SEGA Legacy: Master System Accessories

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SEGA Legacy articles is a series at The SEGA Source about the vast and varied history of SEGA. They can range from people to places to times to art to even just a simple song. The staff here has a vast knowledge of the company’s history and would love to share it all with anyone willing to listen. Now sit back, get your favorite beverage ready because “The Challenge Will Always Be There”!

Hit the jump to read the second in the SEGA Legacy series.

Brief history on the Master System

Originally released in 1985 Japan first as a successor for their SG-1000 and SG-1000 II computer game platforms, the SEGA Mark III started out with only troubles ahead of it. Nintendo with their Family Computer (Famicom for short, Nintendo Entertainment System to most of the world) reigned supreme for all of the Mark III’s lifespan mainly due to practices with third party publishers that are now considered illegal.

Released in other regions with different packaging known as the SEGA Base System and SEGA Master System, the latter of which became more popular as it was bundled with an extra controller and the Light Phaser lightgun. Eventually SEGA stopped shipment of the Base System entirely and started releasing all of their games under the Master System label.

That is a story for later, what this article is meant to do is bring you a summary of most of the official accessories released for the platform and what you should expect from them. You may see some things ahead you would have never expected from the 1980s, so continue reading to find out what accessories SEGA released for their first major console that was released worldwide.

Basic Mark III/Master System joypad

Bundled with every release of the console, the main controller for the Master System may look like any other released around the 8-bit era, your first assumptions would be wrong. First and foremost being that originally the controller was meant to be held vertically with your right hand on the digital pad and your left hand over the buttons. The original Mark III joypad releases (pictured above) also had a small stick over the digital pad, which could be screwed off if the player chose to do so. Once Nintendo’s controllers caught on in popularity, SEGA moved the cord on the controller to better suit the newly realized hand placement of the controller (pictured below).

However, even with SEGA revisions, they never added a “Start” button to any variations of the controller, which was on the console itself instead. While people newer to games may not be able to understand this concept, the idea of a way to pause games back in the early and mid 1980s was not very common, as most titles for the time did not require breaks. They could instead be played or finished within a few minutes time, if even that.

SG Commander

Designed for games that required a heavy amount of button presses, the SG Commander was made to allow the player to hold their thumb on the button while the game thinks they are pressing it in constantly. The controller featured adjustable switches that let the user choose how rapid the button presses would turn out to be from within the game. It would be easy to recommend this (especially for space shooters), but the SG Commander only had a very limited run, and was only released in Europe (which was the Master System’s strongest territory), making it one of the hardest to find official controllers for the platform.

Control Stick

With the console itself originally designed with an arcade experience in mind, SEGA felt they needed a more natural design for their joypad and decided to create a new model that was to be designed for a closer arcade experience. It would cost more, but would potentially please more of their fans. At the time of it’s release however, buttons being placed on the left side of a control stick was considered ‘Weird’ while the norm for the time was just the reverse.

While not a failure, SEGA decided it would be better if they focused on other peripherals to be based on their most popular releases to hopefully leach off of the success of them.

Light Phaser

One of the most popular arcade genres at the time were lightgun games. In them the player would hold up a plastic gun in front of a screen and try to shoot objects or characters that appeared. Lightguns had been part of home videogame consoles since the Magnavox Odyssey, so when SEGA planned to release one of their own they knew they had to try something different, a new form of marketing. They worked together with the established animation Tatsunoko Production on a project that would go on to be known as Zillion.

Part of the production deal with Tatsunoko Production was to base the main weapon of the series off of SEGA’s Light Phaser (even including the cord under the grip), and in turn the show would feature SEGA’s own Opa-Opa as a cast member in the program. SEGA would also go on to make two Zillion games for the Master System, which neither ironically did not include support for the Light Phaser.

The Light Phaser itself is known for being a higher quality product than Nintendo’s own lightgun, the Zapper. In comparison of the Zapper, it is heavier, features more accurate targeting and has a more realistic trigger that does not need to be pushed in all the way to fire in whatever game the player is using. It was a huge success and would be bundled with every Master System. There are a total of 13 official games that work with the Light Phaser.

Later on in the Master System’s life, many people became worried that some toy guns could be confused with real weapons, which could lead to horrific accidents. Lightguns in particular were all changed to feature bright colors for their outer-shells, or designed to look as far from a gun as possible, which remains the norm even to this day. In a related story – In February 2009, a Brazillian man held an eldarly woman hostage for ten hours with the Light Phaser, tricking the police into thinking it was a real gun the whole time. Thankfully, no one was harmed.

Handle Controller

The Handle Controller was designed for games where the player would pilot vehicles and give a more realistic sense of movement. Many of SEGA’s most popular arcade games at the time, like Hang-On, AfterBurner and OutRun featured cabinets that had a similar control setup, so it was recommended to players who liked those games should also buy the Handle Controller. Like the SG Commander, this too was only released in Europe and is very hard to come by, unlike the SG Commander however is that the Handle Controller is considered very fragile and can be easy to break with constant use.

SEGA Sports Pad

One of SEGA’s strongest genres in the 80s and 90s were general sports games, whether it be football, baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, whatever you could imagine. The SEGA Sports Pad was designed with these in mind, but while to stick itself out from normal controllers in an extremely unusual decision, it was made into a trackball, which is commonly seen for arcade bowling games, and would later be used for Sonic’s arcade debut SegaSonic the Hedgehog Arcade. The SEGA Sports Pad was only released in North America and Japan and only ever did good enough to not be considered a complete failure. The SEGA Sports Pad remains unusual to this day as the trackball design was never considered popular or necessary enough to be designed for many other platforms.

SegaScope 3-D Glasses

By the late 1980s, Nintendo had beaten Master System to the point where it was completely impossible for SEGA to make any kind of noise with their current design values. They wanted to do something the competition could not have the upper hand in, something Nintendo, nor anyone else could pull off. They decided to bring 3D to the Master System, but not in the sense they would be polygons or those flimsy cardboard glasses that came with comic books and cereal boxes.

The SegaScope 3-D Glasses were large plastic glasses with a card attachment that would plug into the console. The 3D effect was caused by the liquid crystal display (LCD) lenses. The system sent impulses through the cord to alternately darken and lighten each lens. The game on the television was similarly designed so that colors and layers would change and sync with the glasses, but be different for both eyes to trick the mind of the player to think what they are seeing is right in front of them, or much further back then they actually were.

The SegaScope 3-D Glasses retailed for a fairly large 50 USD (the same price of most games at the time) and only supported 8 games in total. Later revisions of the Master System removed the card slot which is needed to use the glasses, so the product, and all of the games released for it became quickly useless.

Closing

Of course this guide does not mention every accessory released on the SEGA Master System, it barely even scrapes the service even! With the console having a much longer run in territories where the information is not always stored very well, a complete list of every release on the platform could potentially be impossible. The Master System to this day has some of the most unique accessories with some of the most creative stories to tell in the industry. It is a fairly hard console to collect for, and even with its lack of third party support, has tons of classic games to call it’s own, many so cheap that you could potentially buy piles of them for just a few cents. A great mix for anyone who may not want to spend their life savings on, but enjoy the long searches. The Challenge Will Always Be There indeed. segalegacy

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