We’ve said it countless times and we’ll repeat it once again — classic games sell. Companies with rich histories like Namco, Midway and Atari have wisely released emulated compilations as well as newly updated versions of games based on its back catalog of timeless hits. Centipede in particular has held up extremely well over the years as you can often see the coin-op getting some big time play in many arcades even today. Unfortunately, Atari’s update to the bug blast-athon did not fare well on PC and PlayStation and has floundered in the marketplace. Can it get things right the third time on Dreamcast?
The face-lifted Centipede now has a storyline. Your village is under attack by the QueenPede and her cronies. As Wally, you’ve been selected for some reason to take control of “The Shooter” to save the Wee people from extinction. You get to fly around and defend villages by shooting hostile insects and rescuing the Wee people, a-la Robotron.
Although the game retains most of the gameplay of the original, you’re not limited to moving around in a confined environment this time. You can now roam the entire 3D landscape from a choice of three different views — top down, first-person and a slightly slanted perspective. The top down view is easiest to play, but the graphics aren’t as lush and it’s not quite as exciting (just like any racing game.) Getting a close-up view of spiders, centipedes and mushrooms are much more intimidating, and it requires that you strafe and run around in circles while dodging the enemies. One of the gripes from the Playstation and PC version was the slow framerate and sluggish control. These deficiencies have been corrected for Dreamcast, making for a much smoother gameplay experience. The graphics certainly don’t make use of the Dreamcasts’s abundant polygon pushing power, but it’s more than adequate and a step up from PlayStation Centipede. The soundtrack consists of the the same tecno-style tunes that accompanied its predecessors.
As in most updates, an “arcade” mode is bundled with this game. Unfortunately, it’s nothing like the real thing — they really should stop misrepresenting the notion that the original game is included when it’s not. Anyhow, the arcade mode plays similar to the original, but it’s in a slanted, pseudo-3D perspective with all the objects drawn in polygons. The object is the same and it plays OK. Those looking for an arcade-perfect experience need not bother with this one, however.
More so than any company that is actively updating its classics, Atari appears to be doing the best job of retaining the magic of the original while adding fresh new play elements, making for a game that pleases both the dedicated classic game fan and new players alike. While Centipede on Dreamcast is an improvement over its PlayStation counterpart, it still has enough flaws that prevent it from living up to its namesake.