I am hoping I've not bored anyone yet with my memory stories. Atari made up my child and teenage years for the most part and I really have not had anyone to share these stories with until recently. I almost missed the 7800 completely. Here is that memory.
It seems that every Christmas holiday that came around I ended up with video games or a new game console. Being an only child did have its advantages I must say, but it also seemed like I was being spoiled because of what happened to my Dad. Often times I didn't have to ask...just say I found this or that and either my mother or my grandmother (my dad's mom) would pick it up later.
Well, it was close to Christmas again in 1990 and my weekend to spend with my grandmother. Waking up on Saturday morning started with neither one of us feeling good. We had plans to travel with my Aunt and Uncle to Springfield, Missouri to get some ideas for gifts while they did their holiday shopping. Of course I wanted nothing more than video games...that was my hobby so that was what I was always after. We almost didn't go but my Aunt said getting out might help us feel better. So, we got dressed and headed out.
Once we arrived we visited the Battlefield Mall first. This place was (and still is) huge compared to anything that home had (and has). My grandmother was blind so I got the job of pushing her in a wheelchair. I asked her what she wanted but she kept saying she didn't want anything. So off to the stores I wanted to visit. First stop was Circus World.
For those that missed out, Circus World in Battlefield Mall was a toy store that had, for most of its inventory, liquidated toys. They had a rather large space inside the mall, and I was lucky when I found a few NES games I had been wanting for a decent price a few times. This visit, however, would stun me.
Once we arrived at the store entrance, there were a few round metal bins piled high with things the store must have either ran out of space for or, which was not unusual, could not get rid of for any price. So, we looked in there first just to see what we could find. A few teddy bears, puzzles, coloring books, Atari game.
Atari game?!? I had not seen a new Atari game in quite some time so this caught my interest. The game I had in my hand was Asteroids...but it wasn't for any of the Atari systems I had heard of before. The box said "7800". So I started searching the store, pushing my Grandmother with me of course.
The one place I didn't look was the first place we passed upon entering the store. Down one isle were some other video games for Nintendo and Atari. But we didn't see any systems there. Low and behold if I would have just looked up to the very top shelves, almost touching the ceiling, behind the checkout were hundreds of 7800 systems. Of course my asking if I could see one made an employee hunt down a ladder so she could climb up to the shelf, grab a box, and bring it back down for me to see.
It looked fun, it looked "Atari", and I seen lots of games for literally a buck a piece. The black and silver design, and the controller design as well, reminded me of the 5200 immediately. The graphics of the games shown on the box looked good. And it worked with 2600 games and accessories as well. Wow. Then I seen the price tag. "This!" I told my Grandmother, "If you don't get me anything else, this is what I would like to see under the tree." Of course we didn't get it then so that poor employee had to climb all the way back up that ladder.
It was Christmas Eve, and my usual routine was spending the day or two before Christmas with my Grandmother on my Dad's side, opening up gifts from her on Christmas Eve night once Mom arrived to pick me up. The next morning was Christmas with Mom and then we traveled, weather permitting, to my other Grandparents' house to have the remainder of Christmas there. I had to wait for my Aunt to arrive because she had something for me, too.
I had a few gifts under the tree to unwrap from Grandma. I got a new sweatsuit outfit which I loved those things. Then I started to unwrap what looked like another clothing item of some kind when my Aunt said, "Not that one yet." And took it away from me. Mom was asked to hand me another package. A large box which I unwrapped. There was the 7800 I seen in the mall...and I had actually forgot all about it between our visit to the mall and the unwrapping. I was really excited about it.
Then my Aunt handed me the box she took back. Inside that box was Asteroids, Galaga, and Centipede. My Aunt handed me the box she brought up...it had two more games inside it; Dig Dug and Food Fight. I was a very lucky person. Mom snatched the Centipede up as soon as I showed it to her and said, "We are playing this as soon as we get home." That was her favorite game...and the reason we got an Atari 5200 in the first place years before. We packed everything up and headed home.
In my room I already had started collecting video games but didn't realize it at the time. A Christmas before Mom had got me a 19" TV so that I could have my games and she could have her TV back. Yea...I didn't play games very much did I? Then during the summer my Grandmother got herself a new console TV and game me her old one; a 24" RCA with keypad controls. Nice but I didn't use it for anything at the time. So, the NES and Master System got the 19" TV and all this was sitting on top of the 24". So guess who got the 24" TV?
After hooking up the 7800, and making sure I got it by trying Pole Position II, I called Mom into the room. I put Centipede in and we had a little two-player tourney before going to bed. Mom brought some hot cocoa with her for both of us, too. Well...we played from about 10 PM until 1 AM...nothing but Centipede. The other games would have to wait. I got awaken the next morning by Mom sitting in my floor playing more Centipede. Nothing like waking up to Centipede marching across the screen, spiders jumping like they have a caffeine rush, and the sound when the player touches something they shouldn't. Sometimes I wonder who the real "kid" was then.
I ended up getting a few more games for the 7800 from Mom that year. This was one of the consoles that got sold off to help get Mom her meds. Sometimes I regret doing it now because I would have never thought that these older consoles would gain the popularity they didn't get when they were brand spanking new. What you could find at yard sales for $5, and that's a system with a few games at least, can go for hundreds of dollars on Ebay...which I find very crazy.
The 7800 is, in my opinion, the end of an 8-bit race. It wasn't as popular as the NES in my area but I would put it on par with the Master System. I don't really have a particular 7800 favorite because they were all good games for the most part even if they were also tired games. However, I tend to favor Asteroids on this system because it is good for a laugh if you can get another player involved and just start flying around like a bunch of drunk idiots turned loose with a space ship. See...who said you have to play by the rules? Ballblazer easily takes a number two spot. The 7800 did fill in a gap that the NES was missing...and for good reason.
To end this, if I haven't bored you already, I remember the system selling for $39.98. The tag was still on the box when I unwrapped it. The games Mom picked up were Ms. Pac-Man, Joust, and Ballblazer. We went back a couple of months later only to discover that the store had left. We never seen anything more about the 7800. I never seen the system in yard sales or used gaming stores when those started up but I would occasionally find 7800 games with 2600 games on racks. I am glad to have one in my home again. It really is a good console.