The Atari Jaguar GD Cartridge is for, you guessed it, the Atari Jaguar. This is another one of those consoles you either love or hate, some might say it’s a niche system but I don’t really subscribe to those thoughts. It’s a console that has a thriving homebrew community, maybe one of the most active, so when James at RetroHQ announced that he was making a cartridge that allows you to play the full-back catalogue of Atari Jaguar games and homebrews directly from a memory card I knew, right then, this would surely enhance that part of the Jaguar scene.
As a developer, having the ability to sell ROM’s to people surely makes life much easier as folks like me cannot buy every physical copy that gets released. I can, however, buy all the ROM’s! Let’s take a closer look at this Flash cart solution and delve into what you get for your money.
The cartridge currently doesn’t come packaged in a box but it’s sealed in an anti-static bag and includes a coloured instruction booklet to help you get setup. You’ll need to supply your own Micro SD card so make sure you have one to spare. Once you insert the cartridge into the Jaguar, you will get a screen that gives you a link to the latest firmware. No cartridges are shipped with firmware so you have to go through this process, which is very straight forward. You simply download the file, copy it to your FAT16/32 formatted SD card, insert this to the cartridge, reboot the console, watch as it automatically updates the hardware and then loads into the menu screen. Once this process is completed, you can remove the SD card and copy the game ROM’s that you want on it to be ready to play.
I only added a few games that I own just so I could compare the version played via this device to the real physical copy. The games I chose were Aliens Vs Predator, Power Drive Rally and Rayman. Though simple choices, these are three of my favourite Jag games and ones I would most likely spot any issues with. This part was surprisingly simple and perhaps not needed within this review but as I set out on the path to fully test the cartridge I can only report my findings. Other than dealing with loading times, there was no real difference in the gaming experience. Each game played exactly as the real hardware/software would. So a huge thumbs up and, to be honest, I kind of expected that in any case.
* Atari Jaguar without Jaguar CD
* Installed EEPROM support for 128, 512 and 2048 byte EEPROMs
* FAT16/32 formatted MMC compatible micro memory card
* JagLink currently not supported
One thing I must mention is that, if you are lucky enough to own a JagCD, you cannot use the GD Cartridge with that addon plugged into the console. Currently, you must only have the bare Jag running though I believe James is working on a fix for this. That’s the beauty of the firmware updates!
Loading times are rapid, on average about 10 seconds, save states work like a dream and you can more or less hold the entire library on your cart. One criticism has been the price as the unit will set you back £160, give or take a few pounds. Yes, it’s a lot of money but some Everdrives will set you back similar amounts, so it’s not an outrageous price based on products that do the same thing on other consoles. Also be aware that James is a one-man band who is designing, building, testing, and selling these. It’s not a huge company taking your hard earned cash. Supporting projects like this only means more systems will get similar Game Drives from RetroHQ, such as the Atari Lynx and the Neo Geo Pocket GD Cartridges.
To sum up my opinion on this flash cart, if you own a Jaguar and you simply can not afford to buy all the games this console has to offer, buying one of these is a must. If you’re into homebrews and you want to experience those games at a third of the cost (in most cases), then this is for you. It’s a win-win type deal and you’re supporting someone who clearly loves doing what he does.
Retro head and key holder of RVG.