Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#156 – Millipede

Bug hunting on your NES!

More text than title.

To Beat: Beat Wave 16
To Complete: Beat Wave 16 in Game Modes A and B
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 5/12/20
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Millipede Longplay

It’s another day and another arcade port.  Centipede was an arcade smash hit and still holds up today as a fun game to play, even if it is a product of its time.  Millipede was not as popular of a follow up.  I think it is a more interesting game, expanding on the base action of Centipede with more enemy types and various effects on the playfield.  The translation of this trackball game to the NES and its controller loses the precision movement and feel of the arcade game.  There was no trackball accessory for the NES so this was the best we could get.  While the game is hampered a little by standard controls, it still carries plenty of action.

Centipede is a 1981 arcade game from Atari Inc.  It was designed by Donna Bailey and Ed Logg.  It was a big hit for Atari, eventually making its way to various home consoles and computers in the years following.  A sequel, Millipede, was released in 1982 in arcades.  This game had a few home releases on Atari computers and consoles, as well as a port on the NES.  This version was developed by Hal Laboratories.  It was first released on Famicom in October 1987 and received an NES release in October 1988.  It was published by HAL in both regions.

Casual bug blasting at first.

While Millipede is a simple arcade-style game, there is a story listed in the manual.  You play the role of an archer lost in a dark forest, when a giant millipede appears and starts moving toward you.  Fortunately, you are able to fire magic arrows that transform a segment of the millipede into a harmless mushroom.  You need to defend yourself for as long as possible against the millipede as well as from the other creepy crawlies that inhabit the forest.  Sadly, we all know how this will end as there’s no ending in this game, but the story does serve to raise the stakes a little.

First things first, you need to select which kind of game you want to play.  Press the Select button to move the marker between options on the title screen.  You choose from either a 1-player or 2-player game, either in Game A or Game B, for the four total options.  Two players play in alternating turns.  Game A is the standard game mode, while Game B starts you off at a higher difficulty.  For the purposes of my challenge, I decided to tackle both Game A and Game B.  Press Start when you make your choice to get started!

This is a simple game to play and control.  Your character is the archer at the bottom of the screen.  You can move in eight directions with the D-pad.  Press A to shoot an arrow.  You can only have one arrow on the screen at any given time, but you can do “rapid fire” by holding down A, which fires an arrow as soon as the other one exits the screen or hits something.  The bottom portion of the screen has a gray background which is where your movements are limited.  Enemies can come and go within that space, but you cannot.

Be careful, it can get crowded at the bottom.

The main attraction in this game so to speak is the millipede itself.  It’s behavior, and many of the enemy behaviors in this game, come directly from Centipede.  The millipede comes down from the top of the screen, moving one row at a time.  The playfield is littered with mushrooms that help divert the millipede on its way down.  Whenever the millipede collides with something, it moves down a row and toward the opposite horizontal direction, always moving one space horizontally through objects if they are in the way at the start of the new row.  The millipede is made up of a head segment and several body segments.  You can blast any part of the millipede away with one arrow, splitting it into multiple millipedes if body segments are left without a head.  You can also have a single head segment go off on its own.  If the millipede reaches the bottom of the screen, it will start working its way back up but it is now locked into the same grey area you are restricted to.  Later waves of the game start off with the new millipede split off into smaller parts.  Once all the millipede is destroyed, the next wave begins with a brand new millipede from the top.

The mushrooms in the playfield play a vital role in the flow of this game.  Obviously the millipede is steered down the screen due to the layout of the mushrooms.  The mushrooms themselves are solid and absorb hits from your arrows.  Sometimes they get in the way of reaching the enemies, but thankfully you can blast them away.  Each mushroom takes four hits to remove and the size shrinks with every hit until it’s gone.  Plus you get an entire point for removing one completely!  When you lose a life, all partial mushrooms are restored to full and you get 5 points for each one.  A difference in this version of the game compared to others is that there is no enemy that poisons mushrooms.  When the millipede touches the poison mushroom, it wiggles down directly to the bottom of the screen.  It is weird that this does not exist in this port of the game.

Another enhancement from Centipede is the DDT bomb.  These are very clearly marked on the playfield, appearing with the mushrooms from time to time.  When you shoot them, they explode into a large cloud that sticks around on the screen for a second or two.  Any enemy that touches the DDT is defeated.  What you want to do if possible is to shoot the bomb as the millipede is approaching so that it heads directly into the cloud.  You will destroy most or all of the millipede this way and you get a lot of points in doing so.

Don’t worry too much about the long term effects of pesticides.

There are quite a few other enemy types in this game you can categorize as either ground enemies or flying enemies.  The ground ones are the most disruptive so we’ll start with them, beginning with the ubiquitous spiders.  They appear low from each side of the screen and move across the screen zigzagging vertically, occasionally stopping horizontally.  You need to pay the most attention to these as they are very likely to collide with you.  You earn points depending on how close you are to them when you shoot them.  Scoring is from 300 to 1200 in 300 point increments.  Ladybugs are another nuisance.  They move slowly from the edge of the screen, moving down, then across, then back up and out.  Shooting them moves all objects on the playfield down a row, same as when you clear a wave.  Any mushroom they touch turns into an indestructible flower which can be quite bothersome.  The other two ground enemies are easy to deal with and can’t hurt you.  Caterpillars crawl across the center of the screen and they slow enemies down if you defeat them.  Longicorns (yes that’s their name) move across the top of the screen and give you a lot of points if you can reach them with a shot.

The flying enemies are all similar to each other.  Mayflies simply move in a straight line down the screen.  Mosquitos move down the screen in small zig-zags making them slightly harder to hit.  Dragonflies move diagonally down the screen bouncing off the sides of the screen only.  This game has special waves every four waves featuring just the flying enemies.  Wave 4 is a swarm of mayflies, wave 8 is a swarm of mosquitoes, and wave 12 is a swarm of dragonflies.  That pattern repeats every four waves thereafter.  Dying in the special wave moves you up the next wave on your next life.

Beating this game requires determining an end condition as this game does not have an ending.  The first stage starts with a full length millipede and you get smaller, segmented millipedes through the first 16 waves, starting over at Wave 17.  So beating 16 loops makes sense for the winning condition, and I decided to do that on both game modes just for completeness sake.  Getting there for me required some extra lives, which this game provides as you play.  The text at the bottom of the screen kindly lets you know how many points you need to earn your next free life.  It goes every 20,000 points until 100,000 total points, and then you get extra lives at every 50,000 points afterward.  The screen shows up to eight extra lives but I am not sure if you can earn beyond that.

Gameplay becomes fast and frantic in a hurry.

Millipede on NES was a game I had in my NES collection very early on.  I don’t remember how I got it exactly but it was most likely a yard sale buy from the 90s.  I played it off and on as it fits the bill for a game to play for a few minutes.  I may have beaten the game before by my standards but I have no way of knowing for sure.  This is an inexpensive game that is easy to find, and I’ve had a few copies of it go through my hands.

Beating this game wasn’t really that difficult, but I often seem to have some hiccups along the way.  Starting with Game A, I got through Wave 16 on my second try.  I wanted to capture the Game Over screen for documentation here, but it does not stay up long and I completely whiffed on taking a picture.  I moved on to Game B anyway and met my goal on the 5th try.  Everything starts off harder, which isn’t terrible early on but becomes a bigger problem in double-digit waves.  Then after that I beat Game A again, this time getting the picture I needed.  The entire run of playing, including the Game A replay, took about 45 minutes.  Short, quick, and fun games are always welcome here!

The NES port of Millipede was fun to play through, but I’m not sure I would say it is a great port of the game.  The graphics are very simple, with basic border tiles, solid color backgrounds, and tiny objects and sprites.  The music in this game is all sound effects, save for the catchy jingle on the title screen.  The soundscape gets pretty grating after a little bit.  The controls are solid, as they should be for a simple game like this.  The gameplay is fast paced and it plays well.  There are some missing features here that I have noticed in other versions, such as the poison mushrooms and backward playfield scrolling.  My favorite version of this game is the Game Boy Arcade Classics version, which seems to be closer to the arcade version just on a smaller scale.  The NES port is a step back from that.  It’s still fun, but there are better ways to play this game.

#156 – Millipede (Game A)

#156 – Millipede (Game B)

Posted In: Finished

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