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Is the Bally Astrocade worth getting, or is it just a novelty?


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#1 AlecRob OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 7:37 AM

exactly what the title says.  Discuss.

 

 


Edited by AlecRob, Sat Apr 26, 2014 7:38 AM.


#2 nurmix OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:51 AM

I've never actually played one. I remember seeing them in the stores as a kid, but that's about the extent of it. I'd like to hear some discussion on this as well.

#3 mbd30 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:59 AM

I just looked up the system on Ebay. The prices are outrageous, for hardcore collectors only.  I understand that the system was like the XBOX 360 of its day, and it wasn't that popular to begin with, so units in good working condition are rare and thus expensive.

 

"Incredible Wizard" looks fun but, I wouldn't spend hundreds of dollars to try it.



#4 Gabriel OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 10:26 AM

For me it would be a novelty.

 

I used to want one.  I remember seeing it as a demo unit in Woolco and being blown away by it's clones of Pac-Man, Galaxian, and Wizard of Wor.  If I had more resources and more space, then it would be somewhere near the end of my extended list of things to snag.

 

But for me, it's a question of just how important playing those clones of Pac-Man, Galaxian, and Wizard of War is.  In the final analysis, not very.  The system having the maintenance issues it does also makes me wary.

 

So that's my two cents on the matter.



#5 akator OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 11:37 AM

(+) The Astrocade controllers are amazing, both by 1970s standards and today.  They successfully combine joystick, paddle, and trigger inputs into an ergonomic design.  There is no other system with a controller like it, and every classic gamer should experience it at least once even if he never owns the system (go try one at an expo or something).

 

(+) The system is impressive for the time with a solid library, especially for those interested in arcade conversions.  When keeping these arcade titles in context with other systems from the late 70s, the Astrocade is stunning.

 

(-) Hardware is very flaky, prone to self destruction from overheating and random chaos even when treated and used with care.  Don't even think of having one shipped, because no matter how well it is packed the system will likely not survive the journey.

 

(-) By the early 80s it was matched and surpassed by other systems and home computers.  Those excellent arcade titles on the Astrocade were even better on the A8/5200, ColecoVision, and Commodore computers, all of which are cheaper and easier to acquire and significantly more reliable.

 

 

 

...

 

My personal take is that it isn't worth the time, money, and frustration required for me to own an Astrocade again.  I love the system, controllers, and many of the games but not enough.  I am very happy that I got to own one once and experience it.



#6 Reaperman OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 11:45 AM

Hell, I own one and I've never played astrocade--the things are so fragile that the odds of getting a working one for a decent price are very, very small.

 

Also as mentioned, the controllers are pretty damn rad.  It's a real shame the hardware is so flaky, because some really neat gameplay options could be pulled off with those.

 

The only reason I'd bother with the system is for the novelty of saying I 'own' an astrocade...which I do, it's just broken like all the rest of them.



#7 mbd30 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 11:56 AM

Speaking of flaky hardware, does anyone have a working Jaguar CD? I was watching the AVGN episode about the Jaguar, and he apparently paid good money for two different Jaguar CD units, and he couldn't get either to work.



#8 Reaperman OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:50 PM

Speaking of flaky hardware, does anyone have a working Jaguar CD? I was watching the AVGN episode about the Jaguar, and he apparently paid good money for two different Jaguar CD units, and he couldn't get either to work.

Sure, mine still works fine.  I ordered it new from the uk (telegames?) about 1998 or so.  Mine's very low hours, though, and I have noticed that sometimes it makes a slight scraping noise tied directly to the spinning (like the disc getting too close to the top).  All I have to do to fix it is 'bounce' the disc/suspension mech slightly and it behaves itself.  The lack of any kind of games that appeal to me on jagcd ensure that it's going to stay 'low hours.' 


Edited by Reaperman, Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:58 PM.


#9 xDragonWarrior OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 1:36 PM

The Astrocade is an AMAZING console IMO.Everybody seems to give the 2600 some love but never the Astrocade. EverythingEverything about the Astrocade is unique from the controllers to the games.It's defiantly in my top 10 consoles for sure. Here are my favorite games:

__________________________________________

Dogpatch

Space Fortress

Checkmate

Artillery Duel

Ms. Candyman

The Incredible Wizard

Galactic Invasion

Treasure Cove

 

If you every see an Astrocade for a cheap price I recommend you pick it up pronto sonic-hedgehog-yesemoticons-006.gif sonic-hedgehog-yesemoticons-001.gif


Edited by xDragonWarrior, Sat Apr 26, 2014 1:51 PM.


#10 iesposta OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 2:07 PM

Since I have some 1977 Atari 2600's and recently got a 1977 Fairchild VES, I had to add to this collection by getting a 1977 Bally Professional Arcade, and then its UltiMulti cart.
Here is some preventative things I have done, in addition to removing the shield:
http://atariage.com/...tips/?p=2975372

#11 Uppy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 2:47 PM

Speaking of flaky hardware, does anyone have a working Jaguar CD? I was watching the AVGN episode about the Jaguar, and he apparently paid good money for two different Jaguar CD units, and he couldn't get either to work.

Best Electronics has working cd units. I ordered one a year or so ago and it works great.  When it comes the the Bally I think it is a great system. Problem is I don't play mine in fear that it will stop working. I'm working on getting another system to play on. So if you want to take the risk got for it but you never know when your system will stop working.  I got lucky I got my white Bally on ebay a few years back for like $80 and it survived shipping and works just fine. I took the gamble and won I guess.


Edited by Uppy, Sat Apr 26, 2014 2:58 PM.


#12 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 3:03 PM

One of the great tragedies of classic gaming is that the Astrocade is so ridiculously prone to failure. They can die for, like, no reason. I've had three or four quit on me. It's hella impressive for a '70s system, and it does have a few incredible games, but it's broken my heart/wallet too many times.

Someone needs to source a Chinese chip maker or something to whip up a bunch of cheap new Astrocade Custom Data ICs. A new custom data chip would probably resurrect at least 75-80% of dead Astrocades, if not more.



#13 mbd30 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 3:48 PM

I've never tried it so I don't know how good it is, but MESS has Astrocade emulation. http://www.ballyalle.../MESS/mess.html

 

At least you can try the games without having to spend hundreds of dollars on failure-prone hardware.



#14 128Kgames OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 5:48 PM

Novelty?  No more than any other console.  Worth getting?  Of course its worth getting, and I'm not just saying that because of my huge Astrocade collection.   :-D

 

Prone to failure?  Yeah, unfortunately.  I blame this on the poorly designed RF shield that led to toasted chips.  I think that's the main reason for so many dead consoles and their high failure rate.  Despite the warning in the manual, what kid didn't have his Astrocade (or Home Library Computer, Professional Arcade or Computer System) on the carpet, rug etc. for some Football or Incredible Wizard?

 

I know I did, and yes, I killed my Computer System model back in the day.  At least back then you could send it in for repair.  Nowadays, not so much.  Ken Lill is about the only repair guy out there.  

 

I've been trying for the past few years to show you guys just what the Astrocade is really capable of, but unfortunately I've never been able to find anyone else willing to tackle the programming/coding job.  This board would have changed everybody's opinion of just what this console can do:

 

http://msdconsulting.wix.com/128kgames

 

Unfortunately I don't think this will ever be put into production as Michael Garber ("riffraff") was part of the driving force behind this (he figured out the programming aspect for the bank switching and had been building some kind of incredible game engine for it) and has been otherwise occupied as of late.  He was the man for this, but things don't always work out the way we expect them to.  

 

I hope Mike and I can come back to this board some day and put something out for your guys that's just fantastic. 

 

But to get back on topic, yes, buy an Astrocade, and just enjoy!

 

-Michael

 

HLC_BPA_AST_small.JPG


Edited by TMOSteel, Sat Apr 26, 2014 6:12 PM.


#15 Jess Ragan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:12 PM

Maybe all of these old machines will be repairable once they make a 3D printer that can manufacture chips and circuit boards...

I owned an Astrocade, once upon a time. It worked fine, give or take a slightly wonky keyboard, but now that I know about the system's reputation for hardware failure it's probably best I sold mine while the selling was good.

There was actually a lot I did like about the Astrocade. The controllers were already mentioned, but I also liked being able to "dial in" game modes from the comfort of my couch, rather than having to get up and make those inputs from the system itself. I do wish the Astrocade had been better supported, though. Not a whole lot of games to choose from, especially after Bally abandoned it.

#16 darthkur OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 27, 2014 7:13 AM

I love mine. (the one that works, anyway) It really was the Cadillac of consoles of it's time. Damn shame it wasn't designed better though since they are quite delicate. I did take a bit of a financial bite in the ass with the first unit, a Bally Arcade, that arrived non-functional. At least it came with a bunch of carts. I got quite lucky with the Home Library Computer I acquired afterward but even that one can be flaky and require a bit of pressure applied to the underside of the console here and there to get it to load the games correctly. I'm far too afraid to attempt to work on it to correct that issue. So it is a bit of a crap shoot when buying them.



#17 boxpressed OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 27, 2014 9:49 AM

I love the Astrocade.  I own far more of them than a person should, but the reason for that is insurance against my main unit crapping out.  Resolution-wise, the graphics are on par with the Intellivision, which is pretty impressive for 1977.  The sound is superior to that of its peers and is "arcade quality" to my ears.  The Incredible Wizard is one of the top home ports of any arcade game for any system right up to the NES, period.

 

All that said, you should not buy one is you are interested in bang for the buck.  It's not there.  You kind of have to commit to the Astrocade even before you buy it.  If it doesn't work as it should (good chance), or if you're disappointed by the relatively few awesome titles, how will you respond?  If you think you should have invested your $200 in a Vectrex or new shoes, then don't buy an Astrocade.

 

However, here's a situation where you might want to take the plunge:

 

* You already own most classic systems, and you NEED to add an Astrocade to your collection;

* You're ready to deal with technical issues;

* A $100-200 loss won't cause you searing regret;

* You're not planning on logging serious hours playing it and are content to display it most of the time.



#18 moonlight23 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 30, 2014 4:39 PM

I have 4 astrocade units. 2 work fine after some chip repeating. I love the unit my 2 non functioning suits are low serial number red/gray buttons serial 2344 and 5645 I believe.. One the 5645 unit was working yesterday now power switch does nothing I verified power Pack is ok and rd unit is by testing on a working unit ..if power switch does 100% nothing (I cleaned the switch too) is it a Capasitor? Other unit is powered but only a black screen I assume low serial number black screen is a custom ic .. But I swapped all custom ics from unit that now no longer powers..so thinking maybe ram??
Any ideas to research this would be great
Thanks
Glen

#19 famicommander OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 30, 2014 6:37 PM

I've never been able to  psyche myself into buying one.

I love systems of that era -- I have the 2600, 5200, Intellivision, Colecovision, Vectrex, XEGS, NES, Master System, 7800, Odyssey 2, etc -- but I've never been particularly impressed by what I've seen of the Astrocade. There have been times I've been tempted, but then I read the horror stories about technical issues. I've head enough headaches with my Colecovision; I've no interest in any more.



#20 TheGameCollector OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 30, 2014 8:47 PM

I had one before and it has a few fun versions of games I already liked on other systems, but if you just want a system to game on an Atari 5200, ColecoVision or Atari 400/800/XL/XE will make you happier. Mostly the same stuff with better graphics and not too far advanced over the Astrocade. Because the Astrocade looked good for it's time, that's why I would recommend something from that next wave of consoles to substitute it.

 

To see if you really need an Astrocade, and likewise an Arcadia 2001 or Channel F try an emulator. With these three systems you might find you like some of the games in the emulator but struggle a bit when it comes to controlling them with the real hardware. Muncher for Astrocade plays great as a rom but you'll find with the real joystick it is hard to shift from up/down to left/right without releasing the stick. Quick turning is difficult because of the flower petal shape of the 8 directions cut into the plastic.



#21 gamecat80 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:40 PM

I've never been able to  psyche myself into buying one.

I love systems of that era -- I have the 2600, 5200, Intellivision, Colecovision, Vectrex, XEGS, NES, Master System, 7800, Odyssey 2, etc -- but I've never been particularly impressed by what I've seen of the Astrocade. 

 

So the 2600 and O2 impress you but not the Astrocade?  Okayyyy  :?   I can tell you the Astrocade is easily on-par with the Intellivision; and it came out 2+ years prior!  Think of an arcade-style Intellivision, and you have the Astrocade.  It was basically the Neo-Geo of the late 70s.

 

I'd say it is worth getting an Astrocade because of it's great arcade style & obscure games.  The sound and graphics were great for it's time, as were the controllers.  Make sure you see screenshots of it working before buying one off ebay!  Or contact member kenzre here to see if he has any for sale.



#22 famicommander OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 1, 2014 12:41 AM



 

So the 2600 and O2 impress you but not the Astrocade?  Okayyyy  :?   I can tell you the Astrocade is easily on-par with the Intellivision; and it came out 2+ years prior!  Think of an arcade-style Intellivision, and you have the Astrocade.  It was basically the Neo-Geo of the late 70s.

 

I'd say it is worth getting an Astrocade because of it's great arcade style & obscure games.  The sound and graphics were great for it's time, as were the controllers.  Make sure you see screenshots of it working before buying one off ebay!  Or contact member kenzre here to see if he has any for sale.

I wasn't talking about the graphics. I've looked into the library and there isn't much there I'd want to buy an expensive system for.

 

The Atari 2600 has over 550 games, and can be had for basically nothing.

The Colecovision has over 220 games, and can be had for under $100 in most cases

The Intellivision has over 150 games, and can be found for under $40

The Odyssey2 has over 100 games, and can be found for under $70, usually boxed and with games.

The Atari 5200 has nearly (if not more than) 90 games, and can be found for around $100

Even the Vectrex clocks in at over 50, though it is getting quite expensive.

 

(including homebrews)

 

 

The Astrocade has a total of some ~30 games, it's the more expensive than its contemporaries listed above, and it's easily the most prone to failure of the bunch. Obviously a system isn't defined solely by the size of its library, but by sheer mathematical probability you're bound to find a lot more fun games for a lot less money going with any one of the above systems versus an Astrocade.


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#23 mckafka99 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 1, 2014 5:35 AM

Not that I would suggest that a single game is worth the price and risk of an Astrocade, but as far as space shooters go, Solar Conqueror is one of the best for any system from that era. I happen to like a lot of the other games as well but as has been written elsewhere, there is risk (and some luck required) in acquiring a working system.

#24 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 1, 2014 1:39 PM

The Astrocade has a total of some ~30 games, it's the more expensive than its contemporaries listed above, and it's easily the most prone to failure of the bunch. Obviously a system isn't defined solely by the size of its library, but by sheer mathematical probability you're bound to find a lot more fun games for a lot less money going with any one of the above systems versus an Astrocade.


And that's the sad truth. It's a great console, at least in terms of gameplay, but the economics just don't make sense.

Slightly OT, but does anyone else have issues with Astrocade cartridges having severe mottling, Actiplaque, and/or just falling off? I've got a couple dozen and they're pretty much all like that now, even ones that were still fairly clean when I got them five or six years ago.



#25 gamecat80 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Dec 1, 2014 2:16 PM

 

The Astrocade has a total of some ~30 games, it's the more expensive than its contemporaries listed above, and it's easily the most prone to failure of the bunch. Obviously a system isn't defined solely by the size of its library, but by sheer mathematical probability you're bound to find a lot more fun games for a lot less money going with any one of the above systems versus an Astrocade.

 

Well the latest multicart (UltiMulti) for the Astrocade has a total of 163 programs; over half of which are games (I haven't really sat down and counted, but I'm confident that over half of them are games).  So I'm not sure where you got the "~30 games" from.  But for me, I only need a few really good games that appeal to me to buy the system and games.  I find most games on the Astrocade to be of good or excellent quality.  The SCV also has a small games library, but I bought the system and some games because they appeal to me, and I find most games on it to be good or excellent in quality.

 

 

Slightly OT, but does anyone else have issues with Astrocade cartridges having severe mottling, Actiplaque, and/or just falling off? I've got a couple dozen and they're pretty much all like that now, even ones that were still fairly clean when I got them five or six years ago.

 

Are you talking about cartridge labels?  Yeah, mine are discolored......some more than others.  Guess it is the glue they used back then to put the labels on.  I think it is pretty common on old cartridges of most any retro system, although my SCV carts don't really have that problem.






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