For today’s museum post, I have a collection of games for the Sega Master System (SMS), collected over a period of nearly 30 years. The SMS was the first gaming console I ever had. I remember coming home from primary school one day and our parents taking us to New Town Plaza in Sha Tin. On one of the higher floors, there was a stationery shop where the SMS was sold. I have no idea why my father picked the SMS over the more popular Nintendo Famicom, but that’s what he did and the rest is history, and now I’m a Sega fanboy for life.
A funny thing that happened was that after we brought the new SMS home, we set it up and started playing, and then my father said “Hey, this isn’t motorcycle racing”. I guess he was sold on the motorcycle racing game Hang On and somehow we ended up with Bank Panic, a completely different game. We took it back to the store to exchange it. So, although I’ve thought of Hang On as my first SMS game for the past 30+ years, technically Bank Panic is the first SMS game we ever had.
Pretty soon after, we added the second and third games to our collection. It would appear that we were big fans of driving games:
Our move to America was, in my memory, quick and sudden. Somehow, either I or my parents was able to pack the SMS and all its games and accessories into a suitcase and bring everything over. Looking back, it’s amusing to me that at this life-changing crossroads, the most important thing to my childhood self was my Sega Master System and its games.
Over the years, I continually added games to my library. One of my favorite places to buy games was Kay Bee Toys, but they mostly sold their games at retail prices. Later, when most retail stores no longer sold SMS games, I hit the mother lode in a place called Toy Liquidators, on Howard Street in San Francisco where the Burlington Coat Factory is now. I bought many games there on the cheap, brand new and still shrink-wrapped. I loved that place. Even later, when I was in college, I chanced upon a comic book store that had a bunch of games that were, though used, titles I had always wanted, but could never afford. I remember running to the ATM to get the cash to buy them, worried that someone else might discover and snatch them away from me.
I have mentioned before that there are some items in my life that I will never part with. My Sega Master System and games are some of those items. I hope you will enjoy the rest of the gallery below.
I’ll admit it – I’ve been kind of depressed ever since coming back home and ending our two-and-a-half month long trip. We’ve been back nearly a week, and most of that time has been spent sitting in front of my computer doing nothing, clicking on the same bookmarks every few minutes to see if anything has updated. No inspiration to update this site despite the massive amounts of raw materials (pictures, videos, scans) I amassed during the trip. Brought me back to certain days at work, when I used to hit a wall and just not do anything and feel like a loser, and then further not do anything because I felt like a loser. What a vicious circle.
If I had to pinpoint what causes me to become like this, I would venture to guess that it’s the amount of things I feel I have to get done: settle and reconcile my finances, unpack, clean my room, update this blog, plan for our next move, sort my photos, etc. With so many things requiring my attention, I find myself paralyzed instead. I want to do everything at once, and I have no patience. I’m pulled in every single direction, 360 degrees. That has to be it, because that’s how it used to be at work.
Tonight, I decided to allow myself to do something, to do one thing. I poured myself a dram of the Glenlivet, plugged in my Sega Saturn controller, fired up the Kega Fusion emulator, and resumed playing Wonder Boy III: the Dragon’s Trap (I told you, I love Sega, always have, always will). Playing this game, watching the Lion-Man sprite move across the screen, listening to the 8-bit sounds, I was inspired to write this post. Thoughts came to me from every single direction, from wanting to explain the progression of why I wanted to play this game in the first place to where it had taken me. So, let us start backwards, to the last time I played this game…
It was in our little studio apartment at 34th and Broadway in Manhattan that we had found through Airbnb (if you know what to expect, it can be a great way to find cheap accommodations). Sandy was not yet here, but she was near and New York City was preparing for her arrival. The skies were gray and ominous, and there was a wind that seemed like it never stopped blowing. Walking around the Herald Square area, one could feel the tension in the air as the streets got emptier and the lines at Duane Reade got longer. After I had procured a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and the last Stella Artois six-pack, I hurried back into the safety of the apartment.
With nothing left to do but wait, I decided to finally play this 23-year old game. I’ve played it on and off over the years, but I hadn’t really touched any emulators for a long time because I had convinced myself that they weren’t authentic. I still have my Sega Master System, but hooking it up to a modern day flat panel is a pain, and the results aren’t quite flattering. We finally threw out our 23-year old Sharp Linytron TV earlier this summer (besides, I was in NYC). So no, if I wanted to reminisce, it would have to be with the emulator. (I just checked, I actually don’t have the original cartridge, oops.)
About 2 weeks earlier, we were in London eating breakfast just outside Euston Station. I had just eaten something called a pasty for the first time. We went inside the station to use the facilities and, while I was waiting for JC at WHSmith, a magazine caught my eye. retro GAMER. On the cover were names that were very familiar to me, having grown up with and played video games in the 90s: Pilotwings, Psygnosis, Final Fantasy, Konix Multisystem, Shigeru Miyamoto, and of course Wonder Boy III. I thumbed through, gushing with nostalgia and excitement. I had to get this magazine. But, JC and I had already pledged to only purchase things that we actually needed, because we were traveling around the world and didn’t need the extra baggage, and we were trying to stretch our budget. I consulted with her when she came out, and she told me to decide myself. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t get it, so I did.
British gaming and PC magazines have always appealed to me. The first one I ever bought was actually in the 90s: a CVG that I chanced upon at Barnes and Noble in Oakland (back then we hardly ever went to Oakland). Their covers are rather attractive, with glossy paper and pages that are physically larger than American gaming mags. Costco even sells them from time to time. With WHSmith stores everywhere in London, it was only a matter of time before I succumbed and bought a magazine after seeing it for the third time (this happened with Android magazine, finally had to buy it at the Heathrow WHSmith).
Back on topic, though, it was the feature in retro GAMER that inspired me to play Wonder Boy III again. Once I actually sat down and forced myself to load up the ROM and play the game for at least 10 minutes, it didn’t matter that it was running on an emulator. I was back in the 90s. I was back in middle school. I still remember reading the manual for this game and noticing something quirky: HU-MAN was running around the town, but HU-MAN could not be used during the game. It was a special password that was in the manual that allowed you to use HU-MAN and receive all the perks associated with that password. Ah, childhood.
Tonight, once I actually sat down and forced myself to load up the ROM and play the game for at least 10 minutes, the memories started surfacing and I thought of all these things that I wanted to post here. I don’t know if I’ll revert back to my paralyzed state tomorrow, but tonight I am able to focus and pull my mind away from the endless loop of bookmark-clicking because I wanted to continue a 23-year old game I started playing in New York City after having seen a feature on that game in a magazine I saw at a bookstore inside a train station in London.
Back to basics. Doing something I love, and have loved. Finishing something I started. Focusing on one thing at a time. Perhaps that is what will get me back on track. Good night, Wonder Boy. Good night, Monster Land.