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System Review #2: Atari Jaguar

Be sure to check my Neo Geo Pocket Color review here. Ah, the Jaguar.This is a system that is very hard to gauge, because it is from what I like to call the “tweener generation”. It came a bit too late for the Genesis/SNES/Turbografx-16 heyday, and a bit too early for the N64/Saturn/PS1 generation to really get going. In my eyes, the Jaguar's chief competition was the 3DO, the CD-i, the Apple Pippin, and the SEGA 32X, regardless of any official cIassifications and what-not. When people make forum topics discussing “the worst console of all time”, the Jaguar is invariably mentioned. I am of the opinion that the people who think the Jaguar is the worst console ever have never played one. It isn't the best console ever. It's not even a great one, but it's far from the worst. Now, to get this review going. -History- The Atari Jaguar was released in 1993 to a lukewarm commercial reception, chiefly due to poor marketing and the lack of a franchise with instant brand name recognition (no Atari equivalent of Sonic or Mario). Atari had also lost a considerable amount of the public's trust due to the commercial failures that were the 5200, the 7800, and the Lynx. It was officially discontinued in 1996, but it was dead for all intents and purposes as a commercial system long before that. But today the Jaguar enjoys an active homebrew community and a rabidly dedicated fanbase. There are even games still in production for the system today, with at least five releases on the horizon.

-Hardware-  The Jaguar was a rather ugly piece of hardware, but it has a certain appeal. I've actually grown fond of the look of mine in the short time I've spent with it. The cartridges are actually some of the prettiest I've seen, second only to the glorious and massive cartridges of the Neo Geo AES. Here is a sample Jag cartridge:  But aesthetics aside, I'm sure you're wondering what the system has under the hood. To put it simply, it has beautiful 2D graphics and somewhat primitive 3D graphics. That's not to say that some of the 3D games don't look good for 1993, because they do. Here are some screens from some good-looking Jag games:      Keep in mind that all of these games look better in motion. -Controller-  Wonky and stupid looking? You bet. But it's actually surprisingly functional. The Jag controller catches a lot of heat, but again I think that the largest critics are those that haven't spent a lot of time with it. Most of the gaming is done on the d-pad and face buttons, which are all very tight and responsive. Not much different than your SEGA Genesis pad. But you're probably wondering what the number pad is all about. Well, it's actually a much better idea than it looks to be. You can use it for quick-saves and map viewing, like in Wolfenstein 3D (pressing one saves to file one, two to file two, etc). You can also use it to change weapons in other games (button one is your pistol, two is machine gun, three is shot gun, etc). When the number pad is used, it's surprisingly effective. As for the feel of the controller, I actually like it. It's rather comfortable and feels like it was built for the hands of an adult, rather than those of a small child.

-Software Library- Now we get down to business. The Jaguar has three outstanding FPS games in Alien vs. Predator and the two best console versions of the original Doom and Wolfenstein 3D games. They hold up a lot better than you might think, and they're still a lot of fun. As far as platformers go, you're set. Rayman is an absolute masterpiece. Zool 2 is a great game, Soccer Kid (newer homebrew title) is an awesome and original title, and Bubsy is at least decent. You've got two solid puzzlers in Evolution Dino Dudes (think Lemmings) and Zoop. Both are fun time-wasters. The Jaguar has a rather respectable library of arcade shooters. It lacks anything truly outstanding beyond Tempest 2000 (which rules ass), but Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy, Defender 2000, Raiden, Missile Command 3D, Total Carnage, and Worms (!) are all solid. After that, the library gets thin. There are some standouts here and there, but the rest of the genres are rather poorly represented. There are no RPGs to speak of. But there are two quirky and fun sports titles in Atari Karts and Brutal Sports Football (football+swords=AWESOME).Sensible Soccer is good if you like the sport (I personally do not). You've also got two competent pinball games and NBA Jam to work with. Iron Soldier and Ultra Vortek round out the group of titles that are worth a purchase. Iron Soldier is a well designed but slow-moving mech game, and Ultra Vortek is a respectable fighter. -Extra Features- Here's where it gets fun. First you've got the JagLink, which lets you link Jaguars together for multiplayer goodness. Doom supports it, and BattleSphere even supports 32 players. If you know someone else with a Jaguar, you're in for some fun. The Atari Jaguar CD is worth a mention. While it did have a few good commercial games worth owning (Myst, Dragon's Layer, BattleMorph, and Blue Lightning), the homebrew is the reason to own this system. Most of the homebrew games that small-time developers make are on this format due to the fact that CDs are much easier to mass-produce than cartridges (though some homebrew games ARE available in cartridge format). There are actually some pretty good homebrew titles available, and I like to support indie developers. It also has a rather fun use as a VLM (virtual light machine). When you play an audio CD in the system, a light show appears on your screen in synchronization with the music. As you can see here, the VLM built into the firmware of the Jag CD is actually more advanced than what you get in iTunes or Windows Media Player. There are also some other accessories like a TeamTap (allows for more than two players), a CatBox (allows you hook up the Jag to headphones or a computer monitor, among other things), and various other things you would expect a console to have. -Verdict- The Atari Jaguar is a much better console than I expected when I first plugged it in. To put it simpy, there's a reason that the system has such a rabid fanbase and homebrew community. But the system is definitely not for everyone. While some of the great games are rather cheap (Doom, Wolfenstein, Rayman, Zool, etc), others, specifically the homebrew and independently-published ones (Worms, Soccer Kid, and Total Carnage) are very expensive. The system goes for about 65 dollars without any games, and it's worth that price even if you don't plan to shell out the big bucks for the Jag CD and the cartridge homebrew titles. If you DO plan on getting the Jag CD and supporting indie devs, the Jag is worth every penny and more. You can find the system for very cheap when people don't know what they've got. I see them on Craiglist for less than fifty dollars for time to time, and I know someone who only paid ten dollars for his. The Jaguar is a solid system. Not worthy of mention among the best, but certainly not the worst. If you like arcade shooters, early FPS games, and 2D platformers it's worth the money. If you don't, then stay far away from the Atari Jaguar. Overall: 7/10.

System Review #1: Neo Geo Pocket Color

Sandwiched in between the massive juggernaut Game Boy Color and massive juggernaut Game Boy Advance, there was a little handheld from SNK by the name of Neo Geo Pocket Color. It didn't get a lot of attention, but it was a truly outstanding system. I'm going to break down the system's features and tell you what you need to know. -History- The Neo Geo Pocket first released to the Japanese market in 1998. It featured a monochrome display and a sleek design. It didn't enjoy the sales that SNK had hoped for, so it was discontinued when the Neo Geo Pocket Color debuted in 1999. It was essentially the same system, but with a color display. The Pocket Color was a much bigger success, selling two million units worldwide. It might have sold even more, but it had to be discontinued due to internal issues (read: running out of money) at SNK. -Hardware-  The Neo Geo Pocket Color was supposed to be competing with the Game Boy Color. By comparison, the NGPC had some very, very impressive specifications. Its graphics fall well short of the Game Boy Advance, but they're well ahead of the Game Boy, Game Gear, Wonderswan, or Lynx. Here are some screen shots of some of the better-looking games for the system:     Another unique feature of the system was its joystick. The system featured an eight-way control stick that still hasn't been surpassed by a mainstream handheld. Much better than the PSP's nub. It's precise enough for games like Sonic, but it also locks into place well enough for 2D fighters like Fatal Fury. Just so there is no confusion, the system is NOT backlit. It does, however, have a very nice screen that is very easy to see. Definitely the best visibility of any non-backlit handheld. -Portability and Convenience- The system is very portable. It's roughly the size of a Nintendo 64 cartridge, and the games are small enough to carry around but big enough that you won't be worrying about misplacing them. This system will definitely ride comfortably in your pocket. Perhaps the most amazing part of this system, from a hardware perspective, is the battery life. You'll get 40 hours (yes, you read that right) on two AA alkaline batteries. That's more than twice the battery life of its target competition. You can squeeze even more life out of it with 2500 mah NiMH rechargeable batteries. -Software Library- This is the most important part of any system, and it is also where this system shines. It has everything you would expect from a Neo Geo system, and nearly everything makes the transition to the handheld in a great way. It is still perhaps the only handheld to get fighters right on a consistent basis. You'll find great fighters like The King of Fighters R-1, The King of Fighters R-2. Last Blade, Fatal Fury First Contact, Samurai Shodown 2, and SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium (which is probably the best handheld fighter ever. It received a 10 from IGN). What would a handheld be without a flagship 2D platformer? Well, the NGPC has this covered too. Sonic Pocket Adventure is one of the best games in the series (also receiving a 10 from IGN). It's got a lot of content based on other Sonic games, but the level design and boss fights are all new and improved. RPG and dungeon crawler fans aren't left out either. Dark Arms, BioMotor Unitron, and SNK vs Capcom: Card Fighters Clash are all quality titles. You can also find other great games, like an arcade-perfect translation of Pac Man and a pocket version of cIassic puzzler Bust-A-Move. And what do you think about when you hear "Neo Geo"? That's right. Metal Slug. Two outstanding Slugs appear on this handheld in the forms of Metal Slug 1st Mission and Metal Slug 2nd Mission. The frantic arcade action we all know and love is not lost in these two original SHMUPs.

-Extra features- In the off-chance that you know someone else with this system, you can play games together via link cable. If you turn the system on without any games, you can mess around with fun little features like a calendar, a world clock, a daily horoscope, and an alarm clock. It will even wish you a happy birthday. The system is region-free, so you can play any game from any region on any NGPC. One other notable feature is the system's ability to link up with a Dreamcast. Some Dreamcast games have bonus features that can be unlocked with the NGPC, much like the Gamecube was able to link up with a Game Boy Advance. -Verdict- Enough cannot be said about this outstanding little handheld. It has a great (if small) library, it's very portable, it has outstanding battery life, and it's very cheap and easy to find. I purchased the system along with 24 games, all brand new, for less than 100 dollars. If you check Amazon, eBay, and Neo-Geo.com you can probably find one for as little as 20 US dollars used. There really is no reason for you to pass on this one. Final score: 9/10

I'm going to start doing platform reviews.

I'm going to start a new blog series, wherein I review a video game console. I'll tell you what the hardware is like, the best titles for the system, what the controller is like, which peripherals are worth a look, and whether or not the console is worth a purchase. I'll only be doing consoles from last generation and before, since it would be unfair to review a platform which is still getting games and accessories. Here are the reviews I have in the works: Neo Geo Pocket Color SEGA Master System SEGA 32X Atari Jaguar 3DO As you probably noticed, I'm focusing more on the lesser-known and less popular systems. All of you should know about the Genesis, Super Nintendo, Saturn, Dreamcast, Gamecube, Xbox, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and other such systems. Other systems which I may review down the line: Atari Lynx SEGA CD (though you'd be better off checking out Panzer_Zwei's blog archive for this one) Turbografx-16 Neo Geo

Boxing is a superior sport to MMA.

First of all, I'm a fan of MMA. I enjoy watching it. But I absolutely hate the majority of the MMA fans. It's ridiculous. They seem to think that a professional MMA fighter (UFC, Pride, etc.) would beat a boxer in an MMA match. The general thought goes like this: "A boxer would win in a boxing match, but they would lost in an MMA match because they don't have the wrestling/kickboxing/jiu-jitsu/muay Thai/karate training required to keep up." That's idiotic. Boxers are world cIass athletes. They're champions and they're Olympians. The average 25 year old boxer has been training ten hours a day since he was ten years old. They eat, sleep, drink, and live boxing. A boxer's skill is so far superior that he doesn't need anything else. An MMA fighter would never be able to get a boxer on the ground. They'd run into a right hook and be knocked out, period. You're insane if you think you'd be able to kick Floyd Mayweather or Sugar Shane Mosley in the head. Boxers can't even punch them in the head. A punch is much faster than a kick, and these men have been training to throw and avoid punches their entire lives. The second the MMA fighter tried to kick the boxer, he'd be open and he'd be knocked out. MMA fighters aren't used to fighting someone with the strength, speed, and stamina of a boxer. Do you know why MMA fighters use such a variety of techniques? Because they're not good enough to specialize in any of them. That's why Oscar de la Hoya is pulling in 30 million dollars a fight, even in the pathetic state of professional boxing, and many MMA fighters have day jobs. And don't come in here with stories of boxers who'd been retired for ten years coming into MMA and not dominating. It should say enough that someone who became famous beating people up in his backyard on Youtube can compete in MMA. Tyson? Ali? Frazier? Forman? Marciano? Liston? Robinson? Those men would literally KILL the best MMA fighters in their primes. George Forman once punched a 220 pound man in the gut hard enough to lift both of his feet off the ground. What would he do to one of these clowns with those tiny gloves?

SoulCalibur IV is the best example of casualization I've ever seen.

It's the same game that we all played on the Dreamcast. Those animations and movesets are nearly identical. It just has shinier graphics, a worse frame rate, larger rings to help noobs avoid ringouts, and ridiculously large breasts and gimmick characters. And people criticize Nintendo for "casualization". I've never seen a better example than with SoulCalibur IV. I seriously don't understand how people can be excited for this garbage. It's the same game, but instead of advancing the gameplay they've decided to try and attract awkward 13 year-old boys by increasing the size of every female character's bust and throwing in poorly made Star Wars characters. And don't even act like the larger rings aren't a big deal. In a game like SC, it's very difficult to stay in the ring when your opponent links together combos. This is just one less thing the gamer has to worry about, taking a whole dimension of depth away from a game that is already full of cheap combos and unbalanced characters (not that I don't like the original SC; it's actually one of my favorite Dreamcast games). Excuse me for expecting Namco to improve upon the formula of a first-generation Dreamcast game eight years later. They've actually gone backwards. SoulCalibur went from a respectable series in the vein of a Virtua Fighter to a novelty like Mortal Kombat. Save yourself 50 dollars and get the XBLA version of SoulCalibur 1.

Giant Bomb is terrible.

You heard me. It's just plain bad. The community if awful. It's full of people talking about how great the site is, and how much Gamespot sucks, and how awesome Jeff is. Then we have people testing how far they can go without being moderated. On the whole, it reminds me of Xbox Live. Full of twelve year-olds and elitists. The organization sucks. The main forum page displays topics from every board. There are only two boards worth posting in. "General" is far too broad for everything going on in the gaming industry today, so things get cluttered. Beyond that, the main part of the site is just a bunch of blogs and lists. Navigation is a chore. Finally, it's painfully slow. I know it's because the servers have to work so hard because of all the people, but it's basically unusable. Giant Bomb sucks, and it sucks hard. And no, don't give me that "It's teh brand noo!" garbage. If you can't compete, you can't compete. It sucks now. Call me if it doesn't suck some time in the future.

I think the Board is fixed. Maybe.

You Board members out there have probably noticed how badly the forum has been failing in the past week. Well, I whined to the asses at customer service for four straight days and things have been pretty stable since about Midnight Mountain Time. I don't want to jinx it, but I think everything is alright. It's safe to come back now. Sorry for the sucktitude.

About the anger concerning Sonic and the Black Knight...

People seem to be really angry at SEGA for making Sonic and the Black Knight, and I can't figure out why. Is it an incredibly stupid concept? Of course. But guess what else is a stupid concept for a Sonic game? Arabian Nights. You know, Sonic and the Secret Rings? The concept behind that game was just plain asinine, but it turned out to be the best 3D Sonic game since the Dreamcast. Am I saying that this Sonic game is a guaranteed good game? No. Of course not. But we should definitely give it a chance. I mean, is it really that odd? We're talking about a blue hedgehog who can run a super-sonic speeds, travel through time, become invincible, turn into a werewolf, and ride a hoverboard. I can't believe anyone is surprised by anything Sonic ends up in these days. Sonic and the Secret Rings was a very good game. I'm willing to give SEGA the benefit of the doubt on this new concept.
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