Games are the future. They are our salvation, our church of geekiness, and the best thing ever. Many critics have tried to write off the importance of video games since their inception, but I truly believe that they changed the landscape of the 80s as surely as the Internet changed the 90s, and that their sovereign reign has just started to begin. You can imagine the scene, then when Atari Arcade Classics came into work -- it was my religious duty to do some worship, and pay homage to our forefathers and saviors. I couldn't wait to play some perfect classics on my system, since previous attempts to capture the feel of the original titles had that "not quite right" feel about them (Microsoft's Arcade series in particular), but I was a bit apprehensive. Did modern-day heathens taint the source material, adding and tweaking what made the originals so fantastic? In a word, nuh-uh.*
The best thing about the Digital Eclipse kids is that they don't mess around. The developers have made a name for themselves translating classic arcade hits to the Game Boy as well as console systems, and once again they've come through for we the geeks on the PC. Though there are only six games included in this compilation, there's so much extra love packed into the title that you won't feel like you're missing a thing (and in case you are, there's the inevitable Atari Arcade Hits Volume 2 coming your way).
The six games covered in the Arcade comp are Asteroids, Tempest, Pong, Super Breakout, Missile Command, and Centipede, and each of them play nearly identical to the original. In fact, the game goes so far as to give you the option of simulating vector flare in the vector games as well, something that made me actually pass out, then get back up, then pass out again. The thing that separates this title from the compilation bunch is the meticulous attention to detail that makes the games as similar to the originals as possible. When you play Missile Command, you'll see, hear and feel it exactly as you did in the arcade. The flat buzzes and fantastic fuzzes are all there, as well as the same scroll rates, animations... everything. Even the AI is identical, which means that playing original Pong is a laughable experience, but so nostalgic that you won't mind a computer-opponent that plays like he's been drinking from his own lithium battery supply. So they weren't perfect, but they were the best of their time, and besides, it brings me to the second addition to the games: customization.
You can tweak everything from the AI to the score needed for extra lives, as well as a pivotal option that allows you to play an enhanced version of all the games, which changes depending on what you're playing. Centipede, Missile Command, Pong and Super Breakout get a slight graphic update in enhanced mode, but Asteroids and Tempest offer you a pot of gold. Enhanced Asteroids lets you to play with the original paper background -- yeah, you heard that right. You can also play in a "trippy" mode, which allows the vector images to bleed across the screen in colors, and basically plays like a digital version of Yellow Submarine. Yummy. Even more important, enhanced Tempest gives you Tempest Tubes, a game that was sorta kinda released but was never really seen by the public at large.
Did I mention the part where you can also have the original cabinets appear with the game? Or how about the fact that the Digital Eclipse team has created an archive full of interviews with Nolan Bushnell (god of gaming and creator of Pong), related art for each of the games, as well as additional facts about the glory days of Atari? I found an Atari belt buckle in the files which has become my new life's purpose to own (replacing my last purpose, which was to re-unite Heart for a mall tour), and I learned that Missile Command had the best cabinet of all time. They've also, as a bonus to the bonuses, included desktop themes for each of the games so you can dress your screen up in style.
What I'm saying here is that I'm an unabashed super-freak who is in the games industry because games are my life, and this is what I've been looking for for a very long time. The games are pixel perfect, and as long as you get past the disappointing fact that there are only six games included, you'll find yourself happy you made the purchase. And kids, the best thing about this is that it's educational as well. Promote this as a history lesson about the beginning of the video game industry, and you just might weasel a free copy out of your parent's ample pocketbook. And the best thing is, you won't even be lying.
Besides, when the gaming revolution happens and this becomes the bible from which we shall quote verses, you can say you were back there when it all went down.
People who downloaded Atari Arcade Hits have also downloaded:
Atari: 80 Classic Games in One!, Atari Anniversary Edition, William's Arcade Classics, Asteroids, Microsoft Return of Arcade, Namco Museum 50th Anniversary, Arcade Games for Windows, Microsoft Revenge of Arcade
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