When it comes to celebrating its heritage via mini-consoles and compilations, SEGA is guilty of focusing solely on the beloved Genesis/Mega Drive. While the Sega Master System was merely a blip in the North American market, I’ve been pining for a fun-sized edition of the console for years or at the very least, a collection with the same quality as Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. With yet another miniature Genesis/Mega Drive on the way, I figured it was high time to put together a list of titles that would be a good fit for a Master System compilation.
Alex Kidd In Miracle World (1986)
We might as well get a no-brainer addressed right away. Before the blue blur became the official spokes-critter of the Sega brand, there was Alex Kidd. What started development as a Dragon Ball game eventually took the form of Sega’s first stab at dethroning Super Mario. While not nearly as polished as the outings of Nintendo’s flagship character, Miracle World had an incredible amount of ambition in terms of level design. The very first stage introduces verticality, seeing the player make their way down a cliffside and then submerging to take on an underwater section. There’s plenty of (surprisingly well-written) dialogue and of course the rock-paper-scissors boss fights that the series is known for. While modern players seem to have all but forgotten this Kidd, it appears Sega hasn’t with his recent appearance in Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing Transformed and is even prepping a Sega AGES version with new features for a North American release.
Castle Of Illusion (1991)
The Genesis version of Castle of Illusion often makes top 10 lists in discussing of the 16-bit powerhouse…and rightfully so. Released in 1990, it was leaps and bounds beyond any other side-scrolling platformer released for the system up to that point and showcased the technical improvements the Genesis had over 8-bit hardware. The Master System version, released just a year later, is argued by some to be the superior version of the game. What truly makes it special is that Sega didn’t try to cram a 16-bit game onto an 8-bit cartridge, but rather created an entirely new adventure based on the themes of the Genesis game. Mickey’s butt-stomp is more akin to Scrooge McDuck’s cane-pogo in Ducktales, there are far more secrets off the beaten path and there’s even an object-throwing system no doubt inspired by Super Mario Bros. 2. Obvious licensing issues aside, it would be a short-but-sweet inclusion.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
On the subject of good “demasters”, Sonic the Hedgehog on the Master System was an impressive feat. Since having a ton of loop-de-loops and sprawling levels with branching paths would have been difficult to pull off on the inferior hardware, Sega opted to make a more platforming-centric outing for the blue blur’s 8-bit debut. Some mechanics found in this one were rarely (if ever) seen in Sonic games again, including an auto-scroll section in the Bridge Zone. Chaos emeralds are now hidden in stages as opposed to being gated off by frustrating trial-and-error sessions inside special stages, which is a touch I would’ve liked to see beyond this entry in the franchise. It’s a relatively good time if you can wrap your mind around a slower-paced Sonic.
Psycho Fox (1989)
Psycho Fox introduced a not-so-traditional physics system to a then tried-and-true genre upon release. Inertia and gaining momentum is an important piece of the platforming puzzle in this wacky sidescroller and while I’d argue that Vic Tokai didn’t get this system down pat before the release of Decap Attack on the Genesis (also utilizing the same engine), it would be a novel inclusion for platform fans who have never experienced it beyond its inclusion in Master System related discussions.
Wonder Boy (1986)
The Wonder Boy series has quite a bit of back-story to it. To put it briefly- Hudson eventually made a few changes to this original entry (much to the detriment of the overall game-including repeating levels and an eye-killing color palette) and slap the name Adventure Island on it to release on the NES, spawning numerous sequels with the same gameplay formula. Meanwhile, the Wonder Boy line went on to delve into the territory of action-RPGs. The Dragon’s Trap and spinoff Monster World IV are fan favorites, with the former seeing a fantastic remake by Lizardcube and the latter getting its first overseas release on digital storefronts not too long ago. While I adore both of these entries and could see The Dragon’s Trap making its way onto a Master System mini/collection, this is still something I’d really like to see as well. It’s Adventure Island on NES, but so much better. The graphics aren’t painful to look at, there’s more variety in the stages and a continue system that doesn’t involve some cryptic nonsense to obtain. Since most folks are familiar with Adventure Island at this point, it would be a good inclusion for those that haven’t experienced the original (and, in my opinion, far superior) game as well as franchise fans who want to see where it all started.