In 2013, developer M2 and Sega began releasing a series of 3D-enhanced ports for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan. Later that year, this series was localised for North American and European markets. The project caught people’s attention immediately, because M2 are known to be emulation experts, and rather than just copy the ROMs and call it a night, each title has been re-coded from scratch with help from the games’ original source codes.
For the console ports, M2 developed a custom-built “Giga Drive” emulator used for porting the Mega Drive/Genesis titles to the 3DS hardware while the arcade ports were developed using the original PCBs and cabinet hardware as reference. These games are an interesting part of the 3DS library and, as things currently stand, they will no longer be available for sale on the Nintendo eShop after March 2023, as Nintendo is closing down the store, and with that goes the only way to play a lot of these games. With that news in mind, I decided to write this article because I wanted to introduce people to these games while they still have a chance to purchase and play them. I’ve bought the entire Sega 3D Classics series as these games came out and I took the liberty of writing short reviews for each game.
3D Space Harrier – An arcade-perfect port of the original arcade game, Space Harrier is fast, frenetic and plays really well on the 3DS. You play as the Harrier, who flies across different planets throughout the Fantasy Zone and blasting enemies and obstacles in a rail shooter fashion. The Circle Pad moves Harrier easily and the 3D actually helps with dodging obstacles. This is the definitive version of Space Harrier because you can play this game anywhere, even on the toilet.
3D Super Hang-On – Super Hang-On is another coin-op classic and it performs surprisingly great on the 3DS as well. The 3D effect is great, thanks to Super Hang-On originally being developed using Super Scaler technology, which lends itself well to a third-dimensional field of view. Tilt controls are a fun way to play this game although it’s optional, so button users shouldn’t be upset at its implementation. The screen can be tilted too, replicating the arcade experience, but I find it distracting and thankfully that is optional as well.
3D Sonic the Hedgehog – The original Sonic in 3D. And no, I don’t mean Sonic 3D Blast: this one is actually good (and surprisingly difficult) and while the CRT mode is a fun addition, it’s not fun to look at. The 3D isn’t intense, but it does make the backgrounds look better and the optional spin dash is a nice addition.
3D Altered Beast – It’s Altered Beast in 3D. This is the Genesis port, as opposed to the arcade one. It’s still not very fun, although Random Beast mode is a nice option I guess.
Recommended? No, unless you’re trying to get all of the SEGA 3D Classics.
3D Ecco the Dolphin – Another Genesis game. Ecco is a beautiful, colourful game with an emphasis on exploration but it’s also extremely difficult. For those who can’t take the difficulty (like me), there’s a Super Dolphin Mode which makes Ecco impervious to damage and drowning so the player can explore and finish the game at their own pace.
Recommended? Maybe. This game is a novelty but I’m sure the difficulty and the non-traditional gameplay will turn off some folks.
3D Galaxy Force II – This game is the dark horse of this series. Galaxy Force II uses some of the best 3D I’ve ever seen in a 3DS game and the game itself is extremely fun to play. Note that this isn’t a port of the weak Genesis version. This is a port of the original coin-op, with enhancements such as extra energy for your ship, Circle Pad Pro support for the throttle controls, and of course, the 3D, which really helps with the tunnel stages. Buy it.
3D Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master – Another Genesis port, this time one of the Shinobi games. Like Sonic, it’s a straight port with nicer backgrounds although the controls can be redone to your comfort, which is a plus for hand-to-hand combat. The music is rad, too.
Recommended? Maybe. If you like action games, sure. It’s quite challenging.
3D Streets of Rage – Another Genesis game, this time a beat ‘em up game that can be played with two players. The 3D is serviceable; it can help with landing hits, and Yuzo Koshiro’s music is always welcome in my house. Includes a “Fists of Death” mode where you can kill enemies with one punch.
Recommended? Yes. It may not be Streets of Rage 2, but it’s still a fun game.
3D After Burner II – Another fun coin-op classic, you pilot a F-14 Tomcat and live out your Top Gun fantasies by soar through blue skies and blasting your enemies with a salvo of missiles. If you like fast aerial action with amazing 3D graphics, After Burner II will satisfy. With gyroscope, touch screen, and Circle Pad Pro support, it’s the definitive version of the game barring the original sit-down arcade machine.
3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros. – A port of the arcade shoot ‘em up, Fantasy Zone is both cutesy and challenging. Playing as the sentient spacecraft Opa-Opa, he flies through various worlds and shoots down baddies and bases until the boss shows up. Gold can be collected after gunning down baddies and bases and bosses. Assisting Opa-Opa are shops where you can upgrade him with better guns, better bombs, more speed and more lives, provided you have enough gold. Aside from the 3D graphics, additions include a coin stock for future games where you can buy the best weapons as soon as possible, a stage select, rapid-fire buttons, base markers to indicate where to find remaining bases to shoot, and Upa-Upa Mode, where you play as Opa-Opa’s brother with no shops and a different ending. You’ll have to unlock that last mode, though.
3D Fantasy Zone II W – Unlike the original game, Fantasy Zone II was originally released for the 8-bit Master System. However, this version is a port of a 16-bit arcade-style remake originally created for the PlayStation 2 SEGA AGES collection as Fantasy Zone II DX. M2 is just that cool. Fantasy Zone II W contains two parallel sets of levels that can be accessed through warp zones. With more levels you get a greater challenge. Bright levels are normal while dark levels don’t contain visible shops and are slightly harder. There is an endless mode, called “Link Loop Land” where you play as Opa-Opa’s brother Upa-Upa and you start out with a fully-loaded kit as you gun down baddies, bases and bosses for lots and lots of gold. Unlike the first game, you don’t need to unlock this last mode.
3D Out Run – Out Run is a “cruising” game, not a racing game. Like Super Hang-On, Out Run is developed with Super Scaler technology, which creates a pseudo-3D effect when driving down the road. This time, though, Out Run is true 3D and it’s beautiful. I’m a fan of the FM synth tunes you can select before each game and this version adds a few bonus tracks not present in the arcade original. You can also toggle between manual gear shift or automatic transmission. Clearing each route unlocks optional upgrades for your not-Ferrari. Yes, the car sprite no longer has the Ferrari logo and the chassis is slightly modified to not look like the Testarossa Spider, which is a shame but ultimately understandable because Sega no longer has the Ferrari license. It’s still an excellent game.
3D Thunder Blade – This is the arcade version and not the “Super” Genesis version. You pilot an attack helicopter and fire and bomb enemy tanks, aircraft and battleships indiscriminately. Since it’s a video game, things like innocent bystanders and war crimes are not an issue. The 3D effect is quite nice. Supports the Circle Pad Pro, which does make piloting the chopper easier, and gyro controls, which makes piloting the chopper harder in my opinion.
3D Gunstar Heroes – A run & gun platform game for the Sega Genesis that’s somewhat of a darling among Sega fans. Developed by Treasure, Gunstar Heroes is a fast and frenetic game with a wide variety of guns and a Mega Man-style stage select. Included in this version are 3D graphics, a Mega Life mode (you start with twice the vitality compared to the original), and Gunslinger mode that lets you cycle through all four guns with the shoulder buttons. It also supports two players.
3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – It’s Sonic 2, now in 3D. Also features the optional ring keeper mode (as seen on Sonic Mania) and Super Sonic mode, where you can play as Super Sonic without having to collect all the chaos emeralds.
3D Streets of Rage 2 – Kick all kinds of butt in this classic beat ‘em up game, with bigger character graphics, bigger stages, and more moves than its predecessor. The soundtrack is just as amazing as its predecessor, although some fans believe that’s debatable. Included is a casual mode and a rage relay mode, which lets you cycle through the four main characters between deaths as you play the game. It also supports two players.
3D Power Drift – An arcade racing game using the Super Scaler technology. You race against eleven other racers on crazy winding tracks and try to achieve third place or better, or else it’s game over. It’s a lot more hectic than the other Super Scaler racing games, and unlike the others, this one’s stuck in the Sega 3D Classics Collection. It’s a shame because Japan does have a standalone version on the eShop.
Recommended? Maybe. I personally found it disorientating.
3D Puyo Puyo 2 – This is the arcade port and another game that’s sold standalone in Japan but stuck in the Sega 3D Classics Collection in the West. It’s also Japanese language-only, but the system menus are in English so it’s easy to figure out regardless whether or not you know Japanese. An incredibly addictive puzzle game, you go head to head with opponents and pop Puyos using chains and combos until one’s side is filled with garbage Puyos. With the new offset rule, you can send back garbage Puyos provided you counter their combos with your combos, making it extremely competitive. Includes both local and online play, provided each player has the game.
Recommended? Yes. It sucks that it’s not a standalone game in western eShops though.
3D Fantasy Zone II (Sega Master System) – It’s the original Master System edition of Fantasy Zone II, ported with additional 3D effects. It’s a bonus game in the Sega 3D Classics Collection and is therefore not standalone. It’s neat, but the W version is superior in my opinion.
Recommended? Yes, provided you already own the Sega 3D Classics Collection.
3D Maze Walker (Sega Master System) – Another Master System game that’s included in the Sega 3D Classics Collection and also isn’t sold as a standalone version. What’s neat about this inclusion is that Maze Walker was originally one of those Master System games that supported the 3D glasses. Trek across labyrinths, discover weapons, fight monsters, and search for keys to move on to the next stage. Watching your player character jump in 3D is an amusing effect but it’s an extremely basic game. It’s a novelty and not much else.
Recommended? Maybe, provided you already own the Sega 3D Classics Collection. Otherwise No
These Sega 3D Classics are well-made and while not all of them are great, it’s cool to play classic Sega games anywhere, especially with the way that the 3D enhances some of them. You may be lucky to find the cartridge-based collection that was released at some point, and some of the games above are exclusive to that version, but even if you can’t find it, be sure to pick up what you can, while you still can. Remember, there’s only a year left before all of this is gone for good.