Review – Atari Flashback Classics

Even though I was born a full ten years after the videogame crash of 1983, I’ve always had a fond relationship with Atari. My first ever gaming system was an Atari Lynx. Back when I started collecting retro consoles, a “Darth Vader” Atari 2600 was my first purchase. I even had the honor of having both of those consoles signed by no one other than Nolan Bushnell himself. Whenever Atari decides to release a brand new game or product, I always end up looking forward to it, VCS included. Out of the blue, the once undisputed juggernaut of the gaming industry decided to release a collection of old classics for the Nintendo Switch. Atari Flashback Classics is the real deal when it comes to value, but a lot of its content can be best described as simply “forgettable”.

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Adventure, also known as the “OG Zelda”.

This Atari Flashback Classics collection is easily the biggest collection of games I’ve ever seen in one compilation. I used to think the Rare Replay collection, with its assortment of thirty titles, was already hard to beat, but this compilation offers you a whopping ONE HUNDRED FIFTY games to enjoy. You may think that the amount of games alone is enough to guarantee a purchase, but unless you’re a die-hard Atari fan, you’ll still need to dig deeper into what this compilation actually offers you.

This collection features games from the Atari 2600, the maligned Atari 5200, as well as a few arcades. Classics such as Asteroids, Missile Command, Combat, Yar’s Revenge and Pong are all included, sometimes in three different (but identical in gameplay) iterations. That’s the catch: there may be 150 titles, but the actual number of different franchises included in the collection is much smaller, given the fact the vast majority of early Atari titles were arcade ports.

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Tempest is, without a doubt, the best game in this collection.

Another thing you need to understand is that, whether you like it or not, those games have aged. Those are all games from the early days of the industry with little explanation to what’s happening onscreen and maybe a handful of minutes of duration. Take Pong, for instance: it might be the game that kickstarted the industry as we know it, but I’m certain no one is able to play it in 2018 for more than five minutes. Other games like Adventure, Swordquest, and Haunted House are so cryptic to the point that the only ways to figure out what’s happening onscreen are to either have a guide next to you or to have grown up with those games. There’s also a game that can only be described as a math simulator. I feel sorry for the kids who got that cartridge as a Christmas gift back in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s.

Another little issue with the game, albeit a smaller one due to issues regarding licensing rights, is the fact that this collection is missing some really important Atari 2600 games. Having games like Combat, Asteroids, and Tempest is fun, but the lack of third-party Activision titles such as Pitfall and River Raid, as well as games based off licensed properties like Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Space Invaders, and Raiders of the Lost Ark is very noticeable. I understand this is a collection made to celebrate the early days of Atari itself, but those games were as synonymous with the Atari brand as the company’s games themselves.

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This used to be the scariest game of its time. Somehow…

All in all, the Atari Flashback Classics collection offers a lot of bang for your buck, but it’s far from being for everyone, even for retro gaming enthusiasts. This is a collection featuring tons of games that are best played in very short bursts, with a decent selection of screen filters and control options (touchscreen support included), but that’s basically it. A lot of crucially important games are missing, and there are no extra features like the trivia and artwork sections found in other SNK or Capcom retro collections. This collection is recommended solely to those who love Atari more than life itself.

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Imagine waking up on Christmas morning of 1979 and getting this game as your only gift.

Given the fact all of the games included in this collection feature the most rudimentary graphics and sounds one could ever imagine, I find it unfair to actually review the collection with our typical scoring system. Due to the amount of content offered in one collection, the customizable controls, but also the lack of extra features and the fact a lot of the games included in the collection have aged terribly even for retro enthusiast standards, Atari Flashback Classics gets a 6.5.

Final Verdict: 6.5

Atari Flashback Classics is available now on PS Vita and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Atari Flashback Classics was provided by the publisher.

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