The 3D Battles of World Runner

Publisher: Square
Year: 1987
Genre: Action

It might surprise you to know that 3D imagery achieved through stereoscopy dates back to before the American Civil War. Yes, it’s true: 3D images have existed for nearly two hundred years now. So while the relatively new 3DS has garnered considerable hype, it should come as no surprise to even the youngest most naive reader that it is neither the first 3D Game System, nor the first example of 3D games.

But it does have the most elaborate title screen to date. So that's something.
But it does have the most elaborate title screen to date. So that’s something.

The 3D Battles of World Runner might not be the first 3D game (although, to my recollection, it was the first one I had ever heard of and I can’t find any predating examples), but it exists as a much-overlooked technical triumph of its time. At any time during gameplay (or even during the opening animation), the player can press select to change the view to a 3D anaglyph view appropriate for use with the old-school cyan/red 3D glasses.

The pink hair-dye of you-can-get-hit-once.
The pink hair-dye of you-can-get-hit-once.

The 3D Battles of World Runner is about a space cowboy named Jack who fights giant space worms. Given the track record for (almost) all things involving space cowboys, you’d think that I would be thrilled by a game that lets you be one of these brave hombres. To be honest, though, the cool concept and 3D graphics are really all the game has going for it. The gameplay is bland and forgettable, featuring little more than endlessly running forward and jumping over pits until you fight a simple boss so you can progress to a slightly different color scheme. The powerups are simple to a fault (such as the blaster gun and potion of lets-you-get-hit-a-second-time) and useless or horrible at worst (such as the mushroom of kills-you-instantly-by-exploiting-your-Mario-instilled-assumptions and the molecule of makes-you-invincible-for-all-too-short-a-time). The enemies all looked like they were borrowed from one of Dr. Seuss’s more forgettable volumes, which I’ll leave open to the reader’s interpretation.

Bouncy spike things - a perennial favorite.
Bouncy spike things – a perennial favorite.

John’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0. The game is playable and technically sound, and I remember renting it as a child and playing it for hours, but it really doesn’t stand up to the test of time. Once you get over the novelty of the 3D images, it all runs together into a vanilla bean paste of bland-flavored bland. If you played this game as a child, it might provide a nostalgia injection. If you are a scholar of changing technology, it might be of interest to you as one of the first 3D games.

As a final note, Square, the company responsible for the game, is one to watch out of on this blog. As one of the most successful game companies in history, it is interesting to see that they were innovative from the get-go.

SEE YOU, SPACE COWBOY…

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