"When cryptography is outlawed, bayl bhgynjf jvyy unir cevinpl."
by Casper Falkenberg
I'm not really sure how to go about this. How do you review a
games console? You can't do any benchtests, you can't check out
the operation system, you can't talk about the user interface.
Therefore, this cannot be regarded as a review as such, but more
as a mixture of first impressions.
Being an Atari dealer myself, I just had to know what Atari
where up to, when they claimed that they had a 64 bit console on
their hands. So I called a few companies in England that were
supposed to be stocking genuine European versions of the machine.
It turned out that none of them had or had ever had any Jaguars
in stock. This was in February and the word on the street was
that Atari weren't going to supply the European marked till June.
A few hundred machines had been sold in the UK, but apparently,
many of them had been faulty. There was only one thing to do, if
I wanted a Jag here and now, and that was to get hold of a US
version - an NTSC machine. Now an NTSC machine doesn't work with
a PAL TV if connected through the aerial socket, but using a
SCART Euroconnector I could plug it into my RGB monitor, and it
would work just fine.
There was another problem I had to consider before buying a US
machine, and that was the question of whether or not Atari were
going to change the cartridge interface on the official European
versions of the machine. Sega had done this (one interface for
the Japanese marked and another for the European), so it was a
possibility not to overlook. I called Atari UK, and everything
was explained. The US and European version were going to be
completely similar except for the signal produced by the TV
modulator. Alas, there was no problem.
Two weeks later, my American Jag arrived...
I was quite pleased with the box. It wasn't the standard white
or brown Atari box with some sparse print in blue, it was black,
with a red Jaguar logo and the eyes of the beast itself staring
right at you. On the back of it, there were screenshots from some
games, of which most of them still haven't been released now,
three months later! Under the Atari logo on both sides, it said
"made in the the USA". A very smart move, as this is going to
sell machines in the States, where the consumers have been
flooded with Japanese hardware. All very nice. But hey, what's
this on the side of the box? What?!? Do I need a license to use
the machine? I thought I had bought it and that it therefore was
my property. Well, guess not. Behold, good old Atari paranoia. I
quote from the side of the box:
READ THIS BEFORE YOU OPEN THE BOX OR BREAK A SEAL!
You must carefully read the following terms and conditions before
using this product. By opening this box and breaking a seal, you
indicate that you agree to be bound by this license agreement
between you and Atari Corporation ("Atari"). If you do not agree
with the terms and conditions of this agreement, promptly return
the unopened box with the seals unbroken and proof of purchase to
Atari or the dealer where you purchased the product. The purchase
price will be refunded.
The hardware, software and accessories ("Products") include
protected intellectual property rights of Atari, including trade
secrets, patents, copyrights and trademarks, pursuant to which
your right to use Products is limited.
Atari grants you a limited license to:
(i) use the Products with authorized software and accessories
(ii) transfer the Products and this agreement to another
party if the other party agrees to accept the terms and
conditions of this agreement.
You may transfer the Products only in complete form
i.e. including all software, accessories and
documentation included in this box.
YOU MAY NOT:
(i) make backup copies of the Product or parts thereof;
(ii) rent or lease the Products or parts thereof;
(iii) copy, reverse engineer, disassemble, modify or make
derivative works of the Products or parts thereof.
The license is effective until terminated. You may terminate this
agreement at any time by completely destroying the enclosed
Products. This agreement will also terminate automatically if you
fail to comply with any term or condition herof. You agree upon
such termination to destroy the Products completely. No other
license is granted, expressed or implied.
If any provision of this agreement is declared void or
unenforceable by any judicial or administrative authority, the
remaining provisions of the agreement shall remain in full force
This agreement is governed by the laws of the place of purchase.
No way I'm gonna destroy my precious Jaguar!
You will have to agree with me that Atari have themselves
Back to the past.
I opened the box, and the Jaguar revealed itself to me in all
its glory. It's really a slick console, very futuristic in
design, very cyberpunk - not because it has all sort of flashing
lights or knobs or anything. On the contrary, it's so simple,
it's like a piece of furniture. And then it's so incredibly
light. How did they get all that wonderful hardware in there and
still manage to keep the weight down? The answer is to be found
in the box. An external power supply. Okay, I can live with that.
If you buy an American machine, keep in mind though that you will
need a plug converter to use the adapter in Europe. Fortunately,
I had some plug converters lying around, and with the aid of two
of them, it was no problem bringing power to my Jag. It doesn't
look very good, but it works! The Jaguar is currently bundled
with the game "Cybermorph". It's the only pack available, but I
suppose this is set to change. There have been rumours of Atari
wanting to bundle the Jag with "Alien vs. Predator", but the
developers seem to be having a lot of problems with this game and
it might not turn out as awesome as everyone expected. If Atari
asked me for advice (why should they?), I would say, without
hesitation and with a strong American accent: "Bundle this here
mean machine with that truly breathtaking game 'Tempest 2000'".
"Cybermorph" is the only software you get when you buy the Jag,
and other titles are expensive (around the £40-£50 mark in
Europe), so it will probably be the only software you'll have for
THE JOYPAD CONTROLLER
The Jaguar is supplied with a single analog joypad controller.
The console has room for one more, but several are possible using
a special adapter. The joypad has a "thumb controller" like the
Lynx, three major red buttons used for the main gameplay, a
universal pause button and one named "options". This, surprise,
surprise, is for changing the standard setup in different
software. Furthermore, there are nine small buttons arranged like
a numeric keyboard. You can reset the machine by holding down two
of these simultaneously.
An overlay for the "numeric keyboard" is available for some
games (including "Cybermorph"), showing the functions of each
button. It look really professional. A truly original and clever
idea that makes your joypad look different for each game you
Atari's joypad controller, which can be used with the STE and
Falcon as well, has been criticized by many. I don't understand
this. I'm quite satisfied with it. It fits your hands perpectlty,
it ergonomically correct and altogether it's just a pleasure to
use. I you have an STE or Falcon, get one and play "Rock 'n' Roll
Clams" from Caspian Software (or "Multi Briques" or "Llamazap"
when it finally becomes available, ED.).
THE INTRO SEQUENCE
Every time the Jaguar is turned on, an intro sequence is
initiated. If you don't want to watch it, you can press one of
the red buttons on the joypad to skip it. It looks very good
though, so you won't be skipping it much in the beginning. The
Jaguar logo zooms onto the top of the screen accompanied by a
very lively roar. Then some 3D letters roll into the bottom of
the screen forming the name "ATARI". A funny little "arcade tune"
is heard. Last, but not by a long shot least, a rotating 3D cube
appears at the middle of the screen, texture mapped on all sides
with the digitized true colour image of a real Jaguar. You can't
help being impressed.
After the intro sequence, it's on to whatever game you've
plugged in. A nice feature is the Jaguar's ability to write to
the cartridges. You can configure different standard paremeters
in your games like the volume of speech, music and effects and
then your own costumised configuration will be saved to the
cartridge, so it's there when you play the game again. Like in
Tempest 2000, "keys" for different levels can also be stored.
Cartridges plug in easily, and they don't fry if you accidentally
don't get them well in - the Jag simply refuses to power up.
All the technical details mentioned in the first hidden article
in ST NEWS Volume 9 Issue 1 seem to be correct, so I'm not gonna
repeat them in detail. You'll have to find them yourself.
The CPU of the Jag is actually an old Motorola 68000, but all
the exiting work is done by the two custom chips, Tom and Jerry.
Tom is the 64 bit RISC graphics processor and Jerry is the 32 bit
DSP which is used exclusively for sound and communications in the
Jaguar. The communications being whatever will be possible using
the DSP interface. Except for the latter, the two joypad ports,
the cartridge interface and the TV modulator connector, the only
other interface is the scart video interface.
JUST HOW GOOD IS IT?
I have only been able to test two pieces of software on the
Jaguar. These are "Cybermorph" and "Tempest 2000", and what can I
say? I'm impressed, take a look at my review of "Tempest 2000"
and you'll see that it oozes enthusiasm. But two games aren't
really that much to go by. The Jaguar is capable of much more
than games, and with the forthcoming release of a CD-ROM unit, we
will probably see other kinds of interactive software. One thing
is certain. The Jaguar can handle 3D graphics. Although neither
of the games show what the Jag can do with texture mapping, the
speed of both games, especially "Cybermorph", is amazing. Never
have vectors so big moved so fast!
In the sonic department, the Jag scores as well. I have never
heard such crystal-clear digitized speech in any other game as in
"Cybermorph", and it's being replayed, right there in the heat of
the action at a ridiculously high frequency, and the Jag can
handle it all without slowing down because of the architecture of
the hardware. For a complete description of "Tempest 2000", look
elsewhere in this issue of ST NEWS.
As I can only review the Jag by its software, I'll give you a
(very) small review of "Cybermorph" as well.
The game is supposed to resemble a game called "Starwing" on the
SNES. I have never played "Starwing" (actually, I have never
played anything on an SNES - or a Sega, or a PC Engine, or a Neo
Geo, or...), but I've seen screenshots, and I guess that they
look alike. "Cybermorph" is a 3D shoot 'em up, where you can view
the action from many angles, where your ship is in the shoot all
the time, or you can choose "cockpit view" where you don't see
your ship. You fly over a 3D landscape, and your aim is to
collect a number of probes. When the required number is reached,
you blast off to another planet. There are some awesome weapons
available, like a flame thrower (looks really good), a detonator
that can knock down entire buildings, heat seeking missiles and
bombs. A radar tells you where the probes are. Some of the
hostile crafts can pick up the probes and fly them to a pole that
drains their energy, which sooner or later makes them disappear.
The pole also appears on the radar.
All along the way your actions are commented by a sort of female
Max Headroom, the image of which first flickers and then appears
at the top left corner of the screen. It looks and sounds great.
Fly into a mountain side, and you will hear: "Where did you learn
In the intro to the game, there's even a little morphing thrown
"Cybermorph" succeeds in showing off a number of the Jaguar's
capabilities, and it's excellent bundleware. I still think
"Tempest 2000" would sell more machines though.
I might do a full scale review of the game, but I can just as
well give a verdict now:
Programmed by: Attention To Detail (A.T.D.)
Distributed by: Atari, bundleware
Visual effects: 10
Sound fx: 10 (mostly because of the speech)
Value for money: Not applicable as long as it's
Price: Free, you just have to buy a
Manifest: Cartridge, joypad overlay, 12 page
Hardware: Atari Jaguar (really!)
Comment: A game to impress your friends
with. It's powerful stuff.
The Jaguar CD-ROM unit is scheduled for release pretty soon.
August as a matter of fact. Rumours say that this isn't going to
happen and, knowing Atari, this is probably right. But it's going
to be exciting. Atari won't be able to sell the Jaguar as a true
interactive multimedia system unless there's a CD unit available.
I'm looking forward to some serious CD based software as well as
some great games, but very little has been revealed as yet.
The Jaguar is the best games console available and combined with
a CD-ROM drive, it'll go through the roof. It's a machine with
such great potential that surely even Atari can't go wrong with
it. For the first time in a long time, Atari are ahead of the
competition again, not only in value for money but in pure
Before buying my Jaguar console, I hadn't played a computer game
in a very long time. Now I keep coming back. If you consider
buying a games console, go for the Jag. It's really the only
right choice. It's a bit on the expensive side, but what you get
is no less than a real arcade machine in your own house. If the
software support is great enough, Atari will rule the games
console marked. That's it, finito. Now, go and buy your own
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.