Monday, October 22, 2012

An Ode to Third Party SMS Games


Ok, I know what you're thinking. "Dr. Sparkle, you idiot, an ode is a form of poetry! And this post consists entirely of your turgid, un-poetic prose!"  And yes, I agree with you 100%.  However, I am using "ode" as  metaphor, and an unnaturally loose one, at that. I'm not here to praise third party SMS games, but to announce their demise.

Chronsega 8, when it eventually arrives - and I'd like to reiterate that, yes, Chronsega Episode 8 is a totally real thing that will be happening in the near future, despite what the unreasonably long wait may have led you to believe.  Sorry, but I had a couple really long games this episode that I'm still working on. Plus, I've been busy with other things! Did I mention last time I'm having some work done around the house? Heck, I actually took part in a charity walk for cancer yesterday, people! The new episode is almost completely recorded and I'll be editing it before too long.

As I was saying, when Chronsega 8 manifests itself, we'll be seeing the final third party game for the Master System in the US. As we know, third party games are vital to the success of a console. The PC Engine did quite well in Japan, and part of that success must be attributed to game publishers like Namco signing on early in system's lifespan.  "Lack of third party support," is often cited as a reason for the failure of the 32X and Saturn. For the Master System, the situation was even worse.

Only two games from a third party publisher were released in Japan, and both were from the mysterious Salio, a rather fake-sounding company that only published one other game, Daichikun Crisis: Do Natural for the PC Engine in 1989.


The fact that both titles were ports of Tecmo games already published on the Famicom, merely adds to the level of fishiness.  On the other hand, in the US, a full five games were published by non-Sega companies. The first two, in late 1988, wer from former console giant Activision: Rampage and Galaxy Force, both arcade ports that were already available on many other systems.  The other publisher was Parker Brothers, who contributed two games in early 1989, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and Montezuma's Revenge, both covered in Chronsega 7. The final SMS game from Parker Brothers was King's Quest: Quest for the Crown, released sometime around Summer 1989.


Sometime in Fall 1989, Sega took over the distribution of the Sega Master System themselves, after it had been handled by the toy company Tonka for a while.  This makes perfect sense, as Sega was launching the Genesis in the US at the same time. For some reason, Sega continued to support the ailing Master System in the US well into the lifespan on the Genesis. In mid-1990 Sega released a Nintendo Fan Club type magazine called Sega Visions. Each issue devotes a considerable amount of space to Genesis news, and a handful of pages to the Master System.

With every new issue, the Master System became a slightly less visible. Sega still nominally supported the console in the US, having released the budget priced SMS II, and kept relasing cartridges at a slow trickle over the course of 1990 and 1991. Sega Visions usually threw in a single two-page review in each 48 page issue, and in one instance, reviewing a game, The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck, that supposedly never came out in the US. The last mention the SMS received was in the late 1991 issue, when the SMS Sonic the Hedgehog was reviewed. That title was barely released in the US, and is highly collectable today. Sega Visions then went on a breif hiatus, and when it relaunched in a new format in mid 1992, all mentions of the Master System were gone.

The SMS made its unlikely revival in Europe by that time. With it finally came the rush of third party publishers that the console had always been missing. Companies like Domark, TekMagik, Codemasters, US Gold, Flying Edge, Imageworks and Virgin all generated a healthy stream of new releases.

We won't be seeing the end of the SMS in the United States in Chronsega 8, but we will see its US release schedule slowly grinding to a halt as it picks up steam in Europe and Brazil. 

9 comments:

Iron Peach said...

Please Dr. Sparkle, ignore the taunting harangues of the baying masses. Publish your delightful discoveries at your leisure, please. I have personally followed you since the entitled numeral one, bravo thou sir broave ... etc. :)

Sean Clements said...

Actually Sega Visions was not the first Sega magazine. Prior to that they had the Sega Challenge newsletter. (of which I happened to have all of) that exclusively covered SMS games and gave out hits and tricks and even had a letters section. Here is the typical letter written from issue 7

Dear Sega.
I have beer, a Sega* fan for a long time, and I still think it is the best. I have 11 cartridges, and can't wait to get more. I also can't wait to get the hot game SHINOBI.TM
It is the best game ever. Overall,
I think Sega is the greatest, and
it will remain the greatest for a long time.
Bradley St. Clair
Taylorsville, NC

They did have good cheat codes and tips in tha mag though. They even mailed out prom VHS tapes of upcoming games. One of them on YouTube but the one I had I haven't found online anywhere featuring the holiday 98 games like Double Dragon and Phantasy Star.

I think Sega could get away with not having huge first party support ( well not really I guess as history show) because they had such a large amount of arcade properties to draw from. And those arcade style games kind of defined the system as well as the early Genesis games. While Nintendo crammed RPG elements into a lot of games and drastically altered arcade ports, Sega kept its gameplay pretty rooted in basic arcade style play. Of course I blame Nintendo for the lack of third party support the SMS never received with their anti competitive business practices at the time.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see the European/Brazi releases as these will be the ones that will extend the life of this console. Thanks Dr. sparkle and keep it up! :)

Kevin "k8track" Moon said...

An Ode to Third Party SMS Games

The number of third-party games for the SMS
'Twas five and five alone.
Unless you count the two in Japan,
Then to seven the amount had grown.

The evil Nintendo empire had said,
"You only make games for us, hear?"
Thus, did all the third-party companies
Acquiesce and tremble in fear.

The gamers who'd thrown in their lot with Sega
Found their collections unusually sparse.
And slowly came to the realization that
Nintendo was kicking their arse.

Today, one-score-and-six years hence,
All the bad vibes have departed;
Through Dr. Sparkle's prism of chrono-history,
The system is fondly regarded.

Sean Clements said...

K8track..... That was amazing. You somehow almost bought me to tears talking about a piece of electronic equipment. Well done sir, well done.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Now if only someone would pen the perfect RCA Studio II haiku, the symmetry would be complete.

Kevin "k8track" Moon said...

That last "anonymous" comment was mine, by the way... my wayward pinky pressed the "return" key before I could enter my name.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Kevin, you now officially hold the post of Poet Laureate of Chrontendo. This entitles you to a stipend of 5 Guineas per annum in imaginary internet money.

Kevin "k8track" Moon said...

I humbly accept this great honor. Feels good to finally have a patron. My next epic will be an Ode to Nuon, a poem with only seven lines, with an eighth line published only in Korea. There will also be several planned but unwritten stanzas as well, forever taunting everyone with what might have been.