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Ballblaɀer's collection: 2600, 5200, Vectrex, and...

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#41 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 25 May 2016 - 11:57 PM

My final bit of evidence (for now!) is subtle.


Well, that was then.  Now, it's... now, again.  Anyway, here's my next piece of evidence to support my theory.  Have a look at this Dig Dug re-release out of my collection, copyright 1986, Atari Corp:




Before we get back to my theory about Atari Corp not having the original cartridge label designs at their disposal...  holy smokes, look at that text up top!  VIDEO in one font (the original Atari Inc font), GAME CARTRIDGE and the rest in another?  It couldn't be more Atari Corp!   :rofl:   And on top of that, the sideways "5200" in the upper right logo?  It looks completely wrong, and nothing like any other Atari 5200 release I've seen -- it's almost as if it was cut and pasted in randomly.  Even that ATARI text itself is very slightly different -- if nothing else, it's a bit smaller.  Take a look at an older Atari Inc cart that I scanned to see the difference:




On Joust, the 5200 logo looks like the 5200 logo should, and like it always does.  But on the '86 Dig Dug cartridge?  Not so much.  I scanned both carts at the same resolution, and I cropped identical areas to compare:




The Dig Dug '86 label features the same outside-the-borders artwork that appears on the old box and manual design, just like the oddball Vanguard cartridge, and just like some Atari 2600 re-release titles I mentioned on page 1 of this thread.  With Dig Dug, the rectangular "artwork area" (i.e. the art minus the title and surrounding blue field) left space for the title to fit on the label, whereas Vanguard's "artwork area" is square -- again, probably the reason they couldn't squeeze the title on there.


To my knowledge, none of the other 1986 re-releases have differences like this, and that's where my theory comes up short.  One would expect to see something similar happen with Moon Patrol and Ms. Pac-Man, but they seem to have gotten those right.  In a way, though, that makes these strange cartridges even stranger.  Why was Atari Corp able to get most of their labels looking like the original Atari Inc labels, but not these few?


On that note... if anyone ever spots Mario Bros. or Space Invaders for the 5200 with a 1986 copyright on the game label, please let me know!  Those are the two remaining titles where, although Atari Corp boxes exist for them, every time I've seen the boxes they've had the regular old Atari Inc. cartridges inside.

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#42 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 30 May 2016 - 01:13 AM

My first complete Atari 2600 set: text label cartridges!






The Atari text label library is no doubt the easiest of the various Atari label types to complete.  I'd like to upgrade a few of them at some point, most notably Basic Math (which has a faded end label), but all in all I'm super happy with the condition of these.  A few notes:

- Othello is the only text label cartridge with an all-caps title.  I believe this was one of the last text label carts produced, right before they started to introduce picture labels.

- Combat is the only text label cartridge that I know of that has a variant with 1) text in multiple colors on the main label, and 2) "Made in Taiwan" printed on it.

- My copies of Home Run and Hunt and Score have gold-colored borders on their main labels.  For whatever reason, the ink on the color-border labels seems to bleed/fade more than the white-border labels.  These are two I'd like to upgrade to the other, sharper style.

- There's lots of red and yellow/gold here, and unfortunately, that's just the way it is.  I'd like to eventually replace Brain Games with the blue text version, but that's really the only non-red/yellow/gold text label I don't have.

- Some of the red labels (Miniature Golf, Slot Racers, and Star Ship) exhibit the fade pattern I mentioned in my post about the numbered text labels, where you can see that the printer laid down a rectangular layer of red ink instead of just inking the text itself.



Another complete set: Epyx games.




Like the Activision carts, these are tough to find without serious glue staining.  California Games is from my original childhood collection, while the other two are recent additions.



And one last complete set for now: Mythicon games:




Fire Fly and Sorcerer are near mint, with mint manuals.  Hoping to find a Star Fox to match.  BTW, the "Star Fox" text is not faded -- for whatever reason, this title was printed pink-ish while the other two are red.  Similarly, the end label for Fire Fly is the only one that has "by Mythicon" printed in white -- the other two are gray.

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#43 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 01 June 2016 - 11:34 PM

The latest trade from one Mr. No-Swear Gamer arrived over last weekend and helped me to complete another 2600 set: 44 Activision NTSC games.




This set was a god deal more difficult to compile than the Atari text label carts, but fortunately none of the titles are MEGA-rare.  A handful of them can command $20+ each, but I'm glad to be able to say that I traded for a couple of them (Double Dragon, Beamrider) and got excellent deals on a few others (including River Raid II, Rampage, and H.E.R.O.)




Honestly, the tough task is finding some of these titles in "collector" condition.  A number of them seem near impossible to find without ugly, mottled Actiplaque staining.  Robot Tank is probably the worst offender -- I'm not sure I've *ever* seen a completely clean one!  I'm generally happy with this set's condition, although it's fairly obvious for which of these I'd still like to find upgrades. 


This is a set I put together almost completely from scratch -- the only carts I had in my collection from back-in-the-day were Ice Hockey, Space Shuttle, and Pitfall.


A few notes about my Activision library:


- Boxing has the original foam dust protector still inside.  Activision quit including them with their cartridges relatively quickly -- they're not "rare" per se, but you'd have to think that 99.9% of the time they were just discarded.

- Carts I was pleasantly surprised to find "in the wild" (at yard sales, flea markets, through Craigslist, or bought from game shops): Cosmic Commuter, Kung Fu Master, Private Eye, River Raid II.

- Pressure Cooker is the International version, and has retained the "N" sticker (i.e. NTSC, as opposed to PAL and SECAM).  The font used for the game title on the main and end labels is also thicker/bolder than the "normal" version.

- You can't really see it in the photo, but my version of Stampede is one of the earlier release carts that mentions the "Atari Video Game System" instead of "Atari Video Computer System™" that got used later -- not entirely sure what brought about that change.


I made up my mind early on not to collect the blue label re-release Activision carts, but I'm hanging onto one for posterity (Enduro, my favorite Activision title).  Keeping it company is the one known NTSC white-label Activision cartridge, Space Shuttle:



One minor label variation I have is seen on the international version of Pitfall II.  It features the copyright notice in both English and French along with a different catalog number, but most notably it doesn't have "LOST CAVERNS" printed on the end label like its standard counterpart:





Last but not least, the aforementioned, legit rare French-Canadian labels for Boxing, Ice Hockey, Skiing, and Tennis:




These pretty much *never* turn up for sale.  A copy of "Le Tennis" is currently on eBay, though, and if the seller were asking a reasonable price I'd consider upgrading the one I've got considering that I think these are some of the coolest 2600 labels out there!


Activision carts remaining to collect:

- Ghostbusters II -- PAL format only

- Fighter Pilot -- PAL format only, but it's the same game as Absolute's "Tomcat: The F-14 Fighter Simulator" (and therefore a low priority)

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#44 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 09 June 2016 - 08:23 PM

Just added a pretty scarce game to my 2600 collection:




One of two released games by Wizard Video Games (i.e. the same Wizard Video that produced The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, among others), this is probably one of the five rarest NTSC 2600 titles in my current collection.  It's not so rare that it's never seen for sale, but one often seems to need to pay a premium to pick it up since its unique place in gaming history makes it desirable to many game collectors.


There are a number of different repros and otherwise unofficial variations of TCM floating around for sale, but this one is the real deal.  How to tell?  There's a few things to look for.  All original TCM cartridges use the same white-colored PCBs that Apollo used for their games:




If you see one that's green, blue, brown, mauve, vermillion, or any number of other colors, it's not an original.  Another thing to look out for is the unique cartridge shell.  A lot of reproductions and fakes use standard Atari cartridge shells, but Wizard used a snap-together casing (no screws) with deep sawtooth grips on the sides and wrapping around to the back:




There's also a smooth rounded-off rectangle on the back of the cartridge that you don't otherwise find on 2600 games.  I didn't take a photo of the reverse side, but you can check one out over in this AA thread.  The print quality on the labels is mediocre, and there are clearly some areas where the ink didn't print all the way to one edge, etc.


Now, about the game itself.  Wizard Video Games actually marketed their two releases (the other being Halloween) as the first violent games for adults.  There was a third Wizard title slated for release (Flesh Gordon) but it was never sold, and a prototype has not yet turned up for it.  In any case, their marketing and interviews in the media seem to make it clear that they were trying to carve out a new demographic for gaming: adults.  Adults that liked to be "stimulated" with violence and such things.  More than one of their advertisements refers to people being tired of "childish pastimes" like "eating dots and chasing ghosts".


Apparently these games are largely rare today because retailers would not display the games along with the rest of their products, or advertise them much if at all.  If you wanted a Wizard game, you needed to go into a store and ask for it by name, because they'd be kept under the counter or otherwise away from precious, innocent eyes.  Not many ended up being sold, and Wizard closed up their gaming venture after only the first two released titles.



One thing that I continue to see mentioned in so many articles and blurbs about this game is that there was parental backlash (i.e. actual protests) to these games in particular.  Can anyone confirm with first-hand knowledge or an actual source?  The only thing close I've been able to find so far is this Sept. 9, 1983 article from the Deseret News, and it's really just one guy who doesn't enjoy the idea of violent video games.  I've seen a few more primary source articles and things that definitely refer to people protesting the other adult games (Custer's Revenge, Bachelor Party, etc.) but I'd love to know more about how Wizard's two games were received by the general public.

Edited by Ballblaɀer, 09 June 2016 - 08:35 PM.

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#45 jmjustin6


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Posted 09 June 2016 - 11:10 PM

Oh man!! That is on my super want list well that and halloween
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#46 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 10 June 2016 - 09:49 AM

As I've mentioned before, I don't collect a whole lot of PAL games, but this one was on my hit list for sure.  Why?  Atari Corp strikes again...




Oh man, Atari Corp, what are you doooooinnnnnnng?  One run of Midnight Magic cartridges had their label sheets cut backwards, meaning that the end label doesn't show the title of the game and the main label shows it twice.  Here it is next to the correct release:




I'm not sure how many of these got to retail.  They come up for sale every now and then, but they don't seem to be in big demand -- Midnight Magic is not a rare game, and the label variation (if you want to call it that) is essentially just a printer's (dumb) error.  For someone who loves the quirks and mistakes of Atari Corp, though, it's a perfect collection piece.




Still has the PAL sticker on the back.  :thumb:

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#47 RickR


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Posted 10 June 2016 - 12:13 PM

Looks like a huge "Ooooops!" moment.
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#48 jmjustin6


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Posted 11 June 2016 - 08:08 AM


#49 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 11 June 2016 - 09:32 AM

That's the Sears label -- they're common.  I'm looking for the Atari label.  I've only seen one on eBay in the last year or so and it got snapped up in a quick Buy-It-Now.  :(

#50 jmjustin6


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Posted 11 June 2016 - 10:37 AM

Ohh ok gotcha. Ill keep an eye out

#51 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 13 June 2016 - 09:45 AM

Well, I'm a little late with it now, but here it is anyway.  Yesterday, June 12, was the 35th anniversary of the premiere of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark.  With that in mind, here's a new label variation recently added to my collection:




If you collect for the 2600 long enough, you know right away when something looks unusual, and... yep, this looks unusual!  This end label uses the Sears Tele-Games picture label font in place of the red font that's normally used on the end labels of Atari's silver label cartridges.  What happened here?  Is this yet another Atari Corp screw-up?  It sure seems like that kind of thing, upon first glance...


Raiders of the Lost Ark was reportedly the first Atari-branded cartridge to be sold at Sears.  Until that time, all Atari products at Sears were sold with proprietary Sears branding on them; e.g. there was the Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade instead of the Atari VCS, game cartridges with alternate titles (and sometimes artwork) like Gunslinger (Outlaw), Race (Indy 500), Pong Sports (Video Olympics), etc.  The release of ROTLA at Sears would have been in Fall of 1982, probably sometime in or around October.  ROTLA was also one of the first Atari games to sport the new "silver" 2600 labels and come packaged in the more contemporary-looking silver-colored boxes, and the games shipped for sale at Sears were no exception.


Now, getting back to this cartridge for a second...


My understanding is that the date stamps on the end labels of cartridges indicate when the cartridge was assembled, not when the label was printed.  The date stamped on this odd end label is 1 7 4 -- the 17th week of 1984 (so, the last full week of April).  This was, of course, before Atari Inc. closed up shop and Atari Corp took over production.  You're off the hook this time, Atari Corp!  However, April 1984 is also a FAR later date than all other dates stamped on Sears picture label cartridges -- the latest date reported I've seen is the 44th week of 1982 (Star Raiders).


So -- what happened here?


My best guess is that, given that ROTLA was one of the first (if not the first) silver label games to be released, Atari printed a run of ROTLA end labels for Sears *before* Sears learned that Atari was changing the look of their game packaging and labels.  Atari's move to using silver foil for their new game labels may very well be what prompted Sears to finally abandon their self-branding policy: i.e., wanting to keep up with Atari's new, more modern-looking aesthetic, Sears rejected these older-style end labels.  However, for reasons unknown, some sheets of the unused Sears labels somehow managed to make their way into an assembly line in April 1984.


One plausible reason for how *that* happened: Atari's manufacturing plant in Fajardo, Puerto Rico -- which assembled VCS cartridges starting in March of 1981 -- ceased operations on April 27th, 1984.  Yep -- the 17th week of 1984!  Considering that the announcement of Atari Caribe's shut-down came on April 6, that would have given the Fajardo plant three weeks to assemble stock from materials they had remaining on-site.  It'd be pretty easy for, say, an assembly line worker who was more concerned with finding a new job to load in some old ROTLA end label sheets by mistake.  Or who knows, perhaps Atari HQ instructed them to use anything and everything they had on hand.


It's interesting -- the Atari Engineering Information System in-house master parts list from early 1984 shows the ROTLA Sears end labels alongside the usual Sears suspects, but right there with them is SQ Earthworld, SQ Fireworld, and Frog Pond (unreleased).




Those four titles all have "REV LVL" (revision level) codes of 00, possibly meaning that they weren't ever "officially" used.  That said, given the existence of carts with these ROTLA end labels, one might wonder if there aren't also a precious few Swordquest cartridges with Sears-font end labels floating around out there somewhere...


EDIT: There exists a Sears version of the manual!  Check it out over on the excellent "SwordQuest Revisited" page on Digital Press.


Well, *I* wonder about things like that, anyway.  Given that a scan of the Sears picture label version of Superman wasn't posted online until 2005 (because nobody in the online collecting community had one!), and an ununsed sheet of Tank-Plus picture labels turned up sometime in the late 90s or early 2000s, I think it's pretty clear that new finds along these lines remain possible even now!

Edited by Ballblaɀer, 02 March 2017 - 11:16 AM.

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#52 RickR


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Posted 13 June 2016 - 12:20 PM

Outstanding post, as usual.
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#53 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 13 June 2016 - 09:41 PM

Outstanding post, as usual.


Thanks... I'm especially happy with this ROTLA post since I don't think anyone has ever tried to really figure this weirdness out before.  Matching up the date stamp with the closure of the Atari plant in PR was a real aha! moment, and it's one of those things that just *feels* like it's the right answer.  Well, at least to me, it does.

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#54 RickR


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Posted 13 June 2016 - 09:50 PM

Agree.  As they would say on "Mythbusters" -- this sounds Plausible. 

#55 Lost Dragon

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Posted 18 June 2016 - 11:20 AM

@Ballblaɀer:I've said it before and i'll say it again, your research/findings, simply floors me...it's bloody unreal.


You put the legwork in, share findings etc for free and lordy knows how you do it, but the good stuff keeps coming.


There's a lot of people out there in the publication industry that could learn a lot from you my friend.

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#56 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 26 June 2016 - 05:45 PM

Some additions to the collection this weekend...




1) The rare 1986 Atari Corp re-release of Sky Diver with white text in the "new" style font.  I alluded to this release back in my post way back when about the Breakout and Hangman re-releases -- the end label of this one also has the extra large text.  Unfortunately, the Sky Diver cart I picked up had a shredded end label.  Whenever I finally get a clean copy, this one will be for trade/sale.


2) The most off-center, crooked print I've ever seen on an Atari cartridge!  Guess whoooo?  Oh, Atari Corp...   :rofl:   RealSports Volleyball is also the only Atari Corp release that has a red title bar that doesn't go all the way across the front of the cartridge.  Bizarre, and makes it look a little like a pirate cart, I think.  Also, the font/text they used for the copyright info on the bottom just seems... slightly off.  Like, the letters are off-kilter, some are raised, some are tilted.  Is it just me?  It can't be just me...




3) And yes -- I paid actual, real, legal tender for a copy of Combat. ^_^   I'd never seen this particular type before, that has the end label text in the "fat" style font.  It's a little out of focus in my photo, but all the letters touch each other and the "holes" inside the letters are smaller than usual.  It's version "S" on the VGV page.

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#57 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 30 June 2016 - 10:40 PM

Time for another fun pirate / PAL multi-cart!  This time, it's a 16-game extravaganza...




(If a product has to convince you that it's exciting, well...)


So here we are, another made-in-Taiwan release likely for distribution in southern Europe (Italy, Greece, etc), with some box art that looks sorta Soviet science fiction-like.  What's that "path" or "road" or whatever that is that's made up of game box art?  Maybe that'll tell us what's included on the cartridge!  (Larger image linked here, so you can play along.)


In the front row we see Pac-Man, for Atari 400/800.  Star Battle, for the VIC-20.  Star Wars Jedi Arena, for the 2600.  And Android Attack, for the TRS-80 or Dragon 32/64 computer.


...um.  Clearly, this will not tell us what's included on the cartridge.  :rofl:  What we have here is generic artwork used on many of these multi-cart releases.  Still, I think it's fun to take a closer look at.  What else is pictured?


Next row: Jumbo Jet Pilot (Atari 400/800), Wacky Waiters (VIC-20), some odd "Invaders" artwork that I can't identify, Parsec (TI-99/4A), Astrosmash (Intellivision).  Following row: Space Invaders (2600 artwork, but design is unclear), Asteroids (Atari 2600 international version), a game that I'd love to identify (it shows five people standing around... something, and underneath them it says _____ _____ _____, where the middle word looks like either TOUR or YOUR)...  and from here on out it gets difficult to discern what the games are.  Amidar is definitely visible on the left side towards the back.  There's a black box on the right with a jack o' lantern face, and the text on it appears to say HALLOWEEN, but I know of no game artwork that looks like this.  Some of the boxes waaaaay in the back look like they might be Intellivision games.


What an eclectic mix!  Alright, let's flip to the back of the box.  Perhaps THAT will give us a better idea of what's incl--




Hmm, 12 screenshot/art things -- maybe they're related?  Maybe THEY can tell us which "COMPUTERS SYSTEM VIDEO GAME PROGRAMs" we have here!  On the left we can see what might be Pole Position or Enduro, Pitfall, something with a helicopter (Chopper Command?), what looks like Freeway...  And on the right, that front one with the shark looks like the image from Harbor Escape (Panda), there's a little Frog(ger?) shown in the corner of one of 'em, and toward the back is what looks like the robot-thing from the infamously horrible Pac-Kong.


Alrighty, let's slide out the cartridge itself, maybe its label will give us a better ide--




...never mind, then.  Hey, at least the art on the V-case cart matches what's on the box!  The cart's end label helpfully reminds us of what we have here, proper pluralization be damned:




Okay -- no more messing around.  Let's look at the label with game names and dip switch configurations on the back:




Hey, I know some of those names!  But of course with these multi-carts, even having the names is no guarantee of game content.  The only way to be sure is to play.  So, let's go to the games!  (/NSG'd!)*


Running down the list, 10 games have the same title as what we'd expect.  The ones that are different:


SKI RUN is Skiing (Activision)

IQ WINNER ( :lol:) is... Flag Capture (Atari)

COW BOY is... Stampede (Activision)

TANK WAR is... Combat (Atari)

MATHMATIC is... Basic Math/Fun With Numbers (Atari)

FISHING is... Fishing Derby (Activision)


FISHING is, however, an interesting hack of the original Fishing Derby.  The fishermen have differently shaped (fatter) bodies, and the fish are replaced with... crabs.  (Shouldn't it be called Crabbing, then?)  FISHING also appears on Atari's oddball "32 in 1" multi-cart release, where it's listed as "Fishing"... and its game description explains that "The object of this game is to catch the crabs..."  :unsure:




So... in the end, as best I can tell, all of ONE game on the multi-cart -- Freeway -- is *also* depicted on the outside of the game box.  Did people buy multi-carts in generic boxes without having any idea what they were buying?  I mean... I guess they must have.  Craziness.


*Huge old-school internet points if you get this reference.

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#58 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 03 July 2016 - 10:51 AM

An incomplete set -- Atari Corp picture labels with no controller info listed on the label:




I love how the game titles are so all-over-the-place -- Circus Atari is especially wonky.  But that's not all...


- Atari Corp picture label games usually feature a small Fuji logo in the lower left hand corner of the artwork, and that's true for 8 out of 10 here.  But Circus Atari still has the older-style (larger) Fuji, and Video Checkers doesn't have one at all!

- Video Checkers also has the word "Model" embedded in the artwork next to the product number (CX2636).  Only a handful of Atari Corp. pic label games have this oddity (Black Jack, Flag Capture, Golf, and Video Checkers are the only ones, I think).

- Of course, you also have the different title font of Air-Sea Battle -- it's most evident by comparing the capital A to other game titles.  We also see it on the end label for Pac-Man:




I'm still missing a bunch of these (games with no controller info listed).  Still need: Adventure, Berzerk, Brain Games, Code Breaker, Combat, Defender, Dodge 'Em (PAL only?), Haunted House, Indy 500, Math Gran Prix, Sky Diver, Star Raiders, Video Pinball.  There's also a version of the weird orange-label Breakout without controller info.  These can be super tough to find -- I don't think I've *ever* seen an Indy 500 in this style.

Edited by Ballblaɀer, 04 September 2017 - 01:40 PM.

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#59 Ballblaɀer



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Posted 27 July 2016 - 12:52 AM

When you start to get down to needing only harder-to-find cartridges, collecting gets substantially more difficult if you're trying to keep costs down.  Sometimes you spot the games you need in large lots, though, and if you can get a decent price on a lot you can often recoup most of your costs by selling what you don't need.  That's what I did (and am doing) in order to score these two rarities:




Flag Capture has some of my favorite Atari artwork.  There's just something about the way the collage is laid out, plus the bright gold color of the pirate ship on the right, the various flags... and of course that pirate's face is unforgettably striking.  It was an completely archaic game by 1986 though, and I cannot understand why they bothered reissuing it (just like Swordquest).  Was there really a market for Flag Capture in 1986?  Most folks were playing Super Mario Bros. on their NES by that point.  Anyway, perhaps that's why there are comparatively so few of these floating around now.  As I mentioned in my previous post, this is another oddball release with no Atari Fuji logo on the label and the word "Model" printed next to the Atari product number.  The layout of those three lines of text is, um... unique.  It also uses the box-style font for the title.  I love the shape of that "G" in "FLAG".


Wait a minute... "Use with Paddle Controllers"?  Atari Corp, go to your room!


Now, with Track & Field... where to begin?  This is the only game in the Atari 2600 library with this style of label.  It's gray in color, but seems overall flimsier/cheaper than their other gray label carts.  And what's with the B&W graphics and the bright pink title text?  Was there a huge clearance sale on pink ink in Taiwan the week these were made?  Just... weird.  Released in 1984 to coincide with Atari's sponsorship of the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the 2600 port of the coin-op game Track & Field was announced by Atari Inc. at the Summer CES in Chicago in the first week of June, 1984.  Of course, Atari Inc. transitioned to Atari Corp. starting on July 1.  The Olympics Opening Ceremony was July 28th.  This really quick turnaround time (i.e. two months at most) is almost certainly the reason for the slapdash Atari Corp. labels.  They don't even have nicely cut rounded corners...


Gremlins for the 2600 was also announced at that same Summer CES in 1984.  The Atari product number for Gremlins is CX26127.  Track & Field's is CX26125.  Guess what number ended up on Track & Field's label?


Why?  Because Atari Corp, that's why.




I also snagged a duplicate Pengo (my original is now set aside for nosweargamer) and a fairly rare text label color variation on Codebreaker.  Atarimania has a scan of it, and it's on the Giant List of 2600 Label Variations, but I'm pretty sure I've never before come across a yellow/gold-colored Codebreaker.  Cool.

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#60 Lost Dragon

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 10:55 AM

That Flag Capture art is gorgeous B-)

Huge thanks for sharing.

Also the post with the line 'catch the crabs' still has me chuckling now.
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