Ed Semrad Reviews Atari 7800 Launch Games

Last week Ed Semrad of the Milwaukee Journal gave his opinion on the Atari 7800. Needless to say he believes the system is better than the Nintendo Entertainment System. Having played both myself, I disagree with his assessment, but to each his own. This week he takes a look at the launch games for the system. Whereas Nintendo has about 26 games available for its NES, the 7800 is only launching with 8, with another 4 possible by the end of the year.

Ed takes brief looks at each game and comes away still thinking the system is a better bet than the NES. One thing is readily apparent: the lineup of 7800 games is heavily reliant on arcade ports. In fact, if you’re interested in sports games, you may as well forget wanting this system unless you plan on playing your old Atari 2600 games on it. The sheer variety of games on the NES, even at this early stage, trounces Atari’s lineup. Of course, this could change in the future, but right now Atari has yet to show off an exclusive must-have game that would be considered a system seller. Nintendo has the likes of Super Mario Bros. and innovative software like Duck Hunt that separate it from the recycled games that seem to be hitting Atari’s hardware.

One of the games that Ed gives and excellent score to is Galaga. Fans of the arcade game will no doubt be very familiar with this Space Invaders-like space shooter. Although it’s not available at launch, the game could make it by the end of the year. Ed has played it and is impressed with power of the 7800. He says:

The higher waves of this cartridge have the fastest-moving objects ever found in a home game. Up to now no game system could faithfully reproduce the speed of the enemy ships found in the arcade version, but with the advanced technology incorporated in the 7800, this outer space shooting game can finally be enjoyed at home.

He gives high praise for the port of Galaga! While not yet available for the NES in North America, Galaga did release earlier this year on the Japanese equivalent, the Famicom. Not only is the Famicom version more colorful, but it also has more detailed sprites and the action is even faster than the 7800 version. That’s not to say the 7800 version is trash, but when compared the NES port it’s clear which one is superior. Although the game itself is light on music and sound effects, the 7800’s reliance on using an outdated sound chip from the 2600 doesn’t do this or any other game on the system any favors. The NES has the advantage in the sound department, and advanced games that have already been released in Japan show that Nintendo was forward thinking in its cartridge design. You see, developers can add in special chips to the carts to add more memory for even more detailed graphics and exciting music. Assuming the NES catches on and sells well, expect more advanced carts to eventually make their way over here in the coming years to give them an edge over the competition.

When all is said and done, Ed prefers the 7800 over the NES. It appears he bases this mainly on his dislike for the NES controllers. While I agree they do take some getting used to, I find many of his complaints don’t hold water after extended playtime. I do hope Nintendo decides to release a joystick at some point in the future as that’s what I’m accustomed to, but for now the directional pad controllers don’t give me any issues.

What do you think? Have you had a chance to check out both systems yet? Let us know which one you prefer and what you’ll be purchasing over the next few months. Of course, Ed does remind us all that the Sega Master System has also just launched and that appears to be his favorite of all three. Looking to Japan, it doesn’t appear Sega has near the level of support that Nintendo is enjoying, so I’m not sure if its library of games will be enough to give the NES a good fight. It all comes down to must-have games and word of mouth. We will know much more how this all shakes out after this all-important holiday season. No matter what, I’m excited that console gaming is back!

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Craig Majaski

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

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