While Nintendo’s first console, the Color TV Game 6, was released in 1977, Sega only turned to consumer hardware development in the early 80s. The original Sega console, the SG 1000, was released, as fate may have it, on the same day as the original Famicom.
It was basically a Japanese edition of the current crop of American consoles, equivalent in power to the Colecovision. Unfortunately for Sega, the Famicom was a massive generational leap in power over these machines.
The SG-1000 got a quick redesign as the SG-1000 II, and when Sega got around to releasing an actual Famicom competitor, they decided on a new naming convention – and called it the ‘Sega Mark III’. I assume it’s a play on ‘Mach 3’.
The Mark III, like the SG1000-II before it. takes a lot of design cues from the Famicom. It has controller docks on the side of the console (though the controllers are not permanently attached), a similar cartridge bay flap, and shiny metallic highlights. It unfortunately maintains the SG-1000 II’s controller limitation of only two buttons.
I love the ’80s futurism’ aesthetic of these things. It looks like it belongs on an 80s spaceship. The controller docks are great too.
They’re pretty good controllers too. So much better than Master System controllers, which have the same internals but a much less comfortable shape.
They also come with this mini-joystick that can be screwed into the centre.
Mark III consoles and accessories are all made in Japan, while the Master System, began the Sega practice of outsourcing console and accessory production to cheaper countries like Taiwan, Malaysia and China, so quality took a big dip.
There’s also the FM unit, which makes it look even more 80s.
It’s a great console that is very hard to come by. While games are available, I didn’t see a single console for sale in any retro games store (or Hard Off) on a recent Japan trip.