Move over, SNES Classic: Here comes the retro Atari 2600 (again)

 cnet.com  7/18/2017 12:26:43 AM   John Falcone

Nintendo's 2016 NES Classic brought retro gaming nostalgia to a fever pitch, but it wasn't the first affordable box to offer plug-and-play old school video games. AtGames has been cranking out mini game consoles full of nostalgic titles like Sonic the Hedgehog, Centipede and Pitfall for the past few years. And now the company is refreshing its Atari and Sega models for 2017.

Due in September -- not coincidentally, the same month Nintendo's mini-SNES Classic hits -- the Atari Flashback 8 Gold packages several dozen Atari 2600 games from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but AtGames' website lists it as $79.99. (Official UK and Australia availability and compatibility are unknown, but that price translates to about £61 and AU$102.)

Atari Flashback 8 GoldEnlarge Image

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AtGames

As the name suggests, the Flashback 8 is hardly the first box to round up a bunch of old titles from gaming's past. But the new model ups the ante on features compared to previous Atari game collections:  

  • 120 built-in games: The Flashback 8 Gold includes such 2600 1970s mainstays as Adventure, Combat, Night Driver and Space War, as well as later games like Haunted House, Yars' Revenge and the Swordquest series. It also includes several original Activision titles, including Pitfall, Kaboom, Chopper Command, H.E.R.O. and River Raid. Alas, unlike the AtGames latest Sega box, the Atari version will not accept vintage cartridges -- you're limited to the built-in games. (Full disclosure: Many of these titles are already available on earlier Flashback consoles.)
  • 720p HDMI video output: Previous AtGames consoles were restricted to old-fashioned RCA composite video. The Flashback 8 Gold (and the new Sega console) take a page from Nintendo's book and offer HDMI connectors. While the games will still have primitive graphics by today's standards, this at least offers easy one-cable connection to modern HDTVs. (Weirdly, the HDMI port appears to be on the left-hand side of the console -- see the promotional video embedded below.)
  • Pause, save and rewind support: In another feature seen earlier on the NES Classic, the Flashback 8 Gold will offer pause and resume and same game slots -- a welcome respite if you need a bathroom break while racking up a new personal best on Asteroids. You can also apparently "rewind" games a few seconds. (That's good, because -- trust me -- these games may be simplistic, but they are unforgiving.)
  • Two wireless controllers included: The Flashback 8 Gold includes two wireless Atari joysticks. And these are said to incorporate true 2.4GHz radios, not the infrared versions that have frustrated Amazon reviewers of AtGames' earlier Sega collections by limiting connectivity to line-of-sight. The console also includes ports to connect wired joysticks and paddle controllers (Breakout, anyone?).  

Four versions

Note that the Flashback 8 Gold is not the "Ataribox." That unit, coming from Atari itself, is still somewhat shrouded in mystery.

And if you're saying "I've seen this Atari Flashback thing already. It's been on the shelf at my local drugstore for years," you're right -- sort of. AtGames and other licensees have been offering Atari Flashback consoles (1 through 7) for years, but they have a different selection of titles built in. (You can check out Wikipedia's summary of the whole series throughout the years for specifics.) Don't buy those older models expecting the HDMI output, wireless controllers and save-game features of the Flashback 8 Gold series profiled here.

Further confusing things is the fact that the Flashback 8 Gold is one of four similar units in the same generation from AtGames. The company will also be offering the Atari Flashback 8 Gold Activision Edition (with 130 games), the Atari Flashback 8 Classic (105 games, wired controllers, no HDMI or save games) and the Atari Portable (70 games, with rechargeable battery and built-in screen).

To muddy the waters further still, the "Activision Edition" is not the only one that offers classic Activision games. (Confused yet?) Here's how the titles are split across all four versions:


Flashback 8 Gold Activision Edition Flashback 8 Atari Portable
3D Tic-Tac-Toe X X X
Adventure X X X X
Adventure II X X X X
Air Raiders X X X X
Air Sea Battle X X X
Aquaventure X X X X
Armor Ambush X X X
Asteroids X X X X
Astroblast X X X X
Atari Climber X X X X
Backgammon X X X
Barnstorming
X

Basketball X X X
Beamrider X X

Black Jack X X X X
Bowling X X X X
Boxing
X

Breakout X X X X
Bridge
X

Canyon Bomber X X X
Centipede X X X X
Championship Soccer X X X
Chase It X
X X
Checkers
X

Chopper Command X X

Circus Atari X X X X
Combat X X X
Combat Two X X X
Cosmic Commuter
X

Crackpots X X

Crystal Castles X X X X
Dan Kitchen's Tomcat
X

Dark Cavern X X X X
Decathlon X X

Demons to Diamonds X X X X
Desert Falcon X X X X
Dig Dug


X
Dodge 'Em X X X X
Dolphin
X

Double Dunk X X X X
Dragster X X

Enduro X X

Escape It X
X
Fatal Run X X X X
Fishing Derby X X

Flag Capture X X X
Football X X X
Freeway
X

Frog Pond X X X X
Frogger X
X X
Frogs and Flies X X X X
Front Line X
X
Frostbite X X

Fun with Numbers X X X X
Galaxian


X
Golf X X X X
Grand Prix
X

Gravitar X X X X
H.E.R.O. X X X
Hangman X X X X
Haunted House X X X X
Home Run X X X
Human Cannonball X X X X
Ice Hockey
X

Indy 500 X X X
International Soccer X X X
Jungle Hunt X
X
Kaboom! X X X X
Keystone Kapers X X

Laser Blast
X

Maze Craze X X X
Megamania X X

Millipede X X X X
Miniature Golf X X X X
Miss It X
X X
Missile Command X X X X
MotoRodeo X X X
Night Driver X X X X
Off The Wall X X X
Oink! X X

Outlaw X X X
Pac-Man


X
Pitfall! X X X X
Plaque Attack
X

Polaris X
X
Pong (Video Olympics) X X X X
Pressure Cooker X X X X
Private Eye
X

Radar Lock X X X X
Realsports Baseball X X X X
Realsports Basketball X X X
Realsports Soccer X X X
Realsports Volleyball X X X
Return to Haunted House X X X X
River Raid X X X X
River Raid II
X

Robot Tank X X

Saboteur X X X X
Save Mary X X X X
Sea Battle X X X
Seaquest X X

Secret Quest X X X X
Shield Shifter X
X X
Skiing
X

Sky Diver X X X
Sky Jinks
X

Slot Machine X X X X
Slot Racers X X X
Solaris X X X X
Space Attack X X X X
Space Invaders X
X
Space Shuttle
X

Space War X X X
Spider Fighter
X

Sprintmaster X X X
Stampede X X
X
Star Ship X X X X
Star Strike X X X X
Starmaster X X

Steeplechase X X X
Stellar Track X X X X
Street Racer X X X
Strip Off


X
Submarine Commander X X X X
Super Baseball X X X
Super Breakout X X X X
Super Challenge Baseball X X X
Super Challenge Football X X X
Super Football X X X
Surround X X X
Sword Fight X X X
Swordquest: Earthworld X X X X
Swordquest: Fireworld X X X X
Swordquest: Waterworld X X X X
Tempest X X X X
Tennis
X

Video Checkers X X X X
Video Chess X X X X
Video Pinball X X X X
Warlords X X X
Wizard X X X X
Xevious


X
Yars' Return X X X X
Yars' Revenge X X X X

Before you buy

If you're interested in buying the Flashback 8 Gold, it all comes down to whether or not you actually like the games in question. Also keep in mind that a "classic" is in the eye of the beholder -- these games may be charming, but they pale in comparison even to the arcade versions many of us old-timers remember. 

Also note that many, if not most, of the games in these collections are available on many current consoles, PCs and mobile platforms. For instance:

We'll have a full hands-on review of the Flashback 8 Gold in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, check out our review of the original Atari Flashback 2 from 2006 if you want an idea of what to expect from the newest version. That said, the addition of HDMI output, wireless controllers, game saves and a larger library of games makes the Flashback 8 Gold sound like a nice step-up from previous versions.

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