It may come as a surprise to others reading this but Adventure on the 2600 was one game that I missed completely. From the time it first hit store shelves until now I have never had the chance to play the game that has been considered one of the best on the system. Even when my mother and I would find lots of 2600 consoles with lots of games Adventure simply wasn't there. And since the 5200 was my first game console I felt the 2600 was lacking and never gave it a fair chance.
It's almost fall 2016 and I have been blessed, thanks to Atari.IO members, with a 4-switch woody console and a copy of Adventure. I finally got the chance to see what all the hype was about with this game. So...I plug it in and flip the switch. As usual I just start a game with default settings. I don't even bother to check the difficulty switches. It's just something I don't think about.
I'm moving my block along after picking up the gold key to get my sword. Then off I go to find the black key and get the chalice. I run into the gold dragon (which looks like a duck to me, sorry Adventure fans) and he ate me. So I reset the switch thinking, "Alright. I got your number!", and set off again. I managed to kill the gold dragon, find the black key, and retrieve the chalice. On the way back I find the green dragon. He chases me all the way back to the gold castle and I get stuck just for a split second on the entrance. I'm dragon food, again. So I try again and ... success! The 1st level became clockwork in about a half-hour's time.
Being brave, and taking one for the team, I changed the game setting to the 2nd level. Oh my word. You would have thought I was trying to start world war three or something with the things I was saying, no...yelling at the images on the TV screen. I couldn't find half the items I needed and when I did that stupid bat would come along and switch whatever he was carrying, which was a dragon most of the time, with what I was after and fly away...leaving me defenseless and fleeing for my life! I spent about a week trying to complete a level 2 game just once...just ONCE! And I finally did it before I started writing this review. I have yet to embark on a level 3 journey as I am still trying to re-cooperate from the level 2 journey. But it is on my to-do list.
After all of that I sat down and gave it some thought while I stare at the square on the TV standing next to the gold-flashing chalice. The adventure I embarked upon already took me in dark catacombs to find items, fighting very aggressive dragons, searching for items a bat would take off with, only to have been rewarded with what some would expect to be the fact I managed to make it back with the chalice. The true reward was all the challenge I was put through just to get that chalice and bring it back. This game can easily be your classic Dungeons & Dragons stuff, of which I've never had the chance to play before either. But from what I've heard about D&D from regular players the 2600 Adventure is easily the first video game adaptation of the popular D&D games. That is where I would expect to find this game on store shelves because it really is in a category all of its own. In other words, the Adventure title fits perfectly.
This is a well thought-out game and as simple as the game's graphics and sounds may seem beneath that cartridge shell is a game that is very well capable of giving the player one heck of an adventure. I recommend bringing a joystick along for the ride that you know will not break. You will find intense moments where the joystick in your hands will most likely receive extra force that it normally wouldn't receive otherwise. A highly recommended game for 2600 owners.
With all of that being said I am updating my favorites list. I actually need to start a new post about how my 2600 games rank as I get them. This, unfortunately, would be way too similar to NoSwearGamer's method...and I don't want to be a "me-too" thing. That is his way...but, sadly, that is a method I would have to use for the time being until I can come up with my own method.
Secret Quest, the last 2600 U.S. released game, gives the 2600 the dignity to go out with a bang. Not that it wouldn't anyway with all the popular games it had received during its production run. No matter how you look at it, the 2600 proved that gaming hardware was only limited by imagination, and Secret Quest takes that imagination and gives players an adventure they won't soon forget.
While misleading in a way, the label tells the game was made by Nolan Bushnell when in hindsight he basically designed it and oversaw its development by giving advice, a fellow by the name of Steve DeFrisco actually coded the game having never programmed the 2600 before. What we ended up with was a rather large action/adventure game of a sci-fi nature that will take some patients to master. So, my hat's off to DeFrisco for a fabulous job on this 2600 game.
Our main character is a guy that actually looks like he could use a shirt, or if that is his shirt we need to get him a new one. I'm not sure if that is a helmet on his head but we will just say it is and leave it at that. Our objective is to visit all eight, I'm going to call them "bases", to enter a code that starts a self-destruct sequence. Once that has been started our main character has only seconds to find the teleport to beam him off the base before it destructs.
Sounds easy, right? Well, with the first base it is, and the second base is not too hard either. But after that the game begins to get really difficult and it becomes very easy to get lost. Once you find and start the self-destruct sequence it is very hard to find and reach the teleport in time. If Nolan's idea was to frustrate and test a player's mind and patients then he accomplished what he set out to do.
Against you are two elements; energy and oxygen. Using your weapon uses your energy. If you run out of energy you will lose the ability to lose any weapons. You can still navigate the levels but simply won't be able to kill any enemies. Running out of oxygen, however, and it's game over. Oxygen is more like a timer. Whether you move or just sit there you are using oxygen. Both can be replenished by killing enemies. Some enemies drop energy while others drop oxygen.
Actually, Secret Quest is a very well made game. You can actually tell that each element of the game was thought out before being placed in the game. The thick, colorful borders that outline the rooms are used in a way to help the player visually tell where they are, especially with levels containing more than one floor. Enemies are colorful even if some are hard to tell what they are suppose to be. Sounds are good and, while there is a small hint of background music, it's not so much that it's annoying. At some points you almost can't hear it so it's almost like it's not there at all.
Where Secret Quest shines is in two features. The first feature, well, not exactly an "in-game" feature but something that not many games this early in the video game industry's starts ever did, is having the player involved in the game's strategy where hours are lost simply trying to navigate the levels. There's only eight of them but there might as well be a hundred. With the possible exception of the first two levels the remainder of the game will have the player drawing out maps just so they don't get lost. Seriously, the third level of this game when I first reached it made me rethink the way I thought about 2600 games in general.
Now, the second feature of this game, which really should get an award of some kind but I'm not sure what kind of an award that would be. You see, Secret Quest actually has a continue feature. How it works seems a bit complicated at first but once the steps are performed a few times you start to get the hang of it. During the game, should something go wrong or you are done playing for the day, you move the TV TYPE switch to the black and white setting, and then back to the color setting again. On a 7800, simply press the PAUSE button. You will leave the GAME SCREEN and be presented with what the instructions called a STATUS SCREEN. Here, see for yourself.
If you've never seen this screen before allow me to explain. The top section are the bases left to be destroyed. Just under the left-most section of those bases is the level you are on indicated by large flashing rectangles. Just to the right of this is the weapons you currently have, which you can have three but only one equipped at any one time. Now take a look below all that and you should see some funny looking characters in an almost-hieroglyphic style. Need a closer look?
These characters are your password to continue play at the beginning of the level you are on. It only works when you are on the first room of the first level. Basically, start a new game and immediately access the STATUS SCREEN. Once there press SELECT on the console. You can now edit the funny characters at the bottom of the screen using the joystick; up and down to select the characters and left and right to select the character you wish to change. This password feature is unique in that it only works under one condition. You may notice at the start of the game that there are two dashes, or underlines. The game instructions say to enter your initials here. So, the initials placed here determine what your password will be. And the password will only work with those initials.
I never knew the 2600 could pull off a game of this magnitude. It's simply mind blowing! Atari.IO's high score run with this game was my first time learning that this game even existed. Since then I have managed to locate a loose copy of the game and have been spending hours on it trying to beat the game. The password feature is a saving grace for the very reason that you can start off where you left off, including the amount of energy and oxygen you have left.
If you are new to the 2600, or a 2600 vet who has not seen this game yet, this would be the game to try to find. It is a rare title from what I understand but there are copies that turn up every now and then on E-Bay's and Goodwill's online auction sites. Just recently before this writing, Goodwill had two unopened copies show up on their auction. So...keep looking if you want a physical copy. Otherwise download your favorite 2600 emulator and a ROM copy of this game and give it a shot. It's a really good game that should not be missed. Fans of Nintendo's Zelda might find this game of interest.
The Atari 5200 was the first game console I would ever own. Received as a Christmas gift shortly after the system's initial release it quickly became my favorite childhood product. Years went by playing many of my favorite arcade games at home in the comfort of my family's living room. Many decades later the 5200 remains my favorite console of all time. The system really brought home some of the most advanced technological game console breakthroughs that other consoles picked up. And most of the games looked and played just like the arcades when compared to the 2600 ports.
With that being said I would like to share the games no 5200 console should be without. It is these games that I feel showcase what the 5200 was truly capable of. These also happen to be my favorite games on the system. Strap on your safety belt...here we go!
I have to consider the 5200 port of Centipede closer to the arcade than any other console port (not counting the computers on this one). Combine this with the 5200's Trak Ball controller and the arcade feel will be present as well. The multi-colored sprites/graphics combined with sounds that seem to have been taken directly from the arcade machine makes for some unforgettable game play. This was my mother's favorite game. It is one of mine as well. I could not have a 5200 without Centipede.
As much as it can cramp your hands due to the position of the fire buttons, Defender on the 5200 is a near-perfect arcade port. Awesome sounds, graphics, and effects that mimic the arcade perfectly. My only gripe is I wish there were more controller options along the lines the 2600 received. Other than that, Atari did a great job with this title.
#8 Moon Patrol
My first encounter with Moon Patrol on the 5200 was at my 11th birthday. 1985 was a bad year to own an Atari 5200 in my area. Hardware and games were non-existent so I didn't even know that this game was made for the 5200. How and where Mom found it I have no clue...I'm just glad that she did. The multi-plane scrolling background is spot on with the arcade as is the enemy ships and the levels. The only part not on par with the arcade is the player's vehicle. We lost some wheels somewhere. Easy to pick up and play with the analog controls and doesn't cramp your hands.
My first side-scrolling shoot 'em up adventure arcade style was with this title. I spent hours upon hours on this game learning the levels, how to move and avoid level walls, and eventually beat the boss at the end of the game only to have to do it all over again. That was decades ago, now I haven't been able to do it again. My liking this game might explain why I liked Gradius, Life Force, and other shoot 'em ups that followed. Great game!
I enjoyed playing Berzerk on the 2600 when I picked up a 2600 console with some games from a classmate decades ago. I never knew the 5200 got Berzerk until a few years ago and picked up a brand new copy. I have to say that this game pushes the envelope of what the 5200 was capable of doing. When this game spoke I about crapped myself. "This game can talk!?!" I was amazed and still remain that way to this day with this title. This game can get difficult quick. "Chicken. Fight like a robot."
Out of all the ports of Qix I have come across the 5200 port of this odd arcade game is the only one I know of to remain 100% faithful to the original arcade. Other ports added extras, the 5200 adds nothing and is still as much fun to play. It doesn't need the extra stuff. It doesn't take long for the game play to get intense after a few waves either so bring your best 5200 controller to the field. Might want to bring a first-aid kit, too.
#4 Space Dungeon
This was another 5200 title I knew nothing about until a few years ago. I never knew the 5200 had games where you had to use two controllers. A very neat idea. And the game play is astounding! Great colorful graphics, interesting sounds, and lots of areas to explore with all 99 levels present. This could take a while.
This was one title that I waited to make it to the store shelves. But it would be one of many 5200 titles that would go unpublished. I was more than surprised to see the game on Atari Age's store one day and picked up a copy. This is the only homebrew 5200 game I own and considering the fact it was finished by the original developer I couldn't have been happier. The game is really good and everything about the arcade hit is here. Even the sounds are impressive. My only gripe is that the cartridge is not of original Atari quality and doesn't seat well in my system. However, the game play is so impressive that I play it often.
#2 Pole Position
Pole Position hit the arcades and became an instant hit. When it came to home ports of this game only one of those ports was able to maintain the analog controls. And that was the 5200 console. Being that this is the only racing game I know of on the system it is also a very well done port of the arcade. This game really showcases the analog controls when they are in good working order. Great sounds, graphics are good, and the animation of the track is smooth and fluid. Put your helmet on and hit the pavement!
#1 Star Raiders
Star Raiders is easily the ancestor to the likes of Wing Commander and other first person space shooters. Flying around, hunting down enemies while protecting bases is a half-hour of human time well spent. This is one of few games where the keypad on the controller is put to heavy use and the analog controls give the feeling of flying in space really well. I played this game for hours when I was a kid and I still come to it the most when I pull out my 5200 to play a game.
This list was not an easy one to make for me. There are lots of other titles that made the 5200 a good system along with those I've mentioned like Robotron, Frogger, Q*Bert, Dig Dug, Galaxian, Joust, and many, many more. My list was based off games I physically own and based on the games I go to the most. I would love to hear other 5200 owners tell what their favorites are as well.
The Atari 2600 is the undisputed king of game consoles. And in the short amount of time that I have owned an Atari 2600 4-switch wood-grain model the amount of 2600 games I owned has been growing fairly well. With that being said I thought I would do a post on what my top 10 most played games were that just happen to also be my favorites. This list is based on games I own a physical copy of and not on emulation. Therefore as I pick up more 2600 games this list will change and may expand to include more favorites. For now, here is my 10 favorite Atari 2600 VCS games. Enjoy!
#10 California Games
California Games is one of three games that Epyx would release for the 2600. While I am not a huge fan of sports video games I find the variety of games included on this cart interesting. Epyx also did a decent job on making the graphics easy to visually understand what you was looking at. Sounds are good with my favorite being the Louie Louie playing at the Title Screen. The real reason I continue to play this game is for the BMX race. I will purposely have the biker go as fast as he can before a large jump just for him to fly through two or three screens and crash. It's simply hilarious!
Breakout has its charm and is an easy paddle game to pick up and play. Simply bounce a ball between your paddle and a wall of bricks until the ball smashes away all the bricks or manages to slip past your paddle. There's nothing more exciting than getting that ball trapped for a few seconds above the wall of bricks and watching the ball bounce back and fourth, removing bricks and racking up points as the ball tries to find a way free. A simple concept that stands up well in the library of 2600 games.
I enjoy a good fast-paced, arcade action game just as much as any gamer. But there are those times when I want to play a game that I can be relaxed at the same time. And Othello is one such game I enjoy playing on the 2600. It's down-to-basics nature captures this board game and makes it one of the better board-game conversions done on the 2600. Playing against the computer is very challenging at any skill level and the VCS doesn't take near as long to figure out moves like it does in Video Checkers and Video Chess.
#7 E.T. -- The Extra Terrestrial
We all know the history of E.T. on the 2600 by now so there's no point in going into that over and over again. However, I will say that what was pulled off in 5 to 6 weeks time is not as bad as most reviews claim. E.T. can be difficult with normal settings but lots of patience and practice can pay off. This is one of my go-to titles when I want to play a relaxing game of a different genre. I will change the difficulty to three and guide E.T. to find the items he needs to return home. A fun game!
Warlords is the only game I know of that is four players on the 2600. Then again I have never tried to play Super Breakout or Breakout with more than one player either. Warlords is a great party game alongside Combat. Even playing against three computer players is a fun challenge and, unlike the arcade, if your castle gets destroyed the game is not over instantly. The 2600, while the graphics are simplistic, captures the game play the arcade is known for very well. In some ways this port is a bit more friendly than the arcade in my opinion.
This is not one of my normal go-to games but when I do play it I am still amazed at what Atari pulled off. Having gravity against you constantly is a huge pain in the butt but also makes for an enjoyable game play experience when you can navigate some of the most bizarre maps, or mazes if you prefer, I've ever seen in a 2600 game. Even without the gravity against you some of the levels are hard to navigate. Hair pulling action at its finest!
Amidar is a go-to title for me that provides a pleasant balance between fast pace and relaxed game play. I know that sounds sort of contradicting but their are times when this game can put you in a hypnotic trance to where you are so involved with the onscreen action that nothing else matters. By the time the game is over and you return to reality you feel rested and ready to go. Actually, the game is great fun and captures the arcade well. It would have been better with the arcade bonus rounds.
Enduro is simply, in my opinion anyway, the best racing game on the 2600, period. The way you can adjust the speed to cruise along a road, passing cars, going from nice weather to snow and then fog, from mid day, through sunset and night fall, watching the sun rise only to do it all over again is some of the most impressive 2600 programming I've seen. The concept is simple...pass the required number of cars per round before the next day begins. In the first few rounds it is not so hard...later rounds get so difficult that you better not mess up even once.
Solaris is a very well made space game that seems to capture a bit of Star Raiders in its programming. The graphics, sounds, and game play of Solaris on the 2600 are simply incredible and should not be missed. I go to this title often when I'm ready for some serious space action/adventure challenges. I have yet to figure out my way to the planet Solaris but I am working on it.
#1 Space Invaders
When Atari released the 2600 I was entertained with the few visits to the in-store display were I would play a few games of Combat or some other game hanging on a chain. Then Space Invaders came along for the 2600 and I immediately wanted both. This game continues to be my number one go-to title for some classic 2600 fun. The game play is solid and there is no flicker that most 2600 games have issues with. And with lots of variations in how the game is played keeps this version of Space Invaders from being boring. There's so much to do with this simple game concept on the 2600 that it doesn't get old quick.
Well...that's my top 10 favorite 2600 games so far. I hope you have enjoyed seeing what games I find my favorites on the 2600. I look forward to comments as always and will be doing more top favorites across other consoles soon.
Nintendo's shock of announcing a miniature NES with 30 games built-in a few weeks before I wrote this article seems to have been met with mixed feelings. With all of the clone systems on the market based on the original NES, that perform well but might have mistakes here and there like a few colors wrong or sounds not quite right, it makes one wonder why Nintendo didn't think of it sooner. After all, Atari, ColecoVision, Intellivision, and Sega, have had remakes of their consoles on the market for a while now. So, with so much love for the NES by the people that remember it, enjoy it, treasure it, why the mixed feelings?
For the most part the NES Classic has been getting positive feedback already. However no one has seen the thing in action yet so I can only imagine what others are thinking. Is it possible that Nintendo would go out of their way to produce a product that is not 100% accurate in what it is trying to mimic? I really don't think so. Nintendo's reputation will be on the line with this product as the NES remains one of the most popular consoles today. The NES still has a rather large fan base and for good reason as many of its games were revolutionary and a step forward from the games Atari, Mattel, and Coleco were bringing to the console market. Mega Man, Castlevania, Mario Bros., and Zelda have continued on for many generations long after their initial NES debut. And that only touches all the game titles the NES is famous for.
If one plays those games long enough it becomes common to build expectations of what the game is "suppose" to do. Mario should change to a red and white outfit when he picks up a fire flower. What would happen if that color scheme was off? Or try this...hum a few bars of the Super Mario Bros. theme. Go on ahead...I'll wait. . . . . . OK, time's up. Now imagine that same theme that is played too fast or too slow. Basically, place a 45 RPM record on a turntable and play it at 33 RPM or 78 RPM. Yea...some emulators have been known not to be 100% accurate in this department when emulating the NES hardware. It's also been true with the flashback consoles made by ATGames.
One thing to realize is that, no matter how well received a Nintendo product has been received, Nintendo has always put quality in their hardware. And since the introduction of the GameCube Nintendo has been revamping the NES games slowly like Metroid on Metroid Prime as an example. So if any company has had experience in emulating their own products it would have to be Nintendo. And it is possible that the NES Classic is going to be emulated but it might also be using real hardware or the same virtual console found on the Wii and Wii U.
Just for the games alone the Nintendo NES Classic is worth the $60 price tag. If a collector, gamer, what have you, were to hunt down those games in their original cartridge form, just the carts, any two of the games in the 30-game list would easily cost $60 depending on where you looked. Mega Man 2 alone can fetch $40 or more. And only the most popular NES games seemed to make the list, too. So you have literally hours upon hours of gaming, good, wholesome, quality gaming, in one little package.
Once again, though, if anything is even slightly off, it can ruin the whole deal. So I really hope that Nintendo does the original NES and the 30 games they have included justice. As for now the NES Classic is scheduled for a November 11th release and I am excited for it. I already have money set aside to pick one up on release date and will do another review on it once I get it. In the meantime I'd like to hear your thoughts on Nintendo's surprise console.
(Image used: http://www.nintendo.com/nes-classic )
Strapped inside the cockpit of your starship, looking out into space, you see a star moving. After a few seconds of watching, the star turns into an enemy Basestar...and it has sent out its best starfighters to destroy you. Red alarms start to go off as your radar shows the enemy attempting to out flank you. An enemy starfighter appears right in your line of sight. You take the shot by firing your photon torpedoes. A direct hit!! Somehow you managed to miss the fire of another starfighter, which has started to come back at you again, while taking down the first starfighter. You line up the enemy in your crosshairs and fire. Seconds seem like minutes waiting to see if your aim was good. Another direct hit! The only thing to do now is to destroy that Basestar. You increase your engine speeds. Within seconds the Basestar is in your crosshairs and firing its weapons at you. You send blast after blast of photon torpedoes, some shots missing while others are hitting their target, until the Basestar explodes. With the area cleared you look at your Galactic Map and head for another sector with more approaching enemies. Your adventure in Star Raiders has just begun full force.
Appearing first on the Atari 400 and 800 home computers, the 5200 received one of Atari's most enduring and engaging space battle games ever created. For its time the game was way more advanced than any arcade game on the market and was one of the first space games that concentrated more on strategy than anything else. Star Raiders on the 5200 is absolutely brilliant. While it may not push the capabilities of the system to its limits it does make full use of the 5200's analog controls and immerses the player into a space battle they will not soon forget.
Compared to the simplistic style of Atari's joysticks on the home computers, and 2600 for that matter, the 5200's controls in Star Raiders allow for precise movement to help the player line up their shot. The more the joystick is moved in any direction the more the ship moves. The movement is very fluid like but effective and in the player's favor. Of course the game does pause when you need to take a break for whatever reason and Reset will take you back to the Mission Select screen where you can challenge the game at various difficulty settings.
Where the game can get complicated is with the keypad controls. This is the only game I am aware of that places the keypad on double duty. In SPEED MODE the keypad buttons correspond to the ship's traveling speed. For example; button 1 sets the starship's speed at 1. In CONTROL MODE the keypad becomes a mini-computer and control console. This is where the heart of Star Raiders lies. From view settings to setting shields and tracking controls to viewing the Galactic Map and activating Hyperspace to warp to other sectors are all done at the press of the corresponding button on the controller keypad. The keypad controls may take some time to get use to but once they are learned the game becomes easier to navigate.
The manual included with Star Raiders is a 35-page manual with only one page dedicated to a high score recording table. The rest is all about playing the game. This easily makes it the most documented instruction manual of any 5200 game, period. A lot of work went into making sure that not only did the game play good but that the player had enough information to learn how to play the game. Nothing was left out. Atari went so far as to tell how the score is calculated in the game.
Star Raiders is one of those games that set a new standard and could easily be declared one of the first space-style first-person shooters. The game play in Star Raiders is so intense, engulfing, enticing, and engaging, that after one round it's hard to avoid playing another round. Star Raiders, win or lose, leaves the player feeling satisfied. If it sounds like I am placing game above all others then you, my dear reader, would be correct.
You see, Star Raiders was one of the first titles I would pick up after the holiday season I got my 5200. At 7 years old I was kicking Zylon butt. For years I played this game more than any other until during a move it got lost. I managed to find one, new in the box, about 5 years or so ago. And I was overly excited. Star Raiders, unlike any other game, has been, and remains, my all-time favorite console video game. I like Mario, I enjoy Sonic, and I like my NES and love my Dreamcast, but Star Raiders on the 5200 is my main game. I've had the 8-bit version as well and, while it is essentially the same game, I prefer the analog controls on the 5200.
So for those that have wondered about this game before, and have never played it, try to pick one up new in the box. I know their are new copies still available somewhere. I mention new in box because you really need the keypad overlays and you might even need the instructions if you are new to this game. This game is a blast to play and I believe that fans of shumps are going to enjoy this ride.
Grab your 5200 controller, a sandwich and drink, and strap yourself in for one heck of a ride. Then join the rest of us Star Raiders in freeing the galaxy of unwanted Zylon scum! Welcome to the fleet, Cadet, and good luck! You're going to need it.
This review has taken me longer to write than my other reviews. It's hard to write about a console when you know other people have dogged it for different reasons. From sparks coming from the automatic switchbox when connecting the power supply to the controller issues makes it a challenge to review. Because, unlike those types of reviews, I am wanting to express the good points of owning an Atari 5200 SuperSystem. So, this review has put me a bit behind my usual one-week review schedule. And I hope that by the time you finish reading this the 5200, and everything that makes it worth owning, will finally pull the system out of the "worst" category by so many other reviews I've seen before.
Many current generation gamers will not understand what it was like to be a kid (and I mean age-wise) and wishing for an Atari to play at home. And "Atari" was used mostly to describe the wood grain console most of us Atarians know and love...the VCS or 2600 whichever you prefer. So when I woke up one Christmas morning to a shiny black and chrome 5200 in front of the family TV I was more than excited. And I never played Super Breakout so much in my life. I loved everything about the 5200; its looks, the games, the cartridge designs, the controllers, everything! The graphics and sounds rocked, and not only could one other player join in but so could another and another. Mom, her then-boyfriend, and myself could all play a game together and not worry about who got to play first. And I could pause the game and come back to it later. Nice for those annoying bathroom urges that only seem to happen when your game playing skills are at their best.
But there was a downside to owning it as well other than issues others have mentioned already. In my area I was the only kid at school who got an Atari for Christmas that got the 5200. The other kids that got an Atari got the 2600. The plus side was that I didn't have to worry about kids wanting to borrow my games they didn't have. My games wouldn't work on their system. The downfall? The 5200 couldn't play 2600 games at time and the 2600 was getting games that the 5200 would never see. So while my friends were getting lots of games to choose from I was stuck with games Atari chose to make which was mostly arcade ports. Granted the games were solid and better than the 2600 ports but I was missing games from Activision, Imagic, Epyx, and other companies supporting the 2600 full force.
By the time Atari faded away from my area it would be three years before the likes of another game machine came to my area. As a matter of fact I still remember the last Atari 5200 game I would receive from my Mother. It was my 11th birthday and she found Moon Patrol for my 5200...one of my favorite arcade games of all-time. As time moved you would think the 5200 would be ignored. Not true. It remained in use even during the NES phase.
So what makes the 5200 worth owning? Easy...the games! The 5200 is a shining example of a time long gone. It gives a great insight at what the arcades might have been like during the early 80's. It certainly reflects what games were going strong for the time. The 5200 is everything that Atari set out to make...an at-home arcade machine.
If those reading this have tried a 5200 and didn't like it only because the controllers didn't work right or at all then those same readers have not given the 5200 an honest try. The 5200 is a delicate beast...more delicate than any other gaming console released before and after it. Yet, that same delicacy can not be left unused for weeks on end. Taking care of an Atari 5200 while using it on a regular basis will keep a 5200, and its controllers, in tip-top working condition. By now the technology is well over 30 years old so wear from age is to be expected. Wear from any previous owner's care, or lack thereof, should also be expected.
When well maintained the 5200 controllers are not all that bad. Replace worn parts with new ones which can still be obtained and rebuild those controllers. You will notice the difference in game play with a controller that acts just like it was taken out of the box for the first time...in 1982. Doing so now a new controller would most likely need a rebuild as well from not being used and aging in darkness. Once you have a working controller the 5200 is best approached by learning the system and controls on a per game basis first...then work on learning the games. Each game is unique to the 5200 in how the controls work. That is the real learning curve of going from the 2600 to the 5200. You see...you don't play Galaxian like Space Invaders on the 5200...you play it like Breakout because the ship in 5200's Galaxian moves just like the paddle in Super Breakout. Other games vary so take the time to learn them. Manual's for most games are a must so try to find those.
I personally consider the 5200 to be one of Atari's better achievements since the 2600. It has remained my all-time favorite console for so many reasons but mostly because of how unique it is compared to other consoles before and after it. No other console I've ever owned has captured my attention as easily as this behemoth of a system. The 5200 is a must own as far as I'm concerned and should not be as misunderstood as it is. Clean it up, repair the controllers, and learn how to use it. Then enjoy the games on it that are a true blast to play. Seriously...check out Space Invaders! The only port of this iconic game that introduced aliens that morph. It really is a Supersystem!
When I was gifted E.T. for the 2600, very much brand new as in never-been-opened new, for my birthday just days before writing this review I couldn't have been happier. E.T. was one of my favorite childhood memories and I still enjoy that movie to this day. I must have seen that movie five times during its first release in the theaters. Then I seen the game on store shelves for the 2600. Bummer! I had a 5200. And why didn't my system get an E.T. game? I was blind to what was happening because I was a 5200 owner. For me Atari was the king of video games and E.T. was the most awesome-est movie period. For some 2600 owners, unknowingly to me, Atari plus E.T. equaled disaster.
I would not discover E.T. on the 2600 until 1988 after I picked up a used 2600 with a ton of games from a classmate for $10. Even during the Nintendo Entertainment System's power on the gaming public anything Atari still caught my attention even if it was used. Once I got it home I tried that E.T. game I never got to before. The only problem was that it was only the cartridge I had, there were no instructions on how to play. As hard as I tried to figure out the game I simply didn't understand what I was suppose to do. So, I played some Space Invaders instead. E.T. for the 2600 would go on to be declared one of the worst games in video game history while I would try time and time again to figure it out.
Fast forward close to the present, to the time the legendary Atari Landfill was discovered and digging had commenced to see what that tomb had in it. I'm sure most know what all came out of that landfill by now. I even shed a tear mostly from think about all those products that Atari simply destroyed that could have been donated and used as a tax write off. Not long after that I did some research on E.T. and found that there was a guide on the internet dedicated to beating the game. As far as I know there wasn't many Atari games that got that sort of attention. My interest in this game had been ignited again. This time I downloaded an emulator to play the game. After a few short plays I was astounded at what was pulled off in 5 weeks time.
E.T. for the 2600 gets bad reviews it really doesn't deserve. It was a first for capturing the main plot of a movie and turning it into a playable video game. It was also a first in expanding on the adventure game genre by involving every element in the game in one way or another. And if you think about it, the map on E.T. for the 2600 has to be learned so the player will know where they are going so they don't get lost. In some ways this game also has RPG elements because, much like an RPG, each single-screen location acts like a grid with each grid spot holding specific game functions. Early RPGs did this for allowing enemy confrontations.
So, in lots of ways, E.T. set new standards in how some game genres were programmed and developed. If you don't quite understand what to do in the game since it is understood that many copies of E.T. are loose and without documentation, I would like to share a link to a guide that is solely for E.T. on the 2600. I hope it will help future 2600 gamers who have this game to become engulfed in what it really has to offer. E.T. for the 2600 is not the worst video game ever made. On the contrary is should be up there with some the 2600's best highlights. As for glitches, while E.T. does have some there are lots of modern day games that have glitches worse than E.T. ever thought of having. E.T. for the 2600...it's an A-plus game in my book.
Link To How To Win At E.T. - The Video Game
Maybe next year for Midwest Gaming Classic...
As it stands, I'll have:
Tempest 2000 for DOS (PC) Tempest 2000 for Jaguar Tempest 3000 for Nuon Space Giraffe for 360/PC TxK for PSTV TxK VR for Oculus DK2
Maybe I can have a table setup dedicated soley to Virtual Light Machine goodness (VLM1, VLM2, Neon) and all the different iterations of Tempest Jeff ever made for the multiple consoles and PCs setup. Too much Tempest? Hopefully not =D
I suppose I could also throw in there a few clones like Typhoon 2001, Tsunami 2010, and maybe Cyclone 2000?
I'll have to have dedicated sound/headphones for each one so people can truly enjoy the music/soundtrack.
Llamasoft on Tour? ;-)
As I expand my knowledge and experience in different manufacturing/post application processes, there's always a constant light blinking away in the far distance, almost humming as a reminder. The things I see that are now possible today that wasn't possible 20 or 30 years ago is truly impressive and opens up far more opportunities and options for modifications and customized hardware that just wasn't possible back then.
The bad news is, Atari is dead as a doornail when it comes to releasing new hardware. The good news is, Atari is dead as a doornail when it comes to releasing new hardware.
My point is, it forces users to make the best and most out of what was given to use as a system. In this particular instance, I'm referring to the Atari 8bit line. If you want to be really specific, the XE line even. My angle is: If Atari could make an Atari XE today, how would they do it? Maybe not so much even how they would do it but what would I, as a user and gamer, want from such a modernized retro gaming computer system. That thought doesn't hurt the brain even a little, does it? ;-)
So, how exactly does one modernize, in the sense of current day releasing of said hardware, an Atari 8bit computer? Where do you start and what is the final, end product? The Atari 8bits are (probably not so arguably because I'm biased ;-) ) the best 80's 8-bit computer of all time. Off the top with what's available: Stereo pokey, 1MB of RAM, mechanical keyboard switches for that proper tactile feedback! what else is there? Internal SIO2SD for storage so you never have to have an external accessory to load the entire library of Atari 800 games? I know what I want to give it that special look and feel in the end but what about you?
What would you want?
Anyways, Atari is and forever will be just a hobby and I doubt this project will ever turn into something that makes much money, if only to cover the costs for making what I want for myself a reality. In the end, maybe a few people will end up with some truly astonishing and cherished Atari 8bits in their hands to have fun with...
I remember being four years old and being at the bowling alley with my Mother and discovering Space Invaders for the first time. Years later when the 2600 made its way to our local Wal-Mart, and even had a demo unit set up, I discovered that I could play that game at home. I asked for that Atari machine and that game for a few Christmases and birthdays but never did get it. I did end up with an Atari by 1982 but it wasn't the 2600.
Space Invaders was the sole reason why I wanted a 2600, no other game mattered to me at that time. I'm sure I would have enjoyed any other game but Space Invaders was "my" game. I would not see this Space Invaders until after Nintendo dominated the video game market and those "old" Atari consoles with piles of games would show up at yard sales for an average of $10.
Space Invaders is the first home port of an arcade game that was licensed. It was also the first arcade port ever made that I am aware of for any home console. While it wasn't entirely just like the arcade it captured everything that made the arcade Space Invaders very likable. It was also a little more forgiving, allowing the player to build and improve their skills with the game. I know of a few 2600 owners during my childhood years talk about wear out a controller or two playing this game alone.
Atari's Space Invaders also does something the arcade doesn't...steps it up a few notches by giving creative ways to change the game. Seriously, try some of the other game variations if you never have like enemy fire that not only comes raining down but also in the direction the player's ship is. Do you really want a challenge? Try the variation where the invaders are completely invisible. Be sure to keep your best controller away for a while because the game play can get intense!
Space Invaders on the 2600 is a good game. It's such a common title by today's collectors and Atarians that you will most likely see a copy of Space Invaders in their library of games. It is also one of the top 100 game picks by Atari gamers according to Atari2600(dot)com. And for good reason if that is true. This game would easily make a top 10 list in my book. If you are new to the 2600 pick this game up along with it or make sure it is in the collection of games if your 2600 find comes with games. You don't want to miss this game!
Roland this, Roland that. Give me reverb and MIDI stat!
I think it may be possible to come up with some sort of tasty Tempest 2000 soundtrack replications of sorts or maybe even a mashup. Still waiting on a few more bits to be added before I can really dive in but I like it =D
Out of all the video games Atari produced it seems that Pac-Man for the 2600 has been blamed, almost entirely, for the start of the video game crash that happened during the early 1980's. It is also marked as one of the worst games made in video gaming history. By now most Atari 2600 owners, new and vets, know what this game is like so there really is no need to dig into how the game play actually is. But hopefully this little blog post will put the game in a different perspective to where the game is not entirely to blame. Yes, for a short while this game will get a bit of the spotlight. At least I'm going to try.
As most Atari.IO members here might remember from one of my posts, I received three brand new, unopened, 2600 games for Christmas in 2015. One of those games was an original Asteroids. I opened it up because it felt really heavy and I knew the cartridge and instructions were not that heavy to begin with. Inside was an Atari catalog which was a nice surprise as I love that classic reading material. It gives an idea of what it was like to own the 2600 and what Atari was up to in supporting it. I flip through it and after a couple of pages I landed on Pac-Man. A full two pages! I begin to read it. Almost immediately you can tell that Atari knew this game was not what it should be, let alone who ever wrote the article obviously didn't know how the game was played and what all went on.
Allow me to share the article with you. The catalog was released in 1981 and Pac-Man is stated to be released March 1982. Without further ado..
"Adopted from one of the most popular video arcade games ever created, Atari's Pac-Man*, which differs slightly from the original, is sure to be a hit in your home."
OK. Do you get the feeling here that Atari knew they didn't get this one right from the start? I will admit that they printed a similar thing about Defender in that same catalog and my new copy of Asteroids came with an insert that pretty much said the same thing...but those games were received well by 2600 owners that I am aware of. Carrying on...
"In this engaging game, you guide the PAC-MAN around a maze to gobble up dots for points, while dodging ghosts. In the four corners of the maze are special tablets. When PAC-MAN eats one, he changes color and can then eat the ghosts. But he has to hurry and catch the ghosts before he changes color again, or they'll eat him."
Did you notice a couple of things here? Atari, or someone at Atari, didn't know Pac-Man very well. The writer of this article first treats PAC-MAN like a thing with "the PAC-MAN...". I will admit that the arcade PAC-MAN had just came out in the arcades but was already well known as just PAC-MAN. That's it. The writer also must not have played the game before because PAC-MAN is not the one that changes color from eating a power pellet, or as they called them, special tablets. The ghosts are. After reading that article there should have been warning signs that Atari didn't not know what they were doing with this game. Now let's plug the cart in and see what we get.
Immediately noticeable is the blue maze on a black background from the arcades is missing. What we have on the 2600 is an orange maze on a blue background. PAC-MAN in the game has an eye, and the ghosts, while there is four of them, flicker badly and appear to be similar in color. And missing are the fruits that our lovable character normally gets in the arcade, in its place is a square thing Atari called a "Vitamin".
So...is Atari 2600's Pac-Man really to blame for the starts of the crash? I don't think it is so much the game is to blame I believe it was related more to the hype of Pac-Man being released for the 2600 only to be let down by expectations the public had. I mean up until that point the 2600 did do a decent job at some of the popular arcade games. Asteroids wasn't spot on but that was to be expected. The difference in monitor types meant something else had to be done. Space Invaders, I thought, was really well and is one of my favorite 2600 titles. Defender might not have been exact but what was pulled off is good. Missile Command was good, too. The 2600, and its developers, tried.
Pac-Man on the 2600, while it doesn't look or sound anything like the arcade, is fun in its own way. Maybe this game should have been given a different name. As well Atari should have had more than one developer on porting Pac-Man to the 2600 and picking the better port for a release. In some respects, the 2600's Pac-Man is OK in my book. I would blame Atari for this one, and the crash, for producing more copies of this game than they should have from the beginning. Only a small batch should have been made to see how well it did. After that they would have known what to do.
For what it's worth, Pac-Man on the 2600 is not completely bad and it has survived many decades along with other 2600 titles. As well it is also hard to find a small collection of 2600 games that do not have Pac-Man as one of the games. Play it once in a while and see if you can find things to like about it, while playing it, and see if you, too, can find some good out of it. I did.
I'm only a few bits away to having what I would consider my ultimate, for the most part, studio setup and I couldn't be much happier! The RolandS50 has proven to be an absolute blast to play with and while loading disks is kind of slow, there's something warming about it. It sounds warm, too! It was pretty awesome to find some Juno and Jupiter sounds make their way to the S50! Still waiting for the draw tablet to arrive but once it gets here, gimmicky or not, it'll be interesting to see what can be done with that.
Scored a Roland VS880EX multi-track recorder that also does real time effects for only $40 which is a steal imo - that fact that I can plug in an electric guitar and it can act as a pedal box for various effects is worth the price of admission alone. The buttons will need to be retrobrited and there's some minor scuffing around the base that I'll likely mask with some sort of carbon covering to bring the entire thing up to speed in the looks department but so far it really seems like quite an elaborate little box that I'll be able to lay down many tracks with and if I ever come up with some truly creative worthy of sharing.
Outside of the STe, which I still haven't found one I'm in love with and will continue to take my time in getting, I've got my eyes on some other tasty Roland gear I hope to add in the near future but I'll have to get and assemble an audio rack for that. I'm not sure why I'm letting all this vintage gear get a hold of me but I'm enjoying every bit of it so far - quirks and all!
I've got a ton of things waiting to be delivered before I can actually make use of the Roland S50 (TSR patch cables, MIDI cables, floppy disks for samples, etc.) but I did manage to find an original Digitizer Tablet for $75 and now basically have the ultimate Roland S50 setup combination as depicted back in the late 80s! I don't know what it is about this keyboard or how I've managed to go so long in my life without noticing its existence but I'm glad to have landed one and am even more thrilled to be able to finally use it in the coming week or so. While it's a huge step back in terms of performance and limitless options to the Roland Phantom Workstation I once owned in the early millennium, I feel it's definitely more in my realm of enjoyment and can ultimately be used as a glorified MIDI controller.
May have also found a few Atari STe computers to add to my setup so I can MIDI link everything together when the time comes to laying down some tracks and really getting my feet wet in that arena. Going to get a rack mount from Amazon and some other goodies to get my studio jump started so when I move into the new place, I'll be rock solid and ready to go in letting whatever meaningless creativity juices flow into audio form. I'm really wanting to do something Yoomp! soundtrack related at some point because I really love the music in that game! Effects processors and more to come...
Purchased my 130XE for $99 many years ago thinking I got a good deal and have only recently had the chance to play some games utilizing the extended memory the 130 is supposed to offer, which is why I decided to get this model after my 800XL keyboard started acting up. Kind of pissed to learn that something is really messed up with it and should have just bought a new one from Best Elec. I can't isolate the problem and don't really want to spend the hours trying to find out and pinpoint the exact issue. I suppose the board is still usable for basic programs that don't require anything above 64kb of RAM but I fear something else is wrong with it. It's not the CPU either because I tried swapping with a different unit with identical results.
I can't even load the RAM test program because it goes absolutely bezerk before fully loading so something is really wonky with the system. Who knows....
Guess I'll just pick up a replacement board.
I've always been pro-hardware and anti-emulation but I'll tell you, when something goes wrong with the hardware and it's an expensive hobby due to the age of said hardware, it makes you want to reconsider at times. Maybe a proper FPGA solution will exist someday.
Over the past several months I have been discovering Atari 2600 games for the first time...just like those who owned one way back when the machine was the only console on the market. So far I've discovered Solaris and few others I had never seen or heard of before. The 2600 has managed to surprise me again with a rare title known as Radar Lock.
Radar Lock appears similar to Sega's After Burner but after a few minutes in the game you get so sucked into the on-screen action that you forget what you are playing on. Wave after wave of enemy aircraft appear on your screen, shooting at you in a fly-by style formation. You constantly find yourself in a banking move just to target them so you can strike them down with your twin gunner or missiles. All the while you are using gun and missile ammo that is limited and have to watch your fuel gauge. Run out of either one and it's curtains for you. If you manage to succeed in finishing off all enemies in a single wave you will get the chance to dock with a fuel plane. Even that can be tricky because now the fire button turns into a boost button. Just like how Star Raiders' Space Stations have to be just right for the player to dock with them the player has to be just right for the fueling aircraft to lower its hose to your fighter jet. Line it up and receive a bonus for the fuel and ammunition you have left. After that you will find yourself on a runway waiting for the next wave to start as soon as you press the fire button on your controller. And a first for me...this game actually uses the TV Type switch for a pause button. Simply slide it to the B*W position to pause (recommend 2600 hardware for this) and slide back to Color to continue where you left off. Pretty cool, eh? It also uses a second controller, like Solaris, for selecting between guns and missiles...up and down for guns and left and right for missiles.
Now that you know what the game entails to a degree let's step back in time a bit here. 1989 is the copyright date on Radar Lock. That places the 2600 JR on the shelf along with the 7800 and up against giants Nintendo and Sega. At this time the Genesis should have been on the market as well and Nintendo going strong with the NES and newly released Game Boy (in North America anyway). So here we have the 2600, declared a primitive console by some at the time, doing something it was not designed to do...again! And I thought Solaris was mind-blowing.
Radar Lock pushes the 2600 hardware into new territory that is just as mind-blowing as Solaris. The graphics are well done and flicker free, the sound effects somehow don't seem limited to the 2-channel limitations of the TIA processor, nor do the controls, after getting use to the game, feel like a 2600 game. In some ways it almost feels like part of Solaris was used as the basis to Radar Lock...and in a good way. I really never knew that graphics on the 2600 could make tiny dots (check out the radar in the lower right-side of the HUD display and GUNS ammo). This game is impressive.
I really believe that if gamers in 1989, who owned an NES or Sega system, were more aware of this game they might have purchased it along with a Atari 2600 Junior or Atari 7800 game system. This is one game I never heard of until recently but if I would have known about it sooner, and when I picked up my 2600 Junior with my first paycheck decades ago, I would have purchased it. If you find this game in the wild or online, and you've never had it before, I recommend picking up. If you do pick this up I recommend using a controller where the fire button is on top of the joystick handle to really get immersed into the game. A Kraft Starmaster controller easily comes to mind for that. Any 2600 owner who does not have this game needs to locate it and play it. It's really good.
I've been in the hardware bug lately and can joyfully claim taking ownership of an amazing new (to me) keyboard:
The Roland S-50
It fascinates me, this once $2,695 sampling keyboard released in 1986 (a solid era for the Atari ST computers!), can now be found for as little as $100 in 2016. This thing is an absolute monster and definitely doesn't come without its own set of quirks. Just under 24-hours ago was this beast delivered to my doorstep but I powered it up and checked it's video output to ensure it was functioning as intended - beyond an intermittent display issue which I've yet to resolve - all seems well!
[My personal machine...]
[Look at this lovely bootup screen when attached to a TV monitor!]
[A look at some of the tech under the hood of this monstrosity!]
[Please Insert System Disk!] Compliance!
My next step is to create the actual bootup disk required to rock this thing and see how far I can take this incredible for its age, 30 years to be exact, technology. =)
That's right... in an unexpected impulse purchase for a very affordable Atari 7800 system, Sally is soon to be shipped and on her way. She's apparently been through some rough times (frayed wires on controllers and power supply, cracked casing) and had a little fixing up but at $30, she's the perfect candidate for what will eventually become my 3D printed Atari projects! Maybe she can even shed a few pounds or gain some modern edges in the process. ;-)
Diving back into the A8 world and while I have an older sio2pc that uses a serial connector (no access to that on my current laptop setup), it can't be used. I was certain that I would have managed to get a nice Indus GT or XF551 by now but so far, null results. I'm still disappointed by the whole fiasco over my last Indus GT purchase, especially since it had such a nice box. Oh well...
I've officially ordered the SIO2PC USB version so I can put one or both of these machines to use in upcoming weekends and have some competitive gaming nights with the daughter and girlfriend. I'll finally be able to load up some Yoomp! and GTIA Blast! Would really love to see a Cosmic Ark clone on the A8s using the enhanced GTIA mode... that and many more games in general make use of it. Outside of alienating the core 800 base, was there really any reason as to why more games didn't use said mode?
Anyways, order placed and incoming... hopefully come this time next weekend it'll smell like warm 8bit machines in my room!
Really enjoy the translucent plastic used....
It's 2016 and unfortunately, the Blade Runner scene will become anything but reality and Atari isn't even close to how we could have imagined it some 20-years ago but maybe that's a good thing. Never the less, the dreams and memories continue to live on. The games, artwork, music, design and passion behind so many products and games will forever remain. The best part of it all is the community behind it all. The wide range of hardware and software hackers that continue to adapt these machines into useful modern day gaming systems, not to be left behind or forgotten, is amazing. It's nice to have new hardware or software for our machines and the majority of the people behind any of these projects mostly are in it because they enjoy it.
At some point, I feel any Atari aficionado would have hoped for a better outcome that is Atari and kind of hope to live in a world where futuristic game consoles and computers continue to be developed and released to this day. Atari was always about promising the future, especially in its early years. Sleek, modern designs with never before seen features in consoles and computers, it was always something fascinating to look forward to and in a weird sense, gave many hope and something to look forward to.
Today, I accept Atari for what it is: a childhood past time that I can adapt and bring into the future with me to enjoy, picking and choosing which time period I want to experience again. We can just about purchase any Atari console or computer for mostly reasonable prices and have access to flash carts to load these machines up with some of the best software our minds can remember. We live in a day of age where we can instantly relive our childhood memories in abundance at a fraction of the cost.
I've owned and sold a lot of my Atari collection over the years, downsizing as needed due to space constraints and constant moving. The good news is, I have space again but no longer really need much more than to house the hardware itself. That's not to say there isn't a possibility it won't get out of control but I'm ready to rebuild a core Atari hardware collection so I can enjoy the massive amount of software created over the last 30+ years. Emulation isn't really for me, I'm a purist when it comes to the hardware side of things.
My focus has been the Atari A8 or 800/XE series lately. It's one of the machines that has a ton of great games and is really easy to get into with a proper SIO2PC setup. I've yet to obtain a XF551 or Indus GT drive for my 130XE but am in no rush. Getting good hardware the first time around is important so I'm willing to wait. I've pretty much sourced an Atari Falcon I would like to follow up with next in my collection phase and if any of you spot a really nice STe or have one to sell, please drop me a message. I've got some cool projects going on in the controller department of things and the Jaguar side of things, so this will be the place I post about updates and an inside look when the time comes.
Hopefully the next few years will prove to be fascinating with what comes from this hobby we all share!
Anything is truly possible. Here's to a New Age of Atari -- it's ours for the taking.