Commodore Amiga 1200
Year Released: 1992
Original Price: £399
Buy It Now For: £30+
Associated magazines: Amiga Format, Amiga Power, Amiga Action, Amiga Active, Amiga Computing, Amiga Force, Amiga Fun, Amiga Mania, The One, Total Amiga Why The Amiga 1200 Was Great: As the most powerful open-ended system, the Amiga had an army of developers who began life as bedroom programmers and risen to prominence. As such they were incredibly passionate about the Amiga community, and continued to create brilliant games long after it became apparent that the Amiga 1200 was on its last legs. Between 1994 and 2000, it felt special to be an Amiga owner because of the dedicated fans and developers who kept the dream alive.
In 1992, Commodore was an unstoppable force. Sales of the C64 were approaching 16 million units, and the Amiga 500 was everyone’s 16-bit computer of choice. Technology was marching on and Commodore was about to launch their next generation Amiga. The situation was looking rosy, yet few could have predicted that the Amiga 1200 would be Commodore’s last great computer.
The phenomenally popular A500 had been around for five years by 1992 and, as a games machine, was starting to look a little underpowered in comparison to the newest hardware, particularly the Super Nintendo. Always eager to stay ahead of the competition, Commodore launched two new Amigas with the intention of dominating the video game and business machine markets yet again. The Amiga 4000 was designed for the high-end market, and came with a 68030 or 68040 processor running at 25MHz, 6MB of RAM and a hard disk drive. The A1200 was designed for low-end users, and was the option that most gamers went for. It included a 68020 processor at 14.32MHz, 2MB of RAM and an optional hard disk. Like the A500 before it, the 32-bit machine featured several custom chips with real names rather than arbitrary numbers: Alice and Lisa controlled the AGA display, Gayle was a combined system address decoder and IDE controller whilst Budgie took care of the memory processes. Both computers were host to the AGA (Advanced Graphics Architecture) chipset that allowed 256 colours to be displayed simultaneously, and each one was backwards compatible with the old Amiga 500 games.
Despite the impressive specs, the A1200’s initial launch bundle, named Desktop Dynamite, did little to convince gamers of a significant leap in power from the A500. Though bundled software, like Deluxe Paint 4 AGA and Wordworth 2.0 AGA, showed off the excellent creative capabilities of the hardware, the bundled games were an insult. Oscar was a simple, bug-riddled platformer that took advantage of none of the A1200’s enhancements, whilst Dennis was another shoddy platformer based on an even shoddier kids’ movie. It did have the benefit of being AGA enhanced, but still looked incredibly poor and gave the wrong impression about the fledgling A1200.
Following the trend of the Desktop Dynamite bundle, many publishers were reluctant to develop AGA exclusive titles, as it would limit the sales to just those users with new machines. So for a couple of years most games were designed to work on the original Amigas, and only look slightly better on the AGAs. This soon began to change as more A500 owners upgraded to the A1200, and in November 1993 the first real AGA only game was released. Overkill was a Defender clone, with graphics that owed much to the Amiga’s skilled demo scene: each level featured several layers of smooth parallax scrolling, and used the A1200’s palette of 16.8 million colours to create backgrounds awash with trippy effects. Though its gameplay was nothing new and the sprites were a little lacking, Overkill showed that the new Amigas had definite promise and would soon go on to host some truly great games.
Later that year, everyone’s favourite Amiga developer, Team 17, unleashed the first AGA killer app. Alien Breed II was available for both Original Chipset (OCS) machines and AGA machines, but the AGA version was released first and featured several enhancements over its OCS counterpart. Each level used the A1200’s wide range of colours to draw subtlety different scenery, whilst the improved sprite handling capabilities allowed Team 17 to display several more aliens on screen at once. Although this made it the more difficult of the two versions, it did make for a much more intense experience.
Following Alien Breed II, the A1200 exclusive titles began to appear more frequently but it wasn’t enough to inspire impressive hardware sales. As a serious business machine, the Amiga 1200 was much more expensive than the 386 and 486 PCs, and as a games machine it lacked the wide variety of AAA titles that the Japanese consoles featured. Though the machine had some success in the animation industry (the Amiga was used to create the CGI in the first episode of Babylon 5, for example) and was popular with the hardcore fans, it didn’t stand head and shoulders above the competition as the A500 had. Though the A1200 was the second best-selling Amiga of all time, it still trailed far behind its predecessor…
Four Great Amiga 1200 Games
Read the full feature in Retro Gamer issue 22, on sale digitally from GreatDigitalMags.com
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