by Ryan Edwards
From the ashes of Atari rose a collection of ex-Atari
and 3DO employees including the legendary hippy, llama fan, Jeff Minter,
Bill Rehbock Vice President of third party development (had moved from Atari to
Sony but was tempted back) and Richard Miller, founder of the Nuon company
VM Labs who had been previously involved in the creation of the Jaguar. Around winter
1997 the company went public with plans for gaming hardware so
powerful and a business plan so revolutionary it would prove a "Mario
killer". Dubbed Project X, the plan was to integrate the technology into
the leading brands of DVD player as no extra cost, thus invading living
rooms by stealth.
Unfortunately a lack of support and funding resulted in
Project X (renamed Nuon) being curtailed when VM Labs went into receivership last
year. Consequently there is much confusion about what games are available
and the various models of Nuon available.
companies eventually joined the Nuon bandwagon: Samsung, Toshiba and RCA.
The SD-2300, a competent US model bearing the
quality you would expect from such a manufacturer has unfortunately an
extremely limited Virtual Light Machine of only eight different effects when
you play your favourite CDs. Apparently there was a fear of inducing
This company was the last hardware
manufacturer to release Nuon enhanced players. While the DRC300N is a
technically excellent model, it cannot play Nuon
enhanced movies or games.
far the most prolific
supporter of Nuon, it was the only manufacturer to release outside of the
US. As such the players have evolved and the latest models (the N series)
even come with an upgraded Nuon processor called Aries 3.
player was the Extiva DVD-N2000, though a good all-round DVD player capable
of the standard Nuon tricks such as 15x zoom without major blockiness (a la
Blade runner), as the first to reach the market it lacks compatibility with
certain formats (MP3, CD-RW).
Next to market was the US DVD-N501, an
upgrade in all respects to the N2000 aside from a low resolution
VLM. Samsung's final machines were the N591, N504 and N505.
2001 it was apparent that the Nuon market was not going to achieve anything
like mass market penetration so the unfortunate decision was taken that
these players would be released in extremely limited numbers, only from a
select number of specialist retailers and with the exception of the N504 would be without joypad ports.
The thinking for this last decision was that
as the games would not be released outside of the US (though the
games and joypads are available internationally from DVD 4 You) the
presence of such ports would create customer confusion.
The N591 was released for the Korean market, N504 in Switzerland which is a traditional
test market and the N505 for UK and Germany.
Let there be light
A much talked
about feature is the VLM 2. Designed by Jeff Minter, this is the second
version of his CD music reactive lightshow. It features greater responsiveness, more effects and a higher resolution over the Jaguar CD
original. The notion of a lightshow which Jeff pioneered has since been
copied by all the major manufacturers including Sony for its PlayStation
and within Windows Media Player. Interactivity can be achieved only with
models that feature joypad ports. The European models have more effects
than their US cousins given that Jeff took advantage of the time they took
to reach market.
It's time for Hollywood
first of four Region 1 films to be released with Nuon content, this 20th
Century Fox feature arguably attracted more interest in its special features
than the film itself. Elizabeth Hurley takes on the role of an attractive devil as a hapless fool stumbles through his seven wishes.
- Planet of
This Fox remake of the original classic where apes dominate over
humans is released as a two-disc special edition.
Nuon features include
enhanced chapter selection and special effect zooms. The first print of
these feature a broken link to the Nuon content, this was rectified on the
- Dr Doolittle 2
This remake features the comedic
talents of Eddie Murphy - the usual selection of competent, if not
astounding Nuon exclusive extras are there for your
- Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
This is an offbeat, black
sci-fi comedy by MGM
puzzler was the first Nuon game, available only with the N2000; it was
released later as a stand-alone product. An enjoyable distraction with
- The Next Tetris
This title is rare now
due to it only being available with the SD-2300. It is a basic version of
the classic featuring no bells and whistles and is one-player
- Crayon Shin Shan
Very little is known about this title as it
was only available with the Korean N591 and will only play on its native
machine. It is a platformer designed for children with rudimentary
- Space Invaders XL
This is an incredibly faithful
recreation of the classic with four of the original classics included. Nothing is updated so it won't impress your friends but
you may get sore
- Tempest 3000
Without a doubt this is the "must have" title
for Nuon and is an astonishing attack on your senses! Coded by Jeff Minter,
author of Tempest 2000, one of the Jaguar's finest moments, the graphics and
sound are unparalleled in their psychedelic glory. Edge rated
- Freefall 3050AD
This game produced by TAKS, is an original
3D concept where you must safely navigate your character around obstacles,
taking out enemies, while freefalling at great heights. Difficult to get
into but rewarding if you do.
- Merlin Racing
This is a Mario
Kart 64 style sequel by Miracle Designs, creator of Atari Karts for the
Jaguar. This one or two player game features races in a variety of
vehicles, with graphics superior to the N64.
- Iron Soldier 3
Eclipse, this mech action game is now in its third incarnation from the two
popular Jaguar originals and features impressive graphics and 5.1
sound. It is also the rarest title in its original, boxed form as VM Labs withdrew the game immediately after release because of suspected
incompatibility issues. The game was never re-released due to VM Labs'
financial problems, however, a number of "Demo" versions were kindly
distributed by Kevin Manne at Nuon-Dome.
have it folks, a whistle-stop tour of the crazy world that is Nuon. As you
have read, it was a product of great potential that was cruelly stunted. The DVD players, on the whole offer features above their peers and
vary from the mundane to the astounding. I have mentioned various
compatibility issues that need to be navigated around - a challenge for the
true Nuon enthusiast - so get hunting!
Note: RCA actually released two DVD players with the Nuon processor, the second of
which was the DRC480N which does do progressive scan via Faroudja DCDi.