Continuing in my series on the Atari Jaguar and pointing out that it had more than two good games, this time let’s take a look at the well-known Rayman. For a previous gem on the Jaguar, I had Zero 5 with more to come soon.
Rayman is a “mascot” character for Ubisoft, a franchise that has paid off pretty well for the company since the first title debuted in 1995. I have read that originally this was planned just for the Jaguar but as hardware sales were subpar by a bit for the system, Ubisoft hedged their bets and made ports for the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation as well, with all versions releasing close to the same time.
I likewise have read debates over which version is superior, such as in this video below comparing the Jaguar and Saturn versions (see the comments on any of these comparison videos, or search for Rayman topics in respective system forums). One thing sometimes missing from the debate however, particularly about better sound on the Saturn or PlayStation versions is that the Jaguar version is all done on a cartridge.
So yes we do not know how the Jaguar version would have compared if it was done on the Jaguar CD but if you put any irrational hatred of the Jaguar aside, the version of Rayman is quite good and holds its own, especially given this difference in media. Why didn’t they release the game on the Jaguar CD? Well that comes back to sales. Sales of the base unit were low enough, much less the CD add-on. Defender 2000 was supposed to come to the CD as well but at the end of the day they opted for the cart release instead so more people could grab it. Anyways, read on for more about why Rayman is a great game for the Atari Jaguar library.
Rayman is a platformer game and the Jaguar wasn’t completely lacking in these titles – there was Bubsy, Zool 2 and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. Later in 1998/99 there was Soccer Kid. Among these types of games Rayman is certainly superior in terms of playability, fun and graphics. It wasn’t trying to be a clone of Sonic like Zool 2 was; I suppose Bubsy was kind of aiming for that same idea.
There is a similar idea of collecting things going on in Rayman that you find in many platformers, here you have blue orbs to collect and Electoons to save that are locked up in cages throughout every level. Saving them isn’t too far off of where star collecting in Mario games tends to be. Your weapon is your fist, which can be charged up and because it is not physically connected to Rayman’s body, it can get some distance. He can also pull off other moves like slight hovering thanks to his hair.
Rayman has a lot of levels which again, on a cartridge is a good touch. There is a lot to explore and naturally as you find yourself further into the game it becomes a real test of your platforming skills. New power-ups will assist you in your quest, provided bit-by-bit as opposed to all power at once. The nice thing about this game is that it doesn’t feel like a rush job, which is an unfortunate occurrence at times on some Atari systems (as an example Karateka or Double Dragon on the Atari 7800). Even when you find yourself quite a ways into the game, the quality of the level design still holds up as you discover new areas and challenges.
Most of the time the quarrel over this game comes down to the graphics, which is standard for any multi-platform release. It’s funny though, that in the many criticisms I have read of the system it is always compared to the SNES or Genesis, but then you have games like this where it was competing directly with the PSX or the Saturn. The game was actually ready almost a year before it was released for the Jaguar but Ubisoft held it over until the other versions were completed.
(Here is a beta of the Jaguar version which shows some of the changes the game went through on its way to the release build)
The system was designed for 2D graphics first and foremost and in games like Rayman, it shows how. The usage of color is above and beyond anything the 16-bitters could even throw up at one time on the screen and the animations are great to watch as well. It’s not just Rayman who is articulately animated but all sorts of little objects in each level. The number of sprites jumping around helps the world that Rayman is in feel very alive. The game runs smoothly, loads fast and overall is one of the best looking 2D titles to find on the system. I imagine that it could have handled the pixel shatter effect found on the Saturn – it’s a little odd that isn’t there given how many Jaguar games used/overused pixel shatter (Tempest 2000, Defender 2000, Protector). Perhaps they decided they wanted it to look different from those games which would be well known on the system.
Yes from an audio standpoint a cart can’t really compete on a 1:1 ratio with any CD but the effort here isn’t something you would shut off like the reviewer above suggests.
Control wise there isn’t anything that gets in the way, even the infamous Jag controller. It doesn’t use the keypad so nothing to fret over there.
Overall things to consider about the game on the system by itself, not taking into account any other versions. Let’s compare it to other games on the Jaguar:
Is the game fun to play? (This will vary from player to player but I found this to be a yes)
Are there any bugs/glitches which make the game unplayable or unenjoyable? (not that I have ever encountered)
How well does it take advantage of the system’s capabilities? (could have been improved with a CD version but as a cart version, Rayman does very well. It uses a high amount of color, throws many sprites around the screen without slowdown. Good comparisons on the Jaguar are Iron Solider 2 and Hover Strike. Both games came to both formats and the CD added more than just better audio with improved graphics, especially in the case of Hover Strike)
Is the game short, long, too long? (Rayman is long enough. It’s not just a small handful of levels that you are done with in a couple of hours and there are things to go back to do once you get new powers, kind of like Metroid)
How does this compare with similar game types on the system (Superior to the other games based on what was laid out above)
This game is a Jaguar gem, if you own the system and like platformers then you likely already have it. Otherwise in discussing the system, it should be held up on the same pedestal that games like Tempest 2000 and Alien Vs. Predator are.