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Blue Lightning (Jaguar CD) artwork

Blue Lightning (Jaguar CD) review


"Recently I joined a very elite club: the group of Atari Jaguar CD owners. The Jag CD add-on was released very late in the Jaguar's brief lifespan, so there were relatively few titles released for it. Apparently only 20,000 CD units were manufactured, but those people who did buy one new received four pack-in discs: a music-only CD of Tempest 2000's 'soundtrack', a brief demo of Myst, the music/puzzle game Vid Grid, and Blue Lightning. "



Recently I joined a very elite club: the group of Atari Jaguar CD owners. The Jag CD add-on was released very late in the Jaguar's brief lifespan, so there were relatively few titles released for it. Apparently only 20,000 CD units were manufactured, but those people who did buy one new received four pack-in discs: a music-only CD of Tempest 2000's 'soundtrack', a brief demo of Myst, the music/puzzle game Vid Grid, and Blue Lightning.

The Atari Lynx version of Blue Lightning is a great arcade-style shoot-em-up, very similar to the Sega classic Afterburner. You are "on rails" and fly your aircraft in the foreground towards the far horizon. Enemy airplanes, tanks, buildings, and clouds are all scaled towards you. The object? Open up your guns and destroy anything that gets in your way! BL really pushed the Lynx' sprite hardware and is a great showcase for that portable console's abilities, so when word came out of the impending Jaguar release, fans started to salivate. They imagined that great Lynx game, but updated with 64-bit 3D textured polygons! Oh baby!

However, when Blue Lightning was finally released for the Jaguar, the immediate response from fans was "Where are the 64 bits?" At first glance (or second, or third…) the game doesn't seem to make much use of the Jaguar's graphics hardware. There are no 3D polygons, but rather like the Lynx version, the Jaguar game's engine is built out of scaling 2D sprites from tiny to giant, creating the illusion that objects are coming from the distance towards the viewer.

The Lynx version looked fantastic on a small LCD screen in 1989. How does the Jaguar version compare? Before I played Jag BL I'd read many negative comments about "chunky-looking" sprites and uneven frame-rate. Now that I've played BL, I can honestly say I don't see that problem. The sprites for the enemy objects, mountains, clouds, and buildings look detailed to me, and as they're rapidly scaled up "towards you" the animation seems fairly smooth. The graphics aren't quite at the level of, say, Super Burnout's super slickness, but I think BL actually does a credible job. Blue Lightning may not look "64 bit" but it does look a good step above the capabilities of the Genesis or Super Nintendo. (I've always thought Atari was stupid to hype the Jag's 3D abilities, when clearly it could push around sprites far better than any other machine that was available at the time.)

The sound effects seem decent, but are not special or outstanding in any way. BL does put the Jaguar's CD drive to good effect for the sound track. The tunes are hard rock that sound like something from a half-decent "garage band", and work well enough for the game.

I've read some complaints about the control. This is probably a game that would benefit from an arcade-style joystick, but I find the JagPad works fine. You use the D-pad to steer around and aim your guns, and the three red buttons are used to fire various weapons. The keypad is also used to control your airplane’s speed, but for the most part it can be ignored. The 'Option' button allows you to 'barrel roll' your aircraft to avoid enemy fire, but the effect is poorly done: the aircraft sprite is held still while the surrounding environment is rotated around you. It looks choppy and doesn't add to the game - why didn't they just rotate the plane sprite instead?

I find BL is easy to play: in the air missions, fire off a missile at each cluster of oncoming fighters. The planes then are too busy diving out of the way of your missile to shoot back. Keep the machine-guns firing constantly and hose down those airplanes with a sweeping motion. For the ground missions the advice is similar: just sweep left and right, dodging between buildings. When you're in an open space, spray those ground vehicles with constant gunfire.

Overall I really enjoy this game. Okay, so it's not very sophisticated - you just fly along and blast the crap out of anything that moves - but I like shooter games, and I find it's plenty of fun. It's not a deep game, but there's something very satisfying about flopping down on the sofa after a long day at work and plastering a few hundred enemy tanks and planes in a sitting.

I rate Blue Lightning about 7.5 out of 10.

Rating: 7/10

LS650's avatar
Community review by LS650 (May 24, 2007)

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