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armless-phelan avatar 9:51 PM on 11.11.2009
The Forgotten: 3DO

When people (fanboys) discuss things such as the price of a console, the standard comparison for being over-priced is the 3DO. Launched during the holiday season in 1993, the console sold for $699. This makes the the complaints about the cost of a PS3 or 360 look rather foolish.

The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer was unique amongst consoles in that it was not tied to a specific manufacturer. This led to multiple companies making their own model of it (with incompatible accessories), and varying price structures. Panasonic/Matsuhita was the first company to launch the console, and they had aimed it as more of a high end A/V device than a videogame console, thus the exorbitant initial pricing.

Being the first dedicated CD-based console launched in the United States (the Amiga CD32 had preceded the 3DO in Canada and Europe, but died off before launching in the US), the 3DO compared itself to the SNES and Genesis. Showing off its superior 32-bit technology and what at the time was impressive FMV video, it was highly anticipated. (Before the price was announced, at any rate.)

I wasn't in tune with the goings on of videogames when the 3DO launched, being a 5-year-old who spent his time trying and failing to beat the original Legend of Zelda. In fact, I didn't get a 3DO until earlier this year.

Considering the 3DO was launched in 1993, the graphical capabilities of the system are actually pretty good. Not quite Playstation or N64 levels, but more on par with the Saturn. The 3D isn't as bad as the Saturn, though. And the 2D graphics are rather nice.

These days you hear a lot of fanboys complain about the 360 being little more than FPS games, sports games, and generally just being a machine full of PC ports. Twelve years prior to the 360 launch, you had the same thing in the 3DO. Take a look at the listings on ebay. Aside from a bunch of incredibly random Japanese games (more on that later), you'll find a lot of shooters. Some are good, many are bad. The 3DO company didn't exercise any form of quality control on the games, which led to a LOT of shovelware.



Sports games also migrated to the console from the aging Genesis, as the at-the-time chairman of EA, Trip Hawkins, was also the mind behind the 3DO. The 3DO got a lot of support from EA as a result. And low royalty rates initially gave the console support amongst other big 3rd party developers such as Capcom and Crystal Dynamics. Not to mention the console supported AO ratings. So that means porn games! And more than a few were made OUTSIDE of Japan. Admittedly, they were just FMV games, as opposed to something like Beat 'Em and Eat 'Em, but nobody really plays porn games for the gameplay or the porn. Not to mention generally the most violent versions of any given game.

One incredibly unique thing about the 3DO was the controller. The first model of the console had only one controller port, and the controller itself featured a port to link the controllers to each other, rendering things such as multi-taps obsolete. On the bottom of the controller was a standard-sized headphone jack with a volume control. It was perfect for those parents who complained about the games being too loud, although one ran the risk of tuning out everyone around them.

While it was an American console, the primary manufacturer was a Japanese company, so it did fare decently in Japan. Not great, but there is a list of 80+ games that are exclusively Japanese. The benefit of this is that neither the consoles nor the games are region locked. One might call it forward thinking for the 90's, but it was more of the cost of a CD burner and blank CDs at the time. In fact, the 3DO had what is arguably the best Sailor Moon game: Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon S. There are a few games from Japan that won't play on the American 3DO console because of Kanji issues, but the most notable one was translated into English. And the lack of region locking extends to copyright protection, so it is entirely possible to NOT download an iso and burn it to a CD to play. Or you could use one of the emulators floating around out there.



Sadly, though, while it was a good console and was very cutting edge technology at the time, the 3DO had no direction or a very well thought out game plan and died the quiet death it deserved. Not to mention 90% of its English game library is available on other consoles. The only people I would recommend it to are collectors and retro-importers. For the latter group, Policenauts has a 3DO version that does play on American 3DOs.

 
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