Review by Mingy Jongo
"Buy for the arcade games, stay for the... uh... arcade games."
Classic game compilations are often hit-or-miss. In Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1 for the Nintendo DS, Atari has proven that they can definitely hit, and what a hit this game is! Containing 9 classic arcade games, 41 (somewhat) classic Atari 2600 titles, a very fun trivia minigame, arcade flyers and manuals for every game, and the incredibly rare Bradley Fighting Vehicle trainer (aka Army Battlezone), this collection is packed! Add in the addition to save high-scores and both single- and multi-card multiplayer, and you have one solid game.
The presentation in this game is quite impressive The menus are very sleek, the games all use one screen of the DS for the playing field and the other for vibrant artwork or the control panel. Everything transitions very smoothly, and all together, the game looks and feels very professionally designed.
The graphics are what one would expect from the early 80s, though that by no means is a bad thing. The raster-screen games are all displayed very well, and the vector-screen games are all bright and vibrant as they should be. Basically, everything looks like it should, and I cannot think of anything that could have been changed that would not have been for the worse.
Just like the graphics, the sound is simple, but everything is in its right place for a retro compilation.
One of the hardest things to get right in an arcade game compilation are the controls. Centipede and Missile Command use trackballs, and typical console ports have never replicated them very well. Pong and Tempest also have suffered from this, requiring sensitive dials for precise movement. However, the DS has an advantage in its touch screen, and this time, the control transition from arcade to console is flawless. To anyone who has been looking for a perfect controlling home port of these games: your search is over. Centipede and Missile Command can simulate a trackball on the touchscreen, or if one prefers, the screen can be used as the playing field and the wand in Centipede or the cursor in Missile Command will "follow" the stylus. Pong and Lunar Lander use a slider that can be dragged up and down, and Tempest can be played using a virtual spinner or the aforementioned "follow the stylus" feature. Though the touchscreen provides the best experience for those games with analog controls, one always has the options of using the D-pad as well. Also, the digital-controlling arcade games and the Atari 2600 games all map perfectly fine to the D-pad and buttons, as expected.
As this is a compilation, the gameplay value can vary from person to person depending on their preferences. From the standpoint of an arcade purist, this game will receive nothing but high marks. Every title is emulated from the original game code, and boy, are they emulated well. All the options/dipswtiches (except for service mode switches) are present, giving the player complete control over difficulty settings. There is no slowdown present where there was not originally, which is impressive, as some of the arcade games are incredibly complex to emulate properly on a system like the DS. And best of all, high scores and settings for the arcade games are saved automatically. As for the games themselves, here is the complete list:
(I have enclosed what are, in my opinion, the ten best games in this collection in asterisks.)
Arcade: *Asteroids*, *Battlezone*, *Centipede*, *Gravitar*, Lunar Lander, *Missile Command*, Pong, *Space Duel*, *Tempest*
2600: 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, *Adventure*, Air-Sea Battle, Asteroids, Atari Video Cube, Basketball, Battlezone, Bowling, Centipede, Championship Soccer, Dodge 'Em, Flag Capture, Football, Fun With Numbers, Gravitar, Hangman, *Haunted House*, Home Run, Human Cannonball, Math Gran Prix, Miniature Golf, Missile Command, Outlaw, Realsports Baseball, Realsports Boxing, Realsports Football, Realsports Tennis, Realsports Volleyball, Sky Diver, Slot Machine, Slot Racers, *Sprintmaster*, Star Ship, Stellar Track, Submarine Commander, Surround, Swordquest: Earthworld, Swordquest: Fireworld, Swordquest: Waterworld, Tempest, Video Checkers
Bonus: Army Battlezone
The arcade section is where the meat of the game is, while the 2600 games are good time wasters, but with the exception of a few, one probably will not be playing them much. The only gripe I have is that Atari probably could have easily fit all the arcade and 2600 games that they own the rights to on a single cartridge, instead of splitting them between two volumes, but this game is still very good for what it is.
In all honesty, I can easily say that this is the best retro game collection I have ever played, independent of any system, console or handheld. If you are a fan of any of the arcade games listed, this is a definite must-buy. One word of caution, though: this is not really the game for those who are not fans of score-based gameplay, so if you are one who will play a game until you beat it, and are then done with it, I would not advise purchasing this. However, if you are a casual gamer or a hard-core arcade fanatic, then I cannot stress enough how impressive this little title is.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/15/10, Updated 11/18/10
Game Release: Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1 (US, 11/02/10)
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