A look at arcade ports on retro consoles today

Shaggy February 23, 2008 2

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Ever since Atari released Space Invaders on the Atari 2600 console, arcade ports have been something of a standard in the console industry. It becomes something of a conundrum however as console releases have been a problem for arcades as developers have begun releasing some titles on consoles shortly after the arcade release killing sales or releasing them first on the consoles and then arcades. I have found one interesting trend however – homebrew developers recreating classic games on classic game consoles. Many classic arcade titles never saw a release on a retro console so enthusiast programmers are bringing those games to life on old systems and in some cases pulling off what was believed to be impossible. It has taken me a few hours to gather all of the games I could find on this list but it’s possible that I overlooked a few games.

Update: I have added a few ColecoVision homebrews that I previously missed.

Hit the post break for the huge lists. [Discuss on the Forum]

Systems covered: Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, Nintendo Entertainment System, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Bally Astrocade. I hope to add the Sega Master System as well and if I can find some on the NES, I will add those as well.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge; click on the hyperlinks on the titles to check out the homebrew game, click on the link next to that for the KLOV entry of the arcade game.

The Atari 2600

The first console to see an arcade port has also seen a large number of homebrew releases over the past few years and many of those are arcade ports of games that never made it to the popular console. In fact it is much easier to find information based on Atari 2600 homebrews than any other system thanks to the community at AtariAge. Here’s a current look at the Atari arcade homebrew scene . Keep in mind that the homebrew scene is always a WIP and many more arcade titles will probably come to the 2600 over the next few years. Some programmers are discussing or already working on arcade ports like Rip Off, Leprechaun, Mappy, Zoo Keeper and more. (Other systems are below this, don’t worry)

avalanche.pngAvalancheBased on the arcade game of the same name by Atari, Atari 2600 verison done by johnnywc. The classic Activision game Kaboom! was actually an Avalanche clone but as it turns out more people have fond memories of Kaboom! and not of Avalanche. This game is listed as a WIP although it appears complete.

2600_bd_v2.pngBoulder Dashbased on the arcade game of the same name by Exidy, 2600 version by Andrew Davie. You are an ant named Rockford that must navigate a labyrinth filled with dirt, diamonds and boulders. Dig through the dirt collecting diamonds while avoiding falling boulders and reaching the end of the maze in time. There were actually three versions of this released in arcades at different times. The game is currently a WIP and should be released soon.

colony7.gifColony 7Based on the arcade game of the same name by Taito, Atari verison done by CyberGoth. Colony 7 inspired the game Atlantis by Imagic that was released for the 2600 in 1982 and the entire concept shares similarities with Atari’s Missle Command. Defend your city from invader attack as they come down row by row bombing your city. You have turrets and a shield (that is like a row of bricks from Breakout) that act as your defense.

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Crazy BalloonBased on the Taito arcade title of the same name, 2600 version by Cybergoth. Guide your balloon through treacherous caverns, confronting obstacles and winding paths that get in your way. To make it more difficult part of the balloon swings so you have to be careful to not let that part accidentally touch the walls.

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Gun Fightbased on the arcade game of the same name by Midway, 2600 version by Manuel Rotschkar. Atari actually released a Gunfight clone on the 2600 early in the console’s life called Outlaw although since it was so early the game couldn’t take advantage of all the tricks that coders know now about the machine. Gunfight pits two cowboys against each other, on opposite sides of the screen where they duel to the death. There can be obstacles in the middle to make it more interesting as well as separate play modes for added replay value.

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Hunchy – Based on the arcade game Hunch Back by Century Electronics, 2600 version by cd-w. Hunch Back was a platformer that didn’t see great success on the arcade scene but was a fun platformer that put you in the spot of the Hunch Back of Norte Dame. Avoid obstacles and rescue the gypsy woman Esmeralda in the tower.

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Hunchy II – This is a “sequel” to the arcade game known as Hunch Back by Century electronics, 2600 version by cd-w. Hunch Back was a platformer that didn’t see great success on the arcade scene but was a fun platformer that put you in the spot of the Hunch Back of Norte Dame. Avoid obstacles, collect bells and rescue the gypsy woman Esmeralda in the tower.

ladybug.pngLady Bugbased on the arcade game of the same name by Universal, 2600 version by John W. Champeau(johnnywc). Lady Bug was roughly a Pac-Man clone but added the element of allowing the player to move walls around, which was a big enough difference to make the game interesting on it’s own. The game also featured a wide variety of enemies. One thing that made this nice is that there was a rumor that Coleco would release Lady Bug on the Atari back in the day but a prototype has never surfaced. This is complete and probably better than a Coleco version would have been.

m-4.pngM-4based on the arcade game of the same name by Midway, 2600 version by Bob Montgomery. It’s a tank vs. tank game where players try to blast away the adjacent wall that their enemy is hiding behind and then blast their enemy.

medievalmay.pngMedieval Mayhembased on the arcade game Warlords by Atari, 2600 version by Spiceware. While the Atari 2600 did have a release of Warlords back during it’s lifespan, the game wasn’t arcade perfect (although it’s still a blast to play in it’s own right) so Medieval Mayhem sets out to create a port more faithful to the original while taking the liberty of enhancing it with a few extra features, taking advantage of further knowledge programmers hold of the 2600 today.

pacman4k.jpgPac-Man (4k) based on the arcade game of the same name by Namco, new 2600 version by Debro. Many people were severely disappointed by the original release of Pac-Man on the 2600 as it was a rushed release that underwhelmed in many ways compared to the original. But now the 2600 is finally redeemed with this Pac-Man release that is much more faithful to the original and pushes the 2600 much further than the original VCS game did. It’s worth mentioning that some other homebrew authors have put together Pac-Man releases on the 2600 over the years but I’ve seen none as impressive as this one so far.

phantom2.pngPhantom II – based on the arcade game of the same name by Bally Midway, 2600 version by s0c7. Before 1942 there was Phantom II, a vertical shmup where you battle enemy aircraft. I don’t know much else about the game having never played it before.

Pong (Various) – based on the arcade game of the same name, by various authors. Strangely, the Atari 2600 never actually had Pong on it although many people say they remember playing it (they probably remember Video Olympics, which had many Pong-like variations). Homebrew developers have taken it upon themselves to develop their own versions of Pong, some faithful to the original, others taking a new perspective on it (such as with FlapPing which compined Pong with Joust).

seawolfvcs.png Seawolfbased on the arcade game of the same name by Midway, 2600 version by Manuel Rotschkar.You play a submarine who is sinking ships in the ocean while avoiding enemy depth charges and other dangers. You may recall that Sea Wolf was also recently updated and released for modern arcades.

spaceinv.pngSpace Invaders (various) – based on the arcade game of the same name by Taito, various authors.As I mentioned previously, Space Invaders was the first arcade-to-home port that really caught people’s attention and naturally homebrew programmers have found ways to improve upon the original, many times building their own game from scratch. Space Invaders clones include Rainbow Invaders, Inv+, and Space Instigators.

Star Firebased upon the arcade game of the same name by Exidy, 2600 version by starfire.pngManuel Polik of Xype. StarFire was essentially Star Wars without the license. Fight Tie Fighters in your X-Wing like craft in waves, destroy enemy bases including one that looks like the Death Star, etc. The arcade version of this game was actually the first title to use a cockpit cabinet and the first to maintain a high score table that displayed the names of winning players. The 2600 version added some touches to the overall game that the arcade didn’t have and is quite advanced for the 2600 itself with an anti-flicker engine and could track up to 9 objects at once.

thrustplus.png Thrust + – loosely based on the arcade game Gravitar and is actually a port of the Commodore 64 game of the same name, by Thomas Jentschz. Pilot a space ship across various planets, blasting aliens and collecting fuel. Like Gravitar the game is a bit difficult but if you love a challenge (and excellent music) then this game has it.

vaultassault.pngVault Assaultbased on the arcade title Space Zap by Midway, 2600 version by BrianPrescott. Your vault (which was a starbase in the original) is being attacked from all sides by invaders, use the joysticks direction to fire your cannons and see how long you can survive as the difficulty increases.

lunarlanderfb2.pngAs a final note, there are several new arcade conversions available on the Atari Flashback 2 although a few have some serious flickering problems (that were supposed to be fixed in later versions – not sure if they ever made it to that point or not). These include Arcade Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Pong, and Lunar Lander (pictured above, source: Digital Press)

Atari 5200

The follow-up to the ultra-popular Atari 2600 that failed to capture the same level of interest as the former console but it delivered on its promise to be a “Personal Arcade Machine” as a vast majority of games in it’s library are ports of arcade games. The 5200 usually takes flak because of it’s unusual controllers but that doesn’t stop one from enjoying the games (the joysticks I have all work fine on it). Thanks to the shared hardware between the 5200 and the Atari 8-bit computers (specifically the Atari 400) a number of conversions have been released where they are essentially the computer versions with slight enhancements to work on the 5200 with the controllers and cartridge hardware. Since many arcade titles were released for the 8-bits, this has created a number of arcade title availability to the 5200 beyond what is listed below, including games like Crystal Castles, donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Satan’s Hollow, Spy Hunter, and Tapper.

beefdrop.png Beef Dropbased on the arcade game Burgertime by Bally Midway, Atari 5200 version by Ken Siders. In Burgertime you scale ladders and walk over pieces of food to make them fall down a level until you’ve created a full hamburger or hot dog. To make it difficult you are constantly being chased around by enemies (that also represent pieces of food) trying to eliminate you. The 5200 version is quite faithful to the arcade.

castlecrisis.pngCastle Crisisbased on Warlords by Atari, 5200 version by Bryan Edewaard. Castle Crisis is a very faithful port of Warlords, recreating the coin-op faithfully in every detail, minus the rotary controllers. As Warlords was a 4-player game and the 5200 had four controller ports, it is one of the very few 5200 games to actually take advantage of this fact.

klax5200.pngKLAXbased on the arcade game of the same name by Atari Games, by John Swiderski. When they say that KLAX was ported to practically every system out there, the 5200 was no exception. The 5200 version supports the joysticks and the rare paddles and also includes voice.

tempest5200.pngTempestbased on the arcade game of the same name by Atari, by The Tempest Project (several people are involved including the original artist for the game). Tempest was supposed to be released back in 1984 but was cancelled due to the game crash and subsequent purchase of Atari by Jack Tramiel. Now a group of coders have come together to finish the game up and release it to the community.

Atari 7800

The Atari 7800 had an unfortunate story – ready for release in 1984, shelved until 1986 due to the sale of Atari to the Tramiels, the 7800 was the most powerful 8-bit console Atari released that was also backwards compatible with 2600 games. But by the time it came out Nintendo already held the market lock, stock and barrel and combined with poor marketing and development efforts on Atari’s part it didn’t do terribly well. But that didn’t stop a number of games from coming out on the system, many of which were arcade ports. Homebrew development for the 7800 has been fairly stale until recent years due in part to the tough encryption used on the system and most homebrew interest focusing on the 2600.

asteroidsdeluxe.jpgAsteroids Deluxebased on the arcade game of the same name by Atari, 7800 version by Bob DeCrescenzo. The game uses only one color and uses vector-like graphics to recreate the look and feel of the original arcade (minus the button controls and the black light backing). The game may also be known as Asteroids VE.

beefdrop7800.png Beef Dropbased on the arcade game Burgertime by Bally Midway, Atari 7800 version by Ken Siders. After finishing up theis port for the Atari 5200 the programmer decided to bring it to Atari’s neglected console, the 7800 and it’s even better than the 5200 version thanks to higher resolution graphics and as some may argue better controls by the nature of the 7800’s joysticks. In fact many reviews say that Beef Drop is the best port of Burgertime to any classic game console.
bonq.pngb*nqbased upon the arcade game Q*Bert by Gottlieb, 7800 version by Ken Siders. b*nQ is an excellent port of Q*Bert and includes different difficulty options as well as two different options for controls where you can choose to rotate the controller to mimic the arcade’s unique diagonal control. On top of this the game supports the high score cart so you can keep track of your score.

frogger_new.jpgFroggerbased on the arcade of the same name by Sega, 7800 version by Schmutzpuppe. The 7800 homebrew of Frogger is notable as it is one of the very few games to take advantage of the high resolution mode that was rarely used in other 7800 titles. It also uses POKEY sound (a chip that was included only in a couple of games)and retains gameplay just like the original arcade title.

klax7800.pngKLAXbased on the arcade game of the same name by Atari Games, by Atari but reproduced by ResQSoft. The game was completed by Atari but never released until later. This was actually one of the very first new games released on the 7800 after the console officially had no more games being developed for it.

pacmancollection.pngPac-Man Collection – based on all of the Pac-Man games released in arcades by Namco, 7800 version by Bob DeCrescenzo. The 7800 only had Ms. Pac-Man as a part of it’s Pac library and Bob took that and brought Pac-Man, Puck Man, Hangly Man, Ultra Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Ms. Pac Attack all into one cartridge (providing for 7800 fans all the Pac-Man they could ever want – except for maybe Pac-Man Jr.) .

spaceduel.pngSpace Duelbased on the arcade game of the same name by Atari, 7800 version by Bob DeCrescenzo. Like Asteroids Deluxe on the 7800, Space Duel recreates the vector classic that took a radical departure from Asteroids and brings it to the 7800, all with the color vector look and competitive modes.

Nintendo Entertainment System

After the Atari 2600’s glory days were over , the NES came along and took over comfortably in lieu of the game crash and pretty much revived the industry from the grave. As piracy and unauthorized games were other major factors in bringing the industry to it’s knees, Nintendo took a very hard-line approach towards such things, employing special circuitry to protect the system from unlicensed products (which was circumvented). Because of this and special mappings of some sort needed for cartridges, it has made homebrewing on the NES difficult when it comes to releasing new cartridges, although not impossible.

At the moment I was only able to find some very sparse information on a Pong homebrew and a Frogger homebrew for the NES, but not enough to put down any details nor pictures. This is a little surprising as I would have thought that there would be more arcade-related homebrews on the NES. If I finally do find some solid info, I’ll update this post.

ColecoVision

One of the primary competitors for the Atari 2600 (in fact it could also play 2600 games), the ColecoVision did pretty well in the market until the crash came along in 83. Like the Atari 5200 this saw a number of arcade ports brought to the platform during it’s lifetime, although one can argue that the saturation of arcade ports on all game systems at the time is one of the factors that led to the crash.

astroinvader.pngAstro Invaderbased on the arcade game of the same name by Stern Electronics, CV version by Scott Huggins. I have never played Astro Invader but it sounds like a cross between Space Invaders and Defender (since it involves saucers capturing women apparently). According to Atari Age it’s a perfectport and comparing the screenshots it looks like it.

kevtris.pngKevTrisbased on the arcade game Tetris by Atari Games, CV version by Kevin Horton. From what I can gather, this was the first homebrew effort done on the ColecoVision and was programmed based on reverse-engineering as no or little documentation was available on the CV. It’s a faithful conversion of the game and pretty impressive for being programmed with little documentation to go on.

pacmancoleco.gifPacMan – based on Pac Man or Ms. Pac-Man(depending on the release) by Namco. While Pac-Man did see a release on thte platform during the CV’s lifetime, that hasn’t stopped homebrew developers from improving on the game (like coders have done with the 2600 and Pac-Man on that system). Thte PacMan Collection combines Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man on one cart it creates a good deal for CV owners that want an arcade faithful port of the original Pac-Man and the first time Ms. Pac-Man sees a release on the console; Dac-Man was also released for the CV but I can’t find any info on it.

Road Fighterbased upon the arcade game of the same name by Konami, CV version by rft_scr2.pngOpcode Games . At first glance this game looks like Spy Hunter but in reality Road Fighter is about racing and not hunting. Drive as fast as you can, passing other cars and avoiding accidents. This game did come out on the MSX platform but the CV version includes a screen from the arcade that was not in the MSX version.

sjg_scr3.pngSky Jaguarbased on the arcade game of the same name by Konami, by Opcode Games. The earth is under attack by the Zephyr Army and only a fleet of powerful ships, the Sky Jaguars can save it. This is a vertical shmup, like 1942 or Xevious and on the Colecovision it certainly impresses.

Space Invaders Collection – based upon the arcade games (SI and SI: Part II) by sic_scr1.pngTaito, CV version by Opcode Games. Relive the Space Invaders experience on the CV and with more modes and action that what would have been available had a port of SI come along in the 80’s. They have put SI parts I & II along with the US and Japanese versions of the game on the cart so fans won’t miss a thing.

spectar.pngSpectarbased on the arcade game of the same name by Exidy, by Scott Huggins. This is a cross between a “Car Wars” style game and Pac-Man. Drive around a grid collecting stars for points while avoiding collision with enemy cars. You can shoot them down and a level ends when you either gather all the stars or destroy all the cars.

Yie Ar Kung Fubased upon the arcade game of the same name by Konami ,CV version ykf_scr1.pngby Opcode Games. Yie Ar Kung Fu brings tournament-style arcade fighting to the CV that is a rare genre to find on any retro console. While Yie Ar Kung Fu wasn’t the first game to feature 1-0n-1 fighting in the arcades, it was among the first and was a lot of fun to play. The CV version also allows for 2 player action. Opcode is working on bringing the sequel of this game to the CV as well.

Intellivision

The Intellivision put up a good fight in the packed marketplace of the early 80’s but ultimately succumbed to the crash (officially the console continued to be sold in 85 and in subsequent years but never enjoyed the same popularity as it did in the early 80’s). The INTV was the first 16-bit console (if you don’t count the TI-99/4A which was a computer although could be used as a game console) and featured great graphics for the time although the library focused a lot on sports titles and not as much on arcade ports as other systems like the Atari 5200 or Colecovision.

4tris.png4-Tris – based upon Tetris arcade version by Atari Games or Sega, INTV version by Joe Zbiciak. Clone of Tetris for the INTV, which actually launched the homebrew efforts on the Intellivision back in 2001. Notable on this release is the music track and otherwise the basic gameplay of Tetris is intact.

spacepatrol.pngSpace PatrolBased upon Moon Patrol by Irem, INTV version by Joe Zbiciak and team. Moon Patrol was an interesting side scrolling game where you drove a lunar vehicle that could fire both vertically and horizontally, to destroy enemies above and obstacles below. Space Patrol spices things up by taking you to different planets instead of just the moon.

There may be more arcade ports for the INTV but at this time of writing I couldn’t find any more.

Bally Astrocade

The Bally Astrocade was a game system that never really got a fair shake in the market, seeing only a few games come along for it in it’s short lifespan but that hasn’t stopped interest in homebrew games for the console. So far I can only find one, but it’s a start.

ballywar.pngBally War – based upon Warlords by Atari, Astrocade version by RiffRaff Games. This is the first homebrew game to be released on the Bally Astrocade, one classic system that not many people (even in classic game communities) are familiar with. War combines elements from the arcade version of Warlords with the 2600 version.


2 Comments »

  1. 7th lutz March 1, 2008 at 12:01 am - Reply

    There are some homebrew arcade ports that weren’t mention in for the celcovsion . Those games are Road Fighter, Yie Ar Kung-Fu, Sky Jaguar, and Space Invaders collection. Those games were developed by Opcode games.

    Here is their website: http://www.opcodegames.com/

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