Hmm, I still have some rust to knock loose, it seems. This drawing took me much longer than it should have, but the background is still kind of terrible. Please bear with me! Sooner or later I’m bound to get it right.
For the record, this NES A-Z project isn’t “one title per letter” or anything that limited. Neither is it comprehensive. I’m trying to strike an interesting balance. I guess we’ll see.
ToastyFrog’s NES ABC: 3-D WorldRunner, (The Adventures of)
Square/Acclaim | Fakey 3D Platforming | 1987
Yuki: I have always been confused about why Americans seem to hold the Square that existed during the 8- and 16-days in such high regard. Yes, they made some very good RPGs, but also they were responsible for an ocean of trash. Before the Square name became the same as Final Fantasy, it was seen similarly to many other hated developers, most of which are long dead now. Eventually I discovered the reason America loves Square, though: mostly you only received their good games here, the Final Fantasy and Secret of Mana type games rather than the racist Tom Sawyer adventures. On top of that, the company was very devious and tricky, publishing their worst games under the names of other companies.
The Adventures of 3-D WorldRunner is one such game. It was published by Acclaim, a name that inspired no hope of quality for NES fans. Such a clever ruse! By giving this terrible game to a terrible publisher, Square made money, yet most people didn’t realize the true origins of this bomb. Maybe if you were very clever, you would have recognized the stupid 3D glasses gimmick from another more popular early Square game, the racer Highway Star which was called Rad Racer over here. But because they hid behind Acclaim, Square is able to publish popular games now without having to account for their former sins. Not so in Japan! I read all of those hateful reviews of Dragon Quest IX and most of them are by people who still hold a grudge over Square’s early 8-bit games. (The rest are by 2ch’ers angry that Enix hasn’t made a DS sequel to Lolita Syndrome.)
So what is 3-D WorldRunner? Well, it is similar to Sega’s Space Harrier in that it features a character advancing along a pseudo-3D checkered playing field, avoiding hazards. However, Square decided to remove all the good things about Space Harrier, like the music and the impressive scaling graphics and the flying and the shooting. Yes, this is a game about an unarmed man jogging across a vast checkerboard, trying not to run into things. That is all. It is not a very good premise for a game, if you want my opinion.
Like many old Square games, 3-D WorldRunner was programmed by Nasir Gebelli, the Iranian savant who could do very impressive things with humble game hardware. Unfortunately, it seems his inspiration ran out at “create a colorful false 3D game technology” and no one bothered to develop an actual game out of his impressive idea. In modern times you would call this a tech demo, but back in the old days it was deemed acceptable to box it and ship it and charge the same price as a real videogame for it. I am always amused when I look back and see the “Nintendo Seal of Quality” on NES games.
Apparently this game was popular enough to warrant a sequel, called J.J. or Jumping Jack, but I don’t know if it was any better than this.
ToastyFrog: Yeah, I tried it. Was it any better than the original? Well, let’s put it this way. You know how Final Fantasy got its name because it was Square’s last desperate attempt to create a successful, profitable game, and if it had failed it would have spelled the end of the company? Well, J.J. was the last game Square made before Final Fantasy. In other words, it was the final straw that led them to give their RPG such a fatalistic name. J.J. was very nearly the game that was so bad it killed Square.
Yuki: Oh. Well, I suppose that answers that question.