During the mid to late 80’s Nintendo had pretty conquered the console market throughout the US, other competitors such as Sega and Atari could only look on in awe in the hope of having such a massive and all-consuming share of the market. It certainly didn’t help with Nintendo having a vice like grip on publishers, limiting them not only to a set number of cartridges per year but restricting the systems they could release for. It should be no surprise that Sega simply couldn’t compete in these early days and it wasn’t long before the Master System was replaced by the Sega Genesis, but they still did manage to pump out around 111 games in the US alone.
Trying their best to match the likes of Mario with Alex Kidd and Zelda with their own version Golden Axe Warrior, in fact many of Sega’s best games could claim to hold some influence by Nintendo yet the main difference was the power between the two consoles. The NES simply couldn’t output the glorious colour and sprites that the SMS could manage, often being outpaced in all but the best of game play. Sega had a lot of catching up to do. Overseas however it wasn’t as simple a story, the UK and Europe were the exception and fortunes reversed when Sega released the Master System often outselling the NES in great number over its lifetime surprising considering the likes of the UK’s main stays were the home computer market where Commodore and Sinclair ruled the roost. Sega still managed to release around 300 games to PAL territories, a sure sign of its success when compared to the NES.
Which brings us to a curious release, “The Sega Master System Encyclopaedia by Derek Slaton”. I was quite excited to have the chance to read through the digital edition, being an on and off complete collector in recent times it’s always interesting to see something claiming to be an Encyclopaedia offering a lump of information all in one place, rather than having to browse the web for days on end to find just the right review for each release. I was sorry to discover that the book only covers the US market so it would be hard to recommend for PAL collectors. At the same time it is packed with around 430 pages so you can really appreciate the amount of time and effort the author had to put into this, even for the lower US set it’s a real achievement. The writing style is brisk and entertaining littered with the odd bit of humour throughout, the author certainly knows his way around the games and if you have access to an iPad the book can be downloaded in full with the added benefit of full colour images and game play footage which plays as you skim through. It might seem like a strange extra but certainly works in its favour allowing you to see what each actually looks like. It’s one thing to just read about the likes of Basketball Nightmare but another entirely to be able to watch it in glorious full colour action.
Each game comes with full details of its release date, publisher, genre and the number of players with each page offering a bumper offering of full colour screenshots which is available in hardcover from Amazon. Despite only covering the US market what we have is a full coffee table style book, ideal for picking up and flicking through at random. Although each game is covered in a form of a light review in the writer’s opinion, none of them are given any sort of percentage or score so it really is up to the reader to go off and hunt down a copy hoping to discover if it is any good. Luckily the Sega Master System has many more good titles than it does on the poorer scale so it’s a bit less risky on a whole for US readers. The only change I would have liked to see is some form of coverage for the consoles hardware and accessories, the likes of the 3D glasses were ground breaking for the time and it’s a shame that the Encyclopaedia simply skips over them yet in the past it has been released in volume form so there’s always the possibility for something extra. Overall a good effort and I look forward to what else the author has to offer in future.
The book in PDF format costs £6/$10 and can be purchased from thevgatv.com (http://www.thevgatv.com/styled/)or nab yourself a hard copy version instead.
Retro Video Gamer Forum would like to take this opportunity to thank both Derek Slaton providing us with a copy of his book and also to Keith Lutener for taking the time to review the book on our behalf.