Why did 4Play go through this for so many years? Is BattleSphere that good of a game? Or were they just proving that they can keep their long-standing promise to release their game for the comatose jungle cat? Personally, I think it's both.
"BattleSphere is so good." I'm sure you've heard that same statement dozens of times over the years without any basis in physical proof. Naturally the developer is going to say it's a great game! Of course a few playtesters and fanatics who are supervised by the developers would say it was good. But what about the average game player? Would they like a game of BattleSphere? Most definitely yes.
The graphics in BattleSphere are so good that you'll wonder if you're really playing a "16-bit" Atari Jaguar. We all know the Jaguar is 64-bit but many of the games that were developed look very 16-bit. Not so with BattleSphere. The ships are all nicely shaded gouroud polygons with just enough decalmapping (tm) to make them look realistic. Many are humorously outlandish. The Oppressor's ships have a very male oriented theme, while the Se'bab have a decidedly anti-male look to them. Particularly the Se'bab supership which looks like a giant flying axe. Look out Bobbit!
More graphic treats are in store for you upon blasting those ships to bits. The explosions are excellent and you definitely feel a sense of power as you watch the pieces fly off in several directions. Starbases are large and appropriately designed for the species you are commanding. Another cool graphic effect is when your ship becomes immobilized. Everything outside becomes a smeared mess reminiscent of a Jeff Minter VLM effect.
The Main Menu graphics are creative but can be difficult to read. The "rotating spheres" effect is cool but seem like an afterthought. In addition, the Main Menu options could have drawn themselves faster. I want to play BattleSphere not watch menu options! The ship select screen is nice but it's difficult to read the ship stats and view the ship at the same time. Moving the ship stats to the side would have fixed this problem. And with all the polish and creativity put into this game what happened with the game options screen? It uses a standard font with a "flying through space" background. Also, why does it appear after the ship select in the Training mode but before the ship select in all other modes? Curious...
The music in BattleSphere is so good you'll wonder if you've got a CD playing in your Jaguar CD. There are more tracks than Tempest 2000, however they are shorter and can get repetitive after long periods of play. Nevertheless, the music is some of the best I've ever heard ranking BattleSphere up there with the likes of Defender 2000 and BattleMorph. The sound effects are also especially good. Old school Atarians might recognize several sound effects lifted from BattleSphere's inspiration, the original Star Raiders for the Atari 8-bit computer. Explosions, engine noise, lasers, and photons all help capture the feel of an epic space battle game.
The gameplay in BattleSphere is so good you'll think you're piloting a Viper fighter from Battlestar Galactica. There are a lot of controls to get used to but it won't take long before you're barrel-rolling through explosions and dodging blasts from the ejected pilots. I can't think of a game where the controls were so absolutely perfect. A lot of that comes from the fact that the game is so fast that any moment you execute will not be hampered by frame rate. Think about how difficult it is to control Hover Strike with it's lousy frame rate and you'll appreciate BattleSphere's sheer speed. My only issue with control has nothing to do with the smooth control itself. In my first few games I would constantly turn the wrong way because I was used to the "above" view of radar systems. BattleSphere's radar is comprised of "front" and "rear" units instead of above which takes a little getting used to.
All of the enemy ships in BattleSphere have a remarkable amount of artificial intelligence. Fire at a trio of ships, and two of them will move away. Often times they will attempt to come at you from behind to get a bead on you. Some ships will attempt to distract you allowing others will attack your starbases. Kamikaze runs are common as the enemy attempts to destroy your bases. And I don't know if they do this on purpose or not but they will frequently dive directly at you. Luckily, a collision will not destroy your ship and will only knock it slightly off course.
As it says on the box, BattleSphere has more secrets than Area 51 and Roswell. I'm sure that's true and there are even a few secrets on the back of the box. I've only found one secret during the game which appears in a Forrest fire-like background with scrolling text including the code. I only wish it would tell you what the code did.
Would BattleSphere have achieved this same cult following if it had been released at the same time as the other great Jaguar games like T2K, Battlemorph, Rayman, Iron Soldier, Doom, and AvP? It's naive to think BattleSphere could have saved Atari but it certainly wouldn't have hurt.
Not to mention that a game developed and released for a viable system might have helped 4Play break into the games industry. Witness the porting of Rayman, Iron Soldier and T2K to the PSX. Or how about the spectacular version of Aliens vs. Predator recently released for the PC? If BattleSphere had been released during the Jaguar's lifetime, perhaps we'd be seeing a PSX port of the game. But then again, would we really want that to happen? Better to keep it a Jaguar exclusive.
Get BattleSphere any way you can, even for $100 on Ebay, it's a good deal. It's a fabulous game and one of the Jaguar's Top 5. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of the Top 20 games of all time.
Q: Where can I get a copy of BattleSphere?
A: Your best bet at this point would be an auction site or to wait for another run from Scatologic.
Q: I heard there are a lot of secrets in this game. Is that true?
A: Absolutely! Check out The Atari Times' BattleSphere Codes!