Atari Flashback 3 Review
This year while browsing the ads for Black Friday sales, I noticed something called the Atari Flashback 3. I’d been following the Flashback line of consoles and I have the first two, but news of this one managed to elude me until now. I guess I haven’t been visiting AtariAge often enough.
The first Atari Flashback was a plug n play console made to resemble a mini Atari 7800, with mini 7800 joysticks. Its selection of games were from the Atari 2600 and 7800, but under the hood the hardware was an NES-on-a-Chip, so the games were all ports. This left purists unsatisfied with their accuracy. This also meant it wasn’t compatible with original 2600 or 7800 joysticks.
The Atari Flashback 2 was made to resemble a mini Atari 2600, came with joysticks modeled after the original 2600 sticks, and actually replicated the original 2600 hardware, so the games run as they did on the original console. It was also compatible with original Atari sticks (and other compatible controllers, such as the Sega Genesis), and you could even add a cartridge port if you had the soldering skills. The games included a mix of popular titles, rarities, prototypes, hacks, homebrew, and some licensed from Activision. There was later a Flashback 2+ which featured a slightly different selection of games and some minor cosmetic differences.
I understand the folks at Legacy Engineering, who designed the first two Flashbacks, were working on a Flashback 3. As I recall, it was going to be Atari 8-bit/5200-based, and feature a cartridge slot of some kind. Unfortunately, Atari never went ahead with it.
Instead, the Flashback 3 is an emulated 2600 made by AtGames (makers of various Sega Genesis clones). The case and joysticks are similar to the FB2, but with the joystick ports now on the front, and it includes 60 games compared to the FB2’s 40 or so. Like the FB2, it’s compatible with original 2600 controllers. It uses composite video which looks a lot nicer than the original’s RF (and comparable to the FB2). In the box you get the console, power cord, 2 joysticks, and a poster.
While the FB2 divided the games into different categories, the FB3 has them all in one alphabetical list spanning 6 pages. I find this way to be more convenient. The games included are:
Circus Atari (paddle)
Demons to Diamonds* (paddle)
Fun with Numbers*
Night Driver* (paddle)
Off the Wall
Super Breakout (paddle)
* These games have not appeared on any previous Flashback console. Different versions of Asteroids and Desert Falcon have, but not the regular 2600 games.
† There’s no Color/B&W switch, which the game Secret Quest uses to access a menu, so the game is not completely playable.
Aside from the few games I mention, everything seems to play as it should. Graphically, everything seems to look as it should. I noticed a few places where the sounds didn’t seem quite right, but for the most part that’s fine.
I am not a fan of the original 2600 joysticks, and the ones included feel a little cheaper and looser (and noisier!) than either the original or FB2 sticks. On the other hand, you may find the looser stick to be a plus compared to the more stiff original. Fortunately, you can use other Atari-compatible controllers. My favorite is the Sega Genesis 6-button pad.
The few paddle games that are included have been modified to work with a joystick controller, and a pretty good job was done making it work well. However, if you have a set of original 2600 paddles they can be plugged in to play them the proper way. There’s a bit of input lag compared to a real 2600. It’s not too bad, but it is noticeable. The FB3 also seems to be extra sensitive to jittery paddles, so unless your paddles are in perfect shape they may not work well. It will also mistake a Genesis controller for a paddle, so you can’t play those games with one.
The build quality is not the best. When plugging in one set of paddles with a tight plug I heard a *crack*. After removing it I saw that 3 of the pins had gotten pushed in. Fortunately it still works, for now anyway. The case itself seems fairly sturdy at least.
So if you want to want to play some classic Atari games in one convenient box this is not a bad way to do it, even though there are a few issues to watch out for. The Flashback 3 usually sells for about $40, but you may be able to find it on sale like I did.
Oh, one point I forgot to mention: When the FB3 was announced it was supposed to have an SD card slot to play game ROMs (as with AtGames’ Genesis clones). This feature didn’t make it into the final design, which is too bad since it’s something a lot of people would like to have. Some store ads still listed this in the product features, but it’s unfortunately not true.
I forgot to mention the length of the controller cords. The cords for the FB3 sticks are about 5 1/2 feet long, compared to 4′ for the real 2600 sticks, and about 5′ for the FB2 sticks.
If you are wondering where to buy one, I got mine at Dollar General, and Toys R Us and Hastings also had them for Black Friday sales. Since then I’ve also seen Rite Aid selling them, and heard about Walgreens and Kroger (King Soopers, Ralph’s, etc.) carrying them.
I figured out where I put my FB2 so I could do a comparison photo, and I noticed the FB3 is a lot lighter than the 2.
Posted on November 29, 2011, in Gadgets, Reviews, Video Games and tagged Atari, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Atari Flashback, AtGames, clone, console, Flashback 3, plug and play, plug n play, ROMs, SD card, VCS, Video Computer System, Video Games. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.