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Alien Vs Predator: The Atari Jaguar Game You Likely Never Played

The video game console market looked very different in the early '90s compared to today. Most people remember the popular systems of the time, the Nintendo SNES and Sega Genesis, but a few other consoles vied for player attention. The Atari Jaguar fell into the latter category. It released in November 1993 and was marketed as the world's first 64-bit console, telling its audience to "do the math" compared to the 16-bit Genesis.

Unfortunately for the Jaguar, a litany of hardware bugs, a lack of support from developers, and higher-than-advertised prices in stores led to lackluster sales, making it one of the biggest gaming flops of all time (per AtariAge). This combination of factors resulted in only 50 games ever getting made for the Jaguar (with an additional 13 for the disastrous Jaguar CD). A handful of these titles also released on other systems, though not every variation worked the same way. Some had divergent graphics, mechanics, and even stories depending on the platform. The Atari Jaguar version of "Alien vs Predator" stood apart though. It was a completely different experience altogether.

SNES Alien vs Predator

Three different versions of "Alien vs Predator" released between 1993 and 1994. There was one for the SNES, one for arcade cabinets and one for the Jaguar. The SNES and Arcade versions shared some design similarities, with both functioning as side-scrolling beat 'em ups.

Developed by Jorudan Co. and published by Activision, the SNES "Alien vs Predator" came out first. It takes place on the planet Vega 4 in the year 2493. A human colony has been overwhelmed by Xenomorphs after a group of workers digging out a subway tunnel accidentally uncovered a clutch of their eggs. The colonists sent out a distress signal to earth, inadvertently contacting a passing Yautja ship. The Predators, who had intended to "hunt humans," heard the message and decided that Xenomophs would make for "more challenging prey." Players take on the role of a Yautja hunter. They have to battle their way across Vega 4, taking out enemy nests, until they ultimately follow an Alien ship to its home world in the Orion Nebula and face a final foe: the Alien Queen.

Arcade Alien vs Predator

Capcom developed and produced the version of "Alien vs Predator" gamers could play at their local arcade. Though also a beat 'em up, it differed both visually and mechanically. The darker SNES version seemed intent on going for more realism, while Capcom's arcade version had a more stylized design that felt similar to "Street Fighter." It also boasted a much more diverse range of movements and attacks – not to mention a separate setting and storyline.

The arcade "Alien vs Predator" takes place on Earth, where Xenomorphs have overrun the fictional city of San Drad, California. Players can choose to play as Maj. D. Schaefer, Lt. Linn Kurosowa, a Predator Warrior, or a Predator Hunter. They must battle their way across the city, taking on various forms of Xenomorphs. It eventually comes out that the American military, in conjunction with the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, caused the outbreak and that they've been trying to create weapons by forcing Yautja to become hosts to Xenomorphs. Players then fight their way through a military installation and onto a spaceship before facing the final boss: another Alien Queen.

Jaguar Alien vs Predator

Even with all the differences between the SNES and arcade versions of "Alien vs Predator," they are at least the same kind of game. The one made for the Atari Jaguar isn't a beat 'em up at all, but rather a survival horror first-person shooter that has more in common with "Doom" than either of the other "Alien vs Predator" entries. Rebellion Developments created it, with Atari itself serving as the publisher. The game unfolds in the Weylan Yutani Colonial Marine Training Base called Golgotha. An unidentified spacecraft is discovered and brought to the base for examination and Golgotha is quickly overrun by Xenomorphs. Shortly after this, a Yautja ship arrives as well.

Players get to choose whether they wish to play as a Space Marine, Alien, or Predator. Each character has its own objectives and its own weapons and mechanics for achieving them. The Xenomorph's goal centers on finding its queen and cocooning enemies. It uses its retractable inner mouth, claws, and tail to melee strike those that cross its path. The Yautja wants to obtain the skull of the Alien Queen and kill prey honorably. It has camouflage abilities and can melee attack with the blades on its arm and a taser or throw blades at range. The Colonial Marine starts out being released from the security brig after serving a sentence for striking an officer only to find himself the lone survivor on the base. He uses a variety of guns in his bid to make it out alive.

The legacy of the Atari Jaguar's Alien vs Predator

According to the 22nd issue of Edge Magazine (p. 5), "Alien vs Predator" for the Jaguar sold over 85,000 copies worldwide. That might not seem all that impressive by today's standards, with AAA games regularly selling millions of units, but it was quite a lot at the time and "Alien vs Predator" quickly became the best-selling title on the system. Critics praised it as well. Both reviewers at Game Zero gave it near-perfect scores, stating that, although launch delays frustrated gamers, they found the final result worth the wait. Flux Magazine Issue 5 (p.24) called it, "One of the few truly great games for the struggling Jaguar."

"Alien vs Predator" has fallen into relative obscurity in the years since, but it does occasionally reappear on lists for its contributions to the gaming landscape. Game Trailers put it at number four on its ranking of the Top 10 Scariest Games and the "Guinness Book of World Records 2017: Gamer's Edition" (p. 154) recognized it as the "first FPS game in which gamers can play as the monster," stating that it came 20 years before titles like "Evolve" became popular. All of this adds up to a game worth remembering, even if most people have never had the chance to play it.