The Game: Who said landscaping was easy? You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, which you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the Pookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if a Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. (Atari, 1984)
Memories: Still clinging tenaciously to a licensing agreement that gave it the right to publish Dig Dug in the U.S., Atari dug in its heels and released Dig Dug for the Atari 7800. Fortunately – for Atari, that is – Namco opted not to issue the same game in that territory, leaving it an exclusive for owners of the Famicom, Japan’s equivalent to the NES.
Fortunately, because while Dig Dug is both playable and fun on the 7800, it still didn’t quite and sound look like the arcade game – whereas the Famicom version of Dig Dug did. If that version had been released for the NES as well, the inevitable comparisons might have been a marketing game-killer for the 7800. (Not that this console, delayed from 1984 until after the NES had achieved market saturation, needed any help in not quite stacking up to the competition.)
Because the 7800 uses essentially the same sound chip as was used in the 2600 (but with more memory to drive it), it’s curious how some games manage to sound like their VCS forebears. And graphically, Dig Dug is really only a marginal improvement over the same game’s visuals on the 2600 and the 5200. I would, however, argue that the game play is closer to the mark.
But Atari was now up against competition that was making arcade ports look and sound so good that this wasn’t going to be enough anymore.