Wednesday, November 9, 2016

First look at the Atari Flashback 7, non-portable

Plus other flashback style product

"Flashback" consoles are all the rage these days. Well, they're not all the rage but they're at least half the rage, as evidenced by the veritable onslaught of consumer product shaped like gaming consoles appearing in the facebook feeds of aging Gen-Xers. So many that such a cheap thrill purchase seems like a societal expectation. Some folks are desperately looking for a retailer with stock left in time for christmas. But the question of the day is: should a retrogeeker put forth hard earned money for one?

What's new (yet again)?

This year it's the babysmall NES classic with 50 built in games, officially sanctioned by Nintendo of America, and available for around $50 from Target, Gamestop, BestBuy, and other retailers.

Pros? cons? You decide: The miniNES output is HDMI for compatibility with modern TVs. There is no cartridge slot so no need to fumble with cartridges, but at the same time, you're stuck with a set of games that includes most of the classics, is missing a couple definitive NES titles, and inexplicably includes a few games no one ever played on NES (Pac-man.) Also, of course, the games are played in emulation mode so purists will notice inexact audio in the emulation, and possibly other retrorection-killing artifacts.

Not to be outdone, ATGames hits back with a Mini-Genesis with 80 games. Same price point, $50 at Target, but also available at weird outlets like Bed Bath & Beyond and Family Dollar. They're marketing it as a pseudo-response to the Nintendo product as a 25th anniversary Sonic edition, but let's be real, this product has been available with different packaging for at least 3 years now. All the usual caveats apply: wireless remotes require direct line of sight to the console, 40 of the 80 games are not fun, and although it has a cartridge slot for playing your own thrift shop finds, the games run on a cheap megadrive emulator on an android-based platform.

← And of course, these baby Coleco and Intellivision versions of these mini-reissues already came out last year.

Spend your money? For committed retrogeekers, I say no. Most of us already have some of the original consoles, or can still acquire one for less than the near $50 asking prices of these essentially disposable knockoffs. If you want the convenience of playing lots of games from a single cartridge, and would rather do it using real hardware, I'd recommend putting your money toward an EverDrive flash cart from StoneAge Gamer. They offer SD-based multicarts for NES, SNES, Megadrive, N64, Gameboy, and more.

And what about the original? The Atari 2600? It's now on Flashback revision 7. Lord Karnage has a thorough rundown:

Review by Lord Karnage

Friday, November 4, 2016

Atari Flashback Portable

Fellow retro geeks, nostalgic nerds and dated dorks, as far as I am concerned, this is the Holy Grail of portable gaming and I've wanted this for as long as I can remember.

It's the friggin' Atari Flashback Portable.


Even as a child back in the Dark Ages, I recognized that technology was getting smaller, faster and cheaper and I often pondered how long it would be before the industry would eventually get to the next logical place and release a hand-held Atari, Colecovision or Intellivision system. I recall spending far too much time in my bedroom sketching and designing what I thought such a system might look like but of course, it was all just a bored kid's fantasy.

Now the good folks at AtGames, who previously brought us a slew of retro machines like the SEGA Classic Gaming Console, the Intellivision Flashback as well as the venerable Atari Flashback, are planning to release the Atari Flashback Portable, first officially licensed hand-held Atari 2600 game system. The unit should be out November 2016 and here's some marketing verbiage from their site:
  • LCD screen
  • Video out port (cable not included)
  • Rechargeable battery included
  • SD slot for downloaded games
  • A travel-friendly MUST HAVE for the avid gamer
  • 60 Legendary Atari 2600 hits including: Millipede®, Pong®, Missile Command®, Asteroids®, Centipede®
If AtGames follows their previous pricing from the SEGA Portable, which was updated earlier this year, then the Atari Flashback Portable should be priced around $50. Not too shabby.

The big selling point for me is the built-in SD card slot. In the past, the Flashback consoles have been limited by the built-in games that the producer was able to license for that particular version of the machine. So for example, the Atari Flashback 2 may have had a few more games built into it than the Flashback 1, but it may no longer have included a couple of your favorites due to the ongoing legal challenges of trying to license early computer-game technology from companies that often no longer exist or others who have now grown so large, their licensing fees have become too prohibitive for small companies like AtGames to tackle. Hell, I'm still not sure if there's ever even been a Flashback console released that has included Activision's top-seller, Pitfall, arguably the most popular 2600 game ever made!

But now we finally have a Flashback system with an SD card slot that lets you load up your own downloaded Atari 2600 roms, meaning that you're no longer stuck just playing the same included games over and over again. Better yet, you can most likely fit the entirety of the 2600 library on one inexpensive SD card enabling endless hours of retro-gaming Atari goodness on the go! That, to me, is worth the price of admission.