noiseredux vs.

Posted on Aug 3rd 2013 at 10:45:58 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PlayStation 2

Activision Anthology
2002, Activision
PlayStation 2

Remember when you were a kid and youíd wake up early Saturday mornings for cereal and cartoons while your parents slept? Iíve developed a similar habit recently. Thereís something about coffee and old 2600 games that really goes well with the weekend.

I personally have a very soft spot for the Atari VCS, as it was the first real console I owned (unless you count a C64 and small stack of edutainment titles). I acquired my VCS in the mid-80ís along with a big box of second-hand games. And although my household would have a NES not long after, it was those Atari games that seemed to really define gaming for me early on.

Sadly, my console and games are long lost to time. I honestly have no idea what ever became of them. Yard sale most likely, as my mom moved several times since I moved out of her house. I did eventually pick up another heavy-sixer at a yard sale a couple of years back, but ultimately decided to flip it as we were living in a small-ish apartment and didnít have the room to keep it hooked up, nevermind start another collection of games. Because of all this you can probably understand my fondness for these sorts of Atari collections. Without taking up much shelf space, Iíve got access to lots of 2600 games thanks to Activision Anthology (and a few other similar compilations). But Activision Anthology in particular really nails the potential for such reissues. No matter your take on retro compilations, thereís a lot to admire here. So letís take a look a bit at what Activision Anthology does right.

Presentation is of course a big deal to a compilation such as this. By the time the PS2 came along, emulators were mainstream. That meant that just dumping a folder of a ROMís on a retail disc wasnít going to impress anyone (although that still hasnít entirely stopped some publishers from doing just that). But Activision went above and beyond with their Anthology. Rather than just a menu, youíre greeted by a virtual bedroom. Here you can choose your cartridge from a phsyical stack (you can also examine the box art or read the manual for each game), you can view your collection of patches (basically achievements modeled after the actual patches you could get from Activision back in the day) and you can choose your music.

Oh thatís right - the music! Certainly you can choose to just listen to the original game sound effects if you so choose, but your room also has a boombox. And as such, Activision went ahead and licensed a dozen or so popular songs from the period to sort of put you in the context a bit more. Meaning, you can feel like you were back in the 80ís listening to your stereo while you play your VCS. Itís really a pretty brilliant idea that I wish more compilations featured. And as I said, itís also optional. You can adjust the volumes for the games and soundtrack as you wish which is also a welcome flexibility, as you're never ďstuckĒ with one or the other.

It may also be obvious, but thankfully Activision Anthology keeps high scores for your games. I say thankfully because itís shocking how many retro compilations are released that donít have this very simple (and highly desirable) feature.

If all this werenít proof enough of the labor of love that is Activision Anthology, I should also mention the myriad unlockables. By reaching various achievements within all the cartridges you will unlock all kinds of interesting extras including developer interviews and original TV commercials for the games. These visual extras are excellent bonuses for video game history buffs and are definitely motivation to keep playing games just to unlock more.

So there you have it... except we havenít even talked about the most important part of this collection: the games! Nearly fifty games are included here including a handful of homebrew titles (which is another stellar addition by Activision). So of that fifty, Iíd like to highlight some of the ones Iíve been spending the most time with lately.

Fishing Derby is a unique game where you and an opponent race to see who can catch the most fish. The tricky part is that thereís also a shark swimming around trying to eat the fish that youíre reeling in. And then thereís of course some strategy considering the deeper the fish you catch, the more points theyíre worth. I kind of think this game would appeal to me a lot more if I was playing against a human opponent, but the concept and scoring itself is still very impressive.

Surprisingly Ice Hockey has been a favorite that was new to me via this collection. You might think that hockey wouldnít work well on such primitive hardware, but the programming behind this one is mind-boggling. The game is setup as a two-on-two where each play has a goalie and a skating player. How this works is your goalie and your opponentís player is on the top half of the screen and vice versa. The puckís placement vertically on the screen determines if you control the goalie or your player. This might sound confusing, but itís actually flawless in its execution. Itís really amazing how perfect it works. Add to this that puck-handling, shooting and even hitting your opponent are also extremely intuitive.

Pitfall! is of course a classic - though amazingly one I had not spent much time with until just a couple years ago. I still find the complexity of this one staggering, and certainly can see it as a platforming milestone. Though I must admit, Iíve still never managed to beat it.

And a special shout-out to Demon Attack, another game I only discovered thanks to this anthology. Obviously Iím a big shmup fan, and although Iím a bit picky on early shoot-em-ups, this one is awesome. I love how much variety there is to enemy attacks and behavior. This one should really be played by any shmup fans that have overlooked it.

I should end by saying that even though Iím raving about Activision Anthology, that isnít to say there arenít any missteps. Thereís actually a few games that originally used a paddle (Kaboom! for instance) that should not even be included here as theyíre virtually unplayable with a DualShock. (Side-note: why did nobody release a paddle controller for PS2?) And this isnít a problem with the set, but why the heck is Tennis so impossible? I mean Activision nailed the AI on a lot of their other competitive games, but I have no idea how youíd ever get a point scored against the computer in Tennis. But nitpicking aside, I canít really see how any retro fans could go wrong with Activision Anthology. Even if you own every single one of these carts (doubtful considering stuff like Kabobber and Thwocker), all the extras really make the package well worth owning.

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This may be my favorite retro compilation ever released, and I think I own all of them that came to consoles in the US.

I used to go to a buddy's house once or twice a week after work and compete against him in a score attack for Seaquest.  We spent hours taking turns on that one, with some really close and intense runs. Smiley

And I still go back to Spider Fighter, my favorite pre-NES era shmup for score attacks.

The music on here definitely deserves your mention, as its a wonderful touch that sells the mood, as does the rest of the presentation.  Lotsa love in how this compilation was constructed.

I picked up the GBA version, and even without the music it is very good, but the emulation definitely feels 'off' compared to the PS2.  Not bad, but it tripped me up because of how much I was accustomed to the 'feel' of the PS2 version and originals.
^ This.  I would also add that this comp kind of ruined them for the future until the Sonic's Classic for me.  Too bad about the Dualshock, though.  If only we could have gotten a special edition with an joystick and paddle controller or adapter.  Still, my friend and I played Dragracer for hours after I bought this.  Also, the 2600 version of Demon Attack is the best (regardless of what Intellivision nuts say).
nice writeup, this is indeed one of my favorite compilations as well.
Yeah, great article.  Activision probably put out the best 2600 titles overall for any developer at that time. I finished my set a few months ago and am really happy about that. Demon Attack was an Imagic title, so surprised that is on there. Would like to see a list of all the titles on there.
I agree slackur, Spider Fighter is the best shmup on the 2600 hands down.
@singlebanana: You forget that Activision picked up Imagic and released some of the titles on the Blue/White cartridges late in the cycle?
My dad had the GBA version and loved it.  I remember playing Dragracer as a kid on it.  It's a shame that collections this large will probably never be released again.  If Activision released this today, you'd be able to play three games right away and have to unlock the rest through DLC.  Sad
@Shadow Kisuragi: You are absolutely right Shadow. I did forget about that even though I have several of those blue carts. Smiley

I actually pick up this collection today for $6. Looking forward to checking it out.
@blcklblskt: I don't know man. What about Sonic's Ultimate Sega Genesis Collection on PS3/360? That thing is crazy loaded. And the recent Midway Origins was decent - if not quite as up to par as Midway Treasures 1-3.

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