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Power Button Presents Kombo Breaker - Episode 25: Controlled Response

And All That Jazz

Jazz JackrabbitBefore Epic Games became a household development name in the Microsoft Xbox 360 era with its Gears of War titles, the company hit it big in PC development with cartoonish side-scrolling titles that march straight in the other direction from Marcus Fenix and friends.  The most memorable of Epic's output from that time has to be the Jazz Jackrabbit series in which the eponymous hero fights the forces of the evil Devan Shell and his turtle army in order to rescue the lovely Eva Earlong.  Spanning two major releases, two shareware special holiday editions, one expansion pack, and a poor attempt to reboot the franchise for the Game Boy Advance, Jazz Jackrabbit is worth exploring.  Hardcore Gaming 101 takes you down the rabbit hole.

In early 1994, the Sonic the Hedehog series was a worldwide phenomenon, especially with its recently released third game. Even before then, pretty much every major game company was making their own Sonic rip-off for every console at the time, some with more success than others. But the one system that never had its own Sonic-style game was the PC. Sure, there were a lot of great side-scrollers at the time, such as Duke Nukem, but nothing that could match up to the speed of Sega's series.

That was when Epic Megagames, who had previously created DOS hits like Epic Pinball and Jill of the Jungle, started work on the first attempt to make a high-speed platformer for the PC. Their attempt was Jazz Jackrabbit, and while it couldn't really stand up to the games it was inspired by, it ended up becoming a pretty big hit on the PC, and for good reason.

The evil turtle terrorist Devan Shell has kidnapped the princess of the planet Carrotus, and starts trying to conquer the rest of the galaxy, as well. It's up to the rabbit mercenary Jazz Jackrabbit to travel the galaxy, destroy Devan's forces, and eventually rescue the princess. Not really the most creative plot, but it sure beats an environmental message. The manual includes a small comic explaining the plot, where it admits that yes, it is completely and utterly ripping off Sonic the Hedgehog. At least they're honest.

I always enjoyed the shareware episodes of Jazz back in the old days and while I did want to buy the full game, I could never find it for sale anywhere.  Such a shame.  Jazz's opening theme song is just as catchy as anything that Nintendo or Sega were creating at the time, and while many of the Jazz titles did copy/imitate wholesale from Epic's console competition, the series still managed to find its own path.  A planned Jazz Jackrabbit 3 (a 3D platformer) wasn't meant to be, and now that Epic has found massive success with Gears of War, I don't see a Jazz revival waiting in the wings.  That's a lost opportunity if I've ever seen one.