Game of the Week (8/13/17) – Tempest 2000

Has there ever been a movie that you either ignored or it went completely unnoticed by you when it was released? Then years later, a re-boot was made that everyone was buzzing about and you vaguely remember there was an original that you didn’t see? So you watch the new film, which thankfully you don’t have to know anything about the original to enjoy, and it totally blows you away. You then feel compelled to seek out the original to get a sense for the source material for your new favorite movie. You watch the original and it’s good, even somehow great, but not the same as the new version and that’s ok. My relationship with Tempest/Tempest 2000 is analogous to this.

The original Tempest was a game I either didn’t play when I saw it or it just wasn’t prevalent in the arcades I frequented. I knew it existed but had very little concept of what the gameplay was like. When I finally purchased my Atari Jaguar in 2002, Tempest 2000 was one of the games that seemed to be on everyone’s list of best titles for the console so I picked up a copy with few expectations. I was instantly impressed with the presentation, the music, and most of all the fast paced and frantic gameplay. I found Tempest 2000 challenging yet addictive like any good arcade based game should be. When I went back to the original from 1981 at a local retro arcade, I realized what I had missed all those years ago. A rotary controller! A rotary controller made all the difference in moving your blaster around the vector based webs. Unfortunately, Atari never officially released a rotary controller for the Jaguar. Thankfully there are homebrew rotary controllers that have been made for the sole purpose of playing Tempest 2000 on the Jaguar so that tells you something about the quality of this title.

Tempest 2000 tells the compelling story of a mild mannered, mid-level space pilot attempting to work his way into upper management in order to take care of his wife and infant daughter. He feels this can be accomplished by successfully eliminating an alien horde that spins webs as they advance towards his planet. Each level completed represents one less hurdle in front of this everyman to get that well deserved raise that finally allows him to move his family out of his parents basement and make a down payment on a sweet beach-side condo. Ok, I’m joking, there is no plot to Tempest 2000. You control a horned V-shaped blaster that rides rims of space webs of various sizes and shapes, shooting at enemies with names such as flippers, spikers, pulsars & tankers as they approach you from the interior of the web. Tempest 2000 may be plot-less but it is still a pure visceral experience that requires total concentration, fast reflexes and a willingness to enjoy 90’s techno music. Do I generally like techno music? No, I never really did but that doesn’t stop me from loving the soundtrack to this game. It really only works with a game this frenetic to be honest. As for the graphics, you can’t expect much for a game initially based on vector graphic arcade title but Tempest 2000 adds an array of colors, words, and voices that tell and show you what kinds of weapons and bonuses you’ve earned as well as random kudos from a sultry female voice when you do good. She also informs you between each level that you receive a Superzapper Recharge, which gets old after awhile. 

At any point in the game you could become overwhelmed by the number of explosions, sound effects, words popping up on screen to tell you what you earned, voices telling you how awesome you are, on top of the techno music that in the background. My daughter was watching me play recently and her only comment was, “There’s so much going on! I can’t tell what you’re doing!” I sometimes feel the same way so when I’m playing I try to just get in a groove and stop paying attention to all the onscreen distractions in an effort to tune out the literal and figurative noise and focus on the enemies approaching.

Tempest 2000’s visuals can best be described as “trippy”. There is cool looking space warp effects when going from level to level and something called Melt-O-Vision™ during certain sequences. This effect makes onscreen words and visuals appear as if they are melting on screen before they fade away. Pretty cool but the trademark feels a bit unnecessary. Tempest 2000 box and manual writers tried hard to win the hyperbole of the year award. Check out these excerpts from the manual.

  • When speaking about the original arcade Tempest, “Tempest introduced the gaming world to an extra-sensory visual and futuristic play experience that went beyond any video concept ever developed. With never-before-seen QuadraScan Color video graphics, Tempest set new standards for 3D animation and challenge, and became the first arcade game to be a guaranteed hit.”
  • When talking about the updated version, Tempest 2000, “….we’ve energized the original with powerful 3D polygons, particle displays, Melt-O-Vision™ graphics, cycle shading, and a 100% pure CD-quality techno-rave soundtrack….”

If those two bullet points didn’t want to make you a) own a Tempest arcade cabinet and b) own an Atari Jaguar just so you could play Tempest 2000, then no additional adjectives can sell you on how awesome this game is.

To make an already stellar game even better, Tempest 2000 offers 4 total game options. There’s traditional, which is essentially the original arcade title with upgraded graphics and sound. Tempest 2000, is the crown jewel and primary option and offers a slew of weapons upgrades on top of all the excellent visuals, sounds, bonuses, and new enemies not available in traditional mode. Tempest Plus provides the player with ability to include the aid of an A.I. blaster or co-op with a second gamer. Finally, Tempest Duel allows two players to battle each other in versus mode which includes mirrors that you can use to deflect your opponents shots when you’re not firing your own weapon. This option is the least interesting for me personally and I’ve rarely used it. Due to the length of the game (100 total levels), you are thankfully given the chance to return to the last odd numbered level you’ve completed after passing level 17 by using a key system. You can continue playing in other modes as well but not if you turn off the Jaguar or let it go into demo mode after your game is over.

In summary, Tempest 2000 is usually considered either the first or second best game on the Jaguar for a very good reason. If you like 80’s arcade style shooters but with a more modern look and sound, this game is a must own. My only complaint is that I wish I owned a rotary controller for it as the D-pad is serviceable but not ideal. Tempest 2000 isn’t just a good game for the Jaguar, it’s a damn good game period. Feed your head to the web and play Tempest 2000 if you never have before. You may walk away from the experience with a newfound appreciation for the Jag. 

Rating: A

Currently in my collection: game, manual, box


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