The Video Game Critic's Console Reviews

3DO (1993 - 1994)

Manufacturer: Panasonic, Goldstar, Sanyo
Format: CD
Controller Ports: 1
Save Capability: Internal memory.
Number of games: 220+
Video Output: Composite, S-Video
Initial Price: $700

As the first 32-bit game system and arguably the most over-hyped machine in video game history, the 3DO promised to be much more than just a game console. Eschewing the "video game" label altogether, the system was marketed as an "interactive multiplayer", offering the ability to play audio, video, and photo disks in addition to games. It was the first (but not the last) attempt to deliver an "all-in-one box" to fulfill the age-old promise of "multi-media convergence". Despite its ambitious claims, the 3DO was ultimately exposed as an overrated game console that couldn't even compete with the 16-bit machines.

Unlike the other major console vendors of the day, the 3DO company never actually manufactured a system. Instead, it licensed its hardware technology to companies like Goldstar, Sanyo, and Panasonic, which produced different versions of the 3DO. One downside of this scheme was that the manufacturers had to make their money from the hardware itself (unlike Sega or Nintendo who could make up a loss with software sales). Consequently, cutting-edge gamers found themselves shelling out an astounding $700 for the system when it was first introduced. The 3DO amassed a respectable library of software, but it was mostly comprised of PC ports, full motion video (FMV) titles, and primitive polygon shooters. There were precious few arcade-style titles like those enjoying popularity on the 16-bit systems. Many of the 3DO's "exclusive" titles tanked, and the price of the system tumbled dramatically. By the time the Saturn and Playstation hit the scene, the 3DO had already faded into obscurity.

In concept, the 3DO was replete with flaws that would doom it from day one. The system was equipped with only one controller port, at a time when other systems were releasing multi-taps to accommodate four and eight-player games. 3DO controllers could be "daisy-chained" together, but this was awkward. The next mistake was designing the original controller with only five buttons, despite the fact that six buttons were required to play some of the more popular games of the time. The 3DO had the ability to save games (and high scores) to memory, but its limited capacity could not be easily expanded (if at all). While all 3DO systems were supposed to be compatible, certain games didn't run well (or at all) on particular brands of consoles. The premise of an "all-in-one" multimedia center never materialized, because 3DO never really offered any legitimate entertainment options outside of games. Then there was the cost factor. Very few kids - who comprised the bulk of the game-playing market - could afford the system. Finally, 3DO falsely assumed that better looking, cutting edge games would be more fun to play, which of course is not necessarily the case.

The 3DO did produce a few notable hits, including superb versions of Madden Football, Road Rash, Need For Speed, and Samurai Shodown. Gex, a fun side-scroller starring a smart-aleck gecko lizard, provided the 3DO with an unofficial mascot. If you enjoy full motion video (FMV) titles, the 3DO produced some the best versions of these games, including Night Trap and Dragon's Lair. In the final analysis however, the 3DO failed to make a lasting impact on the video game industry.

Console design: D+. Several varieties of 3DO consoles were produced, but all resemble generic black boxes with few external controls. Some of the more heavy-duty models featured motorized CD trays, while other lightweight versions had cheap, pop-top lids. The single controller port is an unforgivable flaw that's almost comical. To its credit, the system did support high-quality audio and video output, including S-video and surround sound.

Console durability: C-. Since the 3DO is basically a glorified CD player, dirty lens issues can lead to disk read problems. Unfortunately, these problems are often confused with incompatibility issues exhibited by certain combinations of games and system models.

Controllers: D. The 3DO controllers are remarkably mediocre. With only five buttons (not counting the tiny "X" and "P" buttons), it was insufficient for many popular games (including Street Fighter 2), necessitating six-button alternative controllers. In addition, the controllers are cheaply constructed, with "loose" directional pads that make it too easy to accidentally hit the diagonal angles.

Media: B. It's hard to criticize the CD media for storing video games, but most 3DO titles misused the extra capacity of the medium by including gratuitous cut-scenes and generic pre-recorded soundtracks. 3DO games have varying load times, but in general it's not an issue.

Packaging: D. The tall boxes used to house 3DO games are definitely overkill, and they will waste a lot of room on your shelf.

Games: D. The 3DO has a handfull of standout games, including superior versions of Road Rash, FIFA Soccer, PGA Tour Golf, and John Madden Football. Original titles like Gex and Crash N Burn provide a few quality exclusive titles. Unfortunately, the 3DO library is weighed down with full-motion video games (a genre on its way out) and early polygon games with sloppy gameplay. First-person RPGs like Slayer and Deathkeep were groundbreaking for their time but have not aged particularly well.

Graphics: B. The 3DO hardware was cutting edge for its time, able to render digitized 2D sprites, clear full-motion video, and even 3D polygon graphics. Unfortunately for 3DO, 3D graphics turned out to be the wave of the future, and the 3DO was vastly underpowered compared to newcomers like the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation.

Audio: A. With CD-quality audio and support for Dolby Surround Sound, there's not much to criticize here.

Collectability: D. Due to its unremarkable library, the 3DO is not highly sought after by collectors. However, the fact that the system was never produced in large quantities means you'll still need to pay top dollar to obtain a reliable system. Most of its better games tend to be pricey as well. Nostalgic gamers and collectors will appreciate select 3DO titles, but if you're just looking for a good time, stick with the Genesis or Super Nintendo.

Innovations: First 32-bit system, daisy-chained controllers, hardware licensing, surround sound support

Pros and Cons:
+ Surround sound and S-Video support
- Only a handful of desirable games
- Expensive to collect
- Mediocre controllers

Check for 3DO systems on Ebay

3DO Game Reviews

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