Hello, retro gaming enthusiasts – specifically, those enthusiastic about the last official games ever released, and welcome back to The Last Official Release. As the title promises, in every article I explore the last games released for your favourite consoles. A full list of what I’ve already covered can be found below, but today, we’re taking a look at the Atari 5200.
It was all the way back in the March of last year that I scrutinised the Atari 2600’s last game (it was actually the second ever post for this series), so, after a bunch of Sega released text I thought it would be prudent to direct my attention back to the biggest game publisher/developer of the ’70s and early ’80s.
While the 2600 hammered on in a few different forms from 1977 to 1992, the 5200 interestingly saw a release in the November of 1982. More of a ‘2600+’ rather than a completely new console, the 5200 ended up being a competitor with the ColecoVision, also launched in 1982.
The 5200 was basically a consolised version of an Atari 8-bit computer. It offered superior graphics to the 2600, but much like what would happen with both Sega Genesis add-on’s ten years later, most games did not take advantage of the faster specs. The rest were basically ‘enhanced’ versions of 2600 games too, which meant that most consumers had no reason to purchase them again if they already owned the game on the 2600.
The console was also huge; the controllers stowed away in the top half of the console – and speaking of the those, were considered to be overengineered (the analogue joysticks with a huge failure point) and hard to use, incorporating a numeric pad. Additionally, the console was criticised for having no backwards compatibility with the 2600. This was later amended with an adapter, but these were in short supply and are now hard to locate.
Ultimately, the 5200 was discontinued after only two years in 1984. Reportedly, over one million units were sold over that period, so it wasn’t a tremendous flop, but it was obvious that Atari wanted to move on. It was later superseded by the 7800 in 1986, but that’s a story for another day.
So, what of its final game? That title goes to none other than Gremlins, based on the 1984 film of the same name. That was released in 1986, but since the film came out in ’84 – also the same year the 5200 was discontinued, what was going on?
Well, the game was actually developed in 1984 (as you’d expect) by John Seghers but was the victim of terribly bad timing. The day after the finalised ROM was sent off to the cartridge producers, the infamous Tramiel takeover of Atari happened. One of Jack Tramiel’s first motions as Atari overlord was to kill all remaining 5200 production to focus on other things, but somehow, a few thousand copies of Gremlins were produced unbeknown to Tramiel. However, once he found that out they were banished to a warehouse somewhere to be forgotten about.
Steven Spielberg himself found out about the games current state, and as producer of the Gremlins film was understandably unhappy about the situation. He offered to buy the stock and sell it himself, but Tramiel declined for reasons unknown. There the stock sat for another two years, when finally, Atari cleared out the warehouse in question and sold the stock with no marketing whatsoever. In retrospect, they must have had quite the load as this version is quite easy to find and relatively cheap to now buy online. As of writing, I saw listings for as cheap as ten dollars.
Thankfully, this version is much different to one that can be found on the 2600. While that version was universally panned, Gremlins for the 5200 is considered to include fun, fast-paced action as well as graphics that take advantage of the hardware.
Including 23 levels with either one or two player modes, the point of the game is to capture loose gremlins and release them into a pen. You don’t, however, want still free gremlins getting close to the pen as they will attempt to release their captured pals. Your character has three lives, with the ultimate goal to survive until 6:00am. Your weapons are a ‘flash cube’, since they don’t like the light, as well as a sword. I can’t remember a sword being in the film, but then again, it’s been many years since I personally viewed it.
Previously, on The Last Official Release:
The Last Official Release: Sega CD – Shadowrun
The Last Official Release: 32X – The Amazing Spider-Man: Web of Fire (1996)
3DO – Creature Shock (1996)
CD-i – Solar Crusade (1999)
Atari Lynx – Super Asteroids & Missile Command (1995)
N-Gage – Civilization (2006)
Fairchild Channel F – Alien Invasion (1981)
Atari Jaguar – Worms (1998)
Virtual Boy – 3D Tetris (1996)
Sega Saturn – Undefined Japanese Game (2000)
Intellivision – Spiker! Super Pro Volleyball (1989)
Super Nintendo Entertainment System – Metal Slader Glory: Director’s Cut (2000)
Sega Genesis – Frogger (1998)
Sega Master System – Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge
Game & Watch – Mario the Juggler
PS1 – Schnappi: 3 Fun-Games
N64 – Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3
Game Gear – The Lost World: Jurassic Park
NES – The Lion King
Atari 2600 – Klax
Game Boy – Shikakei Atama o Kore Kusuru: Kanji/Keisan no Tatsujin
Dreamcast – Karous