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Sega's 8-bit hardware, adapters, plug-n-plays and clones.


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So, I decided to put this topic here since it's the closest to an actual Master System/Game Gear subforum, this is also an offspring of the Mega Drive clones thread.

Unlike Nintendo, Sega only got popular in the fourth generation with the Mega Drive, but on some parts of the world the Master System also got popular, this made a lot fans of the 16-bits hardware interested in the 8-bits too, so here are some options for playing Game Gear, Master System and the SG-1000 games.



Adapters for the Mega Drive: These are a great way to start, although there are some problems with compatibility, for a few games you are going to need a Master System controller or a controller that can mimic that with the MODE button, after that you have a good compatibility with almost the entire library, with the Power Base converter you are getting compatibility with the Card games and the 3D glasses, third parties don't include the port for that, there are many homemade adapters and by popular brands you can buy, you at least need to look for one that includes a pause button. Other thing to note is that SG-100 can't play with these. Compatibility with clones varies, some might have wrong colors and some won't play, as always, take a look at Sega Retro to look for more information, it's also a good idea having a clone just for playing Master System.


Adapters for the Game Gear: For some reason these adapters are really expensive, as far as I know compatibility is 100% with everything that doesn't require peripherals, for playing Japanese and Card games separate adapters are necessary. And of course nothing is backwards compatible with the Game Gear(yet), so it's the only option for playing the exclusive games.


Brazilian official clones and Plug and Plays: In the 2000s after Sega stopped supporting 8-bit hardware Tectoy had to come with a way of selling Master Systems, so they made a clone console using an ASIC based on the Game Gear and a cheap Altera FPGA, these systems look very similar to the Master System redesigns but with different colors, the ones to look for are the Master System 3 Collection units, these come with a bunch of games included, with about half of them being classic Sega games and the other half being homebrews made by Tectoy, the numbers go from 74 up to 112 for the normal consoles, 120 has a fake cartridge slot, and 131 uses a chip called Noza that emulates Game Gear. As for the Plug and Plays, the ones shaped like controllers are the only ones that don't use emulation.


FM sound: Although only Japanese consoles officially supported it, all consoles after the Mark III can support it, the Mega Drive can play it with the Power Base Mini FM, Master System and Game Gear can be modded, but there are also adapters that can do it for people that don't want to mod their systems, these come with built in speakers so it's possible to have both FM and PSG sounds playing at the same time, these are all homemade and I have seen a lot of people selling those for quite a lot, so perhaps it's not the best option until a company makes a more affordable option.


Sega Computer stuff: Sega tried to make computers out of the SG-1000 and released a lot accessories for it like disk drives and keyboards, there aren't any games made specifically for these so the only reason to want to have it is for the curiosity, only consoles with the expansion ports on the back support these, there are also some models that have built-in keyboards.


MSX cross-compatibility: The SG-1000 and the MSX line of systems are very similar, in fact, so similar that there's a weird compatibility with both, the general rule for that is that for a system to be able to play the other it needs to be more powerful than what it wants to play, so it's possible to play MSX on everything above MK III, and it's (technically) possible to play SG-1000 on everything above the MSX-2. Initially the only way to do it was by converting the files to play in a flash cart, this is more of a hack than an actual way of playing MSX, but some years ago a guy by the name of Naska88va2 made an adapter to play original games and it only requires a small board to be soldered into the main PCB, he didn't made it available or anything and the last time he gave any updates was 4 years ago, so it's probably still a prototype.


BONUS: would it be possible to make an actual modern Master System/Game Gear clone?

For the Master System it's totally possible by just using Mega Drive clone, modifying the cartridge ports for both Master System cartridges and cards, and maybe add switches for things like pausing and alternating between PSG and FM sounds. Now, the Game Gear is a totally different story, since it has even more colors than the Mega Drive, 32 out of a palette of 4096 versus 61 out of 512. An easy fix for that is an adapter made by Apocolypse that RetroRGB showed in a recent video, it basically translates the colors exclusive to the Game Gear into the 64 colors the Master System can display, this also leaves garbage around the screen for games exclusive to the portable. A much more interesting way to do it would be using the 512 of the Mega Drive, that's close to the point that most wouldn't notice the difference, the only problem is that the adapter doesn't work on the Mega Drive using the Power Base or the Mini FM, but that's probably because it's using two adapters in a row, since the Hyperkin 3-in-1, an adapter that was supposed to be used on the Retron 5 but also works on original hardware, kind of does the same thing, the only difference being that the colors get all messed up since there's no controller doing the translation. A new project that reverse engineered the entire board of the single ASIC Game Gear also shows how close this system is to being cloned, it only needs the original ASIC to be built, the creator also recommends extracting the cartridge connector, the crystal and the LED light since it's already destroying the original board anyways, other than that everything is made of brand new parts. It would be very interesting if these two projects merged for creating a full clone, even more so if they partner with company like Retro-Bit or Tectoy that could produce more and in a wider range.

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