Angry Video Game Nerd Wiki

Atari Jaguar (Part 1) - Angry Video Game Nerd - Episode 65

Atari. Ah yes, a name so dearly loved from the golden age of history. A magical time when there was no Internet, no cell phones, just electronic video games.

Okay, it was the dark ages, but life was simple. Atari was the prime innovator in video arcades, home computers and home video game consoles. The Atari 2600 revolutionized the game industry. It made popular the use of changeable cartridges and plug-in controllers. The games were primitive and choppy, but back in those days they were fascinating.

But then there came competition. The Odyssey 2, Intellivision, ColecoVision, EVERYBODY was tryin' to take advantage of the video gaming craze. It wasn't like today where ya have a choice of only three consoles. (Shows a picture of a Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 together.) Back then, there were so many fuckin' video game systems it made your head spin! Also, there wasn't any way to know which games were good and which games were bad, so consumers were alienated by an overblown market. So Atari made another console, the 5200. It replaced the TV/game switch with an automatic switch box. It also tried to eliminate the use of wires by plugging the AC adapter directly into the switch box. But that only made it more confusing. The controllers had a pause button, which was new at the time, but the joysticks were faulty and unreliable. What it all came down to, the 5200 was an oversized piece of shit. I made a whole video about it, that's how much that sucks.

Following the video game crash of 1983 and '84, Nintendo and Sega would rise from the ashes, once again revolutionizing the market, and ushering in a new generation of gaming. Atari threw their hat in the ring again with the 7800. This one resolved all the issues with the 5200. The controller ports allowed you to use the same controllers as the 2600, and it was also backwards-compatable with the 2600 games. The 7800 games featured better graphics, but didn't have much to offer in comparison with Nintendo. So, once again, it bit the dust.

Afterwards, Atari stopped naming their consoles after numbers, and instead started naming them after cats. The Atari Lynx was the first handheld console that was in color. But it found itself sandwiched between the more successful portable game systems: the Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Game Gear. Though the Lynx was pretty cool, gamers found it to be a little bulky, even with the Lynx II, the new design model. The Lynx I took more batteries and drained them faster than the Game Boy. Also, it didn't have the same third-party support as the others, so, it lost again.

Meanwhile, Nintendo and Sega were in steady competition. But whether anyone preferred the NES library of games or the Sega Genesis games, was a matter of opinion. However, the debate amongst the fans and Sega's marketing campaign came down to one simple fact: The Genesis was 16-bit, and the NES was only 8.

This started a little trend I like to call "The Bit Wars". Nobody ever talked about bits before that, and nobody ever talked about bits since, and what are bits anyway? Nobody knew, they're just bits! Try explainin' that to your parents. (Imitates a kid and his parents talking to each other) "Oh, I want a Super Nintendo for Christmas!" "Don't ya already have a Nintendo?" "Yeah, but this one's 16-bit!" "What's that?" "...I dunno!" Other than it meaning the graphics were better, that's all we cared about. But the Bit Wars brought down our sense of gaming to numbers. People began to care more about the graphics and less about the actual gameplay. It was to the point that some consoles even used the number of bits in their name, like the TurboGrafx-16, and the Nintendo 64.

But in 1993, one console would come along to remind us that bits aren't everything. It was the Atari Jaguar, and it was announced as the first 64-bit game system. We were like "Damn! 64?! That's like, four times the bits!" Even the official advertising slogan said "Do the Math".

But beyond its vicious exterior and rotating Jaguar cube on the startup screen, it had little to offer. Gamers who were suckered in found a mediocre library of games and graphics that failed to impress. The controllers were huge, and they had keypads, much like the ColecoVision and Intellivision. And like those, there were overlays which sometimes come in handy, but for most games, they're unnecessary. The cartridges don't have end labels, so I had to make my own. Seriously, is there any good reason not to have end labels? I guess instead they have these weird handles. What's the point? Do I really need that extra grip? None of the other top-loading consoles had that. It's like "Oh, aw, God, I can't get the game out. Oh, God, I need a handle. Man, I just can't get a grip! Gotta have a handle." And speaking of top-loading consoles, notice how they all have a door. That's to protect from dust. That's a good thing. But the Jaguar doesn't have that. Why not?

But before I can review any games, we need to discuss the graphics. This is Zool 2. Now without criticizing the game, it's a typical sidescroller, but, look at it. The graphics don't look any better than Sonic the Hedgehog (Shows the gameplay footage of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on Sega Genesis.), and that was 16-bit. Maybe a bad choice of games, so let's give it the benefit of the doubt and try somethin' else.

Brutal Sports Football. Another okay game. Once again, the graphics aren't too impressive. Where'd the other 48 bits go?

Let's try Checkered Flag. This showcases the graphic capabilities a little more, just the fact that it puts you into a three-dimensional environment. But compare it to F-Zero on Super Nintendo. 48 bits less, but a million times more appealing to the eye.

Now look at Cybermorph. It's a flying game with polygon graphics. Goin' back to Super NES one more time, look at Star Fox. Are we missing something here? For a game console that claims to be 64-bit, it really doesn't show a whole lot of improvement. This caused a lot of debate amongst gamers whether or not it really was 64-bit. It's a topic that usually overshadows the Jaguar itself, but it's something that we just need to get out of the way.

Well, we do know that Atari was originally planning a 32-bit system called the Panther, but decided to skip it and leap ahead. The Jaguar still used a 32-bit graphic processing unit, but through a combination of other processors somehow added up to 64. It's technical and confusing. But the point is, the Jaguar was a rare species, not built like most game consoles. That made it harder for programmers to develop games on it and as a result, many games didn't utilize its full capabilities, whatever they could've been.

So I've given ya a little history of Atari and how it tried to win the Bit Wars. Now that we've got that out of the way, check in for part 2, and we'll actually play some Jaguar games. Or if you wanna be cool, ya say "play some Jag!"

(Super Cool Version) Check in for Part 2 and we'll play some Jag!