Iron Soldier 2
Published: 1997 by Telegames
Developed by Eclipse Software Design
Iron Solidier 2 (IS2) is one of six completed Jaguar games that Telegames published under license from Atari following Atari Corporation's reverse merger with JTS. As the name implies, IS2 is the direct sequel to the 1994 Jaguar title Iron Soldier, a fan favorite among Jaguar owners. In fact, I believe IS2 is one of only two commercially released sequels to first gen Jaguar games to appear on the platform. Like the original, IS2 is a Jaguar exclusive in which the player operates a lumbering, giant mech from a first person perspective, free-roaming in a 3D polygonal world. Beyond that, IS2 improves on the original in nearly every way, including: more and deeper missions, more enemies, more weapons, improved graphics and full CD audio. Telegames released IS2 on both cartridge and CD format. The CD version is the subject of this post.
I actually pre-ordered IS2 from Telegames and received the gold CD-R version. As I recall, this was due to issues they were having with the glass masters. I sold that original copy a few years later along with most of my Jaguar games. When I set out to collect again in 2010, this was one of the first CD games I picked up.
Graphics: For anyone who has played Iron Soldier, IS2 will look very familiar. Stylistically, the sequel uses many of the same simple polygonal landscapes and structures found in the original - fuel depots, factories, skyscrapers, etc. The buildings are generally unimpressive but they do have texture mapped surfaces this time around. Enemy models on the other hand - particularly the tanks and helicopters - are very detailed and are much improved from the original. So too are the explosions. Already cool in Iron Soldier, the fiery polygonal explosions in IS2 are probably the best on the Jaguar. The CD version of IS2 also has an FMV intro and death scene. The FMV is not great but it's not bad. Unfortunately, there is no way to skip through the death sequence - which is a shame because, if you're like me, you'll be seeing it a lot.
Sound/Music: The CD audio in IS2 is used to its fullest. It features compelling explosions, rumbles, gunfire and whooshing rockets. By and large, the sound effects are great. The in-game music on the other hand is a bit of a mixed bag. When it's good, it's really good with atmospheric techno and rock that fits the battle at hand. However, sometimes the ingame music is at odds with the atmosphere. Soft, almost meditative tunes accompany the onscreen devastation. While I can appreciate the variety, the vibe on some of these softer tracks is just too weird. Eclipse and Atari should have stuck with darker themed, driving electronic and/or rock music that better matches the game's combative themes.
Gameplay: IS2 features gameplay that is nearly identical to the original. You pilot your lumbering, 42-foot mech - called an Iron Soldier - through various cityscapes on a mission to thwart the evil Penta Corporation. I say lumbering because the pace is a bit slow. Giant robot slow! There are 20 missions which range from convoy escort, to building protection to leveling entire cities! Missions are unlocked five at a time and while it seems like there is variety - you essentially spend the entire time destroying buildings, tanks, helicopters and enemy mechs. Health, ammo and weapons are available in crates found in the rubble of destroyed buildings.
Control takes some getting used to. You press the A button and up or down on the D-pad to move forward or in reverse. Once in motion, you can use the d-pad to aim in 180 degrees while continuing on your path. If you want to turn the mech, you'll need to hold down the C button while moving the D-pad. This sounds trickier than it is and once you get the hang of it, it seems a fittingly awkward way to steer a giant robot. Weapons fire/action is triggered with the B button.
Speaking of weapons, there are lots of them! You start the game with an assault rifle, grenades and a chainsaw selectable. New weapons, including, a Gatling gun, heavy shield and cruise missile, are added as you progress. Weapons selection is made using the Jaguar keypad. The game does not come with an overlay but the weapons selection is easy to pick up. According to the manual there are 13 weapons in all. Unfortunately, I didn't see them all in this go around. IS2 is a beast!
While the game plays almost exactly like the original, the difficulty level in IS2 is markedly higher. I have completed Iron Soldier multiple times but have yet to beat IS2. I put this down to a combination of factors. First, the missions are more challenging. The type of missions that you encounter at the start of IS2 were at the end of the original. Clearly the developers were trying to provide Iron Soldier veterans with more of the same but harder. Secondly, mission objectives aren't always clear. I often spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to approach a mission, with my delay sometimes resulting in mission failure. This was particularly true of the protection missions. It can be frustrating.
Overall: Iron Soldier 2 is a solid update to the Jaguar original. Its more of the same, but when you're talking Iron Soldier, that's not a bad thing! Improving - albeit slightly - on the graphics, size and variety of its predecessor, IS2 is an example of Jaguar 3D gaming at its best.
Final verdict: If you were a fan of the original, I highly recommend IS2. It's a challenging game that will keep you coming back for more. If you didn't like the original, pass.
Thanks for reading and please share your Iron Soldier 2 opinions in the comments!