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Activision Anthology - The Atari Times

Activision Anthology

Activision & Aspyr give us a portable 2600!
by Gregory D. George

January 24, 2005
When I first started The Atari Times newsletter in 1996, I swore that I would never review a game that was on a system other than Atari. However, with the release of Activision Anthology for the Gameboy Advance, things are beginning to change...

The reason these games look and play so close to the originals is because they are emulated. While I'm not a game programmer by trade, I understand that getting the GBA to believe it is a 2600 is no small feat.

All of the classic Activision games (and some Absolute games too) are here. However, there are a few notable omissions apparently due to licensing problems. Pete Rose Baseball was retitled Baseball while Ghostbusters, Kung Fu Master, Commando, and Rampage are no where to be found. To counteract these omissions, several homebrew and "lost" games were included rounding out a very nice collection of games.

How are the graphics? Really, these are 2600 games. What kind of graphics did you expect? The Activision graphics were always good (for the most part) on the 2600 however this emulated collection suffers from one tiny problem. Because the resolution on the GBA is lower than that of the 2600, graphics had to either be compressed slightly, and,or have the Activision logo removed. I can only guess how they removed the logo without destroying the code itself (maybe the game is stretched beyond the playfield?) but it's not a big deal.

The stretching isn't that big of a deal either, but it does cause the graphics to "twinkle" a little bit as they scroll. One clear example of this stretching problem is in the game Baseball or Enduro. Check out the sometimes fat and,or broken lines in either of these games.

One quite understandable omission to the graphics are updates. Many of the other collections of classic games include revamped graphics to the games. But as this is true emulation, I highly doubt updating the 2600 graphics would be possible.

Gameplay is terrific, but again, that was to be expected. Many of these Activision games, if they were newly created today, would be nothing more than mini-games you might find on some far-flung website. But these are Atari games, and they generally don't have much depth. But therein lies their charm. If there's any knock against the gameplay it is that a certain few games, such as Pitfall!, H.E.R.O., or Ice Hockey, are bit slower than the real thing. But I'm willing to overlook this just to have a portable 2600.

Controlling the games is another matter entirely. Sure, the joypad is fine for moving your character and the A button works great as the red fire button on the famous Atari joystick. But how do you map the GAME RESET, SELECT, COLOR,B&W, and DIFFICULTY switches? Logically, you'd think that the GBA's Start button would act as the Atari GAME RESET switch and the Select button would be the Atari SELECT button. Maybe the left and right shoulder buttons would act as the L,R DIFFICULTY switches? Makes sense, right?

Well, apparently, Nintendo would not allow Aspyr to map the buttons this way. Why? Well, the GBA Start button also has to act as the Pause button. Arrrgghh... Just shy of greatness. Starting a game requires you to press the GBA Select button, which has cost me more than a few great scores on Robot Tank... Changing the DIFFICULTY or the COLOR,B&W switches requires you to be a hand contortionist. You must press the left shoulder button and either up (for Atari SELECT), left or right (Atari LEFT or RIGHT DIFFICULTY), or down (Atari COLOR,B&W).

All in all, this is a worthy addition to your growing collection of classic compilations for your GBA. If you must play Atari on the road and can't afford one of Ben Heckendorn's VCSp's, then this is the way to go.

Here's a list of games: Barnstorming, Baseball, Beamrider, Bloody Human Freeway, Boxing, Bridge, Checkers, Chopper Command, Cosmic Commuter, Crackpots, Dolphin, Dragster, Enduro, Fishing Derby, Freeway, Frostbite, Grand Prix, H.E.R.O., Ice Hockey, Kaboom!, Keystone Kapers, Laser Blast, Megamania (A Space Nightmare), Oink!, Pitfall!, Plaque Attack, Pressure Cooker, Private Eye, River Raid, River raid 2, Seaquest, Skiing, Sky Jinks, Spider Fighter, Stampede, Starmaster, Tennis, Titlematch Pro Wrestling, The Activision Decathlon, Skateboardin', Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns, Robot Tank, Space Shuttle: A Journey Into space, Tomcat: The F14 Fighter Simulator, Venetian Blinds Demo, Unknown Protype #1, Unknown Prototype #2, Kabobber, Thwocker, Climber 5, Vault Assult, Okie, Oystron, Skeleton+, Space Treat Deluxe, Video Euchre.

Buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com!

Select from many many games!
Notice the "broken" lines on the field.
Lost game Kabobber.
Activision Anthology
System: Other
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 65%
Sound & Music Score: 70%
Gameplay Score: 95%
Control Score: 75%

Final Score: 85%

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