Review by BClarke

Reviewed: 09/04/01 | Updated: 09/04/01

A much-maligned, under-appreciated 64-bit system

Atari Jaguar: despite Nintendo's claims to the contrary, the Jaguar was the first 64 bit console. The bus, memory and graphics of this machine were 64 bit, but the complicated architecture and lack of good documentation from
Atari made it difficult for developers to tap into that 64 bit power. Instead, you get a powerful game system with bad marketing but a few great games.

The Jaguar was released in late 1993, with the Sega Genesis, the Super Nintendo, and the Sega CD as its main competitors. The Sony Playstation would not be released for two more years.

From the beginning, the Jaguar was plagued by bad luck and poor marketing. A deal to have it carried by Wal-Mart fell through, leaving Atari scrambling to find another way to sell the product.

Atari did not provide developers with good programming tools or documentation. In addition, Atari made the fatal mistake of including a Motorola 68000 as one of the processors. The intent was that programmers would use this processor strictly for handling 'housekeeping' tasks (such as controller input, score handling, etc.) but programmers tended to rely on the familiar 68000 instead of the much more powerful but quirky RISC processors. This lead to quick ports of 16 bit Genesis and Amiga games, disappointing gamers who expected 64-bit games, not 16-bit.

Although it took some time, eventually good games started to appear for the Jaguar. Tempest 2K, Missile Command 3D, Iron Soldier, DOOM, Rayman, Atari Karts, Wolfenstein 3D, Power Drive Rally, CyberMorph, NBA Jam are among the more
popular games for the Jaguar.

The joypad is easily the nicest OEM controller I've ever used. Unlike the Playstation or N64, the Jaguar's controller is actually sized for adults instead of children. The directional joypad has a nice feel, and the
controller has a numeric keypad that did extra duty to provide additional controller input. This controller also has a nice heft and feel to it.

Finally the developers seemed to get a grasp on the complicated system in 1995. Some promising new games were being written that showed off the Jaguar's abilities, but by late 1995 the Playstation arrived and developers
saw the writing on the wall. Why work for underdog Atari when Sony obviously had deeper pockets?

Although at the time the Jaguar was seen as a failure, today its popularity has started to rise again. Several unreleased games have finally been released by 'homebrew' hobbyists, such as Songbird and ScatoLOGIC. Some of
these games, such as SkyHammer and Protector, show off the true power of this 64-bit console. The space combat game BattleSphere was finally released and has won a great deal of praise for its gameplay and impressive graphics, yet the programmers say that even this game only reaches perhaps
60% of the Jaguar's full potential!

Keep your fingers crossed: we may yet see even more great games released for the Jaguar!
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Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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