The Jaguar CD Has Landed

Something I haven't really mentioned here on Do The Math is the Jaguar CD,  the peripheral Atari released late in the Jaguar's life in order to make it appear more like a viable alternative to the Saturn and PlayStation. It was a little too late to save the Jag, and should probably have been made available long before it actually made an appearance, but that's ancient history now. The reason I've seldom mentioned the Jag CD is that I never thought I'd realistically be able to afford one, and everything I review or write about here is stuff I actually buy/own. This changed a few days ago when I managed to bag an unboxed Jaguar CD unit on eBay for a very reasonable price, complete with two games and a power adapter. 

As you can appreciate, I have looked into the Jag CD and know all about it, but was reluctant to put anything here on the site until I'd actually been able to play on one at length. As mentioned previously several times, I had a brief play on Iron Soldier 2 on CD at Play Expo last year but apart from that my experience with the unit has consisted of videos on Youtube and reading negative propaganda smeared all over the internet. This usually comes in one of three flavours (or a combination of the three):

  • The Jaguar CD is extremely unreliable
  • Most Jaguar CD units do not work
  • The Jag CD has no decent games

I've read these things over and over again on various sites but I was unperturbed and made the purchase. And now I've had it for a day, and managed to play on it quite a bit, I feel I am able to throw my hat into the ring.

Firstly, upon slotting the rather lovely looking Jag CD into my Jaguar base unit, I found that the system instantly sprang to life. Not bad for a system that doesn't work (and one that the Angry Video Game Nerd tried two of, only to be confronted with Red Screen Of Death on both occasions). Secondly, the system loaded both of the games up with no issues, and I played them both for some time with none of the issues other users have reported (freezing or resetting systems etc). It's actually quite interesting that my Mega CD 2 - a system that isn't really singled out for being buggy - has all sorts of issues with freezing and crashing etc, even when the CDs are perfectly clean and scratch free, and the lens has been cleaned.

The second issue I mentioned clearly wasn't an...erm...issue, as the thing worked perfectly. I've also read about certain Jaguar CDs making cartridge games not work either (there's a slot at the back for carts so you don't have to keep removing and replacing the Jag CD), but again I found this to be in perfect working order. I tried it with Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Dragon, Cybermorph and Attack of the Mutant Penguins (shudder), and they all played perfectly. I then went back to playing a CD game, and it loaded up with no hitches at all. I'm not saying that not one person has ever had a bad Jag CD unit experience, I'm just saying that this particular unit, that was manufactured almost 20 years ago and was sent to me in a box filled with polystyrene and delivered by Royal Mail (who are notoriously and meticulously careful with all the parcels they handle...) works as if it just popped out of the Philips factory yesterday. So take from that what you will.

The last point I mentioned up there (that there are no decent games), I can't really comment on as yet. The two games I got with my unit are Vid Grid and Blue Lightning, both of which were pack-in games for the Jag CD. They're both perfectly fine as far as pack-in games go and will be reviewed separately so I don't want to give too much away as far as my opinions go. There were only 11 official games released for the Jag CD which is pretty meagre by anyone's standards, but as for them all being shit...I'm not sure. I certainly want to play Battlemorph, World Tour Racing and Iron Soldier I guess time will tell.

So my initial impressions of the Jaguar CD then. Well, it looks really good for a start. It sits on top of the system in a really nice way, and even though it does look a little bit like a toilet and cistern when the lid is up and there's a cart in the back...a Jaguar with a CD unit installed is a thing of industrial-brutalist beauty. It also feels quite solid, as if it's made from quality parts, and there's not really anything inside it in the way of moving parts other than the drive less to go wrong (touch wood!).

You can probably tell I'm really happy with the Jag CD thus far and I'm not going to lie - getting one has been an ambition for a long time so my views are probably a little skewed at the moment. It's like I've met a childhood hero or something and I'm a little star struck...but once I get more games (or manage to burn some homebrew stuff that will actually boot), I'll let it be known how I feel about the gaming side of things...and that's what counts.