Review by Macintosh User

Reviewed: 06/08/04 | Updated: 06/08/04

64-Bit King of the Jungle?

Introduction: Considering this is merely a review of the Atari Jaguar hardware, and not the games, I feel confident in giving it a score of 8 out of 10. The Atari Jaguar, software-wise was a poor excuse for a console. The games never did really take advantage of the power underneath the hood of the Jaguar. Believe me when I say, there was plenty of power packed in this machine. A quick run-through should acquaint you with the system if you haven't already done so elsewhere.

Graphics: First of all, the Jaguar contained three chips, and five processors were distributed among the chips. 'Tom' was the codename for the GPU, or graphics processing unit. The first of the five processors was a GPU, with 32-bit RISC architecture, operating at 26 megahertz. This processor conducted all kinds of graphics intensive work, along with the second and third processors, all found within the 'Tom' chip. While the GPU was 32-bit, the second and third processors were of 64-bit architecture, one being an Object processor, and the other being a Blitter processor. The Jaguar could produce many visual effects, such as the ability to morph objects, produce texture mapping on two and three dimensional objects, as well as real-time lighting and shading, scaling, rotation, and distortion of objects on-screen. Also made possible by these three graphics processors was the rendering of one-bit pixels and gouraud shaded pixels, produced at very high rates some say up to 850 million one-bit pixels could be rendered every second, while a peak of 50 million pixels could be rendered with the effect of gouraud shading. This adds up to some nice eye candy and pretty cool visual effects that more than topped the best Nintendo and Sega had to offer at the time. Unfortunately most games looked like top-notch SNES games of the time, and the Jaguar really never was called upon to perform at its maximum peak graphically.

Sound: The sound processor was codenamed 'Jerry', and was a Digital Signal Processor. It could produce 16-bit stereo sound, on par with CD quality sound. This chip was 32-bits, and was RISC in its architecture. The sound on the Jaguar was much better than the Sega Genesis and Neo-Geo, but not much better than the SNES. With the addition of the Jaguar CD the Jaguar owner could really have beautiful sound included in their game library. Overall the Atari Jaguar was no underachiever in the sound department, as it featured one of the most powerful sound processors ever found in a home console.

Playability: The Jaguar controllers featured 3 fire buttons and a 12-button keypad. Luckily the games came with key overlays to help the player in mapping out which button does which in each game. The controller was big and bulky, and rather uncomfortable and cheap feeling. As you know the controller is one of the most important parts of a video game system, and this is one of the worst controllers ever. I never have liked Atari controllers, however, even the 2600 joysticks were awful. I will not go into the details of the games available for the Jag because this is a review of the hardware, as such I believe I have covered everything needed to make this a complete review.

Recommendations: I am not sure I can recommend a Jaguar to anybody except maybe those folks who love Atari or simply must-have the biggest collection of systems on the block. I enjoy my Jaguar, but I realize this machine is not for everyone and probably won't please most gamers. For what it's worth the Atari Jaguar was an ambitious attempt by Atari to become a major player in the video game world again. They really put a lot of time and effort into the production of the console, and provided it with the tools needed to make it a true contender. Unfortunately programmers never pushed all five processors to the limit and therefore never achieved the height of the Jaguar's capabilities. This is unfortunate because with five processors running in parallel the potential of the Jaguar seems endless. If you can find one with Rayman, Aliens versus Predator, and Tempest 2000 included, I recommend picking it up. If you do buy one, I also recommend the revised controllers, the 'Pro' versions are better than the standard controllers. While you're at it, check out the Jag CD, this add-on really had a weak library of games, but had a built-in Virtual Light Machine that really produced some amazing effects for the gamer to watch while listening to their favorite tunes.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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