Shin’en GBA Racer [GBA – Prototype]

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 [2001] 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:



Iridion [GBC – Cancelled]

Shin’en Multimedia was founded in 1999 by coders from the Amiga demoscene.
Manfred Linzner, one of the founders, always had the desire to develop an horizontal shoot-em-up for the beloved Amiga computer but after just programming one stage the project was abandoned.
When the Munich based developer decided to focus to the Game Boy Color the idea of creating a shooter was still alive and they started work on it.
According to developer, Iridion was a horizontally scrolling shooter that pushed the Game Boy Color’s hardware to the maximum with never-before-seen (on the Game Boy) graphical effects.
With the help of its proprietary graphics, coding and music tools, Shin’en was promising some impressive technical feats, like 128 colors simultaneously on screen, smooth two-way parallax scrolling, multi-color overlay-sprites, 3D-rendered animation sequences and more elaborate music pieces than most other Game Boy titles.
The game was planned to have 8 stages, 9 bosses and 12 weapons to dispose the enemies with.
Anyway, after just an excellent one level demo, Shin’en, recognizing that original GBC games were almost impossible to market, dropped this project as well.

When Shin’en shifted their focus to the Game Boy Advance, Iridion was their first game to appear on the “new” system.
Iridion 3D was then released in 2001 for the GBA with commercial success and thus began Shin’en technical excellency on Nintendo platforms that continues to this days with the recently released Nano Assault for Nintendo 3DS.

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!

Images (GBC version):

Video from the final GBA version: