So I decided to purchase a modded Atari 7800 from Best Electronics and I thought I'd do an unboxing of the package. I'd never dealt with Best before (though I'd heard good things from other members here at Atari Age) so I was unsure of what I was getting myself into. Part of the reason I want to do this unboxing is to show exactly what I received from Best and maybe it will help other posters decide as to whether or not they want to deal with this company.
So what exactly did I order?
1. Atari 7800 w/composite mod and OS mod
- The composite mod adds composite audio and video in place of the original R/F a/v solution
- The OS mod includes a BIOS skip so that 7800 games boot right away, adds 7800 Asteroids as a default game if the unit is powered on without a cartridge inserted and includes some PAL compatibility
2. 5 game "Dented Can" Special
- This set of games includes Ms. Pac-Man, Ballblazer, Joust, Galaga, and Robotron. The games are still factory sealed but were damaged in their original shipping so all of the outer boxes have dents and crushes. As such I got them at a nice discount ($7/ea or $35 total)
This entire package set me back just under $200 (console, games, and shipping). I believe it was worth the money but I will let some of the pics do the talking.
So without having actually opened anything, I can already tell you that the way it was shipped to me was awesome. A couple sturdy layers of cardboard, liberally taped in Atari branded packing tape. Now every USPS sorter from California to Arizona that handled this knows that something awesome was coming to me. I don't know how much time Best spends on packing but I can definitely say the box is cool, as far as shipping boxes go.
After pulling out the trust box cutter, I opened the thing up on three sides (now it has a lid!) and here's what I found inside. A healthy layer of biodegreadeable packing peanuts with some flyers and adverts on top. These flyers look ancient! I don't know what kind of computer/printer setup Best has but if I had to guess from these flyers, they're still using Atari STs over there. Included are some brochures with game lists, some news articles, and copies of awards Best has won.
One of the brochures is a listing of Atari 2600 games that Best carries. Its a nice list that's easy to read and comes separately from the listings for 5200, 7800, and Jaguar games. There wasn't a Lynx listing though. To be honest, I haven't gone through most of this stuff yet (just thumbed it really) so I'll have to sit down later and take a closer look at it.
So when you order, you get your choice between a pair of PB Sticks or Pro Sticks. I went with the Pro Sticks as they include a grip that I thought would be nice to have. Two fire buttons on the left and right and one on the top of the stick. I believe these sticks have been resealed as there is only the controller inside as well as a part of the box that can be folded open to display on a rack. Both sticks were in great shape though.
So I got six games. The five games I mentioned from the "Dented Can" special plus a copy of Jinks. I've not played that one but I'm told by the 7800 forum that it stinks. We'll have to see about that. The Jinks box is in noticeably better shape than the discount games.
You can see here that Ballblazer got it pretty rough. The box is smashed shut at the bottom. Fortunately the top part where the game is remains in good shape.
The PSU is brand new and boxed as you can see here. Best was apparently a licensed Atari repair business at one point and a huge part of their stock are replacement parts like this. Its actually nice to know there's a place to go to get Atari branded PSUs as I need to pick up another for my 2600.
I've got the PSU unboxed here. It was tightly wrapped in bubble wrap which is off to the side now. Black on black is not ideal (I guess I should have taken a better pic) but I can say the PSU looks brand new. It's in great shape. Dunno if this is a repack or not but I'm very happy with it.
Included is the original 7800 instruction manual and Atari 90-day warranty card. Best continues to honor the original factory warranty which is pretty cool because I think if I wrote to the address printed on the card, I wouldn't get a response.
And here is the main event. The console is unboxed unfortunately, but completely refurbished and restored (not to mention the mods I mentioned above) and has been resealed in plastic to help protect it. I don't know what Best's setup is like - if the machines sit sealed like this at their warehouse or if it was sealed before being sent to me - but I definitely like how the package arrived. Now, let's open this thing up.
The console itself is flawless. No marks of any kind on the front or pack. A little wear around the bottom label with the serial number and the warranty void stickers on the back look a bit rough. You can tell the console is old but other than that it is flawless, in perfect shape. Everything works and feels right. I'm pretty sure I am in love already.
Here you can see the composite mod replacing the original R/F a/v outlet. The cable is long which is fantastic as the short cord on the pro-stick means I want the console next to me while I'm playing.
I really can't get over how well this was boxed. I had to scoop most of the peanuts out and into a trash bag so as not to make a mess pulling everything. Here you can see a pair of pads at the bottom of the box. The 7800 was resting on these for extra cushion during shipping. Very well done. It was also tightly wrapped in bubble wrap (which I did not take pictures of) that was actually a little difficult to remove. I'll take difficult to remove bubble wrap over broken console any day though!
So with everything unboxed, I decided to repurpose the shipping container into a storage bin. Since I only cut it open on three sides, the top pops open like a chest now. I'm sure it'll wear out after awhile but for now it makes a good container. I opened all the games and took out the cartridges and manuals. The manuals I'll keep inside the shipping box but outside the game boxes so I don't have to smash those anymore just to flip through the manuals. The actual cartridges are all sitting with my 7800 now.
Now that I've unpacked everything, LET'S PLAY SOME DAMN GAMES
When I originally asked about Best Electronics, @Trebor mentioned that Best's composite mod was a little dull. Unfortunately, I find this to be the case. I broke in the 7800 with a game (well ten games) of Joy Ride by our very own Cybearg. Playing on my Harmony of course. For those who haven't checked it out, Joy Ride is an awesome game where you're driving a motorcycle down the oncoming lane in heavy traffic. You have to avoid crashing into the other cars. Each lane has different colored cars at different speeds. The bottom lane is GREEN but as you can see in the pic, it looks blue on the 7800. I found this to be the case on the Harmony cart bios as well where everything had a blueish hue instead of green. Some other games I played didn't seem to have this issue
2600 Asteroids looked ok for instance, though it was definitely darker. And yes I should have taken a shot when more stuff was on the screen hahaha. I also played A-VCS-Tec Challenge, another favorite homebrew of mine. It looks and sounds just as awesome on the 7800 as it does on the 2600.
First actual 7800 game I played was Ms. Pac-Man (right after Joy Ride actually). I'll be honest, I haven't played this one much. I've played the heck out Pac-Man but I never really owned a version of Ms. Pac-Man. It is shocking how much better the game becomes when there are multiple mazes. Needless to say I had a great time. I know the pic is bad from afternoon sun but unfortunately the image quality was a little dull and blurry. It was an upgrade over my 2600's RF for sure but it was not as sharp as I was hoping from a composite mod.
I did have one problem playing Ms. Pac-Man though THE PRO-STICK CONTROLLERS ARE TERRIBLE!. I don't really like the 2600 controller because I'm afraid it'll come apart in my hand when I'm yanking on the stick. The pro-stick feels almost identical to that, except the grip makes me feel like I'll have an easier time of tearing it apart. The controller creaks in my hands and the top-mounted fire button is not nearly as useful as I thought it would be. Holding the base is still annoying. After a bit of gameplay, buying Euro 7800 controllers shot to the top of my list. I love the system so far but these controllers blow.
Anyway, soapbox done.
So one of the awesome things about the OS mod that I got is that if a cart isn't inserted in my 7800 when it is powered on, Asteroids starts. Asteroids is pretty much my all-time favorite 2600 game so I thought this was a great deal (plus it means I have 7 games instead of 6). It looks incredible. There's no doubt this would have been a system seller for me if I'd been old enough in the Atari Age. I still need to play it some more but I didn't like the handling quite as much when I got into it. I found myself going back to 2600 Asteroids (which I played after this as you can see above). Still, I'm very excited that this was included with my system.
Ok, it's time for one last game. Surprisingly, Vault Assault is the only homebrew I own (notwithstanding the stuff on my Harmony cart). It is a good game but relies on twitch gameplay and sessions are short (to the tune of 3-4 minutes). I'd rather have it on Lynx than a console to be honest. I'm going to give it a spin however.
...and the results are not good unfortunately. If you look in the bottom right of the screen, you'll see an enemy ship. That ship isn't supposed to be there, it is supposed to be directly under the base. Now it can still shoot at me and hit me and I can still shoot at it by navigating down and firing but the graphics mess up whenever I do it. It doesn't break the game but it is awkward (the other enemy ships are fine). So Vault Assault is still playable on the 7800 but it definitely doesn't seem to be fully compatible. This isn't a huge dealbreaker as to be honest this one doesn't get a lot of play time even though I like it. Still, I hope I don't find to many other homebrews that don't work right. I've got an order for Dungeon and Toyshop Trouble and I'd like to play both of those since I bought the 7800 to replace my 2600.
The entire process from ordering the unit to receiving it took approximately six days. When I initially emailed Best, they replied to my sales query by confirming some of my order requests. Once we had settled on all the merchandise I was going to order, I paid via PayPal and it took Best about a day to accept payment, pack, and ship the 7800. Fortunately I live close (they are based out of San Jose, CA and I am in Phoenix, AZ) so shipping time was super short. Best was easy to work with and provided good service though buying from them was definitely a new experience (or should I say OLD experience?) as I am so used to modern conveniences like shopping carts, automated orders, etc.
The price I paid for all my goodies was a bit high ($194.97 - the Harmony Cart and 2600 games I already owned) but I think the price was right given the excellent shipping, quality service, and condition of the hardware. I'd definitely recommend them in the future and will be turning to Best to round out my collection of 7800 accessories and probably to buy more games from them.
If you're hesitant to order from Best because of the amateur (or should I say antiquated?) look of their website or their older ways of doing things, I can definitely say it is totally worth the trouble to email them your sales inquiry and talk it out. This is a great company to do business with.