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Your Arcade Favorites at Home! - The Atari Times

Your Arcade Favorites at Home!


Arcade conversions on Atari's classic console
by Jess LaFleur

December 20, 2001
I own at least 15 Atari conversions, some good some bad. It is pretty easy to tell what is a good and what is a bad Arcade Conversion, back in the late seventies early to mid eighties Arcades were all the rage. So it was only logical that the home video game consoles were able to give the public the ability to play their favorite Arcade hits at home. Atari had the most popular console at the time and many Arcade conversions were made for this system.

There are quite a few arcade conversions for the Atari 2600 made by different companies and made in different years, Some of them being quite good for what little the VCS has to offer the programmer and some of them being quite bad and rushed to be sold by whatever company that sold it. Back in the day, arcade conversions usually sold quite well as the arcade was the place to be to try out the new video games, now a days most people would rather wait for the arcade conversion then get their lazy butt to their local arcade. ;) But today people with more cash and better computers download ROM images of their favorite arcade machines and play them thanks to MAME, Raine or many others.

Companies that made arcade conversions either also made the arcade game or licensed the game from the arcade manufacturer. Some of them include, Atari, Coleco, Mattel, CBS games and Parker Brothers. Most of them were created by video game giant Atari as Atari WAS the creator of many many arcade machines.

Atari produced such arcade conversions as, Breakout, Outlaw, Space War, Combat, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-man, Dig Dug, Galaxian, Phoenix, Missile Command, Centipede, Berzerk, and many others. Coleco produced such filth for arcade conversions that helped boost ColecoVision sales some: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Mouse Trap to name most. CBS games sold: Gorf, and Wizard of Wor. Parker Bros had a better lineup for arcade conversions than Coleco and CBS. Such games include: Star Wars: The Arcade Game, Amidar, Frogger, Mr Do!s Castle, Popeye, and Q*bert.

Most of these games were not half bad excepting all of Coleco's  conversions and had made those companies a fair amount of money. There were of course some arcade conversions that never made the market such as Atari's Tempest and Sinistar. Tempest although not finished, sucks a lot. Sinistar, a more complete version than the more popular ROM image found does have most of the game play in it and it is a fun game to play. These games were not released thanks to the video game crash of 1983 where many video game companies had failed to stay around and scrapped many games originally planned for release. Atari made it through and produced more and more Arcade conversions for later systems and computers.

When Atari started programming mega-hit home conversions for their VCS they started with Space Invaders. So popular was the game, that people actually purchased an Atari VCS just so they could play Space Invaders at home! some time later, Atari had released Asteroids for the VCS and the public went crazy! These early arcade conversions are some of Atari's best, but remember with time came better arcade games and the public will want better quality games for their systems. But was Atari up to the challenge?

When Tod Frye was asked to program Pac-Man the newest arcade hit, Tod did it only for money. Tod was reported to HATE Pac-Man and so he didn't do a very good job at it. People still consider Pac-Man to be the worst arcade translation ever. Pac-Man is not very round, the pellets once ate in the arcades are now brick shaped blocks, The ghosts were very flashy, no not the good type, the type where he ghosts flash so much it is very annoying to sit and watch. Contrary to popular belief, the ghosts in Pac-Man are NOT all yellow. Upon inspection on a emulator with a screenshot ability, you very quickly notice that the ghosts are not all yellow.

Other popular titles such as Missile Command and Centipede or Millipede which used the trackball controller, are somewhat strained when the user must use the joystick controls but, later on the Trackball controller was released and playing such games become more closer to the arcade.

Because of the limits the Atari VCS had, many features that the arcades had the VCS could not. This included, Berzerk's speech with Evil Otto yelling "Intruder must not escape" or "Chicken!, fight like a robot!" VCS limits also hinder popular Arcade games such as Tempest, an unreleased prototype (perhaps for the better) and Amidar, another of the 2600's worst arcade conversions.

But arcade conversions were not always bad because of the VCS' limits, some were very much so intentionally done to make their version look way more superior. This company was Coleco. They made some quite popular games look bad on the VCS such as, Donkey Kong and Mouse Trap. Since Atari had not created some type of quality control over what games were available to be released, these games came into the market very poorly done.

Some of the better arcade conversions that are simply a VCS marvel are, Star Wars: The Arcade Game. This game follows the arcade very closely with blaster towers and tie fighters. Although there is no speech, it is very indeed a great game. Berzerk is another good arcade conversion. The differences are, mazes are not as complex, and the robots cannot shoot diagonally. Gorf, also a very good arcade conversion. This game has multi-levels just like its arcade counterparts and is a well made game. Ms. Pac-man and Jr. Pac-man are very well done arcade conversions that are much much better than its "father" game Pac-Man. The super improved graphics and even vertical scrolling (not horizontal due to the VCS' limits) in Jr. Pac-man make these arcade conversions worth finding. Another GREAT arcade conversion is BattleZone, although no longer vector graphics and now with colour, this is a incredibly well done conversion.

Conversions for the 2600 come in two varieties: Good and bad! Be sure to find some time to either play these games on your Atari, or find some ROM images and play on your computer!



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