New Video: 3DO FZ1-ODE Review

My latest video is this review of the FZ1-ODE for the Panasonic FZ-1 3DO console.

Back in 1994 your options for gaming were the Sega Genesis/SegaCD, the Super Nintendo, Turbografx 16 and DOS PC Games. These systems had their differences but for the most part they delivered very similar gameplay and graphics. The PCs were more powerful from a CPU perspective but 3D accelerator boards like the 3Dfx were years away.

Enter the 3DO. It arrived around 1993 with a pretty hefty $800 price tag but delivered a staggering (for the time) increase in gaming prowess. It did it all: outstanding 2D performance with a huge color palette, 3D acceleration, and the best video playback quality out of any of the CD based devices including the PC. But it was out of reach for most gamers.

Then in the fall of 1994 the price dropped in half to $399 along with the release of a reimagined Road Rash that looked amazing at my local Babbages. I had saved up some money over the summer and picked it up at the local mall during my freshman year of college.

As you can imagine my dorm room was pretty popular for the remainder of the academic year – at least until the following fall when the Playstation arrived here in the USA. Some of our favorite games included Road Rash, The Need for Speed (the original!), FIFA Soccer, Super Wing Commander & Wing Commander 3, and many others. They also had a few fun FMV game show games like Twisted and Zhadnost.

Many of the games don’t hold up well these days but it’s still fun to boot it up every once and awhile. The problem is that the optical drives on the aging consoles are not long for this world. Enter the FZ1-ODE – an optical disc emulator or ODE that allows games to be booted from USB sticks or SD cards.

Developed as an open source project by Felix Lazarev, it works as a drop-in replacement for the 3DO’s optical drive, using the same cables that connect it to the motherboard. The console thinks it’s a CD-ROM drive.

The FZ1-ODE dramatically increases load times – so much so it almost feels like a new console. You’ll also note some games like Need for Speed running a bit smoother as texture loading can happen much more efficiently. The ODE will also back up your save game NVRAM to the SDcard and allow for restoring it should you need to swap out the system’s save game battery. As a bonus the ODE’s menu has a killer soundtrack composed by the developer’s daughter.

At $250 it’s not cheap but for die hard 3DO fans it’s a must have. It’ll breath new life into your console and for many allow it to be playable again. Lazarev has an external model in the works for $100 more that will work with more consoles that have an expansion connector.