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Atari Flashback

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Manufacturer  Legacy Engineering
Predecessor  Atari Jaguar
Type  Dedicated consoles
Successor  Atari Flashback 2
Atari Flashback
Generation  Third generation hardware
Retail availability  2004 (Sixth generation era)

The Atari Flashback is a series of dedicated consoles marketed by Atari, Inc. from 2004 to 2011. Since 2011, the consoles have been produced and marketed by AtGames under license from Atari. They are "plug and play" versions of the classic Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 consoles: rather than using ROM cartridges, the games are built-in.

Contents

The systems are powered by an AC adapter (included), come with a pair of joystick controllers, and use standard composite video and monaural audio RCA connectors to connect to a television.

Original console

The Atari Flashback was released in 2004. The console resembled an Atari 7800 in appearance and came with a pair of controllers which resembled those of the Atari 7800, though they were slightly smaller. The system had twenty games built-in, all originally developed by Warner Communication's Atari Inc. and Atari Corp. for the 2600 and 7800 game systems. The games which originally required analog paddle controllers were made to work with the included joysticks.

It was designed by Atari veteran Curt Vendel, whose company Syzygy Co. (formerly Legacy Engineering Group) designs other home video game and video arcade products. Atari Inc. gave Syzygy Co. ten weeks to design the product, produce its games, and ready it for the 2004 Christmas holiday season. The Atari Flashback was based on "NES-on-a-chip" hardware, not resembling either of the Atari systems which the Flashback was supposed to represent (this was solved with the Flashback 2). As a result, the games it contained were ports and differed in varying degrees from the original games, and therefore the Flashback was unpopular with some purists.

Included games

One game, Saboteur (originally designed by Howard Scott Warshaw), was advertised as "unreleased"; though never part of the Atari lineup, it was sold at the Philly Classic 5 convention in 2004.

Atari Flashback 2

The Atari Flashback 2, the successor to the original Atari Flashback console, was released in 2005. It has forty Atari 2600 games built in. A few of the included games are homebrews which were created by enthusiasts in recent years, and two of the games (Pitfall! and River Raid) were originally published by Activision.

The appearance of the Atari Flashback 2 is reminiscent of the original Atari 2600 console from 1977. It is roughly two-thirds the size of the original and is much lighter in weight. The Flashback 2 console has five buttons (power, reset, left and right difficulty toggles, and select); on the back it has a color/black-and-white slider switch and two ports for the included joysticks. The joysticks bear very close similarity to the original Atari 2600 joysticks from 1977, and are compatible and interchangeable with them. The Flashback 2 does not come with paddle controllers, but original paddle controllers can be connected to it and used with its paddle-based games.

Curt Vendel and Legacy Engineering returned to develop the Flashback 2. Unlike the original Flashback console, the Flashback 2 contains a single-chip version of circuitry designed by Vendel; it is a reproduction of the TIA chip used in the original Atari VCS. As such, the Atari Flashback 2 runs games just as they ran on an original console. The Atari Flashback 2 project was codenamed "Michele", after Vendel's wife. Her name is printed on the motherboard.

Marty Goldberg, owner of the Electronic Entertainment Museum, was the technical writer for the packed-in manual and full design of the online manual. Because of changes in game content during the development and problems with the graphic design company keeping edit revisions straight, the manual which comes with the Flashback 2 has several errors in it including typos. For example, contrary to the manual there is no two-player mode in Centipede, and there is no connected-ship gameplay in Space Duel. Likewise in the description of Save Mary "Barnaby just blew up the nearby damn" appears.

Included games

The available games are arranged into four categories selectable from an on-screen menu. Once a game is selected, the only way back to the menu is to use the power button to turn the console off and on again.

The games listed below as hacks used other games' code as a starting point and modified their gameplay or appearance. Homebrews were written from scratch by Atari fans in the 1990s and 2000s. Unreleased prototypes are games which were developed by Atari Inc. in the 1970s and 1980s but never sold to consumers; some of these games may have bugs or be incomplete. A few of the games listed are new and exclusive to the Flashback 2.

Adventure Territory

  • Adventure
  • Adventure II, a sequel to Adventure that is built on its original assembly-based game code
  • Haunted House
  • Return To Haunted House, a sequel to Haunted House that is built on the original Adventure's assembly-based game code combined with graphics from the original Haunted House)
  • Secret Quest
  • Wizard (unreleased prototype)
  • Arcade Favorites

  • Arcade Asteroids (hack) of the original Atari 2600 Asteroids with the sprites changed to outlines to more accurately portray the arcade version
  • Arcade Pong (exclusive to the Flashback 2), a version of Pong which can use paddle controllers if attached
  • Asteroids Deluxe (exclusive)
  • Battlezone
  • Centipede
  • Lunar Lander (exclusive)
  • Millipede
  • Missile Command
  • Space Duel (exclusive)
  • Space Station

  • Caverns Of Mars (exclusive)
  • Quadrun (originally sold only by mail order through the Atari fan club)
  • Saboteur (unreleased prototype)
  • Space War
  • Yars' Return (exclusive sequel to Yars' Revenge built on its original assembly-based game code)
  • Yars' Revenge
  • Paddle Games

    The console also includes two hidden titles which require the use of paddle controllers. The Flashback 2 does not come with paddle controllers, so these games cannot be played unless the user has an original set of Atari 2600 paddle controllers. To access the hidden paddle game menu, the user must press up on the joystick 1 time, pull down 9 times, push up 7 times, and pull down 2 times (this represents the year 1972, in which Pong first appeared). The code must be entered steadily and without pauses (enter it too quickly and it won't work).

  • Super Breakout
  • Warlords
  • Test screens

    Controller test screens can be accessed by holding down the select and reset buttons while pressing the power button to turn on the console. With the color/black-and-white switch set to 'color', the joystick test screen will appear; with it set to black-and-white, the paddle test screen will appear. These test screens allow a gamer to test controller inputs as well as the console's colors and sounds. On the paddle test screen, if joysticks are plugged in as opposed to paddle controllers, the game Off the Wall can be accessed and played by moving right with the left controller.

    Revisions

    There have so far been three revisions of the Atari Flashback 2.

  • Rev. 0X has a problem with the synthesized voice in Quadrun not working due to a problem with the emulation of the original console's audio output. (When play begins, the game should speak "Quadrun" three times.) It also contains a prototype version of Millipede programmed by General Computer Corporation; this version has problems with the display losing vertical hold and appearing to "roll", making the game unplayable. This revision had the early delivery data to the chip fabricator and was not meant to be run into production. While this is commonly called Rev. A it is properly termed Rev. 0X
  • Rev. A Is the correct production revision of the chip which fixes the voice synthesis in Quadrun and also contains the Atari Inc. version of Millipede as well as a newer revision of Adventure 2 that is easier to see on certain TVs that experienced too dark a color palette. This revision is sometimes referred to as Rev. B since it was the 2nd series of release.
  • Rev. C features a reduced-size PCB, which was designed to simplify installing a cartridge port (as described below). There are no changes to the unit's functionality; the Revision C chip corrected some Hmove incompatibility issues, but still lacked several 65xx Illegal OpCodes and support for FE bankswitching.
  • A few of the included games, such as Lunar Lander, exhibit some flicker. This is due to limitations in the original Atari 2600 hardware, which the Flashback 2 reproduces accurately. Curt Vendel noted that the games exclusive to the Flashback 2 were programmed under a strict schedule, and later commissioned developers to tweak these games in order to reduce flickering. Some of these revisions were included with the Atari Flashback 2+, released in 2010 (see below).

    Rev. D is the Atari Flashback Portable with support for all games with the exception of Pitfall 2 and the Supercharger games. This new chip will also have built in LCD driver lines, and USB connectivity support and built in Flash RAM for games storage. No official word on when Atari Inc. will release this revision.

    Adding a cartridge port

    While the original Atari 2600 consoles had a cartridge slot, the Atari Flashback 2 does not include one. However, a hobbyist can easily modify a Flashback 2 to use Atari 2600 cartridges, and can even install a switch across certain points of the motherboard so that the console can be easily set to play the forty built-in games again. The motherboard is printed with several solder points and a guide to what contact points associate with which cartridge pinouts.

    Sales

    In an interview with The Escapist, Curt Vendel remarked, "Flashback 2 did exceptionally well. 860,000 sold in U.S./domestic."

    Atari Flashback Portable

    The Atari Flashback Portable was a proposed handheld version of the Flashback created by Curt Vendel and Legacy Engineering Group. The initial mockup was demonstrated in early 2007 with a 2.5" TFT screen running approximately 15 hours on a set of three "AAA" batteries. Games are loaded into internal 2MB memory by use of a USB cable. The release date was projected as early 2008 with a retail price of approximately $40, Curt Vendel announced that the project was not going to be released by Atari and no further information was released since 2008.

    In November 2016, an Atari Flashback Ultimate Portable Game Player handheld system was released with 60 games built in and an SD slot for downloaded games. It has a 3.2" LCD, AV output port and mini USB charge port.

    Atari Flashback 2+

    In January 2010, Atari announced pre-orders for the Atari Flashback 2+, to be released on February 22, 2010. General Mills simultaneously announced a giveaway sweepstakes for the console, along with other Atari related merchandise, in conjunction with its Honey Nut Cheerios cereal.

    Included games

    The bulk of the included games in the Atari Flashback 2+ are the same. However, Pitfall!, River Raid, Wizard, Caverns of Mars, and Atari Climber have been removed. In exchange, a sports section was added that included the games Realsports Boxing, Realsports Soccer, Super Baseball, Super Football, and Double Dunk. A third 'hidden' game, Circus Atari, was added to the 'hidden' menu that features the paddle-controller only games Warlords and Super Breakout.

    Console differences

    Aside from the games, the cosmetic differences between the FB2 and the newer FB2+ are that the latter console sports a plus (+) sign and larger text for "Classic Gaming Console". Also the 'fuji' Atari symbol on the original FB2 resembles the newer Hasbro-era fuji, whereas the FB2+ fuji resembles the original Atari fuji of the 1970s.

    Atari Flashback 3

    In 2011, Atari licensed out Legacy Engineering's Flashback concept and name to AtGames for the "Flashback 3". The Flashback 3 includes 60 built-in Atari 2600 games, 2 joysticks, and a case design that is similar to the Flashback 2/2+ design, except for front-based joystick ports, no B/W switch, and a different curvature. Internally the Flashback 3 system uses emulation running on an ARM-based processor instead of Legacy's "2600-on-a-chip" and is not hackable to add a cartridge port for reading original Atari 2600 cartridges. However, original 2600 joysticks and paddles will work on this system.

    Atari Flashback 4

    On November 13, 2012, the Atari Flashback 4 was released by AtGames. The console looks similarly like its predecessor, the Flashback 3; however, the noticeable change is that the joystick controllers are wireless. The console increased its library to 75 games, 15 more than Flashback 3. The new additions are:

  • Breakout
  • Crystal Castles
  • Football
  • Front Line (Not the original 2600 version)
  • Jungle Hunt (Not the original 2600 version)
  • Polaris (Not the original 2600 version)
  • Pong
  • Return to Haunted House
  • Slot Machine
  • Slot Racers
  • Space Invaders (Not the original 2600 version)
  • Stellar Track
  • Street Racer
  • Tempest
  • Warlords
  • The game Secret Quest was replaced with the game Black Jack.

    On December 4, 2012, AtGames released the Atari Flashback 4: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. This included a set of replica Atari 2600 paddles, 5 collectible posters, and a copy of the original Atari joystick patent signed by Nolan Bushnell.

    Some versions of the Flashback 4 include a 76th "bonus" game, Millipede.

    Atgames also developed a Walmart exclusive version with only 64 games and wired controllers which included Space Invaders called the Atari Flashback 64.

    Atari Flashback 5

    The Atari Flashback 5 was released on October 1, 2014. Like the previous two releases, it was built by AtGames. It is the same as the Flashback 4 with the wireless joysticks, but it adds 17 more games, increasing the total to 92 games. The new games are:

  • Air Raiders
  • Armor Ambush
  • Astroblast
  • Dark Cavern
  • Frogs and Flies
  • International Soccer
  • Super Challenge™ Baseball
  • Super Challenge™ Football
  • Space Attack™
  • Star Strike™
  • Sea Battle
  • Sword Fight
  • Chase It
  • Escape It
  • Miss It
  • Shield Shifter
  • Strip Off
  • The game Battlezone was replaced with Millipede.

    The Walmart exclusive is with wired controllers like the previous version.

    Atari Flashback 6

    The Atari Flashback 6 was released on September 15, 2015. Like the previous three releases, it was built by AtGames. It is the same as the Flashback 5 with the wireless joysticks, but it adds 8 more games, increasing the total to 100 games. The new games are:

  • Atari Climber
  • Indy 500™
  • MotoRodeo
  • Radar Lock
  • Secret Quest
  • Solaris
  • Swordquest: Waterworld
  • Yars' Return
  • Atari Flashback 7

    The Atari Flashback 7 was released on October 1, 2016. Like the previous four releases, it was built by AtGames. It is the same as the Flashback 6 with the wireless joysticks, but it adds 1 more game - Frogger - (not the original 2600 version; instead, the version included with the Flashback is a replica of the original arcade game) increasing the total to 101 games.

    A deluxe edition with 2 wired paddle controllers was released in the second half of November 2016.

    References

    Atari Flashback Wikipedia


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