Okay. In my Atari collection, I have over 120 games made by Atari themselves. I need 11 more to complete that part of the collection.
Unfortunately, I'm reaching a point where almost all the easy to find and reasonably priced titles are acquired. There's maybe four of those left. The rest hit the high end. Crazy Climber routinely goes for $70 minimum. Swordquest Waterworld starts at $120. The worst is Asterix, based on the comic book character. Finding the American release will cost you $300 easy.
There is one title, however, that is, in my mind, the Holy Grail of Atari titles. Shortly before Atari gave up for good in 1990/1, a software company called TNT Games made BMX Airmaster, a game where you ride a BMX on a halfpipe and do stunts. Atari liked the game and bought the rights and just before the system died, released a small quantity of carts.
I have been actively collecting for the Atari since 1990. I have NEVER seen the US release of this game. I found a copy of Sentinel, a game that uses a light gun that was never released for the Atari 2600. I have one of those and see that every few months. Asterix pops up consistently, but BMX? Not once.
A month ago, one did turn up. It was a Canadian seller. Never been opened box. Starting bid of $100, reserve auction, Buy It Now for about $600 US. While I was debating if I should get it, someone decided they wanted it more and scooped it up.
On the bright siide, I now knew the game was out there somewhere and completing the Atari collection was actually doable. The problem? That was my first sighting of it in 27 years. Not a lot of hope.
Today, I'm browsing eBay, and I find a listing for BMX Airmaster for the Atari. I look at the auction, and there is the red label version that I need. Some label damage, but a relative steal at $150US not counting shipping.
My only question? The seller is in Australia. Is the game the US release or is it Austrailian? Lots of Atari games have a P on the end label to indicate if they are for PAL regions (the cheaper Asterix games have this, so I can't use it, and since it's not a North American release, it wouldn't count towards the collection anyway). This has no P on the label. I have to know -- is this PAL or NTSC?
So I start digging into Atari games released in Australia by Atari themselves. My hope is that, if I can find the label, I can compare it with what I know the American label looks like and determine if this is what I'm looking for.
...Atari never made games for Australia.
The games were manufactured by HES, and their copy of BMX Airmaster has the TNT Games logo on it.
In fact, Atari never made BMX Airmaster anywhere except the American market.
It's the real thing.
Yes, there's some label damage. But we're talking a game that would cost over three times as much and turns up but once in a blue moon. I only have a handful of games with label damage when I got them (and obviously, as time goes on, the labels develop problems anyway). Perfect? No. I don't care. And if it ever turns up again, I can look into getting a second copy.
I will be receiving it by the first week of August.
The hardest to find commercial relase by Atari, the one that is never seen.
And I have it now.
I honestly thought I would never complete the Atari collection (I don't count the diagnostic cart and Pepsi Invaders as those were never released to the general public), I really thought BMX would be the elusive unicorn that I could never catch. But I caught it. Finally, after 27 years.
Tomorrow is hoagie time. THe greatest celebration of all.