Battlemorph

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Battlemorph
Battlemorph cover.jpg
Cover art in all regions
Developer(s)Attention to Detail
Publisher(s)Atari Corporation
Producer(s)Sean Patten
Designer(s)Jim McPhail
Stuart Tilley
Programmer(s)Andrew Holtom
Fred Gill
Peter Long
Artist(s)Dave West
Ian Harling
Joanne Surman
Writer(s)Sadge
Composer(s)Will Davis
Platform(s)Atari Jaguar CD
Release
Genre(s)Shooter
Mode(s)Single-player

Battlemorph is a shooter video game developed by Attention to Detail and published by Atari Corporation exclusively for the Atari Jaguar CD in North America and Europe on December 1995.[1][2] It is the sequel to Cybermorph, a pack-in game for the Atari Jaguar that was originally released in November 23, 1993.[3]

Set 30 years after the events in Cybermorph, the player takes control of a morphing infiltration fighter craft named War Griffon in an extermination mission against the returning Pernitia Empire, who plans to take over the galaxy and eradicate humanity after being pushed back into their home planet by creating invasion fleets in order to do so, and liberate multiple galaxy clusters from their control. Originally announced in early 1994 as one of the first upcoming titles for the Jaguar CD,[4][5][6] Battlemorph was conceived and pitched to Atari Corp. after the release of Cybermorph, with the team using content ideas that were not included in the original game and became the last project developed by ATD for the Jaguar,[7] before Atari discontinued both platforms and merged with JT Storage in April 1996.[8][9]

Battlemorph received mostly positive reviews when it was released, with critics praising the graphics, soundtrack, the ability to traverse across any terrain and overall improvements made over Cybermorph, while some felt divided in regards to the controls and was criticized for its short draw distance. Online publications such as AllGame have referred it as one of the best games released for the add-on.[10]

Gameplay[edit]

Gameplay screenshot.

Battlemorph is a semi-open three-dimensional shooter game that is primarily played from a third-person perspective like its predecessor, Cybermorph. The player pilots the War Griffon, a new variation of the T-Griffon fighter craft from the original game, capable of traversing through underwater and underground tunnel areas besides the main planetary surface in order to complete various types of mission objectives such as retrieval of data pods, activation of detonators in military outposts and elimination of enemy headquarters across eight galaxy clusters dominated by generals from the Pernitia Empire, each one consisting of six planets that can be played at any order, with a boss on the sixth planet before moving into the next cluster.[11] There are three levels of difficulty to choose from before starting any file and if a Memory Track cartridge is present, progress, high-score and setting changes will be automatically saved, otherwise players can play through the game without saving and by pressing Option on the main menu screen, players can access to the options screen and change other settings such as disabling cutscenes and language.[11] The game also features support for the ProController.

Before the start of any area, the player can load the War Griffon with up to four special weapons such as cruise missiles and decoys to use against enemies and enemy buildings, though only two special weapons are available to choose from at the beginning of the game and ammo must be picked up when playing on the level in order to replenish them, as they are not refilled after finishing a level and their capacity can be expanded by finding expansions hidden within their respective levels, in addition of collecting new weapon by finding four fragments as well to expand the ship's arsenal, among other upgrades for the ship that are found through the levels.[11] A new addition to the sequel are capsule-shaped energy pods, allowing the player to recover a small amount of energy for the ship, while a full recovery is only done by finding a energizing ring in the area.[11] As with Cybermorph, players can crash into mountain terrains and building, however, their ship is not instantly destroyed when flying at high speed into the latter. Like the previous game, the player has a set number of lives at the start and if all of them are lost, the game is over, though extra lives can be found hidden on the level.[11] When flying through the tunnel sections, the perspective changes from third-person to first-person and the player can only rotate left and right, while blocked doors can be opened by pressing switches inside these sections.[11] Some bodies of water can also either benefit or harm the player and as with the original title, more enemies and obstacles are introduced in later levels.[11] A returning element from the first game is the on-board artificial intelligence Skylar, now colored in blue and she is more helpful to the player this time, transmitting important information during gameplay such as nearby objectives.[11]

Plot[edit]

Battlemorph takes place 30 years after the events occurred in Cybermorph.[11] After their defeat by the Resistance, the Pernitia Empire was pushed back into their own galaxy cluster but at the cost of human colonies and deciding in not taking risk for another invasion, the Earth Defense Council built fleets of interstellar battle cruisers for patrolling the colonies.[11] At first, there were no signs of irregular activities but battle cruisers near the Perseus Star Cluster started disappearing, while other cruisers reported signs of Pernitian activity across eight galaxy clusters before their disappearance and as a result, the Defense Council deploys their last battle cruiser, the Sutherland, into the Perseus Star Cluster for a reconnaissance and extermination mission in fearing for the worst.[11] Carrying the War Griffon infiltration fighter craft, an upgraded variation of the original Cybermorph TransmoGriffon or T-Griffon for short, the Sutherland manages to reach the Perseus Star Cluster but runs out of plasma energy after using the ship's warp drive systems and the only way of reaching the Pernish galaxy cluster, homeworld of the Pernitia Empire, is through the recovery of more plasma energy from Pernitian generals across the eight planetary clusters by assigning the player in piloting the War Griffon before the empire launches a full-scale invasion against humanity, as well as the galaxy.[11] After clearing out each galaxy cluster and recovering enough plasma energy, the Sutherland finally reaches the Pernish galaxy cluster and the player manages to completely defeat the Pernitia Empire after destruction of their home planet.

Development and release[edit]

Being one of the first titles announced for the Atari Jaguar CD, Battlemorph applied the same technical techniques originally used in Cybermorph to improve the experience.

A sequel to Cybermorph was pitched by Attention to Detail to Atari Corporation after the first game was released to the market in 1993, with ATD co-founder and programmer Fred Gill stating that the team wanted to make a continuation and implement ideas that were not able to do so in the original game.[7] Battlemorph was first announced in early 1994 as one of the first upcoming games for the Atari Jaguar CD add-on alongside with the remake of Blue Lightning, another project in development by ATD and was showcased at SCES 1994, in addition of being originally slated for a December 1994 release.[4][12][5][6][13][14] The game was later showcased in a non-playable state at WCES 1995 where it was originally announced to be a pack-in title with the Jaguar CD,[15][16][17] and was also showcased at E3 1995 in an early playable state.[18] It was later slated for a August 1995 release and was also covered by the magazine press that were invited to Atari Corp.'s US and UK divisions.[19][20][21][22] The game was also showcased at the Fun 'n' Games Day event hosted by Atari.[23]

Battlemorph uses the same technical techniques applied in Cybermorph for the Jaguar and made extra use of the hardware to improve the title.[7] Former Atari producer Leonard Tramiel originally insisted to the team in having the game full of texture-mapped graphics,[7] but the final release features a combination of gouraud-shaded polygon models and environments with minimal texture mapping instead. The narration, menu and both mission briefing and debriefing voice work was done by comedian actor Rob Brydon,[24] while the voicework of Skylar was done by David Lowe's wife Victoria "Vicky" Lowe, who voiced her in the original game as well. Internal paperwork from Atari Corp. showed that development on the game was completed on December 11, 1995.[25]

Reception[edit]

Pre-release[edit]

When previewed in their January 1996 issue, Dave Halverson of GameFan praised the improvements made over Cybermorph, calling it "one of the Jag's brightest lights".[26]

Post-release[edit]

Reception
Review scores
PublicationScore
Next Generation4/5 stars[32]
AllGame5/5 stars[10]
Atari Gaming Headquarters8 / 10[27]
Fun Generation8 / 10[28]
Game Players85%[29]
GamePro9.5 / 20[30]
MAN!AC59%[31]
ST-Computer85%[33]
ST Format89%[34]
ST Magazine76%[35]
VideoGames8 / 10[36]

A reviewer for Next Generation called Battlemorph "a truly innovative action game and a must-have for Jaguar owners." He commented mainly on the graphics, contending that while they have little detail and short draw distance, they carry a strong sense of style and suspense, particularly in the effective use of underwater sections. He further admitted that the full motion video cutscenes have some value. He acknowledged that the controls are imperfect but said they become easier with practice.[32]

Casey Loe of GameFan, while acknowledging that "it won't blow anyone away with its 3-D capabilities", praised the music, worlds, missions and weapons variety, stating that "this one will keep you busy for as long it takes for another good Jag CD title to hit".[37]

GamePro's brief review, however, argued that "Battlemorph provides below-average terrain-skimming shooting in a typical polygon environment and features really poor control. While the tunnel and underwater areas refresh this tedious game, the dismal one-color landscapes are the same as those in half of the Jaguar games out there."[30]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]