Monday, January 12, 2015

Pac-Man Collection (GBA) Review

Written: January 12th, 2015
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  2014 is long behind us now, for
it's 2015!!!!!!  =D
2015 has come at last... though I probably should've put this MS Paint banner on my actual first post of the year (My Summer '14 Movie Thoughts), and then I extensively talked about my passionate, honest, and personal feelings towards my least favorite Peanuts special (It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown)... okay, my initial plan was to start off the year by talking about a Super Famicom game but plans fell through because I didn't feel that I had a sufficient amount of screenshots so I had to improvise.  And besides, plans change and it's bound to pop up eventually.  In the meantime, here is my first video game review of 2015.
(As played on Game Boy Player)
Year: 2001 | Developed by: Mass Media | Published by: Namco
One of the most famous and successful video game franchises of all time--which in turn spawned so many merchandises ranging from lunch boxes to napkins to even television shows--is none other than Namco's Pac-Man, which is going to celebrate its thirty-fifth anniversary this year.  0.0  Man, it seems like just yesterday that the yellow muncher celebrated his thirtieth half a decade ago; time flies!  The game was a huge success around the world, and so because there were many sequels, spin-offs, and even side-games; many of which got ported or were made available in compilations numerous times.  Pac-Man Collection for the Game Boy Advance is one of those compilations, and the reason I thought it was good to talk about it because (like its counterpart Namco Museum for the GBA) it recently saw a release on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console, so I wanted to discuss these assembly titles while they were still relevant.
Both collections were made by a company called Mass Media, which has a very clever logo going for it.  Talk about having an elephant in the room!  ....................................................  Riiight.  -_-
System: Arcade | Year: 1980
The original that started it all, and the oldest title in this collection, Pac-Man was inspired after one of the people at Namco cut off a piece of cheese one day, which made the remainder of it look like it had a mouth.  In Japan it was released as Puck-Man, but due to fear that some people would scratch off the "P" on the upper board therefore making the title sound inappropriate Namco decided to alter the title for Western releases as Pac-Man.  While not the first maze game ever, it is one of the most innovative in the genre; with Pac-Man being in pursuit by ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Orange Ghost who frequently changes his name with each game (for this one it's Clyde) in a maze until all pac-pellets are consumed--the further you go the harder it will get.  To momentarily give you the upper hand are power pellets, which once eaten will turn the ghosts blue giving Pac-Man the opportunity to swallow them whole for points; but don't celebrate too long because after awhile they do regenerate.  From time to time there are bonus fruit that will pop up, and after every specific amount of stages will be a neat cutscenes.  As simple as it can be, Pac-Man is still fun to play once in awhile.  =)  Oh, yeah; one thing which will be abundantly clear upon playing any of these games is that due to the small size of the handheld the once vertical screened-games in the arcade are now cropped down to size here.  Although for the first Pac-Man you do have a choice whether you want to play Scroll mode (you can even peak above or below with either shoulder button) or Full Screen mode (which retains the aspect ratio at the expense of detail).
System: Arcade | Year: 1987
The round yellow maze runner returns yet again in this well-known installment of the series, Pac-Mania, and the thing that makes this one stand out from the rest is the fact that it's viewed from an isometric perspective, which ran on Namco System 1 hardware.  Like the last iterations the rules are the same: eat all the pac-dots in the maze, avoid being touched by the ghosts, occasionally gather bonus fruit, and eat the ghosts after consuming power pellets.  But, due to the pseudo-3D angle you do have an edge which benefits you: Pac-Man can now jump in the air.  There a ghost heading your way?  Jump over them, and depending on the scenario you could even coordinate your jump in midair.  The visuals are pretty cool for 1987, the ghosts having discerning eyes is charming, and the isometric view is rather refreshing; after awhile the areas change, which is nice, and sometimes in place of a bonus fruit is a power pellet (which lasts nowhere near as long as the authentic one but is welcome to have anyway).  But just because you can jump it doesn't mean you'll always have the upper hand, because as you progress you stumble upon some green ghosts which can jump as well; so be careful.  While not as simple as the original Pac-Man (or even as good) I do still have a soft spot for Pac-Mania, and it is cool to play as 3D Pac-Man sans arms and legs.  =)  Likewise to the majority of these handheld conversions, what was once a vertical screen is now exclusively cropped.
Alternate Title: Pac-Panic [|O|] [|O|]
System: Sega MegaDrive/Genesis | Year: 1993
The only game in Pac-Man Collection neither originating from nor appearing in an arcade format, Pac-Attack (or Pac-Panic if you live in Europe and Japan) is a puzzler in the vein of, what else?  Tetris.  And actually, this multi-console puzzler was partially adapted from Namco's own Cosmo Gang: The Puzzle (which got its own Super Famicom port which I sadly have not played yet).  There are two different game modes here: Normal mode and Puzzle mode.  Like most puzzlers the idea is to get straight lines with gradually falling pieces you can rotate on the way down, but with a catch.  This time some of the pieces comprise of ghosts, and should Pac-Man accompany one of them they will turn blue and (depending on which direction he faced by the time you set it down) eating a series of ghosts will amount to lots of points.  Normal mode is basically trying to get as high a score as you possibly can, so you can take as long as you want to play it.  But the real meat of Pac-Attack belongs to Puzzle mode as you're only given an allotted amount of Pac-Man pieces to eliminate all the ghosts from the playing field; in doing so you will proceed to the next stage and be freely offered a password to the next stage.  What I like about this mode in particular is the number of ways it's set up and how it tries to make you strategize how to eliminate all of the ghosts; some solutions are simple while others are a bit more complex.  What also keeps you going is that after every several stages the background image will change, which is great.  Pac-Attack is a fun puzzler to play, and while I wouldn't say it's my top favorite in the genre it is worth experiencing regardless.  =)
System: Arcade | Year: 1996
The fourth and last game which I'll highlight in Pac-Man Collection is actually my favorite Pac-Man game available to play here; and even better, it's a remake of the original.  Pac-Man Arrangement actually came out during a moment when the arcades witnessed two Namco Classic Collection games: Volume 1 and Volume 2.  These cabinets not only allowed to play the games as they originally appeared but they also let you experienced revamped and updated versions of the classics.  Pac-Man Arrangement was one of those games which debuted in Namco Classic Collection Volume 2 in 1996, and the Game Boy Advance edition which I played for this review was the first time that it ever got ported.  With that said, how do you make a great classic even better?  How about by retaining the fun elements of Pac-Man and update it with new elements which not only make it feel updated and polished but also make it feel fresh in the process.  =)  The gameplay mechanics are still the same, but this time there is an additional ghost called Kinky who will sometimes absorb any other ghost to become super powerful (for Pinky she grows ears and can warp to any part of the maze, for example).  Among the numerous updates are arrows that make you dash through ghosts making them spin around, warps that take you in different portions of the maze, stairs, and new power-ups (doubles, temporarily making you go faster, and even confining ghosts inside a bag for a moment).  This is also the only Pac-Man maze game to actually end on a boss fight; good thing there are unlimited continues.  Once more the vertical screened arcade game got cropped down to size.  I love Pac-Man Arrangement, it's like the original but better.  =D

Pac-Man Collection is neat, albeit imperfect, compilation of some fun games.  The majority of games have been cropped because the Game Boy Advance's screen is neither vertical nor square, resulting in a limited viewing window than the original versions allowed.  There's also the issue with cues and sound when it comes to the latter titles, but what do you expect from a handheld which generally doesn't have a great sound chip to begin with?  With the exception of Pac-Attack you can enable certain settings into your games; like how many lives you should start with and how many points you must score to earn an extra life, which does give this compilation a bit of replay value.  The title and game selection screens have a cool background adorned with Pac-Man sprites from Arrangement, which is wavy and gradually changes color in the latter screen (which I like).  You could make the argument that a handheld isn't exactly an ideal place to play these revered games, but at the same time you could also argue that for short-burst entertainment (being arcade games) it's not a bad thing.  =)

With the exception of Pac-Man (and briefly Pac-Attack which I initially experienced on the Game Boy Color) this was the first time I played any of the other games back when I got Pac-Man Collection in 2003.  It's an assembly piece that I go back to once in awhile, and for what it is I think it's decent fun.  Check it out if you get the chance.  Admittedly you could do better as far as Pac-Man anything is related, but you could do much worse.  =)

<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
P.S. It's the New Year, which means new score emoticons and more art pieces and/or banners with my avatar on it.  I hope you like them.  =)
P.S. 2 Brief summaries of, well, anything are normally my biggest weakness (since I like to go into detail) when it comes to talking about more than one media at a time; but I managed to survive just fine here.
P.S. 3 When I say you could do worse as far as Pac-Man anything is concerned, I of course am referring to Pac-Man World 2.  I know it sounds cliché of me to say that (being a critic), but it's one of the most frustrating platformers I've personally played.  =|
P.S. 4 On the bright side, it's no more frustrating than Namco's shamelessly sad, difficult, and bleak Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai; in my opinion, the worst game they've ever been involved with one way or another.  Why did I want to play that game last year, again?  X(
P.S. 5 Now I really wish I played Cosmo Gang: the Puzzle=(  I must rectify this one day.
I'm StarBoy91, and may your day shine brightly  =)
Thank you for reading my review, my readers; please leave me a comment and let me know what you think regarding the specifics of my blog itself or the subject I talked about.  I hope you have a great day.  Take care!  =)
In the upcoming days will be my next Review:

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