Often times, bringing out a good sequel is one of the most difficult things to pull of. The task was supposed to be even harder in this case, given that Dave Theurer's original Tempest was a smash hit in the arcades and is as beloved by classic fans today as it was during its heyday. Remarkably, however, Jeff Minter has managed to preserve the intensity of the vector graphics-based original (which is no small task) while adding enough fresh elements into this version to consider it a complete upgrade.
For those of you who've never had the pleasure of playing Atari's coin-op classic, I feel sorry for you. The original Tempest was pure gaming bliss, and can be considered the Pac-Man or Tetris of shooters because it's one of those games that is so unique and wonderful that nobody's really tried to emulate it because they know they'd fail. Even twelve years later, it's just as addicting as when it wowed arcade-goers with its frantic pace and originality. In both the original version and this one, you maneuver a claw-shaped ship on the outer edges of a web-like vortex, trying to shoot down enemies that rise from the core at the other end. After eliminating all the foes in that have been thrown your way, you move onto a more challenging and funky stage.
This modern update features four different play options. Traditional Tempest is a port - albeit a rather poor one - of the original game. To be fair, however, it was just added to the game as a "gimme." Purists will undoubtedly balk at how this one turned out, however. Tempest Plus is adds a few new elements to Traditional Tempest by providing new levels and allowing for cooperative play via a second player or a computer assistant. The real star in this compilation, as you'd expect, is Tempest 2000 (more on this one later.) Tempest Duel is a deathmatch between two players that utilizes the Tempest 2000 engine.
Tempest 2000 is far more than merely a graphically enhanced version of Tempest. This Jaguar version features one hundred different boards, sweet bonus stages, new enemies, and a slew of power-ups that really spice up the action (not to mention giving the player a fighting chance.) The ability to jump is a tremendous add-on, and power-ups like the particle blaster and the AI droids that destroy anything that gets close to you are really cool additions as well. But the snazziest new feature is unquestionably the "Melt-O-Vision" effect. It's really psychadelic like only Minter can do, but it's something that you've got to see for yourself so I won't spoil the fun by explaining it in detail.
Although you can get by somewhat by using the same method of play as one usually does with shooters. That is, by just mindlessly blasting away everything that comes your way. You'll quickly realize, though, that there are lots of subtleties in Tempest 2000 that make you think. Even after you've become good at this game, you MIGHT think all you're doing is getting by on reaction skills alone, but sharp players will realize that it's more a matter of human brain power working its magic as you get "in-the-zone" in an almost zen-like state. Getting into this hypnotic state is one of the best feelings that you'll ever experience while playing a videogame! You really won't know why you're kicking ass in one game and stinking it up in another. But it's such a great adrenaline rush that you'll want to play "just one more level" so that you'll get into the groove yet again.
Part of the reason the game gets you some pumped up is undoubtedly because of the awesome music that compliments it. I'm the first to admit that sound effects and music tracks in a game usually don't change my impressions of a game, but in this case, the excitement level reaches a boiling point when your heart starts pumpin' to the techno soundtrack which beautifully compliments the speed of the game. And it doesn't stop there. The sound of explosions, weapon fire and superzapper juice up the atmosphere with its rowdiness and clarity. And the voice samples help to give you the feeling that you really are "out there" when playing this game.
Just writing about Tempest 2000 makes me want to rush over to my TV and plug it in for another round. I'll just sum up Tempest 2000 by proclaiming it to be one of the wildest, thrilling, adrenaline-inducing shooters to come out in a long time. The only other games to give me this feeling are Robotron:2084... and the original Tempest. Minter's love of the Dave Theurer's coin-op masterpiece is very apparent by the care he put into making sure that the Jaguar's 2000 version lives up to the legacy left by the original.