We’re well into the horrors of 2020, and this blog has been thoroughly neglected, which means that it’s time for an update! Since I’ve used this platform to muse about upcoming consoles, let’s get up-to-date on two particular platforms, the Atari VCS and the Intellivision Amico. Click to read a giant wall of text 😛
We’ve had another lengthy hiatus on here, but it’s time to revive things here as apparently Arcryphon Games has hit the big time – I’ve been quoted on a new game release! Thanks to TAKS for the recognition.
As to what this is about, I covered something that is a bit niche on the blog some time ago, a hybrid DVD player game console known as the NUON. In that article, I also discussed one of the platform’s formerly exclusive games, Freefall 3050 A.D. To my surprise, a PC version of that game was more than just a test – it was apparently in the works for PC and the original XBOX, but was shelved as the creator Tony Takoushi went on to do other things.
Fast forward to today and that formerly unreleased version has been finished and released for the PC! You can find it on Steam here (where Arcryphon Games is quoted! Thank you).
I only found out about this yesterday, where I’ve been extremely busy with some work stuff and have not been able to download this yet. But it’s only $3 – if you like original, unique, action-packed games, then it should be a no-brainer. I will be downloading soon and doing a proper review (which will also have to include breaking out the old NUON to compare). Judging by the videos, the UI has changed, the textures look much nicer, we’ve got a modern resolution and the game runs at 60 fps.
There is also a version that has been released to the original XBOX. Check out this video with more details:
The Atari 7800 may considered to be an oddball among retro gamers, mainly due to the lack of support it had during the lifetime as it was thoroughly crushed by the NES. Atari garnered very little 3rd party support for the machine and after being sold on the market for 4 years, amassed less than 100 games (not counting the Atari 2600 titles that it could play) and by reports I’ve read, sold only about 2 million units.
Because of that, software that really pushed the platform to it’s limits never really came around. Yes, there were some impressive games like Tower Toppler, Ballblazer, Ninja Golf and Midnight Mutants. But the lack of software combined with the fact that Atari generally got the cheapest bids from 2nd party developers to make games meant that a lot of that potential was wasted and never explored. It was designed to use extra RAM, audio and other support chips on the carts (it could even use a completely different CPU), but very few games took advantage of that while the NES is famous for it’s later-life titles using mappers to extend the console’s abilities. This of course has fueled a few “7800 vs. NES” debates over the years, which are usually inconclusive since the NES had the money & support advantages.
Some homebrew titles have sought to rectify this in recent years, most notably with the impressive Bentley Bear’s Crystal Quest, but most homebrew content has been arcade ports of games that were released in the early 80’s. That’s fine for some people, but not really my cup of tea.
Ok so to the point – a new homebrew title was revealed at the end of 2018 that blew everyone’s socks off, an unexpected creation from Peguinet called Rikki & Vikki. This is a game that had it been released during the 7800’s 1986-90 lifespan, would have certainly moved some units. If you’re interested, you can buy the game here.
Designed as a 1-2 player platformer, R&V is the largest cart ever released on the 7800 – 512KB (most era releases fell into the 48k range; the console was made to handle up to 512k). It also makes use of microchips for the audio (the BupChip) and a support chip that is kind of like a mapper, but sounds like it works as a cache so that existing chips on the 7800 motherboard don’t have to wait for each other. While the voice overs probably wouldn’t have made it into the game had it been released BITD, everything else would have been there.
Quick Note: It’s also very much worth noting that homebrew titles like Bentley Bear’s Crystal Quest also have made the 7800 great again and would also have been system sellers/killer apps back in the day.
The game was designed using the 7800’s 320B resolution mode, something that was not used with much frequency either. As a note, the 7800 had eight graphics modes, four of which operated at 160×240 pixels, the other four at 320×240. The 160 modes were used in most titles, with differences coming in colors and performance. 160 modes gave developers more cycles to work with so flicker wouldn’t be an issue and also could support more colors on the screen at once. 320 modes were sharper, but not as much color to work with.
As you can see from the video above, while the game isn’t painted with tons of colors, the overall art design, resolution, speed, no flickering and large sprites makes up for it. It gets really impressive when you watch the final boss battle, where it blows Midnight Mutants out of the water in terms of animation and large sprites:
Of course while it’s fun to talk tech, what’s more important is how the game plays. By all reports I’ve heard about it so far, it’s excellent, with clever level design and a good sense of humor. It also features different screens for co-op mode than you’ll find in single player, a very nice detail-oriented touch. The music is fantastic too, which you can listen to or buy at the musician’s website, Rushjet1, here. The soundtracks incorporate synth tones along with TIA sounds (TIA was the sound chip used in the Atari 2600 & 7800), making for a unique set of chiptunes (most of which sound like NES games by what I seem to come across).
I did order a copy on the day it was released, but have yet to receive shipping confirmation as it has been in high demand for a 7800 title. The game is presently available on Steam, where it plays, sounds and looks exactly the same; it also has positive reviews there. I’ve opted to wait on that to experience it where it was “meant” to be played.
Once I have it in hand, I’ll be uploading footage of it to my home console games channel, Castle of the Games. Until then, all I can do is wait!
There’s been a lot of hubbub about the Atari VCS after it launched it’s Indiegogo campaign last week. It made a pretty good chunk of pre-order change within the first day, almost reaching $2 million and it is over that right now.
The thing is…I’m not really sure why.
Of course, you’d expect me to say that or to otherwise crap on it as I’ve made it clear that I’m not in any way sold on this thing. Atari is trying to angle this as some sort of revolutionary game streaming console but you can do that straight from the hardware of more powerful game consoles right now. Those consoles have plenty of game content and a flood of new titles will be announced at E3 next week. To me, this still feels like Atari trying to do something to raise the value of their brand so they can sell it off for a few more million bucks than it is currently worth.
One glaring issue is that there are no exclusive games announced for the VCS at this time. It will come with the Atari Vault which is a nice compilation of games BUT, you can buy that compilation for your PC right now for a mere $10. It’ll have Tempest 4000 on it at some point but you’ll also be able to get that for the PC/PS4 where it will certainly run better. There are a few 3rd parties listed for it but none of them are AAA…or even AA studios that create content that people recognize. Perhaps with E3 this will change but for an initial reveal, this is very underwhelming and pathetic.
One thing that people are very curious about is what kind of power an AMD A10-9700 has. The answer: not much. This is a hybrid CPU/GPU (called an APU) that is a generation behind AMD’s current star Ryzen. There are a number of other APU’s on the market right now that could give the A10 quite the beating out back in the woodshed. Yes, it can ‘run’ some modern games but certainly NOT at “4K @ 60FPS” like was touted about the console early on.
In fact, by this video showing a rig that has specs similar to the VCS, it will struggle to run many games at anything above 720p resolution. There are a couple of examples below that run at 1080p but several: CounterStrike:GO, Doom, Rise Of The Tomb Raider and so on, have to run at 720p and low or medium graphics settings. Also keep in mind as you watch this or consider the VCS in any way- Atari is asking you to pay around $300 for this thing, the same amount of money would get you a more powerful PS4/Switch/XB1 or a game rig that will outclass the VCS by a light-year or two.
Whether we like it or not, power does matter. I remember when the WiiU was Nintendo’s primary console and it became a failure. I loved the system. It DID have a number of fun exclusives and some 3rd party support. But that support dried up soon after launch when big studios saw that the console was struggling to sell. It lacked the power of the new PS4 & Xbox One, was a pain to develop for and so developers decided to keep their investments safe with those consoles and PC. Of course Nintendo is a case of often being the underdog in power but still managing to sell very well – the Wii was a perfect example of that; as are the DS handhelds which were outclassed by Sony’s handhelds but they received the games that people wanted. Nintendo not only has franchises that millions of people buy just on the name alone – Super Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Metroid and so on. They also have the talent with vision and a culture of game development to keep those franchises fresh.
Yes, Atari does have IP with nostalgia attached to it but it also can’t compare to what Nintendo or even Sega have done with their franchises. Atari has been a publisher, not a developer, for the past 15 years or so. They currently are made up of people that know licensing…not how to make a solid, fun game. The company hasn’t released a remake of any of their old IP in years that was highly praised or refreshed it in a way that made it feel unique and worth buying (BattleZone VR doesn’t count as that was sold to Rebellion in 2012 and they are the ones who refreshed that; it’s no longer an Atari property). All of the remakes they did attempt to do have been forgotten as quickly as a political hashtag campaign. As an example: remember Star Raiders or Yars’ Revenge on the Xbox 360? What about the three different Haunted House remakes released over the past decade? Asteroids Outpost was abandoned after a laughable Steam Early Access attempt. A number of arcade classics were refreshed for Xbox Live but again, nothing revolutionary was done with them…given new paint and thus playable but they hardly set the world on fire.
Yes I love the Tempest series but let’s be honest – Tempest 4000 is only appealing to a niche crowd of the game market. It’s not going to be the next Call Of Duty or even the next Super Mario. It was amazing how it was remade in 1994 but in 2019, we’ve ‘been there, done that’ plenty of times. Most people also aren’t into surrealistic shooters (heck, even shoot’em ups in general these days struggle to build a new audience, much less something that gamers see as “weird” and say “I don’t understand what is going on” when they do see it). Yeah I enjoyed Tempest 3000 for my NUON. But none of my friends really wanted to play it if they stopped by.
All-in-all, I don’t really get the hype for the Atari VCS so far. Maybe it is down to people also believing it will be a turd and they just want to have one to resell come 2025 when it’s a footnote in gaming history; maybe there are a few true believers in this out there but they are certainly in the minority. Too bad come July 2019, they’ll be hugely disappointed in their “investment”. Recall that the failed Ouya raised almost $9 million and it ended up as a total failure. Of course when the VCS ends up with the same fate here down the road, don’t be surprised to hear a lot of “I toldya so” going around the net.
Well, well, well. It was only the other day (the post before this one) that I posted some evidence regarding the current state of that scam known as “Atari” and so quickly we get to see that verified:
We sent a vulture to find the relaunched Atari box – and all he got was this lousy baseball cap [Offsite link @ The Register]
It’s all laid to bare in that article – what I am calling the Atari VCS/Box so as to not confuse anyone with the actual Atari 2600 VCS from ages past is nothing more than an empty shell. It’s rich that the team behind it (whether that’s just one guy or if there are others) tries to compare it to a rocket launch – kudos to the writers of The Register for calling them out on their brazen BS.
BONUS: With the Indiegogo campaign, more of this came to light:
If you have any sense or honor at all, don’t waste your money on this thing. Yes, they did get a few million dollars from morons who will buy anything with an Atari sticker on it, but they ended up hiring a proper hardware guy after getting funding, using the goodwill of their name to fund what is essentially the beginning of this whole thing. By the time this console is released in 2019, you’re not going to get anything that is cutting edge. I also have to laugh at those who think that having 8GB of RAM will magically make it all better…not so much in a system that has many components.
Here’s something a little more up-to-date:
Even when Atari of days past showed off hardware (such as the Mindlink, the Cosmos, the Panther, the JagDuo and so on), there was at least something there beyond a shell – schematics, developer kits, working prototype hardware, software in the works, etc. That wasn’t the case with the GDC 2018 appearance where the attitude was more like: ‘let’s hype up this idea for a console, run a scam through Indiegogo to pad our pockets then retire while laughing our way to the bank.’
It’s an incredible shame that Atari is now synonymous for a scam. Hopefully, karma will be biting them in their pompous arses soon enough.
Last year, newslines were all excited about the teasing to come out of Atari regarding plans for a new Atari 2600 themed microconsole called the Ataribox (now, rechristened as the Atari VCS). Since then, very little has come along about this machine which they want to charge $300 for. Next to no information on the games, just a little on features such as four USB ports, a re-designed CX-40 joystick and that it would run on Linux. They were supposed to begin a crowdfunding campaign for it back on Dec. 14th 2017 but when that date arrived, some lame excuse was offered up online and it was quietly put on the backburner. But hey, they still have an Indiegogo placeholder page…
You likely heard the news about this yesterday but I just wanted to throw my two cents in about this really quick. I’m looking forward to it as the franchise has generally done well with video games (Colonial Marines excepted). Story is here.
It will be interesting to see how this goes in case the Disney buyout of Fox goes through (i.e., we’ll see if Disney doesn’t also manage to completely ruin that franchise too).
I happen to know someone at Cold Fire Studios who is working on this but nothing exclusive to share on the blog yet. 😛 I just know that it won’t be an arcade title (which some people keep asking for; if one of those happens, it will probably be Play Mechanix again).
Well hello there. It’s been another long while since I touched this blog. You know how it is. Life, yada, yada, yada and so on.
My kids have been typical of the current generation that loves watching “Youtubers” play games and they’ve been itching to do a channel. But, they lack the age required to do that, along with the expertise in capturing & editing videos together. Granted, I’m not exactly an expert in the audio department but I’ve learned my way around a video editor. Under my wing, we’ve started a new gaming channel called Castle of the Games.
That seemed to be the only name that we could all agree upon. It’s also a play on my favorite game for Windows 3.1, Castles of the Winds.
It may be a little random as we have stuff from Atari & Nintendo there but I’m wanting to throw on some ol’ PC-DOS, Dreamcast and Original Xbox stuff too. Maybe even the NUON.
For now I’ve opted not to do the channel on YouTube as they’ve been anti-Creator in their zeal to censor opinions they don’t like. Even my Arcade Heroes channel has been getting affected by YTs stupid new algorithms. In looking for alternatives, Vid.me seems to genuinely appreciate creators so for the moment we’re trying them out exclusively.
Not long after I published this, Vid.me gave up the ghost so YouTube it is. I have considered Dailymotion although that hasn’t seemed to really nab any growth (I’m surprised they are still around to be honest). There are some other, smaller alternatives out there but nothing that looks like it’s good for family content at the moment.
Here’s the latest episode, Spelunker Party for the nintendo Switch Give us a follow and feedback on what you’d like to see:
At first I thought that this might be better suited to the confines of Arcade Heroes since it ultimately is about more content for arcades. But I’m not sure that readers there are too interested in my Atari rants. So we’ll keep it here.
Sorry about the delay in updates BTW. I’ve been very busy with life and when life gets busy, hobby blogs take a backseat. Even Arcade Heroes has taken a back seat as I remodel a new store to move my business into but that is finally calming down.
The Atari Jaguar is an oft maligned game system, in part because of arguments over it’s ‘bitness’, in others over the quality of games it had. It did have several great games for it but to have become a success, it needed more of those plus more depth to many titles that gamers were expecting at the time. It just came at a strange time in the business, much like the 3DO and it ended up being Atari’s last new game system.
Atari was working on the Jaguar 2 – a backwards compatible system that was allegedly “2 to 4 times more powerful that the PlayStation”. It would have resolved some of the Jaguar’s hardware bugs while upgrading some components from 32-bit to 64-bit and some others from 64-bit to 128-bit. Prototypes have been found but alas, it was canned before completion so we’ll never know what was to be, unless you want to count the NUON as a sorta Jaguar 2.
That said, there was a Jaguar 1.5 – the CoJag. Developed by Atari Games (the arcade company and not technically part of Atari Corp., the home division), it powered AG’s biggest hit of the 90s, Area 51. It also powered Maximum Force and some unreleased games: Freeze (puzzle game), Fishing Frenzy, 3 on 3 basketball and Vicious Circle (1v1 fighter).