Very good write up! Thanks for sharing.
You mentioned that the 5200 has a "small library, and poor reputation." While the library is smaller, its small time frame of existence had put out more games per year than the Lynx, Jaguar, and 7800. The 7800 lasted in some cities 8 years but put out 59 games? As far as the reputation, the 5200 was considered one of the most cutting edge consoles in 82 when it released and only the Colecovision rivaled it. Bally, Astrocade, Intellivision, Oddysey, 2600 all had nothing on the 5200 when it was released. The poor reputation was a myth in the early 80s and was created after the fact especially in the day of youtube. If anything, the release of the 7800 during the time of the Nes and Sega and the release of the Jaguar during the era of SNES, N64, Genesis, PS1 had Atari with a poor reputation.
You mention, "The 5200 isn't powerful enough to do perfect ports of early '80s arcade games, so 5200 games are at least somewhat unique, and no 5200 game is available on any modern platform "
In 82, there were no perfect arcade ports from any console. Even the Colecovision version of Donkey Kong was missing screens and other details. What the 5200 was doing in 82 was pretty amazing. There are aspects of 5200 Centipede that imo were better than the original (i.e, Scorpion).
In terms of Berzerk review, I disagree that the controls are slow. I think the controller work great for the sticks but the game design was slower not the sticks. Your complaint that the game doesn't seem to have a point is the same as the arcade. You have to imagine in 83, there was no console that offered berzerk with speech synthesis.
I also disagree with you that the 7800 has better graphics on Centipede. The spider is more detailed on the 5200 plus the centipede fluidity when it comes down is smoother. The aspect ratios are also off with the wand much bigger on the 7800 and leaving not much playing field. The controls on the 5200 are true to the arcade with analog or trackball. Plus the 7800 lines on the screen are annoying. I do like 7800 two player mode. We're not even talking about sound effects and sound. Having own the 7800 since 86, thee 5200 centipede is king of all versions in that generation and it isn't even close.
Hopper on the TI-99/4A does not have better graphics than 5200 Pengo. Unlike Hopper, Pengo looks and feels like its an arcade game and it does a good job translating the arcade experience for 82. Plus it has music and more sound effects than Hopper. My cousin had a TI and we used to play a lot of TI games like invaders.
While Super Breakout was probably the wrong game to pack in, it's still a great game. The fact that it's difficult for you tells me you haven't learned how to use the 5200 sticks yet. Once you know how to use the controllers, you will appreciate more Countermeasure. The game wasn't supposed to be fast. TANKS are slow.
Countermeasure on the 5200 is one of the gems and is a reason to buy the 5200 (Space Dungeon, Baseball, Tempest, Gremlins, Centipede too). Many 5200 purists love Countermeasure.
Great conversations here about the 5200. Thanks!