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Thread: The power gap between the NES and Master System, and how it didn’t mean anything in the real world

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gameguy View Post
    I've heard that a lot of SMS games are ports of Game Gear versions, I'm not sure if that applies to Castle of Illusion or not. If I ever come across a copy locally for cheap I'll try it out.

    Thank you, that's pretty much my experience with SMS Double Dragon as well. So many people say that the SMS version is better because it's closer to the arcade version and there's no control issues, but I just find it plays badly. I'm not sure if it's due to the controller or if it's actually the game though, I find the SMS controller pretty bad to control in general.
    You are correct, those later SMS games are far better programmed examples, because SEGA developed them on Game Gear, which is largely the same hardware. Which is why the latter SMS games released in the 90s were light years better, especially the side scrollers. What it does prove out as usual is that if the console maker spends money to make good games, those games will begin to show "higher technical" capabilities and features, and make better use of the console's hardware.

    Quote Originally Posted by Az View Post
    I totally get that, but I was more directing that question in response to the original topic subject line. Nobody, or at least nobody I ever spoke with at the time, was even aware of console tech specs. The "power gap" between the SMS and NES didn't mean anything in the real world to the average customer because they were blissfully unaware of it even existing. Games that were critically panned were just chalked up to being dud games, not good games held back by hardware limitations.
    I made that exact point earlier, but the OP wanted to know currently, were there any SMS games technically superior to some of the best NES games? That has led to us comparing the games as finished products. Back then you are correct, nobody knew about or cared about specs. The presumption was the newest hardware was the better hardware, which frequently was the case. However, when systems emerged about the same time, such as SMS/NES on the US market, or The Atari 5200 and Colecovision in 1982, there were clearly hardware differences. Differences which today are plain to see.

    However, to answer the OP directly I think it is kind of impossible without getting the input of actual programmers from back then. Or at least someone who has programmed on both systems since, in homebrew. I feel the Game Gear ports were probably the height of what the SMS produced, because they clearly had the best budgets. Alianger has a different definition of technical prowess than I do, but that's part of the problem. What is "technical superiority?" We know that really didn't matter, because games that traded technical wowness for control, music, story, etc. were always more successful.
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    I'd recommend Renegade as an SMS beat 'em up that plays well, it's rather different from the NES one. 1P only but it's tight and fast, plus it looks and sounds nice. SoR 1 is decent as well IIRC. Golden Axe is pretty choppy though.

    I think Land of Illusion was first made with the GG in mind, among some others like Jurassic Park, as it has a different and better color palette on it. Some later GG games like Royal Stone make full use of its large color palette and look pretty fantastic.

    Technical quality in some ways goes hand in hand with good gameplay - framerate, flicker, smooth scrolling, lack of bugs, etc. No reason to pick one over the other.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alianger View Post
    Golden Axe is pretty choppy though.
    It's choppy because it uses background tiles in place of sprites.

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    New Game Sack reviewing EVERY US released SMS game:


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    Quote Originally Posted by WelcomeToTheNextLevel View Post
    1986. The NES and Master System both hit American shores, or at least see a wide release. Out of the box, the Master System is more powerful. 1 megabit cartridges instead of 320 kilobit. A faster CPU, more colors on screen, and all that jazz. And technically speaking, Alex Kidd in Miracle World looked better than Super Mario Bros 1.

    I know NES carts were loaded with enhancement chips, but as far as the common consumer would know in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the NES was equal to or beating the Master System technically.

    Find me a Master System game that outperforms Super Mario 3 technically. Mario 3 looks closer to a typical Genesis game than a Master System game. What about Kirby’s Adventure? That thing came on a 6 megabit cart (the Master System topped out at 4 megabit IIRC) and looks like an early Genesis game. I don’t think the Master System has anything in its arsenal that can beat it.

    Is there anything that came out on Master System that can match Mario 3 and Kirby’s Adventure technically?
    There's no such thing as "out of the box". If you mean lowest valid configuration.. then how doe that have any meaning? The only "power" difference between the SMS and NES is the color; 4bit cells vs 2bits cells. That's it. Nothing else on the SMS is "superior", including master palette, speed, cpu, memory, tilemap size, hsync effect, total number of tiles/sprite cells, special effects the NES can do that the SMS can't. Mappers existed waaayyy before both the NES and SMS, and much after. It's not something Nintendo invented haha. The large part of the video system is extended to the cartridge on the NES. That's how the system was designed (video 'arcade-ish' in design). No other system home system other than the Neo Geo does something like this. Matter of fact, it's pretty odd that the SNES shares none of the design philosophy. The NES could change out vram about 100x faster than any SNES or Genesis vDMA (i.e. blast processing). The NES 'out of the box' audio hardware is also vastly superior to SMS. 'But the SMS in Japan has an FM add on..' so does the FC.

    But that one advantage the SMS does have, 4bit cells vs 2bit, is HUGE when put into practice. Outside of audio, that's the only area that really matters for the most part. And that's what kills it for me - the audio. It's not just inferior.. it's limitations make it very 'same-y' and not in a good way. I hated it on the Game Gear. I just found almost all the music grating on the ears. I'll take inferior graphics, but better audio over the opposite in this case. To this day, I'm still listening to NES tracks.

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    The palette is larger on SMS, 64 vs 56 though there are are also a couple of redundant gray tones in the NES one. The NES one has a better grayscale and one or two more brownish tones but is worse at most other shades. Though the sometimes lower saturation shades on NES is preferable to some or for certain games/scenes.

    Some NES to SMS mockups:
    https://imgur.com/a/2B6NClh
    Last edited by Alianger; 10-03-2021 at 05:48 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alianger View Post
    The palette is larger on SMS, 64 vs 56 though there are are also a couple of redundant gray tones in the NES one. The NES one has a better grayscale and one or two more brownish tones but is worse at most other shades. Though the sometimes lower saturation shades on NES is preferable to some or for certain games/scenes.

    Some NES to SMS mockups:
    https://imgur.com/a/2B6NClh
    NES has emphasis bits. You can bias the palette to your choice.

    Yeah the over-saturation of straight 3bit RGB can make it worse in some cases. Amiga games purposely use de-contrasted and de-saturateded color choices in games - it makes color re-use via paired shades less jarring. Though I think the saturation issue is more of an issue with 9bit RGB than 3bit RGB, but 3bit RGB does have some waste in the palette. It's the whole reason why PC-Engine isn't actually 9bit RGB color - it's a specialized/custom YUV defined color palette of those 9bit RGB values.

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    Huh. That seems very limited in use and was barely used though. I'd pick 15 color sprites over that any day.

    Why would it be more of a problem with 9-bit?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alianger View Post
    Huh. That seems very limited in use and was barely used though. I'd pick 15 color sprites over that any day.
    Same.

    But I mean it's better than just the ~54 colors. I mean technically it's like 400+ colors haha. But it's nice as a mid screen transparency effect too. Apparently you can also turn off color and run as B&W output. One game does this for a transparency effect.

    Also, wasn't mentioned but someone developed a mapper for the NES that swaps out the palette association for BG tiles, so you have 3+1 colors every 8x1 pixel rows, rather than 8x8 or 16x16. There's a game in development for it right now.

    Why would it be more of a problem with 9-bit?
    Because it's right on that weird threshold with 512 entries where there's more wasted/useless color ratio to usable stuff - compared to like 1024, or 2048, etc. There's a lot of wasted shades in the bright yellows, *any* range of orange, bright pinks and greens that you would never use (or need to use) out side of digitizing (an image into 256 colors).. and even then. Once you go the next step up 1024 or 2048, the useless colors don't really matter much anymore. You have a good selection of usable colors for general pixel art. The PCE's less saturated and specific 15bit YUV table gives you a few more colors choices for shading. I.e. the now famous "invisible" colors drama (which are normally useless in straight RGB haha).
    Last edited by turboxray; 10-06-2021 at 01:40 AM.

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    Didn't think of it that way regarding the bits, interesting. Although I don't see how it makes saturation (and overly high contrast) more of an issue there, which comes from not having those more nuanced in-between shades so you end up relying more on high contrast colors and full on 255 bit values on the RGB scale, on SMS.

    However it's also true that the hardware components of for example the MD will alter the color output, making some steps between shades closer and others farther (sadly it makes darker shades less flexible).
    Then there's also shadow/highlight mode for MD which increases the shades by 2x with added in-between RGB values, and while it's a bit tricky to use it saw good use in Ecco 2 and Toy Story for example.

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