REVIEW - Atari VCS 800
It's been about two and one-half years (May 2018) since I originally purchased my Atari VCS 800 - Black Walnut - All-In Collectors Edition with a classic joystick and modern controller on Indiegogo for $364.00 with shipping. On the invoice it mentioned the estimated delivery date to be "July 2019", I never would have guessed I'd be receiving it in 2021 but considering the various project delays and world events it's a small miracle they were able to get the product they have today out to their Atari VCS backers. I received my Atari VCS a couple of days after New Year's Day and it just so happened that a week before that I had also gotten a Sony Playstation 5 for Christmas from my wife. After playing the Sony PS5 about a week and loving it, I experienced a momentary fear that my Atari VCS was going to start collecting dust before I even got a chance to open it but after two plus years of waiting I wasn't about to wait any longer. Out of the box, the product packaging is very nice with a modern style and retro feel, the same applies to the Atari VCS console itself. The Atari VCS has a slim sleekness showing off that its a state-of-the-art gaming system but at the same time pays tribute to its retro 1970's and 80's roots. The modern controller will appeal to contemporary gamers while the classic joystick enables people to experience and in many cases relive what family room video gaming was 40 years ago.
The Atari VCS has everything you would expect from a video gaming system, from a hardware perspective it has 4K video output via its rear HDMI port. It can support a wireless network connection or wired using the rear ethernet port. It has two rear and two front USB ports where the controllers can be used or charged wired. The wireless controller and joystick come with extra long USB cables so you can couch play via a wired connection at a reasonable distance from the Atari VCS console if you choose to do so. The modern controller and classic joystick have a nice look and good quality feel to them which can be doubly said about the Atari VCS console itself.
The initial setup had some road bumps though the general consensus among Atari VCS backers is that this is in some cases expected and we are in a sense the true beta-testers of the new Atari VCS system. The two main issues that caused some delay in actually playing the system were the initial setup update and the user logon account creation process. During the initial setup update the system automatically reboots and consequently entered a reboot loop that could only be resolved using a PC keyboard followed by holding the ESC key during boot-up and entering the BIOS much like a traditional PC. After some searching on the internet the general advice from other Atari VCS users was to enter Boot Manager while in the BIOS, select the "EFI Embedded MMC Device 1" option, and then reboot with the new settings.
After performing these steps the Atari VCS completed the update normally and booted up successfully. I then encountered a second issue when creating my user logon account for the Atari VCS system. During the account creation process it will ask you for an email address to register your account, this email address MUST be the initial email address you used during your Atari VCS backer purchase order. I made the mistake of using a different email address only to repeatedly receive an error stating my email address was not registered when attempting to logon to the system. Curiously, the error persisted even after utilizing the verification link I was sent via email. It was only after creating an additional account using the original email I used to order my Atari VCS back in 2018 that it allowed me to logon to the system. One other thing I noticed is that there isn't an account management feature on the Atari VCS to delete an account other than the one you are currently logged into. After creating a new account with the correct email address I then had two accounts with the same name and no way to delete the old incorrect logon account because I couldn't logon with it. I was forced to restore the system back to factory defaults and recreate my logon account using the correct email address just so I had a clean logon screen with only one instance of my account name. So after an hour or two of sorting through those issues I managed to logon and get to the main app dashboard.
The landing page or app dashboard is typical compared to other modern gaming consoles. There you get access to installed games and apps, the pre-installed Google Chrome browser, PC Mode functionality that lets you boot into a PC operating system using a USB thumb drive, and the Atari VCS Companion app which lets you control your console using your mobile device. The Store provides access to add video media apps like Netflix and a library of games available for purchase. Some games are even free, like 'Missile Command: Recharge' which is a fun revamp of the original retro hit Missile Command.
The Atari VCS also came with a complimentary install of the Atari VCS Vault, a collection of many original Atari arcade games and home video game system classics. I must say the original Atari games as played on the Atari VCS, from a graphics perspective, are the closest to authentic representations of the original games I have seen outside of the original systems themselves and am very impressed by this. The controls on some of the games can take some getting used to but after some time will provide a very nostalgic experience. One game in particular, my personal favorite, Tempest, has excellent controls and I was pleasantly surprised by the clever addition of a fully 360 degree rotational stick on the classic joystick which makes the game an absolute joy to play. The directional amber lights on the classic joystick are also a very cool touch.
So in closing, I am very happy with the new Atari VCS 800 system and look forward to seeing what new games come out for it. If you played Atari when you were younger this system will definitely fill that nostalgic need but it will also be interesting to see what new software and games indie developers create for it. I already see a couple of new titles I am planning on trying out. I think for gamers who are looking for an alternative to the Big 3 video game consoles (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) the new Atari VCS is definitely something to try out if you can manage to have a little patience so it can build up a decent library of release titles. Thanks for reading and come visit us again soon.