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The Jazz Jackrabbit trilogy

Believe it or not I used to run a youtube channel and quickly dropped it due to plenty of personal issues and somewhat depressing reasons. All the scripts, skits and ideas are still here and I constantly come up with thigs to write and do. So I thought why not post the things I write here to not let it all go to waste. Good? Good.

The introduction

Let me tell you about a time when everything was cooler. The year is 1994 and the gaming industry is packed full of awesome stand out titles like Earthbound, System shock, Super metroid, Doom 2, Donkey Kong country and the little PC DOS game called Jazz Jackrabbit.

A 2d platformer about a green rabbit going on genocide to save his princess. You know like every other platformer from the 90s. The idea came from Arjan Brussee and Cliff Bleszinki and the game was developed by Epic Mega Games or as they´re known nowadays, “the people who made Fortnite”

On August 1st 1994 the Shareware version was made public on various Bulletin board system and Internet providers like Copuserve. This made sure for the game to be as wildly spread as possible which worked because the shareware version proved to be so popular that the game was named Arcade Game of the Year by PC Format. If you were one of those to buy the full game back then you would have gotten a lot of cool merch like a comic book which served as a manual, a shirt, a custom made controller and of course the floppy disk containing the full game and epic pinball...yea. Now on to the games.

Jazz jackrabbit 1

This game is not perfect. It is flawed. 

The first impression is actually really good. The game starts with a 2d animation done by Nick Stadler, followed by an incredibly funky intro song done by Robert A. Allen both of which are fantastic. That is of course if you have set your sound card properly. Something I didn’t know the first time I played it on my old laptop and it gave a worse impression about the music because it lacked a lot of instruments and was very flat and repetitive. Fortunately enough I looked the ost online because I had a feeling something didn´t feel right and to be honest the soundtrack is by far one of the best things about his game and something I’d listen to in my free time as well. The visuals on the other hand… The art style if very mixed you have random shapes making up some of the environment but then there are hand drawn sprites for the weapons enemies, jazz, and...trees? Shadows that are just there and plenty of random color as well as gradients which don’t look good and make everything look like a deviant art OC drawing for most of the time.

https://youtu.be/J5v12_ck2Ks (example for the visuals)

All that doesn´t matter however because you´ll be running around at the speed of sound and blasting enemies in the face for the majority of your play time. Or at least that´s what you would be doing if the camera wasn´t so close to your face, causing you to take damage from enemies you couldn´t even see to begin with. Which is a real shame because the level design for such a fast paced sonic type platformer is there and Jazz even has a similar animation where his legs spin around every time he runs. In fact there is quite a lot of thigs very similar to sonic like powerups, checkpoints, level ends and even 3d bonus stages.

Wait a minute. Is this a rip off? Did Epic rip off sonic and make it more wacky and cartoony like they did with quake and unreal tournament and PUBG and Fortnite and… ok never mind. Let’s talk about the powerups.

There are a few in the game, some more useful than others like the Jump Arounds which lets you jump higher. Hip Hops, which are bird companions you can rescue and will help you killing stuff. Fast Feet are sort of like the Mario star, fallen starts make you immune to damage for a while. Like…the Mario star. An air board which is quite helpful, 1 hit shields, 4 hit shields, 1 ups, carrots for health and hour glasses for extra time because the game has a limited time. For some reason. There are also 5 weapons, the normal blaster, fire, rockets, bouncing bombs and TNT most of which are more of less the same execpt the tnt which is place in the air and explodes after a while or when an enemy gets near and bouncy bombs which. Well you can figure that one out can you? Enemies are not worth talking about since their roster is pretty basic. Thing that walks around, thing that walks to you or thing that walk to you when you´re not looking so on an so forth. The bosses however can range from absurdly easy to some contra 3 level of unfairness, tho most of em can be cheesed one way or another so I guess that´s a plus.

That’s it, that´s the game. You go through different planets each consisting of 2 levels and a boss fight at the end of each episodes. The episodes will take you about 20 minutes to complete so you are looking at about 2 hours’ worth of gameplay and if that´s not enough they made a winter expansion pack which is the same, but with snow. As by the norm and basic as the game might sound, I had quite a lot of fun with it and it’s a good way to pass your time, however epic knew that if the franchise wanted to live it had to step up with the next instalment. And so they did.

Jazz jackrabbit 2

Rarely do we see such improvements from sequels. Most of the time sequels are either more of the same or total downgrades and changes to the originals which weren’t necessary. Jazz Jackrabbit 2 however almost feels like a complete remastered version of the original. It manages to capture the same essence and at the same time bring various new quality of life improvements and features. Ok so what is better?

Well the visuals got a massive improvement, which is obvious considering it was 1998. Which was an interesting choice considering most games around then tended to go towards 3d and Epic had the unreal Engine capable of doing fantastic visuals, however they stayed to a 2d comic style art style which had that weird semi 3d background. You know like symphony of the night where there are multiple layers of backgrounds and fake models moving individually, giving you the idea of a real 3D space.

https://youtu.be/0I7vyNtcuV8 (example for the visuals and game)

Speaking of the art style, it´s far consistent this time around. There´s no random shapes making up the environment or ugly gradients or wonky looking tree tops. Everything fits together nicely and the sound effects really add a lot to the cartoony feel. The music is also an even stronger point of the game, this time composed by Alexander Brandon who did the music for the majority of Epics games. There are some new tracks alongside remasters from the first game. It’s simply timeless and by far one of my favorite videogame soundtracks.

When it comes to bosses however they’re again either too easy or simply lazy and cheap. That’s fine however because stocking up on lives fairly easy and there are more than enough weapons at your disposal. Some are returning like the like the bouncing bomb things just this time around smaller and making rubbery instead of metal sounds. The dual rockets, the dynamite and the fire which now functions more like a flamethrower and is seriously overpowered. Then there are the new additions like the homing missiles, ice shots, bees and an energy blast. Each of em has its use and since there are even more, varied enemies you are up against in each stage. Powerups also make a return. The most noteworthy ones being the weapons upgrades which are permanent and the swap powerup which swaps your current character with one of the others.

There are 5 main episode to complete. A special episode which was available if you had the doom 2 shareware on your pc but now you can just get when you buy the game normally. 2 Expansion packs. Christmas chronicles which was more Christmas themed levels and Secret files introducing Jazz and Spaz´s sister Lory as a playable character of which there is surprisingly no hen-. Aynway.

If I haven´t peaked your interest by now I doubt talking more about the game will do much. I personally absolutely love it, I loved it since I first played it as a kid and every time I replayed it I had as much fun as the last so I could talk on and on about it. For those who really want to buy it, you can get it of GOG usually on sale for like 4 bucs or less and the port is mostly pretty solid. There are some issues like certain sounds being too loud or the level end music refusing to play but it´s less of a hassle then setting it through dos box and what not.



Jazz Jackrabbit 3

It was only a matter of time until Jazz Jackrabbit will come to 3D. The industry for 3D platformers was growing wider, games were popping of left and right and in 1999 epic decided it was the right time. Running on their new unreal engine it had interconnected levels separated by a loading screen similar to Banjo Kazooe or Unreal. There was a story where Jazz would travel through time to rescue his kids and wife and there would be a lot of collectables and puzzles and a soundtrack composed by Alexander Brandon and it would come to consoles and be a real fine example of 3D platforming done right. Except...it never came out.

https://youtu.be/6BHiqMTJKO8 (just click it alerady)

What you´re seeing here is a beta demo version they made public after they couldn´t find any publisher and eventually dropped working on it. When I first heard this I thought the game would be unfinished and basically unplayable but...it´s not. It controls incredibly well and looks good even if most of it is probably a placeholder. It runs well, for the most part I had issues where the game dropped in frames every times I looked at water, and the platforming is very well translated into 3D. To think that epic put so much effort into this game only to be turned down by publishers almost makes me feel bad about them. Of course if I look at them now and how many things they’ve abandoned in favor of milking parents credit cards I lose my sympathy.


Final word

I don´t think we would see anything from this series anymore. It would be amazing if someone would make a remaster of the 3rd installment like we had with Crash and Spyro however I don´t see it ever happening. Epic doesn´t care about it anymore and having someone buy the rights to the game and make it is also unlikely given the games obscure and forgotten nature. It´s made a small cult following and fans tried to somewhat revive the game but to no use. As sad as it is sooner or later people will forget about it. I will forget about it. And the only memory I might still of all the great times I had with it would have been this original video. If ...at all. Guess I should just experience it while I still can. Make the best of it.

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