Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Atari Greatest Hits (DS)

The latest DS classic games compilation, Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1, vastly improves on the disappointing Retro Classics title released a few years back. Trying to update classic games like Warlords with trendy makeovers was an awful idea. However, AGH takes things back to basics with 50 titles and introduces a few twists to keep things fresh, making for a much better experience. Add in a few unreleased prototypes and some surprising extras and you have a very good release that should please older gamers while introducing younger players to these timeless titles in new and interesting ways.

If you remember the last time Atari tried to bring their older games to the DS, you can be forgiven for casting a wary eye on the latest attempt to revive the legendary game company’s library. The good news is that the company seems to have learned from the mistakes they made last time and have instead focused on putting as many classic titles and their evergreen gameplay onto a single DS cartridge along with many extras and surprises. The larger library consists of both 2600 and arcade titles and covers the spectrum of older games. You’ll find everything you’d expect with legendary titles like Asteroids and Centipede appearing in fine form while more obscure games like Sprint Master and Submarine Commander. The games offer a good variety of genres from racing, to action, space shooter and even a few sports titles, so there’s something for everyone. AGH’s implementation is fairly good and the emulations appear to be largely accurate and faithful reproductions of the original games.

There are two main types of control, either a standard mode on most games, or an enhanced version that uses the touch pad on a few others. These are really cool and definitely bring a new spirit to these old titles. Players can choose to play on either the upper or lower screen and while this doesn’t have much of an effect, the games seem to play better on the top screen for some reason. Most of the 2600 games included on AGH don’t have any DS-specific enhancements, which is disappointing but understandable given their simplicity. These straight ports should bring players back to a simpler time in gaming. When you play something like Air-Sea Battle, its important to remember that the original hardware had a lot of limitations, but the game squeezes in so many different variations, from ships to flying balloons that it offers a lot of variety if you dig a little deeper. Most other games in the action section have also held up well, with the arcade translation of Asteroids remaining one of the most entertaining games, with the by-now somewhat endearing flicker a part of its charm. Other highlights such as Sky Diver and Human Cannonball require a bit more thought in addition to the reflexes. The classic proto-RPG’s Haunted House and Adventure also make strong appearances this time around, and their simplicity definitely belies their challenge.

However, there are a few duds along with the gems. AGH’s inclusion of the borderline Swordquest titles is probably a bad move, since they’re very difficult to play and its still hard to figure out what’s happening in them. Another seemingly interesting idea backfires with the inclusion of a prototype for the 2600. This is the long-rumored version of Tempest, which is playable but somewhat disappointing. It’s interesting from a historical standpoint but, isn’t actually that much fun to play thanks to the poor collision detection and the fact that it consists of a single clunky level. While most players have probably heard that the arcade conversions on the 2600 weren’t the best, Gravitar remains quite a stand-out and influenced a lot of other titles. Its earlier stages are quite challenging and difficult, but Gravitar becomes much more enjoyable once you master its controls. Missile Command and Centipede also remain surprisingly entertaining. There’s also a few rare and obscure titles like Quadrun included and the gamers who could never find it will have fun playing it. Some of the sports games haven’t held up well, with Home Run and Basketball faring the best, with others like Football and Soccer seem to just sit there. Most of these titles are far too simple to be playable for long. The later Realsports games offer better graphics and more complex play ust try and go a little deeper and there are definitely some challenging modes to be had on this one. Some of the earlier 2600 releases like Slot Machine are fun for a short time, but these diversions lack the depth of other titles, truncating their appeal. In all, the 2600 games offer a good overview of the classic console and their implementation accurately recreates the classic titles with their strengths and weaknesses intact.

AGH really shines in its arcade game conversions, which are accurate and innovative. Obviously, many of these titles, such as Tempest and Missile Command have appeared many times before. The difference in this edition is that they have been enhanced to take advantage of the DS. Instead of merely using the standard controls, players can now use the touch screen to control, using it as a virtual track ball or roller controller, which gives them a refreshingly different feel. Surprisingly, these new play mechanics give the games a new lease on life, with an added challenge that makes them feel almost like new. The other big surprise in AGH is an extra feature that allows players to play the long-rumored but never before released version of Battlezone created for the US Army. Its not surprising that this was kept secret, since many of its features are very advanced for their time. It plays like traditional Battlezone but there are some new features, such as multiple weapons, an independently moving turret and the ability to zoom in on enemies that make it much closer to a war sim than the arcade game. Its surprisingly well done on the DS and this makes it quite a cool title to play. 

Those of you who are curious about arcade history and this long rumored release will be happy to know that the touch screen controls are smooth and responsive and the gameplay itself is a bit more challenging than you’d expect. The other arcade titles are great and it’s great to play less-known titles like Space Duel and Lunar Lander. More famous titles like Asteroids and Missile Command remain enjoyable in the new installment, though there are some technical points.Given the small screen, some of the titles don’t work as well on the DS as they could have, and the resolution isn’t that effective when reproducing the vector titles, but the emulation quality is mostly acceptable throughout. This is a very good compilation of classic games and is all the more impressive given the restraints imposed by the DS’ limited hardware. Its not the ideal environment for playing arcade games, but the developers have done a good job in adapting these titles for it. Atari Greatest Hits is a very solid package, and as stated earlier, much better than the first attempt that was made several years ago.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

> Related Reviews

Retro Atari Classics (DS)
Atari Classics Evolved (PSP)
Atari Flashback 2