The Sega Master System is one of the most underrated game consoles of all time. There, I said it. In a world where the NES is seen as the defining 8 bit system, there seems to be little love for Sega’s first international console. To me, the Master System is the perfect console for classic 8 bit graphics, but while 8 bit graphics have been making a comeback, the Master System is being ignored.
8 bit graphics are now “in” and there are a huge number of 8 bit style games that have come out over last few years. What’s odd is that the NES seems to be seen as THE system for 8 bit, while the Master System is almost forgotten. I find this strange because, in my opinion, the Master System produces the classic colorful 8 bit graphics that seem to be in, while the NES is a bit more… well drab. Now, I’m not bashing the NES. In fact, I truly believe the NES is one of the greatest systems of all time, however, the colors on the NES just aren’t as good as the colors on the Master System.
According to what I’ve read, the NES has only around 54 unique colors, and can only use 12 at once, while the Master System has 64 unique colors, and can display 32 at once. This means that the Master System can pull off more colorful images than the NES. Of course, when it comes to graphics it’s all a matter of opinion, but I believe that the more colors in the Master System’s palette really shows!
For a great comparison of classic console color palettes and other information, here’s a helpful Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_game_console_palettes
So why am I rambling on about 8 bit graphics and color palettes in a post about an S-Video mod? Because to me the Master System’s gorgeous graphics need to be experienced on something better than the stock RF adapter! RF never does anything good to classic game consoles, and the Master System is no exception. When I got my Master System earlier this year, I loved the colors and sprites in the games, but I knew that it was in dire need of an S-Video upgrade. I started refurbishing a couple of Sega Genesis systems recently, and seeing as how the Master System S-Video mod is the same as the Genesis, I decided to mod it at the same time.
I went off of these 2 diagrams, one of which came from this thread here: http://www.theisozone.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=22974
The Sega Master System has the same encoder that’s used in many early Sega Genesis models, and it natively outputs S-Video. It’s a shame Sega didn’t take advantage of that, and simply add S-Video to the Master System or Genesis. In fact, they didn’t even add native composite support, even when the NES (which is older than the Master System) supported composite out of the box.
I then added a audio jack on the back which is necessary because the sound was originally output through the RF cable. The Master System doesn’t support stereo sound, so I just added one jack. With just one jack, my TV still plays through both speakers.
At this point I tested the video and audio output. At first I had luma and chroma swapped (noob mistake!) but after fixing that it worked like a dream!
I took a couple of pictures to try and show how clear the image is! However, when taking a picture of my TV, the colors were washed out, so ignore the colors.
In the end, this mod did produce some jailbars (pattern of vertical lines running across the screen) but it doesn’t ruin the image. In fact, it gives the image a sort of textured look that I kinda like!
Also, just in case anyone was wondering, the light gun and 3D glasses both work perfectly fine after the s-video mod. So you can play Missile Defense 3D in crisp, clear s-video quality without worrying about incompatibilities 😉
So after doing this mod and seeing how sharp and bright the Master System looks, I’ve been researching how to do the same with my NES. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an easy (or cheap) way to do this. But I’m not going to give up! I will find a way to get s video from an NES, and when I do, I’ll be sure to post it here 🙂
As a side note, I know that this mod is possible on a Sega Mark III. Oh Sega Mark III, someday you will be mine!!!