System: Atari 7800 Publisher: Atari Developer: Atari
Genre: Action Type: Arcade Circa: 1986

Despite its simplicity, it's easy to see why Asteroids was a smash hit in the early 80's arcades. It's been ported to countless home consoles, where even the most technologically inferior among them, the Atari 2600, was capable of capturing the vital elements of its gameplay. So, it comes as no surprise that the Atari 7800 version of Asteroids is nearly arcade-perfect, except for the obvious lack of vector-line graphics. Our asteroids now look like spinning, technicolor planets.

You're in control of a triangular spaceship whose only purpose is to shoot asteroids and the occasional UFO. The spaceship can turn a full 360 degrees to fire in any direction. But you cannot simply move all around the screen like in most modern shooters. The complicated, yet simplistic, control scheme of Asteroids is the heart and soul of its gameplay. By thrusting forward, the ship moves in the direction it's facing, slowly at first, but thrusting longer will cause your ship to go faster. More importantly you can move in one direction, then turn and fire in another. The ship only stops moving when it either runs out of momentum or if you turn and thrust in the opposite direction. Learning to thrust at just the right amount of speed and learning to stop on a dime are the keys to surviving and scoring high in Asteroids. It is legitimately thrilling to watch your ship narrowly careen past obstacles, escaping so many near-misses. This is especially true when the screen becomes overflowing with flying asteroid chunks

The Atari 7800 version of Asteroids gets all of this right, and for that, it deserves to be praised. However, there are several outside factors that must be taken into consideration: First of all, if you own a Super NES, Playstation, Dreamcast, or PC, then there are versions of Asteroids already available to you on the Atari arcade compilations. Atari 7800 Asteroids does nothing that other versions don't, so it's only worth hunting down if you own a 7800 and just want a good game to play on it. The other factor is the Atari 7800 has some of the worst controllers I've ever had the displeasure of dealing with. I'm surprised they made it past play testing. The game is responsive enough, but the awkwardness of the controllers caused my entire left arm to ache after about 15 minutes playing. I wish they could've at least given you autofire. (The 7800 can even play the 2600 version, which, admittedly, doesn't look and sound as nice as this one, but it plays virtually the same, and you can use a 2600 or Sega Genesis controller with it.)

Asteroids is as good as ever on the 7800, but unless I acquire better controllers, I'll be more content to play it on my PS1 or Super NES.




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