Cybermorph is a fully 3D spaceship shooter and as far as Atari Jaguar games go, there’s a lot here to check out. Over 40 planets, different weapons and enemies and a collection of bosses. The graphics are big, bold polygons that showed off the capabilities of the system but failed to deliver the incredible gameplay.
The game that showed Atari Jaguar owners everywhere what to expect from Atari’s video game console. Cybermorph was the pack-in title that disappointed plenty of gamers in the early 90’s but is there any reason to go back and revisit it? Well, we found 3.
3 Reasons to check out Cybermorph
The Atari Jaguar touted incredible 3D gameplay, but not many games were able to deliver. For a pack-in title Cybermorph got to show the world why the Atari Jaguar was ready to push the 16-Bit consoles out. 3D gaming was already popular in the arcades, while the Sega 32x and Super Nintendo’s Super FX chips were introducing it at home.
For one year, from the end of 1993 to the end of 1994, the Atari Jaguar was the system of choice for bringing 3D gaming home.
The Atari Jaguar was never released in Australia. Prices for the system have increased, and even more noticeably, for the games. Cybermorph is the single cheapest title in my collection. The game itself is big and feels complete, it’s synonymous with the Atari Jaguar brand and it’s the cheapest game you can buy.
Atari Jaguar games and systems don’t have region lock, so you can look anywhere for cheap games. Cybermorph was will always be available
The Atari Jaguar stands out, especially with its lack of hard-hitting big name games and supporting video game developers. It’s a fascinating system to look back at because of its range of unique, low-budget exclusive titles. Cybermorph was developed by Attention to detail, a UK-based company that went on to create some amazing titles like Rollcage for the Playstation, as well as Lego racers 2 and the Sydney 2000 video game.
The small developers who devoted their time and effort to making games for the Atari Jaguar left behind a library of incredibly quirky and strange games. The Atari Jaguar experience. Cybermorph shows us what the Jaguar was capable of, but also plenty of shortcomings.
The Atari Panther Console
Flare Technology is a UK based tech company founded from ex-engineers out of Sinclair Research. They developed the hardware that was eventually used to power the Atari Jaguar. When they approached Atari with their hardware, they were originally commissioned to develop two prototypes. The Flare 1 chipset was already used in quiz-based arcade machines produced by a company called Bellfruit. Flare 1 was set to be implemented within the Atari Panther, a sister console to the Atari Jaguar. Based on 32-Bit architecture it was designed to compete directly with the Sega Megadrive and the Super Nintendo.
To ensure the panther could hit the ground running, three titles were being developed for it as the concept was being developed. Raiden, Trevor McFur and Cybermorph. The release titles for the Atari Jaguar. The Atari Panther system was ultimately pulled from production early into its development and all available resources were channeled into bringing the Atari Jaguar to life. Flare technology sold their Flare 2 chipset to Atari, the games that were being developed were ported.
Cybermorph is the single 3D title that moved from the Panther to the Jaguar and it served as a tech demo for the new Atari Jaguar platform.
The Hype around gaming
The Atari Jaguar disappointed a lot of people. The hype around the console was incredible and Cybermorph was first in the firing line as the pack-in title. Even as the Atari Jaguar was launched, only two other titles were available and both of them were 2D; Trevor McFur in the Cresent Galaxy and Raiden. The system had a lot of hype but no real substance outside Cybermorph
At least gamers got to see 3D gaming on the Jag
Before the internet and easy access to gameplay footage, a lot of gamers saw what’s new in magazines. As the Jagaur was building momentum to launch, Gamefan Magazine got the system along with a copy of Cybermorph.
The front page story and following pages from the Gamefan Magazine painted Cybermorph as an incredible experience that ushers in a new generation of gaming and transcends anything that came before it. Unfortunately, for the rest of the world, Cybermorph couldn’t deliver on those promises.
“After braving the stormy skies of New York city, Kid Fan emerged with the first Atari Jaguar awarded to a game publication. After ripping open the Fed Ex box, we all gathered around the first 64 bit game system and plunked in Cybermorph…I got to play. 24 hours later, long after everyone else (except for my trusty Quadra operator) had left I emerged, totally fulfilled, with the strange feeling that after playing video Games for 9 years I had just played the first “real one”. No longer am I tied down to going from point A to point B, I could go anywhere, anytime, and interact with crafts and characters all over each of fifty planets, for as long as I wanted After rescuing my allotment of pods I can survey the world, taking out remaining enemies, playing with different viewpoints and examining structures. Each level is a different type of rescue mission requiring a completely new strategy than the last. Some moons are totally hostile while others require intense exploration and passive gameplay. I played for 3 hours to complete the first eight moons, then surprisingly met a boss on the ninth. At that point (I’m used to 16 bit games) I figured it was over. But I was wrong. Eight more appeared that required massive study to conquer. Then, after another twelve hours of engulfing gameplay, I reached the end once again, fought two huge gunships and figured, for sure, that was it. Again, I was wrong. Eight more planets appeared that I am still, two days later, studying.
It turns out that there are fifty planets! Making this game, one that doesn’t even nick the hardware, the longest I have ever played. All 3D, all rendering on the fly, filled with vivid, brilliant colors and detailed polygon enemies, that seem aware of my presence – I am thrilled with this game. So now, for me the face of gaming has totally changed. Now, I must imagine games like this that make use of the Jag’s full potential. Texture mapped, rendering on the fly RPGs are now possible – games with huge worlds to explore are on the horizon. Action, shooting, role playing, adventure, the Jag will have it all! No Putt, Putt’s, no Bird’s Life, just solid inventive 64-bit games from programmers with imagination. This game was made by ATD, who’s ATD? Whoever they are, they sure know how to make games. They got inside my head and that’s what it’s all about. Will everyone who plays Cybermorph feel as I do?…probably not. There are those, (I’ve already met some), who will turn it on, fly in to a planet, think they’re just playing another shooter, die for sure, and exclaim…this is 64 bit? To those boneheads – I must say; you have to look deeper than that, this is the first game! It was probably started before the 64 bit processor housed inside was even invented. Look at the creativity, the sound, the intelligence. Cybermorph has great music in the intro, but the game itself whispers only the surreal sounds of each planet. The sounds of the approaching missles, the rumblign of approaching transport vehicles, the hum of your thrusters, that’s all you here and rightfully so – music would only interfere. In closing, I can only say that, with the Jaguar, Atari has won our support. The new machine is made here, is the highest quality I have seen so far and looks fantastic. Support? They will have it, because we will all own this system, at least most of our readers will. And you guys alone can spell success for a new system. Atari is back, come pet the cat.”
With Atari, the advertising was extreme. But they couldn’t back up their claims like Sega and Sony could. Even Sega reigned in their advertising from the Sega CD and 32x and took a more modest approach. Unfortunately, with the hype and backlash, games like Cybermorph failed to impress. The lack of trust and support in the system and Atari made sure the Jaguar never reached its full potential. For a collectors item, it’s a unique system with mostly unique titles. It’s a lot easier to appreciate the hype and history of the Atari Jaguar and Cybermorph decades after they failed to make an impact on a mainstream gaming market.