Atari Anniversary Edition Review

The PC version of this package does a far better job of emulating these classic Atari hits.

As the video game industry matures, the market for older game content is steadily growing--people who grew up with pioneering arcade games such as Defender, Xevious, and Missile Command are usually easy targets for retro-game collections. Infogrames, the current owner of the Atari name and catalog, has put together a collection of classic Atari arcade games, seasoning it with archive materials including interviews and photographs. The collection, handled by the perennial retro-compilation developers at Digital Eclipse, definitely contains some classic games, but limitations imposed by the low resolution of TV sets and the DC's controller make this package a great idea that is executed rather poorly.

At 12 games total, Atari Anniversary Edition contains more games than your average collection. The package contains Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Millipede, Missile Command, Pong, Super Breakout, Tempest, and Warlords. An aftermarket level-replacement add-on for Tempest, called Tempest Tubes, is also included. It would have been nice to see some other game variants, such as the rare version of Battlezone that Atari produced for military training purposes, included in the pack, but sadly, such is not the case. Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, and Battlezone originally used strictly digital control, and they all control just fine in the compilation. The rest of the games originally utilized some sort of analog control scheme, and they don't fare quite so well. Centipede, Crystal Castles, Millipede, and Missile Command all relied on trackballs for precise analog control, something the DC's analog stick fails to accurately duplicate. Crystal Castles suffers the most here, as you can't move poor Bentley Bear around fast enough to avoid the wicked trees and gem eaters in the game's higher stages. Warlords and Tempest used paddle-style spinners, originally. Tempest works well enough without any analog support whatsoever, but your paddle in Warlords moves around the outside edge of your castle in a very choppy manner, making it slightly more difficult to block incoming fireballs.

Graphically, the game tosses in a lot of extras, such as full-on cabinet artwork and background images that make the game look more like the original arcade machines. However, you'll usually want to turn these extras off so you can have more screen area devoted to the actual game. All the vector games look absolutely horrible when crammed on to your relatively low-res television. The sharp lines of a vector monitor come out horribly jagged on a TV, so much so that the copyright info at the bottom of Asteroids is almost totally unreadable. The sound is also hit-and-miss. Most games sound reasonably similar to their arcade counterparts, though some--Crystal Castles, for example--sound like they were recorded by holding a microphone up to an arcade machine's speaker rather than emulating the sound hardware properly. The high-score music in Battlezone also sounds pretty weird.

If you're looking for these 12 games, your best bet is, of course, to hunt down the original arcade machines. However, if you don't have an empty garage or a pile of money to spare, the PC version of this package does a far better job of emulating these classic Atari hits.

The Good

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The Bad

About the Author

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.