Jump to content
  • entries
    59
  • comments
    151
  • views
    24,561

Atari 5200 Thoughts


Atari 5200 Guy

335 views

page_hero_5200_bezel.jpg

 

The Atari 5200 has been my all-time favorite console for a very long time.  However modern times have not been kind to it.  The machine itself is fine and I don’t mind the RF hook up it received but the controllers have a poor working ratio when not used often.  Which is weird considering most other systems can tolerate months without being used.  The Atari 5200 controllers, however, are a double edged sword. If you don’t use them once a week they fail, if you use them too often they can fail.  It’s hard to find a happy place sometimes.  However the controllers are not what this is about.  I’m just setting up the logic behind my thoughts.

When it was in production the idea of full analog controllers sounded good… on paper.  Once shown to the public it wasn’t all bad but it was clear that the 360 degree controllers to beat out Intellivision just wasn’t the right answer.  Super Breakout was also considered a poor choice for a pick-in game but it was the only 4-player game ever released for the console. While I loved playing the game when I woke up that Christmas morning to a 5200 sitting in my living room I never found another four player game.  Even as I child I questioned Atari’s decisions.

 

large.Atari_Video_System-X.jpg

 

I never had issues with my original Atari 5200 because it got played every single day for hours on end.  Being an only child living where the only time you seen friends was at school made the 5200 my best friend.  I endured and learned how to harness those controllers on a per game basis because each game reacted differently.  Each game approached the analog controls differently. It was a “how well does this work with this game” thought process when getting a new game.  Sometimes the analog controls were great, sometimes they were OK, other times it was like “blah”.  I still say the Atari 5200 port of Pole Position was the best port made because of the analog controls.

While I now know there were controller “solutions” those were never seen in my area by my mother or me.  So the standard equipment was it.  Which leaves me to the thoughts I have today that I think might have helped the 5200. Ignoring the lack of self centering joysticks, what if Atari gave two controller options where there was a choice of the analog controllers we all know and the option to pick up all digital joystick controllers which would have shared the same controller design?  Another option could have been to include a cable adapter that would accommodate the use of a standard Atari 2600 controller combined with the 5200 controllers.  Similar to what the Wico does.  There were so many things they “could” have done when they knew the original controllers were going to be an issue.

 

page_hero_5200_A.jpg

 

Regardless, the 5200 is a great example of how something advanced doesn’t always plan out.  It does showcase some of the best arcade game translations of the time.  It is easy to see all the hard work that went into the system and its library of games. Some of the loved arcade games of the time were represented faithfully on the 5200. Games that easily come to mind are Qix, Joust, Space Dungeon, and Defender.  The unreleased Sinistar is impressive work as well.

I’m sure I’m missing a few things and I know the truth behind the 5200 costing Atari millions of dollars. I just hope newcomers to the 5200 will find enjoyment and the help they need to keep it interesting.  It still has a lot to offer.

 

11 Comments


Recommended Comments

I got a 5200 in 2007.  In fact, I got two, as I got both a 4 port and a 2 port system.  I have always liked the games for the console as it has some unique titles and some exclusive ports as well.  I was aware of the issues with the controllers, so I immediately got the gold upgrade for mine.  I also got a WICO controller.  The main issue is the controller does not self-center, something that Atari was working on but never released due to the crash.  Overall, though, I'm happy with the system.

Link to comment

The 5200 is my second favorite Atari console only bested by the 7800 for me. I've always like the original controllers since I first played the system using one of them. Over the past 20+ years now, I've done the foil dots bit on them to keep them going but after having to do it after every 2 or 3 years (due to the dots eventually falling off), I got sick of it and over the summer I purchased two gold set replacement rebuild kits from the new Atarireapairparts.com website. Installed them in a matter of minutes and I don't think I will have to touch them ever again at this point.

That said, I also have a set of the Wico controllers (I don't like this, they don't feel right and they actually break stupid easy internally.). But the command control keypad that they also use is quite nice and well built. So I also have one of the older AtariAge redemption adapters that lets me use that Wico keypad and a Sega Genesis 3 button controller with the 5200. For games that require the more digital precision, that is the setup I will use. But even still I mostly use the original controllers when I play on the 5200.

 

Link to comment

I have to say I am genuinely surprised and impressed at the responses I’m getting from other 5200 owners.  It has been unexpected.  For many, many years now I’ve heard others who have or had a 5200 complain about the controllers.  Even its sales showed issues with the controllers. But I never expected to hear people say they actually prefer the original controllers over anything else.  I was not expecting to hear that.

I dearly love my 5200.  Like some others I have at least 40 years experience with it.  Without internet to guide me I spent lots of time with used systems trying to repair faulty controllers not really knowing half the time what I was getting myself into or how to fix them.  I do have to thank my Mother for all those Atari finds in those garage sales and Salvation Army store visits.  She always grabbed them up.  I use to have a stock pile of replacements. When she passed the house got broke into.

And I wasn’t talking bad about the system.  On the contrary I was thinking a “what if” scenario. Like what if the games were given the ability to check what type of controller you was using? You connect an adapter and can use any Atari 2600 compatible joystick combined with the 5200 controller.  You’re given the option to use analog or digital controls. You then play the game using whatever controller you’re comfortable with.
 

 I'm not going against the standard controllers as I feel they are what make the 5200 unique. I was, instead, wonder If Atari knew they had an issue with the controllers they didn’t just make a quick fix like a controller adapter?  It would have made more business sense.

3 hours ago, RickR said:

And lets not forget the awesome Trakball they made for 5200.  It feels like a real arcade controller. 

Yes!!  The Trakball controller is pretty awesome and works with a lot of 5200 games.  You should try using it with Pole Position sometime. That’s a real challenge! And unlike the Colecovision trackball it doesn’t need a separate power supply. 
 

So maybe I have been looking at the 5200 all wrong.  I was under the impression most people really disliked the system due to its controllers. 🤔 Maybe I need to do my own gold upgrade and see what happens.

Link to comment

There are several controller options available today, so the non-centering CX52s are no longer an issue. Btw, the 5200 port of Defender is excellent and plays extremely well with the CX52s. (I have four of the Best Electronics upgraded CX52s and they continue to work as new after several years of use).
As others have stated, you can go the Wico controller and pad route or connect a Masterplay or MP Clone type adapter for use with any number of DB9 connector controllers. 
 

My top five original games:

Defender

Gremlins

Missile Command (Trak-Ball)

Rescue on Fractalus!

Space Dungeon (Console exclusive twin-stick shooter)

Note: Qix also works really well with the CX52 controller and I prefer to play Space Invaders with the trak-ball.

At this point in the life of this console, I feel that the only people making a big deal about the controllers are YouTubers looking for clicks or people that have not put an ounce of time into researching the console. 

I have a 2 port and a 4 port as well. Neither one is modded, but both have new/old stock motherboards and the RF output is really good on each console. 
 

Game on!

Edited by sramirez2008
Link to comment
On 1/4/2024 at 3:33 PM, sramirez2008 said:

There are several controller options available today, so the non-centering CX52s are no longer an issue. Btw, the 5200 port of Defender is excellent and plays extremely well with the CX52s. (I have four of the Best Electronics upgraded CX52s and they continue to work as new after several years of use).
As others have stated, you can go the Wico controller and pad route or connect a Masterplay or MP Clone type adapter for use with any number of DB9 connector controllers. 
 

My top five original games:

Defender

Gremlins

Missile Command (Trak-Ball)

Rescue on Fractalus!

Space Dungeon (Console exclusive twin-stick shooter)

Note: Qix also works really well with the CX52 controller and I prefer to play Space Invaders with the trak-ball.

At this point in the life of this console, I feel that the only people making a big deal about the controllers are YouTubers looking for clicks or people that have not put an ounce of time into researching the console. 

I have a 2 port and a 4 port as well. Neither one is modded, but both have new/old stock motherboards and the RF output is really good on each console. 
 

Game on!

I don’t have Rescue on Fractalus yet.  I need to remedy that.

Link to comment

When it comes to the joysticks, I like the RetroGameBoyz all-in-one joystick.  It's a self centering digital unit that has knobs for centering the joystick and also has the keypad built-in so there is no need foy Y-adapter cables.  The UAV modification with an HDMI adapter brings it into the 21st century for modern TV sets and it's picture quality is only something we could dream about back in the day.  Now of course if you are going to go to that expense, you NEED the Atarimax cartridge to finish the setup.  

Link to comment
On 1/2/2024 at 7:41 PM, RickR said:

And lets not forget the awesome Trakball they made for 5200.  It feels like a real arcade controller. 

I need to find myself one.  Just for Centipede and Missile Command. I played Pole Position with it a few times BITD. That was a challenge.

Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...