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Master System

The Master System is a third-generation 8-bit cartridge-based video game console that was manufactured and released by Sega in 1986 in North America, seven months after the original NES.

Sega's Master System was technically superior to the NES, capable of displaying twice as many colors on screen and featuring a CPU twice as fast as the one used in the NES; it arguably trumped the Nintendo Entertainment System in every possible technical respect and was released nationwide in the United States the same year, 1986. However, technical superiority affected the market share little as the popularity and game library was lacking compared to those on the NES.

In 1990, Sega was having success in North America with its Sega Genesis and as a result took back the rights from Tonka for the Master System. It designed the Sega Master System II, a low-cost Master System that lacked the reset button, expansion port (which was never used), and card slot of the original. Since the card slot was used as a connector to synchronize the 3D glasses with the original Master System, the SMS2 couldn't use the 3D glasses. Sega marketed the Master System II heavily; nevertheless, the unit sold poorly in North America.

The Master System was very successful in Europe. Sega marketed this console in many european countries, including several in which Nintendo did not sell its consoles. It enjoyed strong third party support in the continent, including from American video game publishers, that had not released titles for the platform in North America. The Master System sold more than a million units in this region.

Due to its architectural similarity to the Game Gear, software companies were easily able to make versions of their games for both the Master System and Game Gear. In fact, many Game Gear titles that were released in North America and Japan, were released alongside Master System versions of those games in Europe. As in North America, Sega launched the redesigned Sega Master System II in 1990. This system included Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and later Sonic the Hedgehog, as a built-in game.

The Mega Drive/Genesis is backward compatible with the Master System, despite having a differently shaped cartridge slot. Sega developed a pass-through device for the Mega Drive/Genesis, allowing Master System cartridges to be played on the newer system. It was called the Power Base Converter in the US, the Mega Adapter in Japan and the Master System Converter in Europe. The somewhat large device plugs into the Mega Drive's cartridge slot, covering the entire circular top of the system. Master System cartridges and cards can then be inserted into the device and played on the Mega Drive using Mega Drive controllers. Due to its size and shape, the converter will not fit properly with the Mega Drive II, necessitating the use of the Europe-only Master System Converter II, or a third-party converter cartridge.





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