Review: Anthology used to be such a boring word, not anymore!
Way back in the early 1980's (remember the big hair and one hit wonders?) the Atari Corporation was one of the fastest growing companies in the world. Their arcade games were eating billions of quarters around the planet, and the Atari 2600 used to keep me in front of the TV for hours on end as a kid. I never cared that I was playing blocks for characters or listening to beeps for sound effects, many of the games were just so incredibly addictive! Now Xbox players have the chance to play 85 of these legends from the golden age of gaming - all on one disc. The games may be old but if you don't care about their age, and you have a need to play some legends, see why Atari Anthology is a great deal.
What is a good compilation without a few good games, eh? AA has 18 notable arcade translations like Asteroids, Missile Command, Battle Zone, Pong, and several others. That's not a bad list of games there, but AA also includes 65 legendary (and not so legendary) Atari 2600 titles like Adventure, Combat, Slot Racers, Yar's Revenge, and many more. There are tons of classics here but you won't be seeing older games like Star Wars Arcade, Space Invaders, Defender, Pac Man, or anything with a license; AA only has first party Atari games only.
Although 85 games seem great, you still have to put up with very early 1980's graphics. There are a few vector games like Tempest and Major Havoc that still look decent with their unique, stylish line designs and 3D effects, but most of the other games look downright ugly. Some games even come with their original flickers and slowdown, which obviously shows signs of the original system's weak hardware.
Things don't get much better for sound either. Most of the games consist of the most basic beeps you ever heard in your life, and if that wasn't bad enough, you'll be hard pressed to find any music either. There just isn't much in the sound department. Both the graphics and sounds remain faithful to their originals - but since that was decades ago, they pretty much suck now - lets get that right off the bat.
It doesn't sound like I'm giving AA a glowing review so far, but with so many titles here it is hard not to find something that you like. For example: it's always fun going for that high score in the fast action packed games like Centipede and Tempest, while other games like Adventure and Combat still play well too. I also loved how the programmers edited games like Star Raiders and Super Break Out so they're easy to play with the standard Xbox controller. All the games still play as fast as their originals, and you can still do the game variations with a touch of a button (on the old Atari 2600 you had to select these options from the system). This version even lets you post your top arcade scores online with Xbox Live.
Digital Eclipse was even kind enough to include a great list of extras. If you are not sure how to play any of the titles, AA has a full list of manuals built right into the game for easy reference. If any of the games ever get boring, it is possible to do a few edits like double the speed, play under a time limit, and you can even play the games in Trippy mode so it looks like you had a few too many. These features are great for novelty effects, but they are not really necessary.
This game even has video footage of an interview from Nolan Bushnell; the founder of Atari! I loved seeing all these informative videos: when I saw them THREE YEARS AGO! Ok, so it was nothing new to me, but it was cool to see these videos clearly on the Xbox (it was really grainy when I originally saw them on the Dreamcast) plus if you haven't seen the interview, he gives a lot of great insight on the evolution and creation of the video game industry.