In the 80s, you just couldn't get technology at home even close to what you would find in an arcade. Home consoles were a way to play arcade-like games in the comfort of your own home - usually with much lesser graphics and sounds, but the basic game would be the same. When it came to games like Space Invaders, Berzerk or Missle Command, the Atari 2600 did a pretty good job of recreating the arcade versions. The graphics were relatively simple as were the colors and game mechanics. Take a look at these screenshots of the Arcade version on the left with its Atari 2600 counterpart on the right. Not bad!
Pac-Man changed video games forever - first as an arcade game and then again as an Atari 2600 cartridge. It was the much anticipated release of Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 that was the first real let down of the "home version" games.
Pac-Man was released in 1980, when I was 8 years old. I had collected Pac-Man stickers
had the Coleco table-top Pac-Man
and I'm sure a lot more. So to have this game at home was a highly anticipated release.
As anyone who has played the 2600 version of Atari can attest- this was very different from Pac-Man we knew. Rather than the bright colors and sounds of "waka waka" - we had "bonk-bonk" and when the ghosts were eaten, it sounded like "Buck You."
This game was to signal the great video game crash of 1983 as home consoles just couldn't keep up with arcade games and there was an over-saturation of low-quality home console video games such as E.T.
(This game is so bad, it could be a subject for another article).
After the Atari 2600, the video game market began to divide between home console cartridge systems and home computers such as the Commodore 64. I use this point in time of Atari 2600 to Coleco and Home Computers because I believe this is the pivotal time that established some of the first "Retro Games" for gaming.
When comparing the Atari 2600 version to the Colecovision version of Donkey Kong to the actual arcade game, there was an obvious step up in terms of arcade to home port graphics and sound.
Where there wasn't a "port" for home use, there would be games that took a similar concept and were close enough or represented a new game entirely. For example, Epyx release the very popular Summer Games series. It satisfied that want of playing the arcade Track N Field like game.
Before there was a Commando port for the Commodore 64, there was Who Dares Wins.
Instead of Super Mario Brothers, we had The Great Giana Sisters.
When revisiting games now through the use of emulators, its obvious how poor some of those arcade translations were. And now, why play the retro console or "almost" versions of Donkey Kong or Commando when you can load MAME and play the original game as intended? Rather, to hear the sounds and see the graphics of some of those early games brings back the memories of what we were doing at the time, the friends we had, and hope for that next pocket full of quarters for the arcade.
There were some games that weren't arcade ports that I believe still stand up pretty well today. Try to find and play these on an emulator if you can.
Bruce Lee for the C64.
Paradroid for the C64.
Archon for the C64.
H.E.R.O. for ColecoVision.
B.C. Quest for Tires for ColecoVision.