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AtGames Continues the Atari 2600 Legacy

Written By: E. Thomas

09/29/2012

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Introduction:

The Atari 2600 console is one of the most beloved consoles in the history of gaming. It's legacy has endured for over 3 decades. The original 2600 debuted in 1977 and the 2600 would remain on the market until the early 1990s. It even survived the dreaded video game crash of 1983. For many years loyal Atari fans have gotten their "Atari fix" through various means, usually through game collections released on other consoles and PC's. But now one company has dared to bring the Atari 2600 back to the living room where it belongs.

History:

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The first Atari Flashback console was released in 2004. The system was shaped like a small Atari 7800, and it included both 2600 and 7800 games. This system was powered by "Console on a Chip" hardware that relied on emulation to run the games. It is basically 8-bit hardware on a chip.

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The second Atari Flashback took a different approach to the hardware. This machine actually used hardware that was far more similar to that of the original Atari 2600. The design was so close to the original that ambitious console modders have managed to add the 2600 cartridge port to the machine. The system is now a highly sought after collectible, primarily because of the respected pedigree of it's designers. Two revisions of this machine were released to the general public: the original Atari Flashback 2 and the Atari Flashback 2+. The latter version actually removed a few key Activision titles from the game lineup, we imagine this was done because of some licensing issue.

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Finally last year AtGames upped the ante and produced the Atari Flashback 3. The system returned to the "Console on a Chip" design. Although purists scoffed at this idea, the Flashback 3 was actually a fairly capable game machine. The FB3 also featured a few minor cosmetic differences from the previous models, which included moving the joystick ports to the front of the machine. While not historically accurate, this decision actually works better with the design of the machine. And it gives the player a few extra inches of valuable cord length. The FB3 sold at the same price as the previous model. It also included a whopping 60 Atari 2600 games, for a mere $40 MSRP this console was a tremendous value for the money.

Features:

The Atari Flashback 4 has a couple of key new features. The first and most important is the addition of wireless Atari 2600 controllers. Yes, you heard me correctly, the new system has wireless controllers. Now please understand that these controllers need direct line of site with the console to work properly. However in our extensive testing we found they did the job very well. They are also a welcome addition for those of us who have our seating far from our living room TV.

The Importance of Control:

Each controller runs on two AA batteries and there is a power switch on each remote. The first player controller also includes reset, select and start buttons. I must say that it's nice to be able to reset the system without having to get up from my chair, this is a great bonus feature. If you have ever owned the Atari 2600 then you know you always had to stay close to the console, whether it was to select your game using switches on the console or to change a cartridge.

The most noticeable feature of the FB4 joystick is the very loose play action on the controller. The joystick on this controller is far less stiff than the average 2600 controller. I really liked the loosened joystick and I felt it enabled quicker movement in certain games. The controller also performed well for an IR wireless controller. Occasionally there was some lag in the menu selection, but while playing games we rarely had any trouble.

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The FB4 also supports original Atari 2600 controllers. We tested the FB4 with a number of different 1st and 3rd party controllers, everything you see here worked except for the Trackball. This gives the player a variety of different options when it comes to controls. It's also great to see paddle controller support. The paddle games included on this system are much better when played with a paddle controller.

AtGames is actually producing new wired 2600 joysticks and paddle controllers, which are now available on the AtGames website. [Link] We definitely recommend picking up a paddle controller, it will greatly increase your enjoyment of this system.

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The company is also producing a deluxe bundle, which includes standard wireless controllers and a pair of wired paddle controllers. You also get 5 exclusive collectible Atari posters. In our opinion, this bundle is the best way to get the full Atari 2600 experience, it's also a great value for the price.

Games:

The Atari Flashback 4 features a robust game libray of 75 games. The selection of titles covers a number of different genres, with something for every type of gamer. Highlights of the catalog include Adventure, Asteroids, Haunted House, Front Line, Yar's Revenge and many, many more.

The system also includes 15 new games not included on the previous model. Here is the complete list of the 15 new titles. Blackjack, Breakout, Crystal Castles, Football, Front Line, Haunted House II, Jungle Hunt, Polaris, Pong, Slot Machine, Slot Racers, Space Invaders, Stellar Track, Street Racer, Tempest, and Warlords. The highlight of the group is a new version of Space Invaders created exclusively for the FB4.

Now purists will definitely cry foul over the inclusion of this new game. The original Atari 2600 Space Invaders was the "killer app" that sold the system. However I feel compelled to defend this decision, I even want to appeal to the gaming sensibilities of those who might object to this decision. This new version of Space Invaders is fantastic. It has tremendous play value and it's very close to the arcade original. It also plays great with the 2600 controller. Of all the games included in this machine, this was the one title we returned to over and over again. I truly enjoyed playing this game, and if you notice our site logo, I'm sure you realize that we are BIG fans of the Space Invaders franchise. This new title is quite a worthy addition to an already strong gaming lineup.

Not only does this console include a nice cross section of games, it also appears that the emulation quality has improved over the previous model. Now purists may notice changes in colors, or other small differences, but to the majority of people, these games will look and feel authentic to their original 2600 counterparts.

The Final Word:

When we first encountered an early prototype of the Flashback 3 at last year's E3 Expo, we were filled with concerns. When we finally acquired the retail version of the system we found that many of our initial concerns were unfounded, the machine turned out to be a very capable little game machine. It was also a product that gave the consumer a tremendous amount of value for the money.

When I first heard rumors about the new Atari Flashback model I was intrigued, but I still wanted to reserve my judgement for the final product. Well now that I have the final product in my hands I can say that I am very impressed. For a mere $40 you get a ton of value for your money, and to me that's what the Flashback series has always been about, great gaming value for your money.

I should also mention potential Black Friday deals for this system. Last year I was able to acquire the FB3 for only $20. If you get the chance to purchase the Flashback 4 at a similar price, do it! You're getting an amazing deal on a great product. The Atari Flashback 4 is sure to be the hot new retro gaming product this Holiday Season.

I must also say that the wireless controllers are a great hook, they will be the one feature that will attract many new customers, as well as some older customers who will be tempted to upgrade to the new model. Overall, the Atari Flashback 4 is a great product that truly delivers hours of gaming enjoyment at a fantastic price.

About The Author: E.Thomas is a hardcore retro gaming enthusiast. His retro gaming collection could fill a small house. When you ask him if he has played Atari today, he will almost always say yes.

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