NES Works Gaiden #12: Atari 7800 1986 (1 of 3)
Sep 27 2020
Before I dive into NES Works 1988 in earnest, it's time for me to set right a historic wrong of sorts. NES Works/Game Boy Works/et al. have focused primarily on Nintendo's legacy, but that has always been more a function of my personal time and resource limitations than any slight to Nintendo's peers in the console space. Now that I've launched my long-overdue Lynx and Game Gear retrospectives, there's no getting around the fact that the core console space deserves the same treatment as handheld gaming. And so, we rewind time about 18 months to mid-1986 this week to begin looking at the early days of the Atari 7800, the first console out of the gates to compete with Nintendo's NES in the U.S. It had a slow start, to say the least—it will only take three episodes of this length to bring these 7800 retrospectives to January 1988 in line with the current NES chronology! It's hard to see this early 7800 lineup as serious competition to the NES—these few games feel very much like relics of an earlier era. That's because they are, of course. They're the games that would have launched alongside the 7800 in 1984 had Jack Tramiel not put the console on ice for two years. Viewed through that lens, however, the 7800's initial offerings were fairly impressive, and even in 1986 these were the best home ports available for all four of these arcade classics. Was that really the most compelling sales pitch for kids who were already immersed in Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt? Absolutely not! But even if timing and market realities tripped it up right off the starting blocks, the 7800 deserves respect. Special thanks goes to Kevin Bunch of @Atari Archive for the hard work he's invested into sorting out the actual chronology of 7800 releases by researching magazines and newspapers of the late ’80s, allowing us to pinpoint game launches to the month. His works is far more precise than the internet's existing 7800 release info, which is generally no more specific than by year... and often the wrong year at that. Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! And be sure to check out the Retronauts podcast (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.