[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Alien Brigade (Atari 7800)

April 6th, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Alien Brigade Atari 7800 Ad - 1990A classic case of fist-cheek syndrome.

Now here’s something you don’t see every day: a print ad for an Atari 7800 game. Moreover, a print ad for an Atari 7800 game in 1990. Moreover, a print ad for an original Atari 7800 game in 1990.

An advertisement like this seems odd because Atari’s marketing budget for the underwhelming 7800 was very modest. My guess is that the release of the Atari Lynx in the year prior injected renewed vigor into Atari’s marketing efforts. The same vigor likely prompted Atari to publish a handful of new 7800 titles around 1990-91, of which Alien Brigade was one. From what I’ve read, modern Atari fans enjoy this rare light gun game, but I’ve never played it.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, November 1990 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Do you think that the Atari 7800 could have better taken on Nintendo if Atari had marketed it better? Also, feel free to share your favorite Atari 7800 games.

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6 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Alien Brigade (Atari 7800)”

  1. XCALIBR8 Says:

    Ah the 7800. I’ll never forget when my best friend got this system instead of an NES. With my own experience of the 7800 I always enjoyed playing it but it didn’t have the same quality. Personally I don’t think that Atari could have contended with Nintendo at the time, even if they did have a nice shiny ad campaign. The sheer originality and quality of NES games overshadowed the sub par arcade translations that the 7800 offered. Don’t even get me started on the 7800 joysticks…

  2. Sirpaul484 Says:

    Atari did a lot of things wrong with the 7800. From the lack of the POKEY chip built into it, to the controllers, which seemed to break if you looked at them wrong. Many of the games were just re-hashes of old 2600 games. There were a few diamonds in the rough, though, like Commando and Ballblazer, but they didn’t hold up to the outstanding graphics and the smooth scrolling of the NES or other newer systems.

    As for favorite games, I’d say the afformentioned Commando and Ballblazer, as well as Xenophobe and Rampage.

  3. guppy Says:

    No, Atari could not have competed with Nintendo if only they had had better marketing. They needed games. Atari’s focus at the time with the 7800 was to bring authentic ports of arcade titles into the home, and they were reasonably good at this, but the games they ported were classics, not cutting edge titles. Almost all the titles in the 7800 catalog were exericses in reflexes and hand-eye coordination. These were fun, but the concept seemed stale by the time the NES came out.

    The NES offered a new style of game play, with greater depth than nearly anything that had ever been attempted on Atari’s home consoles. Action/Adventure games like Legend of Zelda, Kid Icarus, Metroid, and Castlevania, and Metal Gear offered a fresh new gameplay model.that would come to dominate the 8-bit home console era. Notice how many of those games have a concept of “points” or scorekeeping — in the NES era, the gameplay was more focused on getting to the end of the game, discovering all the secrets, getting all the power-ups, and maxing out your character. These sorts of innovations in gameplay were missing from Atari’s catalog. Without them, no amount of marketing would have kept Atari on top if they did not produce the right type of games for the era they were competing in.

  4. Geoff V. Says:

    I think guppy nailed it. NES had several arcade style games as well, but their strongest offerings were games with immersive environments and great music that sucked you into their worlds.

    Many NES games had memorable musical scores that still get stuck in my head from time to time.

  5. Cody Says:

    I was really impressed with this one. The drawing and screens look pretty cool. Unfortunately Atari was just before my time. My age was really EGA/VGA PC gaming, NES, and Sega Master System.

  6. Guest Says:

    @Sirpaul484: Commando and Ballblazer on the 7800 were generally considered superior to their NES counterparts. Even Xenophobe and Rampage on the 7800 held their own against the NES versions of both.

    But overall, the 7800 just couldn’t compete with the NES. Its main weakness was software support.

    In recent years, homebrewed games for the 7800 showed its potential. See the game called Rikki & Vikki. Its graphics rival anything put out on the NES and Master System. Too bad it’s 30 years late.

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