Review by Macintosh User

Reviewed: 06/09/04

3DO Interactive Multimedia System

The 3DO console is nothing more than a set of blueprints drawn up by the 3DO company which then licenses other companies the right to build the machine as long as they pay a royalty fee to the 3DO company for every console sold. The 3DO is a very powerful system, even by today's standards, and this is because the machine really had some powerful components and was at the time the most expensive system ever to be launched in the United States. The 3DO was built by several different companies which each included small differences, like expansion slots, MPEG playback features built-in, and other small features too add an extra incentive to the customer in an effort to win them over and convince them to buy their version of the 3DO. Basically the 3DO was built by several different companies including but not limited to, Panasonic (which I own), Goldstar, and Creative Labs. The 3DO features only one controller port, however each controller has another port which can be used to plug another controller into, creating a daisy chain effect, as multiple controllers could be used simultaneously through plugging them into one another. Basically the 3DO sold for 600 to 900 dollars when it first launched, my Panasonic was an FZ-1 model and cost me $799 when I bought it. Let's take a look at the specifications for this 32-bit powerhouse that became known as the 'rich-man's system'.

The specs on this machine are very good, and it all starts with the heart of the machine which features two graphics and animation processors that are capable of rendering up to 64 million texture mapped pixels per second. The 32-bit RISC CPU (ARM60) ran at 12.5 Mhz and had a resolution of 640x480 and could display 16.7 million colors. Alongside the 32-bit ARM60 were two video accelerator processors that ran at a respectable 25 Mhz allowing them to produce between 9 and 16 million pixels per second. The visual effects such as distortion, scaling, rotation, and texture-mapping were all made possible by these two processors. The 3DO supported transparency, translucency, and color-shading effects as well. Following these three processors is a customized 16-bit Digital Signal Processor specifically engineered for mixing, manipulating and synthesizing CD-quality sound. It ran at 25 Mhz, but featured pipelined CISC (complex instruction set computing) architecture, which for its time was ancient technology, whereas most consoles used RISC (reduced instruction set computing), only PC boxes used CISC architecture... this was still a powerful processor however, which featured 17 separate 16-bit DMA channels, 20-bit internal processing, and the ability to produce 3D sound. The 3DO was designed with a seperate system bus for video refresh updating, and the system bus ran at a rapid rate allowing for the bandwidth of 50 megabytes per second. A mathematical co-processor was also underneath the hood and was used for accelerating fixed-point matrix operations. Besides these processors and co-processors, the 3DO featured a double-speed CD-ROM drive with 2 megabytes of DRAM and 1 megabyte of VRAM. The system used a 32-bit operating system, featured 16-bit Stereo Sound, full-support for Dolby Surround Sound, a 32kb battery that backed up SRAM and 2 high-speed expansion ports that were never utilized.

According to many sources the M2 Accelerator was planned for the 3DO system, which would have been an upgrade to the system's core power and graphics capabilities. However the M2 was never released and the 3DO died an early death by the time the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996. Basically the 3DO was a console with plenty of potential but not enough 3rd-party support. Game developers simply bypassed the system in favor of the Sony PSOne and Sega Saturn. Like the much-maligned Atari Jaguar, the 3DO was a potential powerhouse that simply fell by the wayside due to the lack of interest generated by the consumer and the video game developing houses. Unlike the 64-bit Atari Jaguar, the 32-bit 3DO actually had games that looked, played, and felt completely 32-bit. Road Rash was one of these games, and it played beautifully, with great controls, an awesome CD-soundtrack, full-motion-video cutscenes, and even music videos by the artists who supplied the tracks for the sountrack. Along with Road Rash the 3DO featured a wonderful port of Samurai Shodown and Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Both games were high-quality ports and really came close to delivering the arcade version with very little animation cuts, and neither game was butchered as they were on the 16-bit consoles of the day. Samurai Shodown included the zoom in, zoom out feature found on the Neo-Geo hardware, while the SNES version did not feature this cool camera trick. The 3DO also featured bigger characters and more detailed animation frame for frame than the SNES or Sega Genesis versions of Super SF 2... making it rather easy to see where the 3DO reigns in superiority over the top 16-bit consoles of the time.

The 3DO was released before the Sega Saturn and Sony PSOne, which means it did not have the same technology as the Saturn and PSOne, yet the 3DO still had games that rivaled the Saturn and PSOne, and definately surpassed the power of the Atari Jaguar, which was 64-bit. If not for the high price tag the 3DO probably would have done much better with the consumer market. If you can find one for under 200 dollars with several games, at least 4 or 5, I'd recommend purchasing this machine. It has provided me with hours of enjoyment, and is truly a unique machine in the way its built, developed, and marketed. The 3DO was far more innovative than the Atari Jaguar for its time, but that doesn't make it better. It just makes it different. Different in a good way. Which, after all, is a good thing.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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