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I’ve likely mentioned it before on the blog that I’m a bit of a purist. I enjoy playing my games on original hardware so when clone systems come along I usually turn my nose up to them as a professional wine taster would a cheap wine in a box from the local grocery store. I recoil like a vampire from garlic at the site of Atari, Genesis and intellivision flashback consoles at the local Big Lots and even look on at the upcoming NES Mini console with indifference. Therefore I guess it may come as a surprise that I should endorse and even dare I say like the Atari flashback 2 console.

The Atari Flashback was released in 2005 and what makes the Flashback 2 different from the other Atari Flashbacks and for that matter most of the emulation boxes out there? Well first off it’s not actually emulating and is in fact actually more like a revision to the hardware you would find in an actual Atari 2600. Inside the Atari Flashback 2 is an actual single chip hardware reproduction of the TIA chip from the original console. What this means is that the flashback 2 can play 2600 games as they ran on the original hardware with a few exceptions. This works even to the point that one can modify a flashback 2 with a cartridge slot to actually accept and play original 2600 games, but we will touch more on that later.

So first lets have a look at the console and the packaging.

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The box itself is a little reminiscent of console boxes of the 70’s and early 80’s with alternating images of a few games and people having way more fun they probably ever would with the console. opening up the box we get.

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The flashback comes with the console itself, two Atari replica controllers and a power supply. I do not know if a manual was included. Mine did not come with one.

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The flashback console itself is directly modeled after the original 2600 only smaller. The most obvious change other then the size is the replacement of the toggle switches of the original with large plastic buttons. The buttons look kind of cheap but they do the job well enough.

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On the back of the unit we also have something very similar to the original console. We have the interesting inclusion of a switch to toggle between color and black & white displays like the original as well as the power jack. Instead of an RF coaxial cable wire built in we have a very welcomed composite and mono audio cable. It still looks pretty poor on a modern LCD HDTV but looks much better and is more convenient to set up on an older SD CRT set then RF. It even looks pretty nice on my Samsung HD CRT.

we have two controller ports which are the same standard 9 pin ports found on the original 2600 as well as many consoles and computers of the 80’s and early 90’s. joysticks from the original 2600 can be used without any issues on the Flashback 2 as well as the other way around with Flashback 2 joysticks working just fine on an original 2600. You can even use your trusty Sega Genesis controller if you’d like.

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The controllers feel mostly identical though the Flashback controller seen on the right in the image above has some different branding and seems ever so minutely smaller the original.

moving on to the built in games. We have a 40 games split into various categories.

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Adventure
Adventure II, a sequel to Adventure that is built on its original assembly-based game code
Haunted House
Return To Haunted House, a sequel to Haunted House that is built on the original Adventure’s assembly-based game code combined with graphics from the original Haunted House)
Secret Quest
Wizard (unreleased prototype)

Arcade Asteroids (hack)
Arcade Pong (exclusive to the Flashback 2), a version of Pong which can use paddle controllers if attached
Asteroids Deluxe (exclusive)
Battlezone
Centipede
Lunar Lander (exclusive)
Millipede
Missile Command
Space Duel (exclusive)

3D Tic-Tac-Toe
Aquaventure (unreleased prototype)
Atari Climber (homebrew), released in 2004 as Climber 5
Combat
Combat 2 (unreleased prototype)
Dodge ‘Em
Fatal Run (only released in Europe)
Frog Pond (unreleased prototype)
Hangman
Human Cannonball
Maze Craze
Off The Wall
Outlaw
Pitfall! (originally released by Activision)
Radar Lock
River Raid (originally released by Activision)
Save Mary (unreleased prototype)
Video Checkers
Video Chess
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Caverns Of Mars (exclusive)
Quadrun (originally sold only by mail order through the Atari fan club)
Saboteur (unreleased prototype)
Space War
Yars’ Return (exclusive sequel to Yars’ Revenge built on its original assembly-based game code)
Yars’ Revenge
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There are also two hidden paddle games included
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Super Breakout
Warloads
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Overall this is a pretty good sampling of 2600 titles in my opinion and the list contains some classics like Yar’s Revenge, Missile Command and Pitfall!. The really nice thing though is the inclusion of a few homebrews, unreleased prototype games and even a EU exclusive. Some of the prototypes such as Aquaventure are excellent 2600 games.
Once you pick a category you just scroll down and choose a game.
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One thing is there’s no way that I found to exit a game back to the select menu without powering the system off and then back on again.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that in 2010 a Atari Flashback 2+ was released that was mostly the same console with some games changed around. Pitfall!, River Raid, Wizard, Caverns of Mars and Atari Climber were removed and in their place a sports section was added with several 2600 Sports titles. Circus Atari was also added to the hidden paddle game menu. In my opinion the sports games aren’t worth it for the loss of some classics like Pitfall! but if your unlike me and into Atari sports titles the 2+ may be worth the tradeoff.

So lets take a look at the inside of the Flashback 2. Opening the console up is a simple matter of removing a few screws on the underside of the case.

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As you can see in the image above the majority of the case is just and empty shell. Its really pretty amazing how small the motherboard has been refined to.

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Now as this is more or less a revision of the original hardware there is a modification available for the Flashback 2 that allows a cartridge slot to be added allowing the user to play actual 2600 carts. Originally the cart slot was going to be built in but was cut as a supposed cost savings measure. If your interested here is a link to a very good guide on performing the modification

http://portablesofdoom.org/?p=244

I have read that due to some changes with the revised motherboard not all games will work with the cart port so your not exactly getting complete 100% compatibility.

So what is my opinion of the Atari Flashback 2? I don’t think it’s necessarily a good replacement for an original 2600. If your serious about getting into the 2600 library of games get an original model. They still aren’t very expansive and your assured full compatibility that you won’t quite get even with a Flashback with a cart mod. Also unless your good with soldering and electronics your likely going to have to pay someone to do the mod which is money that could be used to get a composite, S-video or better yet RGB mod done to an original 2600. If you do happen to find one cheap for under $20 though I would recommend picking one up. Not as a replacement for a original 2600 but for its collection of games you cant otherwise get such as the hacks, unreleased prototypes and Flashback 2 exclusives.

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