To date, there have been five Atari Flashback models. In this post, I will give the general background on these units and go into more detail in future posts.
The Flashback concept originated with Curt Vendel of Syzygy (formally Legacy Engineering). Curt pitched the idea of a Flashback unit to Atari who agreed to produce the unit, but wanted to have it ready for the 2004 holiday season. This only gave Curt about ten weeks to design the unit and Curt went with a design that is based on a ‘NES on a chip’. Outwardly, the system looks like a small Atari 7800 and includes twenty games. Since the system is based on a NES chip, all games run in emulation and a mixture of 2600 and 7800 games are included:
2600: Adventure, Air-Sea Battle, Battlezone, Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Haunted House, Millipede, Saboteur, Skydiver, Solaris, Sprintmaster, Warlords, and Yars’ Revenge
7800: Asteroids, Centipede, Desert Falcon, Food Fight, and Planet Smashers
The Atari Flashback 1 met with mixed reviews, primarily due to the emulation. Also, Breakout and Warlords had to be modified to use the Flashback joysticks. The system was however, successful enough to convince Atari to proceed to with the Flashback 2.
In 2005, Atari again turned to Curt to develop the Flashback 2. This time around, the system would include 2600 games only. With more time for development, Curt designed a custom chip to produce an ‘Atari 2600 on a chip’. Curt also included provisions on the motherboard for adding a cartridge slot. A modified Flashback 2 can play most games designed for the 2600. Taking a page from the Atari playbook, the name for the Flashback 2 project was ‘Michelle’ for Curt’s wife. Her name is printed on the Flashback 2 motherboards.
The Flashback 2 looks like a small Atari 2600 and has two joysticks that are compatible with the original 2600 and, also, supports the use of original Atari paddle controllers.
Forty two games are included on the Flashback 2:
Arcade Favorites: Arcade Asteroids, Arcade Pong, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Centipede, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Missile Command, and Space Dual.
Adventure Territory: Adventure, Adventure II, Haunted House, Return to Haunted House, Secret Quest Wizard
Space Station: Caverns of Mars, Quadrun, Saboteur, Space War, Yars’ Return, Yars’ Revenge
Skill and Action: 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Aquaventure, Atari Climber, Combat, Combat 2, Dodge ‘Em, Fatal Run, Frog Pond, Hangman, Human Cannonball, Maze Craze, Off the Wall, Outlaw, Pitfall!, Radar Lock, River Raid, Save Mary, Video Checkers, and Video Chess
Paddle Games: Super Breakout and Warlords (hidden from main menu)
The Flashback 2 broke new ground as it included homebrews, hacks, unreleased prototypes, and two Activision games. With a great game selection, new 2600 hardware, and the ability to add a cartridge slot, the Flashback 2 was popular with both the general public and the Atari community and sold almost one million units.
Released by Atari in 2010, the Flashback 2+ is, essentially, the same as the Flashback 2. Atari Climber, Caverns of Mars, Pitfall!, River Raid, and Wizard were removed from the game selection and a sports section was added that included: Realsports Boxing, Realsports Soccer, Super Baseball, Super Football, and Double Dunk. Also, Circus Atari was added to the ‘hidden’ section for a total of forty three games.
For 2011, Atari licensed out the Flashback concept to AtGames. AtGames developed the Flashback 3 around an ARM processor and included sixty games. They originally did not include Curt in the design, but ended up bringing him in as a consultant when they ran into some technical issues. The Flashback 3 included two joysticks that are compatible with original Atari systems.
Games included on the Flashback 3: 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Adventure, Adventure II, Air-Sea Battle, Aquaventure, Asteroids, Backgammon, Basketball, Battlezone, Bowling, Canyon Bomber, Centipede, Championship, Soccer, Circus Atari, Combat, Combat 2, Demons to Diamonds, Desert Falcon, Dodge ‘Em, Double Dunk, Fatal Run, Flag Capture, Frog Pond, Fun with Numbers, Golf, Gravitar, Hangman, Home Run, Haunted House, Human Cannonball, Maze Craze, Minature Golf, Missile Command, Night Driver, Off the Wall, Outlaw, Realsports Baseball, Realsports Basketball, Realsports Soccer, Realsports Volleyball, Saboteur, Save Mary, Secret Quest, Sky Diver, Space War, Sprintmaster, Star Ship, Steeplechase, Submarine Commander, Super Baseball, Super Breakout, Super Football, Surround, Swordquest: Earthworld, Swordquest: Fireworld, Video Checkers, Video Chess, Video Pinball, Wizard, and Yars’ Revenge.
AtGames released the Flashback 4 in late 2012 with several improvements over the previous model. It features new wireless controllers, support for paddles, and improved emulation. It also includes seventy five games. Secret Quest was removed from the game selection and sixteen games that were added. The added games over the Flashback 3 are: Black Jack, Breakout, Crystal Castles, Football, Front Line, Jungle Hunt, Polaris, Pong (Video Olympics), Return to Haunted House, Slot Machine, Slot Racers, Stellar Track, Street Racer, Space Invaders (special FB 4 edition, not 2600 version), Tempest, and Warlords. Read more about the Flashback 4 in my previous posts.