Following on from the last instalment of The Last Official Release in which the Panasonic CD-i was featured, I thought it would be fitting to delve into another facet of Panasonics gaming endeavours.
While Panasonic did manufacture the console known as the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, it was not of their design. That belonged to one Trip Hawkins, who you might know as the founder of Electronic Arts (EA), who conceived a design that was to be licenced out to third-party manufacturers.
Starting in 1993, Panasonic was easily the biggest producer of 3DO’s (at the same time they were invested in the CD-i) but there were also variants available by Sanyo and GoldStar (which was later known as LG). While the 3DO was similar to the CD-i in some respects (like FMV video being common) the 3DO was much more a gaming machine, rather than focusing on a broad ‘multimedia’ spread.
Unfortunately, the 3DO was released during a period where there was a large scope of consoles available. With so much competition, it was hard for something new to gain ground – heavyweights like Sega and Nintendo instead reigned supreme with Sony later solely enjoying their newfound success.
While the 3DO had decent hardware for the time period, it saw discontinuation in 1996. This was due to a mix of a high price (it launched for $700 in the US), lacklustre software support compared to the competition and manufacturing woes due to the fact that there was no central producer. This caused issues with things like marketing too, and likely consumer confusion. Ultimately, it was an interesting experiment to licence out the design but not one that could succeed in a mid-nineties gaming world.
So, what was the final game? Well, for this episode of The Last Official Release, I’m going to do something a bit different. The actual final game differs from the one I’ve referenced in the title. Ide Yosuke Meijin no Shin Jissen Mahjong was the real final release – experiencing daylight on the 28th of June, 1996 – but an obscure Japanese-only mahjong game doesn’t make for that interesting of an article. I assume that most of the audience here is Western too (although a big hello to the readers who are not!) so with that noted, I’ll focus on the final European and American releases instead.
Europe was the first to knock-off; Shockwave 2: Beyond the Gate was released on the 5th of January, 1996 (although many sources claim December, 1995 instead). A sequel to a 1994 game with the same name, Beyond the Gate was again a flight combat title based in open-world environments. The player takes control of either a ‘fighter’, a hovercraft or a fixed turret and the aim is to blast alien scum and steal their technology so your crew can escape from an uncharted star system. As with most 3DO releases, there is plenty of FMV with questionable acting integrated throughout the game. You can check out a gameplay video here.
Sadly, Beyond the Gate didn’t do very well in the real world. The game didn’t sell, so EA cancelled all ports it had planned for other systems. However, the Mac version was all but complete, so EA sold the publishing rights to Aztech New Media. It never saw its own release but was part of a compilation called the Mac Pack Blitz.
Travelling across the pond, the final 3DO game to see release in America was Creature Shock, shipping on the 19th of March. Based in a future where Earth is overpopulated, humanity starts contemplating colonization options. Skipping the often-considered Mars, a spaceship named the Amazon instead investigates Jupiter and Saturn only to go missing at the end of its mission – leaving nothing but a distress beacon. You play as the rescue mission, and bam – aliens. Obviously, the aim is to then kill as many as possible – pretty standard 90’s sci-fi fair.
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Released on all the big platforms at the time starting in 1994, the CD-i, Saturn, PlayStation and MS-DOS all saw ports. Another port planned for the Jaguar was also in development but was eventually cancelled due to low interest. Evidently, Creature Shock shocked hardly anyone and received lukewarm reviews across all systems. Relying heavily on FMV, the on-rails shooting segments were considered slow and boring. These were split between controlling a spaceship and being on foot, but it was a textbook example of a game relying too much on pretty visuals. The 3DO version was particularly criticised for the slow mouse pointing which was how the game controlled. This led to frustrating combat as the player couldn’t aim at the enemies quickly enough.
It’s a surprise it was released on so many consoles then, and kind of sad that it was the 3DO’s swansong if we’re not including the Japanese mahjong game. Although, it appears many would have rathered that over Creature Shock if the reviews are to be believed.
Previously, on The Last Official Release:
CD-i – Solar Crusade (1999)
Atari Lynx – Super Asteroids & Missile Command (1995)
N-Gage – Civilization (2006)
Fairchild Channel F – Alien Invasion (1981)
Atari Jaguar – Worms (1998)
Virtual Boy – 3D Tetris (1996)
Sega Saturn – Undefined Japanese Game (2000)
Intellivision – Spiker! Super Pro Volleyball (1989)
Super Nintendo Entertainment System – Metal Slader Glory: Director’s Cut (2000)
Sega Genesis – Frogger (1998)
Sega Master System – Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge
Game & Watch – Mario the Juggler
PS1 – Schnappi: 3 Fun-Games
N64 – Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3
Game Gear – The Lost World: Jurassic Park
NES – The Lion King
Atari 2600 – Klax
Game Boy – Shikakei Atama o Kore Kusuru: Kanji/Keisan no Tatsujin
Dreamcast – Karous