Tempest 2000


Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 8

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

This month, you will read countless reviews of Atari's Tempest 2000 for the Jaguar. Undoubtedly, the pro mags will gush over its intense speed and addictiveness. They'll orgasm over the techno music, calling it "revolutionary". And I'm almost positive that just about every fanzine in publication will do the same, marvelling over the graphics and flashy, pyrotechnic effects. You'd expect more than that from me, though, wouldn't you? Sorry, I agree with them this time. Tempest 2000 is a wonder to behold.

Twelve years ago, I was in the prime of my youth. It was sophmore year at Lakeland Regional High. While most of my peers were spending their Friday nights partying and learning about the opposite sex, I could be found in a run-down diner playing Tempest. At the tender age of seventeen I was a gambling lad, taken in by the sights, the sounds... the smells of horse racing. Accompanied by a similar misfit of adolescence, we'd cruise to the Meadowlands after work, gamble a portion of the week's earnings, then make the inevitable "last stop" of each week's odyssey: the Oakland Diner. These pages couldn't possibly fit all of the anecdotes I could share with you about this armpit of society, but it was here that I learned the wonders of Tempest. It's stark backgrounds, simple geometric playfields, and uncomplicated controls belied the true power of the game. It was - and is - the consummate shooter. Addictive, fast-paced, powerful, and completely uncomplicated. Tempest doesn't even have a boss, nor are there any power-ups in the game. This to me is what gaming is all about - there's no "beating" it. It just gets harder and harder until it beats you. You got a good score? That's nice.

When the Atari 5200 came to town shortly afterwards, it seemed that Tempest might come home. Advertisements prepped 5200 owners for the arcade experience in the comfort of your own easy chair. Alas, this would never really happen, as Atari had obvious difficulties with the vector to raster translation (I own a prototype of Battlezone, and it's just as well they didn't finish it). The closest we ever really got was Web Wars for the Vectrex, which was impressive graphically and played a pretty mean game, but it wasn't Tempest. Nor were the countless imitators found on home computers for a few years. Then the Nintendo came along, then the 16-bit wars. Then CD-ROM game systems. Still no Tempest.

Three months ago I was running at the mouth about how my Atari Jaguar was nothing but a great funnel for dust. I absolutely loathed Cybermorph, and it was easily the best of the four initial Jag games produced by Atari. Even Tempest 2000, a distant beam of light in distance, didn't seem like it would be enough to sell this system. I'm a man who can admit when he's wrong, and I was. The smartest thing Atari could do right now is pack this game in with every Jaguar. They wouldn't be able to keep up with the sales.

If nothing else, Tempest 2000 brings the arcade experience home at last. Actually, the "traditional" version of Tempest is a bit tepid - much slower and less aggressive than the coin-op ever was. But the new version, "Tempest 2000", makes the coin-op look like the relic it is. This game is fast. It has CD-quality music, power-ups, bonus levels, and the wildest, most frantic gameplay I've seen in years. If it sounds like I'm gushing, that's because I am. I'm thoroughly addicted to this game.

It's not the perfect shooter it once was, but only because it still appears Atari cut some corners. For example - the music, which is probably the best I've ever heard in a videogame, consists of a mere four main tracks. There are a few others, heard in bonus rounds and in the demos, but they're inconsequential. The rippin' techno that actually made Kevin Oleniacz' eyes bulge when he first heard it is played for sixteen levels at a time before it changes. I would have preferred shorter pieces and more of them. I also think the bonus levels could have been more inventive, although they certainly are eye-catching. My final nit is the overall display, which at its most frantic is too cluttered to see what the hell is in front of you. I guess that's the price you pay for a game that's this hectic.

My Jaguar now sits poised to take over the shelf where my Super NES has held a spot for over two years. I'm starting to think of Nintendo's unit as the dust gatherer and the U.S. console as the worthy challenger. Let's see who has that enviable shelf position at year's end. For now, I'm thrilled with Tempest 2000, and all I have to say is "YES! YES! YES! YES! YESYESYES!"

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hindsight IS 20/20. The Jaguar didn't last another month on the "shelf"! The Jaguar version of Tempest STILL is the best of the lot, despite a pretty good Playstation effort and a decent Saturn conversion. I'll take the non-load-time-inhibited version anyday, PLUS the music is better on the cartridge!


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Last updated: Friday, December 26, 2003 09:19 PM