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.