By Kent, Steven L.; Antonoff, Michael,

From Popular Science, Jul95, Vol. 247 Issue 1, p41, 1/2p, 3c

Copyright of Popular Science is the property of Times Mirror Magazines. All rights reserved. Reprinted under the "Reasonable Use" interpretation of the 1976 Copyright Act.

With a new price just slightly higher than the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis systems, Atari's 64-bit Jaguar offers a video-gaming experience with quality near that of an arcade. Originally selling for $249, the Jaguar has been marked down to $159, about $30 more than 16-bit systems like the Genesis and about half the price of other next-generation systems.

Rather than streaming game code through a single processor, the Jaguar has specialized processors working in tandem. Its Graphics Processor and Object Processor enable it to create large, realistic characters and detailed scenes. After completing the Jaguar version of Doom, John Romero, one of the creators of the popular computer game, rated the Atari game system as one of the best.

Complementing the graphics engine is a Digital Signal Processor that produces 16-bit stereo sound. Though some games do not take full advantage of the Jaguar's audio power, games like Tempest 2000 demonstrate the excitement that a stereo soundtrack can add. But because Jaguar connects through your TV's coaxial antenna port, it's less flexible than game systems equipped with video and dual audio jacks.

All of its processing power makes Jaguar a strong system for innovative games. Superimposing animated skiers against a stunning, panoramic backdrop of the Alps, Val d'Ise're Skiing and Snow Boarding twists, turns, and drops you at such dizzying speeds you'll feel your stomach bounce. As you hurtle through the course, obstacles test your reflexes. You may slide wildly on ice or leap over patches of dirt. Trees and snowplows can cause nasty spills, but there's no time to lick your wounds:

You scramble to your feet as you race the clock to the next checkpoint. In Kasumi Ninja, a slick martial arts game, parents can lock out an option in which blood sprays and drips and fights end in death.

There were 25 titles in stores for Jaguar as of April. A $150 CD player and additional games have been announced, which will make the system more competitive with 3DO and the forthcoming Sega Saturn. As for now, Jaguar is a huge step up from similarly priced 16-bit game consoles.