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A Black Falcon

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  1. Nobody yet has mentioned that 5200 River Raid has fully analog left/right movement controls, quite unlike its 2600 predecessor. It's pretty awesome and makes this version quite distinct from the 2600 version. At first glance it looks like a lazy, barely-altered port, apart from minor graphical enhancements and such, but there's some pretty cool stuff added to this version, and I think that the analog controls are my favorite change.
  2. Thanks for all of the replies! I've learned some things from your posts. It was frustratingly hard to find any mention of using a PEB without the 32K card or some other RAM expansion, so it's good to know that you can indeed do that. I also did not know that both PEBs have that second fuse inside the power supply. That wasn't the problem here though, the fans on both have always ran fine. And... I fixed it. It was such a dumb, simple problem, I should have found it some time ago. Ugh, wish I'd found the issue before spending a bunch of money on stuff I already have... heh. (I mean, I did need a 32K card and that second one also came with a Terminal Emulator II cart, the RS232 card that I may find a use for, and the Shugart drive without a broken latch, but that doesn't cover all of the cost...). But hey, that's how it goes. This stuff is pretty interesting and I'm glad to have it. So, what did I do today? First I did some testing. I tested the flex cable interface cards on both machines again, and they both work fine on the model two system, that was not the issue. Then I tested the various other cards again, and found that yes, none of them respond at all on the model one PEB, but all work fine on the model two. I also made sure to test both PEBs on two different TI99 computers, in case something as wrong on the computer's end; it was not. Then I tested the power rails on the floppy drive's molex connector, as was suggested here. I have a little calculator-sized Micronta (Radio Shack) multimeter from the early '90s. The thing still works and registered 11.95 and 4.98 volts for the two rails, only barely below 12 and 5, so that should be fine. So the drive is getting power, which makes sense -- after all, as I said in the first post, the one thing that the model one PEB WAS doing was that when you turned it off, the drive's access light would blink red for a moment. So, with the problem reduced down to "either something is wrong on the bus connecting the cart slots or inside the power supply but not on the part going to the floppy or flex cable light, and those are not things I would be able to fix with my limited skills at this kind of thing", I looked at the model one PEB's expansion slots again... And saw that one of the empty slots had a pin bent inward, so it was probably touching the pin on the other side. Apparently this disables all of the slots, shorts them out or something I assume. After snapping that pin back to where it should be with a small screwdriver, now the PEB works great. Lol. Well, I guess I have two working PEBs now. Yay? Maybe I will sell one like I was thinking, it's a somewhat valuable thing... though that broken latch on that floppy drive is a pain to deal with. If I'm using the Shugart drive I definitely want to use the one with the good latch. As for which one to keep... well, the model one one is missing the power switch -- you just have to push in the button where the switch would be -- but is otherwise fine condition-wise. Meanwhile, the model two is missing a foot on the bottom (one of the five is missing) and the metal is bent in the bottom back corner by the floppy drive bay. So, its damage is not as visible but is more annoying. (I also now am up to three fully working TI99 computers. Yeah, I don't really need three. I could see keeping a second one as a backup but certainly don't need three.) Oh, here's an interesting thing -- while one of my TI disk controllers is in the regular heavy metal case, the other one is in a very light black (plastic?) case. Functionally they are the same though. It looks like next I need to try those other two (half height 5.25") floppy drives on my old PC and see if they work there, huh. As someone who has been checking ebay stuff frequently recently, it is clear that the TI card is what most people bought. Other companies may have made cards, but they must have had pretty poor distribution compared to TI because their cards come up for sale very rarely. A DSDD controller card was on ebay recently for a bit over $500. I thought about getting it, but didn't because of how much I have spent on this already... and yeah, it sold quickly. Regular TI controllers are a bit pricey, but cost far less than that -- more like $80 to $180. Thanks for all of this information. I hope those SAMS cards get finished eventually, I'll need to make sure to not miss the next batch...
  3. Yes, it's another "please help me with old hardware" thread from me. Hopefully someone here can be helpful. So, I have long had an interest in the TI99, and have made a few threads about it before. A few months ago though I decided to finally take the plunge and buy a PEB instead of only having the base computer with a tape drive. I thought about getting a modern nanoPEB sidecar thing, but... I want to be able to use real disks. (I got a collection of most of the issues of 99'er/Home Computer Magazine cover disks a few years ago, I want to use that stuff on a real system. I've got volume 2 issues 1 to 13 and volumes 4 and 5 disks 1 to 5 or 6, which seems to be all of the disks apart from the six disks of volume one, which I do not have? What happened to volume 3, were there no disks at that point or something? I know the magazine apparently changed names, but that's odd.) So, late last year, I got one. These things are expensive. It came with the card with the "firehose" cable and some untested disk drives, but didn't come with a disk controller or 32K card, so it wasn't tested to actually fully working status. I should have known better... argh. I got a disk controller on ebay in December. It's a regular single density only one. I didn't get a 32K card because I wanted to get a SAMS, but I missed my window on those -- they sold out on Arcade Shopper, and still have not come back into stock. Frustrating, I hope he gets more chips so I can buy one. After doing some research I concluded that the thing should work without 32K, for testing it and regular Basic programs and such, before I got a RAM expansion. This PEB is the first model, with the push-button power switch and the fuse on the back. However, it didn't work. The PEB turns on when you hit its power button and the fan whirs up, and the light on the card connecting the PEB to the TI99 lights up when I turn on the computer, but nothing else happens, I can't get it to see a disk at all. Drive-wise, the only thing that happens is the red light on the drive blinks when you turn off the power to the PEB. That's it. I suspected the disk drive or controller, or thought that maybe you actually do need a 32K card? There isn't much out there I can find about using a PEB with no RAM expansion card. Additionally, this PEB came with several disk drives. First, there's the regular full-height SSSD drive that came with the PEB. This disk drive, while functional, has a broken front latch -- the two round parts that hold the latch onto the bar that holds disks down into the drive are broken. You can use the drive if you are very careful when putting disks in or out, but it's annoying. The seller included two other 5.25" disk drives with the system as well. They came, oddly, in the metal sheath that goes around the disk drive in the TI99 PEB. It's not the one from this PEB, though, that one's in the system. Also, both drives' jumpers were set to 1, not 0 like you would need to to use one as a first drive on a TI99 (as I believe the research I did here says), so I don't know if these were actually used on this TI99 or not. I tried them singly and can't get either one to work on the TI99, which is annoying. I mean, it's great that the SSSD drive works, but at minimum I'd like double sided support! Anyway, of these two drives, one is a Newtronics D509V and the other a Fujitsu M2551A. The Fujitsu drive sounds like it's kind of trying to work, but makes loud squeaking sounds; it probably needs to be taken apart and greased or somesuch. The Newtronics (Mitsumi) drive doesn't get past just lighting up the light for a moment, at least as far as I got; maybe I should test it again. I found an old table on this website about TI floppy drive compatibility, but I think both of these drives had a ?. Hmm. I still haven't gotten around to testing them on my older PC to see if they work there or not; I will try that soon and report back. It'd be great if there was a way to use these drives on the TI99 so I don't need to buy even more floppy drives. Or maybe just having a SSSD drive along with a TIPI would be okay? I'm not sure. That depends on how many disks for this system need double density or double sided drives, probably... which I know is some. But anyway, the main issue is that on this PEB I can't get disks to work at all. It's kind of a problem. Maybe there is a power issue? I mean, the power supply turns on, but maybe some power rail is faulty or something? Or maybe there's an issue in the board connecting the expansion slots, even though nothing looks wrong from the outside? Those are my only two guesses, though I am most certainly not an expert. I'd really like any suggestions that might help bring this PEB back to life. But at an impasse while still wanting a working PEB, earlier this month, I... spent a whole bunch of money again and bought a second PEB. This time, I got a tested one with a 32K card and a CorComp RS232 serial card, along with a disk drive and controller. The disk controller is another regular single density one I'm pretty sure, but otherwise this one does indeed fully work, thankfully. However, this is the second model of PEB, the one with the fuse inside of the power supply. Given that, I'd far rather use the first model one if I can... but I can't, because, again, it doesn't work. I have spent a while testing parts, and all of the cards I have work fine in the model two PEB, but don't work on the model one one. So that's good news for that first disk controller I bought, and also the floppy cable I got; they do indeed work fine, I just didn't know it because something else is the issue on that first PEB. This disk drive is fully working too, with no issues... but it's also one of the regular full height Shugart SSSD drives, meaning no double sided support for me. Bah. I will use this PEB for now despite that, of course, though I'm not thrilled about that fuse inside the power supply. This PEB is missing one of the five feet from the bottom of the case too, while the first one has all of them. Does anyone have any ideas for repairing the other one? It's probably a power supply issue I will be unlikely to be able to fix, but I'd love to hear any suggestions. (A few years ago, I made a thread asking about what could be wrong with what was then my only working TI99. Someone here suggested that it might be the video chip, the 9918ANL. I took a ridiculously long time to actually get around to trying to fix the issue, which is why I didn't respond to that post, but I finally did get a new one some time ago and yes, that was the problem. I swapped that chip and the system works fine now. While I was at it, I looked through my extra TI stuff and found... I had an Alps keyboard for the TI, probably the best kind. It had been sitting around loose for many years so I wasn't convinced it would work, but it does! After switching keyboards all of my failing key issues went away. I should have done that years ago, I've had that keyboard for a long time... heh.) Tests I've done: - Try all cards [system connection, disk controller, 32K] on both PEB's (except for the RS232 card since I haven't used it yet; its light turns on though so it probably works?). They all work on the second model PEB but not the first one. - Try both of the full height disk drives on both PEBs, and both disk drive cables as well. Same results -- all work fine on the model two one, nothing other than a momentary power light blink when you turn off the PEB power on the first model one. - Try those other two disk drives - no function (so far anyway) on either PEB. - Try several power cords for the TI99 and PEB, and two different TI99 computers. Same results either way. The issue isn't on the TI99 side, I don't think. But anyway, my questions. 1. What could be wrong that is causing the first system's inability to see that a disk drive is attached to the system? 2. Does anyone know if there is any hope of getting those two higher density floppy drives working on the TI? Or do I need different ones? 3. What I have is great, but I'm just wondering, is there any timetable for if SAMS cards will become available for purchase again somewhere? (I have Realms of Antiquity, it'd be cool to be able to play it on real hardware if I get a TIPI...) Whether or not anyone can help with any of this, I am pretty glad to have a fully working TI99 PEB with 32K and a (single sided single density) disk drive, it's pretty cool. There's some interesting stuff on these magazine disks. I have been trying some of those disks, they all seem to work fine, surprisingly enough! I don't really need two PEBs though, one is fine... one fully working one, preferably the first model. I don't usually sell anything but I do NOT need as many TI99 computers and PEBs as I now have... heh. If both PEBs worked, that is. Oh -- I now have Extended Basic and Disk Manager II carts. I don't have Editor/Assembler though.
  4. And here is the third and so far final part. I didn't want to wait any longer before posting this one! There are only six games covered this time, but what this update may lack in quantity of games it makes up for with quality: several of these are among the very best games I have played on the 5200, and indeed perhaps of the 1980s as a whole. Table of Contents Space Dungeon Star Wars: The Arcade Game Tempest [Cancelled Game Homebrew Release] Wizard of Wor Vanguard Xari Arena [Cancelled Game Homebrew Release] Rankings The Summaries Space Dungeon - 1 or 2 player alternating. Two controllers required. Supports the Atari 5200 Controller Holder. Developed by Taito America Corporation and published by Atari in 1983. Space Dungeon is an innovative and brilliant game that I had not heard of before the '00s, as with most games on this console, but everyone really SHOULD know. Space Dungeon is one of the first twinstick shooters. Indeed, this might be the very first game which uses the classic twin-stick control scheme, with one stick for aiming and one stick for moving. This game, one of few games developed by Taito's American branch which would mostly just be a publishing arm, released in arcades in 1981. As a result, it pre-dates Williams' much more famous Robotron 2084, the so-called (but not actual) "first twin-stick shooter". That game became a massive arcade sensation which made twin-stick games popular, and proved to be a second major success for creator Eugene Jarvis, following Defender. It deserved the success, Robotron is an amazing game which does just about everything right. However, that this predecessor in its genre, Space Dungeon, was forgotten and has remained a very obscure title only released in arcades, the Atari 5200, and a half-baked PSP collection port is a tragedy! Because this game is AMAZING. The original arcade game gets most of the credit of course, but this Atari 5200 port is fantastic, playing just like the arcade game except for a lower screen resolution and some slowdown. I said in my first Atari 5200 Game Opinion Summaries list that Defender was my favorite 5200 game, and it still may be because that is an exceptional port of one of the very best pre-crash games, but this game gives it a serious run for its money; honestly, it's probably a tie between these two games. They are both A+ graded classics, hands-down. The game lacks variety once you get used to it, but other than that is one of the absolute best games of its era. And again, it is quite innovative too. What makes this game so good, and so original? First, the controls. I am not sure what the first arcade game with twin-stick shooting was, it seems to be unclear whether it was this game or another game released in 1981, Mars from Artic Electronics, but either way, at the time this control scheme was very new and the game implements it extremely well. You move with one stick, and fire with the other. It must be said though, both movement and shooting are eight-way only, and are digital-only. So, this game does not make use of the 5200's controller. Fortunately, the game works well on this stick and playing this game on 5200 controllers feels great; of the digital-only-control 5200 games this has some of the best controls. It probably helps that you won't be using those mushy buttons but instead just two sticks. Before I continue, I do need to mention that when buying this game do make sure to get the Atari 5200 Controller Holder. It is a plastic piece which you can lock two 5200 controllers into, effectively giving you one stable twin-stick joystick. If you don't have one the game is playable, but MUCH less comfortable to play unless you make your own controller holder somehow. Getting a loose cart copy of this game is relatively cheap, but the Controller Holder costs more. It is only used by this game and Robotron, but is well worth it regardless. Comparing this game with the Controller Holder to Atari 7800 Robotron, which doesn't have one, is a night and day difference! Space Dungeon is, as with most games of the era, and endless score-attack game which goes until you die. Along the way you will challenge an infinite number of randomly generated mazes. Before each of the first ten levels, custom text boxes introduce the stage, and new game elements are introduced in each of the first few levels. If you get good enough to get past level ten, though, the game continues on pretty much the same from then on. Getting that far will be a significant challenge however, because this game is satisfyingly hard! Space Dungeon has a good difficulty curve, starting easy and steadily introducing new elements through those first few levels until you're fully used to the game, at which point the real challenge begins. In each level of Space Dungeon, your ship explores a six by six screen maze. That's 36 screens per level. The game has a fantastic on-screen map showing both where you have explored and a lot of useful information; more on that later. The open space within each screen is always empty, but randomly placed walls and openings along the sides of each screen add some variety; no two levels will be exactly the same. In each maze, your goal is to find your way to the exit which warps you to the next stage, while getting as many points as you can along the way. There are 14 treasures scattered around each level of the dungeon, and when you touch the warp to the next stage you get bonus points for each treasure you are carrying. Random selections of enemies will try to stop you. There are eight types of enemies in the game, with several types being added in levels two and three to the base set. The enemy types have a nice variety of types, including wall lasers, a slow but hard to kill enemy that won't be much of a threat, fast-spawning foes, and more. Some rooms have few enemies, while other rooms have many. The most enemy-heavy rooms are colored in as red on the map. If you kill enough enemies in them the levels will be cleared and go to a normal black square on the map, making them easier the next time you enter them as you explore around. It's a mix, and due to the random generation you never know what you are going to get when you enter a room. So, the core gameplay loop is to fly around, explore the map, get treasures if you want, and then go to the exit, while killing as enemies along the way. You never HAVE to get treasures, it is optional. I usually try to get them, though. It's a great design with great controls and enemies that are a very well thought through balance of challenge and fun. Enemies explode in pretty cool ways too, scattering bits of themselves all over the screen every time they blow up. This really shows off the 5200's graphical capabilities, a purely sprite-based console like the NES would have a very hard time with this most likely! It can sometimes feel unfair that the enemies can attack you from any direction while you can only fire in the eight cardinal directions, but you get used to it. Every situation is survivable with the right actions. When you lose a life, highly interesting game mechanics come into play, reminiscent of a both a Souls-like game and a Rogue-like. You see, you don't just respawn. Instead, you start back from the level's starting screen. Your map exploration data for the level is carried over, including which rooms are red enemy-heavy ones and such. Unfortunately, the actual contents of rooms is not carried over, so if you die in a room with some interesting setup of enemies when you get back to that room those foes will not be there. This is one of the only flaws in this game, really, but I'm sure keeping 36 screens of stuff in memory was way too much. But anyway, when you die, you drop all treasures you were carrying. All of them are left on the screen you died on, and a map marker shows which screen you died on. So yeah, this game has corpse runs! The idea may have been seen in some game before this one, but it's very interesting to see it here in this twinstick shooter. There is an additional wrinkle, too: one enemy type, the Thief, also collects the treasures as it goes around. The Thief's location is marked on the map at all times. If you shoot the Thief it drops all treasures it is carrying, but a few enemies appear as well. You cannot kill the Thief for good, it'll fly off after being shot. So, wait too long and the Thief will get your treasures and you will need to hunt down the Thief instead of your corpse marker. Helpfully, the map always tells you where the Thief is. This whole system is a really interesting mechanic which adds a lot of depth to the game. And that is Space Dungeon. While like all classic games the simple design could get repetitive, this game mixes that repetition up with its always-changing levels and room layouts add variety. With simple but very responsive controls, good graphics with lots of stuff going on on screen as the enemies blast apart, and gameplay that is a hybrid of an arcade twin-stick shooter with some elements of a roguelike adventure game mixed in, once I bought the game in early 2021 Space Dungeon almost immediately became one of my favorites. The game is repetitive, sure, but it is incredibly engaging and fun as you explore the maps, look for treasures, fill out the maps, blow apart enemies, and then do it all again on the next stage. The difficulty is incredibly well balanced, providing a good but approachable challenge. This is my favorite game that I bought in 2021. Space Dungeon has only ever been released in arcades, the Atari 5200, and on the PSP in the Taito Legends Power-Up collection. Sadly there has never been a release on a modern console with two sticks. There should be. Star Wars: The Arcade Game - 1 player. Has analog controls. Developed and published by Parker Bros. based on the Atari arcade game, in 1983. Yes, this is an official port of an Atari game that was not not made by Atari. Licensing... Atari's first Star Wars arcade game is a vector graphics game. This game is a target-shooting game which borders on rail shooter. Think of as being basically like a light gun game with a joystick, except if you move to the edges of the screen you can move around a little to change direction or avoid obstacles, depending on the stage. The game has three different sections: a space battle against oncoming TIE Fighters, a flight over the surface of the Death Star shooting at towers trying to take you down, and finally you re-enact the famous Death Star trench run scene, albeit sometimes with obstacles added in the trench, as the game gets harder, in order to up the challenge. I don't know if I've ever played the game in an arcade, but I have played home versions of it, such as this or the very good port included in Rogue Squadron 3 for the Gamecube. It's a good, classic arcade game. This home console version is as straight a port of the arcade game as the Atari 5200 can muster. Obviously the graphics here are sprite-based and are no match for the perfect lines of the vector arcade game, but even so this is a pretty nice looking game. Each of the three stage types are here, and they all play just like they should. The controls are very good, and are fully analog like you would hope for. Your cursor moves responsively and while it takes some practice to reliably hit targets, once you get used to it the game can be quite fun. It is repetitive, as you'll just do those three stage types on repeat as you destroy one Death Star after another, but they do add more enemies and obstacles in the stages as you progress, so the game does change as you get farther into it. This is a simple game. In the first stage, the TIE fighter attack, you just need to survive. Shoot the shots heading towards you and shoot down what TIEs you can. That may sound easy, but the TIEs are fast and can be hard to hit, it's tricky. In the second, which first appears in the second loop, you fly over the Death Star's surface, shooting the tops of towers. If you get all of them you get a points bonus. They are shooting back though, this is no bonus stage. And last, you go down that trench, avoiding walls and such that may appear in later loops, before the exhaust port appears. Shoot into it to destroy the Death Star. Otherwise, you'll repeat the trench run until you run out of lives or destroy it, after which it's on to the next level to do the same thing again but slightly harder. You start with nine hits before you get Game Over. It's a generous enough amount that beating the first loop will be simple, but make no mistake, getting a high score will be plenty challenging. That's pretty much the game, though. It just has the one mode. It's a pretty good game with good graphics and decent audio, and is and a solid port of an arcade classic. However, this game is simple to a fault. There's little depth here, just memorization and twitch reaction. I like games with a bit more strategy than you find here, which is probably why I prefer games like 5200 Space Invaders or Galaxians over this or Blaster. Oh, while Blaster is better than this game, both games are good. Also, Star Wars: The Arcade Game can be frustrating at times as I try to stay alive while TIEs zip by too fast to hit as I pile up damage. Also, the very limited amount of movement you can make can be an issue as well, you are mostly railed onto your path and while you can avoid some obstacles and shots by moving the cursor to the correct edge of the screen to turn slightly away from it, dodging isn't easy. Sega's Star Wars arcade game from a good ten years after this one also has limited movement, but you can move around a bit more in that game than you can here. It works as it is, but is occasionally annoying. And of course there is no way to reproduce that vector look on an '80s TV. Overall, I think Star Wars: The Arcade game is good, but not great. It's fun, but doesn't have the variety or depth to keep me coming back long term. Still, this game can be had for a reasonable price and certainly is worth owning. Arcade port. This version was also released on the Atari 8-bit computer, there without the analog controls of course. Other ports were released on many other platforms: Atari 2600, Apple II, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Colecovision, Atari ST, PC, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, and Commodore 64. The arcade version is also included in Rogue Squadron 3 for the Gamecube. Tempest [Cancelled Game Homebrew Release] - 1 player. Has analog controls. Supports the Atari 5200 Trak-Ball controller. Developed and almost finished by Atari in 1984, but cancelled and not released. An unfinished prototype rom leaked later on. Almost 30 years later the original programmer went back and finished the game in 2012, and AtariAge published it in 2013. Tempest is one of Atari's more popular classic arcade games. It was another vector monitor game, a tube shooter where you spin around the outside top of a tube shooting enemies coming up towards you from the bottom. As with a lot of games though, the 5200 version was never released, it was cancelled along with most 5200 projects in the works in 1984. Fortunately, this one had gotten far enough into development for it to be salvageable into a completed game, as I described above. The result is a pretty fantastic conversion of Tempest to the 5200. This is a great game and a standout for the 5200. However, it is impossible for me to look at this game without thinking of Tempest 2000 and its sequels. I know it is deeply unfair to this game to compare it to a game ten years newer and that was made for much more powerful hardware, but I have a lot more experience with Tempest 2000 than I do the original game, honestly, so I can't help it. Tempest 2000 is a trancendent masterpiece and one of my favorite games ever. This game? It's quite good, but isn't on that level. But for the hardware this does about as much as you can. It is a clear downgrade from the arcade version of the original Tempest as well, but not much could be done about that. As in the arcade game, in Tempest for the 5200 you control a ship which moves around the upper edge of a polygonal shape, either a wall or circle of some kind, which extends into the distance below. From the bottom of the shape, enemies emerge, moving upwards towards you. If they touch you, you die. They also will shoot at you, though your shots cancel theirs. You can't shoot all the time though, you have a shot limit. So, you need to shoot them first, but also shoot carefully, in a fast-paced and hectic game with stuff happening all over. It's a lot to take in, but it's also what makes Tempest so much fun. This is a simple but very well made game with brilliant design and very strong "just one more game" qualities. All of the enemies from the arcade game are here, as are the level maps. There are quite a few unique stage layouts, and though of course the game loops endlessly once you've seen them all it steadily gets harder as it does so. You probably won't see most of them without a lot of practice, though, because Tempest is tough. The gameplay and controls here are very good. You move left and right with the stick. One button fires, and the other one uses your screen-clearing bomb. You get one bomb per level. This game has full analog movement. The controls are even better with the Trak-Ball controller, too. Tempest was designed for a spinner, and the 5200 does not have one of those, though homebrew ones do exist. The Trak-Ball is the next best thing for most of us, though, and fits the game very well. Once you get used to it, moving around by spinning that ball is a whole lot of fun. You have slower and more precise control with the trackball than the joystick. For features, there are three difficulty levels, Beginner, Normal, or Expert. In Beginner or Normal modes you can start from any odd-numbered level from 1 to 9, but in Expert you can start from levels all the way up to level 81. There are only a dozen or so different level maps, but each time they loop the background color changes, which is a nice touch. There are apparently 96 individual levels, just like the arcade game, but given the utterly insane speeds of the higher stages I've never gotten even close to seeing them. I mostly play this game on Normal. I presume it loops after level 96? I should mention the major downside of 5200 Tempest, though: the graphics. While great for the 5200, these low resolution, very pixelated graphics can be a bit hard to make out sometimes. Where, exactly is that enemy in that pixelated blob? Are they on this block of the stage or the next one? And are they on top, or not? It can be quite hard to tell when you will touch an enemy and die, and when you still have room to shoot them and they are actually aren't quite on the top. The lines of the well are a different color from the enemies, their shots are a slightly different color, you are a third color, and the game highlights which space you are on top of, but even so the graphics are low resolution and extremely pixelated, to making out details is tough. This is probably the games' biggest drawback. Well, also I wish it had background music, but the arcade game didn't have it either. Impressively, considering the games' 3-d nature, Tempest runs very well, with no slowdown and minimal flicker. This is a crazy-fast game that runs pretty smoothly. Once the screen really fills up with enemies some may seem to blink a little as they move from path to path, but it's minor. It runs amazingly well. Staying alive will be the challenge. Even in this very low-rez form, Tempest is an impressive and somewhat creepy game; the tension as you shoot down that well at the creatures crawling up at you can get to you. This is particularly true once some reach the top and start moving around the top lip towards you. You'd better hope you have some luck or a bomb! Tempest is kind of a horror game in a way, and this is even more true in Tempest 2000. This is a tense, challenging shooter where focus is key. The game is on the line between chaotic randomness and strategic shooting; you can do okay at Tempest, and have fun, while just spinning left and right and shooting down randomly, but if you want to do well at the game thought is required. I like a game to require strategy, and this game does if you want to do well, but just randomly zooming around and shooting can also be fun, in the earlier levels at least. The game eventually gets insanely difficult, particularly if you tackle the higher levels in Expert mode. Tempest 2000 is an easier game to play long sessions of, this game is more punishing. Even so, Tempest is a fantastic classic game and this is a great port of it. Sure, the pixelated graphics take some getting used to, but you'll get it. If you like Jeff Minter's shooters or have a 5200 Trak-Ball controller this game is definitely a must own. Tempest for the 5200 is not my favorite Tempest game, but given how exceptional Tempest 2000 is, that isn't much of a criticism. The game is still fantastic and holds up well today. This is a fun and addictive classic which shows what this hardware can do. This is yet another game that Atari absolutely should have released back in 1984, this is the kind of game which convinces people to buy your system! Arcade port. This version is 5200 exclusive, but the arcade version is available in many classic compilations for modern platforms. There is also an unreleased Atari 2600 version, which is much worse, and much less finished, than this one. Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, and BBC Micro versions did release in Europe, but at the time that's it. The arcade version is available for many modern platforms in various collections: The PS2, Dreamcast, PC/Mac (several different times each), Linux, SNES, PS1, Saturn, GBA, PSP, DS (two times), Xbox, iOS/Android, and N-Gage all saw Tempest release in collections. There is also a standalone digital Xbox 360 release. Wizard of Wor - 1 or 2 player simultaneous. Developed and published by CBS Electronics under license from Midway Games in 1983. Wizard of Wor is one of the best pre-crash arcade games developed internally at Midway. Midway's most successful games of the era, such as Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, weren't developed by Midway itself, but Wizard of Wor was. Apart from a very short-lived attempt at making their own console, however, Midway would not start making home console versions of its game until the mid 1990s, however, so the game was licensed out for home systems. CBS Electronics made this port, from the time CBS had a short-lived videogame development division before the crash. Unfortunately the speech samples from the arcade game don't make it to this version, but otherwise this is a very faithful conversion of a good game. The graphics are not the best that the 5200 can do, but it looks nice enough and represents the game well. Unlike the Atari 2600 version there is zero flicker in this version, which is great. The arcade version of the game is a single-screen action/maze game where you need to kill all the enemies in each stage to move on to the next one. It's a bit like Night Stalker on Intellivision or Berzerk, except I'd say it's better than either of those. The games' pacing is a good balance of fast action and strategic thinking. The play area is wider than it is high, six tiles high by eleven tiles long, and there are many walls breaking up the space. There are various maze layouts, with harder ones as you progress. The current level number and both players' scores are always on screen, along with a little map showing where both players and all enemies are. The level name is regularly shown as well. This map is necessary despite the single screen nature of the game because some enemies can only be seen on the map. Oddly, Wizard of Wor on 5200, as with most all versions of the game, flips the players -- the first player starts on the right and uses controller two. Strange. And you can't just play as player two, the two player game is simultaneous co-op. In the game, the two players start in the two lower corners of the maze. You start as a Worior, trying to kill the evil Wizard of Wor and his many minions. This is a pre-crash arcade game, though, so it is endless; if you are so good as to complete all the mazes, it just loops back around. In each level, from your start point you move around the maze, aiming to shoot the enemies as they appear before they can kill you. Walls stop movement and shots, of course, but there are also open areas. There also are portals on each side of the screen to move to the other side, though unlike in Pac-Man you cannot use these all of the time, sometimes they are closed. You attack with shots, and can only shoot one shot at a time. You will need good strategy as well as quick reflexes to succeed here. Enemies kill you with a touch or a shot. Your shots can stop their shots if you shoot at the right time, but dying is easy and lives scarce, you only get three to start. It's a hard but extremely well-designed and addictive game. There are five enemy types in total, each with quite different abilities. As an aside, if you look them up, you'll see that the enemies all have amusing names -- Warluck, Burwor, and more. Some can turn invisible, watch out for those. When the Wizard himself appears, do your best to shoot him down before he flees. The controls are simple, you move with the stick and fire with a button. This game has digital controls, so it is not ideal for this controller, but it works well enough for this initially slow-paced game. Once you get farther in, though, you'll probably want a digital controller to do your best at this game. It's entirely playable on the regular controller, which is, again, all I've got other than the Trak-Ball that is not for games like this, but it will make reaction times slower. The game starts out quite manageably, as the enemies move around slowly enough for you to easily kill them. But once you face the enemies that can turn invisible some of the time, and worst of all the Wizard of Wor himself, staying alive will be a plenty challenging task. The invisible enemies are on the map, but good luck following that map and the main game screen at the same time without dying! It can be frustrating when you try to shoot an enemy's shot but instead you die while also killing the enemy and lose one of your very limited lives, but it's all fair. If you shoot too late, you're getting hit. The game ups the tempo as you go not only with harder enemies, but also with the audio -- there is music of sorts in this game, a background tone which increases in tempo as you kill more enemies and get closer to clearing the level. It really adds to the experience, and the tension. More games from this era should have music. The sound effects are all very close to the arcade as well and sound great. This game makes a lot of sounds, it adds to the fun. It is disappointing that the speech samples from the arcade game are absent here, several 5200 games do have speech, but that is one of the few issues with this otherwise great version of the game. Additionally, as for that two player co-op mode, it's pretty interesting. On the one hand, the game is cooperative, as your goal is to kill the same enemies in order to proceed. Of course you compete for score, but you also will kill the other player if you shoot them. And that's not all, you get bonus points for killing the other player, and they do lose a life. So yeah, whether this is cooperative or competitive entirely depends on who is playing... heh. Wizard of Wor is a very well designed game with good pacing, a good, simple concept, and great execution. The colors, dungeon names, Double Score Dungeons which boost your points, the tension of trying to get the Wizard before he gets away, this is a great game! Really, the games' only issues are that the simple concept may get repetitive after a while and that the controls are digital and not analog. The slower reaction time of digital controls on an analog stick will make it harder to stay alive as the game gets harder, unless you have a digital stick for your 5200. After dying a couple of levels in over and over, rarely getting farther, this game can start to feel old, even with how good it is. After a while you may want to play something else, but you'll be back. Regardless of that, Wizard of Wor is good to great. This game makes a fantastic first impression, and while dying again and again early on can be frustrating, the game is more than good enough to be worth going back to and improving at, trying to beat your best score each time. This is a great version of an under-appreciated arcade classic and I absolutely recommend it, Wizard of Wor is great! Arcade port. This version is also on the Atari 8-bit computers. Other ports were released on the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, and, under the name The Incredible Wizard, on Midway's own short-lived console, the Bally Astrocade, though Midway didn't make the port themself, they abandoned the system after just a few years. The 2600 version has very bad flicker, making it much harder to play than the other versions. Emulated releases of the arcade game are also in several modern collections, including the Midway Arcade Treasures 2 collection for PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube, the Midway Extended Play collection for PSP, and the Midway Arcade Origins collection for Xbox 360 and PS3. The 360 version is Xbox One/Series backwards compatible. Vanguard - 1 or 2 player alternating. Developed by Atari under license from SNK, in 1982. Vanguard is a port of the SNK arcade game of the same name. Atari bought the rights to this somewhat successful game, and ported it to their systems of the time. This 5200 version is very similar to the Atari 2600 version, just with better graphics and more content, as you would expect. Vanguard is a very early shmup, and is one of the first scrolling shooters of note. It's a decently good game with simple gameplay and some oddities. Yes, in some ways this games' early release date shows. Each level in Vanguard is made up of sections, each a short stage of their own. There are six different types of sections you will see, some which scroll left to right, one diagonally, and some vertically. Different levels will arrange the sections in different ways, so the game isn't the same every time. The game only has one kind of powerup, and it makes you invincible. In some stages these powerups show up regularly, and are one of the games' defining features. While invulnerable the music changes, which is neat. You can't shoot while invincible, either. You can fly right through the walls and stuff though, which is fun. The graphics are somewhat simple but are good enough, and it's nice that the game has at least some music, too many games on this system don't have any even though the hardware is perfectly capable of it. On the note of shooting, when you can shoot, you shoot in all four directions at the same time in this game. And you'll need it, with how enemies come at you from all sides as you tackle the different stage types the game throws at you. The game lacks depth; this is a very simple game, you just fly and shoot or, while invincible, just fly. You'll die often but there isn't much to the game. This game, unfortunately, isn't so much about memorizing interesting enemy patterns as it is reacting to what the game throws at you and trying to not die. The variety of stage types is nice, but there are only a few enemy types in each stage. Also, the controls have not been at all adjusted for the 5200's analog controller, so control is entirely digital and you have just the one fire button. The game is slow-paced and does not run fast, either. This game gets old quickly as you wait around for things to happen. For instance, the invincibility powerup is cool the first time you grab one and at times can save you, but given how totally invulnerable you are, getting one is basically 'you don't need to play for the next while' material, which is not great. And on top of that, the analog stick delays your inputs somewhat in a way they could have adjusted for, but didn't. River Raid for example did adjust the controls to make them analog, and as a result that game feels a lot better to play on the 5200 than Vanguard does. River Raid is honestly more fun than Vanguard, too. Overall, Vanguard is okay to good. The game is above average, but barely. It may be worth trying considering its importance and low price, though. Still, with slow and flawed gameplay with little enemy variety, Vanguard hasn't aged as well as the best of the static-screen shooters of its era. I do find this game somewhat fun, but once you're used to the various stage types Vanguard gets old fast and it doesn't really keep me coming back. The game is a decent challenge, looks okay, and I like the variety of stage types, but with very slow and simple gameplay and sometimes frustrating controls, it is around average overall. Arcade port. This version was also released on Atari 8-bit computers. A similar but downgraded version is on the Atari 2600. The arcade version has modern platform digital re-releases, including a standalone release on PSP in the PS Minis line and in the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Xari Arena [Cancelled Game Homebrew Release] - 1 or 2 player simultaneous. Has analog controls. Supports the Atari 5200 Trak-Ball controller. Developed by Atari in 1983-1984, but not released until AtariAge published it in recent years. Xari Arena is a cancelled game that was in development in 1984 when Atari pulled the plug on the console far before its time. It's sort of two player cooperative, and kind of competitive, Breakout, but with some weird, unique twists. It's got fantastic graphics and audio, too. Unfortunately, while the game was complete, Warner Bros., Atari's owners at the time, chose to never release it... not until fans got ahold of it much later and released it themselves, that is. The game seems to get a mixed reception among the fans who have played it, either in emulation, on a flashcart, or as I have it in AtariAge's semi-official boxed release. Some people love this game, while others find it not very good at all. Once I explain how it plays, I think it makes sense why it's divisive. But what do I think? I absolutely love this game! With some of the best graphics, audio, and controls on the system and outstanding gameplay, Xari Arena is an all-time classic. While not quite as amazing as Defender or Space Dungeon are on the 5200, this is still an A-grade classic deserving of some of the highest praise you can give. Xari Arena is a truly exceptional game that gives Warlords and Arkanoid a serious run for their money as the best Breakout-style games ever made. It's a tragedy that Atari cancelled this game, because with releases like this one and Tempest the 5200 might have gotten more of a following than it had. One of the 5200's biggest problems, after all, is that it didn't have a large enough exclusive library, as most of what Warner's Atari published for the system during the maybe 15 months they released games for the 5200 were games that were either enhanced Atari 2600 games, or didn't push the hardware all that much. This game is not like that, at all. This game was designed for the 5200, has exceptional analog controls that are great with a 5200 controller and are even better with the Trak-Ball, and, again, looks and sounds fantastic. Take the time to learn Xari Arena and hopefully you will love it. The game does take some time to learn, though. So, this is a one or two player game, for any mixture of two human and computer players. The standard game is for two players, you against a human or AI opponent, though you can play with nobody on the other side of the screen if you wish. Yes, you can set either player to AI. Player one is on the left side of the screen, and player two the right. On each side, there is a wall of bricks. You lose if your entire wall is destroyed. You control a paddle that the game calls an energy cell. Again, you can freely move around your half of the screen, but cannot move into the opponent's side. In addition to the two paddles, two kinds of objects move around the screen, spiral-shaped fireballs which will destroy the bricks in the two walls if they hit them but you can bounce with your paddle, and round target enemies called Xaris. Xaris stay around the middle part of the screen, but fireballs will go anywhere. When all Xaris in a level are destroyed, both players move on to the next level. A warp and counter in the center of the screen keeps track of how many of them are left. The game has 32 levels until it ends, so unlike most games of its era this game is not endless, you can win. Beating the game will be quite a challenge though, the difficulty level steadily increases as it goes along. The thing is, though, when you touch one of the Xaris you take damage unless you have touched a fireball. If you touch a Xari without any fireball power in your paddle, your paddle will have an 'exploding' animation for three seconds and won't bounce back anything, ball coming at your wall or target Xari. You do not want this to happen! So, you first need to absorb fireballs, which Xaris periodically shoot out. You can choose to absorb or bounce back fireballs with your controller, but will need to absorb some in order to survive contact with a Xari. Each time you touch a fireball you absorb it and a hit is added to your paddle, up to a maximum of four. Once you are filled up, balls you hit with the paddle will always bounce back towards the other side of the field. Also, if you touch a Xari, it will drop the paddle level by one, so you can use up your paddle's power to start clearing enemies once you have absorbed some balls. Alternately, you can try to hit the target enemies with fireballs you bounce back at them, as this will also destroy them if you make direct contact. Xaris are small so hitting them this way can be tricky, but it will happen. As a level goes on things will get more and more frenetic. With two dozen Xaris moving around and a whole bunch of fireballs all over, frantically trying to keep them from destroying your wall while also destroying the Xaris and bouncing back as many fireballs as possible is a significant challenge. It is also an incredibly fun one, though. For controls, you move around with the stick or trackball, reflect fireballs with the lower button if you are not carrying a full load of four but still want to bounce a ball back instead of absorbing it, and use a fire extinguisher shield with the upper button. Fire extinguishers shield your wall of bricks from damage for a moment and destroy all fireballs in or near your wall. You can only use your fire extinguisher a limited number of times, and the number is shown on screen. You get one more per level completed, and choosing when to strategically protect your wall with them is key to the games' strategy. This game starts out easy enough, but as you get farther in things get faster and faster and crazier and crazier. The screen can have like 25 targets and a dozen balls or more bouncing around, and trying to keep track of everything is quite a task! The player who destroys each Xari gets points for it. For the scoring, after each level, each player gets bonus points depending on how many blocks are left on their wall. There are also point bonuses. So, while both players may always be on the same level, the scores will show how well each one is doing. The two players may both be working towards the same goal of defeating all of the Xaris, but you still compete for score. Every few levels there is a little on-screen animation showing Xaris flying around, like the interrupt screens in Pac-Man. It's pretty cool stuff. Of course, there is one final one after you beat the game at level 32, if you can get that far. Interestingly, if one player dies, the other will keep going. The computer will continue by themselves if you die first. The graphics in Xari Arena remind me, more than anything, of a Williams arcade game like Robotron. In terms of visual design the Atari game designer working on this game clearly was heavily influenced by Robotron, for the better, and it shows here. From the paddles to the fireballs and Xaris to the font choices for the games' text, despite solid black backgrounds, Xari Arena has extremely bright and colorful graphics with a very strong graphical style that is both very of its time and also is timelessly beautiful looking. There's barely any slowdown at all, either; this game runs fast and smooth. The fire extinguisher sets off a wall of light along your side that looks really cool, too. The visual look of this game stands out from most other games on this console, it looks amazing and barely looks like an Atari game at all! If this console can do this, with this many things moving around on screen all the time and with this much flash, it's a real shame that games which pushed it were, for the most part, not released. As for audio, Xari Arena has both music and sound effects, so this is another point in its favor. The music is only decently good and not the best ever, but still, it's a solid track which fits the gameplay well and is very catchy and memorable. The sound effects are very well chosen and each one fits its use perfectly. This game has some of the best graphical and audio presentation on the Atari 5200, with games like this released the system could have been a hit. Overall, Xari Arena is a masterpiece. This game may be a bit complicated to explain, but spend a few minutes getting used to it and its genius quickly becomes apparent. The fantastic graphics and sound help, the system needed more of this and less barely enhanced 2600 ports, but the gameplay is the real star here. Xari Arena is a fast and frantic game with depth and absolutely brilliant design top to bottom. I still can't believe this was cancelled in this fully complete state! Warner Bros. really mismanaged the 5200 exceptionally badly, and their choice to not release this gem should be on the list of their mistakes. If you have a Trak-Ball controller for the 5200 this game is an absolute definite must have, buy a copy today. This is a perfect game for that controller. If you don't have a Trak-Ball, the game also plays quite well with the regular controller, though if you love games like this a Trak-Ball is a great investment. The Trak-Ball works extremely well and makes this amazing game even better. Buy Xari Arena today, there aren't many better games out there. This game was originally developed for the Atari 5200. A homebrew port for Atari 8-bit computers exists, but I can't imagine the game playing anywhere near as well on digital controllers. It also was included in Atari Flashback Classics: Volume 3 for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and the modern Atari VCS computer. Rankings -------- The games this time are all quite good. Space Dungeon > Xari Arena > Tempest > Wizard of Wor > Star Wars: The Arcade Game > Vanguard Compared to the games from the previous two parts of this update, Space Dungeon and Xari Arena are the overall top two games in the batch. Tempest is fourth, only behind The Dreadnaught Factor. And the other three are good games in the mix with the system's higher-quality titles, with Wizard of Wor a good bit ahead of the last two. Overall Atari 5200 Top Ten -- 1. Defender 2. Space Dungeon 3. Xari Arena 4. Centipede 5. Galaxian 6. The Dreadnaught Factor 7. Tempest 8. Castle Crisis 9. RealSports Baseball 10. Moon Patrol Top Honorable Mentions: Super Cobra, Magical Fairy Force, Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns, Pole Position, Missile Command, Wizard of Wor Defender and Space Dungeon are A+ classics that are among the best games of the 1980s. Xari Arena, Centipede, and Galaxian are A grade hits deserving of high praise. And the other five are A- tier titles I like a lot. The Atari 5200 is a fantastic console that deserves a much better reputation than it gets.
  5. Thanks, I may want to edit some things into the first post, but both of those edits need to go into post 25, the last post on page one, not the first post. You rarely see it, but there is a NES version of Donkey Kong 3. It's out there and isn't all THAT expensive, demand is low. Also, you're right that different games can be successful at home than were popular in arcades, but I don't think Mario Bros. was a big hit in either place. Sure, people liked it, particularly in multiplayer, but it wasn't a phenomenon like DK or SMB. As for Coleco, they had to work with what they could get. Atari had the licenses for a lot of the top arcade games, so Coleco had to push second-tier games. They did a pretty good job of it, mostly.
  6. Really? I thought I'd always heard that Super Breakout was the only game from the original run which had 4-player support... I do see that I forgot to mention that RealSports Tennis has Trak-Ball support, though. I will edit that in on the version on my site, but there's not much I can do for this forum version, on Atariage you can't edit posts after like an hour for some odd reason. Gah, I know Popeye is a Parker Bros game, I've even reviewed it in the original post in this thread... heh. I just forgot when writing that and didn't catch it. There's another thing I will definitely fix on my site and wish I could fix here. As for Mario Bros. though, I'm not sure how common the arcade cabinet was, but yeah it definitely didn't do anywhere near as well as either Donkey Kong game or Super Mario Bros, to say the last. However, it was at least a very common game in other games. It's been a bonus mode in a bunch of other Mario games, after all, starting with Mario 3 for the NES. That's mostly where I remember it from to be honest. As for Donkey Kong 3, I honestly don't think I've ever played it... I know what it is, that vertical shooter of sorts, but haven't played it as far as I can remember. I like the 5200 controller quite a bit, it's a comfortable and decently designed controller. I'll defend it most of the time, but it definitely shows its weaknesses in games like this one. Getting onto and off of ladders is really frustrating with the 5200 controller. As I said in one of the articles, these issues are why modern controllers have both a d-pad AND an analog stick, and not one or the other. Other than that though, yeah, I agree entirely with what you say... there is a very interesting and important game there but it's also incredibly frustrating due to its design and limited controls. (If only you could duck under the flying enemies...)
  7. Thanks for the replies. I should have replied to some of them, but never got to it. I still will. To make a few comments though, it is clear that several of you like Countermeasure a lot more than I do. I think it's alright, but wouldn't rank it anywhere near the system's best. Also, while Castle Crisis is fantastic, I think that you under-rate your games, Ryan Whitmer. Ratcatcher here is decent but not the best, but Magical Fairy Force really is pretty good. I did write the rest of this update to the 5200 Game Opinion Summaries, though. I finished part two in November... and never posted it here, just on my site. I finished part three yesterday. I probably should post both of them, huh. I will start with part two, and post part three quite soon. Part three has only six summaries, but the file size is actually larger than part two's because of how much I have to say about several of those amazing games. Several of the part three games are among my favorite games made in the 1980s. None of these eight are quite on that level, but they're all interesting in some way or another regardless. Here is part two. Titles covered in this update: Mario Bros. Moon Patrol Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns Ratcatcher [PD Homebrew] RealSports Baseball RealSports Soccer RealSports Tennis River Raid Rankings The Summaries Mario Bros. - 1 or 2 player simultaneous. Developed and published by Atari in 1983. Licensed from Nintendo. Mario Bros. is a port of Nintendo’s arcade game of the same name. Coleco stole home console rights for Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. away from Atari in the early ’80s, but Atari did manage to get the console rights to the next game in the series of sorts, Mario Bros. Atari released ports of the game on their consoles, the 2600 and 5200. Meanwhile, less popular Nintendo games Popeye and Sky Skipper were published on Atari consoles by Parker Bros. I covered Popeye for the 5200 previously, but Sky Skipper was unfortunately only on the 2600. But anyway, Atari’s 2600 and 5200 releases were the first American home console releases of Mario Bros. Nintendo would release a Famicom (NES) version of the game in in Japan in the same year as this one released here, but that would not see an American release until 1986. In the interim, this was one of the better ways to play the game here. Unfortunately for Atari, Mario Bros., while popular, was nowhere near the hit that Donkey Kong before it and Super Mario Bros. after it would be. This is a single-screen arcade game and while it is good, it has always been overshadowed by the games before and after it. Despite that, Atari did a good job with this port. While it is not arcade perfect and, much like Popeye, it doesn’t quite match up to the NES version, Mario Bros. is a great version of an early Nintendo classic. This game and its characters look a little funny, but I think the look works. The game plays well too. As in the arcade game, Mario Bros. takes place in a sewer. This is a single-screen platformer and you walk and jump around the four-level sewer. The game has digital controls and only one button, for jumping. Jumping is limited, in that you cannot control yourself in the air at all. What jump you do is determined before you leave the ground. That’s not like later Mario controls at all, but that is how this game plays. It certainly makes things tougher. Additionally, the digital controls make no use of the 5200 controller’s additional features. This game would surely be easier with a digital controller as you would get quicker response times, useful for avoiding the many enemies. I only have regular 5200 controllers and the Trak-Ball, though. The game plays okay, it just can take you a little longer to stop moving than you’d like. In that sewer, your goal in each screen is to defeat all of the enemies. You need to beat all of them to proceed. Your enemies are Koopas, crabs, fireballs, and various other foes. They start at pipes on the top level of the screen and move towards the bottom. Once they reach pipes on the bottom, they warp back up to the top. Very much unlike almost every game in the series since, you CANNOT jump on your foes here! Instead, you need to hit the platform an enemy is walking on from underneath to stun them. Then you can defeat them with a touch. As in Joust though, wait too long after stunning a foe and it will get back up. Some enemies need to be hit from underneath more than once to knock them out so you can defeat them. There is also a POW block on the screen you can hit from below three times. It will stun enemies. Use this power wisely though, for once you use it up it’s gone until the next level. The game gets hard quickly as your foes pile up and faster and tougher to beat enemies get added into the mix. Things may be a bit easier in the two player co-op mode, though. That’s a great feature to have. Mario Bros. is an addicting classic game. I’ve never loved this game, but it’s fun if you give it some time. This game is challenging, perhaps too much at times, but it’s easy to see why the game was successful. It’s challenging and well designed, and may keep you coming back. Its sequel would be one of the greatest and most important games ever made. This game is not that, but it is a good game certainly worth playing. Is this version in specific a must-play, though? Probably not. It’s neat to have as a Nintendo game on a non-Nintendo console, but there are many versions of Mario Bros. are out there, and quite a few are more arcade-perfect than this. Newer ports will control better than this, too. Even so, Mario Bros. for the 5200 is a good game well worth getting if you already have a 5200. Arcade port. This version is also on Atari 8-bit computers. This game is on many formats, including the NES, Commodore 64 (two different versions), Atari 2600, Atari 7800, NEC PC88, Sinclair XZ Spectrum, Apple II, Amstrad CPC, Game Boy Advance, and in arcade-perfect form on the Nintendo Switch. The game has only one sequel of sorts, Mario Clash for Virtual Boy. That is a pretty good game. Moon Patrol - 1 or 2 player simultaneous. Developed and published by Atari in 1983. Licensed from Williams, the original American publisher. The original arcade game was developed by Irem. Moon Patrol is another port of an arcade classic. Moon Patrol, one of the early Japanese scrolling shooting games, is a side-scrolling platform shooter where you drive to the right while jumping over obstacles and shooting enemies coming your way. The arcade game is simple, but plays well and was apparently one of the first with parallax scrolling backgrounds. The game has background music too, unlike many early arcade titles. This 5200 version is a lower resolution but very accurate port. Just like the arcade game, this version has parallax scrolling backgrounds and music in addition to the sound effects! The backgrounds are really nicely done. Your tank here is a somewhat funny-looking blob thing, but that's alright. Having music is particularly great, this system can do music but often games don't have it. The music is a simple loop but is catchy. In the game you control a moon tank. This is kind of an early auto-runner or shmup-on-wheels game, as you can't stop moving, only go a little faster or slower. This version both looks and plays great. It has nice graphics for the system with parallax scrolling, the controls are responsive, and it contains all the content from the arcade game. The controls are digital and not analog, but work well -- forward and backward on the stick make you go a little faster or slower to move your tank forwards or back, while one button shoots and the other jumps. Yes, jump is on a button. Take note, James Bond 007... but anyway. When you shoot, one bullet goes upwards to the top of the screen, while the other goes only a short distance forwards. Jumping, meanwhile, gives you good control of your jump. Your tank's hitbox is large though, so some later jumps are tricky. This is close to the arcade game and is worlds better than the extremely tricky, tight jumping of the Atari 2600 version. Nearly impossible jumps there are easy in this version. To make things even easier, this game has something very rare for an early '80s console port of an arcade game: continues! And infinite ones, at that. That's right, when you get game over you can start right off from close to where you died. Your score does reset when you continue, though. When you get a game over your time does NOT reset, however, and if you finish a level with a fast time you get a point bonus. The game rewards not dying. This game has two difficulty options, Beginning and Championship. Beginning is a single, easier run through the game. After you beat it you move on to the Championship course. Championship is harder and endlessly loops, so each time you finish a Championship course you start again. Every loop is very similar, though. Each loop of the game is broken up into five areas. You start at letter A. After you get to letters E, J, O, T, and Z, you get a screen showing how you did for that part of the game. In the game, you go to the right through 26 sections, each noted with one letter from the alphabet. In some waves flying enemy ships attack you from the skies, and you've got to shoot them down or avoid them until you get through to the next letter point. Some drop bombs that can blow holes in the ground you will need to jump over. In other waves, your main obstacles are rocks and pits. You need to jump over the pits and shoot or jump over the rocks. Because of your short forward shot distance, you need to really watch out for those rocks on the ground. Enemies in the air can be deadly, but it's the rocks and pits that often are the greater threat here. Eventually you will face more threats and some variation on the formula. The game starts out easy, and finishing Beginning mode won't take long. Championship is more challenging, but with the continue system it's beatable fairly quickly if you don't care about your score. Of course the game loops infinitely so you can always play for more points, though each letter's stage is always fairly similar. This is a simple but fun game. It's a game of quick reactions, as you try to avoid the obstacles coming at you while shooting down your enemies. It does not have the depth of a newer shooting game of course, but this is a very fun classic that is well worth playing. The game has very good graphics for the time, good music, and well designed and balanced enemies and obstacles to work your way past. Really my only issue with Moon Patrol is that it won't last all that long unless you get into playing for score. The game has quite a bit of variety, but with the static stage structure, between the good controls and continue system, unless you want to play this game for score it probably won't last all that long. Still, however long you play it for some version of Moon Patrol is a must-play for classic game fans and this is a great version of it. You can see how Irem would become one of the '80s better arcade game developers. Arcade port. This same version is also on the Atari 8-bit computers. Other ports are available on Atari 2600 (with very tough jumping controls), Apple II, Commodore 64, PC (DOS), Sord M5, Commodore VIC-20, TI99/4A, MSX, Atari ST, Game Boy / Game Boy Color (packed with a port of the NES version of Spy Hunter), and in perfect arcade port form on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. There are likely more versions of this game out there than that as well. There is also an improved homebrew hack / remake of this 5200 version of the game called Moon Patrol Redux. I haven't played that one. Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns - 1 player. Developed and published by Activision in 1984. Pitfall II is a very ambitious game. A groundbreaking platformer when it released in 1984, Pitfall II has a large world to explore and a very modern-feeling continue system with infinite lives that send you back to the last checkpoint. It also is fairly open-ended and, I would say, extremely frustrating. This game was first released on the Atari 2600 and this is a port of that version with moderately upgraded graphics. The 2600 version used an added chip in the cart to get more out of the system, but nothing like that is needed here. The graphics have more detail, but it is clearly the same game. Controls are identical, so this is a digital-control game with one jump button and that's it. It would control much better with a digital controller than the standard analog pad I have, control in this game can be frustrating with the regular controller. As with the Atari 8-bit computer version of this game and only that version, though, Pitfall II for the 5200 has one major advantage over all other versions: it has a significant amount of exclusive added content! If you manage to get to what is the end of this game on any other platform, there is a whole second half of the game, full of more treasures to find and obstacles to avoid, that is just as big as the first half of the game, waiting for you. If you can get to the end of all that, this version has a much more satisfying ending than the 2600 game. Yes, this is one of the few 5200 games with a real ending. These are very cool additions which makes this almost certainly the best console version of this game, if you have a good controller for this kind of game. I do not, the standard 5200 controller has issues with this game. As for the game itself though, Pitfall II is a nonviolent exploration platformer. The world is a rectangular maze of screens, and you move around as Pitfall Harry, running, jumping, climbing, and swimming as you try to avoid all of the many enemies, save several people you need to rescue, and collect as much of the gold as you can find. Oddly, the game scrolls when you go up or down, but flips from screen to screen when you go between screens horizontally. Huh. Your goal is to rescue your niece and cat, get the rat, find a diamond ring, and then escape. Along the way, you want to try to collect as much of the gold as you can. This task will be more challenging than it is on the 2600, though, since you have twice as much game to get through to finish it. As with the first Pitfall, this game is set in a jungle. The map is dramatically more complex than before, though; where before the game was made of 265 nearly identical screens, this time there are fewer screens but each is totally unique, and they are, again, in a rectangle instead of a line. There are also water areas you can swim in which add some variety as well. There are also many ladders to climb up and down. These are very frustrating to use though, as you need to walk up to them while holding UP [or down] and forward to grab on to the ladder; if you just press forward you will fall into the hole the ladder is in, falling straight down until you hit a floor, water, or, frequently, an enemy who of course kills you instantly. The ladder controls are finicky stuff and really should be better. The ambition is obvious here, and a lot is accomplished. However, I find this game maybe more frustrating than it is fun. First, I mentioned the controls already. Those digital and one button-only controls are limiting and are not a great fit for the 5200 controller. I badly wish you could duck; that would make this game much better, I think. Also, this game is sometimes considered to be a proto-Metroidvania game. It does not have items which unlock areas, but it does have exploration. Compared to later titles in this genre this games' exploration is relatively straightforward once you get used to the game, as the game has a mostly linear path to follow with dead ends and smaller side areas along the way that may have gold in them for you to find if you want, but exploration still is a significant part of the game; it's up to you to figure out which are the side paths and which the main one. Again this game is fairly mild in this respect, but still, I do like some exploration in games but strongly prefer to know where I am going; I hate wandering around lost in a game! You can't get too lost in this game, but you can wander around aimlessly in some areas and that gets frustrating. You move slowly in this game so going to a dead end and back can take a while. Also, I know the treasure is optional, but I wish that it told you how many treasures you have. Figure it out yourself. It does have a score on screen, which increases each time you get a treasure, but this score will also go down so it's not a great measure of progress unless you aren't dying. At first I disliked how open the game feels, I want to know where to go. It made me want to not play the game, a common reaction I have to open-world games. However, once I realized that the game is actually fairly linear, I started to like it a bit more. The music is catchy, graphics decent, and some of the exploration is fun. However, while exploring and finding your way can be fun, as you remember which paths to take and where the gold is, the controls are slow and avoiding the enemies is very frustrating. Avoiding enemies requires very precise movement, you must be at the exact right spots to not get hit. And you will often be hit, and you die with one hit. So, even when I am starting to have fun exploring, the constant deaths get in the way. This game introduced the innovative concept of checkpoints in an open world, and they work. The issue is that they are quite far apart. Getting from one to the next without dying over and over and over will take a lot of practice. And when you die yet again and are sent all the way back to the last checkpoint it gets very frustrating. Trying to avoid the enemies and not die on the ladders or such can be really tough. All you can do is walk or jump, no ducking, no fighting back, and enemies are placed to run into you unless you do the exact right movements at just the right spots. For instance, bats fly just at head level, edging just barely higher at certain points so if you stand at the right spots you won't die. Frogs hop back and forth over ladder entrances, killing you if you slightly mess up your timing. And more. Many enemies were placed in order to make getting past them frustratingly hard. And every time you get hit it's all the way back to the last checkpoint for you. When you get hit, you watch Pitfall Harry float back to the checkpoint while a sad song plays while your points reduce down until you get back. The sad version of the song continues playing until you collect some gold. I often wish I could just fight the enemies to get them out of my way to get to some of the gold, but you can't. All you can do is just memorize where to jump that gets you over them. When you do finally work your way to a hard-to-get-to gold bar or person it is quite satisfying and may be worth the hassle, but this game has some definite drawbacks. Overall, Pitfall II is a classic, but you will need a great deal of patience and memorization to get very far in this game. A lot of people love this game, and I recognize the games' ambition and innovation, but between the design, controls, and controller, a lot of the time I find this game much more frustrating than fun. This is a game of exploration and avoidance, and is both simple and yet complex as you try to find out where to jump from and where to go in order to find all of the gold. So far I have not been dedicated enough to it to finish the game, but it is certainly well worth trying. Objectively, Pitfall II probably is a very good to borderline great classic. Subjectively, it's a very frustrating game I don't know that I want to play much more of. Expanded Atari 2600 port. Also on Atari 8-bit computers. Remember, only the 5200 and A8 versions of the game continue on with a second half after finishing the original game. Unexpanded ports of the 2600 version are also available on other platforms, including the Colecovision. Ratcatcher [Homebrew] - 1-3 player simultaneous. Homebrew game developed by Average Software (now Phaser Cat Games) and published by AtariAge in 2016. Ratcatcher is the first original 5200 game from Average Software's Ryan Whitmer, and I think it could be said that his inexperience shows here. His newer title Magical Fairy Force, which I covered last time, is a mostly pretty good game. This game, however, I find much more, well, average. Ratcatcher is a single-screen arcade style game, though this game is far too complex to have made a good arcade game; until reading the manual I didn't have a good sense of what was going on. Once you figure it out the game is alright, but has some design issues. First, though, I should mention that control here is entirely digital. Other than using two buttons this game does nothing with the 5200 controller. You could play the game with one button, but it would make an already hard game even harder. I should also say, perhaps the most interesting thing about this game is its three player simultaneous play. You will, of course, need a model 1 5200 to play with three players, but if you have one this is one of the few games to take advantage of those additional controller ports. As a solo game it definitely loses something, versus having other people on screen; this game feels better balanced for multiple people working together than for a solo player. You can play a single player game, though it will be harder. Anyway, in this game you play as one of three ratcatchers in a sewer. The graphics are sevicably decent and audio is basic. This game is about gameplay, not flash, though it looks alright. You need to avoid deadly obstacles, most notably a massive plague of sewer alligators, while doing as the games' name suggests and grabbing as many rats as you can. Each level has ten rats in it, and you get only one chance at each one. You must grab five rats before the level ends or you lose a life. Getting all ten sends you to a bonus stage full of points to collect before the next regular level returns to normal. You also lose a life if you touch a deadly obstacle such as a live alligator, a cloud of sewer gas, or electrified water. You get rats simply by touching them, unlike in reality they cannot hurt or attack you. They will run away from you when you walk towards them, though, so some strategy will be required. Indeed, strategy is the name of the game here. Ratcatcher takes place on a five-floor screen. Enemies will fill the lower three levels, while the top level is generally safe, at least at first. You can move left and right, but cannot jump; your only interaction is to turn some switches. There are several sets of these, water-wave switches in the center and gate-selection ones along the sides. For those side switches, if you stand in front of the switch by the sewer gates on either side of the screen, the two buttons will move selection lights up and down. One button moves the indicator up, and the other down, for quick selection of any of the four floors. If you walk through that gate, you will come through onto the selected floor. Walking in again will only send you back out that same gate, though, so you'll need to move the indicator again to go back to the floor you came from. You can have different floors selected on each side of the screen though, of course, and doing so is important. You can only change the selected floor at the correct side's gate switches, though, so thinking ahead is important. This can be frustrating though, as enemies will ambush you right after you go through a gate and there's nothing you can do, there's no way you'll be able to change floors and get through before that enemy gets to you. You do have some defenses against the hordes of alligators and other threats, however. First, there also is a water meter which rises over time. Two switches on the center of the top level will, once the water meter is full enough, send a wall of water across the screen, one switch for each direction. This wall of water will go out of the floor you have selected with the gate switches on the side and push anything on that floor as far over as it can. If you let the water meter overflow, it will set off a wall of water in one of the directions even if you don't hit a switch, also. The water will wash away all foes, though washed-away rats are lost and not captured so watch out for that. And last, there are six gates on the lower three levels that you can move up and down with switches on levels two and four. The gates are always there, you can only choose which floors they are on. For both the waves of water and the gates, your ratcatchers are affected; the water will wash you to the side of the screen, and you can't walk through those gates any more than the enemies can. So you need to plan ahead, though with the random nature of the way enemies appear from the sides of the levels this is difficult. You start with "only" having to deal with rats and alligators, but once sewer gas, electrified rats, and more, are added in this game gets tough. And really, that complexity is this games' downfall, I think. This kind of game is best when it is easy to understand and play, but while somewhat interesting, this game is definitely not easy to understand or play. You need to consider which floors to block with gates, when to use the walls of water, and most importantly which floors to set each sides' portals to, while trying to grab those rats and avoid everything else. And if you miss too many rats, you lose a life, and three lives lost and that's Game Over. Ratcatcher is a decent game once you learn how to play it and it certainly presents a good challenge, but it is probably a bit overly complicated and frustrating. It is far too easy to die without feeling like you did anything wrong simply because of unfair enemy spawns in a game where you can't always easily get away from foes. Due to its complexity and challenge Ratcatcher makes a poor first impression. You will lose, quickly, for some time. If you keep going and learn how to play it gets better, though, so if it sounds interesting it may be worth putting some time into, particularly if you have interested other players you can work with, so, say, one person can flip a gate switch while someone else gets the rat without being killed by an alligator right behind it as you would be in single player. This game feels better balanced for multiplayer than single player; as a single player game it is too hard and frustrating. Ratcatcher is, overall, an average game that may be worth a look if it sounds interesting. Atari 5200 homebrew game. This was first made for the 5200. An Atari 8-bit computer version also exists, I believe. The developer also made a PC version. RealSports Baseball - 1 or 2 player simultaneous. Has analog controls. Developed and published by Atari in 1983. In the early '80s, Atari started up a new line of sports games and called it the RealSports series. These games try to be more realistic than the early Atari 2600 sports games. There are RealSports games on the Atari 2600, 5200, and 7800, but of the games in the franchise this one, RealSports Baseball for the 5200, might have the overall best reputation. And after playing it, I get why! RealSports Baseball for 5200 is a great game, and is easily the best pre-crash sports game I own that isn't a tennis/pong game. This game has some flaws, most notably in how hard it is to score runs, but it is very good and holds up great. Baseball is my favorite sport, and this is a good baseball game. For reasons why, first, most early sports games were two player only. This game, however, has AI opposition to play against. The game has four difficulty levels too, to cover many skill levels. Even on the easiest setting beating the computer is difficult because of how hard scoring runs is, but there is still a nice skill gradient here. The game even allows an AI to play against an AI, if you want. Fun stuff. The game has a voiced umpire calling the balls, strikes, and outs, too, for a very nice touch. Voiced speech was rare in games at this point and it's a fantastic inclusion here. Now, this title does only have single games and not a season mode or such, but for this era that is to be expected. There also aren't named players or teams, just a red team and a blue team, and there is just one stadium. That's fine, the game has what it needs. For the time, AI and voice make for a pretty good feature set. As with most baseball games of the pre-crash era, RealSports Baseball for the 5200 is a single-screen game. Later on, baseball games would zoom in and have you basically field on a mini-map, while the zoomed in main screen showed just a part of the field. In this game, though, as with earlier titles, everything is on one screen. This means that the outfield is dramatically condensed down in size; outfielders look like they are standing right behind infielders. The game accounts for this by having the ball take a lot longer to be thrown from an outfielder to an infielder than from one infielder to another, so the real distance is taken into account even if visually it doesn't look that way. There are plusses and minuses to this approach. On the positive side, I have never liked the zoomed-in-field style of baseball games; I want to be able to see on the main screen where the ball is going. My favorite baseball game is Hardball III, which uses a single screen to show the whole vertical distance of the field. That game is newer and higher resolution and has a much more accurately-scaled field than this one, though, so the distances appear correct on screen in a way they don't here. So I kind of like this, but on the negative side, the small outfield makes getting balls to drop for hits much harder than it probably should be! Batting is one of the hardest things in sports, and this game makes successfully hitting the ball pretty hard since fielders almost always seem to be standing right where you hit the ball to. The small outfield here gets frustrating. Still, there's plenty of fun to be had. For batting, there is not a separate batting screen. Instead, the pitcher simply throws the ball towards the batter, who tries to hit it. You pitch by hitting the upper button to throw the ball. You then can control its motion with the stick while the ball flies towards the plate, though only along the horizontal axis; there isn't a vertical axis here for the ball. This makes things a little easier, but batting is still hard. The lower button throws the ball to a base, to try to pick off a runner. If the ball is hit the game automatically selects the closest player. You can change players with the lower button and throw with the upper one once you pick up the ball. The game automatically targets throws to the farthest base that a runner is running towards, which can be annoying at times when you want to go to a much closer base for the out, but you can change your target base with the lower button. Defense works well here and after a few games I wasn't giving up many runs against the easiest AI. When batting, you swing the bat by moving the stick on your controller horizontally from left to right. You need to have the stick start fully on the left side in order to properly swing, then move the stick at the right time to hit the ball. Your stick movement is fully analog, as you would expect on the 5200, for good control. This control scheme is kind of strange, but it works well once you get used to it. Atari would use this same control scheme in other RealSports baseball games, but it works much less well on a console with digital-only controls like the 7800 than it does here. Once you get the timing down for batting this game is fun, even if it is frustratingly hard to actually get enough hits to score many runs against the AI. Overall, RealSports Baseball is a great game. Games against the AI do tend to be low-scoring and victory is difficult, but the effort is rewarding and the controls and gameplay very good and well thought through. With two button and analog both supported here, this game makes good use of the 5200's controller. The voiced speech lines calling balls and strikes are also great and add a lot. This very much is an early title features-wise, but if you don't mind that RealSports Baseball is definitely recommended. This is great for its time and still is a lot of fun today. It's even better in multiplayer, of course. Atari 5200 exclusive. There are games on the Atari 2600 and 7800 with the same name as this game, but they are different games, neither one as good as this one. I covered the 7800 game years ago and did not have good things to say about it. Reading that summary again, I notice that that game shares a lot with this one, they just did everything worse there. RealSports Soccer - 1 or 2 player simultaneous. Has analog controls. Developed and published by Atari in 1983. RealSports Soccer works much less well than the baseball game above, unfortunately. I do not have nearly as much experience playing soccer games as I do baseball games, though I like the sport well enough, but this one... this is not very good. I haven't played many other pre-crash soccer games to compare this one to so perhaps it is fine for the time, but still, after a match or two of this I didn't want to go back. RealSports Soccer is just below average, not awful, but there is little reason to play it today. As you might expect, features-wise this game has one or two player play with four AI difficulty levels. As in RealSports Baseball, player one is the blue team and player two the red one. It has only single matches and no seasons, as with all sports games of its day. The game scrolls on a three screens long field. It's not large, but with how slow the characters move, that size is more than enough. The game does have isometric perspective for a more realistic field angle than most older games had and some nice player animation as they run around. The audio, however, is very simple and basic. You won't find any of Baseball's speech here! Each of the players, either human or AI, starts by controlling one of the two players at the kickoff. The two controlled players have different shirt colors from their teammates, to distinguish them. The ball and the two human or AI-controlled players are always on screen, along with three other AI-controlled players per team that you can switch to. Movement controls are analog, as you would hope for on the 5200, but I don't think that's enough to save this game. For the controls, when you have the ball, one button attempts a pass, and the other other a shot on goal. You can also aim shots high, medium, or low with the 1, 2, or 3 keys on the keypad. When your team has the ball, you always control the player with the ball. When you don't have the ball, you can switch between players with the 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 keys on the keypad. Goalies are automatic and are always AI-controlled, you can only play as the other players. The thing is though, while visually this game is three on three, with, again, the ball and the two controlled players always on screen, as for the four AI-controlled players, when they go off screen they immediately come back on at some random location on the edge of the screen. This gives the sense that there are more team members here, but the game isn't actually keeping track of their locations; it's just randomly having people appear when one leaves. When one leaves on the right, the next one to enter will often be on the left. And of course the ball and the two controlled players never leave the screen. This results in a very stripped-down-feeling soccer game. Worse, this game is slow. The pace of play here is very sluggish and cannot be sped up. This makes the game somewhat boring to play. The game is easy, too. If RealSports Baseball is hard, RealSports Soccer is easy. Scoring goals is easy, and stopping the AI's team from scoring is maybe even easier. Beating the AI takes little effort on any difficulty. Maybe this is a bit better against a human opponent, but it's not very fun against the AI. The game does play okay -- you can run around, pass to your other players, and shoot on goal -- and apart from the slow speed the game looks nice, but with gameplay this slow and easy I don't really want to. Atari tried for some new things here, with the AI opponent, multiple shot angles ayou can shoot at, and such, throw-ins when the ball goes out of bounds, and more, so it may be a decent effort for the time, but the sluggish pace, lacking simulation, and very easy AI hold it back a lot. RealSports Soccer is a tedious, below average game not really worth playing. Atari 5200 exclusive. There is also an Atari 2600 game of the same name, but it's different. RealSports Tennis - 1 or 2 player simultaneous. Has analog controls. Trak-Ball controller supported. Developed and published by Atari in 1983. Tennis was the first sport made into an electronic game. At first you had games like Odyssey Tennis and Pong, simple ball-and-paddle games inspired by tennis, but by the early ’80s things had progressed into a somewhat more realistic simulation of the sport. And that is where this game gets a definitely mixed reception. RealSports Tennis has somewhat bland graphics, with a decent but unexciting isometric court and nicely animated players. As usual in the series, one player is blue and the other red. Yes, this game is singles tennis only, not doubles. You can actually give human players three-letter initials if you want, like in an Odyssey 2 game. Nice. There are no courtside graphics, just the green court on a dark red background. It has challenging AI to play against and allows you to play a full, five-game match of tennis. That’s all okay, though visually and aurally average at best. The controversy here is about the controls. Well, and also the AI. First, controls. In this game, you don’t just automatically hit the ball like you would in Pong Sports / Video Olympics on the 2600. Instead, you move around with full analog controls. You move with the stick or, if you have one, with the Trak-Ball’s ball. The trackball is a bit better of course, but either one works. Either way, the rest of the controls are on the keypad and buttons. To hit the ball, you need a well-timed button press. The button you press may be the regular side buttons or a keypad button, depending; this game makes heavy use of the side buttons. However, in order to serve you need to press the upper side button to serve. Having to go back and forth constantly between side buttons and keypad can get a little confusing at times. Still, serving is easy and you’ll pretty much always hit it in bounds on the serve. The upper side button will also hit the ball back the way it came on a similar angle. You can also hit a lob with the lower side button. However, if you press one of the buttons on the keypad instead during a volley, you will hit the ball towards that part of the opponent’s side of the court. Think of the nine numbers as aiming at the nine sections. With this you can control where the ball is going to a much greater extent than you can in older tennis games. That makes this game feel much more modern than its 1983 vintage. However, the way you do it is somewhat clumsy, with those keypad keys, and the controls take some definite getting used to thanks to how many buttons the game uses. I like having the ability to aim my shot, though. I think it adds to the game. The game was certainly designed around it, you will need to aim carefully to get the ball past the AI. It can be a fun challenge. However, the AI in this game is crushingly difficult! While winning games is possible, the AI gets to the ball almost all of the time. You really need to learn the game to be able to actually win sets. Just hitting the side buttons to hit the ball back the way it came won’t be good enough, aimed shots with the keypad are pretty much required. Some luck would help, as well. This is a somewhat slow-paced game, as the ball often feels like it’s moving slowly, but it does pick up at times. The game can get intense as volleys continue. I wish the AI was fairer but I’m sure that is very hard to do well on a machine from the early ’80s. On the whole I think this game is alright, but flawed. I like the greater control you get from being able to aim your shots, but beating the AI is frustrating and this isn’t the most exciting game. It’s a decent game maybe worth a look, particularly for two interested players. The controls will take getting used to though. Released on Atari 5200 and Atari 8-bit computer. That version looks similar, minus the analog character movement of course. There is also an Atari 2600 game of the same name, but it's different. River Raid – 1 player. Has analog controls. Developed and published by Activision in 1983. River Raid is a port of the very popular and successful Atari 2600 game of the same name. One of Activision’s biggest hits this side of Pitfall, River Raid was naturally ported to many formats and the 5200 is no exception. This port is, for the most part, a by-the-numbers port, largely identical to the original 2600 game except for improved graphical detail. The graphics are much sharper and clearer, this is a nice next-gen enhancement of the game. However, that’s not all. Activision did an interesting thing here — not only did they improve the graphics, they also made the controls fully analog. It’s a really nice change which has a very noticeable impact on the game. Or at least, movement left and right is now fully proportional and analog. Speed control feels more digital, as instead of gradient speed control you switch between set speeds depending on how much you push the stick up or down. Other than that, though, this is River Raid. River Raid is an early vertically-scrolling shmup. You fly a plane in narrow canyons over a river, shooting down enemy ships and tanks and destroying bridges at regular intervals. It was inspired by a famous bridge-attack raid from World War II. This is a simple game, with enemies that only sometimes attack you and relatively simple graphics and gameplay, but it is quite challenging and can be addictive. It is very easy to mess up and hit the walls, and that loses you a life just as fast as enemy bullets do. The game also has a fuel system. Your fuel meter steadily decreases as you go, and flying over fuel tanks refills it. Unlike Konami’s Scramble, you cannot refill fuel by shooting fuel tanks; you need to fly over them without shooting them, instead. Running out of fuel is initially rare, but the farther you get the easier it is to run low. You also will face some more aggressive foes as you get deeper into the game. As mentioned previously, with many 5200 games, this game is a last-gen port, from the 2600. Everything looks better and higher resolution here, with jagged coastlines with cliff faces along the edges of them and more detailed enemies to shoot, but it does not push the hardware as much as an exclusive would. River Raid is no match for the best shmups of the later ’80s, since the game is simple and lacks the depth of a Gradius or R-Type. In this game you just fly up and shoot the somewhat randomly laid out enemies the game throws at you while avoiding the walls. Still, River Raid is an addictive classic that still holds up fairly well. This game is not as complex as a next-gen exclusive like The Dreadnaught Factor, and I don’t like it quite as much as that game, but it’s still good. Enhanced last-gen ports have a place as well. The shooting and dodging gameplay of River Raid is timeless fun. Overall, River Raid is a good enhanced last-gen port. The game is simple, has held up well, and still is a lot of fun to play. I do find it a bit too simple to keep me going for longer play sessions, but it’s a good game to play here and there. I’m not sure if the analog controls make this game better than the 2600 version or not, but they do at least make it distinctly different and certainly are a lot better than the game would feel with digital controls on this system’s analog control stick. I think the results are good and make this version of the game well worth a try, thanks to the controls it’s a bit different from other versions of River Raid. Other than that though this version plays the same as the original. I’m sure more could have been done than they do here. Some of Activision’s games on the 5200 are more impressive than others, and this one is in the middle on that. Oh well, it’s still a good version of a great game. Atari 2600 port. Other ports were released on the Intellivision, Colecovision, Commodore 64, MSX, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, PC, and, as far as I know always in its Atari 2600 form, on numerous Activision collections for newer consoles from the last 25 years. Rankings These rankings are not absolute, but here's what I am thinking at the moment. RealSports Baseball > Moon Patrol > Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns > Mario Bros. > River Raid > RealSports Tennis > Ratcatcher > RealSports Soccer Including the games from part one, The Dreadnaught Factor > Castle Crisis > RealSports Baseball > Moon Patrol > Magical Fairy Force > Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns > Mario Bros. > Blaster > River Raid > RealSports Tennis > Ratcatcher > Decathlon > Frogger > Buck Rogers > James Bond 007 Of these, the game I ranked highest that I like playing the least is Pitfall II. I'm giving it a lot of benefit of the doubt for its ambition, clearly. Based purely on how fun I find it, it would go several spots lower.
  8. True... but on the other hand, the best thing that could happen to 5200 homebrew, quality-wise, is more RAM. And since the 5200's RAM chip is socketed, a homebrew upgrade to expand that amount of RAM to an amount that would let it play any A8 software is possible and would solve the system's main hardware problem. External plug-in RAM expansions are also possible, with limitations, and could potentially get a larger userbase due to ease of use, but an internal one would be better. The amarket for this would be pretty small either way, why not just do the better one... Of course you'd have to open your console to do the upgrade, but as apparently all 5200s have this chip in a socket, so presuming that is accurate it wouldn't be too bad. Greater availability of bank-switching for larger homebrew games would also be important of course, we see with Magical Fairy Force how limiting 32KB is (the game is quite good, but suffers in some ways from the size limit), but that is doable now, I believe. I guess people could alternate make Atarimax-only games, but that would be unfortunate, a standalone cart option is always better. What's really needed is more system memory, and it's possible, as people on this forum have said every once in a while. It's certainly unlikely to happen since putting that project together would be very difficult and expensive, but it sure would be incredible if it could. What we have is great, it's just hard not to wish for the ability for some of the A8's more advanced stuff to run on the 5200, which I also prefer over the A8 computer. It's fine either way but it's nice to dream, you know?
  9. Hello, yes, thank you for the reply. I'd love to have help with any of these issues, if there is anything you can help with! I have more questions about this fairly confusing platform as well, but I focused on the most important ones there. Honestly, since making this thread some months ago I kind of gave up on the IIGS for a while. I have gotten a few things for it and used it some, but... I mean, it works, but this stuff, as well as some other issues I did not mention in the thread, are so confusing and foreign to a lifelong PC user like me. Sure, I used Apple IIs in school as a kid, and I can use this at that level no problem since as I said the 5.25" disk drives work when booting Apple II disks, but I'd like to be able to fully use it, you know? To give a few updates on things I mention in the post, for some minor points I do now have a working SD card reader for my PC (and I got one that can even do CF cards too, though I still don't own any) and a 5.25" disk notcher. I also got an Apple II 3.5" disk drive, but unfortunately it is broken. I haven't tried taking it apart yet to see if I can figure out the issues. I also got an ADT Pro setup with the cable to connect to my PC and the software on a disk. It works fine. Obviously since anything it copies goes to this SCSI2SD via the slow first-version Apple SCSI card, it's a slow way to copy files, but it works. On that note, other than the issues, it is unfortunate that the Apple High Speed SCSI card is expensive, unattainably rare, and does not seem to have any modern homebrew clones. I know I could (and maybe should) get the new re-release of the CFFA3000 card but it'd also be pretty neat to have the real high speed SCSI card or a clone of it, this card is fantastic to have but wow is it slow. The partitions on the Apple II right now -- drive 1 is two 32MB partitions, one of which has the OS on it. Drive 2 is a 2GB HFS drive. Drives 3 and 4 are not formatted currently. GSOS complains about the unformatted drives every time I boot it up, heh. There is one other important thing to mention. I managed to make a working disk on the Apple II, using one of those blank disks I have, in one of my Apple II disk drives, for the first time! I made a Disk Tools disk. ... By copying over a disk image from my PC via ADTPro to a blank, PC-formatted disk in the drive. It works with no issues. When I plug the disk in while in GSOS I can even view the files on the disk. I still have zero success with trying to make disks on the Apple itself, however. It's quite annoying, what am I doing wrong? At least I know it's probably not a disk drive issue now though. Oh, one neat thing -- this Apple IIGS has a fan attached to the power supply, plugged into the fan header on the motherboard. Nice.
  10. I think that I should mention this in this thread as well -- after spending some time with this game since its physical-cart release, I wrote up my thoughts in some length. It is posted at the end of this post here: In short, I love that this game exists and enjoy playing it, but had to be honest when writing up my review. I mostly like the game but do have some issues with it that I discuss. If I've gotten anything wrong please correct me.
  11. So, six years later, I started writing a new Game Opinion Summaries update for the 5200, covering all of the games I've gotten over the last six years for this pretty good console. In this first part, I cover nine games and also the Trak-Ball controller. I was conflicted, though -- should I bump this very old post, or make a new one? I ended up deciding to bump the old one, because why not. I don't know, what do you think, new thread or old? Anyway, I finished this a few weeks ago, but was very conflicted on the last of these, covering Magical Fairy Force, so I put off posting it for a while. On the one hand I absolutely love that the game exists and like the game, but on the other hand I have some criticism of elements of it. I hope that is okay. Atari 5200 Game Opinion Summaries 2021 Update, Part I, and the Atari 5200 Trak-Ball Controller This is the first of what will probably be three parts of this Atari 5200 Game Opinion Summaries update, covering nine titles and also the 5200 Trak-Ball trackball controller. I should say, this is all played with regular carts, I still don't have an Atarimax flashcart. Series Table of Contents In Update One, This Post Table of Contents Introduction The Atari 5200 Trak-Ball Controller Game Opinion Summaries: Blaster [Modern Rerelease of Cancelled Game] Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom Castle Crisis [PD Homebrew] Countermeasure Decathlon (aka The Activision Decathlon) The Dreadnaught Factor Frogger James Bond 007 [1983] Magical Fairy Force [PD Homebrew] In Future Updates Mario Bros. Moon Patrol Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns Ratcatcher [PD Homebrew] RealSports Baseball RealSports Soccer RealSports Tennis River Raid Space Dungeon Star Wars: The Arcade Game Tempest [Cancelled Game Homebrew Release] Wizard of Wor Vanguard Xari Arena [Cancelled Game Homebrew Release] (And potentially more, if I buy any more games soon...) Introduction In this article, I will cover the 23 Atari 5200 games I have bought between September 2015 and the present day in August of 2021. I quite like this system, so I have gotten a fair number of titles considering the small library. Some of these, as noted, are modern homebrew titles from AtariAge, while others are from the original 1982-1985 library. I have also gotten the system’s main controller accessories, the Trak-Ball controller and the joystick coupler. I got another 5200 as well; I now use a model one 5200, instead of the model 2 I used to use, because I like the auto switching RF box, it is very convenient. And yeah, as I said in my first article about the 5200 years ago, I still like the 5200 quite a bit; it is the pre-crash console I use the most. The controller isn’t nearly as bad as people say and has some pretty cool features, the graphics are good for the time, its game library makes up for with quality what it lacks in quantity, and I like the console’s design and style a lot as well. Given the number of titles to cover, I will break this up into parts. These games are fairly simple so it won’t take long to get through all of them though. In this article I will cover the first 9. It’s a good mix of titles, covering both new homebrews and titles from the system’s original run. The Atari 5200 Trak-Ball Controller The Atari 5200 had a short life, and most software was designed around its standard controller. Atari considered a paddle controller, but did not end up releasing it. No digital controller was offered either, though third-party options do exist, working well with games that are not analog. I like the 5200 controller, but it does not work equally well for all games. A controller perfect for digital games might have been nice, but instead, Atari released a trackball. A trackball is basically an upside-down analog mouse. Instead of moving a mouse around that rolls a ball to represent movement, you roll the ball itself to move something around the screen. Trackballs were popular in early arcade games for titles that needed analog control, and while the 5200 controller is analog, its analog stick is not nearly as good as a trackball is for games designed for this kind of controller. Atari realized this and answered with the 5200’s only first-party controller accessory, the Trak-Ball. It released early in the system’s life, so they are relatively common. I got one complete in box a couple of years ago. This very large controller, the Atari 5200 Trak-Ball, is perhaps best known for being big, but it’s also amazing. Indeed, of the classic trackballs I have, this one is easily my favorite! It works very well, has decent buttons, and makes the games that support it significantly better. The 5200 trackball may be as large or larger than your average console, but the ball rolls very well and it feels great to use. That heft helps the controller’s feel, I would say. The Atari 5200 Trak-Ball works by basically emulating a joystick. As great as it is, this is its one fault — it’s not a “real” trackball, acting like a mouse. It’s really pretending to be a 5200 analog stick, which gives control a slightly floaty feel. See this Atari-Age thread for more. I don’t mind this at all, as there may be better trackballs out there for computers, but of the console trackballs of the ’70s or ’80s this is by a very wide margin the best one in my experience. Despite the way it works, the 5200 trackball’s only other fault is that it only works with games designed to support it. It may be emulating a joystick inside, but the bounds the trackball uses are very different from those used by a stick, and games not designed around the trackball rarely work well, or at all, with it. Atari did not put in a mode that fully emulates the regular controller’s analog stick. The other console trackballs that I have for older consoles work not only with games designed for analog, but also can emulate a standard joystick if you wish to play any other game with a trackball instead of a regular controller. The Colecovision trackball even has indentations in it for you to put controllers in, so you can use the buttons on the trackball base and the stick on a controller, to make a pretty nice arcade stick. That’s really cool. The Sega Master System trackball similarly has both analog and digital-emulation modes. I wish that the 5200 trackball had had something similar, it’d have been nice considering how few games support this controller. However, what’s not as good about those other trackballs i how well they work, or rather, don’t work. Having multiple modes and more support is all well and good, but that’s only helpful if you actually want to use the trackball as a trackball! And with those other old trackballs I have, I don’t. The SMS trackball is absolutely horrible, with extremely slow movement regardless of game or mode. The Colecovision one has slightly better movement than that, but it’s still not very good. It’s a nice arcade stick but not a good trackball. The 5200 one, however, is outstanding! I love using this controller, and absolutely have bought some games, and some homebrew games, because they support the Trak-Ball controller. I would highly recommend a Trak-Ball to anyone with a 5200, they are fantastic, well-made, great looking controllers well worth the price. Every supported game is made significantly better. And on that note, from my previous article (at the top of this thread), Super Breakout, Space Invaders, Centipede, Defender, Missile Command, and Pole Position support the trackball. Of them, Centipede and Missile Command are exceptional. Both are great with the regular controller, but are better with the trackball. These are far better versions of these games than any version relying on a d-pad or analog joystick for controls! Centipede alone might make the trackball worth getting, and there is more. Super Breakout is also better with the trackball than the regular controller, though I still find the game slow and kind of boring. The others work less well, though. Space Invaders and Galaxian are playable, but not better, the loss of precision of knowing where your stick is, as compared to a rolling ball, makes the games harder overall. Pole Position and Defender struggle even more, as you have to constantly spin the ball in an uncomfortable way. Defender is not fun to play this way with how that game controls, and Pole Position is just somewhat odd to control this way, I couldn’t get used to it and kept crashing. I’m sure there are some out there who like it, though. I will cover more trackball games in this series, two in this update. Fortunately both go in the good category of trackball games. Overall, the Atari 5200 Trak-Ball controller is fantastic. Buy one. This is the best trackball for a classic console. Atari 5200 Game Opinion Summaries 2021 Update, Part I Please note: all games use the regular Atari 5200 controller unless otherwise noted. Blaster [Modern Rerelease of Cancelled Game] – 1 player. Developed by Vid Kidz / Williams in about 1983. Was to be published by Atari, but was cancelled due to the crash. Released by AtariAge in the 2000s. Blaster is a rail shooter from Williams. It was developed by their star programmer Eugene Jarvis at his short-lived Vidz company. After making Defender for Williams, Jarvis left in 1981 to make his own company, though all four Vid Kidz titles were published by Williams so he didn’t go far. This game was their last one, before being taken out by the video game crash of 1984. While an arcade version of the game was released in 1983, even though this Atari 5200 version was actually completed first, Williams’ arcade-first priority led to the home version eventually getting cancelled because of the crash. Fortunately completed prototype copies exist and are now available from AtariAge, complete with box if you want. Now, Jarvis is one of arcade gaming’s legends, but Blaster is by far the least well known and least popular of his four pre-crash arcade games. When your first three games are Defender, Defender II/Stargate, and Robotron 2084, though, that isn’t hard to understand; those three are some of the greatest classics ever. Blaster? It’s fun and I definitely like it, but it’s no Defender. But what is Blaster? It is, again, a first-person rail shooter… on the Atari 5200. This game is a technical marvel and easily has some of the very best graphics this system has ever done! The graphical style may look like a strange mess at first glance, but play it a bit and everything is identifiable and looks great. Everything “scales” into and out of the screen extremely impressively. It’s probably very well done fake scaling of some kind, but regardless it looks amazing. However, the game has very simple gameplay, without the depth or challenge of Defender or Robotron. While fun, this game is more of a tech showcase than an amazing game. Even so, between its outstanding graphics and good gameplay I quite like Blaster overall. The game has four stages, and after going through all four it loops back to the beginning but with slightly higher difficulty. After you complete each level, you go to the next one. The game shows your current stage on screen in a status bar along the to, along with your score, number of lives, and energy. Yes, you have a health bar in this game, you don’t die in one hit. It is essential considering how chaotic things get. The controls are good, sometimes slow framerate aside, and work well on the 5200 controller. The first stage has you flying along a planet shooting enemies and avoiding walls, while flying through gates if you want. Everything on this level is made up of open rectangles. Enemies explode once you shoot them, which is a cool effect. It works once you get used to it and runs fairly well; there definitely is slowdown, but with how much this game is doing I don’t blame the game for it. It’s just impressive this system can pull off pretty good scaling at all! But it can, as Blaster proves. The second stage is essentially a bonus stage. There are no enemies here. It’s a warp zone with a cool ‘warp’ effect in the background where you try to pick up stranded astronauts in a warp tunnel for bonus points. I don’t understand why the bonus stage is the second segment of each level and not the last one, I think it would have been better at the end. Oh well. The third stage is a space battle. This returns to the enemies made of rectangles, except now you’rej ust fighting them in space, no land or gates. It’s a good level. The fourth and last stage in each level is an asteroid field. Shoot all of the asteroids coming at you before they hit you! This time the objects are rock sprites, not objects made up of those open rectangles. There are also some enemies who shoot at you here, and some stranded astronauts to try to pick up. It’s kind of like first person Asteroids. On the whole, Blaster is a must-see title for its visuals. It really is amazing that the 5200 can do this, even if it slows down so much the screens full of what sure look like scaling sprites look incredible for the early ’80s! As for the gameplay, again, this is a simple game. You can move around a little, but only a little to avoid obstacles and such; you are mostly locked to your route, hopefully shooting anything that gets in your way as you go. The game starts out easy but does slowly get more difficult as you complete more levels, so there is a solid difficulty curve here, but some hits can feel unfair with how hard things are to make out sometimes. The health bar helps with this, though. Blaster is definitely worth playing, but is it worth buying considering the cost of buying a copy from AtariAge? For me, yes, no question. For others, though? Well, definitely play it, at least. While definitely not Eugene Jarvis’s best Atari 5200 game, Blaster is a solidly good game that is impressive to see. Also released in arcades. This is the original version, though that one is enhanced over this release. This Atari 5200 version is exclusive, though the arcade version is available in Midway Presents Arcade’s Greatest Hits: The Midway Collection 2 (PC / PlayStation) and Midway Arcade Treasures [1] (GameCube / PlayStation 2 / Xbox / PC). Unfortunately it is not in the newer Midway Arcade Origins collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom – 1 player. Developed and published by Sega in 1983. Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom, or Zoom 909 as its original Japanese arcade game was titled before they added the Buck Rogers license to the Western release, was one of Sega’s first super-scaler style games. This game is a behind-the-ship rail shooter, and in arcades and on Colecovision it has many different stage types along the way through each loop of the game. It’s a good title and I like the various ways enemies come at you in the different ‘stages’, though determining 3d depth can be hard, you will often miss enemy ships you think you are lined up with. This flaw applies to all versions of the game except for one, the Atari 2600 version. However, this is not the Colecovision version, or the 2600 version. It is the Atari 5200 version, and as with all versions other than the Colecovision, the game is dramatically reduced in stage count. As with most non-Colecovision ports, this version of Buck Rogers has “five” stages per level: first three parts on the planet, as you go through gates and fight enemies. The game calls this multiple rounds but it’s basically one, you just go through gates in the start then fight one type of enemy and then several before you leave the planet. Once you leave, first you fight a formation of enemies and then a boss before you move on to the next level. It’s a decent formula, but it is hard to forget that the Coleco version has something like twice as much stage variety, or to get over both versions’ common flaw, how hard hitting enemies can be with the 3d perspective. The audio is also extremely basic, with no music and only simple sound effects for your gun and engine noise. The analog controls help slightly, compared to other home versions of Buck Rogers, but not enough to make me want to play this. Worse, I also can’t help but to compare this game to the outstanding Atari 2600 version of the game, which I covered in a summary years ago. I absolutely love that game, it’s one of my favorite 2600 games! While the key design is mostly the same as this 5200 version in terms of it stage layout, the 2600 makes one major change, probably due to lesser hardware power it makes the game play on a flat plane. Removing the ‘where is the enemy actually?’ problem is a huge help, and as a result the 2600 has easily my favorite version of Planet of Zoom. It has the best audio by far as well, with some really cool sounds that you won’t find in this 5200 game. Yes, the 2600 both plays and sounds better than the 5200 version of this game. This is probably the only time I will say that, but it’s true here. Overall, Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom is an average game at best, and is deeply disappointing compared to the Atari 2600 version. Probably don’t buy this, get the 2600 version for the best version or the Colecovision one for the one that is the most faithful to the arcade game. I got this game knowing it wasn’t the best but wanting it anyway because I like this system, but it probably wasn’t really worth it. Arcade port. Many versions of this game were released, most notably on the Colecovision, but also on Atari 2600, Sega SG-1000 (note, this is NOT the same as the Colecovision version despite near-identical hardware!), PC, ZX Spectrum, TI-99/4A, Commodore VIC-20, Atari 8-bit computer, Commodore 64, Apple II, MSX, and Coleco Adam. The arcade version is pretty good, but of what I have played I think I actually like the simple, 2d Atari 2600 version the best. Castle Crisis [PD Homebrew] – 1 to 4 player simultaneous. You can use the regular controller, but the game also supports a paddle controller if you have a prototype or homebrew one. Homebrew title published by AtariAge in 2004. This game is a Warlords clone for the 5200. If you know the Atari classic Warlords, you know this game; it is Warlords, with a few additions. Warlords is one of my favorite games on the 2600 and the 5200’s analog controller is a great fit for controlling a paddle, so it’s fantastic that a fan decided to do waht Atari didn’t and make a 5200 version of this classic. This game is based on the arcade version more so than the Atari 2600 game. Warlords, on the 2600 or arcade, is a four player block-breaking game. Instead of just breaking a wall like Breakout, here there are four forts made of blocks in the corners of the screen, with a paddle protecting each one. The game starts with one ball, or fireball rather. You must protect the warlord inside your fort. One of the buttons holds the ball, so you can launch it off from the point you choose. You defend your fort while trying to bounce the ball around the enemy paddles and destroy the warlords in the three other forts. Each time one of the four players is knocked out, another fireball is added to the field. The game will also add a second fireball early on if nobody hits anything for a while. It’s a fantastic game with great controls, a paddle might be neat but the analog stick works extremely well here. This is a challenging, fast-paced, and frenetic game that can be incredibly fun. The game has absolutely no slowdown and gets the feel of the arcade game down exceptionally. For game modes, there aren’t many. The single player has only a single difficulty level, and it’s tough. The game keeps a score in this mode if you want to write down best scores, and if you win a game you go right into a new one until you lose. One loss and it’s game over. The two player mode is like the single player, but with two people. It’s co-op basically, and you don’t get game over until both players lose in the same level. Three and four player games are single-round versus only matches which don’t have a score or progression. All of these modes are just like arcade Warlords. In any mode, all non-human players are filled with some pretty tough AIs. More options might be nice, but they aren’t really needed. Really, the only negative is that this is an extremely faithful unlicensed clone of an Atari game, but at least they changed the name, most homebrew conversions like this don’t even do that. AtariAge and Atari may have some kind of deal anyway, AtariAge uses Atari’s logo and such without issue. There is one issue however. On the 2600 four player play is easy, since 2600 paddles come two to a cable. On the 5200 it is trickier however, as controllers are one to a cable and only the first model of the console has four controller ports, the second model dropped to two since Atari released basically nothing using more than two controllers, Super Breakout excepted, but it’s just an alternating mode there anyway. Had they released games like this back then perhaps the model two would have kept four controller ports, because this is a fantastic time! I wouldn’t call the controls better than the 2600, since paddles are a really good fit for this kind of game, but the analog joystick works just about as well. Overall, Castle Crisis is great. This is a fantastic conversion of one of the best pre-crash games. Whether it’s worth the money or not is up to you, as it’s a full-price game on AtariAge and as great as the single player is the multiplayer is a huge part of the fun and you’ll need a 4-port system to get the most of it, but even just for single player play it’s a great, great game which I definitely recommend. That it isn’t an original idea, but a homebrew port, is really my only criticism here. This game is only released on the Atari 8-bit computer and Atari 5200, but it is a very faithful port of the arcade game Warlords, which has been released on many formats, most notably the Atari 2600. Warlords has modern remakes as well. Countermeasure – 1 or 2 player alternating. Released by Atari in 1982. Countermeasure is an early 5200 game from Atari, and it is their only released 5200 game that is exclusive to this system, this game wasn’t released on arcades, 2600, or Atari 8-bit computer. Control here is not analog, but it does have eight-direction shooting and aiming. The game does make full use of both action buttons and has some complexity to it. Reading the manual is highly recommended before playing this game. Countermeasure is a decent, but perhaps overly difficult, overhead tank action game with some complexity to it. The game scrolls upwards vertically, infinitely so I believe, though each level has a timer and you move slowly so you will usually only get a few screens up if you are playing well. Along the way you will find enemy turrets that rotate and shoot at you when you are in their line of fire, towers that contain clues to the code you need for this level, rocket silos to touch if you know the code and wish to end the level, and terrain obstacles which slow you down and block your fire. You slowly drive upwards in your tank, shooting enemies and trying to save the world. For controls, you move with the stick. One button shoots, and the other, when held down, will rotate the turret to the direction you press. So, turning your turret is easy here, which is pretty nice. The very slow movement speed can make the game frustrating, though. The controls are responsive, but while this game is solid it often feels unfair, the enemies often seem to be able to shoot farther than you and hit you when you can’t hit them. Again, your slow movement speed also makes avoidance tricky. Staying alive in the main levels is hard, those towers are merciless! Still, the way that your movement speed and fire distance vary depending on terrain is pretty cool, and advanced for 1982. The graphics are alright, with solid sprite art and recognizable terrain. The sounds are good, though there is no music, a far too common issue on this console. As I suggested in the previous paragraph, your main goal here isn’t just to get to the end of each level. Instead, as the game’s name suggests, you need to find the countermeasure code to stop an oncoming enemy nuclear attack. You need to find the three letters of the launch code that will save America from the enemy nukes! Each launch code is three letters long, and there are three letters that can go in each spot, O, L, or E. Letters can repeat in multiple spots though so you do want to find the clues and not just guess. Each clue tower will tell you one of the three letters of the code. Once you get the code, or enough of it, or are running out of time and have no choice, go to a tower. The enemy helpfully waits to launch their nukes until you get into the tower to stop them. Once you touch a tower you CANNOT leave and must enter the code before the tower’s countdown ends. Note, this is a separate timer from the one in the level before. If you fail to input the code, it is Game Over and a skull appears over the world map on the screen. Ouch. If you succeed, it’s on to the next level, where the colors may change to give the game some variety. As with most games of the time the game never ends, every time you save the world you just start again on the next, slightly harder, stage until you eventually run out of lives. Each level is short, and the game starts out easy. There are ten difficulty levels available, which adds some replay value. The launch code on each stage also randomize so you can’t just memorize them. Overall Countermeasure is okay. This game can be fun and definitely is a tense and challenging experience, but the frustrating difficulty and slow gameplay hold it back. I like overhead vehicular action games and was hoping for something great for one of Atari’s only 5200 exclusives, but this game is a slow and bland game that is above average, but not one of the system’s best. Atari’s best 5200 exclusives were never released, unfortunately. Still, with a low price and decent gameplay Countermeasure is probably worth picking up if it sounds interesting. This game is officially a Atari 5200 exclusive, though I believe that a homebrew Atari 8-bit port exists. Decathlon (aka The Activision Decathlon) – 1 or 2 player simultaneous. Developed and published by Activision in 1984. Decathalon is a port of the Atari 2600 game of the same name. As with many of Activision’s 5200 ports of 2600 games, it is a graphically enhanced version of the game that changes almost nothing in terms of gameplay other than making the game harder to control. The audio isn’t much improved either, expect only very basic sound effects and minimal start and end music. So, there is very little reason to get this game on the 5200 specifically versus the 2600 version unless you really like this system. That said, Decathalon is a decently fun olympic sports game that can be fun, so for cheap enough it’s worth a thought despite how similar it is to the original version. As with the original version, this game has only one mode, the decathlon, and you don’t really have AI opposition, only one or two humans. You do get points based on your performance, though. There is an AI racer running on screen with you in the track running events, but their times are not recorded anywhere after the races and they do not compete in the jumping or throwing events, so this really is just a score or multiplayer-only game. I wish it had more full AI opposition, that would add to the game. As with most Olympic sports games, Decathlon is, at its core, a button-masher, or stick-twister in this case. Konami’s Track & Field used two alternating buttons to run, but this one uses alternating between left and right movements on the stick to run. You have a meter on the screen for each player showing your current pace, and can affect it with proper stick-movement rhythm. You will also use a button for jumping or throwing in those events. As you might expect, the 5200 controller’s loose analog stick makes running a bit trickier than it is on the 2600 with its tight digital stick. This game is playable, but the constant stick-waggle gameplay is tiring and gets old fast. Playing this a lot would be bad for your hands, I would say. As the name suggests, there are ten events in this title as you go through the ten parts of a decathlon track and field event. You’ll run the 100, 400, and 1500 meter track races and a hurdles race, jump the longjump and high jump, throw the discus, javelin, and such. Most events are simple to control, but getting the timing right for the jumping events can be challenging and will definitely require practice and perhaps a read of the manual. The graphics are nice and are enhanced over the 2600 version. This game is far from essential even on the 2600 but is an amusing enough game once in a while. The controls on this version do hold it back a bit, but it’s alright. This game has definitely aged, with its very short runtime and lack of AI opposition, but even so is an above average game on the edge of good. This game could have been a lot better but is okay. Atari 2600 port. Also released on Atari 8-bit computers. Other ports of the game were released on Commodore 64, MSX, and Colecovision. The Dreadnaught Factor – 1 player. Released by Activision in 1983. The Dreadnaught Factor is one of Activision’s few console games of the early ’80s that isn’t a port of an Atari 2600 games. This game is an early scrolling shmup. The game was only released on the Intellivision and 5200, and the two versions are quite different — this one is vertical scrolling, while the Intellivision version, as you might expect, has worse graphics and is horizontal scrolling. This game is one of those titles which shows what the Atari 5200 can do, and it is impressive. The graphics here are really good, with nicely-drawn sprites and some cool effects as the enemy ships approach you. Audio work is also great. This is the kind of thing this system can do when it wasn’t just getting last-gen ports! The Dreadnaught Factor is a shmup where you fight against a finite fleet of enemy battleships. Yes, finite — this is one of those rare pre-crash games that you can actually beat and last more than a few minutes! The game has different difficulty levels, each with more battleships than the last. The easy modes are quite simple to complete, but the 100-dreadnaught hardest mode will be much more of a challenge; this game does have limited lives and no continues. In the game you fly upwards, facing off against the dreadnaught one at a time. This game has full analog control, so your side-to-side and forward speed are proportionally controllable. You cannot stop or turn around however, only slow down to a crawl. One action buttons shoots lasers that hit turrets, fighters, or bridges, and the other drops bombs that go in exhaust ports or engines. Yes, this game makes good use of the 5200 controller’s strengths. Your main objective is to blow up all of the exhaust ports on each ship. Destroy those and you will blow up the ship. In order to do that though, you will need to destroy many turrets, bridges, and engines on the ship in order to slow the ships down and make them shoot at you less. The game has some nice strategy to it as you consider what to attack. Now, I mentioned speed control, but you can’t stop, so each time you fly over the dreadnaught without dying you will automatically fly back around for another pass. Dreadnaughts advance after every pass however, and if you take too many passes and a dreadnaught reaches your base, it’s Game Over. You can get shot down many times and keep going as you have many lives, but the game ends if they reach the base. The game doesn’t have a lot of variety, but makes up for it with its quality. Sure, you just fly up, avoid enemy fire, and shoot targets on the various types of dreadnaughts, but with good graphics, good controls, and well designed, high quality action that pushes its genre forward in ways rarely seen at the time, The Dreadnaught Factor is a pretty impressive game for the pre-crash era. How great is this compared to the top shmups of the NES, though? Well, it’s no Gradius and it is a more limited game in some respects, with less graphical variety and a slow difficulty curve, but it makes up for it with great gameplay. There is challenge eventually, there are different styles of dreadnaughts with different designs so you aren’t just shooting the exact same ship every time, and challenge the loop is a lot of fun, though, so I don’t mind the pretty minor flaws much at all. I also really like that you can actually beat this game. This is a standout game for the 5200 and one of the best shooters of the pre-crash era. Also released on Atari 8-bit computers, without the analog controls there of course. The game was also released on the Intellivision, though that version is fairly different; it is a side-scroller instead of vertical. Frogger – 1-2 player alternating. By Parker Bros., 1983 (licensed from Konami). Frogger is one of the early arcade hits and it has been ported to dozens of platforms, past and present. The Atari 5200 version is a solid port, but this game is a very poor fit for the Atari 5200 controller. I mostly like the 5200 controller, but certain types of games don’t work well with that analog stick and a precise digital-control game like Pac-Man or, here, Frogger is at the top of that list. I imagine most people know how Frogger plays, but I should describe it. This is a single-screen arcade game. You are a frog and need to get across a road and a river in order to get to the other side and score points. You move space-by-space, trying to avoid the oncoming cars in the first half and then trying to stay on the logs and alligators in the second half so as to not fall in the water. For some reason this frog can’t swim, which is quite silly. The game has nice graphics that well respresent the arcade game. It is a simple but addictive arcade game. The game looks and sounds nice and plays correctly, just as Frogger should. the issue is the controller. You have two control options here: either you can use the stick and a fire button, or the keypad. For the stick option, you use the stick to choose which direction you want to move, and a fire button to jump. The stick is more comfortable to use, but its drawback is how much you have to move it to make Frogger change directions. This delay makes quick reactions very difficult, and it is the controller’s fault and not the game. The keypad option is simpler, hit # to go into keypad mode and then you just push the 2, 4, 6, and 8 keys on the keypad to move in the four directions. A complete copy of the game comes with an overlay that leaves the 2, 4, 6, and 8 digits exposed, though it is quite unnecessary once you remember that those are the directions. The keypad is a quicker and more reliable way to move, but these sunken-in rubbery keys were not meant to be main action buttons, just supplimentary ones, so I find this less comfortable. I’d almost rather use the stick honestly, even if it makes the game harder. The four buttons are also far apart from eachother. So, both control options have good and bad points. Parker Bros. did the best they could with the controls in this game, but as good as the 5200 is its controller is not equally suited for all kinds of games. As I have said before, this issue is why modern controllers have both a d-pad and an analog stick on them, each one has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of game being played. The 5200 controller was highly innovative and I like it, but this game shows that it is better for some kinds of games than others. Arcade port. This version was also released on Atari 8-bit computers, there with simpler digital controls. Other versions of Frogger have been released on dozens of platforms. Frogger is surely one of the most-ported games ever. James Bond 007 [1983] – 1 or 2 player alternating. By Parker Bros., 1984. This is one of the many Atari 2600 to 5200 ports on this platform. This game is generally unpopular on the 2600, and unfortunately this is an accurate port. Parker Bros. made some great 5200 games, but while this game has improved graphics and sound over the original 2600 version, the gameplay is the same and that is the main problem here. While not bad, this is, unfortunately, a below average game. What is the game, though? Well, James Bond 007 is a side-scrolling vehicular action game. Each of the three levels is loosely themed after scenes from different James Bond movies, but they all involve you driving in a car, car-boat, or such. The game tells you the movie name and your number of lives before your car takes off and the next stage starts. This game kind of plays like a much worse, more complex take on Moon Patrol with mission objectives that it doesn’t tell you except in the manual. You can move forward and back a bit with the stick. You jump by pushing the stick up, which is awful and very hard to control. If you hold the stick up you will keep jumping as soon as you hit the ground, so watch out. The game uses one fire button, which fires your two kinds of shots, anti-air missiles and bombs/depth charges, to hit enemies above or below you. Both attacks go diagonally forwards and you cannot turn around so if you miss an enemy it can be a problem, some will shoot you from behind. The game badly needed either separate fire buttons for the two attacks or a jump button, but no, it’s just a lazy 2600 port controls-wise. Oh well. For graphics and sound it’s a mixed bag. While there are some nice graphical details here, particularly in the animated Bond waving and getting into his car in each level’s intro, this game both looks and plays worse than Moon Patrol on the 5200. The game does scroll smoothly, as expected on the 5200, but don’t expect any parallax here. There is a nice rendition of the James Bond theme on the main menu, but as sadly usual on the 5200 there is no in-game music. Anyway, in each stage, you drive to the right. You cannot stop so you will need some good reflexes to survive. You need to jump over pits and shoot enemies as you try to accomplish the objective in each level, which generally means reaching the end of the stage. You do need to know what to do in order to complete each mission though, so read the manual. You should try to shoot the diamonds in the sky in the Diamonds are Forever level, for instance, and must jump onto and land on a specific oil platform in another level. You will do a lot of jumping here but cannot control your car in the air, so if you’re shot midair there isn’t much you can do, you lose a life. Similarly, you can also dive under the water in some areas, but only in a jump-style automatic dive which you cannot really control while underway. This game gets very frustrating far too often, as dodging enemy far is a huge pain. Practice pays off, but is it really worth the hassle? There are also three difficulty levels, with the easiest as the default. And that’s the game. The graphical differences and moderate complexity of each mission is interesting, but the flawed, slow controls and sometimes very frustrating gameplay make this game much harder than it should be. Like most people, I haven’t finished all three levels yet and don’t know if I will. It probably loops afterwards, though. This is a below-average game that probably isn’t worth playing. If you do, get ready to memorize everything and die constantly. I don’t regret getting it, but can’t recommend this one to anyone other than serious James Bond diehards or 5200 collectors. Released on Atari 2600 first, then also Atari 5200 and Atari 8-bit computer (this version), Colecovision, Sega SG-1000, and Commodore 64. Magical Fairy Force [Homebrew] – 1-2 player simultaneous. Supports the Atari 5200 Trak-Ball controller or a regular 5200 joystick. Homebrew game developed by Average Software (aka Phaser Cat Games) and published by AtariAge in 2021. The game was completed and released digitally in 2020, but due to production delays the physical cart was not released until 2021. Magical Fairy Force is an original homebrew title, something quite rare for the Atari 5200. I was looking forward to this game for some time before its release and it’s awesome to finally have a copy! It is from the same developer as Ratcatcher, which I will cover later. The game was loosely inspired by the versus Neo-Geo shmup Twinkle Star Sprites, but is its own, entirely original game. It isn’t as good as Twinkle Star Sprites, but it’s a 2KB game for much older hardware, it does what it can. The primary influence Magical Fairy Force takes from Twinkle Star Sprites is that it is a two player splitscreen versus shmup. Unlike that game though, probably for technical reasons the split here is horizontal instead of vertical, so one player is on the top half of the screen and the other the bottom. Both players shoot towards the center of the screen, so they face eachother but cannot hit eachother due to a status bar between them. The game has two modes and no difficulty options, either one player versus a computer or two people against eachother. The game was mostly designed as a two player versus game. The single player vs. AI side of the game fortunately exists, but was not the focus. Sadly, I have no one to play against so I can only judge the single player here. The single player mode is a story mode where you fight against all of the other characters and then get an ending text screen for that character. It’s cool that each character gets an ending, that adds some replay value. The two player mode is a basic versus mode, it does not keep track of wins and losses. The game is fun but there are no difficulty options and the game is mostly somewhat easy, though this does vary depending on which character you play as and whether you use controller or trackball. The core gameplay here is to move around your side of the screen, charging your super meter by shooting enemies and then using those super attacks once the meter fills. This game has fully analog movement. The joystick works well, but if you have a Trak-Ball controller as I do it is highly recommended! With the trackball, control is basically perfect. Anyone with a 5200 trackball really should get this game. Anyway, one button shoots your normal shots, and the other uses a special attack. Each match ends when one player runs out of health. Each match is one round long, and the single player game has eight matches, against the eight characters. Multiplayer is strictly a single-match affair. On screen, on each player’s end of the screen a status bar has a character portrait, health which is made up of four blocks, and the super meter. In the middle of the screen in a black bar are two timer bars, if one runs out that player loses. Also in the black section along a bar on the top or bottom edge of each player’s half of the screen, small wisps appear. These wisps are your main targets as shooting them fills your super meter. They will shoot bullets at you sometimes, shooting straight at you, but can’t move and only appear in this bar. Below/above that is the blue area you can move around in. Here you have your character sprite, and each of the eight characters has a custom sprite, and a few obstacles, most notably clouds and fairy dust, along with wisp bullets and enemy super attacks. Touching clouds drains your timer quickly, so shoot them if they are getting in your way. I have almost never run out of time though, so the threat of the timer is rarely an issue so long as you shoot the clouds in your way. The graphics are pretty good for this system and have an impressive amount of detail. Audio is extremely minimal, however; there are only very basic sound effects and that’s it, there is no music. My other criticism is of the core gameplay loop, that is, of shooting those small, immobile wisps. The gameplay, as you move mostly left and right trying to hit those wisps while shooting or dodging lightning bolts, bullets, and super moves, is fun and rewarding when you do well, but it lacks the excitement of its inspiration. Twinkle Star Sprites is a dynamic game full of enemies attacking in wave-based patterns. You don’t really have any of that here, you just shoot the wisps while dodging or shooting any other obstacles or enemy supers in your way. For the 5200 this is a fairly complex game, but I can’t help but wish for more dynamic action than this target-shooting-focused title. I would never expect the equal of Neo-Geo gameplay complexity on the 5200 of course, but it’s too bad that something more like the pattern-based waves of Twinkle Star Sprites aren’t here. I know you couldn’t do too many patterns in a playfield this horizontally wide and vertically narrow, but maybe something could have been done. On the other hand though, while a bit dry the game is fun. It requires good skill, and matches get tense as health dwindles. The game also shows off the Trak-Ball well. Bullets can be dangerous, but most damage in this game is done by special attacks you charge by shooting those wisps. You have two abilities, a weaker one for about half of your super meter which sends a couple of lightning bolts at your enemy, and a character-specific super attack for a full, blinking meter. Enemy lightning bolts are easy to shoot down and fill up your super meter a nice amount if you shoot them, but if you miss one and it gets past you that player does take a hit. Still, I think they’re probably too easy to dispose of, taking damage to lightning is rare as far as I’ve seen in this game so far. They add some tension as you have to get over to them to shoot them down, but I almost always make it. The full-bar supers are another story though, they are definitely dangerous. I like how each character has a custom move, that’s impressive for such a small game. I don’t think all eight are equally balanced, though; some are MUCH easier to hit enemies with than others, and while the different characters’ meters do charge at different speeds, still I get the strong sense that this game isn’t balanced. At least against the AI, I think some characters are significantly better than others. It all depends on how easy it is to hit the AI with your supers. Oddly, the final boss’s super is not the best one, I would say. I know balance is hard, but this is one of my main issues with the game. Things may be quite different against a human, but I haven’t been able to play that way so far. It may sound like I am criticizing this game a lot, but I do like this game and enjoy playing it. It is simple and yet has depth, the graphics are good, and the controls are spot-on. I do wish it had more polish and balance, and more features such as music, difficulty options for single player, and a win-loss record for multiplayer, but I know the game creator said that they couldn’t fit more features in this cartridge size, the largest the system natively supports. Unfortunately, while having a larger cartridge with bank switching is possible on the 5200, it is not currently available much at all. I hope that that changes, this game could use the space. What’s here is good but a few more features would be great and the balance is questionable. When I first played this game, I lost my first match, won my second, lost my third, and then went back to read the manual more thoroughly. After that I easily beat the game without losing a single round. Yeah. I seem to have happened to select a character with one of the best supers, and got lucky in that few full-bar supers were used against me during the game; the AI sometimes uses full-bar super attacks and other times just throws that mostly useless lighting at you for long stretches, for some reason. When that happens you win easily. I had fun despite how easy it was, though, so I decided to play again with a different character. I found it much harder with them, I died many times. Overall, the difficulty is a little easy but is balanced reasonably, most of the time I do get a few game overs before winning. Fortunately you have infinite continues in this game, so you will win so long as you keep trying. That’s good design. Overall, Magical Fairy Force is a good game. It doesn’t quite reach greatness, at least in single player, but it is good and can be a lot of fun to play. The graphics are great, challenge reasonable, and the action fast and a good mix of skill and luck. I also love that it’s an original game and not just another conversion or port! It is also great to see another Trak-Ball game, the 5200 trackball is an amazing controller and needs more games. The core ‘shoot the little wisps in a line on top of your half of the screen’ gameplay isn’t as exciting as I wish it was, audio is minimal, and the super attacks seem quite unbalanced, but the game is much more good than bad. If I had another human to play against, instead of the sometimes iffy AI, I probably would like the game more, too; again, it was designed first and foremost for multiplayer that I can’t often try these days. I can imagine multiplayer matches being pretty tense at times, as you go back and forth. This indie game has some issues, but it’s pretty good overall and absolutely is worth buying. This game is a 5200 exclusive so far, though the developer is working on a PC (Steam digital download) port/remake with added features. Rankings If I was ranking these games against eachother, I would put them in this order: The Dreadnaught Factor > Castle Crisis > Magical Fairy Force >> Blaster > Countermeasure > Decathlon >>> Frogger > Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom > James Bond 007 The top three of these are very good games I definitely recommend, and the fourth is at least worth a look for sure. Overall none of these games quite match Defender, Centipedeo, or Galaxian, games I covered in my original 5200 list, but The Dreadnaught Factor is close. As for those last two, though… well, James Bond and Buck Rogers are, currently, my two least favorite games of the now over 40 titles I have for the 5200. Ah well. If that’s the worst a system has, we’re talking about a pretty solid console.
  12. I'm not sure if this is the best place to ask this question, but I hope that someone can help... So, I gave in to childhood memories (kind of) in my most recent addition to my collection when I got an Apple IIGS. I say 'kind of' because I mostly remember the Apple IIe and not the GS, but still, it's an Apple II-line machine. I've got a bunch of stuff for it since but it's been one seriously steep learning curve; this machine is extremely complex and hard to learn in a way that other old computers I have (TI99/4A, C64/128, VIC-20...) aren't. That I am used to PCs and not Macs (I've been a PC user since the early '90s) and this is the first Apple machine I've ever owned doesn't make figuring out how to do anything in the OS any easier, that's for sure. But I've figured a lot of it out, and really like this machine for the most part. I got lucky and got a working IIGs with the original monitor and a SCSI card for a reasonable price. It is the revision C regular-speed card and not the high speed card, so it's slow, but still, it's really cool to have. It is a ROM 01 system. To that, I ended up getting a SCSI2SD v5.5 card for a hard drive; I know the Compact Flash-based modern cards you can get would be much faster, but this was a bit cheaper and uses much more convenient SD cards. I don't own any Compact Flash anything, I'd need a reader for them and such if I got one of those cards. With external USB power the SCSI2SD works, it's just got really slow transfer speeds when moving files to or from it on the Apple II. Game load times and such are fine though, as expected with how small they are. I also ended up getting a modern 8MB RAM expansion, and have been running GSOS 6.04 on the SCSI2SD. It works and I've tried a bunch of games and such on it, great stuff. I got a compatible keyboard and mouse for it and they work great. I also replaced the clock/settings battery. Fortunately the old, original one showed no sign of leaking. For disk drives, all I currently have are two 5.25" disk drives, a DuoDisk drive and a solo 5.25" drive, for original Apple II/IIe software running from disk. Both seem to work, though I have some issues that ... may be software and not hardware problems I think? I really don't know, please help. I do want to get a working 3.5" drive for Apple IIGS software but haven't gotten one yet. I will eventually... So what are the problems I made this thread for? There are two main ones and they are really, really frustrating me. 1) Hard drive partitioning. So, as I said, I have a SCSI2SD 5.5 connected to the IIGS via its original regular speed revision C Apple SCSI card. Note, the SCSI card is in slot 7. I've got an 8GB micro SD card in it, partitioned into four 2GB virtual drives in the SCSI2SD configuration software (on my PC, which is right next to the IIGS). Here's the issue though, what do I need to do to get more partitions on this thing? I know that natively the Apple II only supports two 32MB ProDos partitions per drive. In the GSOS 6.04 Finder, all I can do is reformat existing partitions, or format one partition on a drive. When I added the "fourth" virtual drive to the micro SD card for example, GSOS recognized it and let me put one partition on the drive, either a 32MB ProDOS partition or a 2GB HFS partition. If there's a way in GSOS to do more than one partition, which I very much need, I have absolutely no idea where it is. Is there some tool for this on a disc somewhere? I did find a (Apple IIe or such) drive partitioning tool from Apple that let me create two 32MB partitions per drive, but that's all. I think I heard that on a IIGS there is some way of having more than two 32MB ProDos partitions on the same drive? What does THIS, do you need a High Speed SCSI card or a CFFA3000 (these are now insanely expensive, no thanks) or something? Drive partitioning has me incredibly confused, why does GSOS only let you format ONE partition per drive, that makes no sense. Unless there's a tools disk I'm missing with the key tool on it that works with the regular, not high speed, SCSI card? (There probably is, this system has a million tools disks available online...) 1-A) The other drive partitioning problem I have is with the Apple IIGS and CiderPress on my PC often not recognizing the partitions on the micro SD card. Now, my PC SD card reader sadly broke a few days ago and I haven't bought a new one yet so I can't add files to the IIGS at the moment (I will get a replacement), but managing to get partitions that both the PC and Apple IIGS can both see was really frustrating. Last time I checked, of the partitions on that card, the Apple IIGS currently sees, on "virtual drive" one, two 32MB ProDos partitions. I imagine there's some way to format the rest of it as HFS or more ProDos partitions but as I said if so I have no idea how. The second and third virtual drives have only one 2GB HFS partition each, though I may change this if I can, more ProDos partitions as well as HFS ones would be better (since you can't load 8-bit software from HFS). CiderPress on my PC cannot see the second or third virtual drives AT ALL however so the only way to get software on them is to copy it over excruciatingly slowly, one ProDos partition at a time, on the one non-boot ProDos partition on drive one that CiderPress does see. This is really a pain, why is this? Drive four currently has just one ProDos partition and needs more. I'm not sure if CiderPress can see it or not (again, broken SD reader). 1-B) For one more comment on CiderPress, it's a good program but it sure would be nice if it could format drives with an Apple Partition Map that the computer could recognize! You know, with choices for the size and number of partitions and such. That it can't is seriously annoying and a big pain, honestly... there are ways around this problem, as I have read online, but that'd make it a lot simpler. It took a while to just manage to get a partition on the SD card that the computer could actually see. I had to do a fair amount of research online to get to that point. But anyway, I got that done and it boots fine now. I just don't want to mess up that boot partition, heh... With how many problems I've had with the 'put files on the SD Card on my PC and then put it into the Apple', I think I'm going to get an ADTPro cable and such just to make the transfer process maybe easier... But with that 2) Floppy disk drives. So, as I said I have those two 5.25" drives... well three really with how one is a DuoDisk. The solo drive and the first drive in the DuoDisk can both load the handful of legit Apple II disks that I have if you boot the system from the drive. Turn computer on with boot set to boot from the floppy drives first, it'll boot the disk. Okay, that's good. There are glitches in the program in some disks but that could well be issues with the disks themselves, I'm not sure; it's the same on both drives. I don't know what the problem is, but the disks do boot and run. I haven't managed to quit out of any of these disks to a command prompt that allows me to use the "catalog" or "init" commands, when I try from the prompt it just gives an error message, but maybe I just don't have disks that let me do that? I don't know this format well enough to know. But the few legit disks I have do boot on these drives, and you can use the programs. 2-A) However, in GSOS (6.04), I can't manage to get the disk drives to work AT ALL. I can't format disks, can't load these disks or view the files on them, can't do anything. My guess is that the disks are copy protected, and on the Apple II a copy protected disk can't even be VIEWED in the OS? That's got to be it, yes? That's a pretty insanely annoying restriction if true! Legit disks that only function if booted cold but otherwise act like they're blank disks with unknown formatting on them... how strange. Okay though, if that's what it is I get it. 2-B) That's not the main problem, however. Formatting blank disks is. I have a box of IBM formatted blank DS/DD 5.25" disks. I've used them on my PC and, after reformatting them on a Commodore disk drive, on my C128 for Commodore 64 software as well. [I don't have a disk emulator for the Commodore, only an XU1541.) These disks work great on my Commodore 128 and 1541 disk drive. (Yes, I know that I can only use one side of each disk because they only have a notch on one side, these are single-sided drives, and I don't have a disk notcher. I badly need to get one but still have not. But for the Apple this will only matter once I actually figure out why I can't format them at all...) I'm pretty sure that the Apple II uses double density disks, just like the C64/128, so these should be the correct disks. So why do I get an error message every time that I try to format a disk in GSOS? In the DuoDisk, when I try to format a disk in GSOS in the first drive it fails almost immediately with error "Unknown error: $0008". In the second drive in the DuoDisk it seems to work better, and I get the expected disk drive sounds... until it fails out with "Unknown Error: $00A8" after some time making noises. It does not format the disks. In the solo drive the same thing happens as this one, a fairly quick Unknown Error: $00A8 and it gives up. I think the system is good, it claims to be working in the self-test. These same disks can load stuff if booted straight from the disk. So what in the WORLD is the problem here, this is really an issue... I need to be able to use real disks in order to use an older computer, and you can't do much of that when it won't format them! Of course it won't read formatted disks either, as I mention above, but that could be a copy protection issue? Unless I am missing some file the system needs to make disk drives work correctly in GSOS? I've tried a few games that have a 'format save disk' function and I have no more luck there, it doesn't work. I've seen (quite incorrect) 'the disk is write protected' errors for example. I need help. Is the problem the drives, the disks, the computer? Or am I just missing some critical step? Lastly, on a related note: 3) How exactly do I add things to the GSOS's Apple menu on the left? System Tools or whatever. And which should I want to add? On one final note, it sure would be nice if you could make the screen image wider, the borders on this monitor are massive and the monitor really small (this is the official IIGS monitor; it's 12", right). One of the knobs makes the image taller, but you can't make it any wider. Oh well, it's awesome to have the real monitor and that's what's most important by far. That and that as far as I can tell everything works perfectly hardware-wise. I'm sorry this is so long but I've been thinking about and working on this machine a lot for some weeks now and I'm kind of stuck. I particularly would like any advice with the floppy disk formatting problem.
  13. I just converted the .cof file to a .cdi with Jiffi and then burned it in DiscJuggler (in Windows 10) and ... it works on my Jag CD! Awesome. As for the game, the concept is really, really cool. I like this kind of racing game a lot and this one looks and plays well. The only issue is that the game is really short, it feels like more of a techdemo than a game. What's here is awesome but it's very easy and I beat all the tracks in both gravity on and gravity off modes in about half an hour. Once you get used to the trick of how the controls work, that you have to let go of the accelerator to keep speeds above the speed you go by holding that button down, the game's easy and fun. So yeah it's short, but this is a little game by one person and having something that's this fun and nice looking on the Jag is awesome. It's always fantastic when Jag homebrews use graphics that actually push the hardware beyond Amiga/Atari ST-level stuff, as far as I've seen so far it's rare for a homebrew to see polygonal 3d like you do here! The tubes look cool and the game moves nicely fast. Oh, the music's great as well. That said though, it's definitely praise that playing this mostly made me want more -- best time saving (something Tube SE also needs!) to give you more to do in the game; maybe some kind of progression; more obstacles and tougher courses later on; maybe an option for multiple laps in the courses; etc. But anyway, what's here is quite fun, I enjoyed it.
  14. What happened is people like Best Electronics finally ran out of unsold new old stock Jag CDs a couple of years ago, so now all you have is the resale market... and that retro gaming resale market exploded in value industry-wide last year. The Jag CD was already quite expensive by 2019, and now it's gone well up above where it was then.
  15. One pretty interesting thing is that the one player and two player modes have entirely different level sets as far as I can tell, it's worth playing both even as one person just to go through the two player versions of the stages.
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