The many, many faces of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man
Pac-Man has appeared on every system from Channel F (yes really, Channel F!) to Xbox 360, and everything in-between. Any system with a name people know has some kind of Pac-Man, so whatever system you buy, you can be pretty sure it will have at least one version. So without further ado, let's take a look at every version of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man that falls from the sky. WARNING: this is going to be very long and wordy.
Now, Pac-Man came into existence when Pac-Man creator guy (I can never remember his name) to a piece of pizza from his pie and noticed that it looked like a big mouth. From then on, Pac-Man was slowly conceptualized and made a reality by Namco in 1981. It was a smash hit, and it caused a huge bidding war over the rights to make a home version. Money flew everywhere, and eventually Atari won out. And guess what came out of that?
That's right. The Pac-Man everyone associates with the words "Atari 2600" and "terrible". And indeed, it was terrible. Certainly not the worst game ever, but if you saved for months to buy this I can't imagine you'd be happy with it. The thing is, 2600 Pac-Man was Pac-Man in just about the loosest possible sense of the word. Yes, you still ate dots in a maze while avoiding ghosts, but nothing played right. The maze was incredibly boring and unimaginative, the fruit was a block, Pac-Man looked terrible, the ghosts flickered so much they were hard to see, and the color choice for the maze was hideous. However all was forgiven a year later with the 5200 and 8-bit versions of Pac-Man.
It's hard to believe how much can change in a year. The maze looked great, Pac-Man was himself, the ghosts were visible, and the world was reborn. And what's more, Atari also treated Intellivision and Apple II owners to their own versions of Pac-Man. It was as if Atari was out to make things right, even for their fiercest competitors. This little Pac-Man spree didn't stop there, either. Atari kept on doing it all the way into the 90s, and gained popularity with things like the NES Pac-Man.
Eventually, Atari got out of the Pac-Man business, and left it to Namco to keep it up. And Namco was no slouch at it either (in fact, some could say they were better). Namco released Pac-Man on many different system throughout the 90s, in places like the well-known Namco Museum, and as stand-alone releases on systems like Game Boy and Neo Geo Pocket Color.
And with Pac-Man as popular as ever, this stream of re-releases continues even to this day on portable Namco Museums and download services. Clearly, Pac-Man is something no one will forget, and will continue to rake in the profits long after the Pac-Man Fever has worn off.
Now, going back to when Pac-Man was the biggest boy on the playground, others knew Namco had a winner on their hands. Naturally, they wanted a piece of the pie. Knock-offs and hacks sprang up everywhere, from Hangly-Man to Pirhana. There were so many, it was becoming increasingly difficult for arcades to tell the difference between fakers and the real thing. However, one game stood out among the reast: Crazy Otto. Crazy Otto has not just a hack, but an entirely new game created from the Pac-Man game engine. It featured all-new mazes, entertianing cutscenes, and attractive pastel mazes. Namco knew this was quite the professional hack, so they bought the game, and changed it into this:
Ms. Pac-Man! The idea was phenominal: take Pac-Man, change the mazes, make the colors brighter, make a female Pac-Man and BANG! Instant sequel. It sold like mad, equalling and even surpassing the original game at lightening speed. Naturally, Atari made good again on their home version rights, and gave us the wonderful 2600 Ms. Pac-Man we all flipped over.
Atari's 2600 Ms. Pac-Man was as faithful as it could be. It had all the mazes, all the ghosts, Ms. Pac-Man's bow (quite the technological feat back then), and all the good looks. The only thing missing were the cutscenes, though no one complained. And as if this 2600 version didn't blow our socks off well enough, along come the 5200 and 8-bit ports!
Clearly, Atari had every intention of showing us they were perfectly capable of making a good Pac-Man game. And Atari ported this one to almost as many systems as the first game. Once again, Apple II owners got their Ms. Pac-Man fix, as did Commodore devotees. And just like before, Atari went on releasing Ms. Pac-Man through the 80s and 90s. All the mainstream systems got it, from Genesis down to Master System.
And as Atari moved out of Pac-Man territory, Namco got the liscence for home versions. Just like with Pac-Man, Namco released Ms. Pac-Man on many different portables and home consoles. Namco Museum vol. 2 had it, as well as a release on Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Naturally, Namco still ports Ms. Pac-Man to almost every system imaginable. You'd be hard pressed to find a download service or arcade collection that does not have this game.
Well, that's pretty much it. That's the entire history of both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, painstakingly told through words and screenshots. As you can probably imagine, this was a lot of work, so don't expect me to so something like this again for a long time. Now, it's time to go play a few choice games...