Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Golden eras of gaming: Master System

Ah, the Master System - Sega's 8-bit answer to the Nintendo Entertainment System... Just as ugly as Nintendo's offering and home to loads of fantastic gaming moments!

First making an appearance in 1986, the cartridge-based console was also capable of playing games from thin memory cards (although these proved fairly rare). The games library was vast, and sported some of the greatest 8-bit titles including Afterburner, Hang On and Alex Kidd. Wikipedia lists some 318 games for the system.

While it never saw the same success as the NES in Japan or the US, it was a huge hit in Europe and sold well throughout its decade-long lifespan. Here is the first instalment of Megabits' pick of the system's Top 10 games...

10. Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Back in the early days of the console before Sonic, SEGA really needed an equivalent to Nintendo's Mario. It needed a mascot who could star in loads of titles and appeal to spotty gamers around the world. Alex Kidd was the answer - and Miracle World was arguably one of his best outings. What's more, it was preloaded with some versions of the Master System console. Platforming, swimming, shopping and paper, scissors, stone mini games - what more could you want from a little boy with a haircut that makes him look like a monkey?

9. Spy vs Spy
Based on comic books, Spy vs Spy was (at the time - 1986) an uber violent game that encouraged players to lay elaborate traps to kill their opponent. It was one of the first split screen games I remember playing and it worked really well. The game was set in the confines of a building, allowing you to place traps behind doors, picture frames and in cupboards. Sequels included the jungle and the arctic - but the original was definitely its best outing.

8. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
At arguably the height of his fame, the King of Pop made an appearance not just in the movies but on the Master System. The plot involved wandering around the numerous level, strutting your stuff to some rockin' tracks and hunting down lost children. The game was peppered with classic music from the man himself and featured some of his trademark moves and spins. It was a must for fans and a pretty great game in its own right.

7. New Zealand Story
Just like Megabits' favourite Bubble Bobble, New Zealand Story was a cutesy game from Taito (although the cuteness factor was quickly forgotten when you realised how tough this game was). You played as a tiny yellow kiwi charged with tracking down and rescuing his kidnapped friends. Bizarre but brilliant!

6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Our rope-jumping, Fedora-wearing hero leapt onto SEGA's console and provided a really enjoyable romp. The graphics were pretty respectable and the gameplay tricky enough to add longevity but addictive enough not to have you slamming down the control pad in frustration. Granted, the graphics and environments look a little brown and uninspiring nowadays but compared with many Master System titles, it looked absolutely fantastic.

Part II and the Top 5 to follow...

(Photo credit: Fujoshi)