7800 Classic Arcade – Centipede, Ms. Pac Man

The Atari 7800 was known for it’s numerous high quality arcade ports as that is all owners of the console had to go by for awhile after it’s release. By the time the 7800 hit store shelves nationwide, they were competing with the NES and the Sega Master System so if Atari’s new console couldn’t get 5 year old arcade ports right, there was no hope for their success. For the most part, Atari did a bang up job with the arcade conversions but some ports were better than others. This post highlights just two of what I consider the better conversions in Centipede and Ms. Pac Man.

Centipede on the 7800 is a very good port but then again, I haven’t run into a bad version of Centipede on home consoles. I admittedly haven’t tried the Intellivision or Atari XE versions, which may or may not be two of the weakest. I own Centipede on the 2600, 5200, Colecovision and of course, the 7800, so I’ve tried my fair share. This version does what all the other versions do but maybe slightly better….it’s hard to say. I’d probably have to sit down with all 4 of Centipede versions I own and play them back to back to notice any subtle differences. Obviously the 7800 graphics are going to be superior, especially when compared to the 2600 version, but ultimately it’s the gameplay that really matters. From that perspective, Centipede on the 7800 is top notch. I mean, they even throw in a 2-player co-op option….what more can you ask for? Well, a better controller or even more amazing, a smooth track ball would be nice! Nevertheless, the 2600 track ball will have to do for this version at least if you want to most closely mimic the Centipede arcade experience.

Ms. Pac Man is another game I own on several systems; the 2600, Game Gear and SNES, and while the SNES is my favorite home version of this game by far, the 7800 stands as second place. As you might expect, the game looks sharp and is faithful to the arcade version with cut scenes and the proper order of mazes intact. For some reason, the ghosts appear to be really freaking smart in this version, however! I don’t know what it is, but the ghosts on the 7800 version of Ms. Pac Man have a sixth sense about ganging up and cornering you. It’s almost as if they have a non-verbal means of communicating with each other to make each of their movements particularly effective. Or maybe they were just coded to be smart…who knows. They also tend to take unexpected turns down maze aisles whenever I’m chasing after them in power pellet mode so it’s much harder for me to eat all 4 than it usually is. This version is so challenging I rarely make it past the first screen without dying once and that’s due to the ghosts being so aggressive and smart. My past experiences with Ms. Pac Man, and I have many of them, always tell me that the ghosts are pretty dumb, predictible and slow on the first couple mazes, but not on the 7800! I don’t know if it was intentional because Atari knew they had a tough version of Ms. Pac Man on their hands, but they start you off with 5 lives instead of the usual 3 so it’s possible that is your consolation prize for being tough as nails. It might only be a coincidence, but I’m not complaining. The 5 lives are the only reason I can still get to the 6th or 7th screen in this version so I’ll take it. Atari 7800 Ms. Pac Man is a good game, but after playing the SNES version, all others pale in comparison.

Currently in my collection:

Centipede – game only A

Ms. Pac Man – game, manual A-

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