Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari


Review by Mark Terry



Graphics: 5

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 7

It was back in 1980. That's when I was a sophomore in High School and Aladdin's Castle, the local mall arcade, was the epitome of a young boys hangout. (Next to the girls locker room) Games were laden with quarters which meant the wait for Pacman was about 4 hours. Luckily there were other great games to play and more terrific classics-to-be games coming out over the next few years. The Williams/Midway Greatest Hits Collection series covers 25 titles on 4 easy to swallow Playstation disc. (Easy to swallow means $20 bucks or less for each) All of which bring us back to a time when it seemed okay to steal a buck or two from Mom's purse. These classic games take me back to a time where an arcade was more than just the "Kick-Punch-Drive" fest that they have today become. But games that were new and unique with their own charm and personality. Based on simple concepts and a priority to gameplay so addictive that I don't think any of us have completely recovered. Some of there titles are so strong in the annuls of game history that game companies are forced to pander to our ever growing band of Nostalgianites by revamping them into today's technologies. Many of these millennium renditions come from the very titles on the WMAGH I speak of.

The Williams/Midway series showcase some of the best of the older school games. Asteroids, Battle Zone, Centipede, Robotron, Missile Command and Tempest make up a small portion of these powerhouse classics. It also covers some of the "not-so-old school" titles like Root beer Tapper, Spy Hunter, Gauntlet and Paperboy. Almost all of these titles have contemporary counterparts. That should tell you something about the impact and staying power these games have both then and now. All sound, graphics and gameplay are intact and with one extra piece of hardware the trip back in time is complete. I highly recommend getting the Nyco Classic Trackball controller. It is a must for Crystal Castles, Centipede, Millipede and Marble Madness. The flashback factor with this accessory is a strong one. Especially Missile Command. This title holds a great place in my heart for so many reasons. First, I love the game. Second, it reminds me of a time in my life when things were great. Third, I have scene the best of the best play it. One is an old friend of mine named Brian Wells who I would watch play and compete with other college students at an arcade in the middle of Boston. It was from him I learned the critical "Spread" technique imperative in the upper levels. The other is DP's own Jeff Cooper. Jeff, his wife and then newborn son James met Scott Stone and I at the Funspot in New Hampshire. It was there I was witness to the best Missile Command talent that could be thought of. With a steady hand and unyielding concentration Jeff defined Zen under pressure as he fended off the nonstop fury of ICBMs and Smart Missiles in an unrivaled display of gaming prowess. Brian later took his gaming talent to General Computer in Cambridge Mass where he was a game tester for the home based systems the Atari 5200 and the yet to be released 7800. Jeff later went on to have another boy, Nathan.. I quests he does more that just play games.

Some of the other games in the series took a lot of my (I mean my Mom's) money back in yesteryear. Root beer Tapper was a fave of mine. I recall the time I had flipped the levels twice and showed no sign of stopping. I kept the onslaught of thirsty Cowboys, Sports Fanatics, Punk Rockers and Aliens satisfied well past the 100,000 point marker. And although I don't think I will ever get back that level of Soda Jerkin' Zen, I at least can revisit that experience on the Midway Collection 2 disc. This compilation also brings us 3 not so recognized titles. Splat...a food fight clone that saw no arcade time. Joust 2...a Joust 1 clone. And Blaster...a breakthru in gaming technology that proves that not all technology is a step forward but can be a stepping stone. Although these games don't have the passion or the following the other classics have, they do give you that new to you, deja vu feeling because they do have the same graphics and sound of the games from that time period. And like good 3 chord rock-n-roll, the one joystick two button games define the era of that time in games. At the risk of sounding like my grandfather, "It's what we had and we liked it."

Each disc also have some very interesting extras ala Namco Museum. Trivia about how the games were developed and viewable color flyers that advertised and announced arcade releases. Video clips of the programmers who created these masterpieces. The hows and whys behind the screen look is fascinating. The games alone are worth the price of the plastic so the extra tracks are like have 500 smart bombs in Defender...... An added bonus.

Overall these stories and opinions are the byproduct of these tremendous collection of games. In a split second the game can bring you back 20 years and remind you of the feelings you had as a youth standing at one of these games with a crowd of friends cheering you on as you played. You can't go wrong with any of the Greatest Hits Paks. They all contain memories that are in all of us. It is from my own experience that makes me all to aware that I'm 20 years out of practice. But that is the beauty of it all. I can practice all I want to find the only dormant Zen inside of any of the classics. And it doesn't cost me a whole ton of quarters. And maybe I can relive old times and have a lot of fun on the quest to find the Zen. All I can say is that Retro is alive and well and resides in my Playstation. Long live the Retro.


Go to Digital Press HQ
Return to Digital Press Home

Last updated: Sunday, January 04, 2004 08:12 AM