrendous output of RF, with all its interference. At the time not every TV had A/V inputs, but all had antenna input, which ends up justifying the choice of Tec Toy.
It is possible to make a against and get A/V on Master System III? Yes. But remember that we are choosing the best unmodified version. Then mods are not being considered.
Furthermore, on Master System III removed the RESET button and the input of 3D glasses and cards. In Brazil we didn't have games on cards, but the 3D Glasses was released and Tec Toy invested in its marketing. It's a considerable loss. So technically the Master System III is discarded as the best console.
Then only the original Master System and the Master System II remain. they are almost identical, the noticeable difference is only in the BIOS and in the game included in it.
No Master System original temos Hang On & Safari Hunt, in Master System II we have the Alex Kidd in Miracle World. I like both, but I have a preference for the second. But I don't know if the memory game should be used to define the best version, even more if there are other ways to play it.
Hang On & Safari Hunt is a game that was also released on a cartridge., as far as I know without any modification, but this cartridge was not released in Brazil, so whoever has a Master System II needs an imported cartridge or a Everdrive.
On the other hand, the Alex Kidd in Miracle World was released in cartridge even in Brazil, but the BIOS version is different. In it, the punch and jump buttons are inverted, leaving the jump button on the right and the punch button on the left, as is the most conventional in games of the genre. Furthermore, exchanged the rice cake that Alex Kidd eats at the end of each level for a hamburger, giving that basic americanized in the game. Anyone who has an original Master System can only play this version with one Everdrive and an dump BIOS with a small hack, as such a version was never released on a cartridge.
Hang On & Safari Hunt it's a relatively small game, taking up little space on a ROM of 1 Cloud (128 Kbytes). In this way, there was room for SEGA to include the snake's hidden game (Snail Maze) the animated SEGA logo with the famous jingle of must tones, that appears whenever the console is turned on, before the cartridge game, of the card, or BIOS to start.
No Master System II o Alex Kidd in Miracle World it's a bigger game, occupying almost the entire ROM of 1 Cloud, so the hidden game could not be included, and the logo animated with jingle has been replaced by a simpler version: static and muted.
So in this case I would say that the first Master System is the winner. All nostalgia aside, this is the console I would choose from among Tec Toy consoles.
Not to say that the first model is better at all, it should be noted that there are some Tec Toy games that supposedly do not work on the first model: Street Fighter II, Sítio do Pica Pau Amarelo, Sonic Blast, and maybe others. Apparently the problem is related to the BIOS and the mappers that access memory above the 4 Cloud, because these games have 8 Cloud. I don't have these cartridges and I can't tell which specific models they work or don't work on., but I know they work normally through a Everdrive.
The best Master System in the world, unchanged
When we opened the range and started to also consider other versions of the Master System in the world, Tec Toy's Brazilian model quickly ceases to be the most interesting.
The first Master System model in the US has a big advantage over the Brazilian model: it has native RGB video output. In the American Master System, the output is by a jack DIN, just like the first Mega Drive model (even in Brazil). That jack has the audio signal, composite video and also red components, blue, and green individually, plus a sync signal.
Common proper cable, we can extract this video, convert it to component video or use a video processor like OSSC ou o Framemeister to get an excellent quality picture on an HDMI output, for modern TVs.
You can extract RGB from Tec Toy's Master System by making internal modifications, but remember: we are choosing the best unmodified version. I never understood why Tec Toy chose to change the jack DIN video output via a pair of RCA outputs that provide composite video only. cost cutting maybe. And unwittingly used a jack DIN for source input, which in Brazil is different from the American one. She uses 3 DIN plug pins that apparently deliver two different voltages: 9V e 16V, beyond the earth.
Another Master System of interest would be the Japanese, the only one that has the Yamaha chip to produce FM audio in games that support it (Yamaha YM2413). FM audio is quite different from the PSG we are used to in the rest of the world. But, remember that the Japanese console uses cartridges with different format and pinout, and you need to use a adapter to be able to use western cartridges.
Furthermore, some games check console version, and may act differently on the Japanese console, showing a different title. I don't remember now if there is any game that shows Japanese text when on the Japanese console. This could be a disadvantage.
It is also worth noting that American and European BIOSes are more restrictive, requiring a copyright string on ROMs. Those strings are not present in SG-1000 games and in some (or all?) Japanese ROMs, so to play these games on a western console you need to use a Master Everdrive. Japanese BIOS ace, on the other hand, don't do these checks and run anything.
Por fim, the european consoles are not very interesting at first because of the PAL system and the 50 Hz, that make some games run slower, among other limitations. Again, is something that could be resolved with modifications., but I'm leaving them aside in this choice.
And here I don't see a clear winner. If money and space weren't an issue I would certainly have an American console and a Japanese one in my collection.. Both have their advantages over the Brazilian model.
The best Master System with modifications
In the case of FM audio, There is one plaque designed by Tim Worthington which can be added in the Master System expansion port, that has never been used officially. However, it is necessary to solder some wires to the board, so this little sign is also a against.
Por fim, to the european consoles, there is a mod so they can use 50 Hz or 60 Hz, selectable.
An American Master System of the first model with the against FM would probably be my modified console option.
But I'm not very much in favor of modification unless it's the only way to get some feature.. If there is a viable alternative without modification, I usually prefer. In the next section I will talk about these alternatives..
Solutions that don't need modification
I like to keep my consoles as original as possible.. Because of this, whenever there is a reasonable alternative to avoid a against, I prefer the alternative.
In case of RGB output, the solution I used was simply to use a Mega Drive. All Mega Drives with original hardware have RGB output natively, including those from Tec Toy (except for models that don't use the original hardware and run games by emulation).
The Mega Drive has the same main chip as the Master System, o Z80, as audio coprocessor. It can also be used to run Master System games natively.. As the format of the cartridges is different, an adapter is required. Sega manufactured an official adapter that Tec Toy sold in Brazil. It can still be found on the used market.. Sega's adapter includes card slot and 3D glasses and a pause button.
A modern alternative that is still on the market is the PowerBase Mini FM, however it does not have the card entry and 3D glasses as the official Sega model. On the other hand, it has a Yamaha YM2413 chip and allows you to use FM audio from games.
Another alternative to playing Master System games on Mega Drive is to use a Mega Everdrive or a Megas. Both can play Master System games on Mega Drive. Only games that use 3D glasses are left out with this solution. The Mega Everdrive executa inclusive as BIOS do Master System, so you can even kill the longing for animation and the jingle the Sega.
Today I've been playing Master System mainly on Mega Sg, the Analogue console that implements the Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, SG-1000 and ColecoVision on FPGA, and offers crystal clear picture and sound through its HDMI output. It runs the original cartridges using an included adapter (or from other adapters on the market). It is like jailbreak firmware you can also run games from their ROM image on an SD card. The Mega Sg also runs console BIOS, for those who like to see the intros or want to play the games that came to mind.
As for the FM audio of the Yamaha YM2413, today there are several ways to enjoy it without having to make a against. The first solution I used was the aforementioned PowerBase Mini FM. It has a discreet Yamaha YM2413 internally, and can be used with Master System cartridges or with a Master Everdrive.
Por fim, himself Mega Sg also implements the YM2413 in FPGA, but your implementation still has bugs that leave notes missing in some specific games, like Rastan. It's a bug that I hope will be fixed soon..
For those who want to listen to FM sound on the Master System itself and without modifications, there is the NEO SEGA MKiii 256M Myth flash cart. It has audio and video inputs and outputs., so that the sound from the console passes through it and it does the mixing without having to solder wires internally. It's a solution I don't have, so i can't say how good it is.
Note that it is not possible to implement FM audio in the Master System with just one cartridge, as in Mega Drive, as the Master System does not have an analog audio input channel in the cartridge slot. That's why the mixing needs to be done via against or as in the aforementioned flash cartridge. Mega Drive has an analog audio input channel, so that an FPGA cartridge can send the ready sound to the Mega Drive just to mix.
I'm satisfied with my Master System II da Tec Toy and I don't intend to buy another. I've actually been playing the Master System games a lot more in the Mega Sg than in the Master System itself. The Mega Sg stay tuned in 4K LCD TV in the room and the Master System is connected via composite video to a CRT TV.
And as I always say, if i had money and unlimited space, I would have other Master System in my collection, starting with the original american model. But I wouldn't give up the Master System II da Tec Toy, for being the role model I had in my childhood.
And you? What is your favorite Master System? Tell us there in the comments.