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Jaguar Memories

Atari 5200 Guy

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One of the last Atari consoles I would obtain by miracle, if not by accident.  It was Christmas 1994.  I was living with my Grandmother to help take care of her and taking Computer Science classes at the local community college.  My Mother lived with her new husband in a town 2 hours away.  I would visit her on weekends.


On one cold November day my Grandmother asked me what I would like to have for Christmas.  I really didn't know because I had not thought of anything.  Was there anything I needed for my car?  Nope...couldn't think of anything (I had a '79 Monte Carlo with T-Tops at the time).  I didn't need anything for college.  So, I walked down the hill, three blocks away, from where we lived and paid the old Radio Shack that was once there a visit.  https://www.google.com/maps/dir/1239+N+Main+St,+Harrison,+AR+72601/1122+N+Pine+St,+Harrison,+AR+72601/data=!4m8!4m7!1m2!1m1!1s0x87cef5432296c701:0xb532cb5183553096!1m2!1m1!1s0x87cef543bb562403:0x474f80cf465ad78e!3e0


(I'm providing a map so the distance can be seen.)


I looked in the store for anything.  Nothing of particular interest.  I asked about any video games and they pointed to the large catalog they had bolted to the counter.  I flipped through it.  Nintendo, Sega, Atari...Atari?!?  I flipped to the Atari section.  I seen the 2600 stuff and some 7800 stuff.  They still had 5200 items as well but no 5200 consoles so I passed on those.  On the next page, in bold lettering, was "Atari Jaguar".  That ad I got in the mail during the summer immediately came to mind.  "Raw 64-bit Power!"..."Do The Math!"  For $225 you could get a console with A/V cables, two controllers, and two games called "Cybermorph" and "Iron Soldier".  I wrote it down and ran, back up the hill (seriously, this hill is murder at any age if you have to even walk up it).  


Huffing and puffing I went into the bedroom, shuffled through one of the nightstand drawers beside the bed, and pulled out the ad we held on to.  I immediately showed Granny the ad.  "What's this dear?"  Sometimes I forgot that my Grandmother was legally blind even if after surgery she could see colors and outlines...but was still blind.  I told about the Atari console in the ad.  She goes, "Is that what you want?"  I gave an excited yes and said I wrote it down if you would like to get it when I'm not here.  She handed me her Radio Shack credit card and sent me back down the hill.  She didn't want others to know what she was doing (bless her heart).  She never did.  They would know after I unwrapped it but by then why bother.  Granny spoiled me every chance she got and the rest of family never understood it.  Heck...I never understood it but I didn't complain.


So, I placed the order.  Radio Shack called my Grandmother for her approval for me to use the card.  They were family friends but still needed authorization for using cards by people other than whose name was on the card.  Order placed, I went back home and looked through the ad.  "Did they have more games?"  I told her I didn't look and I didn't want her to get any more until we knew for certain just how good the "Atari Jaguar" was going to be.


After a while we both sort of forgot about the order.  Her Radio Shack bill didn't come in before the holidays because it was one of those no payments for a few days sales pitch.  We got a call one Saturday.  "We have your order", they said to my Grandmother.  She sent me to retrieve it.  I almost forgot what it was.  When I got home she told me to open it and make sure everything was there.  The system, extra controller, A/V cable, and one game, Iron Soldier, was in the box.  Where was the other game?  The system box didn't say anything about a game inside.  So we opened it.  Cybermorph was there so both games present.


"Well, since it's opened you might as well try it out.  Just make sure you can make it look like it wasn't opened later."  Granny said.  I laughed.  Hooked up to her RCA Hi-Fi 27" console TV that swiveled the Jaguar showed its stuff.  Cybermorph came first.  I played around and explored the game a bit.  Eh...not too bad.  That was my first impression.  Then I popped in Iron Soldier.  I wasn't suppose to open that one...opps.  I sat for two or three hours with that game.  Then I had to pack it all back up and place it in the bedroom closet to be wrapped up before Christmas.  You know how hard it was to know that a game machine was in that closet and I couldn't play it until Christmas Eve?  I tried playing the Genesis and SuperNES I had and they just didn't cut it anymore.  There were a few times at night after she went to sleep with her TV on and blaring (an every night thing) where I would drag it out and play for a little bit then put it up.  I know...I was bad.


Christmas Eve came and it was time to unwrap the Jaguar.  Finally!  But...I had to save it for last.  First gifts were the usual:  a new sweatsuit, some new pants, socks, and shirts, and a few new movies of Disney favors.  Then came the Jaguar.  I couldn't be happier!  Or so I thought.  Another surprise package came from my Aunt.  In a box usually for clothes was some more games for the system.  They had found a few in Springfield's Battlefield Mall on clearance and grabbed a few.  While there was no Tempest 2000 there was I*War, Syndicate, and Wolfenstein 3D.  I was set for one helluva winter!  


The Jaguar left an impression that year in such a way that I was glad to have taken a chance on it.  The family members involved to this point in Christmas gifts to me I no longer have.  I don't think they ever knew just how much I appreciated all those Christmases I had with them...and all the other times I spent with them as well and not just around the holidays.  They knew what I enjoyed the most and went out of their way to fill that hobby.  I didn't have to ask and in some ways it felt like that was their way of rewarding me for what I was doing from my Grandmother, who I had been helping take care of since I was 10 years old.  Granny enjoyed the games as much as she could with the colors and sounds...and it would often times place her mind at ease so much that she would go to sleep on me (haha).  


They don't make family members like that much any more, and it seems like the holidays are nothing like what they use to be.  Just like my family members the Jaguar will forever hold a place in my memories that will not be forgotten.  I was fortunate enough to have another Jaguar, after decades of being without one, land in my living room and when I seen it I sat there and held the machine for what seemed like a long time admiring the design and immediately shed a few tears when memories of that Christmas Eve started playing back in my mind.  


It took me a long time to understand why I have such a heart for these game machines.  They are nothing more than plastic and computer electronics.  They entertain...that's all they do.  But I realized that every machine, mostly Atari machines, I ever had gave a connection to the love of family that loved me more than anything else in the world.  And that's why all my game machines, including the Jaguar, continue to play an important role in my life.


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In 1997 or '98, I was visiting family in Buffalo. I saw a Jaguar on sale for a very low price -- $40, maybe -- at Kay-Bee Toys. The only reason I'd walked to the mall (a place in which I won't even set foot these days) was to look at records. One of their stores still had 33s. Well, also, I was antsy and wanted a walk!


I saw the Kay-Bee and stopped in to see if they were selling any cheap 2600 games, as they had a few years prior. I saw the Jaguar and realized that I didn't know a thing about it. The most recent platforms I owned were an Atari 2600, a Commodore 64 and a C128. I was still gratefully fixated on those old pals, I programmed quite a bit, and I even wrote essays / articles about "old" games. I did the latter for my own amusement. I thought that nobody else on Earth would understand why I could find pleasure in playing '70s and '80s games, much less writing about them. I didn't know that any classic-game newsletters existed, and I hadn't been online yet, at least beyond CompuServe.


I didn't think "modern" games would be much fun. These were the days of Myst and mere interactive movies (in essence), sold on that latest over-hyped fad, the multimedia CD-ROM. But seeing the Atari logo, and feeling glad that there still was an Atari, I was drawn to the table full of Jaguars and cartridges near the entrance. "Wow, that's cheap," I said to myself. "But I wouldn't be able to fit it into my suitcase."


Then I saw the Tempest 2000 box.


Like anyone else in his right mind who had played the arcade game in the early '80s, I had wanted a home version of Tempest for years. I examined the back of the box and saw that the graphics had grown advanced enough to make the potential vector-to-raster problems practically moot. I then noticed that the cartridge included a conversion of the original Tempest, which was being called Classic Tempest.


At that point, I had to force myself to put down the cartridge box and walk away very quickly. (I'm pretty good about not spending cash unnecessarily.) However, as you can imagine, I couldn't stop thinking about it afterward.


I got back to my grandmother's place, went down to the bedroom-like basement where I was staying, and tried to read. But of course, I kept thinking, I would be able to play Tempest at home...I would never run out of quarters...it's a very inexpensive console...the games are only ten bucks apiece...isn't it high time I treated myself to my first new system since the C128? Tempest at home...Tempest at home...


Then I glanced over at my suitcase. I've always liked to bring just one, so it's usually huge. This one certainly was.


Hmm...the console box could fit easily!


There was no use in fighting it anymore. I walked back to the mall and bought the Jaguar, along with Tempest 2000 and Iron Soldier. Back in the basement, I opened everything up, read the manuals and basically drooled for three or four days. When I got back to Albuquerque, hooked up the console and started playing, I realized that I had made the right decision. I had no regrets about shelling out most of the spending cash I'd brought on vacation. Playing Jaguar games for the first time was a mind-blowing experience.


Consider: I had never played anything more modern than Super Mario Bros. 3 on my bass player's NES. I had never even seen a first-person shoot-'em-up being played. And all in one day, I played Tempest 2000, Iron Soldier and the awesome, highly underrated Cybermorph. (You can mute Skylar's voice, people.)


Around that time, I started hanging out again with a buddy from high school named Adam. I hadn't seen him in ten years. When we ran into each other, I learned that he, too, was into old games. It surprised me that anybody was. Over the next few months, in between alerting me to the presence of a few classic-game newsletters (including his own, to which I would eventually contribute quite a lot) and building me an Amiga 2500, he lent me the Jaguar version of Doom.


I had never played the game before. The Jag version was my first. I plugged in the cartridge, turned on the console, started the game and...I've never recovered.


Every modern game that I've bought since then (I've gotten as recent as the PS2! Movin' on up!) has directly resulted from my obsession with Doom, which led to a love for solo first-person exploration / killing-everything games. These days, I run the source port ZDoom on my PC, choosing from hundreds of maps made by fellow players, and designing some of my own. But every few months, I still play Cybermorph and Iron Soldier all the way through. The buildings in the latter look just as astonishingly cool when they fall to flaming pieces as they did back in the late '90s, when I had reached the grizzly old age of 25 and Atari had captivated me all over again. I will love the Jaguar forever.

Edited by Chris++
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Fantastic Jaguar stories, thanks for sharing you guys =)


I remember the Radio Shack ads you're mentioning Kamakazi but I already owned a Jag at that point. I want to say I remember Radio Shack having a huge Iron Soldier cardboard cutout but that could just be my hazy memory playing tricks on me. To this day, I don't seem to recall stumbling on any advertising related to the Jaguar and at one point in the late 90s I remember going into a local Radio Shack to ask if they had any of the promo material left over but there were none.

7800 - 130XE - XEGS - Lynx - Jaguar - ISO: Atari Falcon030 | STBook |STe


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Wow; my priorities certainly differ vastly from that guy's. I don't care about anything so tedious as marketing observations or the appearance of a controller. Such a superficiality doesn't concern me; I dig the Jaguar controller. I've never found it difficult to use, so its reputation (among some) has always puzzled me.


My criteria: "Is the game-play fun for me? Does the game feel good to play?" Anything beyond that is an irrelevant sociological imposition, and has nothing to do with the game itself.


I meant all of the above in a less grumpy manner than it came off. :)


Do you conduct interviews with game programmers? Do you have a link to prior ones? I love reading stuff like that.


Edited by Chris++
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I have small hands and I never found the Jaguar controller much of an issue.  On the contrary I found them rather comfortable.  Took a bit to get use to but after about an hour I considered myself an expert ;)


I also disagree with the statement made that the Jaguar was not a step forward.  The hardware itself was a step forward.  No other console at the time Jaguar hit the market was capable of doing 3D polygon graphics natively.  Remember that the Jaguar was set compete against the Genesis and Super NES.  Those systems, even at their best, couldn't do that without struggling a little.  It was an odd system I will admit when I first approached it but it grew on me quickly and I had to have it.  It was an investment I am proud to have made and a lot of great gaming memories are with that system.  Truthfully, I don't think we've seen Jag's full capabilities yet.  There's a lot that can still be done with it.

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The question for today's "12 Days of Jaguar Christmas" contest entry was "what is your favorite jaguar memory?" After typing my answer into the box, I recalled this thread and thought that I would share my (edited) response here too.


My favorite Jaguar memories involve playing co-op Raiden with my late cousin, Brian. We loved playing co-op titles going back to Double Dragon, Contra, Ikari Warriors and Battletoads on the NES. This love of co-op carried forward to high school, when I got my original Jaguar. Raiden is a great co-op experience on the Jaguar and we spent a lot of time playing it. In fact, we probably logged more time on Raiden than any other Jaguar game. I can almost feel the imprint of the living room's shag carpeting and gamer thumb when I think about it. Brian was killed in a car accident in 1997 just prior to his 18th birthday. Raiden remains one of my favorite Jaguar games due in large part to the time that we spent playing together. Firing up Raiden today always brings me back to those late nights on the living room floor, repelling alien invaders with my cousin and friend.

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