Atari’s console is unfairly maligned as one of the worst consoles of all time, a tag it doesn’t really deserve. It certainly wasn’t a perfect console, but it was still host to plenty of interesting games, particularly if you had access to its CD-ROM add-on. Here’s our guide to the first ten games you should consider buying if you start collecting for it.
The epic space opera BattleSphere (both normal and enhanced Gold versions) is a triumphant example of what the Jaguar is truly capable of. Filled with clever references to popular sci- fi creations, you choose one of seven known intergalactic races (including humans), before being placed in a fully 3D sphere of space and battling it out to become champion. Visually nothing short of stunning, the dynamic AI also impresses, and for a time was unsurpassed. It’s also one of the few games that supports up to 32 simultaneous human players over a network (although you’re going to have to find a convention in order to experience this. As a kind gesture, all profits from sales of the game were donated to charity. Special thanks to the Official Battlesphere Website for providing our images.
If you’re looking for a superb update of Defender, it’s this excellent offering from Songbird Productions that you should be searching out and not Jeff Minter’s Defender 2000. The graphics truly are stunning and feature some of the best 2D visuals we’ve ever seen on Atari’s 64-bit console, hell, any console from that period for that matter. Sound is also excellent, with a great array of sampled voices and some rocking tunes that perfectly capture the frantic on-screen action. Insanely fast, full of excitement and sporting some very nifty power-ups this is a perfect example of twitch gaming and deserves to be in every Jaguar owner’s collection. If you’re a fan of Eugene Jarvis’ original game or just love a good blaster pick it up. You’re not going to be disappointed.
Jeff Minter’s Tempest 2000 is justification-enough for picking up Atari’s ill-fated console. Beautiful to look at, incredible to listen to, witnessing Tempest 2000 in action is the equivalent of having a synapse explode in your brain, such is the impact of Minter’s masterpiece. Forget the incredibly poor port of the original arcade game that has been included and just concentrate on spending all your spare time with Tempest Duel; a gripping deathmatch for two players and of course, the stupendously good Tempest 2000. With new enemies, the ability to jump, a selection of smart power-ups, scintillating sound and those eye-melting visuals this is perhaps Minter on his finest form. Luckily this is one of the most common Jaguar games available, so it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Gorf Classic (CD)
The original arcade version of Gorf (covered in last issue’s High Score section) was developed by Jamie Fenton and released in 1981, featuring five progressive and very different levels, and also several digitised voice samples that heckled the player. The Jaguar CD port by 3D Stooges, which was created after the system’s death and rekindled the development community, has the honour of being the only arcade perfect port to home systems that has all five of the original levels (due to licensing issues, the 3rd Galaxians level was normally removed). Unfortunately, due to popularity and a low print run, this is now fairly rare and expensive on eBay, so if you intend to track it down make sure you’re carrying a full wallet. A fun, frantic shooter that you’ll return to again and again.
Iron Soldier 1/II
We’re mentioning both Iron Soldier 1 and II as they’re perfect examples of what the Jaguar and Jaguar CD could do in capable hands. Both titles require you to storm around in a huge mech and lay waste to whatever is foolish (or unfortunate) enough to get in your way. Each game feature expansive environments (although the CD version has greatly improved visuals and a storming soundtrack) a variety of well-structured missions and some of the most amazing explosions in any Jaguar game. Some may baulk at the slow pace of both games, but with so much to learn (Iron Soldier II boasts even more controls than the already comprehensive original) you’ll actually be glad you have some time to think.
Alien Vs Predator
Never mind the fact that Alien Vs Predator was released a good year after being a supposed launch title, it was a landmark title for both the Jaguar and first-person shooters in general, thus making it more than worth the wait. While AVP boasted spectacular visuals (which still impress today) it was the sound that truly impressed. With no music, creators Rebellion used a selection of screams, explosions and gunshots to punctuate the silence of each well-constructed stage. It was gameplay where AVP truly excelled though, and while the floaty controls could be annoying, the different attributes of the three main protagonists – human, alien or predator – and strategic gameplay more than made up for it.
The Jaguar and CD add-on were starved of traditional adventures and RPGs (the only other notable exception being Towers II, though that’s a fairly boring dungeon crawler). So adventures like Highlander, which was exclusive to the system, is something to get very excited about indeed. Based not on the films franchise (which was killed by three totally unnecessay sequels) but rather the animated TV series, you play Quentin MacLeod on his quest against rogue immortal Kortan. Controls are comparable to Resident Evil; you’re able to defeat enemies using fists, sword or a gun, while searching for items that allow progress. Highly recommended, the only problem is needing a MemoryTrack peripheral in order to save. A unique and enjoyable title that’s well worth tracking down.
Decent platformers are few and far between on Atari’s Jaguar, so when a title with the quality of Rayman comes along you can’t really afford to miss it. Originally created exclusively for Atari’s machine (it was later ported to the PlayStation and other consoles like the Saturn) Michael Ancel’s platformer still looks sumptuous and boasts some utterly stunning locations. Filled with layer upon layer of parallax scrolling and beautiful, hand-drawn sprites it’s an amazing technical achievement and perfectly shows off previous claims about the Jaguar’s 2D power. Despite the game’s toughness there’s no denying the adorability of Rayman and it’s little wonder that Michael Ancel’s creation is still appearing in games today. Indeed, Ubisoft has just announced a new title for Nintendo’s Wii.
Black Ice/White Noise (CD)
Black Ice/White Noise was not officially released due to being cancelled before completion; but since it was such an ambitious title and because the beta can be freely downloaded online, we thought it must be mentioned! Having read the full and unedited Jagwire interviews with the developers, its history alone warrants several articles. The team had a unique vision which today is comparable to a cross between Shadowrun without magic (or more accurately Neuromancer) and GTA3. Players would have been able to traverse a massive cityscape while completing missions, riding vehicles, shooting police, hacking computer networks, talking with NPCs, etc. Sadly, among other things, overly high ambitions killed the project.
Missile Command 3D
Despite the Jaguar’s VR Headset never getting released, Atari still saw fit to release Missile Command 3D, which featured a VR version of the game few Jaguar owners will have been able to play. Apart from this obvious oversight the VR version in particular is great fun to play and gives you a clear example of just how immersive the game would have actually been. Starting off in an underwater base, you’ll soon progress above ground and into space itself. All the while missiles are furiously raining down on you and despite the first-person viewpoint it perfectly captures the essence of the original game. Speaking of the original, Vituality also included it, but as with the Tempest seen in Tempest 2000, it was a far from perfect port.