Pac-Man (Unlicensed)

Published by: Tegen
Developed by: Namco
Genre: Maze
Released: 1987

Pac-Man (Unlicensed) (NES)

Pac-Man (Pakkuman in Japan) is the port of the 1980 arcade game that was developed by Namco. The game was a unique title released among a sea of space shooters and sports titles. It became an instant classic and is one of the most recognizable video games of all time. It is also one of the highest-grossing video games of all time, with over 400,000 machines having generated more than $2.5 billion in quarters by the 1990s.

The game was conceived by Tōru Iwatani who formed a 9 man team and built the title within a year.

The game was based on the concept of eating, and the original Japanese title was inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeic slang phrase paku-paku taberu, where paku-paku describes the sound of the mouth movement when widely opened and then closed in succession. Iwatani has stated that the design from the character was inspired by both a pizza with a slice missing and from simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi. The game was originally designed as Puck Man, however when Midway picked up the rights for a US release, the name was changed to Pac-Man to avoid those who would vandalize the machines by changing the P to an F. 

In order to appeal to a wider demographic the Pac-Man team made design choices with the intention of attracting female gamers. These included the design of the ghosts and the maze gameplay. The game was considered the first arcade title to appeal to all players regardless of age or gender.

In the game, the player controls Pac-Man in an attempt to eat all the dots within a maze and avoid the pursuing ghosts. The maze is filled with dots which are eaten when Pac-Man moves over each dot. 

Each maze in the game has the same layout, however the ghosts become faster, more aggressive and more immune to the power pellets as the player moves through the levels. Between certain stages one of three intermission animations play. These are considered the first cut scenes in any video game.

The game is the first video game to include power-ups. Each maze contains 4 power pellets which give Pac Man the temporary ability to eat the enemies. When a power pellet is eaten, the ghosts turn blue and try move away from Pac-Man. If Pac-Man catches the ghosts in this state he eats them and earns bonus points. After eating a ghost it respawns in the center of the maze and restart's its pursuit. In later stages the ghosts no longer turn blue when a pellet is eaten, but still begin moving in the opposite directions. 

The four ghosts in the game include Blinky (red described as shadow), Pinky (pink described as speedy), Inky (light blue described as bashful) and Clyde (orange described as pokey). If a ghost touches Pac-Man while not blue, the player loses a life. At certain points a fruit will appear in the center of the stage which can be collected for bonus points. Each ghost follows a preset series of rules based on their personality. These patterns can be understood by gamers to form strategies to avoid the ghosts, unlike its sequels which use better AI to chase down Pac-Man.

Iwatani has described the enemy behaviors in detail at the 2011 Game Developers Conference stating the red enemy chases the player, the pink and light blue ghosts try to get in front of the player while the orange ghost moves according to a random set of rules. Player's later discovered from the code that the orange ghost actually chases Pac-Man, but then moves toward the bottom left of the screen. 

The arcade version of the game was designed for indefinite play, but a bug in the code which renders the fruit at the bottom of the screen prevented players from completing the 256th level. Upon reaching this stage, the byte which holds the fruit data overflows the variable and corrupts the bottom half of the screen. The player can still get the dots on the screen, but are unable to get enough dots to complete the stage.

Because of this, a perfect score is possible if the player can eat all possible dots, power pellets, fruits, and ghosts in all 256 stages without dying.

According to the Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard this was first accomplished by Billy Mitchell on July 3, 1999 with the  score of 3,333,360 points. It took about six hours.

When the game first launched in Japan it was met with a lukewarm response, however the game received big success in North America. After being ignored by marketing execs in the industry the game became the most popular arcade game that year.

The popularity from the state eventually spread back to Japan and Pac-Man has become one of the most recognizable game characters. It was gaming's first licensing success with products including clothes, music, a TV series, and all sorts of other products.

Pac-Man has appeared in over 30 spin-off titles. It's also one of the most copied games of the era inspiring a ton of maze games. Its influence has spread to many other genres including first person shooters and stealth games.

The NES version of the game was released as an unlicensed title by Tengen and later a licensed title by Namco the with different box art and cartridges design. Both versions are identical ports of the Famicom version.

The game is followed-up with the originally unofficially Ms. Pac-Man and arcade only Super Pac-Man. Another spin off Pac-Mania was released for the NES.

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