Fokakis79's Blog

Posted on May 6th 2016 at 04:38:54 AM by (Fokakis79)
Posted under Atari 5200, Console, Review, History, Atari

In this blog series I will be focusing on the Atari 5200. I will be covering the console itself first and then move on to the games. This series will be one half information such as history and background info on the console and the games. The other half will be a review of the system and the games from my point of view after playing them.  I will make it through each game for the Atari 5200, as long as I have it. This is going to be a long series of blog posts, and have quite a few games to get through.  I have about 25 games left to grab for the console, but I will review those as I get them. I appreciate comments and hope you have as much fun reading this as I will writing this. Please pardon for any typos and incorrect writing conventions.

So without further ado, I give you my first blog post and an inside look into.....

The Underestimated Atari 5200

Part 1

The first post in this series will cover the console itself. The background information such as the history, technical information, and library information will be brief. I would rather focus more on the review and my thoughts about the console itself.

Brief History:

The Atari 5200 also called the "Supersystem" was released in 1982 exclusively in North America.  What we got was a console capable of giving the public great ports of great arcade games.  Despite the great games the console suffered due to controllers that were notorious for not working, competition from the Colecovision, and in 1984 the video game crash finally finished the Atari 5200 off.

Technical Information:
The Atari 5200 was based off of the Atari 8 Bit computers (Atari 400/800).  The Atari 5200 uses a 1.79 MHz Processor, and has 16kb of RAM. Although, the Atari 8 Bit computers had a more powerful 10k operating system compared to the 1k "monitor system". The Atari 5200 has a max resolution of 320x190 Pixels.  The console used ANTIC and GTIA chips for graphics, and a POKEY chip for sound.  Two versions were released. The first version included four controller ports, and the second release had two controller ports. The four-port version had a strange way to hook it up to your tv, with a power adapter connecting into the RF box. The two-port had a more traditional setup. 

Controllers & Peripherals:
The 5200 controllers were 15-Pin controllers that were a combination of a joystick with four fire buttons, a start, pause, and reset button. The controller also included a numeric keypad.  The joystick was a 360 degree non-centering joystick. The Pro-Line Trak-Ball controller was also released for the console. Other controllers were in development by Atari but never released. A few third party options were released.  WICO released the Command Control a 9-Pin controller that came with a Y-Cable to make it compatible with the Atari 5200. The Command Control also came with a keypad. Masterplay released another adapter that allowed the use of any 9-Pin controller with the console.

Nowadays, you can find repair kits and upgrade kits to fix the classic Atari 5200 controllers. The gold-plated parts are the best ones to pickup. They are more expensive but definitely increase the controllers life by a mile.

The Atari 5200 has a library of 69 games. Homebrews, Repros, Multi-carts, and Hacks are available for the system as well.  About half of the games released were from Atari, and the other half are from several third party publishers. The rarest game for the console is said to be Bounty Bob Strikes Back the sequel to Miner 2049er.  Some popular games include Pac-Man, Mario Bros, & Frogger. I will cover more about the games, when I review them in later posts.

My review of the console:

I am not doing a review where I give a rating, its more of my thoughts and ideas on the console. Let me first say I wouldn't be doing a multi-post review if I didn't like the console. So do expect some bias there. I will do my best to give it an honest review.

My first exposure to the console was through watching the AVGN review of the Atari 5200. I had never played it, or was interested in it before watching his review. He mostly covered the console and did not show any of the games in his review. I was still enamored by it. I wanted to try it out for myself.

A few years ago I was able to pick one up off ebay. The auction included the console, two controllers, and a handful of boxed games. This was the start of my goal which was to pickup every Atari 5200 game in box.  A very ambitious endeavor, I found out later.  Its not out of the realm of possibility but a few games are quite difficult to find even loose. But I digress.

When I got my Atari 5200 in the mail, I plugged it in, and started playing. My first reaction was that the games look amazing.  Pac-Man looked almost arcade worthy.  The other games I got with it, looked great as well.  The controllers I received did only work partially, but they worked enough to play the games.  They did later break all together.  I repaired them several times before they eventually couldn't be fixed anymore, without picking up upgrade replacement parts.  I am now in the process of waiting on my Y-cable to come in the mail for my Wico Command Controller. So with that, I do agree the controllers are the major setback for the console.  Although with some amount of investment the controller problem can be remedied. But, the controllers being unreliable is my only complaint about them. I heard many people say the non-centering joysticks are a major problem. I disagree, I found the feel to the joystick very responsive, and comfortable in my hand.  I didn't feel I had a whole lot of difficulty controlling Pac-Man, Frogger, or the car in Pole Position.  The button layout felt great, and having a pause feature is a great addition to playing Atari games.  I enjoyed playing the games with the Atari 5200 controller until it broke for good. I do understand though that reaction time is delayed at times because of the non-centering. The non-centering joystick however does not make the games unplayable, it just something you have to get used to. Although, I would much rather use a Wico Command Control.  They are just better, bar none.  Its too bad the console did not last long enough for them to rectify the problem. You could tell they learned their lesson when they made the Atari 7800.

(I want to add that opening, repairing, and doing maintenance on the controllers is quite easy but you may want to view a guide, so you don't break any parts inside the controller. I unfortunately broke one of controllers while opening, making it completely unusable. So just a word to the wise, always view a guide before working on the controllers.)

I am a big fan of the console despite its problems. The look of the console definitely shows its age, which makes it appealing to me. The Atari 5200 featured a great small door on the top of the system, used for storing things such as pens, pencils, spare change, D20 dice, & juice boxes.  The games are easy to insert and take out. With the two-port model, it is easy to hookup and start playing. The console is quite large and one might have a hard time trying to find a place for it.  I have found that the console itself is very reliable. Every game I put in it, booted up on the first try.  Since I have not had to fix mine, I do not know yet, how hard they are to fix. 

When compared to its competitor the Colecovision, it runs a close race.  Colecovision does have a much larger library of games, and the controllers are more reliable. Although the Colecovision controllers just don't have the same great feel the Atari 5200 controllers have. I like a good ole trusy joystick, compared to that flat dial.  The Atari 5200 is a worthy rival to the Colecovision. 

I think that about covers it for now

I will go more into the individual games later, but all the games I have played are great.  The colors are nice and bright. You get the classic Atari sound effects, and music.  The Atari 5200 even has a built in voice module. Which is a pretty nifty bonus when you play some of the games. 

I know this is a brief overview, and review of the Atari 5200. For this series, I am hoping to focus more on the games and not the console.  I will probably touch more on the console as I go about playing the games but for now, this is all I want to say.

I hope you enjoy this review, and keep coming back for later installments.


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