Codex Gamicus

3-D WorldRunner (also known by its full title The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner) is a video game developed by Square in . In Japan, the game was released on the Famicom Disk System as Tobidase Daisakusen, and was published by DOG, a now-defunct label of Square. The North American release, which was the first Square game to reach American shores, was published by Acclaim Entertainment, Inc. for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

In the game, the player assumes the role of WorldRunner (known in Japan as Jack), a wild "space cowboy" on a mission to save various planets overrun by serpent-like beasts. 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. 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.3-D WorldRunner was designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, Nobuo Uematsu, and Nasir Gebelli, all whom would later rise to fame as core members of the team behind the popular role-playing game Final Fantasy. The three also developed J, the sequel to 3-D WorldRunner.


3-D 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 WorldRunner, 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, or continues, remaining.

Basic controls[]

Because the game is set against a constantly scrolling screen, WorldRunner's movement cannot be stopped, but using the game controller's directional pad, the player can speed up or slow down WorldRunner'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 WorldRunner freely in all directions. WorldRunner's basic actions consist of jumping and firing missiles. Jumping is essential to leap over bottomless canyons and is also useful for dodging enemies. The player can execute a long jump by pressing the jump button and simultaneously holding up on the directional pad. Conversely, shorter jumps can be taken by holding down in conjunction with a jump. In addition to jumping, WorldRunner can also fire missiles to destroy enemies, provided that the player has obtained the missiles. By the time the player reaches the Serpentbeast at the end of any world, WorldRunner is armed with laser missiles regardless of whether the player had picked one up earlier

Tasks, aids, and obstacles[]

In each world, the player is free to travel in any forward-moving direction. The worlds are filled with enemies that attack WorldRunner 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 WorldRunner must leap over, are also present in each world, and at the end of each world is a Serpentbeast the player must defeat. None of the elements, items, or enemies in WorldRunner are randomized; instead, they are defined in set locations.All of the elements listed below appear in every world (the Cosmic Clock, Junior Jumper, and Super Jumper excepted), but not necessarily in every quadrant:Each world has different enemies, but some types of enemies are consistent throughout each world. The second world, Toro, introduces the indestructible Hand Man, a new type of enemy that doesn't hurt WorldRunner, but attempts to block his progress by shadowing his movements. As the player advances, the enemies of each world become progressively more difficult. Serpentbeasts appear at the end of every world and must be defeated to advance to the next world. The number of incarnations of a given Serpentbeast increases from world to world. In the first world, for example, the player must defeat one Serpentbeast, but by the eighth and final world, the player must face no less than six incarnations of the same Serpentbeast.Columns litter every world, and are important as they house items that benefit WorldRunner's progress (with the exception of the Magic Mushroom, which is lethal). Items in columns are obtained by crashing into them. Items include a Power Potion which allows to absorb one hit from the enemy; a Laser Missile; 1-ups; "Atomic Power" which renders WorldRunner temporarily invincible; and the rare Cosmic Clock which resets the time counter. In addition, a Magic Mushroom is a negative item which kills WorldRunner on touch.Super Stars are small items spread throughout each world that can be collected to increase the player's score count and Super Star count. When collected, each Super Star scores the player fifty points. The number of Super Stars accrues between each world's quadrant, but upon completion of each world the Super Stars are factored into the player's score count, divided at 200 points apiece. The Super Star count also resets upon death or game over.Warp Balloons are spread throughout each world, generally consigned to one specific quadrant. When WorldRunner latches onto a Warp Balloon, he is transported to a bonus quadrant, denoted in each world as quadrant B. Bonus quadrants are filled with Super Stars and columns with helpful items.Junior Jumpers are coiled springs that first appear in the third world, Caverno. When stepped on, Junior Jumpers send WorldRunner high into the air, and are essential for crossing some of the wider canyons. Super Jumpers are flattened in appearance, and serve the same purpose as Junior Jumpers, except they send WorldRunner even higher into the air.

3-D mode[]

Part of the appeal and selling point of 3-D WorldRunner was its "3-D mode," and it was the first of three games by Square to feature such an option (the other two being JJ, the sequel to 3-D WorldRunner, and Rad Racer). When the 3-D 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.It is considered difficult to find a complete copy of 3-D WorldRunner today, presumably because the glasses packaged with the game ended up getting thrown away by players. Indeed, copies of the game sold on eBay almost never include the glasses, even if the game's box, instruction manual, and dust jacket are all intact.


Reviews for 3-D 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. The game is sometimes criticized, however, as a ripoff of Sega's Space Harrier, first released as an arcade game two years prior to 3-D WorldRunner's debut. In an interview with NextGeneration Magazine, Sakaguchi admitted that he "liked Space Harrier," but said that the main reason his team made 3-D WorldRunner was to "show off" the 3D programming techniques of Nasir Gebelli. Commercially, the game was met with modest success, selling roughly 500,000 copies worldwide. Although the game left no legacy, the main star of 3-D WorldRunner made an appearance in Square's Chocobo Racing as the final secret character. In the game, WorldRunner goes by his Japanese moniker "Jack." The game also made Planet Virtual Boy's list of games they "would have loved to play on the Virtual Boy," and a mock-up box was created for a Virtual Boy version of 3-D WorldRunner.

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