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Battlesphere

Introduction: Well let's see where do I begin? Some people never thought they would finally see the day when BattleSphere was released. I have been following this game for quite some time. I would say around 1995. It is probably themost talked about and controversial Jaguar game. The developers of this game, 4Play, started working on thisgame when Atari was still in business, making Jaguar games and such. Except 4Play was never contracted by Atari to do this game. They worked on this game as a sort of a side project in their free time. This is one reason why this game took so long to actually get finished and released. Not to mention the nasty Jaguar hardware bugs that plagued the system, 4Play had to work around them. Atari didn't seem to be much help at providing technical support or sufficient documentation for various things such as Network drivers so 4Play took it into their own ands and wrote their own. Meanwhile Atari was not taking their efforts seriously and sort of laughed them off. Well needless to say these "talent-less losers" ended up creating one of the best Jaguar games ever!

Even the packaging is first class. The box and manual perfectly resembles the standard Atari Jaguar format. The label on the cart is also very well done, in full color. This game simply puts the Telegames releases to shame! (And Telegames is a far larger company) The manual is full of humorous references if you read closely. One thing I did notice though is that there is an error in the manual. On the section that shows you what are your own ships and enemy ships. The colors are mixed up. Green ships in the game are your enemies and the red ones are your allies. In the manual this is reversed. For a while this confused me somewhat because I couldn't figure out why my allies were shooting at me, heh. With experience though, the game will come naturally and you will no longer have to look at the book as a reference.

As soon as you turn on the game you will be greeted to a very nice 4Play logo that "wraps" itself out like a rug or something. Pretty neat. Then it goes to the BattleSphere title screen that is a nice computer rendering. One thing I thought was kind of weird is under the BattleSphere logo is "Version 07/04/98" Which is of course when the game was finished. However, I think this gives it more of a "this is a beta version" look. Sorry. Then it goes to a scrolling story with different semi-low quality pictures of different planets and things, probably due to memory constraints. The background is very cool though. Gives it a psychedelic look to it. From what I understand, the coder that started writing the Atari 2600 emulator for Jaguar called Virtual VCS wrote that, and 4Play took it (with permission of course) and used it. Fits in great though. If you leave it on any longer it will go to an attract mode, then credits and the whole bit. Pressing a button will bring you to the BattleSphere Main Menu. All of the menu's in the game are very cool looking, and in high color mode. The cursor used is 3 glass spheres that rotate and stuff. Very cool effect actually. Well thats enough about the menu's.

Story: In my opinion this is the games weakest aspect. You simply cannot compare this game story wise to a game like Wing Commander 3 or 4. There are no pretty FMV cut scenes, or even animated cut scenes (that I have found) There pretty much no contact with other alien beings that makes the story progress. If you want to know the story line to this game go to www.battlesphere.com its pretty simple and straight forward. While a nice story line would add a lot to this game, I don't think it necessarily degrades the game because this game has one important thing: Gameplay! Rating: 3

Sound FX/Music: The sound effects in this game are pretty much pulled from an old game you might be familiar with, Star Raiders. The game as a whole is pretty much inspired by Star Raiders so you could basically call this game Star Raiders 2000 J. Explosions have a nice deep rumbling sound if you have a decent sound system. Other small effects in the game that I think are worthy of noting is the little sounds you get when your star base is destroyed and things like that. Overall I think the sound effects are very well done and don't get annoying like some games. Sound Rating: 9

The music in this game is VERY well done. Stephanie did a wonderful job creating music that fits this game perfectly using limited quality and channels due to memory constraints. The game doesn't have the upbeat techno music of Tempest 2000 or Defender 2000. It's not an orchestrated symphony like Wing Commander 3 or 4. It's well umm…video game music, what can I say? Hehe. At any rate its very well done and I encourage people to also buy the soundtrack. You can check it out and even hear the music from www.mp3.com/Sebab The only track that gets annoying after a while is one that loosely resembles "Flight of the bumble bee". The menu music and everything else fits the game perfectly. If there was ever a sequel for this game, I would only hope that Steph would do the music for it also, I would love to hear what music like that would sound like at full CD quality. Music Rating: 9

Control: BattleSphere works perfectly with the Jaguar controller and Pro Controller. I prefer to use the Pro Controller myself. The extra action buttons help out a lot. Using the Pro Controller you can use the L and R shift buttons to roll. The X and Z buttons control your speed, and the middle button Y changes your current weapon. B fires, A changes your current target to lock on to. If you don't have a Pro Controller though, don't worry. The game also works fine with a standard controller. Holding down the C button and pressing left or right on the D-Pad rolls. (Like Wing Commander) And different keypad buttons activate preset speeds such as 1/3 speed, or ¼ speed. This is one feature that has to be left out of the Pro Controller scheme due to the keypad being used to correspond with the L, R and X, Y, and Z buttons. An overlay for this game would have been nice, but those are only really needed for beginners. If you're an experienced player you will have no need to keep looking down on the controller to see what buttons do what. If you do, you will be toast anyway. There is no hesitation in this game, heh. And analog controller would probably help somewhat, but is not really needed. The game makes full use of the Jaguar controller, and is not confusing like Syndicate or something. Rating: 10

Graphics: This isn't a game where you can expect Dreamcast or newer PSX type graphics because after all, this is nearly an 8-year-old system here. This is 4Plays first and only effort in making a Jaguar game, so they didn't have the experience of making 2 or 3 games. Essentially it's a first generation Jaguar game. Needless to say, 4Play did a wonderful job. The ships are all smooth polygons, all gourad shaded, and a little texture mapping here and there. Scenery is fairly sparse though. You won't find other planets around, but you will see gas clouds and other things. One thing that impressed me about this game was the explosions. They are very well done. Shrapnel explodes all over randomly. The only bad thing is that if you are too close, it could just end up looking like a pixally mess. This game is more realistic than the others are also as when you're flying throughout the galaxy, you aren't flying by stars all over the place (i.e. Colony Wars) but instead its space debris. Another nice touch is the lens flare. So for the Jaguar I would have to say it is definitely one of the best. Ranks right up there with Iron Soldier 2, and Alien Vs Predator…The framerate is also very smooth. I would say its usually around 30FPS, although 4Play claims it gets as high as 60FPS. Networking I have noticed a slight slowdown. This could possibly be caused by my 100-foot cord I use, though. Rating: 7

Gameplay: Like I said earlier, this is what the game is all about gameplay. All of the different game modes have something different to offer. "Alone Against The Empires" is a great one player mode that adds a lot of strategic elements to the game thanks to the awesome "galactic map". In this mode you get to control a whole fleet of your own ships in an effort to save your star bases and destroy the enemy. Pressing the option button brings you to the galactic map, which is a series of hexagons or sectors. You see your own starbases as purple X's spread about randomly throughout the galaxy. The enemy race is out to attract those starbases so you must strategically move your other ships to other sectors where they will automatically from their use the AI to attack the enemies. If you want to survive, you also must do some offence with your own ship. Pressing the C button on your ship from the map and them moving it to a sector of your choice to do battle. However, you can only warp to a different sector if you have enough energy, so you can't just warp to one sector to the other as much as you want. That is only part of the process though. After you choose a sector to warp to, you must get off the map and get your cursor to stay onto the other cross hair to warp to the right sector. If you do not line it up correctly you could end up in a totally different sector than you wanted. If you have the difficulty set on novice, you should have no problems staying on track, but once you up the level, it gets considerably harder to do. At any rate, Alone Against the Empire or AATE for short is a great mode, esp for you strategy fans. I only wish this mode were incorporated somehow in multi-player. Other modes include Gauntlet mode where you fight off wave after wave in what seems like a never ending task to kill off nearly everything in your path. This mode is also very fun, as each wave is a little different. So far I only made it to wave 40 or so, so I have quite a ways to go yet. This mode can also be played in a network setup up with 2 players. I have yet to try this though. Free for All is another really fun mode, where it's basically…well a free for all, heh. In other words everybody for himself or herself, as there is no mercy from other ships as they will all be out to destroy each other in this death match of sorts. You can have up to 16 ships playing at once in this mode. I must tell you though; this mode REALLY shines when you have a link up going. So far I have only played this mode in a 2 player setup, since I don't own catboxes let alone its hard to get 1 BS cart let alone more than 2. JagFest 2000 should be the place where at least 16 players will be blasting away at each other (up to 32 if there are more than one person per console). Incredible. So far, time and ability to get friends over to network has permitted me from really trying the network out as much as I would have liked. I did manage to get a Free for All going for 5 hours straight one night, without a network crash in sight (unlike Doom). With all the different races to choose from and ships ranging from fighters, to bombers to superships. My favorite ship is a fighter, called the "Acrosome" that basically looks like a giant sperm flying through space J Very maneuverable and fast. The other mode that you can play networked is called just BattleSphere. However, I have yet to try this mode either. Sorry. Once I do get a chance to check out this mode for a few hours I will post my thoughts on it. In conclusion, there isn't one mode that really sucks, they are all really cool for different reasons. Rating: 9

Overall: Simply one of the best games available, not only on Jaguar but any console for that matter. Considering the genre, there aren't really many others that can complete, unless you are looking for a game with a lot of story and mediocre gameplay. (Ala Wing Commander) It's really hard to come up with a lot of negative things about the game. Networking tremendously adds to the game. If you still have a Jaguar system sitting around somewhere, collecting dust, I highly recommend that you find a copy or 2 of this game. It's worth it. Thanks to 4Play for sticking with us throughout the years and finishing this game up and releasing it to a limited market. It's just too bad that the general public never had a chance to see the greatness of this game. Overall Rating: 9

-Mike Dolce, jfpn@classicgaming.com.


More information:

Developer: 4Play
Producer: ScatoLOGIC
Format: 4MB Cart
Availability: Waiting for 2nd run of carts. Currently SOLD OUT.


For Screen shots and more information about BattleSphere, please go to www.battlesphere.com.

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