Back in the winter of 1989, I was a year old. Logically thinking, that'd be the most exciting thing for my dad that year, but something better happened: the Amiga 500 Batman bundle. Against the best wishes of my mother, my father traded in his Speccy at a store nearby to his work and feverishly threw down more than his pay cheque could probably handle. But it was the deal of the century. In 1989, finally, after two years of waiting, it was in his grasp. My dad bought an Amiga. This introduction isn't for a specific home console, no. It's for much more than that. This is the RetroGameGeeks' intro for the Commodore Amiga 500 (and its fellow family members).
Codenamed Rock Lobster (that Amiga lot really loved their B-52's), the Amiga 500 was announced as a mass-market home computer system at a fair price that could be any interested party's entry point into computing. The spiritual successor to the much loved Commodore 64, the Amiga 500 quickly made a splash, not simply by being much more available to the general public by not being hidden away in computer stores alone. Only Amiga makes it possible, they said. Commodore were shy about even slapping their name on the units.
They knew what they had was something special which pretty much made the Amiga its own brand entirely; this being carried over from the original A1000. The 1000 model was unlike anything else when it hit. The Amiga OS blew the minds of practically everyone with its pre-emptive multitasking and the sheer power of the system was unlike anything seen before in its class. The A1000 has since been dubbed the first multimedia PC and duly noted as one of the most important pieces of tech ever made. Period. But where does this all leave its supposedly low-end cousin, the A500?
The Amiga 500 stock system was packaged with the new 1.2/3 Amiga Operating System and the original line had the same OCS chipset as the A1000, even two years into the lifespan you were still playing with magic. Now, typically speaking; I would normally hit you up with tech specs here. But I'm not going to do that. While the Amiga 500 is the focus here (mainly due to popularity) this is about the Commodore Amiga line in general also, thus it being upgradeable and such with variations, it'd be too tiresome for a casual reader to get bombarded.
Just understand this, in pure gaming terms. The Amiga 500 was kicking out sound and graphics that easily rivalled the soon to come next generation of home consoles. Need I say more? Not really, I don't think. As Megatrons_Fury will happily attest, seeing an Amiga in action back in 1987 would leave your socks a pile of ash. Incredible colours, beautiful sprites and some of the most magnificent video game music you have ever heard. Put in it's simplest terms the Amiga 500 was a whole generation ahead of everybody else in the entire videogames industry, strong words but completely true.
None of this is unsuprising. The Amiga, after all; is the only computer backed by the likes of Andy Warhol. So yeah, hipsters with their Apple's these days wish they were that cool! From digital art programmes, word processing, the obvious multitasking, music composition and even video editing - this bad boy could do it all for an extremely reasonable price point. Was it cheap? Not exactly, as a gamer alone you could get a Nintendo, Sega or Atari for much less. But could they do all those wonderful things that the Amiga could? No. Of course not. But that being said, you can use that same argument that PC Gamers of the modern generations lash out at those who prefer their dedicated consoles, even if they themselves (the consoles) are becoming as much a multimedia device as the Amiga once was, just without the home computer shell.
My dads Amiga 500 was my conscious entry into the world of video games. As soon as I was able to control a Joystick, my dad was soon teaching me how to play the likes of Pang! alongside him. He taught me how to use a mouse to draw a picture on a screen and how to type my own name. All very simple, yes - but the Amiga 500 is almost entirely responsible for me being the nostalgic retrobate I am today and just why this intro is being written. I may lack the information of the expansive Amiga community (that remains internationally to this day), though I can bring you a passion. I just hope some of the passion wears off to show exactly why you should play Amiga.
The Amiga was home to arcade ports like no other system could touch. We're talking near arcade perfect. Yes, that darn good. Many titles played on the system remain definitive for a large number of gamers who were able to experience them. So lets talk games.
Rainbow Islands was released on the Amiga in its purest of forms and anyone unable to play the arcade original, this is your best bet: the cute sprites, lush colours and addictive gameplay that made the game so utterly fantastic all appear in Amiga form and it is an absolute must for any true video game fan. Lemmings made its mark on the Amiga, which is the understatement of the century. Who knew guiding little lemmings about a danger-laden land could be so damn fun. Especially when you can bring in a call for mass-suicide. Oh, no! The fact there are Lemmings statues to commemorate the game nowadays is a shrine to its ever-lasting legacy from the studio who went on to bring the world the GTA franchise.
Amiga obviously had to have a mascot come the 90's, so why not Zool? The Ninja from the Nth Dimension kicked all kinds of butt with its killer soundtrack and amazing design. Even sponsored by Chupa Chups. So, yeah. While fun, the fellow 16-bit ports of the Amiga masterpiece pale in comparison to the original and best. Who doesn't love a wheel for saves!? Then we have the big guns Starting with the almighty Turican.
If you have not played any game of the Turrican franchise, then...Well...Hmm sort that situation out right away please. Factor 5's ports of Turrican and its sequel Turrican II do a rare thing in being superior to its original (sorry, Manfred!). Arguably the best game music of the time and possibly of ALL time can be located in those floppy disks. Ugh! SO GOOD! Think a fast-paced Metroid on the best space drugs imaginable and you got the futuristic run-n-gun platformer that is one of the stand out Amiga games. The likes of that intro (WELCOME TO TURRICAN AH-HAHAHAHAHAA) and the brilliance of tracks like "The Great Bath" by master composer Chris Huelsbeck can never be understated. Plug that up to your hifi and experience nothing but bliss.
Sports wise the Amiga brought us all Sensible Soccer. The majority of gamers/footy fans that will happily (some times angrily, they get proper serious) tell you just how incredible Sensi is as a perfect fun-for-all association-rules football game is...Well, yeah. It's dope. Shadow of the Beast was another huge game changer. Shadow of the Beast II changed up the game even more. Games so brilliantly crafted yet ridiculously difficult to the point where you'll be arguing whether it is actually a video game or an interactive tech-demo. Redonkulous! It still looks and sounds horrendously perfect to this day! Pang! has already been mentioned. But if you don't like Pang! you don't like video games. Moving on...
The official titles list is endless, but here's some more strong (yes, STRONG) recommendations for you all to check out if for some reason you have yet to: New Zealand Story, Pinball Dreams, Batman: The Movie, Secret of Monkey Island, Out of this World, Syndicate, Cannon Fodder, Lotus Turbo Challenge 2, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Superfrog, Bubble Bobble...And of course, RoboCop! But as said, far too many to list. If there was a port at the time, all likelihood you'd find it somewhere on an Amiga system.
Lastly and because they deserve special mention are most probably the largest pop culture games of their time, games so important that to not have played them and if possible love them for me personally is a crime against life itself, Xenon 2 & Speedball 2. Before other people took the credit for making games with cross-over media elements the quite exceptional Bitmp Brothers and a UK based house/acid group called Bomb The Bass were making sweet sweet music together (pardon the pun) Those lucky enough to have experienced hearing Megablast whilst playing Xenon 2 are among god's most blessed children.
Speedball 2 was one of those games much like Sensible Soccer and Lemmings that instantly took off and formed it's own hardcore fanbase which even to this day remains as loyal as ever. The game was essentially a futuristic version of basketball although at times feels like a bit of everything with the look and feel of rollerball, it's absolutely worth owning an Amiga for this game alone and yes once again the untouchable Bitmap Brothers were responsible, they were absolutely the stand out developer of their time and this lovesick writer misses them greatly. ICE CREAM, ICE CREAM......
Perhaps not logical to post linkages to other sites, but we here at RetroGameGeeks support the community at large especially in regards to something so epic; so go have a gander at LemonAmiga.com and just lose yourself for a while after this intro. If you remain unimpressed with the game selection on Amiga, then you fail.
The Demo-scene on the Amiga systems was tremendous. To this day people continue to pump out their hard work online for others to enjoy. The Amiga took bedroom coding to the next level, never before had homebrew had the possibility to look and sound so good. The Indie community we all enjoy today as modern gamers are a direct result of these pioneers. These same pioneers birthing some of the biggest blockbusters of the past three decades in terms of video gaming. Our own Megatrons_Fury can happily recount the joys of producing his very own work on the Amiga. A quick browse on YouTube will unlock millions of worthy videos at your disposal these days so is a strong recommendation to check some out to experience the talents lurking within the Amiga community.
So large was the demo scene (officially named Public Domain) that all of the magazines of the era dedicated to the Amiga range covered aspects of it and devoted pages for reviews and features etc, publications such as Amiga Format and CU Amiga even made it a focal point as full price games became scarce during the mid 90's and it was Public Domain that one could argue kept the scene alive when every publisher left Amiga as the company was sold from owner to owner then eventually just collapsed.
Ripe with piracy, its a safe bet that the majority of your games on Amiga weren't originals. It may be shameful, but it is how many played their games. Easy to bolster library's with a never-ending array of awesomeness all thanks to it. Could it be consciously supported? Perhaps not. Legalities surely come in on that one. But the popularity of piracy on Amiga is undeniable, yet something that didn't burn out the system or many of the studios working on these games. For the most part, the demo-scene and piracy went hand in hand.
The Amiga helped create a community of sharing that no matter which side of the fence you sit, is one that is a sight to behold. "Oh, hey Dave. Have you seen this?" "No?", copy made - shared. This ideal is something that remains today in the rampancy of the internet, bringing everyone closer through digital means. Its quite beautiful.
Now, the music of the Amiga is something the admins of this site all hold near and dear to our hearts. Its a fair assessment that retro gamers love a good chiptune, well no chiptune get better that tunes pumped out of the legendary Amiga. Amiga musicians ranged from bedroom producers and enthusiasts, to genuine kings and queens of composition. The internet makes it easy to find a remix of your favourite tracks, thankfully and there are sites as a whole dedicated to the recognition and preservation of Amiga music and video game soundtracks.
Some of the people working in the industry today cut their teeth on such legendary music programs such as Pro-tracker and Octa-Med in fact a lot of the early acid house movement of the UK can be directly linked to Commodore's lovely little do it all computer, sure the Atari-St and later Atari Falcon had a superior sound chip set and unreal midi out solution but the Amiga public domain community simply had more people sharing more samples more openly. Also if you were clever enough to purchase a Datel Action Replay you could completely rip any music track from any game and then load it into one of the above mentioned pieces of software to take clean samples yourself or even see how a track was put together, the ultimate form of learning if you ask me.
The likes of Chris Huelsbeck and David Whittaker have created music so astonishingly magnificent, so utterly beautiful that anyone who tries to deny video game soundtracks as a true artistic medium as outright morons. Harsh, but true. Listen to "Inside The Tree" and attempt an argument as to how that is not art. We here at RetroGameGeeks actually dare you. Oh, what's that? You can't? Thought so.
Amiga music whether as stand alone pieces or parts of an original soundtrack have produced some of the finest compositions of the late 20th century. The more the research and listening, the less hyperbolic that statement becomes. Amiga music is the best there is.
And so we come to the end of this Amiga intro and without even getting into the heart of anything regarding the many different versions of hardware released or the story of both Commodore and Amiga's demise (mainly because it's just too heartbreaking) it's my hope, nay, it's RetroGameGeeks hope that you either go check out the greatest home computer of all time (sorry, it's how I feel) or re-visit it again and re-ignite those memories. Is there such a thing as the perfect console/computer, probably not but the Amiga brand and especially the Amiga 500 is as close as your likely to get, a whole generation ahead of everyone with an unrivalled software library and the introduction of things we all take for granted today such as multi-tasking and open source it was both an evolution and a revolution, these were better days.
Whatever poison be thy pick, Commodore's Amiga line gave the world some truly fantastic machines. So whether your a 500+/600 guy, or a 2000 gal, it doesn't matter. It's all love. Its love for that click and whirring as you fire up those kickstart ROMs. Its the adoration of the yellowing built-in keyboard with bits of code and names scribbled on the outer casing. Its that dream that it all could have continued and this wouldn't be written on a Microsoft based product. We older lot here at RetroGameGeeks hope you're as Amiga as us. Without it, many of us would be nothing.
Long live the Amiga