Lately I’ve gotten into the Sega 3D Classics released on the 3DS eshop around Thanksgivings last year. These are a collection of games from both the arcade and Genesis that have been ported to the 3DS with added 3D effects. So far, I’ve bought into Galaxy Force II and Shinobi III, and I have to say, I really like what I’m seeing. Galaxy Force II is a superscaler rail shooter from the arcade, kind of like Afterburner in a spaceship, but with levels that have a little more imagination than what you would find in the latter. So basically think of it as Star Fox made in the mindset of a late ‘80s Sega arcade game. As a game that generates 3D environments with the use of sprite scaling, it’s incredibly impressive on the 3DS, with visuals far more gorgeous and intricate than you may have come to expect from a superscaler game. Shinobi III on the other hand is a port of the well-known Genesis action game, but with depth added to the various background layers and some of the foreground animations. As a sidescroller, the 3D effect is not as striking as that of Galaxy Force, but it does manage to add something extra to the visual charisma of the game.
I actually didn’t know what to expect from these Sega 3D classics, done by known emulation powerhouse M2. At first I was just interested in being able to play these games on the 3DS. Nintendo had earlier experiment with NES games remade in 3D for the system, but this initiative seems to have fallen flat. I think it failed for two reasons. One, the NES is not such a great system for which to do 3D upgrades. Unlike Genesis games which support multiple background layers and parallax scrolling, the NES basically only has a foreground and a background layer. The resultant image in 3D is just that these two layers are slightly displaced in depth. Of the NES classics released, I’ve only tried Kirby, and the effect really did not leave much of an impression on me. The second reason I think Nintendo’s efforts fizzled was that they simply did not choose games that people want or that really benefitted from 3D. Only six games were released, and while Kirby and Excitebike are good games to be sure, other selections were just confounding. No one has ever gotten excited for a rerelease of Urban Champion, and I’m not sure Xevious and Twinbee have huge amounts of enthusiasm in their court. Kid Icarus, on the other hand, definitely has a vocal fanbase, but with most of the backgrounds in the game being either black or monochrome, I can’t imagine it really benefits very much from the 3D effect.
But where Nintendo has failed, Sega and M2 are showing them how it’s done (on their own hardware nonetheless). The Sega 3D Classics are a selection of six great games (well almost, I’m not so sure about Altered Beast), with a second set currently in the works. To be sure, these games are completely playable without the 3D effect, but they’ve made me come to a realization. I like 3D. I play all my games with 3D turned on, and playing these old, originally 2D games has made me realize just how much I enjoy it.
Although it has a good selection of software, I don’t care so much for the 3DS as a piece of hardware. The screens are low-res and pixelated (an issue exacerbated on the XL), the battery life is not so good, the screen hinge needs to more firmly click into place (screen wobbling drives me crazy), and it’s not especially ergonomic. But one thing I really like about the 3DS is the 3D. Sometimes I turn the 3D off, perhaps because the screen has become dirty, and I immediately feel a little dissatisfied. 3D is certainly not an indispensable feature, but it does add a certain enchanting immersive quality to the image. There is a liveliness there that just doesn’t exist in 2D mode. Some have branded the 3DS screen as a gimmick, but a gimmick is something that exists only for a novelty, and once the novelty wears off it becomes completely disposable. Zooming through the alien worlds of Galaxy Force II just isn’t as exciting when the image is flattened out.
The second set of Sega 3D Classics are currently coming out in Japan. I hope the first set has sold well enough in the U.S. to warrant we get this new round. It seems this time they are focusing a little more on the arcade superscaler games, with three of the games revealed so far being Afterburner II and OutRun. I think the arcade focus benefits them. As I mentioned above, the pseudo-3D environments of these superscaler games benefit more from the treatment than the Genesis sidescrollers. Also, unlike most of Sega’s Genesis games, their arcade games have not been ported and rereleased on a hundred different platforms already.
I come to a sad realization when I write this post in that, although I like 3D, it’s a technology that is probably not going to stick around. 3D TVs were a big push in years past, but now seem to have died out. With the fad over, I’m left with doubts that Nintendo’s next handle will sport the feature. Perhaps there is hope though. If the new high profile VR headsets gain traction, we might actually see a lasting future for 3D entertainment.