Friday, September 24, 2010

Too Much Old-School Appeal

Pac-Man Championship Edition has been praised by some as the best version of Pac-Man ever.  I played the demo and it does seems like a very good version of the game.  But, there are a couple of major sub-optimal things about it that I noticed immediately.

Take a look at this screen from the game:


The graphics are like the original Pac-Man with lightning effects.  Namco obviously did this to appeal to the nostalgia of gamers who played the original.  I can appreciate that, but I think what gamers are nostalgic for is the mechanics of the original. 

The graphics in Pac-Man CE are intentionally blocky and retro-looking.  I like old school games more than most people, but blocky sprites are not what I like about them.

You can create a version of the game with the feel of the original, that looks modern visually, but still looks like Pac-Man.

Namco did exactly that with 1996’s Pac-Man Arrangement, part of Namco Arcade Classics Volume 2 machines in arcades.

Pac-Man Arrangement Screenshot

Pac-Man Arrangement had colorful graphics that were attractive.  They weren’t state-of-the-art for 1996, but they were acceptable for that time. That game plays very much like the original Pac-Man, but with some additional power-ups for both Pac-Man and the ghosts.  For the purists, there was a version without that stuff that could be selected when starting the game.

One of the best things about Pac-Man Arrangement was that it supported 2 players simultaneously, something that Pac-Man Championship Edition does not.

When Namco decided to make Pac-Man CE, did they look at the other versions of Pac-Man they’ve released in that past?  If so, why didn’t they incorporate the good ideas from those versions? 

Another example of this is the just-released Space Invaders Infinity.


Like Pac-Man CE, this Space Invaders has blocky sprites and no multiplayer support.  There have been versions of Space Invaders with nice-looking graphics and simultaneous 2 player support, such as Majestic Twelve - The Space Invaders Part IV.  A new version of Space Invaders or Pac-Man could easily have simultaneous 4-player support.  1 player only?  I don’t understand.

Developers – when bringing out new versions of old-school games, preserve the good things about them.  Preserve the atmosphere of the original.  Preserve the overall look at feel.  Don’t preserve the limitations.  Don’t neglect to incorporate improvements made by remakes that came out earlier.

When deciding to buy a game on XBox Live Arcade, gamers like me look at these qualities and features.  I’d love to buy a definitive version of Pac-Man or Space Invaders for $10.  Unfortunately the remakes of these games released in the 90’s are more definitive the ones just released.