Atari 5200 Review: ASTEROIDS

by Atari

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The cartridge number for 5200 Asteroids is CX-5201. Generally, the numbers on the games are in sequence according to the order in which they were planned. This means that Asteroids was, or was very close to, the first title in the works for the SuperSystem. It wasn't, however, released at the 5200's launch, although it was featured prominently in catalogs during the machine's early life. When it never came out for the 5200, enthusiasts and historians wondered, "What gives?" People wondered whether it was cancelled because of programming difficulties, deficiencies in gameplay or perhaps Atari had a change of heart and didn't deem the game appropriate for its next generation machine.

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After trying out the game for even thirty seconds, the reason is very apparent: 5200 Asteroids quite simply sucks. The SuperSystem version is basically the same as its 8-bit home computer counterpart, but with one major difference... the controls are horrendous. Playing the game with the 5200's controller just don't cut it. The game is extremely sensitive to a player's input -- a slight push upward on the joystick sends the ship rocketing foreward, and in order to bring the ship to a halt, you must turn the ship around (by rotating the stick) and delicately thrust your craft in the opposite direction until it's stationary again. This is no small task, either. I tried to rotate the ship about 90 degrees, but when I moved the controller to the left, the ship kept spinning round and round. Only after positioning the stick EXACTLY in the center was I able to manage to stop the ship from spinning. Using a third party controller didn't help matters much, although control was slightly less twitchy. Using a 2600-compatible controller via the Masterplay Interface did little to aid in control of the spaceship. We're assuming that the game wasn't properly programmed with digital controllers in mind, believe it or not.

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Otherwise, everything you've seen before in the 400/800 version of Asteroids (for better or for worse) is all there in this arcade translation. The graphics are serviceable but not terribly exciting, sound effects are quite minimal and you can rotate, thrust, fire, hyperspace and can use a shield during emergency situations (this was a feature not found in the original Asteroids. Only later in Asteroids Deluxe did Atari incorporate shields.) Another added feature found in this version is its multiplayer capabilities. Up to four players can participate in the game simultaneously.

Title Asteroids
Publisher Atari
System Atari 5200 SuperSystem
Graphics 4
Sound 5
Gameplay 3
Overall 3
Reviewer Keita Iida

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