Sunday, July 11, 2010

Game of the Week: One-on-One Basketball for Atari 7800

In 1983, the home video game market bust apart. Customers stopped buying home video game cartridges and systems. Up until that time, Atari had been the leader of the various home video game companies. With the collapse of the market, Atari was stunned and eventually sold off to another company.

Atari 7800 SystemStill, Atari stayed alive. The company's biggest seller had been the Atari 2600 home system, but the Atari 5200 system released in 1982 had been a bust. Consumers had had multiple complaints about the 5200, including the fact it could not play games for the 2600. To cope with these and other complaints, Atari came out with the Atari 7800 home video game system in 1984.

Unfortunately, because Atari as a business was sold during this time period, the 7800 did not gain a national release to stores in the U.S. until early 1986. By then, it was too late for Atari to reign supreme again. Nintendo by this time had cornered the home video game market with its NES, the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Still, the Atari 7800 had solid graphics strong enough to appear close to games in the arcades of the time. The 7800 also had decent joysticks and, most importantly, gamers could play all their 2600 cartridges on the 7800 system. On the downside, there were never a lot of games released for the Atari 7800, only about 60 or so.

But some of those games were pretty awesome.

One of my favorite Atari 7800 games was "One-on-One Basketball" starring two of the great basketball stars of the day, Dr. J Erving and Larry Bird. Also known as "One on One" or "One on One: Dr. J. vs. Larry Bird," this game had not been an arcade game but had originally appeared for home computers at the time such as the TRS-80, the Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit, and other systems. In fact, I'm not sure about this, but I believe the Atari 7800 was the only home video game system which could boast of having this game.

What was so great about "One-on-One Basketball?" First off, the graphics were pretty good. The Dr. J. and Larry Bird characters on the screen appeared a little cartoonish, but that wasn't uncommon for game graphics of the mid-1980s. The colors were awesome, some of the best and brightest of the time.

Gameplay was solid, too. You could play by yourself against the computer or with a friend, you controlling either Bird or Dr. J. on a half-court basketball game. If you wanted to play regular basketball, this game wasn't for you, but if you wanted to play something different in basketball this was your game. You could do the typical jumping and shooting, but you could also do some fancy moves such as spinning or stealing the ball. You could even do a slam dunk and shatter the backboard, and afterward a janitor would come out on the screen to clean up the broken glass.

All in all, "One-on-One Basketball" was an excellent game and the Atari 7800 was an excellent system. Too bad both are rarely remembered today by home video game fans.

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