|The true classics never diethey just need better graphics.
This seems to be the motto in the gaming industry, especially lately with new versions of
Asteroids, Space Invaders, and others making their way onto virtually every system on the
market. And who am I to argue? Like so many modern gamers, I was groomed on the classics.
To this day I will back away from the dollar-munching elite at the arcade to try to beat
my personal best at Galaga or Mrs. Pac-Man (super-speed only, please). Lets face it,
even with all of their overpriced, 3D, surround sound glamour, the new games just
cant capture your heart the way that Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde did. And they
cheat; admit it, all the new games cheat.
Which brings me to the creepiest, crawliest classic of them allthe bug infested world of mushrooms and microcosmic thrills (heartbeat included on the soundtrack)Centipede. Hasbro Interactive and Leaping Lizard Software, Inc. have brought the classic game to 128-bit fruition for the Sega Dreamcast, and I have to say that this is one of the most loyal updates I have ever seen.
You have the choice of playing the classic arcade version, or the new adventure version of the game, with one or two-player mode available for each. The classic version is exactly thatthe vertical shooter of the original arcade stand-up, verbatim. They even framed the screen with the artwork from the original machine. In one-player mode you attack the masses of spiders, fleas, and scorpions, along with that pesky regenerative centipede, as they rain down on your ship through a complex field of mushrooms. Your only objective is to stay alive, kill everything (the centipede being first priority), and get the highest score you can. The two-player mode is much the same; only you alternate gameplay with an opponent and try to beat their score.
Along with a sloping 3D perspective, rich landscapes, and a new techno soundtrack, the adventure version provides new bugs, weapons, a few more objectives, and a story complete with cinematics. The story is mercifully simple and humorousevery 1000 years hoards of evil bugs rise from the center of the earth, led by the queen centipede, and attempt to take over the world. As Wally, you are an average, everyday kind of guy, sleeping peacefully when a group of menacing military types show up on your doorstep (having been lead to you by a "hero-divining stick"). They kidnap you, and force you into the seat of the new and improved "shooter." Your only choice is to defeat the giant bugs and save the world.
Along with all the usual objectives, now you must save the "wee people" and protect their villages from the rampaging centipedes. Like the classic game, the centipedes are guided through the playing field by a maze of mushrooms. Every hit they take splits them in two, with the destroyed section becoming a new mushroom, and the next immediate section becoming a head guiding a newly formed centipede. The centipedes are joined by the usual array of bugs, and some new ones. Only this time multiple spiders leap into the villages and attack you from multiple angles, hornets drop bombs on you from above, and scorpions catapult objects from their tails.
Among the new weapons in your arsenal are triple shots (for quicker demolition of bugs and mushrooms), rockets (perfect for airborne insects), a ladybug shield (good for taking the edge off of your nerves), and others. Your primary weapon is the same single, fire and wait for the shot to connect, cannon you may remember from the original Centipede. This raises the tension level by making close-range attacks the most prosperous.
The graphics are good. The scenery is lush, the villages are detailed, and steep canyons filled with spiders divide the playing fields. Though it does not live up to the full 128-bit potential, it is impressive what they have done to the old format. The 3D perspective works well, adding new dangers from above and behind, and enables you to jump onto objects in order to avoid certain death. The camera follows you quickly and precisely, rarely, if ever, trapping you behind something so that you cannot see your shooter.
The sound is a mixed blessing. The techno soundtrack, while engrossing at first, is endless and repetitive and eventually got on my nerves. However, the programmers have added all of the sentimental goodies for the hardcore fans. I found that I was touched, jaded old gamer that I am, when the spiders and 1-ups were accompanied by the familiar old sound effects. And the commentary by the "wee people" ("Over here Wally!") was just plain cute.
To add to the fun, the two-player option allows you and a friend to join the adventure together, via a split screen. In this fashion, as the challenge increases the two of you can cut your losses by providing cover fire, flanking the enemy, or attacking in different directions. This option definitely adds to the quality of repeat gameplay.
Which brings me to one very crucial aspect of any updated classic: does it bridge the generation gap? This game, after all, thrives on nostalgia. As a child I probably spent the majority of my total net allowance on Centipede and games of its time, so they hooked me just by including the original version. But what about those younger gamers who are just hearing about it for the first time? Well, let me put it this way: if you, or whoever you are buying this game for, is a gamer of the easily addicted, puzzle-solving, Tetris-playing variety, this game is perfect. For those of the unimpressed, Doom-generation, "I beat Final Fantasy VIII in a week" ilk, this may not be your cup of tea.
After all, the true longevity of this game will probably come as the in-between game. When Inferno is taking you for a ride on Soul Caliber and you are having trouble even figuring out your mission on Toy Commander, this is a game you can stick in just for a straightforward challenge. It doesnt demand an investment, and it is a lot of fun. It is one of those games that are perfect for taking your mind off of what you really should be doing.