atari 5200– old school gaming (part 1/6)

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Lalalala… I’m taking a break from my problem set, and I think I’ll talk about my first real gaming system, the Atari 5200. I plan on this being the first in a six part series (too bad b2 doesn’t have the nice drafting system as mt).

I vaguely remember getting the 5200– I’m not sure why my dad bought me the system, but I believe it was something that his colleges thought was cool, and they suggested to go with the 5200 instead of the aging 2600. At this point in my life, my family was living in a small apartment in Utica, and I remember being more interested in my Transformers and Legos than the Atari.

My games included Star Raiders, River Raid, Qix, and Joust. River Raid was the first and favorite. In today’s world, the gameplay is beyond simplistic, but it was very fun. You pilot a yellow ship down a river in this vertical scroller. Steer into the sidewalls, and you crash and die. There are enemies in ships (which move left-to-right slowly), helicopters (left-to-right fast), and planes (straight at ya). There are occasional bridges between levels that need to be destroyed, and there might be a tank on it shooting at your plane. The genius behind this game is three-fold: first, the river has branches, are there are definite paths that offer advantages so playing the game over and over will reveal these secrets; second, there is a fuel system that requires one to charge up the fuel tanks… memorizing fuel tank location and not accidentally blowing them up is paramount; third, there was a contest running for a free T-shirt if one sent in a photo for 1,000,000 points (I think…). I played it a lot, and I managed to get to around level 84… way past the mark for the T-shirt, but, alas, they ran out.

Qix and Joust were fairly standard arcade ports. If you haven’t played these classics before, shame on you. They were also the only two-player games that I had, and I owned at Joust.

Star Raiders was different. It was a space RPG where one warps around the universe destroying baddies and upgrading the ship. The goal was to destroy the enemy space stations before they destroy yours. The game was horribly difficult to understand and play at first, but then after a while, it become very fun. Unfortunately, a complete lack of save game or password destroyed the game because it required many hours to complete in one sitting. I had to pause and idle my Atari for entire days just to complete it.

In the end, I had the Atari for a year or so before the Nintendo came in. By then, the Atari joysticks fell apart, and the system was slighty glitchy. My mom ended up giving the system away about a year after I got my Nintendo. I kinda feel nostalgic for it, but I know that the games won’t entertain me now for more than an hour.

It’s an okay system that had a share of problems (crappy joysticks, lack of save games), and it did not make a gamer out of me. Nonetheless, it got my feet wet, and the hook was coming up.

Still to come:
Part Two: Nintendo and the birth of a gamer
Part Three: Gameboy
Part Four: First in line for the SNES
Part Five: PlayStation on a budget
Part Six: PS2/GCN/X-Box and other acronyms

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