Space Harrier Theme on Japanese Master System Hardware

Fact 1: the Japanese version of the Master System had an add on that provided FM synthesis sound synthesis, and greatly improved its music. Many US-released games have support for the add-on, but it was never released over here so that feature remained unused.

Fact 2: A later revision of the hardware in Japan (there called the Master System) had the FM chip built in. This version could even mix together the system’s default sound with the FM chip. And, if you turned the system on without a game inserted, it played a special version of the Space Harrier theme, programmed to take advantage of both chips.

This is that:

Romhack Thursday: Snail Maze in a Cartridge

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

Early Sega Master System units released in the US had a small game included on the system ROM. It’s not as cool as the Space Harrier music with FM synthesis included on some Japanese Mark III units, but it’s at least a playable game.

Snail Maze, a really simple game (image from article)

It’s not really that deep a game, just a simple timed maze race, but it’s something, in case you got tired of Hang-On and Astro Warrior. Mike (no last name given), the maintainer of the blog Leaded Solder, decided to take that game and make a cartridge for it, so it can be played on any Master System, not just the early units that had it built-in. It’s a story of electronics work and 3D printing, of ColecoVision cartridge simultarity, roadblocks overcome, and ultimate victory. Here’s some appropriate music to listen to while reading it.

Breaking out of the Snail Maze (

Jeremy Parish’s Segaiden Reaches the Master System Era

I worry that he’ll never finish his many Youtube game history projects, but Jeremy Parish has hit an important milestore as Segaiden, his Sega-specific series, reaches the beginning of the Master System era! In addition to the console itself three games are covered this time, including the pack-in that’s so packed-in that it’s included on the system’s circuit board itself.

There’s no shortage of game history videos out there, but Jeremy’s work is among the best, tieing the other collection of relentlessly-complete game cataloging projects, Dr. Sparkle’s Chrontendo, Chronsega and Chronturbo. I find that neither Jeremy nor Sparkle’s projects replace the other, but instead look at their subjects from different angles. Jeremy Parish has more of a view of context, both from other games and history, while the various Chrons look directly at each game’s play.

But importantly, neither of them succumb to the many excesses of Youtube gaming culture: they aren’t hyperedited, they aren’t overloaded with sound effects and swishy graphics, neither of them feel like they’re aimed at 14-year-olds, and no video in any of their series looks like it’s trying to complete with Tiktok. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing–well, let me clarify your thinking for you. It’s a good thing. It’s a very good thing.

Segaiden #30: Master System, Snail Maze, and Hang On & Safari Hunt (Youtube, 19 minutes)

Video: Chrontendo and related

The third and last of the chronological platform cataloguing efforts is the longest-lived and most complete, Dr. Sparkle’s wonderful Chrontendo, going through the entire library of the Famicom and NES, along with sister projects Chronsega (Mark III/Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis) and Chronturbo (PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16).

Each of the projects I’ve presented have had a different style. Atari Archive does one game at a time, devoting from 8 to 20 minutes to it. Video Works tends to cover two or three times per video. Well, the various Chrons go for the omnibus approach: each entry shows from a dozen to 20 or more games. It also emphasizes gameplay footage, and also sometimes some side bits amidst the many games.

Chrontendo has been going since a while before 2010, and so there is a whole lot of material to catch up on. It also has the slowest rate of updating, with sometimes whole years between episodes. But each episode is its own little wonder, containing a solid mass of retro gaming information, including many games you probably won’t ever hear about anywhere else.