Author Topic: Atari 5200 Revisited  (Read 134 times)

Offline ArcadeAction

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Atari 5200 Revisited
« on: December 04, 2018, 06:17:07 AM »
After 30+ years, I recently played an Atari 5200 once again at an arcade expo and since picked one up along with many carts.

This was the first home game console I ever owned. I took quite a few years hiatus on playing video games of any sorts and then got back into it about five years ago collecting and restoring classic arcade machines. My first goal was to get all the arcade games that I had cartridges for on the 5200 growing up. Now that I've played the 80s arcades again for a few years, it has given me some new perspective on the 5200 Super System from how I saw it then and how I see it now.

Design and presentation: I always thought the marketing materials/art and the cartridges themselves looked nice and were very robust, still do. I have never used another console that has such reliable cartridges as the 5200. You plug them in and they work. Immediately.

Controllers: Yes, these are a bit of an odd ball, the joystick itself is nice to move, but it does make the games more challenging to play. The real issue is the soft buttons. Back in the 80s I remember squeezing the buttons so hard to make them react, and also taking them apart several times to repair them. With the internet age it is fun to read/hear about people who had the same experiences as you did. I've now picked up one of the official 5200 Coin Controls Pro joysticks which works quite well as it actually uses arcade switches and parts.

Trackball: I never had this accessory growing up but remember reading about it in the brochures that came with the games. This accessory is a must and a superb controller. The buttons could be a bit better but they are much better than those found on the joysticks. Centipede and Pac-Man were my two favorite games and I always wanted to try the trackball with Centipede, it was just too expensive back then. Now that I own several real Centipede arcade machines, I feel the 5200 version when using the trackball really is every bit as good as the arcade version. The trackball is the same mechanism and 2.25" that the arcade uses. The sounds are essentially identical due to the hardware.  I would actually say the 5200 is more challenging due to it being horizontal as there is seemingly less time to react/less lines before the centipedes get to the bottom of the screen. I scored 39k countless times on 5200 growing up, but never achieved 40k. Time to break that personal record.

Overall: The 5200 essentially is a system of arcade ports which I find quite polished and still fun to play. Most of the graphics are simply blocky versions of the arcades. Moon Patrol and Mario Bros are especially good games on the 5200. Look at that great parallax scrolling on Moon Patrol. Not even the NES version of Mario Bros has all the animation of the 5200, and the sound effects of the 5200 are more accurate to the original than the NES version.

Recent Ports: Jr Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr are also especially good games. I am looking forward to picking up a copy of Tempest and Track & Field. Brutal hard game play, which is on par challenge-wise with the arcade. Many times home versions are made easier than the arcade versions, but the games on the 5200 will absolutely school you. Brutal.

It's fun to once again crank up the 5200 connected to a wood grain CRT and rotate through the carts playing a game or two on each, just like back in the day. After having obtaining a pretty decent sized arcade machine collection, I thought I may not have as much desire to revisit classic consoles again, but I have found in fact that I am enjoying them as much as ever and it has only enriched my appreciation for their charm.

Looking forward to playing Robotron and Space Dungeon next...

Offline zapiy

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Re: Atari 5200 Revisited
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2018, 08:35:26 AM »
Lovely read that fella, promoted to the frontpage http://www.retrovideogamer.co.uk/atari-5200-revisited/
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Offline TrekMD

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Re: Atari 5200 Revisited
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2018, 12:22:53 PM »
The 5200 is indeed a very nice system.  It's unfortunate it had a short lifespan and that it was never sold outside of North America.  Having POKEY for sound made for really good music and sound effect on the games too.  Glad you got back into the system, ArcadeAction.  :)

Going to the final frontier, gaming...

Offline ArcadeAction

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Re: Atari 5200 Revisited
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2018, 15:56:15 PM »
Lovely read that fella, promoted to the frontpage http://www.retrovideogamer.co.uk/atari-5200-revisited/

Front page news! That's cool.

I have considered getting the S-Video/Composite mod for the system, but find I really enjoy playing with the good old RF connection as it is surprisingly quite clear and it is how I remember it. I could already play a 5200 emulator with RGB on an arcade monitor, so I enjoy this. At first I was getting a lot of snow on the image with RF, but then I bent/reshaped the cylindrical housing that goes over the RF/coax connection and now it very crisp with solid black backgrounds.

I also happened to pick up the VCS adapter. In truth, I really will usually decide to play 2600 games on a dedicated system (also picked up recently - a six slot wood grain with faux woodgrain case), but seeing those flyers back in the day always made me want it and now finally I have one and it plays the games just fine. I got the two port 5200 as that's the version I had back then. This 5200 still has the pink protective wrap over the metallic portion. All those textures and details that you remember from back in the day come right back. Playing on original hardware and interacting with an original game console provides so much more to the experience, and there just is no emulating that.

Offline ArcadeAction

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Re: Atari 5200 Revisited
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2018, 02:01:32 AM »
One other thing...

The storage of the game controllers.

Based on YouTube and others' comments, people seem to incorrectly think that the controllers are meant to be disconnected and the wires wound up inside and shoved together when put in the storage compartment at the back.

This isn't how it is intended to work.

The controllers are intended to be LEFT PLUGGED IN and placed upside down with the nubs fitted to the tops of the joysticks and the cable for the 2nd player controller runs out the specially designed top left hole and the cable for the 1st player controller runs out to the top right hole and both cables simple wrap around to their respective ports.

No unhooking required. No complicated winding up and shoving into the storage area required.

It wasn't form over function. It was form designed with function in mind. You'll note the controller cables are exactly the right length to comfortably allow you to do this. Those holes aren't meant simply to be used to lift open the storage bin. :-)

Offline TrekMD

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Re: Atari 5200 Revisited
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2018, 03:06:40 AM »
I did not know that about the controller storage.  I always unplugged the controllers and stored them with the cables all wound up!  That does make sense, though. 

Going to the final frontier, gaming...