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Atari 400/800 vs 5200 Game Differences

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I've finally gotten around to making a section on my site about all the differences between Atari 400/800 and 5200 ports of games.  Check it out if you're interested (or even if you're not):  http://www.atariprotos.com/other/gamediff/gamediff.htm

 

Also if you see something wrong or something I've missed, please let me know.  There are lots of things to look for and I'm sure something slipped by me.

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Whoa, you certainly put a lot of research into this. I was not aware of quite a lot of differences you documented there. Thank you!

 

Here's a few corrections and additions:

- Astro Chase: Exidy Max-A-Flex contained an Atari 600XL, not 800XL.

- Ballblazer, Rescue on Fractalus:

a) While the 5200 versions were finished in 1984, AFAIK the releases were delayed until 1986, as every known copy of 5200 Ballblazer and RoF holds the 1986 Atari Corp. copyright on the label.

b) The 8-bit releases by Epyx came earlier, in mid-1985.

c) There were also UK Activision disk releases, which had an additional animated Activision logo, but omitted the disk-loading animations; and Activision tape versions, which had only the Lucasfilm logo and no other animations.

- Ballblazer:

The change from "Regulation Certified" to "Tournament Certified" was not introduced by Atari - there were at least two different disk releases by Epyx, and one of them already contains the change from "Regulation" to "Tournament". Compare the ATX dumps from Atarimania and from the A8Preservation collection. But that's not the only difference: if you try to display the disks' directories in DOS 2, a "BALLBLAZER (c) 1985" text is displayed. In the case of the "Tournament Certified" disk, the output contains an additional version number "V. E6", suggesting that this version is the later of the two.

- Kangaroo:

There is an apparent ROM prototype of Kangaroo for the 8-bits, which might be worth comparing.

- Rescue on Fractalus:

There are a few more minor differences between the 1987 cartridge and the 1985 disk:

a) the 1987 cartridge can be played using only console keys, a change done to support the XEGS without keyboard,

b) on the title screen it is possible to select up to level 30 instead of 16,

c) the mothership lauching animation has slightly more animated elements in the disk version!

- Maybe it'd be a good idea to describe Mario Bros. and BattleZone as well? They are kind-of the opposite of the Dig Dug/Qix situation.

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Cool stuff. Thanks to both of for adding that. Very interesting. Certainly more than I would have noticed, and the background info is excellent. 

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12 hours ago, Kr0tki said:

Whoa, you certainly put a lot of research into this. I was not aware of quite a lot of differences you documented there. Thank you!

 

Here's a few corrections and additions:

- Astro Chase: Exidy Max-A-Flex contained an Atari 600XL, not 800XL.

- Ballblazer, Rescue on Fractalus:

a) While the 5200 versions were finished in 1984, AFAIK the releases were delayed until 1986, as every known copy of 5200 Ballblazer and RoF holds the 1986 Atari Corp. copyright on the label.

b) The 8-bit releases by Epyx came earlier, in mid-1985.

c) There were also UK Activision disk releases, which had an additional animated Activision logo, but omitted the disk-loading animations; and Activision tape versions, which had only the Lucasfilm logo and no other animations.

- Ballblazer:

The change from "Regulation Certified" to "Tournament Certified" was not introduced by Atari - there were at least two different disk releases by Epyx, and one of them already contains the change from "Regulation" to "Tournament". Compare the ATX dumps from Atarimania and from the A8Preservation collection. But that's not the only difference: if you try to display the disks' directories in DOS 2, a "BALLBLAZER (c) 1985" text is displayed. In the case of the "Tournament Certified" disk, the output contains an additional version number "V. E6", suggesting that this version is the later of the two.

- Kangaroo:

There is an apparent ROM prototype of Kangaroo for the 8-bits, which might be worth comparing.

- Rescue on Fractalus:

There are a few more minor differences between the 1987 cartridge and the 1985 disk:

a) the 1987 cartridge can be played using only console keys, a change done to support the XEGS without keyboard,

b) on the title screen it is possible to select up to level 30 instead of 16,

c) the mothership lauching animation has slightly more animated elements in the disk version!

- Maybe it'd be a good idea to describe Mario Bros. and BattleZone as well? They are kind-of the opposite of the Dig Dug/Qix situation.

Wow, thanks for the info,  I'll fix those entries.  So you're saying that the 8-bit disk releases of RoF and Ballblazer came out before the 5200 cart version?  Interesting.

 

Yeah I saw that Kangaroo proto for the 400/800 but I'm not sure if its providence.  I've seen some people say that it's really a hack of the 5200 version.

 

I thought about Mario Bros and Battlezone but decided against it since they're XE games.  I only included the XE versions of RoF and BB since they're the same code base as the 5200 version.  I'll consider it though.

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That's some impressive detective work!

 

Note that Pac-Man was re-released by Datasoft in what is essentially the 5200 game (with intermissions). Also, Frogger II had a disk version by SEGA with additional splash screen.

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Posted (edited)

Yeah - and to open the Pandora's box, in addition to the PB cartridge, there is a variety of all-slightly-different official releases of the 1st Frogger by Sierra-On-Line (1 disk and two tapes) 🙂

 

8 hours ago, Tempest said:

So you're saying that the 8-bit disk releases of RoF and Ballblazer came out before the 5200 cart version?  Interesting.

Well I cannot prove beyond all doubts that the 5200 versions were _not_ released in 1984, but it seems that it is indeed the case, that both games (and also Gremlins) were delayed until 1986. It is a common misconception that both games were fist released for the 5200 in March 1984, thanks to LucasArts themselves, who once provided this date on their old website, and to Wikipedia who cited that website in their articles on RoF and Ballblazer. It is IMO wrong and needs to be straightened up - apparently the 1985 Epyx releases were the 1st releases worldwide. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any concrete evidence (such as a newspaper article or press release) to back it up (it's hard to find reports on anything 5200-related after 1984), so the Wikipedia pages remain as they are for now.

Edited by Kr0tki

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3 hours ago, www.atarimania.com said:

That's some impressive detective work!

 

Note that Pac-Man was re-released by Datasoft in what is essentially the 5200 game (with intermissions). Also, Frogger II had a disk version by SEGA with additional splash screen.

Ok I can add those.  Thank you.  If it's the same code base as the cartridge version I don't mind adding it, but if it's a totally different game (like the Sierra Frogger) then it's out of scope.

 

2 hours ago, Kr0tki said:

Yeah - and to open the Pandora's box, in addition to the PB cartridge, there is a variety of all-slightly-different official releases of the 1st Frogger by Sierra-On-Line (1 disk and two tapes) 🙂

 

Well I cannot prove beyond all doubts that the 5200 versions were _not_ released in 1984, but it seems that it is indeed the case, that both games (and also Gremlins) were delayed until 1986. It is a common misconception that both games were fist released for the 5200 in March 1984, thanks to LucasArts themselves, who once provided this date on their old website, and to Wikipedia who cited that website in their articles on RoF and Ballblazer. It is IMO wrong and needs to be straightened up - apparently the 1985 Epyx releases were the 1st releases worldwide. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any concrete evidence (such as a newspaper article or press release) to back it up (it's hard to find reports on anything 5200-related after 1984), so the Wikipedia pages remain as they are for now.

I've heard the story about Gremlins myself and I think one of the programmers (might have been John himself) confirmed it.  Seems logical so I'll mention it with the caveat that we're not 100% sure.

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4 hours ago, www.atarimania.com said:

That's some impressive detective work!

 

Note that Pac-Man was re-released by Datasoft in what is essentially the 5200 game (with intermissions).

Do you have the disk image for the Datasoft version?  I can't seem to find it.

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2 hours ago, Tempest said:

Do you have the disk image for the Datasoft version?  I can't seem to find it.

Check out post #11 here.

Great writeup btw, always enjoy your site.

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Posted (edited)

Full dumps of both the Datasoft disk and the US Gold tape of Pac-Man are contained in the A8Preservation collection.

--

Thanks to @hunmanik's excellent Atari history timelines I found a little snippet in Computer Entertainer Feb/1987 p. 11 that mentions that Atari Corp. started selling 5200 BB and RoF in late 1986, and that it was all Warner-inherited stock. Though I have yet to confirm that the games were _not_ published earlier.

 

Also, wouldn't you believe it, in this old thread from 2003 some user named Tempest was swearing he owned a 1984 cartridge of RoF. :-D

 

EDIT: Found it! Computer Entertainer Feb/1985 p. 1, mentioning that Epyx licenced distribution rights from Lucasfilm, also confirms that the 5200 versions had not been yet released until that point. Thank you Matt for inspiration - now I can fix Wikipedia and finaly sleep peacefully again.

Edited by Kr0tki
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1 hour ago, Kr0tki said:

Also, wouldn't you believe it, in this old thread from 2003 some user named Tempest was swearing he owned a 1984 cartridge of RoF. :-D

If I did I don't now.  Both of my carts say 1986 on them.

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I once investigated software that behaves differently on NTSC and PAL machines, so I figured out, let's see if the 5200 cartridges behave the same as their 8-bit counterparts in this regard. I know the planned PAL version of the 5200 was cancelled, but it is possible to make a "PAL 5200" in an emulator.

 

Turns out, there are a few additional differences in this area:

 

- Dig Dug

800: uses different palettes on NTSC/PAL

5200: NTSC palette only

- Joust

800: uses different palette on PAL (apparently only the colour of the title and player 1 is changed though)

5200: the feature to switch the palette is implemented, but the palette itself is missing. The game displays a completely black screen on PAL, but the player can still launch the game and hear gameplay sounds.


- Missile Command

800: does not change vertical space

5200: Uses more vertical space on PAL
Notably, the supposed PAL 5200 prototype might actually be not a PAL prototype at all, since it lacks this behaviour - it uses the "NTSC" screen space in both NTSC and PAL modes. Maybe it is simply an earlier version with the PAL geometry not yet implemented?

 

- Star Raiders

800: NTSC palette only

5200: uses different palette on PAL (e.g. long range scan, shields)


- Super Breakout

800: does not change vertical space

5200: Uses more vertical space on PAL


- Track and Field

800: Displays a different title on PAL

5200: Has only one title

 

As a side note, here are titles that behave the same on both the 8-bits and the 5200:

- Galaxian uses more vertical space on PAL (player ship and score row moved down).

- Jr. Pac-Man uses different palettes on NTSC/PAL

- Kangaroo uses different palettes on NTSC/PAL

- Keystone Kapers uses more vertical space on PAL (the credits row is moved a few pixels down)

- Ms. Pac-Man uses different palette on NTSC/PAL

Note: the PAL palette has wrong colour for the cherry (green). On the 8-bits there was a second cartridge release that had the PAL cherry colour fixed to red.

- Pitfall II uses more vertical space on PAL (the credits row is moved a few pixels down)

- River Raid uses more vertical space on PAL (the status bar is larger)

- Pole Position uses different palettes on NTSC/PAL

Note: the colour differences in the 5200 prototype are caused by this feature being not yet implemented in that version - the prototype only contains the NTSC palette, and that is how it would look on a PAL machine. When run on an NTSC 5200, the prototype displays the same colours as the final version, with the exception of the blue roadway and a different shade of red in the banks.


Also, the 5200-only Qix and Vanguard also use different palettes for NTSC and PAL.

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40 minutes ago, Kr0tki said:

- Track and Field

800: Displays a different title on PAL

 

Good call on that one, I love how the game displays two different titles depending on the system!

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Hmm... I'm not sure I want to get into NTSC vs PAL.  I'll think about it.

 

Thanks for pointing out that proto issue.  I'll correct it.

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On 7/9/2021 at 5:03 AM, Kr0tki said:

Yeah - and to open the Pandora's box, in addition to the PB cartridge, there is a variety of all-slightly-different official releases of the 1st Frogger by Sierra-On-Line (1 disk and two tapes) 🙂

 

Well I cannot prove beyond all doubts that the 5200 versions were _not_ released in 1984, but it seems that it is indeed the case, that both games (and also Gremlins) were delayed until 1986. It is a common misconception that both games were fist released for the 5200 in March 1984, thanks to LucasArts themselves, who once provided this date on their old website, and to Wikipedia who cited that website in their articles on RoF and Ballblazer. It is IMO wrong and needs to be straightened up - apparently the 1985 Epyx releases were the 1st releases worldwide. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any concrete evidence (such as a newspaper article or press release) to back it up (it's hard to find reports on anything 5200-related after 1984), so the Wikipedia pages remain as they are for now.

 

Based on the 5200 sales figures for 1986 and 1987 I think 5200 Gremlins didn't get out until 1987.

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87?  I can't believe it was that late.  You're competing with the NES at that point.

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Added Choplifter, The Final Legacy. The Last Starfighter, and Track & Field.

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Thanks for taking the time to do this.   Always wanted to see a game-by-game comparison like you have done.

 

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1 hour ago, scotty said:

Thanks for taking the time to do this.   Always wanted to see a game-by-game comparison like you have done.

 

Thanks, I appreciate that.  I have fun doing it.

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On the Dig Dug page you mention that

"Much like Centipede, Dig Dug was originally an Atari 400/800 that was completely reprogrammed instead of being ported.  However, unlike the 5200 version of Centipede, the 5200 port of Dig Dug was eventually ported back to the Atari 400/800."

 

However, the 5200 rewrite of Centipede did officially make its way to the 400/800 at some point. I know, because that's the version I had on an Atari compilation from the late 1980s!

 

While I wasn't even aware there were two versions back then, I've since seen both and the "5200" Centipede looks identical to the one I played on my 800XL, whereas the original "400/800" conversion is clearly different.

 

The compilation was a Atari UK cassette release dated 1987- I bought it in 1988- in no-frills, monochrome, text-only (typical Tramiel-era) packaging, labelled "Atari Compilation" (inlay) and "Atari Games Compilation" (on tape itself) and had the code "TX 9043".

 

For whatever reason, Atarimania don't list that specific compilation, but it appears to have three out of five games in common with this very similar compilation ("Compilation A" / "TXP7100"). If Atarimania is correct, that tape also features the 5200 version of Centipede.

 

There is what appears to be an unofficially backported version of Centipede by "Glenn the 5200 Man" (complete with crack screen credits). Atarimania include that version for "Compilation A"/"TXP7100", prompting derision at Atari's supposed cheapness. However, further comments suggest this was in error and the version actually on the original tape didn't include the crack screen.

 

I believe this as the version on my compilation tape (TX 9043) definitely didn't include the crack screen either.

 

Problem is, I don't have a dump of my actual tape to prove any of this, but I do have some scans of it I made a few years ago and an associated advert (attached).

 

 

atari-games-compilation-cover-side-1.png

atari-games-compilation-tape-side-1.png

atari-user-atari-advert-june-1988.jpg

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Interesting.  If anyone else can verify this let me know.  

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Tempest said:

Interesting.  If anyone else can verify this let me know.  

I wasn't paying enough attention(!) I just noticed that the most recent comment at the Atarimania "Compilation A" page- from "Fred Meijer"- includes a link to *his* dump of the tape:-


Fred Meijer - 21/08/2017
I have the taoe. It is definitely the 5200 version of Centipede but WITHOUT the crack screen. My dump is at Atariwiki: https://atariwiki.org/wiki/Wiki.jsp?page=Compilation A

 

The linked page also notes "The version on this tape of Centipede is not the regular 400/800 version but the version which was made for the 5200. "

 

 

 
Edited by Mostro
Problem with formatting due to cut and paste

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Huh, well what do ya know?  Ok I'll have to update that then.

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3 minutes ago, Tempest said:

Huh, well what do ya know?  Ok I'll have to update that then.

Thank you for the great site by the way- a lot of obvious effort put into it! 

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2 minutes ago, Mostro said:

Thank you for the great site by the way- a lot of obvious effort put into it! 

Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it.

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