A Look Back at
the 3DO (Part One)
Whenever I hear some misinformed soul chime in with “There were NO good games for the 3DO”, I know that this individual either hasn’t owned one or played any of the classics for the console and is probably parroting something out of some game magazine or off a web site run by folks with no sense of gaming history. When you really look at the 3DO from a historical standpoint, it’s quite clear that the console was a few years ahead of its time in some respects. With its onboard memory storage, a video kaleidoscope for music CD playback, optional mouse and flight stick peripherals, and a number of solid original titles and accurate PC translations, the system predated some of what we see today and in fact, expect a next-generation console to have. The slow CD drive and smallish amount of RAM coupled with the lack of more robust third-party support meant that the 3DO was doomed once the PlayStation and Saturn hit retail, but there were a number of interesting games produced both here and in Japan that are worth tracking down. We’ll take a peek at some of those imports in this column. Naturally, most of these require a bit of Japanese knowledge, but I’ll point out the more US-er friendly titles where appropriate. Everything here save one title, plays on a US 3DO with no modification, which makes collecting imports less expensive from a hardware standpoint.
While you’re looking up the US 3DO library here at DP for a few of those “Oh, THAT came out on the 3DO first?” revelations, I’ll drop some super cool import titles on you like 1995‘s Policenauts, Hideo Kojima’s masterful follow-up to his classic sci-fi adventure, Snatcher. The game isn’t a true sequel, but there are a number of references to other Kojima games. Hard core Metal Gear Solid fans may be interested in the game as it has an appearance by Meryl Silverburgh in a supporting role. To me, it’s still one of Kojima's best games, with a plot recalling Lethal Weapon and visual nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey and some film noir classics, if you’re schooled enough in the genre to look for them. If Konami hadn't done enhanced ports of the game for the Saturn & PlayStation a few years later, this one would be even more expensive than it already is. Pick up the Policenauts Pilot Disk as well, a great “making of” disc chock full of info, art, and interviews.
One of the more underappreciated unknowns on the system is Riverhill Soft’s Doctor Hauzer, an innovative 1994 adventure game that takes elements from the classic PC game Alone in the Dark and adds some novel twists. For starters, the multiple camera angles you could select from at almost any time (1st person, 3rd person, top-down) made planning through puzzles and deathtrap filled rooms easier, and the game’s focus on avoiding the few creatures in the game was more thrilling (to me, at least) than running around shooting the head off anything that moved. I’m not sure if the folks at Core Design or Capcom played this one, but both the first Tomb Raider and Resident Evil games seem to use a few elements from Hauzer, like parts of its control scheme, some of the visual touches, and a few puzzle ideas. By the way, Riverhill later used an updated version of the multi-camera game engine for its interesting Sci-Fi survival horror game for the PlayStation, Overblood.
Horror game fans may also be interested in Humming Bird Soft’s Ghost Hunter Series: Black Mask of Death, a well-done RPG with digitized graphics that plays very much the same as the Super Famicom game Raprus No Ma (this may be in fact, a “sequel“ of sorts, but I haven‘t played the SFC game in a few years). The first person viewpoint, four member party, battle system, and overall pacing give the game an almost modern day Wizardry feeling, but the updated visuals lend the game a much creepier edge even if some of the enemies aren't so scary to look at. The massive borders around the action window make the game hell to run on a smaller TV, but it's worth a playthrough if you're looking for something out of the ordinary. Just remember, you’re not getting Escape from Monster Manor or even Killing Time here, and you’ll be pleased with the game.
Speaking of horror, we’ll have to include WARP Inc.’s seminal horror game, D no Shokotaku, released here as simply D. The import is interesting because of the packaging, and oversized CD case with a rectangular red gel insert and fold out instruction manual. There was also an ultra-limited special edition of the game, D no Shokotaku: Director‘s Cut, that featured extended scenes (the US PlayStation and Saturn versions got most of these scenes), a number of game trailers, a text novel that told Laura’s story up to the game’s beginning, and most importantly, trailers to the original version of D2 (not the aborted M2 version, but a super early 3DO version). To those who haven’t played the game, but have managed to translate the title correctly as “The Dining Table of D”, telling you who or what “D” is gives away the ending and a pivotal series of cut scenes in the game. So you’ll need to discover the secret of the title’s meaning on your own. Also, the Dreamcast game D2 really has nothing to do with the first game at all. There are some visual references and audio cues, but it’s basically a new game with the same lead character going through even weirder situations.
WARP was a pretty decent 3DO third party developer, with a number of oddball games that are cool collectables as well. If you want a sampling of their games can find it, Short WARP (WARP Presents) is a good way to go. But with a limited print run of 10,000 discs (shown here is #1863), it won’t be inexpensive. The disc features samples of 9 WARP games including some one-offs made specifically for this collection. The manual is a hoot, with pages printed off-center, upside down, or too small on purpose, and even the CD case is thicker than normal. The games range from fun (Flopon the Space Mutant 2 and Animalis) to really, really bizarre (Oversleep of Nobunaga, Hyper Comanchic). If you’re a fan of the other WARP 3DO game released in the US, Trip’d, definitely snap up a copy of the import version, Flopon-kun, The Space Mutant and check out the changes. You still get that twisted puzzle game (a Tetris/Puyo/Puyo hybrid) featuring mutating aliens instead of blocks and beans falling, but the import has different visuals and more mini-games, including a ridiculously simple flag game, and a ridiculously bloody face slapping game (that’s a lot of fun). If you’ve got a copy of the game already look closely at the cover image. Yes, that is a crowd of Mets fans at Shea Stadium as the background. Which makes you wonder if Kenji Eno and company thought up their winning game idea while watching the Mets lose another one? Note to Mets fans: don’t try to kill me- they‘re doing fine this year (so far).
Oyaji Hunter Mahjong and Rush ‘n Fire Megadas are more weird WARP games worth your time, the former being a mahjong game with a really bizarre twist, while the latter is a cute multiplayer arena shooter. Most of the women in Oyaji Hunter wear more than some of the old coots in the game you'll go up against, and the fact that this game is rated for all ages and gets away with showing old men in sexy lingerie cracks me up. Megadas is kind of slow and chunky to look at today, but the different “vehicles” are cute, and the game fun to play if you’re in the mood for unique. If you like Megadas, Riverhill Soft’s Insector War should appeal to you as well. The game is cute and fun in a similar vein and also makes an interesting selection because Riverhill reworked the idea into Gebockers for the Sega Saturn two years later, improving on the visuals and even releasing a boxed version with a Saturn link cable for better two player action.
While the US 3DO didn’t get a great deal of RPGs, there were a few imports that unfortunately never saw the light of day here. Right Stuff’s Blue Forest Story- Seal of Wind is probably the rarest of the bunch. It’s a 2D RPG with charming, dated visuals and a fantastic soundtrack. I just recently obtained a minty fresh one for about $25 from overseas, but it often fetches three to four times as much. Another import, Dragon Tycoon Edge, is a weird RPG with abstract, colorful visuals and a bit of chuggy movement issues. The English command menus make it a little easier to play through at first, but as the story text is all in Japanese, expect a few bumps on the road to those bosses. You’ll have better luck with Belzerion, Human’s Sci-Fi RPG that has plenty of English commands in its action scenes. The game is a bit creaky with the basic 3D environments and long load times, but the shooting action makes for a bit of fun, if you’re lenient about stuff like that.
Devotees of the popular series should be pleased to know that Princess Maker 2 made an appearance on the 3DO, but I haven’t had the chance to grab a copy and see how it stacks up to the other games in the series. By the way, if you can’t afford the skyrocketing price of the US version of Micro Cabin‘s Sword & Sorcery, known here as Lucienne’s Quest, and don’t mind downloading a walkthrough, feel free to grab the import version. It’s a cute, short, and fairly easy RPG, but the game engine and heavy texture work push the 3DO so much that the game is often a bit chuggy, but it's well worth your time if you're looking for one of the few “Japanese-style" console RPGs, with big-headed SD characters bopping about on a huge map and fighting it out in strategic battles. Oh, and if you happen to see titles like Powers Kingdom and Virtual Quest show up in your search for 3DO RPGs, these are better known here as Guardian War and Seal of the Pharaoh.
Moving on, one of my favorite 3DO imports is Taito’s Pyramid Intruder, a reworking of as arcade laserdisc game and a cousin of sorts to the popular (well, popular among fans of the system) Laseractive title Pyramid Patrol. It’s one of the better FMV shooters on the 3DO, which is saying a lot if you know the system well. You actually see your ship instead of just a cursor on screen, the action is quite fast, and like pretty much every Taito shooter in recent memory, there are multiple paths in every stage. If you’re a die hard 2D shmup fanatic, you’ll probably roll your eyes and gag while milk shoots out of your nose when you see what’s here. But dedicated fans of games like Zeitgeist, Burning Soldier, Novastorm, Star Blade and Shock Wave will have a blast with this one.
There are a couple of imports that aren’t so stellar, but make for interesting conversation pieces nonetheless. Future Pirates’ two Wacky Races, games are perfect examples of this school. To put it bluntly, the first game is stiff, dull, and just a bad idea overall. This is the sort of dull game that drove 3DO customers up walls here in the US. It’s a “racing” game where you spend about 80% of the time pointing and clicking in story mode, and you don’t actually get to drive the cars when you finally do race! Seeing the familiar 2D characters rendered this excellently in 3D, yet saddled with such a lackluster game is a bit of a shock. Japan has a thing for latching onto obscure and popular American cartoon characters and making licensed goods with their images all over them, so I can sort of see the angle. But even if it were released here, the overall appeal would have been minimal at best. At the time it was made, I’d bet that almost no one under 30 knew who Dick Dastardly, Muttley, and the rest of the crew were anyway.
The second game is definitely better than the first, but still suffers from too much FMV footage. You do get a lot more racing here, even though you're only sitting back and watching the results of your pre-race choices. Like the first game, the 3D characters and vehicles look great, but the near total lack of stuff to do makes the game a chore to play through more than once. Hanna-Barbera collectors and 3DO completists will go wild for these two games, but if you’re looking for a good game, you may want to try something else.
If that something else is a fighting game, well, you’ll have some fun with these, but they won’t be replacing the latest Guilty Gear or King of Fighters titles anytime soon. Yu Yu Hakusho is a decent fighter with some nice animation, but too few stages to fight on. The characters are a bit on the small side compared to the stages they‘re in, but each has a nice range of moves and the voice actors from the anime provide the requisite end battle quotes. There aren't any really spectacular special effects except for the characters' shadows on the floors and a nice scaling effect every now and then, but there is a load of footage from the show, which makes it a perfect collectable for fans looking to have everything related to the anime. Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon S is a pretty, but bland 2D fighter with 3D background elements in some stages that somehow manage to make the game look even flatter. The gameplay is average as well, but at least the voice acting is solid. If you want a good 3DO fighter, spend a lot less money and grab Super Street Fighter or Samurai Showdown instead. I’d toss Bandai‘s Ultraman Powered a bone here, but it’s one I’ve been trying to track down for a while, so the jury’s still out. I hear it’s a non-traditional fighter/action game for one or two players, but we’ll need to nab one and play test it to see if it’s any fun. The again, one could say that most Ultraman games have always been an acquired taste, so I’ll put the odds at 50-50 on it being better than good.
I’ll close here with a peek at some of the adults’ only games for the system. Oh…you’re awake now, huh? Well, sorry to pop your pink bubble, but you’re not getting hardcore porn on a home console. So drop the drool cup, buddy. What I’ve seen (and have here) is interesting and somewhat “educational” in a cultural sense, and if you’re buying these just to gape at nekkid chicks, well, I won’t stop you. I will, however delay your prurience a bit with a peek at Buichi Terasawa’s Takeru, an E rated adventure game/digital comic that has NO nudity, but plenty of half-dressed lovelies drawn in the artist’s trademark style. Takeru is more or less a reworking of Terasawa’s Cobra character with an even worse haircut and a talking badger-flying space turtle sidekick. As usual in Terasawa’s work, there are some really mean (and stupid-looking) villains, stuff blows up real good every few pages, and the ladies are hot. You only need to know Japanese if you want to understand the story, but you can make it to the end and figure most of it out.
For the most part, if you want to gape in awe at nude Japanese cuties on your 3DO, you still have to work at it. The Virtual Cameraman games (3 in total, I believe) have an interesting real-life twist: you don't get to see the good stuff unless you're nice to the ladies first and don't try and poke your camera where it shouldn't go. The question/answer format is daunting if you don't speak or read the language, and the first couple of shoots can be pure hell, as the scoring system is fairly strict, ensuring only the hardcore hentai out there will see the end of this one. The ratio of good-looking women to time spent with the game to unlock topless shots is sort of criminal, but hey, some people will find all of the digital damsels here decently desirable. Gaga produced at least one Penthouse Interactive: Virtual Photo Shoot game, but don’t expect to find it cheap or see any naughty bits below the waist. It’s still an interesting contrast, though. Most of the girls in Virtual Cameraman look sweet and wholesome enough to take to your mom’s for dinner, while the ladies in the Penthouse game look as if they’d want to rip your clothes off and leave you dazed on the floor and happily dying afterward while your mom frantically dials 911. No wonder the game costs so much, I guess…
If you want to actually fight with girls to get their clothes off, you can go the AV Idol Mahjong route (if you like hand-drawn images of AV stars) to play against, or the simple, but tricky real-life action found in Tantarus’s Twinkle Knights. Micronet’s mahjong game is pretty much like every other one out there: if you know the game, you’ll beat it quickly, although I hear the AI cheats a little here and there. As for Twinkle Knights, it’s a card-based fighting game where your female opponents just happen to lose their clothes bit by bit if you win a round. The game extends its life by making each fight 5 rounds, and the computer manages to pull some good cards on you when you least expect it, extending its lifespan a bit. You can still whip it good in an afternoon, but I’d imagine you’d be really beat afterward (sorry, it was way too obvious to pass up!). Oh, before I forget: this is one of a few games that will ONLY run on a Japanese 3DO, so you drooling hentai without access to one will be out of luck. Buy some nice clothes and a bottle of Axe for men and go get a real girl, anyway- the ones here are kinda not happening, if you’re looking for supermodels going wild and everything that entails.
Next chapter, we’ll take a peek at a bunch of kids games for the Japanese 3DO, including some interesting takes on classic fairytales and stories made popular (or mangled, if you want to go there) by Disney.