Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A "new"addition to my other hobby, video games: Sega Mark III

I'm one of those guys that has more than one hobby.  At times I wish I could just focus on one thing (Transformers), but my interests are varied and I find myself at times needing a "break".  Video games have always been that nice distraction or break.  I often go months without playing a video game, only to play them non-stop a day later.

I tend to call myself a video gamer over a video game collector, but that line often gets blurred when I discover something new.  The new in this case is the Sega Mark III.  What is that you may ask?  Well it's essentially the Japanese version of the Sega Master System.  It's not quite the same as there are some major differences.  When I first read about this in a import magazine I bought at the mall a few months back, I could feel that collecting itch coming on.  After doing a lot of research I decided to keep my eyes open for what I deemed a good deal.  Little did I know that deal would land in my lap only a few weeks later.

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If I'm going to import a video game console from overseas, I might as well get one that is complete w/ it's original packaging.  Pretty cool, huh?  I consider myself lucky to have found a complete set up for what I paid, however once the package arrived I had a better idea of why I got it on the cheap end.  The console itself is white...or used to be.  Like a lot of white plastic, it has yellowed overtime.  I kinda thought that would be the case by the pictures the seller had, but I still thought "why not".  While I would have preferred a white console, I wasn't about to drop $300+ that a lot of the better cosmetic looking ones bring.

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If you are video game hardware savy you may have noticed Sega took a cue from Nintendo's Famicom system in the fact that the controllers are stored on each side of the console.  Unlike the Famicom however, the controllers are not hardwired into the console itself.  You can also easily see just how yellowed the console as compared to the controllers.

Speaking of the controllers, they are small, but fit comfortably in my large adult hands.  I'd say they are comparable w/ an NES controller, but I prefer the rounded edges.  The controller wire comes out the side of the controller as opposed to the top on most traditional joy pad type controllers.  For the most part this isn't a big issue, however I prefer the cord to be positioned in the top as to not obstruct anything.  The plugs on these controllers feature the same shape and pin configuration as the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive.  These pads unlike the Master System's, feature a small joystick ball that can screw into the center of the directional pad.  I don't care for that feature, but it's a nice option for those that do.

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Located on the back of the console you'll find the power switch, AC Adapter outlet and A/V cord input.  I find out odd Sega put the power switch on the rear of the console, especially with so much room available on the front.  The other input is for the FM Sound Adapter.  The system does not have an FM sound chip inside, but an adapter was sold separately to take advantage of certain games' extra sound chip.  There was also a wireless adapter accessory sold to hook up the console to your TV.  I find that very impressive for 1980's technology!

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The Mark III accepts cartridges and Sega Cards.  The pin configuration for the cartridges is sadly NOT the same as the U.S. Master System.  However I believe the U.S. card based games are compatible, though I have not tried that myself.  The Mark III is backwards compatible with earlier versions of the 8-bit Sega hardware, such as the Sega SG-3000.

On the top of the console you'll find a small black door that covers the cartridge port and a yellow pause button.  Beside the pause button is a red LED power light.  See, there is plenty of room here for a on/off switch!

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The Mark III cartridges remind me of Atari cartridges, just on steroids.  They are large and hang out the top of the console a good bit.

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Games come in two varieties.  The Mark III / SG-3000 games come in white cardboard boxes and the cartridges feature an off white plastic shell.  The Mark III / Master System games come in gold boxes and feature a black plastic shell.

This game is called Akai Koudan Triformation, or Zillion II in the U.S..  It's plays a lot like Metroid in my opinion.  If you notice in the bottom left corner of the box, you'll see a blue FM logo.  This is to signify that the game takes advantage of the FM sound chip for improved audio...if you have the adapter.  The Japanese version of the Master System however has the FM sound chip pre-installed.  Had I known that I might have held out for a JPN Master System instead.

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The cartridge does have a top label.  This comes in handy for all those loose carts you may have on your shelves.  Unlike the Master System games, at least you can see what game you have without having to pull it out and off your shelf.

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My favorite aspect of these carts are the big, bright and colorful labels.  I'm a huge fan of the artwork a lot of these games feature and was a huge selling point for me.  The included instructions are printed in a monochrome red ink.

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Above are some good comparison shots of a U.S. Master System case and game along w/ the Mark III game.  While I love the clam shell cases U.S. SMS games come in, I prefer the smaller size of the Mark III boxes and of course the cartridge labels.

At this point in time I only have a few games, but I have made a wish list of titles for the future.  There are several exclusive games for the console, however many are the same titles that were released in the West.  I said earlier I was riding the fence between gamer and collector here and I think w/ the Mark III, this is definitely more for the collector.  That's not to say this won't be played.  Oh no, it's already hooked up and sitting next to my model 1 Sega Genesis.  In fact I'm waiting for another game to come from Japan as we speak.

Part of the draw for me w/ this system is simple.  I snubbed Sega in those early years.  I was a Nintendo fanboy.  It wasn't until I was introduced to the Dreamcast did I really become a fan of Sega.  Ever since I've been looking backwards at all the cool stuff I missed out on.  Just when I thought I knew everything there was about Sega, I discovered the SMS pre-cursor hardware and software.  I doubt I'll go back any further, but I do look forward to expanding my Mark III library at some point in the near future.


  1. Ah the old Sega Master System i used to have a huge collection of games and a couple systems and a tub full of extras when i was really into video games but that was years back and they are all long gone.

  2. I gotta say this looks a lot slicker than the Nintendo FamiCom (NES)