Review by jpark4evr

"A failed system that is definitely worth checking out."

There are probably very few people out there who own a 3DO, let alone actually know what the heck one is. The system was actually the product of entrepreneur Trip Hawkins, one of the founders of the software company Electronic Arts. Trip eventually broke away from EA to form the 3DO company, which would be designing this new console. The funny thing about the 3DO system was that the company was never actually the one to produce and market them. Instead, they licensed other companies such as Goldstar and Panasonic to manufacture and sell them based on their original specifications. In return, 3DO would be given a certain percentage of money from each console sold.

Trip's dream was nothing short of ambitious and without a doubt, the 3DO helped to usher in the 32 bit 3D generation of consoles. When Panasonic first brought the system to store shelves in 1993, the initial price was $700 US. At the same time, the then popular Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were both retailing for around $600 less, so the 3DO's price tag was just too much in the eye's of the average consumer. The cost was greatly reduced over time but was too little, too late. With next gen consoles later being released by three other major companies (Sega, Sony, and Nintendo), 3DO saw the writing on the wall and discontinued the system in 1995. Interestingly, the company would become a 3rd party publisher, much like Sega eventually did. However, they eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2003, making them little more than a memory now.

And now that I've finished up the backstory, onward with the review!

Design (8/10):
I have the Panasonic FZ-10, so my rating is based on this model. However, I would like to point out that there were three different models released in North America and Europe: FZ-1 and FZ-10 by Panasonic, and the Goldstar Model. I have heard that the Goldstar one is pretty hard to come by, but that earlier versions of it have trouble playing some games.

As for the FZ-10, it's pretty darn spiffy looking. Out of the three models mentioned above, it's not only the smallest but probably the best looking as well. The system is top loading, which I actually prefer over slide-out trays. The power switch is similar to that of the PS2's but is on the side, which is way more convenient if you ask me. ;-)

Another great thing about this system, is how easy it is to replace the power cord and AV cables. It essentially uses the same power cords as the Playstation, Dreamcast, PS2, and Saturn. They're very easy to find in almost any electronics store. The system has built-in S-Video and AV output jacks. This means that all you'd have to do for a replacement is go to an electronics store and look for a double ended AV cable. They're very easy to find and replace. There's no need to buy a replacement off of e-bay like you would need to for most other defunct consoles.

One strange thing about the system is that it only has one controller port. This is not a hindrance, however, as you can actually daisy chain up to eight of the controllers together for multiplayer gaming.

Games are saved to the console's internal memory, which is fine. However, you can run out of space quickly and there aren't any memory cards for the system to help this problem. However, there is a device called the game guru which compresses files, but it's pretty hard to come by. It would've been nice to see a memory card, as even the Sega CD had one.

Finally, the 3DO was made without any region lockout, so if you want to play imports you don't even need to mod your system in anyway in order to do so. I wish every system could be made that way.

Controller (6/10):
When I got my system off of e-bay the controller it came with said FZ-1 on the back, but I'm not sure if that was the one that came with the FZ-10 model. However I will still review it.

In a way, it's kind of a cross between the SNES and 1st generation Genesis controllers. It has a directional pad, start and stop buttons, two shoulder buttons, and three regular buttons. The button layout is fine, but the d-pad seems to have problems diagonal detection, which isn't very helpful in fighting games.

On the plus side, the cord is extra long, allowing you greater freedom in how far away you can sit. Another redeeming factor is that the controller is it's own multi-tap, and up to eight of them can be linked up together. So you won't have to shell out extra money for a multi-tap to play with a couple of your buds.

Another thing that I really liked about the controller was it's built-in headphone jack. You can adjust the sound level with the built-in volume control, which is perfect for late night gaming without disturbing your family's sleep.

All in all though, I would recommend buying the Naki controllers due to the d-pad problem with the original.

Graphics/Sound (7/10):
When compared with later 32 bit machines like the Saturn and Playstation, the graphical capabilities of the 3DO are just a step below. However, this is to be expected as it was released prior to those systems, and in 1993 the 3DO was the most graphically powerful system on the market. It's also important to remember that many of the 3D games on the system look somewhat primitive by later standards because the technology was still maturing. If the 3DO had survived throughout the 90s with the Playstation, we would have seen more graphically impressive games that would push the system's limits.

In that respect, the graphics are quite good. Also, some of the best looking 2D games of the early 90s were on the 3DO. For a long time, it was the only way you could play a nearly arcade perfect port of Street Fighter II Turbo on a home gaming console. And Gex, a 2D platformer, looked simply amazing.

The system also handles FMV (full motion video) perfectly fine. It's very clear and looks just as good as if it were a show being broadcast on TV.

As far as sound goes, the 3DO performs fantastically and just about equals the Playstation and Saturn. No complaints here.

Innovation (9/10):
The 3DO was designed with the future in mind, and was all about innovation. It was the first 32 bit home console on the market and saw the future in 3D gaming. It could play audio CDs, and there was even a card for the one expansion slot to play VCDs, the precursor of today's DVDs. In that respect, one could argue that the 3DO was the granddaddy of the PS3. There was even another expansion bay that was going to be used for a new 3DO system, but it was eventually canned. The 3DO was amazing in its day but, alas, it was ahead of its time.

Games (7/10):
One common misconception is that since the 3DO tanked it's games must be terrible. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth. The 3DO has a number of good games from various genres. Many of the system's finest were eventually ported over to other 32 bit consoles, which might turn some people off. However, the critically acclaimed PC game, Star Control II, was given updated graphics and sound and ported exclusively to the 3DO. It's one of the system's most sought after games.

Unfortunately, the 3DO has a number of horrible FMV games, but at the time that's what was being made. The Sega CD also had to deal with this problem. It just came with being released in the early 90's, that's all.

Another great thing about the games is how affordable they are. You can get most of them, even the great games, for between $5 to $20. And even Star Control II is fairly affordable, going for around $40 or so. This is different from a system like the Sega Saturn, where a lot of the best games can end up costing you an arm and a leg. If you're a classic gamer, the 3DO would certainly make a worthy addition to your collection.

Here are just a few of the games you might want to check out for the 3DO:
Samurai Shodown
Street Fighter II Turbo
Star Control II
Wing Commander III
Off World Interceptor
The Horde
Killing Time
Cannon Fodder
Road Rash
Need for Speed
Return Fire

Final Verdict (7/10):
Again, the 3DO was a fascinating console but was just ahead of its time. There are a handful of games that make the system very much worth owning, but probably not enough for the casual/light gamer. I myself only got a 3DO fairly recently, so I haven't yet had a chance to experience everything it has to offer. When I do, you can be sure I'll update this review.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/20/06

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