The Atari Lynx's Place in History

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Matt Barton
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I'm sure everyone here is aware of the Atari Lynx handheld. By all accounts, it was an advanced console with a lot of potential and advantages, though also some disadvantages. Anyway, what I'm wondering about is whether you consider it relevant historically or just a footnote. Were there any exclusives or games that really stand out for the system? Is there any reason to remember it other than nostalgia?

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clok1966
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Oh sorry Im not trying to

Oh sorry Im not trying to make it sound like the JAG was some powerhouse, it wasnt.. like i say, it was a year ahead of the consoles it was compared too. Most of my comments on power are based of people like Rebellion (who programed for all 3 and said it was close to a wash, except the Jag was the hardest to actually program on) keep in mind Rebelion didnt do 3D games at the time, it was more 3d like DOOM, not real 3D, and where the one success ont eh JAG so they may be a tiny bit biased :) And pure number cruching (most of which is atari specs), which we all know does not add up to real world performance.. I do agree very few games (if any) really proved it could do anything better. Heck very few proved it could do anything at all.

Ah but yes the Lynx.. I just hit up ebay.. I may just pick anotehr one up as mine is so beat up (and the large original one) a Lynx2 with 10 games looks like I can get one for about $60 ish.. yet another impulse pruchase.. err maybe not.. I may just pad out my game collection, loks like alot go for about $5, not to bad really. I kinda wanna play some SLIMEWORLD :)

Star control: one of my fovorite games, but I played it on a PC (i do have it for my 3DO.. i kinda truned into a game HORDER about that time.. those consoles failing, lots of $9 games .. I sure dont have them all, but I have almost every release (usa) for the 3DO.. I used to play SLAYER and DEATHKEEP ( correct name?) on the 3DO for hours.. and Imercenary (still say a great quirky game) and Forever War (again, correct name?) a strange Clay looking RPG that was awsome at that time (alot of the JOB type gameplay has been used lots since (and probebly before too)). there was some dang cool gmes ont eh 3DO... Shockwave, Wing Commander (it had some enhancement for the 3DO if I remeber right).. now I wanna dig that out!

Bill Loguidice
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Well, I'd hate to turn this

Well, I'd hate to turn this into a Jaguar topic, but why not? Naturally, the primary reason the Jaguar failed is the same reason why so many other systems, like the CD32 and Dreamcast, failed in comparison to the competition at the time--the company behind the console was too financially weakened for anything outside of a Wii-like success to save the console, and in turn, the company.

I like to play in the realm of observable power, mostly, rather than theoretical power. The Jaguar is the poster console for skewing heavily towards the latter rather than the former by its most hardcore enthusiasts. They always talk about how powerful it is if only it could be tapped, etc. The fact is, if it does indeed have more power than was shown by the limited development done in its prime, it still has yet to be shown. Based on purely what's available in their respective libraries, the 3DO is more powerful, let alone the Saturn and PS1.

I actually kind of like the Jaguar, despite the weak library. I like the keypad on the controller, though hate the standard three button controller (bad ergonomics for me). The Pro controller on the other hand is superb. That's kind of the tale of the Jaguar, though. It was kind of released half-baked and by the time some improvements came out, like the CD-ROM add-on or the six button controller, it was already too late.

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robbo007
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You should play Starcon II on

You should play Starcon II on your 3DO :D

clok1966
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Well I wont say the JAG was

Well I wont say the JAG was good hardware, but I do think it failed due to ATARI far more than what it could do. most know its was co developed with the Panther, panther being the 32 bit step and the jag being the 64 bit (and before anybody says anything, no I dont think its 64-bit, but ...it does have a 64bit bus and graphics! :) ) From my reading and understanding the Panther was an update (or was? not really clear on this) a console code named FLARE II, also the name of the company atari had making it (which was alot of atari ST). Well the jag was pretty much on par with this is rivals.. it was better (hardware wise) then the Saturn, and the PSone was a tick better at 3d.. so really as far as hardware it was pretty much on par. BUT.. it had no development tools (hard to beleive but SONY did awsome with the PSONE and people loved to develop on it ( the latest generation not so much). Early in its life the 32 bit CPU was used for to much stuff as it had issues with the memory (i believe it had some code execution issues with RAM that where later fixed with developmental tools, but it was to late by then). it came out a year before its compatition (saturn and PSone), but the games at release where VERY weak. Games comming where quite good, but with no development tools and ATARI on the brink the game makers had to fend for themselves. With no help from ATARI and new consoles on the way many game devolpers who where strugling to code for the JAG just gave up and moved on.
I have also heard the controler was so horrible, I dont understand this, while it was fairly big, it was pretty much a slighlty thicker (is that the problem?) version of the standard Sega controler that everybody seemed to copy.. except it was longer with the keypad. I myslef felt this was a pretty nice solution (and Wii U is using it now, but far better tech, a changeable controler) with the kypad overlays.

The later games when they did come out where pretty good, and yes.. a bunch of crap. I just think the hardware was not the main issue (it was a part, but it dont see it being that bad)... extremely hard to devolope on with no help from ATARI (as bill mentions), CRAP ( and i mean crap) launch titles, 100's of games promised, very few delievered, and all where long after the writing was on the wall. Atari worring about addons (its where the big money is) and not games. NO i really think ATARI killed the jag.

personaly AVP and Tempest 2K are probebly a couple of the best games ever for a console IMHO.. Heck Rebellion is still living off that first excellent AvP game.. as the last ones they ahve made while fun are not media darlings. Iron Soldier was awsome too, and some of the race games where not to bad.

I have my Jag and 3DO both in my living room, i never play the 3DO (but keep in mind I loved Crash n Burn ont he 3do), but tempest 2K still will get a marthon session from me from time to time.. i acan play it for 4-6 hours on a single game.. its one of those zen gaming things..

Dang my love for the old stuff.. especially atari is strong.. Its so amazing what "could have been" in the video game world. The PSONE a nintendo.. the Nes being an Atari, the Lynx... well being Epyx... and more..

Bill Loguidice
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Maybe
robbo007 wrote:

I had great times with my Atari Lynx. I remember SlimeWorld. Top game. You could connect up to 8 players via the lynx cable. Pretty amazing for its time. Atari seemed to bring out some amazing hardware but never seemed to know how to sell it. Remember the Jaguar :)

It's arguable how great the Jaguar hardware really was. You can't fault Atari for not forseeing the polygon revolution (no one did except for Sony with the PS1), but there were clearly some serious system bottlenecks that programmers were not able to overcome. It was probably more a development tools issue and the fact that the most talented developers tended to stay away from the platform, but still. There's no argument though when it comes to the Lynx--that was undeniably great hardware through and through...

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robbo007
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SlimeWorld :)

I had great times with my Atari Lynx. I remember SlimeWorld. Top game. You could connect up to 8 players via the lynx cable. Pretty amazing for its time. Atari seemed to bring out some amazing hardware but never seemed to know how to sell it. Remember the Jaguar :)

clok1966
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My last NAME BRANd hand held

My last NAME BRANd hand held was the DS, and I guess the PSP, i have several of the Linux OS ones, i cant keep from messing with them. But the Lynx holds the most fond flashbacks. To this day I sill fire it up once and awhile (more than any other). I do agree th battery pack was bad.. but when mine was new Im pretty sure i was in the 4+ area...not so bad really but when you consider its arch enemie lasted far longer, it did look bad. And ( i use ac on mine nowdays) didnt it hold like 6 or 8 double AA? alot of batteries for the day too, not to mention the wieght. By the time the Handhelds came out the ARCADE games didnt interest me as much as in my youth, i understood they where made ot suck quarters by then, they where not made to be beat.. though alot still could be with some intense learning and playing. So having them on the handheld seemed to be somewaht a waste. To be totally honest I had a gameboy and hated it, the games seemed like a slight step up from the cheap one game handehelds and watch games of the day.. NOW i know thats wrong, but the smudging screen, b&w graphics etc.. it just seemd like a step bak instead of ahead. The turbo Graphics and NOMAD where the ones i had the most interst in... console game, not ports, not bunged toghter games using a good games name.. the actuall game i played on the console.

But that lynx got hours from me.. I picked mine up whn ToysRUs closedthem out.. half price, and all the games where $9 I think I spent $3-400 that day and got all the stuff I could. I think i onlky have abut 30 games.. a few i loved.. SLIME WORLD (that game alwasy seemd to throw somthing new at you, but I thinkt he maze building engine needed tweeks, it seemd it somtimes made impossilbe ones) RYGAR and TOKI both whre excellent arcade ports. And the WWI plane combat game rocked (if a bit to simple once you knew it) sorry dont rember the name.

one note.. my EX GF boy had all my handhelds at one time, the one he loved the most (and only one he didnt break was my Lynx.. today it looks like it was drug behid a car at 60 mph.. (screen is nice yet, but rest is nasty looking).. thouhg he may have liked it the most cuz I did too.

Bill Loguidice
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Just a quick aside on the

Just a quick aside on the battery life thing... It's interesting that Nintendo - who ALWAYS favored battery life (with good reason, obviously) - chose not to do so with the 3DS, going back to the 2 - 4 hours max of its early competition! The only difference being of course is that the 3DS has a rechargeable battery and docking station. I'll be curious what the PlayStation Vita delivers for battery life...

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Matt Barton
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Yeah, as you were saying in

Yeah, as you were saying in another thread recently, battery life has been a real albatross for mobile gaming. I'm really impressed with the strides we've made in that area; I guess the abundance of mobile phones finally made it a high priority for battery manufacturers. I've wondered if the reason innovation has been so lethargic is that people like Energizer and Duracell make more money selling lots and lots of short-use batteries rather than just a few that last a really long time.

Of course, after the Japanese earthquake it's all but unthinkable to do any serious experimentation with nuclear-powered batteries, which as far as I know is the only viable solution to a battery you never need to replace.

I don't know much about these things despite having an electrician for a father, but I know there are radios that can be powered with no batteries. They get all the power they need from the radio signals themselves. I've always wondered why mobiles can't work like that somehow.

Ah, here's an article on it in the NYT: Two types of research groups are extending the boundaries of low-power wireless devices, said Brian Otis, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington. Some researchers are working to reduce the power required by the devices; others are learning how to harvest power from the environment. “One day,” Professor Otis said, “those two camps will meet, and then we will have devices that can run indefinitely.”

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Bill Loguidice
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Let's face it, the first

Let's face it, the first recognizable gaming handhelds were the Nintendo GameBoy and the Atari Lynx, two diametrically opposed concepts. On one side you had the relatively low tech monochrome 8-bit GameBoy with excellent battery life and smallish size, while on the other side you had the technologically advanced 16-bit color handheld with poor battery life and a bit too much size. The GameBoy featured games from Nintendo - always a plus when it comes to things like Mario - and strong third party support, which was a carry over from the NES. The Lynx had to make do with games mostly from Atari themselves and Epyx, the original benefactors behind the system. More support followed, but it was slow in coming. Of course the GameBoy would eventually get Tetris, which sealed their respective fates forever.

Technologically speaking there really was no contest. The Lynx was better in all ways, with a much better quality (and of course color, in fact 16 colors from a palette of 4,096!) screen and far less smearing, with superior sound. The GameBoy was simply hard to see, hence all the magnifying and lighting accessories sold. The Lynx could also do nifty things, like "rotate" its screen to play games vertically or horizontally for those games that made use of it (the excellent "Gauntlet: The Third Encounter" made excellent use of this), had duplicated buttons on the top and bottom for left or right handed play (you could flip the screen), and it could network together with over a dozen other systems for true competitive play (though of course this was rarely taken advantage of). There were other nifty tricks built into the Lynx, like sprite scaling and rotation.

There actually are many excellent games available for the Lynx, but the larger size, poorer battery life, and lack of a killer app like Tetris (not to mention Atari's weakened financial position) never allowed it to gain critical mass. Eventually the Sega Game Gear and NEC Turbo Express were released and put into the competitive mix, but only the Game Gear made something of an impact. Nevertheless, there has never been a credible threat against Nintendo's handheld dominance until the PSP, and even that fell far short. We'll see how things play out now with the 3DS...

All things considered, with well over 120 games - many of which are unique and/or excellent - the Lynx is definitely worthy of interest, both historical and otherwise. As a long-time Lynx owner, I can say it's a fantastic handheld that really only started to pale with the release of the GameBoy Advance in 2001. Not bad for a system released in 1989, the same year as the original GameBoy.

As for specific games, man it had some great ones, including conversions of arcade games like APB, Klax, Rampage, Rampart, Roadblasters, etc., that match up well with their 16-bit console counterparts (if there even were any in some cases). Overall, its library was really only weak in sports (only a few quality titles) and platformers (featuring only a few mediocre to average ones). Of course it also could have used a few more quality RPGs as well (part of this was due to almost no Japanese support--it was pretty much American and lots of European developers). Of the ones released, again, mostly mediocre, and the really quality ones weren't released (games like Eye of the Beholder, were never released, but it's an excellent version, for instance).

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