About the Sega Mark III (セガマークIII)

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 SG1000 II

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.

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I love the ’80s futurism’ aesthetic of these things. It looks like it belongs on an 80s spaceship. The controller docks are great too.

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They’re pretty good controllers too. So much better than Master System controllers, which have the same internals but a much less comfortable shape.

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They also come with this mini-joystick that can be screwed into the centre.Mark3controller2
Mark III consoles and accessories were made in Japan, but by the time of the Master System, Sega had began the practice of outsourcing console and accessory production to cheaper countries like Taiwan, Malaysia and China, and quality took a big dip.

There’s also the FM unit, which makes it look even more 80s.

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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.

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Restoring a yellowed Sega Mark III console

In my opinion, the best looking version of the Sega Master System was the original, so I decided to get a Sega Mark III. On a recent trip to Japan I looked everywhere I could for one, but I only came back with a controller.

 I saw a beat up Japanese Master System in an outer-Tokyo Hard-off, and an FM unit in Osaka Super Potato, but decided not to risk the latter since I wouldn’t be able to test it.

Mark III consoles cost a fortune on eBay, so I got one on Yahoo Auctions. As google translates the katakana: here is the Segamaku3 (!).

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It oozes 80s Japanese industrial design kitsch.

I got two, one in box and one without. The in-box one was listed as ‘untested’ so I grabbed another that was console only but listed as working. Turns out both worked fine. But both were very yellowed. It seems it is a common practice for Japanese sellers to modify their photos to make things look less yellowed.

Here’s one next to my non-yellowed Famicom:

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Time for some hydrogen peroxide treatment, as outlined in this Neogaf thread.

I did them one at a time to demonstrate the result:

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I love this little message on top, so polite!

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And the result:

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Beautiful, looks like a prop from an 80s Scifi.

So small compared to the Master System.

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This was the first of many Segamaku projects I’ve completed recently. Coming soon: FM unit info, external RGB amplifier, and the world’s first Mark III flash cart!