Greetings again, fellow retro travellers, and welcome back The Last Official Release. If you haven’t been following, in this series I investigate the very last official games to be released for your favourite consoles. A full list of what I’ve already covered can be found below, but today we’re examining Sega’s entry into the console gaming market: The Master System.
Originally released in its homeland of Japan in 1985 as the Sega Mark III (even though the company actually originated in Hawaii, but that’s a tale for another day) it saw its eventual release as the form you’re probably familiar with in North America in 1986, and then Europe and Japan (again) in 1987. While it struggled against the bulky beast that was the Nintendo Entertainment System, it kickstarted a dedicated base of Sega fans that would make its follow-up, the Genesis (or Mega Drive) a huge success.
Now, for the part of this article where I go through what the last game is per region, because thus far it’s always been different. The first region to be knocked-off was North America, arguably the location where the Master System struggled the most. It was discontinued there in 1992, and the final game Americans were to see was none other than the original Sonic the Hedgehog the year prior. It lasted quite a bit longer in Europe however, since it was a lot more popular. When all was said and done, it had actually outsold the NES there by its discontinuation in 1996.
The final game in Europe (also released in 1996) was the catchy and memorable Les Schtroumpfs Autour du Monde. You know what this it… right? No? Oh. Well, for those still curious, that translates to The Smurfs: Travel the World. While nothing more than a run-of-the-mill platformer, it’s considered quite rare because of it “final” status. Here’s a great write-up I found if you want to learn more.
While 1996 is impressive considering its release date, our little blue friends did not feature in the final game for our dear Master System. You’re probably thinking that Japan holds the final game since North America and Europe are out, but you’d be wrong. No, the final game resides in a region you may not expect, and the reason for such is quite interesting.
The winner goes to…. (dramatic drumroll)… Brazil! Maravilhosa!
Yes, if you’re not in the know, the Master System (and Sega in general) is very popular in Brazil and their love of the SMS continues to this day. You see, Sega saw Brazil as a profitable market for video games since large taxes imposed on goods not manufactured in the country prevent most companies from trying to sell their wares there. To get around this restriction, Sega struck a licencing agreement with a local company called Tectoy, who would produce the consoles locally. While the NES floundered there because of piracy, the Master System absolutely annihilated the market. So much so, that Master Systems are still produced there to this very day. It’s been reported that as recently as 2015, 150,000 units are still sold each year. All in all, over 8 million Master Systems have passed over the counter since its release. In comparison, 13 million units have been sold everywhere else, combined.
While Brazilians would see plenty of games produced just for them in their native tongue, later releases would be ports of Game Gear titles only. One such port, is the actual last release. That, is none other, than Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge – released in Brazil only in 1998 (its Game Gear release was back in 1994). Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge sees our favourite mouse dreaming about a magical castle after falling asleep while reading a book of fairy tales. In this “dream” (which is the gameplay) Mickey makes he way through various rooms in this castle solving puzzles so he can collect magic beans.
Ultimately, all versions of the game (which also saw release on the Game Boy, Genesis and SNES) received mixed reviews from the gaming press at the time. The general consensus was that the puzzles were far too easy for the common gaming adult, although suited towards children which were the target audience anyway. Regardless, the story of how it exists on the SMS and the gaming market in Brazil is a much more interesting tale than the actual game its self.
Previously, on The Last Official Release:
Game & Watch – Mario the Juggler
PS1 – Schnappi: 3 Fun-Games
N64 – Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3
Game Gear – The Lost World: Jurassic Park
NES – The Lion King
Atari 2600 – Klax
Game Boy – Shikakei Atama o Kore Kusuru: Kanji/Keisan no Tatsujin
Dreamcast – Karous