Nostalgia Looks Better On Paper Sometimes

Since the Atari 2600 represented not only the first real console game that was a mega-seller and also thousands of hours of gameplay for me personally, I jumped at the chance to buy an Atari Flashback 2 recently (under $30 retail). It has two original looking joysticks, the feel and weight don’t seem quite the same but they look right, and the new console is much smaller and replaces the old metal toggles with plastic buttons but it even incorporates the small strip of faux wood that was on the original! In general it resembles a 2600 which went through a shrinking machine.
It comes with 40 games built in (20 old and 20 new) and even though the various paddle games were some of the best, there’s no paddles or paddle games. Why we needed 20 new games rather than 20 more classics to try and improve the overall selection is my first problem with the console. More Activision titles and some more 2600 classics would have boosted the quality. As it is though, you can play Combat, Missle Command, Pitfall, Asteroids, Adventure and many others. They don’t include a full manual in the box, just a few pages to tell you how to plug it in and get started, but Atari has a full manual in PDF form on their web page that describes each game individually.
Now, before I say what I’m about to say, I want you to know that there are lots of old games which are just as much fun today as they were 20+ years ago. Galaga, Ms. Pac-man, Donkey Kong, etc. are still great games so just age alone doesn’t make a game bad. But most of the games on the 2600 are just bad. The console had such profound limitations in the size of game programs that gameplay really suffered. It’s not the crude sound capability or the even cruder graphics which hold it back, it’s the games themselves which are weak.
I played Sonic The Hedgehog recently and it was just as much fun today as when it came out. Most of the 2600 games I played were not. I guess we were far more desperate for entertainment then and we saw more of the potential in the medium than we saw what was actually produced.
Sometimes something is just much better in your memory than in really was… My Flashback 2 went back to the store and I got my money back. I guess I’ll have to wait for the Super Nintendo in a box instead.

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