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Atari Jaguar CD
from AEO magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9
||| Jaguar Review: Battlemorph ||| By: Charles Wells / | \ GEnie: C.WELLS10 ---------------------------------------------------------------- Battlemorph takes place thirty years after the original Cybermorph. It seems that with the T-Griffon fighter, Earth was able to push back the Pernitian invasion. After that, the Earth Defense Council built a fleet of battle cruisers to patrol the colonies as a deterrent against future invasions. For some time, things were peaceful, but it was not to last. The trouble began in the Perseus Star Cluster. Several battle cruisers disappeared in that area, and Pernitian activity was reported in eight different clusters of worlds - then all contact was lost with those worlds. The last remaining cruiser has been by the defense council on a search and destroy mission, starting with the Perseus Cluster. This battlecruiser, the Sutherland, has a very special cargo - the newest version of the T-Griffon, known as the War Griffon. This ship comes with morphing technology, customizable weapons bays, underwater capability, and built-in satellite mapping hookups. By the time you reach the Perseus cluster, the Sutherland has almost totally exhausted her energy reserves, so you must defeat the Pernitian general in each of the eight star clusters. This will give you enough energy to reach the Pernish cluster, homeworld of the alien menace. It's up to you to stop the threat at its source, once and for all! =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= //// Starting Out =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Battlemorph, like Highlander, is playable in several different languages: English, French or German, selectable from the options screen. Once you are ready to start your first game, you'll be able to enter your name in a screen very similar in layout (and sound effects) to the one in Blue Lightning. There are five Save Game slots available if you are using the Memory Track cart, which is highly recommended!! There are also three difficulty settings (Easy, Medium and Hard), so those who may not be familiar with the original game can tinker around on Easy, while Cybermorph vets can plow right in on the higher settings. There is a box on the right side of the screen which gives you information about the Save Game slot you currently have highlighted, such as the weapons you have accumulated, ships in reserve, etc. When you start the game, you will move on to the planet select screen. As in the original game, you can pick any planet in any order you wish - each planet has its own mission to complete. You must finish off all the planets before moving on to the next cluster of planets. Each cluster has its own general, or "boss", to defeat for valuable plasma energy which the Sutherland needs. When you select a planet you want to play, you will be given a briefing on the mission objective for that planet. If this doesn't sound to your liking, you can come back to this one later - just select Reject and choose another planet. Once you've decided on the planet you want, it's on to select your weapons. Your War-Griffon has a built-in twin shot cannon. In addition, you have four weapons bays to customize as you wish, with the exception that you can't choose a weapon more than once. Also, you have to find weapons in this game, so when you start out, you won't have a weapon for every bay. You start with cruise bombs (great for knocking out tanks and buildings) and decoys. Decoys are really neat - duplicates of your ship, they fly around for a brief time and are great for dodging homing missiles and nasty kamikazes. Although they can't shoot enemies, decoys can fly through forcefields for you to get at power-ups you'd normally have a hard time getting to (if you can get them at all). There are many weapons to be found later on in the game (in the form of fragments which must be collected) including mines, mortars and flame-throwers. Control is similar to the original, with the keypad heavily utilized. (The game comes with an overlay to help out.) A moves the ship forward B fires your selected weapon C moves the ship backward Option selects the Map mode. This is a satellite's view of the landscape of the world, highlighting important structures, items and objectives. When you move the pointer around on the map screen, your radar's white arrow will point to it. Different buttons on the keypad select between your four weapons bays, turn your targeting crosshair on/off, cycle through several different cockpit views from your ship (plus a few overhead views). As is usual, the buttons are customizable to fit different tastes. I'm happy to say that the new ProController is supported and works quite well. The Options screen also lets you customize several other things, such as the volume levels for the music, sound effects and Skylar, or turning the Cinemas on or off. (I leave them on, since you can bypass them with a button press if you wish.) =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= //// The Game Screen =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= The majority of the screen is taken up by your view of the world. A HUD at the top of the screen displays your score, your ships in reserve, and your radar. Skylar (your talking computer, who still looks kinda like Sinead O'Conner) also pops up from time-to-time here with helpful comments. (Or the occasional trash talking.) The radar will be familiar to Cybermorph veterans - skulls are enemies (red ones are hostile, green are passive, a skull with yellow eyes is an enemy carrying a powerup), red dots for enemy shots, diamonds are power-ups, and rectangles are special buildings. Powerups and buildings only show up if you've collected an enhanced scanning powerup. A closed yellow arrow points to your mission objective (or to the exit, if the objectives have been found). The instrument panel at the bottom of the screen has been changed a little from the first game. It looks cleaner, less cluttered. There are readouts for speed (forward or reverse), altitude and energy. When all your energy is gone, your ship is destroyed. You lose energy from enemy fire and from crashes. There are "monitors" which display your different weapons bays (including ammo levels for each weapon), or other special objects you've collected (such as data pods, batteries, weapon fragments and keys). The middle of the screen is where your ship resides. As it flies along in the virtual worlds, it morphs as it changes velocity, climbs, dives underwater, etc. As before, the game is not on rails like other games of similar nature (i.e., Starfox on the Super NES) - you can fly where you want, when you want. The only real restriction to this is your ship can't fly above a certain altitude, so certain mountain ranges will block or hamper access to some areas. If you fly past the boundaries of the world, you will "wrap" around to the other side. Not being on rails opens up many possibilities on how you choose to play the game. You can fly along rather leisurely, exploring every nook and cranny. Or you can be very quick and aggressive, blasting non-stop as you fly by enemy tanks, only to turn around to pick off the ones you missed on your first fly-by. =-=-=-=-=-=-= //// Powerups =-=-=-=-=-=-= Powerups are floating cubes texturemapped with differing icons on them. Some are floating around on the planets when you arrive, others are dropped when you destroy enemies or buildings. Simply fly through them to pick them up. Ammo pods supply whatever is pictured on the pod. Occasionally, these pods will cycle through different kinds of ammo or energy for your shields. Hint pods, which are textured with a big question mark, will display a hint for the planet you are on. Keys open the locked security domes on the surface (or doors in the underground tunnels), and look like... well... big keys of different colors. Magazines increase the maximum amount of ammo you can carry for your weapons. Rapid fire is just that, and works for the entire level once you pick it up. The powerup with the big eyeball on it is an enhanced scan, which increases the effectiveness of your radar. Batteries are used in the power stations. Place one in a power station to activate the station (or remove it to cut off power to certain things like forcefields). Weapon fragments are very valuable, find four and when you get back to the Sutherland, you'll have a new weapon to use in your fight against the Pernitians. Also keep an eye out for gold-colored War Griffons; picking one of those up will net you an extra ship! The rings from the first game are back, too; blue (power) rings increase your energy back to full and flashing (speed) rings boost you to incredible speeds, during which you are invincible! =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= //// Buildings and Special Objects =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= You will encounter many different buildings in your travels, including power stations and power lines (which may need to be shut down in order to drop a forcefield somewhere on the level), teleporters, security domes (needs a key of matching color to open it), bridges (blow 'em up and watch the enemies stupidly drive off to a watery death, hee hee), underground tunnel entrances and a variety of different bases and silos which launch tanks and fighter craft. There is also a special building known as a planet cloaker. Take this sucker out and a bonus planet will be revealed on the planet selection screen! (The "Tree Planet" is funny...death to all trees! =) As mentioned earlier, your War-Griffon can now go underwater - this is really cool and has a nice underwater blur effect (like in Missile Command 3D), plus bubbles, fish swimming around, and aquatic plants gently swaying in the current. There are different types of water, too. Some is acidic and drains your energy, while others heal you or have a viscosity that allows you to fly through it as if it were air. Tunnels are another new way of commuting. They are often blocked by several different types of doors, and are texture mapped and probably the coolest looking areas in the game. Movement through them is extremely smooth and fluid - my favorite ones are the dark corridors with the lights on the sides of the walls. =-=-=-=-=-=-= //// Enemies =-=-=-=-=-=-= There is a wide range of enemies out to do you in, some slightly familiar. In addition to the standard tanks, destroyers, subs and fighter craft there are some interesting foes such as fans (which blow your ship around), worms (remember them? heh heh), leeches (drain your energy), springs (pop up out of the ground and skewer things, like your ship), bandits (steal your weapons!) and more. As before, some enemies are pretty passive, while some seek you out with a vengeance. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= //// Graphics and Sound =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Graphics are pretty faithful to the original game, with the Gourad shading on the terrain being very impressive. There seems to be a much better use of color this time around, too. The water is now animated, and there is quite a bit of texturemapping on the enemies and structures. The cinemas, tunnel and underwater sequences are all also very impressive. Rather than just a black sky on the horizon, there are now assorted mountain ranges, planets and more, which really adds a lot to the look of the game. The framerate and terrain pop-up have even been cleaned up since the original game. There are also a lot of nice touches in the game. I like flying just above the surface of the water so that you are barely skimming it, leaving a wake behind you. In-game music has been added to the game, which was one of the major things missing from Cybermorph. The music in Battlemorph is excellent, and there appears to be a wide variety of different tunes. One nice touch is the music changes when you fly either underwater or through tunnels. Sound effects are also very good, with nice use made of stereo and depth cueing. I love to listen to this game on a pair of headphones through the Catbox. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= //// The Good, the Bad and the Overall =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Well, I honestly don't have anything really bad to say about this game. The main complaint many people had about Cybermorph was that it looked like they rushed it out the door, which meant things like in-game music, polished transitional screens and other minor details didn't make it into the game in time. That is not the case here, and there is an obvious... well... attention to detail <g> in this one. The gameplay is very solid and will offer many repeat playings. This game also proves you don't have to texturemap everything into oblivion to make an excellent game. If I was Atari, I would make sure this is one of the Jag titles that gets ported to the other platforms. Battlemorph is easily the best game for the Jag CD yet. Fans of the original will flip over this one. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= //// Final Ratings =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Title: Battlemorph Jaglink: No Developer: Attention to Detail Players: 1 Published by: Atari Media: JagCD Retail: $59.95 Availability: Now A Summary of Ratings: "*" is a whole "+" is a half 5 stars Maximum Graphics - **** Nothing mind-blowing, but very good nonetheless. Audio - ***** Excellent tunes and voices, very good sound effects. Control - ***** Easy to learn, very precise, flexible, supports the ProController. Gameplay - ***** Even better than the first! Not on rails, set your own pace, tons to explore and do, selectable difficulty levels. Overall - ***** The best Jag CD game yet and one of the best Jag games, period. Pts Stars AEO Ratings """ """"" """"""""""" 10 ***** GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good. 9 ****+ Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent. 8 **** Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this. 7 ***+ Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers. 6 *** Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time. 5 **+ Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this. 4 ** Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic. 3 *+ Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun. 2 * Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this. 1 + Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you. 0 - Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.
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