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MasterGear/2- by Inteller Vaz


A long time ago, somewhere between the NES and the Genesis, there was a work of art known as the Sega Master System. It was technically superior to the NES, but never really caught on because of the lack of titles for it and what is now known today as "the bandwagon effect". (Sound familiar?) If you've been around console gaming for quite a while, then I'm sure you have heard of the legendary Phantasy Star. Yep, the SMS started that. Now, thanks to Darrell Spice and SpiceWare, we can enjoy Phantasy Star, plus many other high quality games on MasterGear/2.

MasterGear/2 is a derivative of MasterGear for DOS. MG/2 improves on the DOS version by adding the DIVE and MMPM that we are all familiar with, plus the stability of OS/2. MG/2 plays copied ROMs that rarely exceed 400k.

Installation

This is the easy part, you pick up MG/2 from SpiceWare's web site, and unzip it to a drive. Directory structures are already set up. Now the hard part is finding ROMs.

First of all, ROMs aren't exactly legal. Most disclaimers state that you can only download a ROM if you own that particular game. Of course, this is not a problem for those of us who own all the cool games anyway, and you probably don't need to worry about Sega knocking on your door hunting for ten year old games (GIF, 13.7k) any time soon. Besides, if you're really worried you can probably find most of these games for $1 each at a pawn shop somewhere.

The Games

SpiceWare provides links to sites which have links to ROMs, although these sites can be busy or unavailable at times. The actual games play in their true resolution. That is, SMS games (GIF, 7.6k) will play at 164x80. This is really nice since it takes up very little Desktop real estate and it keeps games from looking too blocky, unlike the originals. So the size of the window is like looking at a Game Gear screen.

Yes, MasterGear/2 does play Game Gear games too, although they will play in an even smaller window (GIF, 5.8k), just like their GG counterparts. You can, of course, scale the window to any size you wish.

Games that have a save feature create save files. SegaScope games are not supported and the same goes for Light Phaser and Sports Pad games. Unless someone can figure out a way to rig up and use these peripherals on a PC, chances are these kinds of games won't be supported.

Performance

As far as performance goes, it is passable for a version 1.x product. I have to give a lot of slack when someone gives me something free, as is the case with MG/2. My system is not what you would call state of the art (Nx586 100Mhz -- a screamer for its time), but the status monitor built into MG/2 states that I usually attain 94-98% of the frame rate of the original game. Sound comes across realllllly slowwww, but Darrell Spice has included some command line options that allow you to increase the buffer and frequency which can speed things up.

However, to be safe, I would suggest having at least a Pentium 133 since MMPM and DIVE seem to be CPU hogs. Future versions will likely thread better, allowing for better performance.

Expect Improvements

My personal hope is that DART will be implemented. Indeed, the next version promises to have the command line switches integrated into the PM interface, as well as support for dual language ROMS. SMS fans know what I'm referring to and true diehards will appreciate these upcoming features the most. With dual language ROMS you can play Japanese and European games like they would have read on their respective consoles. Expect the next release to show up sometime later this month or early August.

Conclusions

All in all this is a great diamond in the rough. Once performance gets better, it will be the best emulator of its kind. It opens up a plethora of games that OS/2 users like myself greatly need. If you like the good old fashion games from your childhood (or at least mine), this is the perfect toy for you. Even if you have never heard of or played the SMS, go grab MG/2 and see what all the ruckus is about.
 * MasterGear for OS/2
by Marat Fayzullin
a SpiceWare Conversion
Registration: Free

Inteller Vaz is the fearless leader of the Bandwidth Bandits, destroyer of bandwagons, the one from The Other Side. If he's not whipping you in Quake/2, go find him on IRC.

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