One game developer tests an NES emulator that automatically converts the appearance of classic 2D Nintendo games, making them appear three-dimensional.
While 2D NES classics still have their charm, it’s not unusual for fans and professional game developersalike to try and find a way to improve upon them or upscale their graphics. In the latest endeavor, one gamer has developed an NES emulator that’s actually converting old 2D games into 3D.
The 3DNes emulator is currently in its beta stages, but the examples the creator has uploaded online are quite promising. Rather than recreating games from scratch, the emulator Geod Studio has developed appears to be creating the 3D stages by converting 2D pixels into 3D cubes. This creates a semi-three-dimensional space that the gamer can view from multiple angles. Surfaces appear to pop out towards the screen, backgrounds fall further back, and each object casts shadows onto the background, creating a neat optical illusion.
Not every game looks perfect at this point, as seen in the developer’s beta video below. Some of the 2D objects don’t quite convert properly, creating a marred appearance. For example, while the Contra title screen mostly looks three-dimensional and vibrant, the characters themselves appear blocky and difficult to distinguish. However, other games that look better are also shown, like a brief playthrough of Mega Man.
In addition to being in the beta stages of development, there’s probably another reason for the flaws. The developer hasn’t had to painstakingly convert all of the playable games themselves. The process is automated through the emulator they created, which can apparently play nearly any NES title, though they are currently working out some bugs in the beta stage. Gamers can pick just about any game for the emulator to play, although it’s currently only available as a web emulator and is only compatible with the Firefox browser. Whether the developer will find a way to get the emulator to more intelligently convert pixels or not is unknown, but it’s still quite an achievement even at this stage.
Two-dimensional games are still celebrated by gamers today, and many have set out to recreate old games in a three-dimensional format. For example, one gamer recently recreated Ash’s room for the original Pokemon games in the Unreal Engine 4, and other gamers have recreated entire game worlds within Minecraft. However, this is most likely the first time that games have been converted on the fly instead of recreating one asset at a time.
Although the emulator looks as though it has a long way to go, and playing or distributing ROMs is technically frowned upon legally, the technology behind this conversion is intriguing. The 3D conversion would be even better if Nintendo expanded upon the idea or worked with the emulator’s developer to bring this kind of technology to the 3DS. Re-releasing old NES titles for the 3DS and combining the developer’s concept with the 3DS’s stereoscopic technology could make for an even more impressive experience.