The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner

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The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner

NES3dworldrunnerbox mod.png

North American cover art
Developer(s) Square
Designer(s) Hironobu Sakaguchi
Programmer(s) Nasir Gebelli
Composer(s) Nobuo Uematsu
Platform(s) Family Computer Disk System, Nintendo Entertainment System
  • JP: March 12, 1987
  • NA: September 1987
Genre(s) Third-Person Rail Shooter
Mode(s) Single-player

The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner (shortened to 3-D WorldRunner on the North American box art), [1] originally released in Japan as Tobidase Daisakusen(とびだせ大作戦 lit. 'Operation: Jump Out'), is a 1987 third-person rail shooter platform video game developed and published by Square for the Family Computer Disk System and published by Acclaim for the Nintendo Entertainment System. [2]

Third-person shooter (TPS) is a subgenre of 3D shooter games in which the player character is visible on-screen during gaming, and the gameplay consists primarily of shooting.

Platform game video game genre

Platform games, or platformers, are a video game genre and subgenre of action game. In a platformer the player controlled character must jump and climb between suspended platforms while avoiding obstacles. Environments often feature uneven terrain of varying height that must be traversed. The player often has some control over the height and distance of jumps to avoid letting their character fall to their death or miss necessary jumps. The most common unifying element of games of this genre is the jump button, but now there are other alternatives like swiping a touchscreen. Other acrobatic maneuvers may factor into the gameplay as well, such as swinging from objects such as vines or grappling hooks, as in Ristar or Bionic Commando, or bouncing from springboards or trampolines, as in Alpha Waves. These mechanics, even in the context of other genres, are commonly called platforming, a verbification of platform. Games where jumping is automated completely, such as 3D games in The Legend of Zelda series, fall outside of the genre.

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.


Players assume the role of Jack the WorldRunner, a wild "space cowboy" on a mission to save various planets overrun by serpent-like beasts. [3] The game takes place in Solar System #517, which is being overrun by a race of aliens known as Serpentbeasts, who are led by the evil Grax. [4] As WorldRunner, the player must battle through eight planets to destroy Grax. For its time, the game was technically advanced; the game's three-dimensional scrolling effect is very similar to the linescroll effects used by Pole Position and many racing games of the day as well as the forward-scrolling effect of Sega's 1985 third-person rail shooter Space Harrier . [5] 3-D WorldRunner was an early forward-scrolling pseudo-3D third-person platform-action game where players were free to move in any forward-scrolling direction and had to leap over obstacles and chasms. It was also notable for being one of the first stereoscopic 3-D games. [2]

3D computer graphics graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data

3D computer graphics or three-dimensional computer graphics, are graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data that is stored in the computer for the purposes of performing calculations and rendering 2D images. Such images may be stored for viewing later or displayed in real-time.

<i>Pole Position</i> 1982 Formula 1 racing video game

Pole Position is an arcade racing video game that was released by Namco in 1982 and licensed to Atari, Inc. for US manufacture and distribution, running on the Namco Pole Position arcade system board. The game was designed by Tōru Iwatani, who had also designed the Gee Bee games and Pac-Man. It was the most popular coin-operated arcade game of 1983, and is considered one of the most important titles from the video arcade's golden age. Pole Position was released in two configurations: a standard upright cabinet, and an environmental/cockpit cabinet. Both versions feature a steering wheel and a gear shifter for low and high gears, but the environmental/cockpit cabinet featured both an accelerator and a brake pedal, while the standard upright one only featured an accelerator pedal.

Sega Japanese video game developer and publisher and subsidiary of Sega Sammy Holdings

Sega Games Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational video game developer and publisher headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. The company, previously known as Sega Enterprises Ltd. and Sega Corporation, is a subsidiary of Sega Holdings Co., Ltd., which is part of Sega Sammy Holdings. Its international branches, Sega of America and Sega of Europe, are respectively headquartered in Irvine, California and London.

WorldRunner was designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nasir Gebelli, and composed by Nobuo Uematsu. All would later rise to fame as core members of the team behind the popular Final Fantasy role-playing video game series.

Hironobu Sakaguchi game designer

Hironobu Sakaguchi is a Japanese video game designer, director, producer, writer, and film director. He is best known as creator of the Final Fantasy series, which he conceived the original concept for the first title Final Fantasy and also directed several later entries in the franchise, and has had a long career in gaming with over 100 million units of video games sold worldwide. He left Square Enix and founded a studio called Mistwalker in 2004.

Nasir Gebelli is an Iranian-American programmer and video game designer usually credited in his games as simply Nasir. Gebelli co-founded Sirius Software, created his own company Gebelli Software, and worked for Squaresoft. He became known in the early 1980s for producing the first fast action games for the Apple II computer, including 3D shooters, launching the Apple II as a gaming machine. This established him as one of the pioneers of computer gaming, and one of the greatest Apple II game designers. From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, he became known for his home console work at Squaresoft, where he was part of Square's A-Team, programming the first three Final Fantasy games, the Famicom 3D System titles 3-D WorldRunner and Rad Racer, and Secret of Mana.

Nobuo Uematsu Japanese video game composer

Nobuo Uematsu is a Japanese video game composer, best known for scoring most of the titles in the Final Fantasy series by Square Enix. He is considered to be one of the most well known composers in the video game industry. Sometimes referred to as the "Beethoven of video games music", he has appeared five times in the top 20 of the annual Classic FM Hall of Fame.


WorldRunner battles Menacing Meanies in the first world 3d worldrunner screen11.png
WorldRunner battles Menacing Meanies in the first world

WorldRunner features many elements that are typical of a forward-scrolling rail shooter game, where the player focuses on destroying or dodging onscreen enemies against a scrolling background. 3-D WorldRunner incorporates a distinct third-person view, where the camera angle is positioned behind the main character.

As Jack, players make their way through eight worlds, battling hostile alien creatures and leaping over bottomless canyons. Each world is divided into different quadrants, and the player must pass through each quadrant before the time counter on the bottom of the game screen reaches zero. In each quadrant, the player can find pillar-like columns that house power-ups, objects that are beneficial or add extra abilities to the game character. At the end of each world's last quadrant is a serpent-like creature which must be defeated to advance. A status bar at the bottom of the screen displays the player's score, the time counter, the world number, the world quadrant, the number of bonus stars (items that increase the player's score count) collected by the player, and the number of lives remaining.

Because the game is set against a constantly scrolling screen, Jack's movement cannot be stopped, but the player can speed up or slow down Jack's pace. The player is also allowed a degree of limited horizontal movement. When fighting Serpentbeasts at the end of each world, the player is capable of moving Jack freely in all directions. Jack's basic actions consist of jumping, used to dodge canyons and enemies, and firing collectible missiles of various types to destroy enemies.

In each world, the player is free to travel in any forward-moving direction. The worlds are filled with enemies that attack Jack or block his progress, but also contain items that are helpful; most of these items can be found in ancient columns spread throughout each world. Canyons, which Jack must leap over, are also present in each world, and at the end of each world is a Serpentbeast the player must defeat. The player collects various items throughout the levels which grant powers such as temporary invincibility or higher jumps, and can also find warp balloons which transport Jack to a bonus quadrant filled with super stars and items.

In this screenshot, the "3D mode" has been activated.

3D red cyan glasses are recommended to view this image correctly. 3dworldrunner 3deffect.png
In this screenshot, the "3D mode" has been activated.
3d glasses red cyan.svg 3D red cyan glasses are recommended to view this image correctly.

Part of the appeal and selling point of WorldRunner was its "3D mode", [3] and it was the first of three games by Square to feature such an option. When the 3D mode is selected, the game uses computer image processing techniques to combine images from two slightly different viewpoints into a single image, known as anaglyph images. The game was packaged with cardboard anaglyph glasses, which use red and cyan color filters to moderate the light reaching each eye to create the illusion of a three-dimensional image. [2]


The main reason for the development of the game was that Square owner Masafumi Miyamoto wanted to demonstrate Gebelli's 3D programming techniques. [6] WorldRunner's soundtrack consists of eight tracks. The game was scored by Nobuo Uematsu.


Reviews for WorldRunner are generally positive. The game's graphics are widely praised as impressive, while the 3-D mode is generally considered a nice addition to a fun and simple game. [7] The game was also sometimes criticized, however, as a ripoff of Sega's Space Harrier , [8] which predated WorldRunner by two years. Vito Gesualdi of Destructoid named it among the "five most notorious videogame ripoffs of all time" in 2013. [9] In a 1999 interview with NextGeneration magazine, Sakaguchi admitted that he "liked Space Harrier", but said that the main reason his team made WorldRunner was to "show off" the 3D programming techniques of Nasir Gebelli. [5] The soundtrack was criticized by Downwards Compatible, who described it as sounding like "the baby from Eraserhead ". [10]

Commercially, the game was met with modest success, selling roughly 500,000 copies worldwide. [5] It is considered difficult to find a complete copy of WorldRunner today, presumably because the glasses packaged with the game ended up getting thrown away by players. [11]


JJ: Tobidase Daisakusen Part II(ジェイ ジェイ,Jei Jei) is a 1987 Japan-only followup to the game, developed and released by the same team who did the original, but as a regular cart instead of for the Disk System. JJ was one of the few games to utilize the Famicom 3D System, and was Square's last work before the inception of the popular Final Fantasy franchise.

JJ is a sort of "dark version" of the original game; it moves at a much faster pace with increased difficulty, plus a more "sinister" artstyle and use of color. The soundtrack was again composed by Nobuo Uematsu, and each track was made to match the respective track from the first game. [12]


Jack makes an appearance in Square's Chocobo Racing as the final secret character.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Packaging shortens the title to 3-D WorldRunner, which is not in the game.
  2. 1 2 3 3-D WorldRunner at AllGame
  3. 1 2 3-D WorldRunner (Game Box). Acclaim Entertainment, Inc. 1987.
  4. 3-D WorldRunner (Game Pak Instructions). Acclaim Entertainment, Inc. 1987.
  5. 1 2 3 (February 1999). "Hironobu Sakaguchi: The Man Behind the Fantasies". Next Generation Magazine , vol 50.
  6. (February 1999). "The Man Behind the Fantasies". Next Generation, issue 50, p. 89.
  7. daroga (August 18, 2005). "RetroReview: The 3-D Battles of World Runner". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2006-06-09.
  8. "3-D WorldRunner Review for NES: A Space Harrier ripoff...but a good one. – GameFAQs". January 7, 2000. Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  9. Gesualdi, Vito (February 22, 2013). "Five most notorious videogame ripoffs of all time". Destructoid . Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  10. Lee Evans (July 9, 2012). "NES Replay: 3D World Runner". Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  11. NES Central Site Staff (2006). "NES Games Database: 3-D WorldRunner (1987)". Archived from the original on 2006-01-09. Retrieved 2006-06-09.
  12. Michael Huang (January 1, 2006). "Nobuo Uematsu's Gameography". Archived from the original on May 19, 2006. Retrieved 2006-05-17.

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