Virtual reality as we know it today was a distant dream in the '90s, but as we all know that hardly stopped companies from trying to get as close as they could. Sega was one of those companies, and it poured work into a Sega VR headset add-on for the Genesis that never came to market. Now, thanks to the Video Game History Foundation (VGHF), we can actually play a Sega VR game on modern VR hardware.
Rich Whitehouse documents the conservation work that he and Dylan Mansfield did on this Sega VR project over at the VGHF's official website. Mansfield, of preservationist group Gaming Alexandria, got in touch with one of the makers of Nuclear Rush, a first-person action title that was actually shown off to press and retailers in 1993 with Sega VR's showing at CES.
Futurescape Productions co-founder Kenneth Hurley responded to Mansfield's question about Nuclear Rush with an amazing find: a CD-ROM copied in 1994 containing all the source code to Nuclear Rush. With no actual Sega VR hardware out in the wild (at least, not any that we know of after 25 years), the journey from source code to playable VR build isn't the simplest one.
Whitehouse goes into extensive detail on how he managed to get Nuclear Rush up and running on an HTC Vive, but if you just want to see what the game looks like, you've got two options. If you're without a PC VR headset, you can just watch Whitehouse's demo video. If you do have a headset compatible with OpenVR, however, the VGHF has links to the necessary VR-ready emulator and the Nuclear Rush ROM.
Nuclear Rush running at 15 frames per second is "a lot more playable than [Whitehouse] expected," so I'm thinking I may have to give this one a try just to see the best VR that the Genesis had to offer. One thing I will say is that the Sega VR prototype (pictured above in an ad archived by the VGHF) has a way cooler look than any of the commercially available headsets on the market today. Companies like Valve, Sony, and Oculus might be supporting better software today, but they could all take some style pointers from Sega.