Sega Master System And Gg Color Rules


Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2004
Pennsylvania, USA
I read that a SMS can display 52 colors at the same time and the Game Gear 32 colors but from a larger pallete. But the SMS and GG have very little video ram. They both have only 16k of vram, so obviously there must be rules, like only 4 colors in any 8x8 block sprite color restrictions as well. I can't seem to find any of this information on the net, but since there are people around here making sms emulators I'm sure they know pretty well. I'm not a developer but I'm just curious. I assume that most background graphics are custom 8x8 characters and sprites are independent of the background. 16k is not enough to bitmap the screen at 32 or 52 colors. The older 8 bits get around this with the above mentioned methods (yes you can have 16 colors but not that ANY given pixel can be ANY color). Does each 8x8 character have a 4 bit color limit, or am I way off? And what about sprites? What size are they and how many colors in a single sprite? Do all sprites need to use the same colors? Hopefully someone can explain this to me. It seems curious that they couldn't do more with the 52 colors, especially since the genesis has only 64. Furthermore, Amiga with it's 32 colors can beat either system, but I think the Amiga can display 32 colors with no limitations as there is plenty of chip ram to bitmap the whole screen at least in the modes that games use.

edit: By taking mekka screenshots, I've yet to find a sprite with more than 6 colors and a screenshot with more than 20. I'm not sure if this means anything at all.
I think it was 8 colours per sprite (but you could overlap them to get more) and 8 colours per tile, and 16 or 32 per screen? The palette is pretty poor though giving almost no dark colours.

You could do tricks to double the palette (on screen) and many games do that (see sonic water levels).

Some games even have parallax scrolling using dynamic tiles. (Robocod for example).