Introduction: Protector is a game that sort of just came out of nowhere when nobody was expecting it. It was a game that wasnít very well known to the general public back when Betheda Softworks was working on the game back when Atari was still alive. When Atari went under they shelved the project and went into developing just PC games such as the awesome Elder Scrolls series like DaggerFall. One of the best PC RPG's ever IMO. Protector is far from their PC efforts though. Needless to say Carl Fohan of Songbird productions picked up the rights to this game, finished the game by adding various things such as powerups, enemies, levels, music and whatever things here and there that need to be fixed and added or polished up. So letís get on the how the game actually is...
When you fire up the Jag with Protector you will notice that it skips the Atari and Jaguar title screens. This is because of the encryption bypass that Scott Walters developed, so it tricks the cartridge into thinking itís a FlashRom cart. So the game starts off a black screen, then goes into a very cool Songbird production logo and other intro stuff. Leaving the game on, it will loop between the credits, Hall of Fame (High Scores)...but there is no "Attract" mode. Attract mode is simply a demo mode that shows various levels of the game being played out by the computer. Also you will notice there is no option choice at the title screen, but rather you must already know to hit the option button on the controller, otherwise the game will immediately start and ask you which wave to start out on. The first time you play you will only be able to start off on wave 1 of course. The game starts of fairly easy. Lets get one thing straight, if your a big fan of classic defender such as the arcade, 2600 or NES versions than you will LOVE this game. It stays very close to its cousins in that aspect yet also manages to add to the genre.
The Story (2/10): Quite frankly I could care less about the story of this game, as these games arenít about a strong storyline and plots. Instead this game focuses on strong game play, and non stop action, so if you really want to know what the story of this game is just hop over to songbirds site or buy the game and read the back of the box.
Gameplay (8/10): Like I have said this is what a game like Protector is all about. If you still have no idea what kind of game that Protector is itís simply a Defender type of game where you are a ship fighting off legions of ruthless alien intruders out to steal the humanoids from the various planets. As you blast the baddies some of them release different power-ups like rapid fire (very useful, especially in the later levels), or a new feature added into the Defender style mix, and that is money. Thatís right you can collect money and after every wave you complete you are presented with a shop where you can buy power-ups like Rapid Fire, Smart Bombs, shields, extra ships. I think this is a very nice addition that adds a lot to the game. Another nice addition to Protector that isn't in previous Defender games is that you get 3 hits before you die.
Control (9/10): This game is fast! Fortunately you the control is this game is very responsive and tight. I do have one complaint about the control though. If you are familiar with Defender 2000 for the Jaguar you will know, that game introduced the "shoot as you fly backwards" scheme. That way you can maneuver around enemy ships as you blast them to smithereens. Protector however stays true to the classic Defender formula where, if you are shooting and you press the d-pad in the opposite direction you WILL turn. You cannot fly backwards in this game. This is no problem for you old school Defender fans, but if you are used to D2k, it might take some getting used to. Other than that, the control in this game is dead on. Your ship seems to suffer from lack of physics though. When you let off the controller, your ship will abruptly stop. When you make it turn, it WILL turn on a dime. This is not a complaint, because this is what these type of arcade games are about. They are not meant to be realistic. One last note is, a Pro Controller does help somewhat. The shoulder buttons are used to go into hyperspace.
Sound FX & Music (7/10): I am not going to lie, this game is no Tempest 2000 of Defender 2000 in terms of music. Donít get me wrong here, the music isnít bad at all. Itís just not exceptionally good. I applaud Carl though for his efforts in composing all of the tunes for the game. I donít exactly remember how many tracks are in this game, but I am guessing 3 to 5. So it does get repetitive after playing for an extended time when the same track is playing over and over again. The sound fx in this game do the job. At first I thought the humans cry for help was annoying since it was only one sample and it happens constantly. After playing the game for a long time, it does seem to help you out.
Graphics (6/10): Quite frankly I thought the graphics in Defender 2000 did a much better job. It does have some cool backgrounds like planets and things, but there simply isnít enough variation for my taste. The only thing that seems to change in this game, graphics wise is the very bottom of the screen on the planet where the humanoids are. It doesnít ever drastically change. Your ship is fairly small, but itís not too small or too big. I did think that the ships in D2k were a little on the big side which ended up in having a smaller view area so you had to scroll up and down, which is one thing about D2k I didnít like. The enemy ships arenít bad. They animate fairly w.ell. The bosses are kind of cool, if not a little goofy looking. However, they donít seem to animate well either. The game does run a little smoother than Defender 2000 though. About 60fps where as D2k is about 30-35 fps. There is a bit if slowdown though when a lit of enemies get annihilated on screen at one time, but it only lasts for a split second so its no big deal. I donít think the graphics in this game are bad per se. They could have just been better.
Conclusion (7/10): If you are a big Defender fan, you should not live without this game. Itís very fun, but very challenging. I found this game to be a bit harder than Defender 2000. Songbird did an excellent job finishing this game and releasing it. The packaging is very nice. Very similar to the official Atari Jaguar games. The boxes have follow the same format, as does the manual. The label on the cartridge is very well done, and in full color. Songbird has done a MUCH better job than Telegames did with their post Atari, Jaguar games, and us hardcore Jaguar fans very much appreciate the effort it has taken to turn out such quality. For screenshots of this game along with movie clips, please go to Jagu-Dome (jaguar.holyoak.com). To purchase this game, please go to www.songbird.atari.net.
-Mike Dolce, firstname.lastname@example.org.