JagCorner Reviews Iron Soldier

Iron Soldier is a great Jag exclusive and I plan to cast my eye over it myself in the near future, but in the meantime (I know it's agonising waiting!), why not watch JagCorner's brilliant video review? Here you go:

Also - gotta say that the intro is fantastic!

Red Screen Of Death

Oddly, if you try to turn an Atari Jaguar on without having a cartridge inserted, the system will not power up. I'm guessing that the insertion of a cart completes a circuit or something, thus allowing power to surge through the console and illuminate your CRT screen with amazing 64-bit gaming awesomeness. Or something along those lines, anyway.

One of the more curious aspects of the console's design (apart from the almost unfinished look of the back of the console, complete with bare circuit boards for the SCART and Jag Link connector), is the total lack of a dust flap over the cartridge slot. Why, if the slot is so integral, does a dust flap not exist? One of the consequences of this design flaw is that sometimes, when you put a cart in, dust in the slot can result in a bad connection...and the dreaded Red Screen Of Death™

I'm sure every Jaguar owner has seen this on many, many occasions. The Jag roars, the logo appears...and then RSOD! Aaaaargh! Cue blowing in the cart and slot multiple times until the game loads up. Very annoying, but an integral part of being a Jag owner!

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

The only other fighting game I'd played on the Jaguar before this was Kasumi Ninja, so the benchmark was set pretty low. Obviously, I've played other fighters before but Jaguar ones are pretty few and far between. So how does Dragon fare? Well, it's superior to Kasumi Ninja - that's for sure...but then that isn't saying much. But to put it bluntly, Dragon is a bare bones port of a Sega Megadrive/Genesis game that adds absolutely nothing to the original. Even the graphics are identical, and while it is by no means an ugly game, if you were a Jaguar owner in 1994 and were expecting to see something a little, well, flashier on your new 64-bit console you'd be forgiven for feeling a little short changed.

Dragon follows the story of the Movie, which tells the life story of Bruce Lee, his emigration to the USA and the trials and tribulations he went through in a fairly racist society. Also covered is his life-changing injury and recovery and his eventual rise to movie icon and superstardom. The game kind of follows these events, but just has you fighting different characters who are meant to be from certain eras of Lee's life. The fighting is firmly planted in reality (for the most part, anyway) and so you won't be shooting fireballs at anyone. The fighting mechanics are actually pretty solid and all of the moves are (I believe) actual martial arts techniques. You acquire 'Chi' in a little meter under your health bar as you successfully kick faces in, and once you have enough Chi, you can modify your fighting style and even pull out a set of nunchucks to crack skulls with. The stages you fight in are all based on scenes in the Dragon movie, and for the most part look pretty good, if a little cartoony, and some of them feature separate areas where a fight will begin inside a building and then spill out into an alleyway. It's not like Dead Or Alive where you smash through walls or anything, but it's a nice touch.

So Dragon plays quite well and the animation is fairly smooth, and unlike Kasumi Ninja there's no delay between pressing a button and having the move carried out on the screen. The graphics, as I've already stated, are a little basic though. Sound-wise, everything sounds OK I guess - there are the usual stock thwacks and grunts, and occasionally Bruce lets out a fairly comical squeal...but there's nothing amazing here. There are a few rather odd things about Dragon, though. For example, you can't fight as anyone but Bruce Lee - even in 2 player mode. There isn't even a character select screen, and the stage select screen is just a list with an arrow. Also, you can play a 2 player battle against the CPU, where there are 3 Bruce Lees on screen all kicking each other's asses. Why? Who thought that was a good idea?! Very bizarre. You can also play through the story mode in two player as well, where 2 Bruces team up against a solitary opponent...again, it's just weird.

Dragon is much better than Kasumi Ninja but it still isn't really up to scratch. Poor visuals mar the fairly respectable fighting action, and a few odd design choices exist elsewhere. I haven't played Ultra Vortek, the Jag's other 2D fighter so I can't really compare Dragon to that, but from what I've seen it looks superior and has some interesting features. Hopefully I'll be able to compare it soon.

Brutal Sports Football

What would happen if you took a cool Warhammer-esque fantasy world and within that world also invented a 'sport' that played a bit like a mixture between football (by which I actually mean soccer) and rugby? With the added bonus of there being no actual rules in said game, other than 'get the ball in the goal'? Well, I'm going to guess that something a little like Brutal Sports Football might be the result. Sounds awesome, right? Big, muscle-bound dudes smashing the shit out of each other in front of massive, sold-out stadiums full of screaming, blood-thirsty fans; limbs being torn off as players attempt to get the ball in the net at any cost - even that of human life. Yeah...it sounds amazing.

In practice though, Brutal Sports Football is something of a confusing mess. Which is a shame, because I'm always up for a sports game that tries to do things a little differently. Look at Speedball - that was an incredible game that was based totally on a fictitious sport. How then, did Brutal Sports Football end up like this? First things first though. Brutal Sports, as I suggested earlier is a mash-up of footy (soccer) and rugby. Or American football, if that's your bag. You pick a team and head out onto the field and the only rules are that the team with the most points at the end of the game are the winners. You can use any means necessary to get the ball in the goal, and that includes using swords and bombs against your opponents. You can kick or pass the ball between team mates, and when on the defensive you can rugby tackle and stomp on downed opponents.

Again, as I stated earlier, the concept is great. The execution though is pretty poor. The frame rate is an issue as the game seems to jerk all over the place, and even though the character sprites are fairly detailed, all of the players on a team look identical. The biggest problem with Brutal Sports Football though, is that it's just a fucking headache to play - you can barely see the ball and the action is just plain confusing. You never know where the ball is and just passing between players is a chore. Add to this the totally imprecise 'shooting' method (ie - there isn't one) and you've got one frustrating game.

I really like the artistic style and the originality of the game, and the sound effects are great...but to be honest, Brutal Sports Football is one of those Jaguar games that makes you question the quality control department over at Atari. Well, the Atari of 1994, anyway. Time travel, eh? Funny old thing. Erm...

Tempest 2000

Along with Alien Vs Predator and Cybermorph, Tempest 2000 is one of the games that most people would associate with the Jaguar, and it really is one of the system's finest titles. Back when I had my first Jaguar console, I recall a few people telling me that I should get Tempest but upon seeing screenshots of it, decided that it looked a bit crap and that it wasn't for me. True story, that. It wasn't until earlier this year (yes, in 2013!) that I finally got the chance to play Tempest 2000 for the first time, and now I totally understand what all the fuss was about.

Looking at the shots even here on this very page, you may be thinking "Eh? It looks a bit...crap!" but oh how wrong you'd be my friend. You see, Tempest 2000 may look a bit ropey and surreal by today's HD standards, but to actually play it is a totally different kettle of fish - the graphics are merely a secondary aspect to what is really important here: the way it plays. And, truth be told, I actually think the abstract nature of the visuals hold a certain charm and definitely give Tempest 2000 an air of uniqueness.

The premise is simple - you control the little yellow 'ship' thing at the top of a 'web' that happens to be floating in a psychedelic version of the emptiness of space. From the other end of this web, all kinds of bizarre but deadly alien foes crawl up and you have to rotate around the web firing lasers and electric death (in the form of a Super Zapper) in order to stop them. This invariably leads to some pretty spectacular particle-based explosions, and when you've got an entire hoard of these nasties all being blown to bits at once, the screen can be literally filled with particles and explosions. It looks insane and only adds to the technicolour fun. Alongside this action, a thumping soundtrack belt outs and it really adds to the frantic nature of the gameplay.

Every few stages, the pace slows down a notch and the view switches to a first person perspective. Here, you have to guide the ship through floating rings to collect score bonuses while an ambient music track plays in the background. Miss a ring though (the sequence speeds up as you progress), and you get kicked back out into the main game.

The real beauty of Tempest 2000 is in just how addictive it is, and how easy it is to just pick up and play. Even if you've never held a Jaguar pad in your life, you could start playing Tempest 2000 with about 10 seconds of instruction and then be challenging for high scores. The secret to success is all about dexterity and reaction times because as the game progresses, the enemies become more numerous, the webs become smaller and the speed ramps up. You do have the chance to collect power-ups in the form of an A.I. drone that will circle the web firing indiscriminately, and you also have the ability to 'jump' off the web to shoot any baddies that may have gotten to the top and begin circling around until they get to you (and presumably eat your soul/brain?).

There are several game modes in Tempest 2000 apart from the '2000' version - there's the original (Traditional) game complete with basic wire-frame graphics (without all the particles etc) and also Tempest Plus that allows two players battle the alien scum (again with more retro visuals). To be honest though, I don't really bother with those, but it's a nice addition to the cartridge.

It may not look like much from the screens, but be certain that Tempest 2000 is one of the most frantic, addictive and downright fun games I've yet played on any system. I did have a little go on the soon-to-be-released TxK for the PS Vita when I visited Play Expo a few months ago, and I can honestly say I'm really looking forward to it. If Tempest 2000 is anything to go by, TxK will be more of the same and that can only be a good thing.

Incidentally, I also had a quick blast on the direct sequel, Tempest 3000 on the Nuon console Llamasoft had at Play Expo, and it too was pretty damn good. I probably won't be hunting down or paying through the nose for a Nuon any time soon...but hey, just thought I'd throw that nugget of useless information out there.

Val d'Isere Skiing & Snowboarding

'Tis the season to be jolly and all that, so I thought it was appropriate to have a look at a unique snow-covered game on the ol' Jag. The game? Val d'Isere, naturally. I actually have no idea how you would pronounce that name, by the way. One video I saw on Youtube had a guy who pronounced it "Valley of Desire." How close that is, I don't know...but sounds feasible to me! Especially if you're the kind of gamer who desires decent Mode 7-style graphics and a bucket-load of courses to snowboard and ski down...! I'm here all week, folks.

As the name suggests, Val d'Isere is a snowboard and skiing game, and I must admit to having played a few of these in the past. 1080 and Snowboard Kids ("Yay!") on the N64, Snow Surfers on the Dreamcast and SSX on the PS2 spring (slalom) to mind instantly. Before those though, I can't actually remember playing any others. So chronologically at least, Val d'Isere is the earliest snowboard and skiing game I've played. Chronologically as in 'when it came out' as opposed to 'when I played it,' you understand. Otherwise I'd have to have invented time travel, and if I'd achieved that, would I be sat here writing this now? No. I'd be stood behind Steve Jobs in his garage looking over his shoulder and taking pictures of his technical drawings. But I digress.

The first thing I noticed about Val d'Isere was the snow-covered Jaguar logo on the box:

Debatable. The yellow bit, I mean.

How cool is that?! The second thing I noticed was that Virtual Studio (the developer) likes to plaster it's logo all over everything. Seriously, every loading screen and advertising board is just the Virtual Studio logo, with the exception of a bit of FILA advertising. To be honest, I can see why though - Val d'Isere is one fairly technically impressive title for the time, and maybe they were trying to get Atari to take notice of their game engine. Granted, out there on the piste there's not much for the Jag to render (look at the draw distance for goodness sake!), but what we do see is finely rendered and the whole thing moves at a tremendous pace. The courses undulate smoothly and sprite-based trackside objects whiz by at a phenomenal rate, and this kind of game makes me believe a port of the 3DO's Road Rash could probably have been done on the Jag...as a cart. No, really.

Controls are pretty much identical regardless of whether you race as a 'boarder or a skier, and the courses all look much the same, but the music is rocking and the speed is immense. The framerate never stutters and even though it can be annoying (why can't I do any tricks?!), the number of courses and the myriad options make Val d'Isere a fantastic addition to any Jag gamer's library.