Sega’s Silent 3D Renaissance

How developer M2 has quietly changed the landscape for classic games!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/11/2015 09:00 5 Comments     ShareThis

Shinobi III. OutRun. Gunstar Heroes. Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Streets of Rage. These are some of the most classic Genesis games ever released, titles that any kid from the ’90s who owned Sega’s 16-bit “blast processing” console will remember whiling away many a lazy Summer afternoon playing. What some people might not realize is that they’re also currently sitting in the 3DS eShop completely remastered in 3D, just waiting for fans to come and play them. Developer M2 has spearheaded Sega’s 3D Classic line since its inception, and the company’s work is really something that more gamers should stand up and take notice of. The quality of these conversions is stunning, and goes well beyond a mere coat of 3D paint.

More people will have had experience with the work of M2 than they might realize, as the company has been instrumental at the helm of the emulation of Game Boy Advance games on the Wii U Virtual Console. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of playing Metroid Fusion or Wario Land 4 on the GamePad can thank M2 for getting the games not just running on Wii U, but running very, very well. The conversion from handheld to living room has been exceptional, particularly when taking into consideration that a TV screen was never meant to be the home of GBA games. It’s impressive that M2 has been able to get as good of picture quality as it has after exponentially increasing the display size of all these different portable games. Along with the inclusion of suspend points and reconfigurable button mapping, M2 has been working wonders on Wii U for a good, long stretch.

As impressive as GBA on Wii U has been, however, it really can’t hold a candle to the work M2 has done on the Sega 3D Classics line. At a glance it might be easy to assume that taking old Genesis games and attaching a 3D effect to the visuals would be easy, but the reality is anything but. Each game has its own quirks and source code to deal with, and needless to say none of the titles developed for Genesis were ever designed to be run in 3D. M2 producer Yosuke Okunari touched on this in an interview in early October on the Sega Blog, where he described the challenge of going through all of the assets and gameplay elements of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (especially the Bonus Stages!) when converting the game to 3D. 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is really a testament to the passion that M2 has for the Sega 3D Classics line as a whole, as the team wasn’t going to be happy unless the game in its entirety made the transition.

Sonic 2 brought with it larger map sizes, a versus mode, and greater visual effects than the original, and M2 was tireless in its quest to see it all realized in 3D on Nintendo’s handheld. As a technical feat it’s certainly impressive, but as an act of preservation, it’s even more so. M2 is hands-down doing some of the best work in the industry of preserving video game history. Outside of owning the original consoles and copies of classic (and even not-so classic) games, the only way for modern players to experience past titles is through services like Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Granted, emulation is out there, but a lot of people (this writer included) aren’t interested in that avenue, and are dependant on publishers and developers creating access to old games. M2 is one of a handful of developers taking the time to bring the classics to a contemporary audience in an easily accessible way.

What makes M2’s conversions to 3D especially intriguing is that they are astonishingly feature-rich. Screen aspect ratios, international and Japanese versions of games, implementation of motion controls to mimic arcade cabinet experiences, and much, much more are all a part of the Sega 3D Classics line. Even entirely new features and content have been put into some games, like Ring Saver Mode in 3D Sonic 2 and extra music tracks in 3D OutRun. Normally, I’d say these additions take away from the traditional, unsullied experience of each game, but in M2’s infinite wisdom the developer made sure to treat all of these accoutrements as optional. Anyone who wants to play with every bell and whistle available can, and anyone who wants to play the games in their barebones, original forms (including without 3D) can, too. It’s a brilliant win-win formula for success that refreshes all of these wonderful Sega gems (both home console and arcade) and makes them accessible to the widest audience possible.

Nintendo abandoned its own Arika-developed 3D Classics line very early in the 3DS lifecycle when both companies discovered how much labor it would take to bring each title to life. Thankfully Sega hasn’t backed away from the challenge and is continuing to produce its 3D conversions with M2. Each title has been a love letter to the original games and as a whole the line is an exhilarating example of how to simultaneously honor gaming’s past while looking to its future. Anyone who considers themselves a a fan of retro gaming or who is curious about the roots of the industry should take the time to look at the Sega 3D Classics line, as it’s a virtual museum just waiting to be explored.

We’ve compiled a list of all available Sega 3D Classics to date; be sure to give them a look the next time you find yourself in the 3DS eShop!

  • 3D After Burner II
  • 3D Altered Beast
  • 3D Ecco the Dolphin
  • 3D Fantasy Zone
  • 3D Fantasy Zone II
  • 3D Galaxy Force II
  • 3D Gunstar Heroes
  • 3D OutRun
  • 3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  • 3D Sonic the Hedgehog
  • 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • 3D Space Harrier
  • 3D Streets of Rage
  • 3D Streets of Rage 2
  • 3D Super Hang-On
  • 3D Thunder Blade

5 Responses to “Sega’s Silent 3D Renaissance”

  • 1567 points
    penduin says...

    It’s great to see some love for these games; M2 really has done a spectacular job.

    Nintendo should send these guys whatever Super FX documentation they have lying around and set them loose on the SNES games in most dire need of re-release.

    • 0 points

      Now THAT is a great idea. Would like to see Starfox in 3D, along with anything else they can think of.

      • 1567 points
        penduin says...

        Right? I don’t know why, but to this day I can’t get enough of those early 16-bit 3D games. The amount of time I’ve spent with Star Fox and Stunt Race FX is crazy; Vortex and Dirt Trax FX are fun and unique too.

        To see them lovingly remastered with the attention to detail M2 has given these Sega classics would make me all kinds of happy. (Better yet, let M2 remaster the finished-but-cancelled Star Fox 2 so everyone can see where this walker stuff in Zero comes from! :^)

        • 1294 points
          Robert Marrujo says...

          Star Fox 2 would be great: M2 got its hands on the source code for a seemingly-lost arcade game called Aquario and there’s a chance it might one day finish the game. So who knows, maybe SF2 has a shot!

        • 0 points

          O man, Stunt Race FX. I remember getting that on the day it came out, and just being blown away by the water effects in that game. I still have it, and Vortex. I’d forgotten about Dirt Trax FX. Will have to check to see if I have it, but for some reason I think I don’t. Now Starfox 2, wow I would love to have that in a finished form. I’ve actually played it at a local game shop that has those kinds of things, but the guy there told me it’s unfinished. I was so mad back in the day when it was cancelled, since I loved the original Starfox. I only have the 3D Outrun so far, but have a bunch of other titles on my wish list. They have done a great job, and if Nintendo is unwilling to bring more classic titles to the eShop, these guys should get the chance. It seems these days that Nintendo is more focused on Amiibo than games anyway.

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