IGN Review of Atari's Greatest Hits Vol. 1
Anyone who knows me recognizes my love for the old-school. I grew up in the arcades of the 80s, and my first system – played daily – was an Atari 2600. Compilation packs are not only a great way for companies to revisit and celebrate some of their classic properties, it's also a much more convenient way for gamers to enjoy them without the hassle of tracking down and hooking up the original consoles or arcade machines.
Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1 definitely hits a few right notes for a collection of games that, admittedly, don't hold up nearly 30 years after their release. First, it's the apology for the truly embarrassing Retro Atari Classics compilation released on the Nintendo DS – looking back at that disaster of a retro remake I was far kinder than I should have been. Atari Greatest Hits features spot-on emulations of nine arcade games and more than 40 Atari 2600 console games, all of which remain untouched with same sound, control and gameplay that they're known for. Even games that used spinner or trackball control come off well through touch-screen support that's a far better compromise than the way they've been handled on other consoles.
It also contains excellent multiplayer support. Many of these games featured some sort of two player option, and the games that did can be played over the Nintendo's local wireless connectivity. It's a quick connect if two systems have the cartridge, but realistically only one copy of the game is needed to wirelessly connect to another Nintendo DS system. Each player gets their own view on their set of screens.
And I have to note that the developer did a great job not overwhelming the user with the clunky Atari 2600 game select interface. Back in the day you had to break out the manual to find what mode, say, number 13 was, but you get a brief description of each mode as you cycle through them using the touch screen interface. When you play these games over the wireless support the interface automatically defaults to the two player options, another nice move.
The name is a bit of a misnomer, though. While there are certainly some "Greatest Hits" here, they're mostly relegated to the arcade games like Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede. The 2600 titles are really just a mishmash of successful games and shelf filler, with obvious missing games (Combat, Yar's Revenge) and no licensed products like the excellent Space Invaders (a Taito property), Superman (DC Comics), or Raiders of the Lost Ark (movie franchise). Clearly this is why it's a Volume One, but don't expect those licensed games to make it for Volume 2.
The Nintendo DS has enough horsepower to accurately emulate the old hardware, but the aging screen technology does get in the way. The Nintendo DS LCDs aren't exactly prime for the resolution of most of these arcade games. The vector games come off the worst, as the 256 by 192 pixel density just can't display the fine visual details of Gravitar, Lunar Lander, and Asteroids.
But the real kicker here is the price tag. At the time of my review Atari's priced Atari Greatest Hits at the 30 dollar premium. Sure, getting fifty games sounds like a real bargain but the economics of Atari 2600 games have changed over the past 30 years. These games are good for a quick couple of minutes but let's be honest, most of the playtime will be "Oh, yeah, I remember this…next." And you'll be working your way through the list in record time. Some games are more timeless than others, but for the most part these aren't going to engage you in the same way a nice game of Tetris would.
At most, this game is a 20 dollar value – even Intellivision Lives, the same era competition hitting shelves at nearly day and date with Atari Greatest Hits, realizes its market with its $20 MSRP.
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