The year was 1993. I was 15 years old and obsessed with gaming (and still am!). Back then, the primary source of information about upcoming games and consoles was via magazines such as EGM, GameFan, and GamePro. The SNES and Genesis had been on the market for two and four years respectively and were the dominant powers in the 16-bit era. I had gotten a Genesis for Christmas in 1989 – despite asking for a TurboGrafx-16 – and didn’t have much interest in the SNES, crazy as that is. Having owned a Genesis for four years I was ready for something new. It just so happened that the aforementioned magazines were hyping a new console from Atari that was a whopping 64-bits! This was a massive increase in hardware power at a time when bits really mattered. I owned and loved Atari’s handheld at this point – the Lynx – and was ready to take the plunge on their 64-bit beast. The console had had a limited release in New York and San Francisco prior to launching nationwide, so I ended up having to wait an extra month to get my hands on one.
As soon as I confirmed the console’s availability I went to the mall with my dad and bought one, along with a few games, at a now defunct retailer called Babbage’s. I couldn’t wait to get home, hook it up, and try out the games I got (Raiden, Evolution Dino Dudes, Trevor McFur, and the pack-in Cybermorph). I found the controller a bit awkward at first because of its bulky design and the strange numerical keypad it had. I knew the keypad thing had been done previously with the IntelliVision, but I never owned one of those so I hadn’t actually used its controllers before.
In any event, after acclimating myself to the controller I gave Cybermorph a try and was pretty underwhelmed. It looked about on par, or a little worse, than Starfox on the SNES. Similary, Trevor McFur was a pretty mediocre shmup that didn’t look significantly better than some of the nicer looking 16-bit games. This was a 64-bit system; it even says so right on the front of the console! I thought I was going to be blown away, and I felt somewhat deflated that I hadn’t been. Raiden ended up being a very good port of the arcade version and Dino Dudes was a fun Lemmings-esque puzzle game. It wasn’t until a while later that I got ahold of some Jaguar games that did blow me away, namely Tempest 2000 and Aliens vs. Predator. Tempest 2000 is still amazing to this day, and while Aliens vs. Predator hasn’t aged quite as well, it was a fun, well designed FPS at the time. Rayman, created initially for the Jaguar, is also fantastic, as are Power Drive Rally, Super Burnout, and Defender 2000 among others.
Thanks in large part to being a popular punching bag for Internet personalities and Youtube reviewers, the Jaguar has a reputation as one of the worse consoles of all time. The reality is that it’s not nearly as bad as they would have you believe. It certainly doesn’t have as many quality titles as it should, but there are enough of them that the system is worth owning. It’s also a system that is still supported by a small, dedicated, and passionate community that has expanded its library and selection of quality titles substantially in the years since its commercial death. It’s got a unique personality all its own and some exclusives that can’t be found on any other platform, so I’m definitely glad I got one, although it would’ve been nice if my 15 year old self could’ve saved a chunk of change and waited a few years until it ended up on clearance!