Atari 5200 Review: ASTEROIDS
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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.
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.
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.
Atari 5200 SuperSystem