Posted on December 19th, 2008 in Flashback, Kenzan, NES, Video Games by Sasha Kenzan

Square’s first entry into North America is not exactly what you’d expect.

System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Year: 1987
Company: Square Soft
Genre: 3-D(?!) Platformer

Flyyyyyying away in my be-yooooo-ti-fulll baaaaaalloooooon… to a bonus stage.

When I was a kid visiting my dad, the treat of my visits would be playing on the NES with him.  My father was a state trooper and that meant he worked weird hours and didn’t get to see me all that much.  This meant every time I played games with him was a big event for me, but when I visited and he had to work, he had an array of one-player games for me to dig into.

I almost always reached for Excitebike.  Who wouldn’t?  But when racing motorcycles wasn’t enough for me, he had this game, the 3-D Battles of World Runner.  The company that manufactured the game never really produced a game quite like this again, and for good reason; this game and the like nearly bankrupted them.  Until, of course, they released what they thought would be their last game, Final Fantasy, and, well, the story of Square has been written many times over.  You didn’t come to this article for that.

The 3-D Battles of World Runner was a vertical scrolling platformer released during the 3-D craze of the mid-1980s.  The game starts off looking like the screenshot included here, but if you tap the Select button, then the game turns into a blue and red shaded epileptic’s nightmare.  Without the glasses, it’s disorienting and impossible to play.  So of course, nobody that owns this game had the cheap paper 3-D glasses that the game bundled in, and that means playing in the rather drab coloring of the normal game.

The game itself isn’t bad, although the physics of it are bizarre.  Your character needs to ram into the pipes that you think you’re supposed to dodge in order to gain speed powerups as well as the ability to shoot a weapon to help against the flurry of enemies you face.  If you ram into a pipe and a mushroom springs out, it kills you, which is utterly befuddling for a young kid who grew up enjoying the Mario series so much that his favorite pizza topping was mushrooms because that was what gave Mario his power.

You must leap over chasms and dodge enemies floating throughout the game, and the leaps are unforgiving. If you miss by even a pixel, you die.  Also, if an enemy catches you by even a pixel, you die.  Weird programming there.  Another thing to note is that the vertical scrolling for a platformer can be very disorienting, but if you are used to the line scrolling from games like Rad Racer or Pole Position, this shouldn’t bother you.  I wouldn’t shell out for a pristine copy, but if you find it for a couple of bucks, it’s not a bad pickup.  Just be ready to supply your own 3-D glasses.

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