Review: SEGA Master System: A Visual Compendium

In the last few years we have been getting more officially licensed SEGA books than ever before, with each of these books offering readers a unique slice of SEGA history. While most of the books have a unique take or format, it seems that most of these books try to center around SEGA’s most popular console, the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive. It seems a lot of publishers aren’t very interested in covering SEGA before this time period, that is until Bitmap Book’s Master System: A Visual Compendium.

The first thing you noticed about this release is the care that went into the presentation of the book, right from opening it you get a sturdy hardcover book within a slip-on case featuring holographic moving pixel art from some of SEGA Master System’s biggest games. When the book is taken out you also get this dust jacket cover that matches the artwork in the slip-on case. Inside the book we get over 420 pages of SEGA Master System goodness printed in beautiful high quality and full color. Flipping through the book takes the reader in a nostalgic journey through the history of the SEGA Master System, covering over 150 games within its pages. Of course all the big names made it in, but the book also takes the opportunity to give smaller, less known releases space to shine. What book on the market right now would give SEGA Chess a beautiful two page spread? I would have to go with none.

I know this seems cheesy but just flipping through the pages, looking at the art work and how its presented really takes you back to when you used to go to a gaming store to browse the video game section. A section of the book is even SEGA Master System box art, which I appreciate. It is also nice that they didn’t just focus on the Western release box art, but also added some of the Mark III Japanese style artwork which I like. This also extends to accessories which the book does a good job covering including packing art and write ups.

A few of the games even got a premium style folding deluxe presentation. A few of the games include Land of Illusions Starring Mickey Mouse and Zillion. Even though not all games get a premium fold out look, each game gets at least a couple of pages to breath, give you a short overview and presents a unique page layout for each game. My only nitpick is that the overviews seem rather short, but this is given since its a ‘visual compendium’, its to be expected.

While games short write ups, the book does go further into the world of the Master System with some well done interviews. I actually enjoyed the interviews so much in the book, that I was a bit disappointed that the book only included seven of them. My favorites included Rieko Kodama talking about her time with developing classics like Phantasy Star and Alex Kidd, Mark Cerny on how he joined SEGA to make Master System/Arcade games, Steve Hanawa got a interview about his time with SEGA/Germlin, and John Sauer who did editorial work amazing SEGA Visions magazine.  These interviews are well spaced within the book and add a lot of meat to the visually stunning book that’s well appreciated.

Outside of covering huge amounts of Master System games, having interviews with some of the big names behind the console, the book also has some write ups based on the SEGA Master System’s history. I enjoyed the books write up on the Master System being a huge seller in Brazil, the look into SegaScope 3-D Glasses and the book even has pages that work with said 3-D Glasses which is fun (the book didn’t come with 3D glasses, so I didn’t test it out for this review). Its hard not to recommend this book to hardcore 8-bit SEGA Master System fans that are itching to relive the ‘good old days’ or someone that simply never experienced the SEGA Master System. The book is filled with classic games, accessories, game boxes, interviews and a ton of other content that will keep you reminiscing of SEGA’s hardware days. While all this content is great, Bitmap Books’ designer Sam Dyer really nailed the design of the book and honestly without his clever use of color, design and specific screenshots he used to decorate the book, it would be hard for it to stand out from the crowd. This is a ‘A Visual Compendium’ and it differently lives up to it.


5 responses to “Review: SEGA Master System: A Visual Compendium

  1. Centrale says:

    I’m proud to have my name listed among the backers! The book is great and something about seeing the huge, brightly colored screenshots really brought back a similar feeling to when these games were brand new. I think I’ll get the rest of the books in the Visual Compendium series now.

  2. Bertodecosta says:

    “What book on the market right now would give SEGA Chess a beautiful two page spread? ” I laughed reading that.

  3. BigJon says:

    Not many are seemingly interested in covering Sega before this because too many commentators here and in most western media only look at Sega from an American perspective when Sega is so much more, outside of America, Sega is pretty much a completely different company.

    The Master System was huge in the UK/Europe and this was firmly a Sega stronghold territory for two entire subsequent generations, even the Saturn did better there than in America and lasted a bit longer, while also being huge in Japan/Asia and beat the Nintendo 64 out there into third position as well as staying ahead of the PlayStation for years up until 1997 when Square put out FFVII.

    • PEDRO FERREIRA says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. So many terrific Master System games came out from 1990 onwards.

  4. EdwardBock says:

    George, thanks for this review. Indeed, watching these books is nostalgic.

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