This was also the year that portable gaming had its own revolution. The Sport Boy launched in the spring, and, 30 years back this weekend, we were introduced to this world’s first authentic colour hand-held games console — the Atari Lynx.
Not only did the Lynx have a backlit color screen, it arrived with 16-bit images and scaling and rotation, a feature usually reserved for arcade planks of the moment. Which may not sound that crazy today, but this was over a year before the Super Nintendo would release, with its conceptually similar”Mode 7″ feature. Bear in mind that the SNES has been Nintendo’s flagship home console, and you get an idea of how powerful the Lynx was because of its time.
When the Lynx came out, the gambling Landscape was quite different to how it is now. But if you’d told people then that Sony and Microsoft would become the dominant gambling brands, we’d have laughed and almost spilled our Jolt Cola. In a sense, the gaming crown felt like it was up for grabs, despite Nintendo and Sega’s dominance at the moment.
Atari was taking a chance with the Lynx. The Business expected that people wanted arcade-style classics such as Ms. Pacman and Battlezone 2000 on The go and the quirky ambidextrous design (you could”reverse” the display and have the d-pad on the right) would win over the oft-forgotten left-handed gamers. Nintendo meanwhile went to get pocket-size platformers and puzzle games. Left-handers be damned.
Confusingly, Atari would release a second Hand-held called the… Atari Lynx II, but it wasn’t a sequel; it was more of a redesign (similar to Nintendo’s Game Boy Pocket was). The first Lynx was comically wide, making it rather cumbersome even for 1989. The Lynx II was also pretty chunky, but at least a little bit more handleable.
This wasn’t the sole matter Atari changed during the Lynx’s fairly short lifespan. In the beginning, games arrived on horizontal cartridges (you could say”cards,” even). They looked magical at the time, making you wonder what was that the real game part was. However, the combination of the original Lynx’s bizarre”trapdoor” sport slot andI can only assume, weak juvenile hands supposed eliminating the capsules could be tricky. To repair it, Atari revised the design… twice, eventually landing on a”curved lip” format. This could finally have the unintentional effect of creating those elderly cartridges more collectible. If you just happen to have a”ridged” copy of Gauntlet hanging around, hit me up.
While the Game Boy had countless licensed add-ons, the Lynx just Had a couple of accessories. There were official carry cases, including one snazzy option with a belt clip or over-the-shoulder strap. You only have to be grateful, youth of today, that your Switch doesn’t require the use of nylon and upper-back muscles to carry it about. The Lynx requires six AA batteries, but you could expand its meager lifespan with a couple different battery packs, such as one that has been essentially a case for”D” cell batteries. If you do not know exactly what a”D” cell battery would be, imagine four AAs glued together — along with the battery pack took six of the buggers.
And About that screen. It’s true that you could plug it in the wall, but where’s the fun in that?
If you still have a Lynx in a drawer somewhere, there is a Good possibility that, if it still works, the screen looks terrible. Absolutely worse than you recall. We are spoiled by the current display technologies, and the Lynx is a good reminder of just how far we’ve come. Fortunately, there are modern aftermarket screens you can buy to deliver your Lynx a little more up to date. For those interested, Google”McWill” or”BenVenn” mods to obtain what you’re looking for. (The Lynx featured up top has the McWilll mod)
Display mods are nothing new For retro hand-helds, but the Lynx’s current fanbase is small, so the fact that there are options at all is quite a blessing. Likewise, you can discover SD-card”multicarts” such as RetroHQ’s for about $85, but they’re made to purchase (and there’s a waiting list).
However, what about the games? here. In fact, there are not many platformers (the prevailing arrangement for consoles of this era) whatsoever. The closest thing the Lynx needed to a”mascot” was likely Scrapyard Dog, which is surprisingly fun with plenty of hidden secrets to detect, but not the iconic IP the platform had.
Whether it’s classic fighters like Dual Dragon, racing games like S.T.U.N Runner or classics like Rampage, should you like button-mashing games, the Lynx had you covered. There were also good ports of titles such as Shadow of the Beast plus some original IP like Blue Lightning (an Afterburner clone). Regrettably, the Lynx was lacking in almost any decent RPG games, although, reluctantly, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure shares a lot of DNA using the genre.
Ultimately — in my opinion, at least — that the restricted library of games would see the Lynx fade fairly quickly from the emerging hand-held battle. Which is a shame, as Atari seemed to have some exciting plans for this — including a rumored situation where the Lynx would connect to the Jaguar and function as a controller or next display, years before Nintendo’s Wii U would do something similar. That never happened, but while the console turns 30, it still has a core of dedicated fans — sufficient to see a brand new game pop up every now and again.
After Atari gave up on the Lynx around the mid-’90s, a couple of unfinished names were published. A number of them clearly slapped together last minute, (like Krazy Ace Miniature Golf), a few were shared as playable ROMs (like the imperfect Daemon’s Gate) and a few remain lost to the sands of time — such as the unfinished interface of Vindicators.
There have been a few all-new titles, however. But as you can already tell, the wait for new items to perform has been somewhat glacial. Untilrecently.
In the past couple of years, new interest has witnessed a (relatively) steady growth in new items to playwith. Essentially a dedicated enthusiast and developer who made a label of sorts for releasing games. Luchsoft names come on bodily cartridges (a major deal for purists), complete with original design boxes, posters and even enamel hooks (many original games also came with hooks ).
This weekend, to celebrate the 30th anniversary, the Lynx faithful May be treated to as many as 10 new homebrew games thanks to a developer competition organized by AtariGamer.com. A few of the entries look as entertaining and as profound as anything which was released in its heyday. As a result of the hard work of dedicated fans (who tend to hang out in AtariAge)the new titles will be shown Sunday, September 1st (the Lynx’s real birthday), and made available at no cost.
If You are feeling nostalgic, a secondhand Lynx will run you around $50 on eBay. If you’re daring, you are able to seek a version listed as”nonworking.” The Lynx will not turn on with no match in it, and lots of people clearing out their lofts don’t know this, so when they put batteries in it and nothing happens they presume it’s dead and sell it cheap. I have picked up several working units this way (plus a few duds, to be honest ). If you’re feeling just a little thrifter, then there are loads of online emulators that will play the new games just fine.
Whichever sport wins the contest, it is a testament to this handful of dedicated fans that are keeping the Lynx living.