The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner

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The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner
3-D WorldRunner
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
Release date(s)
  • 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 Famicom and published by Acclaim for the Nintendo Entertainment System.[2]

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]

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.


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, or continues, remaining.

Basic controls[edit]

Because the game is set against a constantly scrolling screen, Jack's movement cannot be stopped, but using the game controller's directional pad, 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 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, Jack 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, Jack is armed with laser missiles regardless of whether the player had picked one up earlier.

Tasks, aids, and obstacles[edit]

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.

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 Jack, 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 Jack'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 Jack temporarily invincible; and the rare Cosmic Clock which resets the time counter. In addition, a Magic Mushroom is a negative item which kills Jack 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 Jack 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 Jack 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 Jack even higher into the air.

3D mode[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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.[6]

WorldRunner's soundtrack consists of eight tracks. The game was scored by Nobuo Uematsu.


The main reason for the development of the game was that Square owner Masafumi Miyamoto wanted to demonstrate Gebelli's 3D programming techniques.[7]


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.[8] The game is sometimes criticized, however, as a ripoff of Sega's Space Harrier,[9] which predated WorldRunner by two years. Vito Gesualdi of Destructoid named it among the "five most notorious videogame ripoffs of all time" in 2013.[10] 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".[11]

Commercially, the game was met with modest success, selling roughly 500,000 copies worldwide.[5]


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[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

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

External links[edit]