Atari 2600 Composite Mod Kit

Even in my youngest gaming years at the age of 3 or 4, I never had the pleasure of playing an Atari 2600.  Most of my childhood friends had the NES or the SNES, and I was born just a little too late to catch the Atari 2600 bandwagon.  It wasn’t until last April when we got a huge console/game lot that I ended up getting one (rather, six!) of my own to try out, and as you might already know, we recently acquired a seventh.  Because I had access to a Commodore Vic-20 growing up, I was familiar with some of the games common to both consoles like Breakout, Frogger, and Choplifter.  I was excited to see how they had been translated to another system.  When we got that large lot of Atari stuff and I tried out a few games, I was left feeling a little disappointed.  Though the familiar games were okay, they didn’t compare to the experience I had on the Vic-20.  Also, lots of the games from my childhood Vic-20 that I had adored and was hopeful to rediscover were nowhere to be found (Dungeon, Gorf, Radar RatRace, etc.).  Simply put, I had no nostalgia for many of the Atari games we got.  On the contrary, my boyfriend had been exceptionally excited about getting them because he did grow up with the system.  He’s a few years older than me and had siblings even older than himself.  He described how at one point in time, his family had had a hockey bag full of games that were given away to a family friend and were never seen again.  Getting the Ataris and the huge pile of games was really important to him.

Something important to me was wanting to feel more appreciative of the games we received.  Though I can’t build my own nostalgia around these experiences, one desire that I did have was to be able to play Atari games with other people and hear about their love for the system and the games we own.  I wanted to do this via live streaming on Twitch, or capturing gameplay and uploading it online.  Unfortunately for me, the Atari 2600 has a default signal output in RF which is not easily recorded using my conventional means using a capture card.  Though many people were probably not looking for a different ouput option for streaming, the RF signal is not readily accepted by many modern televisions either.  Thankfully many people before us were looking for a solution to this issue and found one: a modification that installs composite video capability!

We went on eBay to find a composite video upgrade kit for the 6 switch Atari 2600 (light sixer) and came across one here.  The modification was pretty simple, and the instructions can be found at this link if anyone is interested.  My boyfriend and his trusty soldering iron did all the tough work here, and below you can see a photo of the modded Atari 2600 (bottom) compared to an unmodded one (top).  The hardest part was drilling holes into the chassis of the console for the jacks.  They’re a little crooked and unevenly spaced, but they work!

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Though we have lots of Atari 2600 games already, I’ve recently tracked down some interesting ones.  One was Swordquest FireWorld, an RPG. I bought this game with the intention of passing it along to a friend.  With no manual or idea of how to play, I wandered around this game for a little while and was perplexed and disgruntled until I watched a few minutes of an LP online.  Needless to say, without the manual, this game would be pretty difficult!

I also picked up Plaque Attack, a hilarious game where you play as what I’m assuming is a tube of toothpaste that shoots paste lasers at various food products, thus preventing them from landing on the teeth in the gums on either side of the screen.  I laughed so much while playing this because of the pure absurdity of it all, but there’s something so foreboding about the noise that plays when you fail, the tooth turns yellow, and consequently disappears forever.  As someone who just recently had root canal work done for the first time, this was a very hard-hitting experience!

Kung Fu Superkicks seems like it’d be awesome, but for some reason it won’t insert in the Atari slot.  It’s exactly the same as the other cartridges we have.  We even have a Telegames Atari, and it doesn’t fit into that one either.  I have no idea what the problem is, so unfortunately it remains unplayed for the moment.

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I also picked up a few games produced by Zellers, a now non-existent Canadian discount store similar to Walmart.  These games included Earth Attack and Dragon Treasure.  Earth Attack is a clone of Defender, where you play as a space ship trying to rescue abducted people as they get taken up to space in alien spaceships.  In Dragon Treasure, you’re probably Bilbo Baggins trying to sneak into the dragon’s lair to steal all of its goodies, including helmets, gold, chalices, etc.  It’s a fun game with faster dragons each round that shoot fire at you constantly.

I have to say that the artwork on these two game cartridges is really interesting compared to many others I’ve run across.  They’re beautiful!  The images are a bit washed out since I’ve taken the photos under lamplight, but in person they’re very vibrant and colourful.  I’m pretty sad though.  I accidentally tore off a bit of each game’s label while trying to remove the price tags.  The edges came up easily, but it tore at the center of the price sticker.  Sigh.  It’s not as if they were perfect to begin with, but still!  I hate destroying the past!

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Last but not least, I found a game called Frostbite that was recommended to me by The Deviot.  You play as a stereotypical Canadian trying to build an igloo.  You accumulate ice  blocks as you jump from row to row of floating ice in Frogger-like fashion.  You run up against evil crabs, bears, clams and water fowl that are trying to thwart your efforts to stay warm while the temperature is continually dropping.  It’s very fun and very challenging for me as a first-time player, so I think it’ll be fun to practice!

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I think it goes without saying that with the composite mod and some excellent games for the Atari 2600, sooner or later I’ll be doing a stream or recording some gameplay.  I’m very happy with how the Atari mod turned out and I’m looking forward to making some great memories playing some of these games with others who have nostalgia and a broader appreciation for these games.

In the meantime though, it’s off to fight the good fight against my Sega Master System RPG backlog.  I just finished up Ys: The Vanished Omens last night and am hoping to start into Phantasy Star next.  Hope you’re all enjoying the weekend!

Thanks for reading!

-GG

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20 Responses to Atari 2600 Composite Mod Kit

  1. I love old game titles. There’s so… generic.

    Earth Attack’s art though. That’s fricken bananas!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! Impressive work modding that Atari 2600. I played Swordquest Earthworld when I dug my Atari 2600 out last year. I didn’t have the manual so I didn’t understand what the hell was going on. The artwork on those old Atari cartridges is amazing! I guess it made up for the graphical limitations of the generation. Sorry to read you did some damage to the labels. I really hate it when the stick price labels on rare things…

    I’m looking forward to seeing some Atari 2600 LPs from you! I’m still watching your Miracle Warriors one now. I’ve shed many calories on my elliptical while watching you destroy Liphants and other pesky monsters (that encounter rate is crazy!). The music in that game is so good too.

    And oh wow, you reminded me of Zellers! I forgot all about that store. I had a Zeddy plush bear when I was a kid, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hungrygoriya says:

      Awww thanks 🙂 I am still sad about the label damage, and I absolutely hate when people shove stickiness anywhere near labels! The guy we bought the games from said that they had been in his store for ages and that he even tried selling them on eBay at one point with no luck. I’ve been in his store a million times and never noticed them. I swear I see new stuff in there every time I’m in!

      I hope that any Atari game videos I put out there aren’t disgraceful! I honestly find the games so hard because I’m not familiar with them at all. I will definitely do some stuff in the coming weeks/months though. For now, I need to finish my LP of Ys and get that up online!

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying Miracle Warriors! The Liphants quickly became some of my favourite enemies for their precious nuts, but also because they’re adorable. Them and Kokens (aka the money makers)!

      I never really liked Zellers all that much, though I always regret never eating at the Zellers Diner! I think that was a missed opportunity for sure. I always found the Zellers store where I lived dirty and poorly lit, but I’m sure there were some nicer ones out there. I’m glad you had a Zeddy bear! I always wanted one but never got one 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure your Atari videos will be entertaining! 🙂

        Liphants are totally adorable! Those sacred nut things sure are important in Miracle Warriors too. I cheered when you finally took down that first brutal Senpi, haha. I’m at the part where you got HG’s shield and plan to starting watching Ys when I’m done.

        Ah yes, the diner in Zellers. I don’t remember much about it honestly, other than my mom complaining it was overpriced for a discount store, haha. Their Zeddy mascot was so cute though! Sorry you never got one. Mine got donated to some charity years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

      • hungrygoriya says:

        Yay! Those Senpis were nightmares to deal with, and I was happy when the last one disappeared forever. There are so many interesting enemy encounters in the game, and you get to see them a lot because of the ridiculous encounter rate. I couldn’t believe how high it was at times, or how the difficulty spikes were rampant in different areas, especially the desert. I’m going to work on more Ys recording today sometime and hopefully find some kind of regular rhythm for releasing those videos. It doesn’t take much to play and blabber on, but it’s the editing and rendering that takes the longest. I love doing it though, and I’m happy I have an audience that is enjoying the content 🙂 Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wait Canadians stereotypically build igloos? *takes furious notes* That is odd about Kung Fu Superkicks. Is there something weird in the cartridge? Since it doesn’t have the typical cover, I’m wondering if there’s something different about the inside set up. I hope you get it to work soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Plaque Attack sounds hilarious! And I HATE when there are stickers on things that I buy! The PS Vita that I recently bought had a gross, shiny sticker stuck to the bottom of it that took me like half an hour to get off! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • hungrygoriya says:

      Ugh I’m glad you finally got it, though! Ever hear of Goo Gone? Though it can wear away labels and things if directly applied, it’s great for stickers and other gooey things. I once wore away a little bit of a label by being a bit too liberal with the stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, Goo Gone is great stuff! You do have to be careful with it, but it works great. I had some *somewhere* in the house but couldn’t remember where it was, so I just used a bit of rubbing alcohol and that took care of it. It was still aggravating, though!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. benez256 says:

    Hahahaha, Plaque Attack should be really fun! I don’t know why but it reminds me of PSSST I hape for ZX Spectrum. You did a really good job modding the 2600. Finally now I have a trusty person from which I can learn with no risk how to mod the console. Now I only need to buy a 2600 Jr. I found in a shop for 15€

    Liked by 1 person

  6. thedeviot says:

    Glad to see your foray into VCS modding, and collecting is working out! (One can also get a VCS onto newer equipment by using a VCR. Hook the RF from the console to the VCR, then run RCA composite cables to the box or TV. It won’t look as sharp as a mod, but it also means you don’t risk breaking the console by messing up.)

    The Swordquest games are all fairly difficult Adventure games. They were part of Atari’s Swordquest contests. People who beat the games, were then able to go onto a tournament for each game, the winners getting physical treasure! Unfortunately the great crash of 1983, sent Atari into a nosedive, and Warner communications sold the home division to Jack Tramiel who founded Commodore. He had been effectively ousted, so he bought Atari to focus on the home computer market.

    In all of that fallout, Swordquest Waterworld was put out in limited quantities making it one of the rarest 2600 games. Airworld was to be the final game, but it was never made. James Rolfe did an excellent series of AVGN episodes about them, and Mark Bussler of Classic Game Room reviewed some of the games. I highly recommend both of those YouTube shows’ episodes if you want more details. I couldn’t possibly type all of the info into the comments. Plus they go over some things about the games that I didn’t even know about as a 6 year old kid when they were new!

    I will say, if you can find them, and they’re not too expensive, get the Comic books that came with the games. You basically NEED these to beat them. Throughout the games you’ll end up unlocking pairs of numbers. One number is the page in the appropriate comic, and one is a panel on that page. Hidden in the artwork are words. The idea is you fill in the blank words in the manual. Find the right words, you fill the paragraph, and you beat the game! Pretty wild huh?

    Frostbite is a super fun game, glad you’re enjoying that. Dragon Treasure, and Earth Attack look great! I did a quick search on Atariage, and apparently these were print on demand games from Zellers. They’re likely something originally only found in Canada, and they have a rarity level of 5 out of 10. Meaning that while not the rarest thing around, you’ll almost never see them in the wild. Great pickup though! I really hope you enjoy the games. The VCS has so many great titles available. Activision, Imagic, Parker Bros., and others really squeezed a lot out of the machine. There were new games coming out in 1990! The system itself was made from 1977-1992. 15 Years! I don’t think too many systems had that kind of longevity. The PS2 comes close 2000-2013. But now I’ve begun to ramble! Enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • hungrygoriya says:

      Thanks for all the recommendations and all of the really great information! I feel like I’ve seen every AVGN episode at this point, but I will check out that particular video again now that I have some context for it. I’ll also check out that episode of Classic Game Room. That’s a good show too… so many awesome folks on the internet! It’s unreal how interesting and complex the comics for Swordquest games seem. That’s a very good kind of copy protection, that’s for sure!

      The Zellers games were a cool find, and I didn’t actually know what they were all about until I got them home. Me being a lover of RPGs saw Dragon Treasure and thought, “Well, this might be promising!” Sure enough, it seems that it was promising after all. I should really go back to the store I got those from because there was another title there called Busy Police. I might pick that one up as well. I’m going to have to check out the rest of the titles and see if there’s anything else I should scoop up in the meantime!

      I’m sure I will enjoy the games. I’m happy to have an opportunity at this age to play a lot of them and to enjoy a really diverse set of games that really set the stage for everything that came after them. Thanks again for all your help and all your recommendations! I really appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mr. Panda says:

    Everything you get is always so fascinating! I’ve never played (or even seen firsthand) any Atari before, but I love that you want to be appreciative of what you acquire. It’s heartfelt and reminds me of how much of our emotions and memories as gamers are tied to the specific systems themselves. On another note, I can’t believe you’re almost done with Ys! I keep missing your streams and hope to fix that! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • hungrygoriya says:

      Awww thank you 🙂 Early gaming experiences are so special to so many people, and I have many treasured memories sitting down with my NES and hammering out the Mario Bros. games with my mom. The guy we bought the Ataris from was so excited about those games, while everything he had that was newer seemed more like an afterthought to him. I’ve always felt guilty owning some of this man’s most prized possessions and not really feeling in love with any of it, so hopefully tracking down some fun and interesting games will remedy that!

      Don’t worry about missing my streams! I have such a sporadic schedule that I can’t blame anyone for not being able to sit in for them. I appreciate your company when I’m blessed enough to have it 🙂 I’m going to start into Phantasy Star soon too… I’m trying to get the rest of my Ys LP done first so I don’t have to play two games at once.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Panda says:

        I’ve played Phantasy Star Online (completely different game), but I’ve never seen the original Phantasy Star series played so I’d love to check it out! Can’t wait!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Classifieds: It’s Raining Atari | hungrygoriya

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