The Game: Two players each control one man in one-on-one, full-court action. Whoever has the highest score by a predetermined time limit wins. (Atari, 1983 [unreleased])
Memories: Atari’s RealSports series was created to challenge the upper hand Intellivision’s sports games had gained over the blocky, primitive virtual versions of the same sports on the Atari 2600. The RealSports brand was extended into the 5200 line as well, and did manage to score some firsts, including the first home video game to offer speech without additional custom hardware (RealSports Baseball). But for some reason, neither the 2600 nor 5200 versions of RealSports Basketball ever saw the light of day.
RealSports Basketball on the 5200 turns out to be little more than a sweeping graphical upgrade of the original 1978 Basketball game for the VCS. Admittedly, the graphics being whole magnitudes of order better does actually help the game – with more realistic human figure animations, things like a mid-air block are possible in RealSports Basketball. But the game play is largely the same, and with the court being the same size and the players being smaller and more intricate, there’s more territory to cover: if you have the ball, you have to protect it longer. If you’re on the defensive, you have more room to maneuver and maybe steal. At least that’s the theory: the game was never quite finished enough to include some of those nuances.
In any case, RealSports Basketball is one of the many, many in-the-works or finished 5200 titles to vanish into the black hole of the video game industry crash. While other RealSports titles did make it into stores for Atari’s SuperSystem, the demand at the time was for hgh-profile arcade ports rather than sports games. When 5200 versions of Super Pac-Man and Blaster didn’t even make it into production, RealSports Basketball was off the list.