Famicom 3D System – Nintendo’s First 3D Hardware / MY LIFE IN GAMING

Famicom 3D System – Nintendo’s First 3D Hardware / MY LIFE IN GAMING


The Virtual Boy is famous for being one of
Nintendo’s most visible and shortest-lived commercial failures. Released in the summer of 1995 in only Japan
and North America, the Virtual Boy simulates 3D images with a visor display, rendered in
monochromatic black and red. It was widely considered to be uncomfortable
for both the eyes and the back, and was discontinued in both regions around half a year later,
with 22 games released. Personally, I kinda like the Virtual Boy,
at least for its hardware. The 3D effect is clean and convincing, and
it’s not all that uncomfortable if you play it lying down. Nintendo tried its hand at 3D again about
a decade and a half later, with the 3DS in 2011. The effect was well-received, though 3D is
still not to everyone’s liking. But Nintendo’s history with 3D gaming actually
extends back to 8 years before the Virtual Boy, for use on a home console. This is the Famicom 3D System. [MUSIC: “Principle” by Matt McCheskey] The Famicom 3D System hit Japan in 1987, and
was never released for its overseas counterpart, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The visor easily straps around the player’s
head, leaving plenty of room for regular glasses underneath. The cord plugs into a little box with a 3.5
millimeter headphone-style jack, and then into the Famicom’s expansion port. Most compatible games activate 3D mode by
hitting the select button during gameplay. Viewers without the 3D visor will see a flickery
image like this. The visor works its magic by rapidly covering
each eye alternately, so that when the image meant to be seen by the left eye is on-screen,
the right eye is covered, and vice-versa. The visor syncs up to the timing standards
of CRT televisions used in Japan and North America, so unfortunately the effect is impossible
on modern displays. But what’s cool is that today, you can actually
view the 3D effect in higher quality than was ever intended to be possible, thanks to
the NESRGB mod. And yeah, the 3D effect does work. It’s pretty neat considering the age of
the technology. It’s far from perfect, though… the visor
darkens your vision considerably, and adds a rapid strobing effect that isn’t exactly
the most pleasing thing in the world. But does it make the games any better? Only eight 3D Famicom games were ever released,
four of them as cartridges, and the other half on the Famicom Disk System. Let’s take a look at all of ‘em. 3D Hot Rally is the only game that Nintendo
itself released for the Famicom 3D System. Co-developed by HAL and Nintendo’s EAD,
it’s also the first game that Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto worked on together. It’s loosely a part of a series of Nintendo
racing games that only incidentally star Mario and other Nintendo characters. A precursor to Mario Kart? Well, maybe sorta. But perhaps most notably, this Famicom Disk
System exclusive is the first game with artwork featuring Luigi in his modern style – taller
and skinnier than Mario with a distinctly different mustache. 3D Hot Rally has only 3 courses, but a big
part of the fun, at least back in the day in Japan, was to submit course times to Nintendo
to win prizes in official competitions, via Famicom fax machine installations throughout
the country. Scenery along the courses feature… grumpy
boulders… snake head lamp posts… and horrifying bushes. Was Miyamoto going through a tough time? Each course also features many branching paths,
so you’ll want to learn a route that works best for your vehicle and driving style. And they’re long – well over 10 minutes,
so the race against the clock can get pretty intense. At the start of a course, you’ll choose
an automatic repair point where your vehicle instantly recovers from damage – if you remember
to take the right route to reach it. If you’re not gonna make it, you can have
Mario and Luigi waste a few seconds while they patch things up. Hitting up and down shifts gears – automatic
isn’t exactly my specialty, but this wasn’t difficult. If you collect enough H icons, then you get
a special temporary highest gear. Alright, we’re going HOT! WOAAAAH! I just LOVE the air you can get off the hills! It’s crazy how this more primitive 3D scaling
trick allows for such varied terrain, as opposed to the flat mode 7 racers we got on the SNES. Overall short on content, but still a fun
8-bit racer. Attack Animal Gakuen (literally Attack Animal
Academy) was the first Famicom 3D cart that I came across. I was so fascinated by its completely ridiculous
label art that I just had to give it a shot. Note to publishers: if your artwork features
alligators falling from the sky, I will play your game. Well, what we’ve got here is the most blatant
Space Harrier rip-off imaginable. I mean, look at this! So you’re this schoolgirl flying around
for some reason, shooting a gun at kangaroos, skeletons with sunglasses, and yes, flying
alligators. The first boss is a koala dressed like a 1920s
gangster, I mean, that’s amazing! But starting with the level 2 boss, the game
feels like it’s already blown the best of its absurdity, and it also becomes nearly
unplayable due to how difficult it is to dodge the sheer number and speed of the things hurtling
toward you at all times. It’s even worse considering the game has
no continues. I had to resort to playing on the Retron 5
with save states to record all of the footage that I wanted, which seriously diminished
my enjoyment of the game. And of course, the 3D effect only works on
original hardware. It looks pretty good, though the sprite scaling
isn’t smooth enough to completely sell the effect of enemies and shots coming at you. Attack Animal Gakuen is an interesting oddity,
but even if it had continues, that wouldn’t have saved it from its troublesome aiming
and cluttered boss fights. The 3D Battles of WORLD RUNNER!!!! In North America, 3D WorldRunner came packaged
with a pair of red and blue 3D glasses, kinda like these. But in Japan, it was released on the Famicom
Disk System, and is compatible with the 3D System. The Japanese title is Tobidase Daisakusen,
or Operation: Jump Out. 3D Worldrunner was developed by a young and
struggling Square – designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, composed by Nobuo Uematsu, and programmed
by Nasir Gebelli – the team that would go on to create Final Fantasy. Since I’m playing the NES cartridge adapted
to the Famicom, hitting the select button won’t activate the shutter effect on the
3D visor. To be honest, the red and blue 3D effect in
the North American version doesn’t really seem to work for me. 3D WorldRunner certainly has an interesting
look… it’s very colorful and fanciful. You can speed up and slow down by holding
up or down on the Dpad, and you just… run forward, dodging enemies. You’ll fly around and shoot a giant snake
boss at the end of stages, Space Harrier style. It’s not a terrible game, but I was getting
really frustrated and losing interest in World 2. Upon restarting, I discovered that bumping
into columns… is a GOOD thing? Well, it’s kinda funny, but this is how
you get power-ups… but don’t grab mushrooms, those’ll kill ya! This kind of renewed my interest in the game
for a bit, but then there were these horrible giant gaps in World 3 and I felt I’d had
enough. It’s certainly an interesting game, and
I don’t hate it, but I don’t feel compelled to play much more. Sakaguchi and his crew weren’t done with
3D yet. Rad Racer may be best-known for its appearance
in the infamous Power Glove scene in The Wizard, but the Japanese version, Highway Star, features
support for the Famicom 3D System. Highway Star actually released before 3D Hot
Rally, and has a really excellent sense of speed, and I feel like superior perspective
scaling. The controls are also a lot simpler, but that
doesn’t mean it’s easier. With 8 visually varied courses and no second
chances, getting to the end of Highway Star is a daunting task. Thankfully, it does have a simple continue
cheat and a level select code if you want to practice any course. Similar to 3D Hot Rally, you’re not actually
racing against the other cars on the track, but just trying to hit checkpoints without
running out of time. There’s not really much to say about Highway
Star slash Rad Racer, but… it is strangely fun. The 3D perspective is excellent, and the 3D
visor effect works fairly well… though it adds little in the way of improved depth perception,
I feel. The car just has a great feel to it, and is
really a pleasure to control. I can certainly see the appeal for 80s kids
who couldn’t drive just yet. But that’s not all from Square. You know the famous story about how Sakaguchi’s
games prior to Final Fantasy hadn’t sold all that well? Well, Square was the only company to create
more than one 3D System title, let alone three. Sakaguchi’s last game prior to Final Fantasy
was a sequel to 3D WorldRunner, released only in Japan as JJ. This is intended to be like a “dark” and
more hardcore version of Tobidase Daisakusen – gone are the cute and colorful enemies,
and there’s only one speed – fast! And yet, I found the game to actually be quite
a bit more compelling. The single speed made it easier to get into
a groove, and the large gaps that made World 3 so frustrating in the first game actually
became somewhat manageable in JJ. 1-ups are more plentiful, and overall it just comes
across as a better game. I get the sense that there’s a bit of intentional
humor here… the tough and gritty atmosphere is almost over the top, and it kind of clashes
with the goofy gameplay. Is it just me or does Jumpin’ Jack kinda
look like Big Boss? The quality of the 3D effect is also one of
the finest for the Famicom 3D System. I didn’t finish, and I imagine it would
eventually frustrate me to no end, but if I do put more time into a WorldRunner game,
this will be the one. Falsion is a Famicom Disk System game developed
by Konami… now I’m pretty sure those guys knew how to make a space shooter, yeah? Woah, geeeez, now I’ve never seen a starry
space background like this before, and with good reason. The graphics look even worse in 3D. Just like with the 3DS, dark scenes tend to
show 3D ghosting more easily than bright colors. This is especially problematic because it’s
supposed to look like your ship is popping out in front of the screen, which totally
threw off my ability to focus on the rest of the image. The screen darkening that’s inherent from
viewing through the visor also makes the dark shots you’re supposed to dodge extremely
difficult to see. Thankfully, the background does change after
the first level, and you do have a few continues… but the perspective and scaling was so poor
that I never found myself having any fun, and I didn’t make it very far. Alright, Cosmic Epsilon, now this game looks
pretty rad! [GAME AUDIO: Good Luck] Woah… does that voice take up half the cart? Hey, actually, this one seems like a good
one already. And listen to this music, it sounds straight
out of Mario Galaxy. [GAME AUDIO] I later learned that this is actually a straight-up
cover of a Japanese pop song called Parachute Limit. [MUSIC: Parachute Limit] No idea if they went through the proper channels,
but it’s super catchy! I really like the look of this game… I think the textured ground effect is pretty
great, and watch how the perspective shifts slightly left and right with your character…
that’s neat! The 3D effect in Cosmic Epsilon is probably
the best on the system, thanks to the generally bright graphics and surprisingly smooth enemy
scaling. Aiming is also easier than in Falsion or Attack
Animal Gakuen. But sadly, just like Attack Animal Gakuen,
what starts off looking super promising becomes almost impossible by the second level. This is not a particularly short game, and
the difficulty ramps up to the extreme very quickly. It has no continues, and exceedingly scarce
opportunities for extra lives. Without any sort of upgrade system or more
robust dodge mechanics to balance out this level of challenge, Cosmic Epsilon is far
too difficult to be much fun past the first level. And that’s a real shame, because by playing
on the Retron 5, I got to see some pretty cool stuff. Check out the last level on the Battle Moon
Aria. How awesome is that? And who knew the NES could’ve pulled off
an amazing Death Star trench run? With just a few smart tweaks, this could’ve
been a real hidden gem. I guess developers were having a hard time
coming up with ideas for 3D visuals other than shooters, racers, and… runners? Well, here we’ve got another Disk System
3D game, but this one is actually quite a bit different. Fuuun Shaolin… something. Well, it’s a fighting game by Jaleco. It even has a two player mode. Seems maybe kind of advanced for its time? I’m gonna be honest with you, I have absolutely
no skill in this genre, so I can’t fairly praise or condemn it, but it does seem like
it might be kinda neat? There’s story scenes that I can’t read
at all, but I like how there’s actually branching paths that determine what fight
comes next. But man, the computer just tears me to shreds
in no time at all, and I was never able to pull off any of the fancy moves that I think
the manual is detailing. As you might expect, all 3D does in this game
is make the backgrounds look like they’re farther away. It’s kind of neat to see 3D used in more
of a mundane manner, even if it doesn’t really add anything to the game at all. Whew. So that’s all of the games that support
the Famicom 3D System. I wish I could say more good things about
them, but sadly, most of them are flawed to some greater or lesser degree. My top recommendation is 3D Hot Rally, which
is pretty neat regardless of whether you’re using the 3D visor. So yeah, not the best selection of games,
and y’know, sure, the technology is a bit dated, and it’s more of a novelty than a
gameplay enhancer, but it is amazing to see something like this from that time, and it
does actually work.

97 Comments on "Famicom 3D System – Nintendo’s First 3D Hardware / MY LIFE IN GAMING"


  1. It's pretty much the same technology as the Master System's 3D glasses, except you don't need to have an incredibly tiny head in order to wear them. 😀

    It is odd they never used it with the light phaser, or any more 2D games with some parallax to give extra depth (kept thinking of Bounder on the C64 when I wrote that)

    Oh, really liked that animation you did to represent the 3D in the Falsion segment, really clever!!!

    Reply

  2. Try, excellent video. May I suggest a follow up to the Retroactive HDMI N64 adapter now that it's out in the wild? Some gameplay side-by-side shots comparing RGB and the HDMI with de-blur and fraction sharp pixels options enabled? I simply cannot get enough of the HDMI N64, it is absolutely incredible. I cannot believe my own eyes. I am replaying all of my old N64 games.

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  3. I wish they released the Famicom 3D System games on the 3DS with the 3D effect adapted for it, that would be neat! At the very least they could release 3D Hot Rally and maybe the square games if Square Enix is willing to…

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  4. I remember seeing that Cosmic Epsilon game a while back and finding it's perspective effects to be really impressive. I have no idea how they managed to make your craft look like it was passing under the bridges so smoothly on a Famicom.

    Would be cool if a few of these got ported to the 3DS as Retro 3D classics. 3D Hot Rally is surely a prime candidate for that.

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  5. the Sega Master Systems 3d system was almost just as bad, but it did have some decent games, so I think it would win in the 3d fight of the 80s.

    Reply

  6. Been subscribed to the channel for a few weeks now, and I have to say this is probably the best subscription I have made this year. Your videos are informative, incredibly well made and have an air of nostalgia about them. I can personally feel the love for games that is put into your videos. Keep it up!

    Reply

  7. I remember the 3D Hot Rally references in Smash Bros, but never would've guessed it was part of actual 3D hardware predating the Virtual Boy. Keen gear! Thanks for sharing

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  8. Awesome video, and while it is cool to see this from a technical standpoint, I've never been a big fan of 3D anything since I was born blind in my right eye, it makes it so I can't really see 3D that well, hell even the 3DS Pilotwings Demo gave me a headache, and made my eyes hurt only after a couple of mins playing it. So I'll avoid ever picking one of these up.

    Reply

  9. Wow, I'm so happy you came back to this video to double its length with such awesome addendums! : D (Including putting in Parachute Limit, like I brought up. So happy I could be of some use!) My Life in Gaming is a hidden gem on YouTube if ever there was one, and you're a seriously fantastic host. The research you put into these is comprehensive and instantly becomes essential viewing for anyone interested on the topic(s). I think in 3D Hot Rally, Miyamoto was just getting ready for Super Mario 64's bait-and-switch with Peach's painting turning into Bowser's. (Using depth to freak people out when they realize what it is they're really looking at– as you can see, the bushes smile until they get close enough to the screen, heheh.)

    Since my last comment, I spent the last half-year buying and translating Masaya Matsuura's first game called The Seven Colors, and I'm going to be putting out my translated copy of the game, along with a video retrospective of his life transitioning from being a pop star making songs like Parachute Limit to making games like Vib-Ribbon & PaRappa the Rapper. : ) Extreme gratitude for all the inspiration, and keep rockin'!

    Reply

  10. Excellent as usual; you guys are doing an amazing job. This channel is becoming one of my favorites. Keep it up!!

    Reply

  11. Man, your Virtual Boy looks pristine. Every other one I've come across is at least a little beat up in some way, including the one I personally own. I dunno, it just struck me immediately at the beginning of the video since I'm used to looking at my dinged up system.

    Reply

  12. Since you were talking about scaling, i was wondering if those 3D games uses scaling trough software,or does it uses multiple sprites for 3D effects?

    I ask this because backthen memory was expensieve.
    Note i heard that radar scope uses sprite scaling for sprites on a 8bit system dating back to 1979,in fact i am amezed that even the snes lacks sprite acaling alltrough the snes can do it trough software ,

    so you might expect that games such as mario kart,f zero etc,,, uses sprite scaling trough software to save memory space,unless am wrong.
    THX

    Reply

  13. I understand trying to pronounce some Japanese words can be difficult, but listening to them in a heavy american accent is also just as hard listen to. Japanese phonics are actually fairly easy to learn as most of the sounds are repetitive. I highly recommend the japanesepod101 youtube channel. https://goo.gl/TLDAhZ

    Reply

  14. Great video! As per usual! I knew of the existence of the 3-D system, but never really looked into what it was like or what games were available on it.

    Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your style of video making. Straight, direct, and to the point, giving us plenty of in-depth information and detail, along with your own personal opinions, without trying to be too flashy or relying on odd little cartoons/meme references (like some of the younger guys on YouTube!).

    One subject I'd love to see you investigate would be the advent of piracy on some of these older consoles. Growing up in the 80s, I knew one or two friends whose parents had certain dodgy connections to people who sold them systems which allowed them to back up Nintendo games onto floppy disk, four example, even before the Internet was around, and it always fascinated me.

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  15. Also, I couldn't help but notice the prevalence of a lot of on-rails 3-D shooters in this series… obviously the Super Nintendo and the likes of Starwing (Starfox to you!) followed shortly after this hardware, and It made me wonder about both the popularity of the style of forward moving shooters in Japan, and also whether or not we'll see virtual reality StarFox in the future…! I can't help but wonder if Nintendo's next console (the NX) will feature a VR component….!

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  16. If you captured from the NES RGB mod, how did you create the scanline effect when zoomed in very close to the screen? Was it some after effects filter, or did you shoot footage of a CRT?

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  17. So what is your favorite thing about making videos? Any tips for me? Or support, also if you would like to check me out and subscribe that would be awesome!

    Reply

  18. Cosmic Epsilon does have a stage select cheat: enter the Konami Code backwards on the title screen quickly.
    (or enter it the right way a joke 😀 )

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  19. In NA version of 3D battles, 3D effect actually doesn't works because: A. The anaglyph lenses swapped. B. The cyan lens has to be tanned very intensely.

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  20. min 3:15 you nailed that example of the 3d effect…combined with a little bit of MJ it looks like you don't even need any 3d glasses #420 #wow #dogerules

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  21. I remember playing Rad Racer with shitty 3d glasses. Also I played my uncle's 3d sega master system with Space Harrier. That was pretty cool.

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  22. just remembered back to when I was a kid, I had a sicker on my dresser that was nearly identical to Mario and Luigi on the cover of 3d Hot Rally but with a red and green car. If I can find a picture to confirm, I will, but do you possibly know what it was from? I grew up in NJ, no where near Japan, might've been from Nintendo Power or something, but I haven't seen that image in over 20 years, cool stuff.

    Reply

  23. In theory. it should be possible to make the games work with modern 3D shutter glasses via an emulator, but it's probably not worth the effort.

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  24. i actually loved my virtual boy – it still works like a charm and i boot it up on occasion

    also, you guys are great. no lousy jokes, bad puns, obnoxious scenarios or anything
    subscribed, thumbs up, etc.

    Reply

  25. all your videos are so fantastics, make remember my childhood, thanks so much and the music intro its so awesome, grettings from Tabasco, mexico, please make some tutorials for modd console like psx n64 and so, thanks

    Reply

  26. I would love to play Highway Star with the Famicom 3D and the PowerGlove. It would be so bad. Bad Ass!

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  27. 14:30 The chorus of "Parachute Limit" begins exactly like "Gusty Garden" from Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack

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  28. True Story about 3D World Runner to me as a kid. Back then I probably had godlike playing skills as a kid so this game I literally finished all the way from start to finish. It was probably something I couldn't repeat doing anymore but when I made it to the final world and defeated the last boss, The game flashed after it died and a screen came up that said "Please Insert Disc 2". Suffice to say I just sat there and stared at it for a 2nd, tossed my controller down and walked away.

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  29. Rad Racer is awesome! JJ is definitely better than World Runner. Like you I really enjoyed the Virtual Boy. We made custom holdsters to strap it on your head and two legs to rest against your chest. I think if they took that approach it would of been better. As for the F3DS, Wasn't this one of the things that lead to the seizure lawsuits in JP (and the US.) Much like the warning of using 3D on the 3DS if a child is under 8 due to it hurting their eye development. (which is 1-7/8.)

    Also I am shocked you have such a nice quality F3DS. This is when Nintendo started learning add-ons weren't the way to go (F3DS, Robo, SFC Playstation…) Especially after sega had problems with the Sega CD. The 32X is a totally different story.

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  30. I forgot, People thought the Virtual Boy was to be a portable system since it used the "boy" element (I remember working at Electronics Boutique and being asked how it was portable when it covered your eyes, a lot.) I think Nintendo didn't learn from their naming mistakes with the confusion Wii U had with people thinking it was an Add-on for Wii versus naming it Wii 2.

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  31. It's a shame the games aren't too great. With things like Google cardboard making VR readily available it'd be neat to see an emulator for this.

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  32. Awesome video! Just a warning though….I recently purchased the disk system version of the first 3d world runner and it only supports the same type of 3D as the NES version and not the shutter style used by famicom 3d system unfortunately.
    As for the last game in the video which was the fighting game. I have the same copy that you showed but couldn't activate the 3d at all. Every other game in the video worked in 3D except for the 2 that I mentioned above. Maybe I'm doing something wrong?

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  33. Rad Racer is a totally underappreciated NES classic. I wish that Nintendo would release a 3D adaptation of the original on the 3DS.

    Reply

  34. Hello. The Fuuun Shaolin Game is wrong in the description. It is Fuuun Shaolin Ken: Ankoku no Maou. The game Fuuun Shalion Kyo is the 1st game and dont have 3D. The two of them are on FDS.

    Reply

  35. I loved owning one and used it from time to time to show friends always a conversational piece.

    Reply

  36. Lol, why does the lv2 boss in Attack Animal Gakuen look like a penis haha. The fact that its a schoolgirl fight just makes it worse haha

    Reply

  37. Wait how do you know you play as a schoolgirl? Is there an intro cutscene you didn’t show?

    Reply

  38. I loved my virtual boy as a kid. I haven't played it in about 20 years, but I guarantee I'd still love it now if I fired it up.

    Reply

  39. Fun fact – PSY.S is Masaya Matsuura's band – the game designer that made Parappa the Rapper!

    Reply

  40. "automatic isn't my specialty:
    Those are called manual transmissions, the opposite of automatic.

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  41. This is really cool! Wish the games worked a bit better with the 3D. They still seem fun without them, though. -Matt

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  42. Why do you say 3ds 3d is bad? 3ds had best 3d experience I ever had, all those 3d tvs required glasses and those that didn't if existed had very high unaffordable price. Might be worth bringing those and virtual boy colored titles to the 3ds and Nintendo labo vr thing that Nintendo made for the purpose of bringing back this stuff fans have been asking for.

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  43. I'm curious, how does it stand against the Master System 3d glasses? Aaaannnddd with the second to last title…this hurts as I am a huge Sega fan.. kills the 3d glasses on the Master System. That looked like flat out Mode 7 on an Nes with actual scaling enemies. I wonder what they added into the Cart to give the Nes the ability to pump that out.

    Think about it this way, the Master System was a superior machine in every way and could not do that. The Genesis actually can through sheer brute force but it cannot do it without truly committing a considerable amount of power from the Genesis…that game truly blew me away.

    Reply

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