Shin’en Multimedia is a development team that was known on Game Boy Advance for the amazing proprietary sound engine and the beautiful 2D graphics of its games (Iridion II, Maya The Bee Sweet Gold etc.). However it is little known that as early as 2001 they were testing polygonal graphics on the little Nintendo handheld with a top down futuristic racing game that resembles F-Zero.
Manfred Linzner, Shin’en co-founder, shared with us the following insights on their 3D engine and the GBA development in general:
We had at this time  a pretty fast 3d engine for flat and textured polygons on GBA running.
We used it in some menu parts in Iridion2 and for intros of our games. It featured 16 colors, 60fps, 1×1 resolution.
The major performance trick for all of our games and this 3d engine was to use the GBAs 16kb ram-scratchpad area to locate as much data and code there because it was much faster then the rest of the ram.
I remember that almost everything in Iridion2 was running in only this 16kb to get the speed we needed.
The rest of the RAM was used to store the background images.
Although the project was never completed because Shin’en had too much retail work to do at that time, a decade later the company released on Wiiware the jaw-dropping F.A.S.T. Racing League, a futuristic racing game with a Wipeout aesthetic but with a very personal twist on the gameplay department based on changing phase.
Manfred was so kind to dig out a 11 year old prototype to preserve its existence to the public. You can watch the video below, just keep in mind that being a “work in progress” build it has some glitches (most notably the sound). Also remember that the game target was the tiny GBA screen (240 x 160), so the graphics result stretched out on youtube.
Racer Prototype Credits:
- Graphics: Florian Freisleder
- Code+Audio: Manfred Linzner
This image from Iridion II show the icons composed by textured 3d polygons: