Sky Jaguar


Review by Bruce Consolazio



Graphics: 8

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Sky Jaguar is the second game released for the ColecoVision by Eduardo "Opcode" Mello. However, this effort is different in a number of ways.

skyjaguar.png (4312 bytes)First, and most importantly, of all, this game was not actually programmed by Opcode the way Space Invaders Collection was. It is the MSX computer version of the little-known Konami arcade shooter Sky Jaguar, a Xevious-style game that was so obscure, not even the Killer List Of Videogames website has any real information on it. The MSX computers were pretty much what the ADAM computer should have been, and a large, impressive library of games was produced for them.

Over the years, with the rise of homebrewing projects, many ColecoVision fans had wondered if it was possible to put MSX games on a ColecoVision cartridge, or at least to use a module of some sort. Since the MSX and ColecoVision were very similar, except for memory (usually), this was not at all far-fetched. Unfortunately, nobody had succeeded... until now.

Opcode has not only put an MSX game on the ColecoVision, he has done so without the need for a module. It is on a cartridge, same as any other. This has a number of very exciting implications, but, more on that later.

Sky Jaguar is a vertical-scrolling game similar to Xevious, without ground-based targets. The plot is that humans have used up the resources of Earth, and are now searching the galaxy for other planets. Aliens, the "Zephyrians," have launched an attack on the weakened Earth, maybe because they are evil, or are simply afraid that their planets are next. In any case, you must pilot a ship, the Sky Jaguar, against various enemy attack craft, trying to reach and destroy two large fortresses hovering over the oceans. The invaders, of course, are doing everything they can to destroy you, with considerable determination.

Each "level" consists of eight scenes, which are made up of City-Base, Forest, Ocean, Pyramids, and Red Canyon. You fly over these areas as enemy attack craft try to destroy you in various ways. There are nine such attackers, plus the two different Fortresses; these appear in scenes three and eight. The attackers are quite different: one kind is totally indestructable, forcing you to simply avoid the shots they fire in a sort of zig-zag web, while others are vulnerable only when firing upon you. Still another can become invisible, while yet another, unless shot directly in the center, takes two hits to destroy. The most common enemy, the "Drincas," can actually attack in four different ways, including a train-like formation; shooting all five Drincas in such a formation yields a bonus of 1000 points (and the number is shown!).

You will encounter the first Fortress in scene three. This Fortress closely resembles the Andor Genesis Mother Ship of Xevious, and to destroy it you must shoot out the four Towers (more like colored domes) near the middle. Meanwhile, it can launch attack craft at you, all the while shooting. The Towers take more than one hit to destroy, so it isn't easy.

The second Fortress is near the end of scene eight. It is shaped like a giant barbell, and has only two Towers, but they are located at either end, forcing you to go from one side to the other- not an easy task! Once (if) you manage to destroy it, the game starts over, except for difficulty: enemies that did not shoot before now will, and those that did shoot before will now do so with greater frequency.

As with any post-Xevious game of this sort, there are power-ups. These are carried by the "Balas," small, roundish black objects that resemble mines. Shooting a Bala that carries this (they are unmarked) will yield a "Pow," which, when you fly over it for the first time, will cause your shots to turn into two shots (actually, it is still one shot, but wider). If, after this, you grab a second such Pow, you will be able to fire three shots at a time, rather than the normal two. If your craft is destroyed, the next must start over. There are no third power-ups.

These Balas can also carry hostages. If you shoot such a one, a small, bowling-ball shaped alien parachutes down. Grabbing him will result in bonus points. As I've never even seen, let alone played, the arcade machine, I cannot compare this version to the arcade version. So, it must be judged by itself. And how is it? Quite good, really.

Graphics, overall, are excellent. Most objects are multi-colored and detailed, although there are two single-colored enemies that are a bit primitive looking. Explosions are animated and nicely done. The backgrounds are detailed and colorful, but there is a problem: the scrolling. It is as choppy as CV Front Line, and takes a bit of getting used to. This alone prevents the graphics from getting a higher score. As mentioned, a "1000" appears when you shoot all Drincas in the train formations or grab a hostage; a minor touch, but a good one. There is also an amazing amount of on-screen action, with flickering being almost rare and very minor. The screen stops scrolling when the Fortresses are fully on-screen, and they are both impressive, and animated when releasing enemy craft.

Note- It is curious that Konami decided to have the same kind of enemy- the Drincas- attack in four different ways, rather than drawing four different kinds of craft. This would have given the appearance of more variety in the enemies.

Sound is a bit lacking in places, even sparce. Still, it is better than some other, similar, action games, and the opening theme is impressive, as are the tunes when you encounter and then destroy a Fortress. The sound of a power-up is what you would expect from such an arcade game. And by the way - if the sound the spinning Drincas make sounds familiar, it is because it is the same used in Daniel Bienvenu's Dac-Man!

Gameplay is this game's strong point. There are no options, you just start and play, and this game is DIFFICULT! It will take quite a few plays before you even reach the second Fortress. Even so, once you start getting the hang of it, Sky Jaguar is an amazingly satisfying game, especially when you manage to dodge a screen filled with enemy fire, and annihilate the many attacking vessels. The power-ups, while simple, are very important, and add considerably to the game, as does the alien hostage you can grab for bonus points. It takes some practice to get anywhere with this game, but it is worth it.

As with Space Invaders Collection, there is a title screen and an attract mode, which adds to a home game's appeal. And, as before, the box and instruction booklet are both in full color and as good as anything any large company ever produced.

So, overall, Sky Jaguar was the perfect start to MSX-to-ColecoVision games. It is an action-filled, satisfying (and sometimes insanely frustrating!) shooter, and unlike any other ColecoVision game at this time. In other words, Opcode has given ColecoVision owners yet another winner.

It is also a good sign of things to come. At the time of this writing, Opcode is set to release another cartridge, one with both a one-on-one fighting game, AND video billiards, which is superior to the one ADAM's House (ecoleco) offers. He is also preparing "Knightmare," a game similar to Front Line and Commando, but with many power-ups, bos s enemies, and a fantasy theme. It will have more memory than any other ColecoVision cartridge, and represents what the Supergame Module SHOULD'VE given us back then!

You can probably find a website with MSX game emulators. These games, put on the ColecoVision, will expand the variety and number of games. There are even a few role playing games, Arkanoid, and side-scrolling/level/boss games. Keep a look out for any future MSX-to-ColecoVision projects. Before long, the ColecoVision may have a game library that, for variety and quality, can match that of the NES.

Helpful Hints-

* You will encounter the same kind(s) of enemies at the same points in the game. Keep this in mind, so you know what to expect.

* Power-ups and Hostages are carried only by the "Balas," and nothing else.

* When approaching a Fortress, try to approach it under its Towers, to get a head start. For the first one, try to be close to the to the middle of the screen, but slightly to the left or right. For the second one, try to approach near the left or right side of the screen. And don't stop firing as you do so!

* The most deadly shots fired by the enemies are from behind you. Try to keep as low as possible on the screen to prevent this, especially with the spinning/diving Drincas.

* Don't stay in one place for any length of time. The Zephyrians shoot so often, you will be trapped quickly.


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Last updated: Sunday, September 25, 2005 07:28 PM