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Thread: Atari noob here, need help

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    Default Atari noob here, need help

    I know barely anything about Ataris. I started with the NES when I was 3 and pretty much went from there, aside from playing an Atari maybe a couple random times in my life. So, I'd like to get 1, but I'm not sure what to get.

    First, there seem to be a ton of versions of the 2600, is there 1 in particular that's considered to be the best? Were any features removed from any of them?

    According to Wikipedia, the 5200 wasn't backwards compatible, but then an adapter was released to play 2600 games. Is that adapter expensive/rare? And are all 2600 games supported by it?

    Also from Wiki, the 7800 can play almost all 2600 games. Are any of the better games not supported?

    What kind of outputs do these systems have? Am I looking at mainly RF for all of them, or do they have composite as well?

    Which system has the best controller?

    Most of the games seem to be for the 2600, the 5200 and 7800 have very small libraries, are there even any worthwhile games in those small libraries?

    I guess those are the only specific questions I have, but I'd appreciate any information/suggestions/etc you think would be helpful to an Atari noob,

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    Well, let me answer a few of your questions, to the best of my knowledge (I'm mostly a NES collector lol)

    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    First, there seem to be a ton of versions of the 2600, is there 1 in particular that's considered to be the best? Were any features removed from any of them?
    There's several versions, and I believe this site can explain them the best:
    http://www.atariage.com/2600/archives/consoles.html

    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    According to Wikipedia, the 5200 wasn't backwards compatible, but then an adapter was released to play 2600 games. Is that adapter expensive/rare? And are all 2600 games supported by it?
    I'm not sure on this one. (Translation: /me waits for a 5200 collector/expert to show up.)

    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    Also from Wiki, the 7800 can play almost all 2600 games. Are any of the better games not supported?
    As far as I know, the 7800 cannot play Tigervision's games, so no Miner 2049er, and it cannot play Pitfall II because of it's extra hardware (I think). Pitfall II included an extra chip so it could have music and I believe that's where the 7800 incompatabilities lie.

    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    What kind of outputs do these systems have? Am I looking at mainly RF for all of them, or do they have composite as well?
    Again, see the site that I pointed out. That page explains all the system variants and what they output, though I believe most, if not all Atari systems output RF.

    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    Which system has the best controller?
    I've always preferred the 2600's controller. The 5200 controller is prone to breaking and the 7800's controller has always felt uncomfortable to me. That being said all 3 are usable controllers. I guess you'd have to try each one and decide which one you like the best.

    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    Most of the games seem to be for the 2600, the 5200 and 7800 have very small libraries, are there even any worthwhile games in those small libraries?
    For the 7800 there's Food Fight and Ninja Golf. Dunno about the 5200. I guess there's probably some more great 7800 and 5200 games but those are the ones that instantly come to mind.
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    Don't forget the Atari XE Game System, the Atari 8-bit computer library of games was excellent and could use Atari 2600 Joysticks, Atari 7800 joysticks and even newer things like Sega Genesis controllers. It was like the Atari 5200 except more games for it and better controllers. And it has a built-in copy of Missile Command.

    I'd go with either an Atari 7800 (the higher quality arcade ports on the 7800 make up for the select few Atari 2600 games that don't work) and/or the Atari XE Game System.

    But if you get an Atari 7800 I'd go ahead and get yourself the European only control pad that is similar to an NES controller or Sega Master System controller for playing exclusive games that need both buttons (Genesis controllers don't register button 2), and get yourself some normal Atari 2600 joysticks (more comfortable) and paddle controllers (required for some games).
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    Atari = End-all and be-all of my collecting passions. Always happy to help a n00b...

    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    So, I'd like to get 1, but I'm not sure what to get.
    ...then I'd recommend the 7800 since it will give you access to 99.44% of the 2600 library as well.

    First, there seem to be a ton of versions of the 2600, is there 1 in particular that's considered to be the best? Were any features removed from any of them?
    Imo, there are no significant differences in performance between the consoles, and none of them had "features" as such that would have been removed in the various incarnations. If it's quicker for you to locate a 2600 than a 7800, then I would suggest getting either a six-switch woodgrain or one of the later "Jr." models, but the four-switch woodgrain is probably the most common model you'll find in the wild.

    According to Wikipedia, the 5200 wasn't backwards compatible, but then an adapter was released to play 2600 games. Is that adapter expensive/rare? And are all 2600 games supported by it?
    The thing to remember here is that this adapter will only work with the 2-port 5200, and not with the earlier 4-port model. The adapter is somewhat rare, which means it's probably very expensive . I'll go so far as to say it's not worth acquiring unless you find yourself bitten really hard by the Atari collecting bug (which looks like Yar, btw). I have one, and I've used it a grand total of one time in about three years. Why? First because it took me that long to find a 2-port 5200 (I already had two 4-ports) and secondly because I have already have a 7800 set up so there's no point.

    Also from Wiki, the 7800 can play almost all 2600 games. Are any of the better games not supported?
    Quote Originally Posted by Ryaan1234
    As far as I know, the 7800 cannot play Tigervision's games, so no Miner 2049er, and it cannot play Pitfall II because of it's extra hardware (I think). Pitfall II included an extra chip so it could have music and I believe that's where the 7800 incompatibilities lie.
    Ryaan is right about the Tigervision titles but incorrect about Pitfall II. It works perfectly fine on the 7800, and it's definitely a game worth getting (actually, it's worth getting a 5200 for its version of Pitfall II alone).

    What kind of outputs do these systems have? Am I looking at mainly RF for all of them, or do they have composite as well?
    They're mostly going to be RF, except for the Lynx (handheld, duh), the XEGS and the Jaguar, which are both optionally composite. It's possible to mod the 2600, 5200 and 7800 to composite, but again, I wouldn't worry about pursuing this unless you really start to like Atari, which can be an acquired taste given the system's age. I've seen younger collectors here before who start a 2600 collection with wide-eyed aspirations for big libraries and plans for composite mods, only to dump the system a few weeks later when it no longer holds their interest. Fair enough, but I wouldn't agonize over RF-only.

    Which system has the best controller?
    Let the flamewar begin.

    Imo, the 2600 CX40 joystick. But if you're used to a gamepad, then I'd suggest looking for an Atari European Gamepad which will work with either the 2600 or 7800 and will cost between $15 and $20.

    Furthermore, there's nothing wrong with a 5200 controller when it works.

    Avoid the stock 7800 American controller. There's a very good reason why they call it a "pain stick".

    Most of the games seem to be for the 2600, the 5200 and 7800 have very small libraries, are there even any worthwhile games in those small libraries?
    A few recommendations:

    5200 - Pitfall II, The Dreadnought Factor, Montezuma's Revenge, Space Dungeon (requires two controllers), Countermeasure, Defender, Star Raiders (better than the 2600 version), Space Invaders (really good graphics, even if it's "just" Space Invaders).

    7800 - Midnight Mutants, Dark Chambers, Ninja Golf, Asteroids (again, really good graphics), Food Fight, Ball Blazer.

    Enjoy. These are funner systems to play than the kids today give them credit for.

    EDIT - I see Rickstillwell1 is endorsing the XEGS, and I agree with that endorsement. The short version why is this: XEGS games use the exact same code as their 5200 counterparts, but the XEGS also uses the 2600-style controllers as opposed to the 5200 one, which is, as I admitted, prone to failure. A lot of people complain about the 5200 strictly because of the controller issue while ignoring the great graphics and sound on this system. They're throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Getting an XEGS - if you can find one - lets you enjoy those games without the controller hassles. It's worth the search.
    Last edited by Pantechnicon; 02-04-2010 at 05:34 PM.

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    For the 7800 compatibility question: Yes, some Tigervision won't fit in the 7800 due to Tigervision cheaping out and installing their cartridge dust cover backwards. Not all Tigervision games are affected however. The other games that may have compatibility problems are Activision Space Shuttle, Decathalon, Robot Tank and the Starpath Supercharger. If your 7800 works the four previously mentioned carts it may not work with 2600 version of Dark Chambers or it may work with all of them.

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    Isn't the 5200 to 2600 adapter essentially just a 2600 that plugs into the 5200?
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    Quote Originally Posted by jb143 View Post
    Isn't the 5200 to 2600 adapter essentially just a 2600 that plugs into the 5200?
    Yes. it's more or less the same length and width as an entire Jr. system except for the cartridge connector on the bottom. Uses its own controller connectors and everything. About the only thing the 5200 does is feed it power and provide audio/video throughput. At best the thing was slapped together as a last-minute response to the absence of backward compatibility. Personally I find it to be rather....freakish.

    One of these days I'll probably open mine up to see exactly how the system board inside compares to one in a Jr. And if I ever run across a 2nd one I'm thinking it would be fun to try and turn it into a portable unit.
    Last edited by Pantechnicon; 02-05-2010 at 09:19 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pantechnicon View Post


    Ryaan is right about the Tigervision titles but incorrect about Pitfall II. It works perfectly fine on the 7800, and it's definitely a game worth getting (actually, it's worth getting a 5200 for its version of Pitfall II alone).
    Well, at least I was right about the Tigervision titles.

    ...On a slightly related note I guess my copy of Pitfall II is broken ;_;
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryaan1234 View Post
    ...On a slightly related note I guess my copy of Pitfall II is broken ;_;
    Don't feel bad, I have three Pitfall II copies, and I still haven't played any of them. I just picked up another copy, hopefully it will work. I don't know why my luck is so bad with Pitfall II. I've only ever played it through emulation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    First, there seem to be a ton of versions of the 2600, is there 1 in particular that's considered to be the best? Were any features removed from any of them?
    I'd recommend getting one of the 6-switch woodgrain models. Later models moved the difficulty switches to the back of the system, which I find to be annoying. Your mileage may vary. Aside from that, there's no real downsides to any of the regular Atari 2600 models.

    If you can find a 7800 for cheap, then go for it... but otherwise, it's going to be harder to find and more expensive. There are a few good games for it, but nothing too amazing. Also, the 7800 has a bizarre AC adapter that you will never find a replacement for, so don't buy a "naked" system assuming you'll find one later.

    The 5200 is kind of a crummy system. Some of the games are really good, but the joysticks are brutal, and you have to deal with stuff like the power adapter plugging into the RF switch (not on all models). (FYI, there are also adapters for the ColecoVision and Intellivision that will allow you to play 2600 games on those systems).

    I really think if you're just getting into Atari stuff, going for 5200 or 7800 is biting off a bit too much. Just get a cheap 2600 and see if you like it first.

    If you DO decide to take things farther, I'd say forget the 5200 and 7800 and get yourself an 8-bit computer instead. Now before you say anything like "I don't want a damn computer!" keep in mind that these machines are basically consoles with a keyboard built into them. You don't have to own a floppy drive... lots of the old classics were released on cartridge for these computers (including almost all of Atari's own arcade games plus plenty of third party games), which start automatically when you turn on the system. The graphics and sound are better than the 2600, and you have the same standard controller ports that will accept anything. If you absolutely can't stand having a keyboard, then look for an XEGS and throw the keyboard away (it's detachable!)

    What kind of outputs do these systems have? Am I looking at mainly RF for all of them, or do they have composite as well?
    They're all RF, though video mods are available if you really want to but the time, effort and money into it. The graphics are already pretty primitive though, so I don't think you're missing out on much if you stick with RF.

    Which system has the best controller?
    Keep in mind that there are thousands of controllers out there that work with the original 2600... even if you don't like the stock CX-40's, there's guaranteed to be SOMETHING you'll like. Personally, I like either the Epyx 500XJ or the paddle/joystick combo controllers that Coleco made for the Gemini.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scottw182 View Post
    Which system has the best controller?
    I highly recommend Suncom's Slik Stik. I have two for the atari 800xl that I've had since I was a child. I absolutely love those things. In case you're wondering, the 800xl is a computer system made by Atari that is basically an XEGS. Like Pant mentioned earlier, all the games are basically counterparts of the 5200 releases. The graphics are excellent and look arcade perfect. You can also add on a 5 1/4 floppy drive to the 800xl and copy tons of games onto a single floppy!

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    I recently got into the 2600 myself after spending many months of unsuccessfully trying to get one hooked up to a modern tube TV without a switchbox. If you don't have the connection to get one to work on a modern tube TV, you can easily find a female to RF piece at Radio Shack. And my vote is for the 2600 Jr because it doesn't take up as much space as the others. It was kind of like the slim PS2 of its day.
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    Regarding 5200 controller compatibility - I just had this question asked of me in a PM on my youtube channel. I agree with what has been posted that if you want a 5200 without the 5200 headaches then the 800XL/XEGS is the best alternative:

    (1) The games for both systems are identical
    (2) Atari computers have MORE games than the 5200
    (3) Stock Atari joysticks (or any standard 9pin controller)
    (4) No need for a forklift (see AVGN's 5200 review and you'll know what I mean)

    I've owned both types of 5200's and because of controller issues they've always been nothing more than tables to play my 800XL on. Some people like the controllers and you can get replacement parts for them to make them function as new but for me they're a pain (literally) just as the 7800 proline, colecovision controller, and intellivision controller. The human hand just wasn't designed to hold a controller in that manner, well, not mine anyway.

    An 800XL/XEGS solution is the best way to go to play that generation of Atari games. I also recommend the 7800 with the europad. Great little system with some excellent arcade conversions.

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    I will also recommend the XL line of Atari computers much like my Leafs-loving brother. (Hey, maybe Guigere will help 'em out in time to drop the Bruin's pick out of the lottery...)

    The only downside to the A8 line is no 2600 compatibility. So if you want the best of what Atari had to offer, get an 800XL (and sio2pc) and a 7800. Tons of atari goodness right there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AB Positive View Post
    I will also recommend the XL line of Atari computers much like my Leafs-loving brother. (Hey, maybe Guigere will help 'em out in time to drop the Bruin's pick out of the lottery...)

    The only downside to the A8 line is no 2600 compatibility. So if you want the best of what Atari had to offer, get an 800XL (and sio2pc) and a 7800. Tons of atari goodness right there.
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