The Atari Jaguar was a console that never stood a chance. Consumers and retailers rejected it wholesale. Software developers had no idea how to program games for it. Atari’s marketing budget could not compete with Nintendo and Sega. By 1994, the Atari name was no longer synonymous with video gaming. All troublesome signs in retrospect. Atari gave it a half-court heave anyway and the result was a shot that never touched the rim. Please don’t read that last sentence to mean that the Jaguar is a worthless console with nothing of value from a collector and gamer standpoint. All I’m saying is that you cannot look at this console as anything but the failure that it was.
That being said, what constitutes “failure” in 1994 has very little relevance when attempting to play or collect for a video game console decades later. The pros and cons of the Jaguar as I see them today are as follows.
- There are a number of hidden gems on this console that didn’t get a lot of publicity or exposure. Games such as Iron Soldier, Tempest 2000, Alien vs Predator, Ruiner Pinball and Ultra Vortek are just some of the exclusive titles for the Jaguar that are above average in quality.
- There are also some very good to decent multi-platform versions of popular games of the era such as Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, NBA Jam TE, Rayman, Theme Park, and Zool 2 to name a few.
- Cartridges are sturdy and the artwork/design for the Jaguar console and games is appealing, at least to me.
- Due to low sales at the time of its short run, you can still find sealed copies of games at reasonable (compared to sealed NES & SNES games) prices. There are physical and virtual stores out there that have been selling complete sealed copies of Jaguar games for many years which means either they had quite the surplus or there is a low enough demand that they haven’t sold out their inventory. Either way, that’s great news for Jaguar collectors!
- High percentage of the games available are average at best. As mentioned earlier, software developers didn’t understand how to harness the Jaguar’s unique hardware configuration. The end results are games that often look, sound and play like 16 bit titles that could have been found on the Genesis. This in and of itself wouldn’t be a big problem if the games were typically stellar. They are not.
- The primary add-on, the Jaguar CD, was an underutilized piece of hardware with very few worthwhile games to own for it. In 2017, the Jag CD is now an expensive addition to your collection and hardly justifies the price.
- Speaking of price, the Jaguar, Jaguar CD and many of the cartridge and CD games available for the system are now quite expensive. This is due largely to the low quantities of games sold with a much higher demand now than there probably ever has been. Simple economics of supply and demand in effect for what was considered a joke of a console as recently as 5 years ago.
Despite my affinity for the Jaguar as the lovable loser, I am not blind to the weaknesses and flaws with the console and its software. I like collecting for it because I have a soft spot for also-ran systems of the 80s and 90s and the Jaguar was the textbook definition of also-ran from the get go. Truth be told, I don’t begrudge anyone from dismissing the Jaguar as a piece of crap with one or two good games. I respectfully disagree but I understand where they are coming from. All that means is one less person out there trying to snatch up Jag games and more for me!
As I mentioned earlier, there are a surprising number of sealed in box games still available for sale and many of them don’t cost an arm and a leg to buy. I took advantage of this by picking up CIB copies of Ultra Vortek and Zool 2 to add to my Jag collection. I also picked up carts plus manuals for Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story and Evoution: Dino Dudes.
Finally, I had also vowed to pick up a better a/v connection than the bootleg NES RF adapter I was using at the beginning of the month. The picture was awful with the NES RF, espcially when I booted up the Jag CD. I bought a NOS official Jaguar composite cable and it’s 1000x better. Probably the most important purchase I made all month long!
Overall Grade: C+