Sega Genesis Has a New Power Base Converter - And It's Something Special!

Sega Genesis

Now is the best time to be a retro gamer - increased interest in game collecting and actively playing games on retro consoles has spawned a cottage industry that is producing some incredible products.  Up in Canada, a lone engineer has been taking on project after project to enhance our classic gaming experiences, producing products we would have killed for back in the day.

DB Electronics has several projects in the works - from a Turbo Grafx enhanced video booster, to a Sega CD backup cart that uses the theoretical max of memory for the CD system.  Today, I have a look at one of these special projects - get your Sega Genesis ready to play some Master System games like they've never been played before - the Power Base Mini FM unlocks sound that I never knew existed on the Sega Master System!

Here's the background - over in Asia, an early version of what we know as the Sega Master System was called the Sega Mark III.  The Mark III had an accessory available for it called the FM Sound Unit (very creative name).  The FM Sound Unit plugged into the Mark III, and allowed gamers to experience FM sound in their Master System carts, a dramatically different experience than the normal bloops and bleeps coming out of these games by default.

While we're all familiar with the 'normal' sound coming out of the Sega Master System, it could be said that FM sound is the way the creators of the game intended the music to sound.  At a bare minimum, a lot of effort was poured into these alternative soundtracks - and then completely forgotten.  In the US, they've virtually never been heard, except by dedicated system modders that install new sound chips into their Master Systems.

Until now.

Thanks to DB Electronics, you can simply plug your Master System carts into the Sega Genesis using a new compact version of the Power Base Converter.  The Power Base Mini FM has the FM sound chip from the Mark III baked right in, so that as you play your games, you automatically get the enhanced FM sound that was previously only available on Japanese or modded systems.  And there's the benefit - this enhanced sound comes with no mods whatsoever.  No need to rip apart a perfectly good Master System!

That said, the Power Base Mini FM otherwise acts as a Power Base Converter, but missing SMS card support.  The lack of card support isn't a huge loss, given the device's size.  The carts fit snugly into the power base, which then slides right into the Genesis.  The device is about the size of a Sonic and Knuckles cart, making storage and use a breeze. 

If you buy the Power Base Mini FM from Stone Age Gamer (like I did), you'll get the device in a very slick looking reproduction Genesis cart case (see picture above).  I think that the extra attention to detail is well worth the extra cost.  When ordering from DB Electronics directly, the device is the bare board - perfectly functional in every way, but not nearly the beautiful package that you get from Stone Age Gamer. 

The Power Base Mini FM also supports the traditional Master System audio - simply hold the Pause button while powering up to bypass the FM chip (please note, this is an update from my earlier review - I didn't know this functionality was built in!).  While the FM sound is definitely my preferred way to play the Master System games, it is a nice addition to the device to be able to showcase the differences in sound quality to friends and family. 

One 'down side' to the Power Base Mini FM is that not every cart on the Master System contains FM sound.  Over 40 games do support the enhanced sound (list below), but understand that you're paying a premium ($35 more than DB Electronics' "Power Base Mini") to unlock the FM sound, and you don't get that benefit across the board.  This is not a ding on the Power Base Mini FM - this was a rare, barely known accessory for a Japanese system, with a limited lifespan.  The fact that the any of the alternative soundtracks ended up burned onto the American versions of the carts is somewhat stunning in and of itself. 

I consider the premium for the Power Base Mini FM to be well worth it, if only for novelty alone!

If you're looking to play Master System games on your Genesis, or you're looking to enhance your Sega Master System experience, I highly recommend picking up a Power Base Mini FM.  This device is fantastic - 20+ years after the Genesis hits the market, who would have thought we'd get a new Power Base Converter for the system, let alone one so special?

Get this thing! 

After Burner  Alex Kidd BMX Trial  Alex Kidd - The Lost Stars  Alien Syndrome
 Altered Beast  Aztec Adventure  Blade Eagle 3D  Bomber Raid
 California Games  Captain Silver  Casino Games  Cloud Master
 Cyborg Hunter  Double Dragon  Fantasy Zone II  Fantasy Zone - The Maze
 Galaxy Force  Global Defence  Golvellius  Great Golf (Jap ver only)
 Kenseiden  Lord of the Sword  Miracle Warriors  Mnica - No Castelo do Dragao
 OutRun  Parlour Games  Phantasy Star (Jap ver only)  Poseidon Wars 3D
 Power Strike  Rampage  Rastan  Rescue Mission
 R-Type  Scramble Spirits  Shinobi  Space Harrier 3D
 Spell Caster  Thunder Blade  Tri Formation  Time Soldiers
 Ultima IV  Vigilante  WonderBoy in Monster Land  WonderBoy III
 Ys  Zaxxon 3D    

Here are some comparison videos between games played with regular Master System sound, and played with their FM sound enabled:

 

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Comments
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larsoncc, 7/14/2015 6:18:06 AM
Score: 0  
I'll be updating this review ASAP. The Power Base Mini FM does support the regular audio tracks in addition to the FM track!
larsoncc, 7/14/2015 2:47:28 PM
Score: 0  

The review has been updated to note that it does in fact support traditional Master System audio on carts that have both soundtracks.

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