Published on February 5th, 2023 | by Paul Stuart
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration Switch Review @atari
Summary: The homage Atari truly deserves, to finally include playable Lynx and Jaguar titles.
It’s not a bold statement to declare Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration (‘Atari 50’) the single greatest historical game complication on modern consoles. Thus, anyone with a passion for video game history and/or the evolution of the Atari franchise should consider this a must-purchase.
Yes, there’s over 100 games to potentially play here…and all work perfectly. But…wow, the presentation and packaging! Digital Eclipse painted the Sistine Chapel of Atari in Atari 50, not surprising after their wonderful effort on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection. These guys simply ‘get it,’ when it comes to celebrating gaming history and making it infinitely playable, to boot.
Atari 50 is presented in a beautiful, flowing timeline menu with exclusive artwork, interviews, and relevant clippings throughout. Related ultra-kudos to how sub-menus are executed to include in-game options, an ability to migrate directly in/out main and game-only mode, and games/stories logically separated by consoles and/or generations. Digital Eclipse even went the extra mile by featuring updates and/or exclusive versions of classic Atari games.
In terms of the games themselves, the gangs all here. Atari Arcade, 2600, 5200, 7800, 8-bit…and my personal favorites, Lynx and Jaguar. As someone who truly appreciated and played the heck out of the last two systems, it’s wonderful to see them finally recognized. The Jaguar section even features extended backstory and CD-only games, a rarest look into a very cool attempt to do something different in the age of Nintendo dominance. Referencing above, I especially appreciated the interviews with those responsible for these niche systems also legendary developers paying homage to what Atari attempted yet commercially failed at.
The most rewarding aspect of this collection is – as stated, and of course – how well everything plays. There’s none of that awful emulation clipping and/or slowdown so indicative of classic title remakes, with the arcade offerings also and surprisingly playing flawlessly. For newer school and as the Lynx’ biggest fan and critic, I state with confidence these the most accurate representations outside of owning the original systems themselves.
Atari 50 is also unafraid to take some shots at itself, in showing the trials and tribulations in trying to constantly innovate. This includes deliberate attention to low success and sometimes silly marketing efforts and supporting advertisements to revive and/or survive. I personally enjoyed a closest look at how and why the Lynx hardware evolved, also decisions to ultimately update Jaguar’s controllers and its CD drive [to counter competition]…to include missteps inherent.
Related and as someone with an Atari Gold console, this collection mainly blows it out of the water. Atari 50 is the perfect homage to a half century of gaming, and finally a bold leap versus repackaging and below average presentation of titles only older gamers may appreciate. The inclusion of Lynx, Jaguar and Arcade games easily make this the best Atari collection to date, likewise the wonderful precision in presenting everything within a gorgeous menu system. There is one noticeable wart in Atari 50: the absence of Activision titles likely due to licensing. Thus, no Pitfall, Rampage, Space Invaders or other legendary Atari 3rd party offerings. You’ll need to resort to other collections, sadly.
Logistically, and while this available on every mainstream console, Atari 50 is a perfect match for the Switch and its portability. These are simple games, with – at most – a handful of buttons to operate, and well suited for small gameplay sessions. As with all other recent Atari homage collections, games can easily be saved, and almost every option adjusted. These likewise add replay value.
Finally, and importantly, thumbs up for the competitive pricing of this collection. It’s nice to see a well-executed effort that is anything but a money grab…when so many alternatives are charging maximum price simply because.
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is a tremendous and perfectly presented package at a solid price point. Its terrific and closest look at the history of Atari – supported by wonderfully playable versions of its titles – make this perhaps the best gaming compilation of the modern console era.