THE RANT: I never had one of these as a kid. The only experience I had with one was at my friend Eliel's house. I remember when Double Dragon came out how cheesy the NES version was, manly because it only had one player. The whole point of the stupid game was for two people to play at once, that's why it was called DOUBLE dragon. Well Eliel had the SMS version and it rocked. It looked just like the arcade. From that point on even though I loved the NES (mainly for the awesome game design like Super Mario and Zelda,) I always thought this was a superior machine. This machine had games with characters I never heard of, like Wonder Boy, Alex Kidd, etc. plus it had all the cool Sega arcade games like Shinobi . The machine possessed superior hardware to the NES (comparable to an MSX computer) but due to Nintendo's indentured servitude 3rd party licensing contracts never got all the dope 3rd party publishers to jump ship, a problem that would plague Sega until the Genesis finally broke Nintendo's virtual monopoly. Also Sega's policy of not allowing any third party companies independently publish games without Sega as a partner severely crippled the amount of available titles (a policy which was quickly reversed.) All this coupled with bad marketing meant that Sega's superior machine never stood a chance and at best gained a minor cult following in the United States. However much the console miserably failed in the US, the Master system had a far greater lifespan in Japan, Europe, and still lives on in Brazil where new systems are produced to this day.
So, a few months later and I am now the proud owner of a used SMS II. What do I think? I'm pretty pleased with it. Most of the games are pretty good, have better graphics, more colors, and compare favorably to NES games of the same era. The down side is most of them are no-name games, and since they're all hard as hell half the time you get frustrated before you get a chance to get into it. The button 1 (or "A" button) doubles as the start button on the standard controller, which leads to one little gripe: the pause button is on the console. That means you have to get up off your lazy behind, walk over to the console, and hit pause. Not really a problem I suppose, it's just a pain in the ass.
THE GOOD: Superior hardware to the NES. When you put a NES and SMS game next to each other, the SMS version looks better. Has basically the same controller as the NES (minus the aforementioned pause button,) which is a good thing. It's easy to use and virtually indestructible, unlike all the controllers made for the new systems out today . SMS systems and games are pretty cheap, Got my SMS II for $25 and games can be found on Ebay in the $5-$10 range. There's also a lot of Europe and Brazil-only games that were never available in the US.
THE BAD: The games are hard. I mean it. Seems like every game has the difficulty jacked all the way to the ceiling. Some of the games come on cards (similar to PC engine Hucards) that have the contacts exposed and have to be kept in a dry, cool place or the contacts will rust.
THE UGLY: The console itself. The first version has this strange Tomorrow-land like look, like it's a toaster of the future. The SMS II looks like a rounded brick with a cartridge slot in it