So I guess I’m still on a Sega kick. I’ve been covering Sega consoles for over a year now, starting with the Sega CD, then on to the Genesis, and then briefly, the 32X. I could have continued moving forward in time to the Saturn but I instead chose to move backwards and re-examine the very first Sega console manufactured and sold in North America, the Master System. I’ve already discussed my history with the Master System here, so I won’t rehash that, but instead, I intend to spend this post talking a bit about the games I’ve added to my collection since I wrote that article back in Oct 2017 and what is left for me to seek out.
I went on a bit of a buying kick for the Master System back in 2018, adding many of the key games from key franchises. Games such as Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars, as well as a case and manual to go along with my loose cart for Alex Kidd: High Tech World. I don’t even like the Alex Kidd franchise all that much, but I still thought it prudent to grab all of the games for this system as they attempted to give the fledgling company an identity early on.
Then I moved onto the Wonder Boy franchise. In case you need a reminder on how to differentiate the two, Alex Kidd is the little mouse eared boy whose games are a hodgepodge of platforming, adventure, puzzle and action. Wonder Boy is the little caveman looking boy whose games are a hodgepodge of platforming, adventure, puzzle and action. Sounds like I’m repeating myself? Yeah, these two franchises are about as schizophrenic as they come. No wonder why they barely made it out of the 8-bit era and definitely never made it out of the 16-bit era. I added the original Wonder Boy game, as well as Wonder Boy in Monster Land. I already owned a copy of the best game in the series, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, so the two I added helped me complete the entirety of Wonder Boy titles available for the Master System.
After completing those two series, I moved on to some of the more well known multi-platform & exclusive titles such as Double Dragon (actual 2 player action!), Pro Wrestling (not at all affiliated with Nintendo’s Pro Wrestling), Rastan, Ghostbusters, Monopoly, Psycho Fox, Zillion, Rambo III, Space Harrier 3D, F-16 Fighting Falcon & Rampage, which I had signed by the game’s developer, Brian Colin, at the 2018 Missouri Game Convention in St. Louis.
After all that, there was still one game I had been really adamant about adding to my collection and that was Golden Axe Warrior. This title is more well known for being a shameless Legend of Zelda clone and one of the more expensive and rare titles for the Master System, than for being an excellent game or even it’s loose affiliation with the Golden Axe series. Nevertheless, I still really wanted it for my collection because…Legend of Zelda clone! Hello!
I was lucky enough to find a copy of Golden Axe Warrior without the idiotic UPS sticker on the back. What is this sticker you ask? There were games released late in the Master System’s life cycle that were basically PAL titles sold in the U.S. and were differentiated from their European counterparts by a simple UPS sticker on the back case. Games of this type that contain the UPS sticker tend to go for more than their PAL pals because they are harder to find (less copies sold in NA vs. EU) or there are more collectors in the U.S. tying up inventory or a combination of both. I’m not entirely sure. While my copy of Golden Axe Warrior does not contain the UPS sticker indicating its release in NA, it is still the crown jewel of my current collection. For whatever reason, the version released in EU still had the horizontal manual and didn’t contain a multi-lingual case, which means it fits right in with the rest of my NA collection.
So what’s even left to collect? After going on my buying spree a couple of years ago, I had toyed with the idea of trying for a complete Master System set. There are only approximately 115 Master System games that were released in North America, not counting the pack-in, Snail Maze. Considering I have 55 Master System titles in my collection, I’m already half way there. Since the Master System is region free and was super popular in other regions, such as Brazil, the number of actual games available to buy and play for this console worldwide is well into the 300s. That can make navigating the online purchasing of new games a bit of a tricky venture if one is truly ONLY going for North American releases. Thankfully, all Master System games released in North America came with vertically oriented manuals while PAL manuals were more horizontal in shape. It’s an easy visual cue to tell me that a game is NTSC, although some late release titles such as the aforementioned Golden Axe Warrior, were released in PAL regions with the vertical manual as well.
While I haven’t completely abandoned the idea of going for a complete Master System set, I haven’t exactly been making any effort to do so either. Some of the barriers to accomplishing that, like in any attempt at going for a complete console set, are the outliers. There are two games that exceed the $500 barrier, which is my unofficial personal definition of a collection outlier. Of course, I prefer my “rare” or “hard to find” games in any collection to cost no more than $200, but I know that’s not usually how it works these days. The two complete in case games for the Master System that reach these outlier-like heights are James Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing and the U.S. UPS sticker version of Sonic the Hedgehog. Sure, there are some blue label variants of games that are starting to rise in price, but I’m not a variant collector. If I have one version of a particular game, I’m good. I don’t need every version of that game to be content with my definition of a complete collection.
At this time, I’m not actively looking to spend that kind of money on a mediocre boxing game or a lesser port of a common Genesis game. So what is left? Another “rare” game (I used that term loosely because it tends to get thrown around a lot and I’m not sure there is a true video game collecting definition out there we can all agree to) that I would be happy to add to my SMS collection is Power Strike. This title gets recognition as being the first mail-order only title for the Master System. This was its primary distribution model in North America until a Toys ‘R Us version was ultimately released as well. As you can imagine, any game that was primarily only available as a mail order title, is not going to be considered common. Those collecting NA titles only will need to look out for the generic, colorless cover of Power Strike, as this indicates it is the mail order version. PAL versions of the game will include a full color cover, another easy visual cue that you are not looking at the mail order NA version. Buy that version if you just want the game. I will likely go for the mail-order version since it is not prohibitively expensive (<$200).
Beyond Power Strike and all the blue label variants of games with cheaper non-blue label copies (e.g. Out Run, Rambo pt. II, Alex Kidd: Shinobi World, Ghostbusters), complete in box copies of Alf, King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown, Strider and Ghouls n’ Ghosts, are games I don’t have in my collection but can run upwards of >$100. These are the games I should probably add sooner, rather than later, if I’m toying with the idea of a complete NA set. Complete in case Master System game prices continue to slowly rise at a rate of about 8-10% per year since 2016. That can add up when the game you’re wanting is already sitting around $100.
What else am I looking for? I’d like to own the last of the North American 3D games, Poseidon Wars 3D, then pick up the PAL only copy of Out Run 3D. Out Run 3D was never released in NA, which is a shame, because it looks amazing. This is a rare PAL only title I’m actually looking to add at this time. I’d also like to add a copy of Mickey’s Castle of Illusion, not because I’m a huge Disney fan, because I’m not, but simply because it’s supposed to be one of the better platformers on the system. I’m also hoping to add Rambo pt. II (not the blue label version), Aerial Assault, Fantasy Zone II, & Teddy Boy, among others, to my collection.
Finally, I would like to have an original model 1 console box. The checkerboard design aesthetic appeals to me and I’m more and more desiring to have console boxes in my collection. I like the colorful pictures of the consoles, games and time capsule worthy actors used to help sell the systems. I also like reading the marketing buzzwords and scripts included on console boxes, that attempted to make the systems stand out in an increasingly over-saturated market. There is simply a lot to gain by including console boxes to my collection, and the ones from the ’80s hold the greatest nostalgic value to me. Also, the model II Master System would be a nice addition because while I do not care for collecting game variants, I do like collecting console variants. This cheaper, smaller version of the original Master System console isn’t a must own, but certainly a nice to have. Let’s see how this all plays out over the next few months.