Category Archives: Namco

Eat laser, alien scum!

Real-Life ‘Galaga’ Short Film

Movies based on video games don’t have a great track record: last year’s big-budget attempt, Assassin’s Creed, from Fox failed to hit its target at the box office domestically (but did admittedly flash its blades overseas). But movie studios should really start mining the talent of the indie scene for help in making faithful and exciting video game adaptations.

Case in point: Adam Arnali, who has made a terrific short film titled Dead World, a prequel to the Galaxian arcade game that shows mankind fighting back against the hoards of aliens invading the planetIt’s got action, it’s got drama, and it’s got ranks of alien bastards shuffling across the screen. What more could you want? Check out the film here on YouTube:

And to read The Dot Eaters bitstory of Galaxian and Galaga, click here:

Video game maker Namco founder Masaya Nakamura

Namco Founder Masaya Nakamura Passes Away

In my article about the Nintendo Entertainment System, I paint a picture of then-Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi as an iron-willed leader who’s uncompromising nature was famous in the video game industry.  Today it was announced on Namco’s Japanese-language website that one of the few people to go up against Yamauchi has passed way at the age of 91: Namco founder Masaya Nakamura.

Started in 1955, Nakamura Manufacturing Company of Tokyo was initially an installer and operator of amusement park rides atop a department store in Yokohama, Japan. Becoming Namco in 1972, they entered the video game industry by purchasing the Japanese subsidiary of Atari from that company’s founder, Nolan Bushnell, in 1974. They would go on to not only trailblaze in the industry by developing one of the first full-colour and sprite-based video games with Galaxian in 1979, Namco would help solidify the video game market in North America a couple of years later with a blockbuster hit by employee Toru Iwatani, featuring a little yellow circle with a wedge of a mouth named Pac-Man.

Pac-Man, an arcade video game by Namco

The game-changing ‘Pac-Man’

 

It would be during the heydays of the NES when Nakamura would face-off with the most powerful company in the industry. Nintendo’s powerhouse game console had a draconian third-party licensee program, forcing makers of NES games to fork over a 20 percent royalty on sales and give exclusivity to Nintendo’s game machine for two years, among other financial hardships. Although Namco had been one of the first licensees for the NES, Nakamura would chafe under these restrictions and call out Yamauchi in the press for his licensing system, stating that “Nintendo is monopolizing the market, which is not good for anyone.” Namco then allied itself more closely with Nintendo’s competition at the time, most notably with Sega and their Master System and Genesis machines. Due to Nakamura’s resistance, as well as accusations from the U.S. Justice Department over various monopolistic practices, Nintendo would eventually drop the exclusivity clause from their developer contracts.

Ad for Namco games, a video game maker

Namco nestles up to the competition, 1990.


Merging with Japanese toy and video game company Bandai in 2005, Bandai-Namco today remains one of the few early arcade game companies still producing games. They have the assured and fearless guidance of Masaya Nakamura to thank for it.

A most gruesome death

Atari’s Epic Dig Dug Commercial of 1982

As part of a marketing push (an area where CEO Ray Kassar excelled at), Atari created a two-minute ad for arcade game Dig Dug. The funny thing about all this hoopla is that Atari hadn’t actually made the game: it was licensed by the company from Namco for release in North America. 

Dig Dug, an arcade video game by Atari and Namco, 1982

Dig Dug gameplay

 

The longer ad ran in theatres during the summer of 1982, while a shorter 30 second version ran on TV. Originally, 60′s singing and dancing sensation Chubby Checker (The Twist) was to sing the catchy theme song in the ad, but Atari ultimately went with a younger singer, perhaps for reasons of demographics. You can hear Chubby’s version here on the Atari Museum Public Group on Facebook. The song was posted by Matt Osborne, the son of Don Osborne, who was Atari’s VP of Marketing at the time. Upon listening to it, I’m sure you’ll agree that Atari made a huge mistake not going with Chubby.

As for the visuals, the various special effects in the ad were handled by production designer Jim Spencer and crew, who among other projects had the effects-laden movie Poltergeist under their belt. They would subsequently work on films like Innerspace and Gremlins.

Created by advertising agency Young & Rubicam and directed by Manny Perez, the spot would go on to snag a 1983 Clio award in the Cinema and Advertising category. It might not be high art, but at least it reflects the most important aspect of the video game it’s shilling: it’s a lot of fun.

For more information on the history of Atari, consult your local Dot Eaters Bitstory. 

 Sources:

Atari Coin Connection, “Dig Dug Meets Clio”, pg. 2, Aug 1983
Atari Museum Public Group, Facebook
1982 Entertainment Tonight segment on the making of Dig Dug ad

Screen shot from Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, a home video game by Bandai Namco 2013

The Time For Ghosts

While the little ghosts and goblins are trick-or-treating tonight for halloween, Pac-Man himself is having more trouble with ghosts in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, released yesterday for PS3, Xbox, and Wii U. by Bandai Namco, with a 3DS version to come soon.

The game is based on the animated TV series of the same name, which premiered in June on the Disney XD channel. It is a platformer in the same vein as the earlier Pac-Man World games by Namco, where Pac roams freely around worlds haunted by his ghostly enemies. Ghostly Adventures  adds a myriad of power-ups to the formula, granting Pac some Mario-like abilities such as fire and ice throwing, but adds some new ones like turning into a long-tongued chameleon, or a giant stone ball that rolls around squashing enemies. The game also features a 4-player online component where the screen is split into quadrants, each housing a player controlling a ghost, on the hunt through the classic maze for Pac-Man.

What’s not scary is that a game from 1980 continues to have such relevance in 2013. To read the storied history of Pac-Man and his ghostly enemies, consult your local Dot Eaters article.

Excerpt from the ad flyer for Galaxian, an arcade video game by Taito/Midway.

Galaxian: A Video Game Formation

Out of Namco in 1979 came soaring Galaxian, a take on the Space Invaders formula where the little alien critters are not content to shuffle left and right across the screen, but break formation and come tearing down at the player, shooting at them all the way.

Gameplay snap of Galaxian, an arcade video game by Namco/Midway 1979

They’re coming for you in Galaxian

 

Galaxian not only helped usher in full RGB colour to arcade games, but also pioneered the use of sprites as graphical objects, allowing for the furious action that made the game so popular. It was as influential to video game design as its own invading inspiration, and spawned a set of sequels, such as 1981′s Galaga, as well as a plethora of remakes and ports. A particularly awesome port was made of Galaxian for the VCS/2600 in 1983, so good that it seems almost impossible to have been done within the stringent programming confines of Atari’s warhorse video game system. Of course, we can’t forget the game’s treatment at the hands of Coleco, featured as one of the company’s popular tabletop LED mini-arcade games.

Coleco TableTop version of Galaxian, 1981

Bring the arcade home with you!

 

Down another path of sequels was handheld LED game Galaxian 2 by Entex, as well as the monstrous Galaxian 3 theatre games constructed by Namco in the 90′s. These giants, starting as 28-player motion ride experiences and eventually tapered down to 6-player walk-in arcade games, give the Galaxian player a suitably epic experience.

Galaxian set the mold for the shoot-em-ups that followed in its colourful wake. For a full history on the game, please consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Valhalla, I am coooominggggg

Visiting Valhalla

Local to me here in Toronto is a great store called Valhalla Cards & Gifts.  Its main trade is a wonderfully eclectic collection of greeting and post cards, most of which owner Chadwick Gendron designs himself.  Accompanying the cards is a wealth of knick-knacks and paddy-whacks on the shelves; Pantone mugs, off-kilter children’s books (Go the F**k to Sleep, why don’t you?), board games, fridge magnets, note books, ect. ect..

Of course, the products that catch my attention are retro game themed.  Here’s a couple of snaps I took of some while visiting the store:

Image of Pac-Man plug-and-play video games

Pac-Man plug-and-play video games

These Pac-Man plug-and-play video games apparently sell really well.  Even though the joystick makes Pac look like he has an orange goiter on his face.

Image of Space Invaders candy

Space Invader candy

An arcade of Space Invader candy.  What’s funny is that, back in its heyday in Japan, storeowners actually did move out all of their stock and installed all-Invaders arcades to ride the game’s immense popularity.  Here, though, Snake Plisskin seems to be scaring the customers away.

Image of Space Invaders candy

Invaders side art

Even the side art on these little guys is great.  Note the Pac-Man greeting card behind the cabinets.

Taking a trip to Valhalla is always pretty cool, with one never failing to find something they didn’t expect.  The store is located at 791 Queen Street West in Toronto, with operating hours between 11am and 7pm on weekdays and 12pm to 6pm on the weekends.  They also have a web store at ValhallaCards.com, as well the Twitter handle @ValhallaCards.

If you want to find out more about the history of the video games featured in these pics, consult your local Dot Eaters articles here:

The History of Pac-Man

The History of Space Invaders

 

 

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Galaga 30th Collection

Title screen for Galaga 30th Collection, an iOS version of Galaga, an arcade video game by Namco 1981

Galaga 30th title screen

As our final entry into The 12 Video Games of Christmas we bring you Galaga 30th Collection for iOS, made by Namco Bandai.

This app was released in 2011 to mark the 30th anniversary of Galaga, the sequel to 1979′s paradigm-shifting Galaxian by Namco, distributed in North America by Midway.  The initial download is free, and for that you get the original Galaxian for free.  The rest of the games, available through in-app purchases, are as follows:

  • Galaga  $2.99
  • Galpus $2.99
  • Galaga ’88 $3.99
  • All-games pack: $7.99

The app keeps the basic mechanics of the arcade games, and gussies up the graphics so the aliens look cleaner and buzz around with coloured glowing streaks behind them.  Besides the normal versions of the Galaga and Galpus games, you can also play a score attack round and try to beat your high score in three very difficult screens.  For control, you can chose a standard joystick/button configuration, or go for the option to move your ship by sliding your finger to and fro across the screen and tapping to fire, which feels much more precise.  The app provides rapid fire shooting, which makes dispatching a large number of aliens at once much easier than the originals.

You also have access to a store where you can spend Galaga points in order to upgrade your ship with such ordinance as faster reloading shots or a forward shield.  These points are earned by playing the game and performing well.  Achievements and a ranking system rounds things off.  Over all, this is another good update of classic arcade games for iOS devices.  You can snag Galaga 30th Collection at the iTunes store here.  Happy holidays!

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Pac-Man for iPad.

Yellow ornaments hang from the tree in today’s The 12 Video Games of Christmas.  Wait, that one is eating the tinsel!  Darn you, Pac-Man!

Made by Namco and selling for $4.99 in the App Store, this round of Pac-Man is for the iPad only. It definitely feels like the arcade game, and has some good options for controlling our yellow hero.  Using the virtual joystick feels a bit logey, but an option to move Pac around the maze by swiping your finger to make him turn feels surprisingly responsive.  What’s really neat, however, is the accelerometer control scheme, where you tilt the iPad to move the character, kind of rolling him around the maze like in a marble-roll game such as Labyrinth.  It feels pretty cool and physical, although not particularly precise.  All of these control methods come included with the free Lite version; if you want to really get the arcade controller experience by hooking the game up to the mini-arcade cabinet iCade, you’ll need to pay for the full version of the app.

Another interesting addition to the formula is the ability to continue your game where you left off after losing your last man, by spending Namco coins, which, of course, you can purchase with real cash.  This particular freemium endeavour is not so obnoxious as others you find in the app store, as you get an awful lot of the program in the free version.

Pac-Man for iPad can be gobbled up at the iTunes App Store. Bon appétit!