RELEASE DATE: 11/02/84 – (JP), 10/1988 (US – Tengen), 11/1993 (US – Namco)
ALSO ON: Everything. If you own a computer, console, or mobile phone, you have access to a version of Pac-Man.
Pac-Man is a game we all take for granted because it’s always been there. Don’t know what to play? Pac-Man. Only have a few minutes to spare before work? Pac-Man. Want to remember the glory days of cocktail arcade cabinets? Pac-Man.
I’ve heard the argument that Mrs. Pac-Man is better, and it probably is. I always come back to the original, though. I love its simplicity. The single maze layout is a masterpiece of claustrophobic design (those who argue otherwise should try playing the many, many Pac-clones that followed – nothing compares). Pac-Man controls like a dream, not too loose, not too tight. The ghosts are an excellent mix of crafty and stupid. The soundtrack is a cacophony of noise that surrounds the player and envelops the senses. And the premise – eat all the dots, avoid ghosts unless you eat the big dot – is timeless.
Pac has transcended the maze.
Famicom Pac-Man remains my favorite Pac-Man port. “It isn’t arcade perfect!” the detractors cry. That’s fine. It’s a clean reproduction that feels like the original, and that’s enough for me. Famicom Pac-Man is also the first Pac-Man port to have been handled by Namco themselves. As such, every element of the game is in its right place, unlike many of the earlier computer/Atari Pac-Man ports. Namco knew what they were doing.
Pac-Man‘s history on the NES is slightly more complicated. In 1988, Tengen published Namco’s version of Pac-Man for the NES. The game was originally licensed by Nintendo, but after Tengen found a way around Nintendo’s lock-out chip, Tengen shipped an unlicensed version of Pac-Man in a black cartridge to stores. In 1991, a court order forced Tengen to recall all of their NES games out of stores. Namco themselves eventually re-released Pac-Man in November 1993, at the tail end of the NES’ life.
I always appreciate my time with Pac-Man, and Famicom Pac-Man in particular. My enjoyment of the game has waned considerably since I was a child, however. Since I’ve never been a high score guy, when I do play, I like to see how far I can get before the ghosts bury me in their protoplasm (usually about 7 levels). After I invest about 10-15 minutes, I’m satisfied. Pac-Man‘s pleasures are provided quickly and efficiently, because of course they are. The game is several decades old, and only die-hard points junkies still play for hours in search of that next high score.
Too much fruit and poor ol’ Pac gets the runs.
Basically, Pac-Man is a fantastic, iconic landmark that changed the direction of video games forever. If I never play it again, I won’t miss it.