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FGC #490 Dig Dug

DIG! DUG!What is the soul of a videogame?

Today’s game is Dig Dug. What’s more, ROB has chosen the Atari 2600 version of Dig Dug. This makes a certain amount of sense, as this is the only “pure” version of Dig Dug in my collection. Why? Well, Dig Dug is probably a game that takes up a whole six bits of space, so practically every version of Dig Dug since 1985 has not been available as a “single” game, but part of some larger collection. And more’s the pity! Living compilation to compilation might be good for some of the most established games, like Pac-Man or Galaga, but it doesn’t do ol’ Dig Dug any favors. You’re going to play Dig Dug for five minutes, say “oh, this is where all those inflation fetishists got their start,” and then move on to the next game. When you’re playing Dig Dug on a compilation where you can finally find an answer to what the hell Pac & Pal is about, you’re going to skip right past the fygars.

Which is, unfortunately, a loss for anyone that enjoys the more complicated games of the “simple” arcade era. Dig Dug has a lot going on! Everyone is familiar with how you can pump up your opponents to popping proportions, but you’re also allowed the strategic kills through falling rocks. The OG Mr. Driller is drilling his way through the dirt, so he may as well use some dirt to his advantage! And, as demonstrated for anyone that ever stuck around to watch Dig Dug’s attract mode, there is more to pumping your opponents than meets the eye. Most consider the multiple action-button presses of sending a pooka to hell to be some manner of “number of hits” issue, but there’s strategy in blowing up these underground monsters. Any partially inflated adversary is immobile, and, more importantly, not a threat to Taizo Hori, so you’re welcome to walk (well, dig) right through ‘em. What does this mean? Well, you can partially inflate your prey, and then sneak along the edges to avoid the attacks of other rivals. Or fill up a few baddies, make sure they’re all deflating in a vertical line, and call down a rock to Burger Time them all into something resembling a pancake. Dig Dug has more options than you’d think, particularly for a game that features a scant four directions and one whole button.

He definitely puts some silly clown to shame.

Get 'emBut we’re not just talking about Dig Dug today, we’re talking about Dig Dug for the Atari 2600. This is not the first Atari port that has been covered on Gogglebob.com. We’ve seen the Kangaroo go from the arcade to your living room, but that was a situation where no one remembered the arcade version anyway, so who cares? We’ve seen Pac-Man make his way to the Atari, too, and that was an unmitigated disaster. And there was Mario Bros, which was probably the best anyone could ever expect of a Nintendo arcade game adapted to the 2600. But was it perfect? Absolutely not. The physics were just wrong (Mario doesn’t have any of his signature momentum in his movements), and the fireballs went from an occasional nuisance to an omnipresent threat. If you wanted a “kinda” Mario Bros experience, the Atari version was a fun time, but it was still a far cry from the subtle joys of the arcade original.

But Dig Dug for Atari 2600? Miraculously, in every way, this feels like Dig Dug.

And it’s easy to see why: everything is here. There may be only two monsters in Dig Dug, but they both showed up. They both function in the exact same way, and they both pop in the same satisfying manner. Rocks are there. The tunnels are familiar. And all the secrets of Hanzo’s favorite offense are preserved. This is Dig Dug. It might not have the finer graphics of the arcade edition, but, for a game that had to survive on the Atari, it is very much Dig Dug. Even a primitive attempt at the dirt gradient is here, complete with the different colors that appear on later levels. That means they actually expected someone to get past the third stage! That’s dedication and optimism!

Damn dragonsBut why does it work? Is it just because it’s a simple copy of the original? Because it looks close enough to the arcade style to be legitimate? Or is it something less tangible? Is it simply because this version of Dig Dug has the right “feel”?

And, to answer that question, we should look at two of Dig Dug’s sequels: Dig Dug 2, and Dig Dug Arrangement. Dig Dug 2 was released three years after the original Dig Dug, and attempted to build on Dig Dug’s initial gameplay by introducing wholesale island demolition to Dig Dug’s repertoire. Rather than puttering around underground, Taizo Hori is sticking to the sunlight this time, but still moving in the same general 4-directional manner. And rather than wholly relying on his trusty pump, he can now detonate parts of the playfield to sink multiple monsters in one destructive go. Does it wind up being a fun game? Yep! Destroying everything in an effort to quash a villain invasion is always a good time. But does it feel like the successor to Dig Dug? Not particularly. It’s certainly a sequel to Dig Dug, but it doesn’t quite feel like Dig Dug.

Arrange thisDig Dug Arrangement was released in 1996 as part of Namco Classics Collection Volume 2, a multi-game arcade cabinet. Competing for quarters against the OG and arranged versions of Pac-Man and Rally-X, this title saw Taizo return to underground pumping, but with a bevy of new monsters, levels, and even bosses. There are three whole islands, and they involve environments stretching from mundane cities to the moon. And the collection of new opponents is vulnerable to the same old actions, but there are a variety of new tricks and traps that can be employed against this parade of pests. And is it fun? Still, again, it is. But is it Dig Dug? Yes! Everything that is included isn’t some oblique slide to mine-laying or whatever was happening in Dig Dug 2, but Dig Dug taken to a more interesting dimension. It’s still four directions and one action button, but it’s also a game where detonating a robot will demolish the rest of your opponents, and discovering interesting ways to use that new technique is practically a game unto itself. A more appropriate title for the game might be Dig Dug Plus, as it feels like Dig Dug plus a whole lot of fun.

And that’s the best way to describe what makes a good Dig Dug: how it “feels”. It’s incredibly subjective, it’s nearly impossible to define, It's dark outbut how a game “feels” is as close as we can get to knowing the soul of a videogame experience. It’s not about the graphics or the frame rate or whether or not a character has enough cleavage (let’s face facts: Taizo is not showing enough skin in Arrangement), it’s about whether the game feels right. That’s the essence of a good game and a good port. It’s why Pac-Man Atari fails, and why Dig Dug Atari succeeds.

If it feels right, it touches the soul of the game, and that’s what makes for a happy player.

FGC #490 Dig Dug

  • System: We’re looking at the Atari version, but Dig Dug has been on practically every system ever made thanks to various compilations. It somehow missed the SNES, though.
  • Number of players: Probably one of those two player alternating Atari games, but one player is probably the right way to look at it.
  • Pooka or Fygar: Fygar scared me as a child, as you just never knew when those jerks were gonna toss off some atomic firebreath. Pookas, meanwhile, wear goggles. So you should know which is my favorite monster.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Dig Dug was one of the earliest games I ever played with “offensive options”, so I want to say Pooka was one of the first creatures, videogame or otherwise, that I ever instinctively murdered. The spree starts here!
  • OopsDid you know? Dig Dug Arranged has a two-player co-op mode, and both players share a score. That’s neat! It’s not competitive in any way! Everybody work together now.
  • Would I play again: Dig Dug is great arcade action. I might never try the Atari version again, but I’m sure I’ll hit the arcade version again on one of another six compilations.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Devil May Cry 3! That game is featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series! Please look forward to it!

FGC #462 Soulcalibur 6

The soul is up to somethingWho is Soulcalibur 6 for?

Okay, it’s for fighting game players. It’s a great fighting game! But let’s ask the important question: who is Soulcalibur 6’s story for?

Soul Edge/Blade started with a remarkably simple plot: there’s a super powerful sword, it’s super evil, and a ghost pirate done got his hands on it. Everybody fight! Maybe your character wants the sword for their own evil desires, maybe they want to destroy the sword, or maybe they’re just an S&M daddy that wants a new toy. Whatever the case, Soul Edge had a straightforward story with clear, understandable motivations for the fighters. Soulcalibur, Soul Edge’s sequel and the first official Soulcalibur game, picked up the story from Soul Edge’s logical endpoint: one hero succeeded in shattering the evil blade, but one villain grabbed the other half. Now there’s a demon knight running around with a damaged super weapon, and some rejects from Journey to the West are doing their best to deliver the secret good version of Soul Edge (the titular Soul Calibur) straight into that Nightmare’s heart. And they succeeded! And that’s the very moment things got stagnant.

The Soulcalibur franchise fell into the same trap as many of its fighting game contemporaries. Apparently, once you hit the sequel, you firm up your final boss, and you constantly warp the plot around that character whether it makes the tiniest bit of sense or not. Street Fighter 2 gave us M. Bison, the dictator that revives for the finale of every other Street Fighter adventure. Shao Kahn surfaced with Mortal Kombat 2, and his abs won the award for most present final boss in the franchise. Even Soulcalibur’s sister series, Tekken, introduced Devil Kazuya with its second installment, and that damn “devil gene” has been driving the plot (nowhere) ever since. It’s a weird coincidence, but it seems that the second installment in many fighting game franchises focuses on a villain that must A. be killed and B. return endlessly. And any X-Men fan can tell you that you can only come back from the dead so many times before the plot starts to get a little stale.

This gonna be goodBut come back from the dead is exactly what Nightmare did in Soulcalibur 2. Nightmare was vanquished during the finale of SC, but, four years later, he got better, and Siggy was forced to once again rampage across the countryside while the usual suspects stabbed him a whole bunch. Soulcalibur 3 saw Nightmare return again, but this time there was an immortal older dude who knew more about the history of Soul Edge than any of the usual players, so his “possessed form” was promoted to final boss. Soulcalibur 4 saw Nightmare return again, but this time there was an even older immortal older dude who knew more about the history of Soul Edge than any of the usual players, so he was promoted to final boss. Hrm, seem to be in a bit of a rut here, so let’s see if Soulcalibur 5 can squeeze in some new material.

Soulcalibur 5 turned the entire paradigm on its head. Yes, Nightmare/Soul Edge was still ultimately the source of everyone’s woes, but the storyline generally focused on the war between the children of Sophitia, a heroine that had been around since the first adventure. It seems one of her kids was a little bit possessed by evil, and her other child was a little possessed by being a prat. And, unfortunately, the fate of the world rests on whether or not these two goobers can reconcile their differences and battle a malevolent ghost version of their mom. That’s new! And different! And all it took to get there was scrapping the majority of the beloved roster, replacing them with “legacy” characters that are increasingly ridiculous (the cool and calculating ninja was swapped for Hannah Montana), and maybe introducing a werewolf or two. And it was all a resounding success! … Wait, no, sorry, I’m receiving word that… Yes, it appears Soulcalibur 5 took the greatest risks ever seen in the franchise, and thus did it kill the franchise. Whoopsidoodle.

Yes, I know it's a mirrorSo Soulcalibur 6 was in a bit of a pickle at its planning stages. Soulcalibur needed to bring back the fans that Soulcalibur 5 had so carelessly lost with its fortunetellers and Gokus, but it also needed to do something new. This was an all-new, all different generation of gaming hardware, and the world had changed since the release of Soulcalibur 5. Six years! Do you know how many Assassin’s Creeds came out in that time? And fighting games were actually relevant again! There is so much potential in a Soulcalibur 6 that pushes the envelope even further than Soulcalibur 5. An all new roster! An all new epoch! Tell the whole story of the first wielder of Soul Edge! Tell us what happens generations after the fighters we know! The only plot constraint is wedging a magical sword in there, and, let’s face it, magical swords are already part of every plot! I’m pretty sure Romeo & Juliet were talking about Excalibur somewhere in that play…

Unfortunately, Soulcalibur 6 decided it wasn’t going to try something new. Here’s a roster of extremely familiar faces, two new fighters for the sake of saying there’s something new at all, and the exact same plot as Soulcalibur (1). Everyone liked Soulcalibur, right? It was the best one? Yes, of course. And, ultimately, what’s the problem with rehashing an old plot? “New” Super Mario is always just saving the princess, why can’t we just have a Soulcalibur where everyone is fighting Nightmare like the first time? It’s not like a fighting game even really needs a plot!

And that stands to reason, but here’s Soulcalibur 6’s Soul Chronicle mode. Its inclusion is… confusing.

Soul Chronicle mode is, ultimately, the game’s typical “story mode”. This is where you choose your fighter, and see exactly what they were up to during this game’s general eon. There is a base story that tells the tale of the main protagonists of the piece (staff boy, nunchuck dandy, and the cheerleader) and how they eventually defeated Nightmare and his vaguely threatening army of lizards, golems, and fetishists. And, yes, there are accounts for each individual fighter, which is a boon for anyone that needs to know exactly what a wandering swordsman was up to during the feudal era (fun fact: he was wandering around having swordfights). Even if it’s a story that we’ve heard before, this all has the potential to be very interesting for a Soulcalibur aficionado.

Or at least it would be interesting if it wasn’t 90% this…

Let's chat

For those of you that don’t feel like squinting at that parade of modern, tiny fonts, that’s a scene where a beloved (technically) ally is sneak-stabbed by the villain of the story. That’s a pretty dramatic moment! And it’s entirely conveyed through text boxes, characters portraits, and the screen flashing a different color (red is bad). This is visual storytelling that could have been rendered for Ninja Gaiden, and seems just a tweak phoned-in a solid thirty years later. And it’s all the more distressing when you consider that Soulcalibur 6 is capable of some really great storytelling in special moves that last ten seconds

Let's fight!

There! Even without sound, there’s absolutely everything you need to know about this version of Xianghua. She’s got a cool sword, she’s elegant and skilled with said cool sword, and she’s a bit of a goofball. Her entire storymode adds up to the same result, but why waste a half hour with talking heads spewing tortuous dialogue when you can get the same result in less time than it takes to read one of my meandering articles? And it’s not like Soul Chronicle is enhanced by the gameplay of occasionally throwing in a battle here and there: Zasalamel’s story mode is just him reading Soul Edge’s Wikipedia entries in his palatial library, and he seriously never leaves his chair. Dude wields a scythe the size of a small farm animal, and he doesn’t even touch the thing, because, oh man, did you click on this hyperlink about King Algol? Totally interesting stuff!

So if Soulcalibur 6 has the exact same plot as Soulcalibur 1, and it didn’t improve the presentation of that story beyond something that could have been seen on the Dreamcast (or possibly an NES), then why did they even bother? Even if much of the presentation is lackluster, why go to all the trouble of hiring actors to read these lines? Why write this dialogue, or make these character portraits? Why bother telling the exact same story in an inferior way when you can just pull a Zasalamel and spend a solid hour reading the Soulcalibur Wiki? Who needs a rehash of Soulcalibur when Soulcalibur is right there!?

And then it occurred to me: I’m an idiot.

…Wait, let me try that again…

And then it occurred to me: Soulcalibur isn’t right there. Soulcalibur is nowhere. Soulcalibur 6 is the perfect entry point for new fans. And that’s exactly what Soulcalibur needs.

Here we goThe original Soulcalibur was released in the arcade in 1998, and hit the poor, doomed Dreamcast in 1999. It saw a rerelease on Xbox 360 in 2008, and apparently most recently appeared on Android devices in 2013 (with a controller-screen overlay that my brain refuses to understand). Even claiming that a cell phone version of Soulcalibur is a viable solution for anyone, the most recent release of Soulcalibur occurred five years before the release of Soulcalibur 6. And the version of Soulcalibur that gets the veteran players (including myself) all hot and bothered? That’s twenty years old. Soulcalibur is nearly old enough to drink. And it probably should drink, because, as you’ve already read, its plot from that point on somehow became equal parts convoluted and trite. So, rather than play two decades worth of outdated games, why not let the new fans catch up through their own all-new story mode. Why not give the fresh fans something to enjoy?

Soulcalibur 6 didn’t repeat Soulcalibur to give its practiced fans the warm fuzzies. Soulcalibur 6 was made to invite new fans to the table. Soulcalibur 6 is the ever-dreaded reboot, but it is a reboot in pursuit of strengthening a failing fanbase. And, considering that (as of this writing) we are entering an unforeseen Season 2 of DLC, it seems to have done the trick. Soulcalibur 6 isn’t the most revolutionary Soulcalibur title, but it has succeeded where others have failed.

Who is Soulcalibur 6 for? Fans old and new.

… Just don’t let the olds get too mad at the story mode being familiar.

FGC #462 Soulcalibur 6

  • System: Playstation 4 and Xbox One. A Switch version is just too much to ask for, I suppose.
  • Number of players: Rhymes with “Lou Sayers”.
  • READ A BOOKNot Just a Reboot: Okay, technically the story of Soulcalibur 6 isn’t just Soulcalibur 1 all over again, it is actually the story of a Star Trek 2009 situation wherein a future character (or two) is muddying the timeline to prevent the narrative dead-end of Soulcalibur 5 from ever happening. However, unlike in Star Trek or Mortal Kombat 9, this opportunity for a whole new story is principally wasted, and the “real” plot plays out exactly the same (give or take Kilik going super saiyan). About the only changes here are that Zasamel is now not going to become a complete screw up (though that wouldn’t have happened until a later game anyway), and Cassandra got started on her quest a little early. Actually, there are a few other fighters that “show up early” in this version of Soulcalibur, but, complete with age discrepancies, those seem more like retcons than actual timeline changes. Time travel or no, the plot synopsis for Soulcalibur 6 is just a copy and paste from Soulcalibur 1.
  • But there is an original story, too: Libra of the Soul features your own Create-a-Character (though not your Create-a-Character from any other mode, for some reason) fighting in an epic war between the two new characters, Another Sword Guy and Fabulous Rasputin. It’s also presented in a manner that is boring as hell. And it seems to have a healthy amount of tutorials, too. That would be great if your first thought on booting a new game is to get right into playing as Original Character, and not, ya know, going to town in the ol’ arcade mode with familiar faces. Still, good try? Maybe?
  • It's a comics thingBut what about Create-a-Character: Oh, that is aces. Nothing beats the Soulcalibur customization options… anywhere? In fact, it’s kind of weird that other games haven’t adapted what Soulcalibur did perfectly for like three games running. No matter, my only concern right now is whether I should name my long-haired, super bulky YoRaHa android “Chub-B” or “2-XL”.
  • Favorite Fighter: Seung-Mina conceptually, but I’ve been having a lot of fun with the final DLC character of Season 1, Cassandra. She’s like if Sophitia wasn’t inexplicably sad all the time.
  • Did you know: The internal project title for Soulcalibur 6 was “Luxor”, because the staff had the plan to make the game “brighter” like the original Soulcalibur. You know, the game where a man who murdered his father gains the ultimate murder sword and then murders half of Europe with a literally unquenchable bloodlust (for murder). Freaking sunshine and lollipops in this franchise from day one.
  • Would I play again: I’m playing it right now! Stop interrupting!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kirby’s Dreamland 3 for the Super Nintendo! Does… does this count as Thanksgiving content? Maybe? Or maybe I’m just hungry. Well, I know Kirby is hungry, so please look forward to it!

I like purple
I’m leaning toward Chub-B.

FGC #447 We ❤ Katamari

In the wake of a little green man and a giant ball wrecking the planet, let’s take a moment to cover all the news…

National
Trump Address Nation
“Our borders will be back!”

President Trump tweeted to what is left of the nation today after the attack of what is now being called the “Democrat Ball”.




He then proceeded to blame a cornucopia of races for the attack, and eventually explained the naming of the destructive sphere:

“Democrats? Who can trust them? I’m not saying they made this ball, but people are talking. They hate your number one favorite president, so they’re trying to embarrass him. We need to stop this Democrat Ball and Crooked Hilary!”

Poor NYCAt a later press conference, Trump provided no further details, but when asked what Hilary Clinton had to do with anything, responded by calling a reporter a word we cannot in good conscience reprint. It rhymes with “bunt”.

Democrat Ball relief will be sent to New York, New Jersey, and other areas our president deems worthy. When asked where President Trump would find the money to rebuild, in New York City’s case, an entire island (island included) President Trump began shouting that the economy is as good as it ever was, and anyone that claims he is not a billionaire is a liar.

In further response to the Democrat Ball, an Executive Order has been issued exiling any United States residents with, per the order, “funny sounding last names”. As of press time, the administration has declined to further define those terms.

Local
Farmer Loses Mythical Beast
“My cowbear!”

Cows!A local farmer lost his beloved cowbear yesterday, and still has no idea where it has gone.

“It just up and ran off. My prized cowbear!” balled the strange farmer. “It done flew out of its pen yesterday, chasing some flying, flaming cow, and then the whole rest of my little cows and bears ran away, too. They all followed that dang cowbear down to the racetrack, and I don’t have a dag gum clue what to do!”

When the farmer was told there was no such thing as a cowbear, and that there was absolutely no race track in the area, he simply stared into nothingness for approximately five minutes. After the long, awkward, and eerie pause, he finally spoke, saying, “You guys are no help, I’m gonna go ask myself that King of the Cosmos if he’ll help me.”

The King of the Cosmos denied comment, citing he didn’t exist, either.

Entertainment
Beyoncé, Los Angeles Crushed
A loss for the planet

Yass QueenIn sad news, Beyoncé was enveloped in the Democrat Ball. Unfortunately, she was on the outside of the ball for quite a while, and suffered more than a few hair emergencies thanks to her body being crushed by the sheer force of the rest of the items in the ball, such as cars, monuments, and marginally rabid tourists and fans. Presumably, Beyoncé is now orbiting our solar system with the rest of those lost to the Democrat Ball, making the popular singer a literal star.

Whether or not this will affect the release of Beyoncé’s next single, Love in a Partitioned Drive, is yet to be seen.

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World
Super Sumo Destroys Japanese City
Move over Godzilla!

Sumo!Downtown Tokyo was destroyed today as a gigantic sumo cannibal bowled through the city.

The unidentified sumo rolled around, presumably too hefty to walk, and was followed by a small green creature. The sumo miraculously chose not to devour the green critter, but did proceed to eat everything he could fit into his gaping maw, including people. The sumo terror grew at an exponential rate, and, while he started merely eating food randomly strung around on the street for the Metro City Memorial Festival, he grew to such a size that even the greatest yokozuna could not hope to achieve.

“Sakura and I were just sitting there, minding our own business, eating a pizza, ya know, nothing special,” said one Ryu Chan of Kyoto. “And then this brobdingnagian sumo comes rolling over, sticks Sakura in his diaper with our pizza and a bunch of giant watermelons, and then he ate Sakura! After the watermelons but before the pizza! So you know!”

The young Ryu was obviously shocked at the loss of his sweetie/pizza, but retained a certain optimism that can only originate from the blissful knowledge of having avoided digestion.

While we did attempt to interview the super sumo, we unfortunately failed when our cameraman was consumed. We accepted that as a “no comment”, and allowed the sumo to roll away, demolishing a fencepost, fence, and two dolphins on his way out of town.

Science
Are we hurtling into the sun?
Some say “yes,” others “no”

MY EYES!Scientists claim the sun is growing closer by the moment.

An independent study conducted by Ultra Tech claims the sun is right where it has always been, and it’s just a trick of the eye.

After the damage wrought yesterday by the Democrat Ball rolling across our nation and the world, certain scientists are claiming our own planet is being used as the next Democrat Ball, and it is rapidly gaining speed on its way to the sun!

Other scientists think those first scientists are gigantic loonies.

“It is unmistakable!” said one Professor Larks. “We are quickly attracting other, smaller planets and satellites, and being hurled at the sun by some cosmic entity! It’s all over, people, this is the end!”

“My respected colleague is, unfortunately, an idiot,” retorted Professor Relson. “If we were getting closer to the sun, it would start becoming remarkably hot, and all studies show that the planet is not getting warmer at all. See, the proof is in this data. Although I must admit that it is odd that the constellation Cygnus appears to be stuck in my lab assistant’s buttocks.”

While temperatures have indeed been climbing today, it has been deemed a perfectly normal, predicted heat wave, and is in no way indicative of the Earth eventually crashing into the sun. As many scientists have already concluded, the Democrat Ball was caused by Democrats, and it is currently unlikely they wish to see the destruction of all life on Earth. It would be insane for a political party to actively destroy the planet in the name of guileless greed.

Whether we actually are approaching the sun, for any reason, is yet to be seen.

This entire article is a work of fiction, and not intended to be taken seriously. All celebrity tweets are impersonated. This is parody of our own completely bonkers reality.

FGC #447 We ❤ Katamari

  • System: Playstation 2, and that’s it. Maybe we’ll see a Switch rerelease? Maybe they won’t release this one the same day as Super Smash Bros? Who’s to say?
  • KATAMARI!Number of players: I have never successfully gotten a two-player roll-out going with Katamari Damacy, but I’m sure there’s an alternate dimension where it became a competitive sport.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I would argue that this is the truest form of Katamari, after the initial proof-of-concept that was fun, but still limited; but before the inevitable parade of sequels that wound up pasting gimmicks and general unwanted cruft to a winning formula. This isn’t to say this is my absolute favorite Katamari game, but it is one of the best in the franchise. Oh, and I played it for about ten billion hours back at its release, so I’m going to go ahead and say that it has enough content to keep someone busy…
  • Just play the gig, man: I also want to say that Katamari Damacy and its sequels are the only games for which I inevitably seek out the soundtrack immediately. I can sing a song for all who feel love! And I will!
  • Favorite Roll-up: The sweets stage, featuring a delicious gingerbread house, is my pick of the game. You really can’t lose when you’re building the world’s largest jawbreaker. Willy Wonka knew that!
  • Did you know? There is an entire cottage industry for nerds attempting to complete that 1,000,000 rose rollup challenge that is unlocked after completing the game. I simply want to point out that people did this thing before trophies were a mainstay in gaming.
  • Would I play again: I ❤ this game. Please port it to Switch, Namco? I need to have portable sumo rolling on the regular.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man X5 for the Playstation! And we’re going to throw Mega Man X4 in there, too! It’ll be a mega time! Please look forward to it!

Very Popular

FGC #398 Jr. Pac-Man

This is how reproduction worksIf you’re at all interested in videogames, you’ve probably heard of the horrors of game preservation. Videogames are, almost by design, ephemeral. They’re here on the current software, and, if a game is a hit, you can be sure you’ll see it return in the next generation (maybe with a HD remaster!). If a game is a “cult classic”, you might spy a few nerds getting really excited when it shows up on what passes for the next generation’s virtual console. But, if it fails to make an impact, and it fails to have a big name attached to it, then it is likely gone forever. There are literally thousands of games that have languished on their original hardware, never to be seen by an audience ever again.

And this is, without question, a bad thing. More than any other medium, videogames are iterative and absolutely rely on what has come before. Sure, we all like to look at “defining” games like Mario and Zelda to explain where gaming has originated (and where it’s going), but the failures are just as important as the successes. Krion Conquest shows us exactly how to make Mega Man wrong. Early Metroidvania titles (Goonies 2 comes to mind) exemplify what features should be left on the cutting room floor (like God damn birds that steal your items). And the early xeroxes of Doom and Final Fantasy 7 demonstrate exactly what can go wrong in a FPS or JRPG. A bad movie is generally just a bad movie, but there is so much involved in a bad videogame, that there is much to learn past “don’t do that”.

And then there are chunks of our history that are lost forever not because they were somehow unworthy, but because of the great equalizer of all mediums: the legal department.

Munching alongJr. Pac-Man is a Pac-Man arcade game from 1983. The title made it to the Atari 2600 in ’86 (four years after the initial, disastrous Atari Pac-Man), and DOS/Commodore 64 two years later. In other words, it made the rounds in its day. However, you won’t see Jr. Pac-Man past 1990. It did not appear on any of the “modern” consoles, like the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was not an unlockable in the arcade of Pac-Man 2. And, even today, when you score a Pac-Man collection on your platform of choice, it does not contain Jr. Pac-Man. The character of “Pac-Man’s son” might pop up from time to time, but his titular videogame is nowhere to be found. What happened?

Well, the answer to that is simple: Jr. Pac-Man never should have been born. Namco is the creator of the once and future Pac-Man, and merely licensed the property to Bally-Midway for release in the states. Then Pac-Man fever infected the nation… and Midway needed to sell more arcade machines. Everybody already had Pac-Man, and, thus, only arcade owners were raking in the quarters, not the arcade cabinet manufacturers. So, in a desperate bid to revitalize the Pac-Market, Midway released a slew of new Pac-Content. Ms. Pac-Man is the most famous example, but we also saw Baby Pac-Man, Professor Pac-Man, and the abhorrent Pac-Man Plus, a game that I’m almost certain is naturally haunted (not talking about the ghosts, they’re normal). And, from this bumper crop of Pac-Merchandise, we also saw Jr. Pac-Man.

So flashyAnd Jr. Pac-Man might be one of the best of the Midway Alterna-Pacs. It’s never going to dethrone Ms. Pac-Man, but it has some pretty interesting mechanics. For one thing, for better or worse, it’s the first Pac-Man title designed with a scrolling maze. This means bigger stages, naturally, but also a little more tension with monsters that could be doing anything when they’re off screen. And the bonus items now have much more of an impact on gameplay: an item (no longer just fruit, now we’ve got bicycles, trains, and… a cat?) will move around the maze of its own volition, and “fatten” the traditional pellets. A fat pellet will grant Junior more points, but they also slow this Pac down the tiniest bit… which can make a significant impact when there’s a ghost on your tail. But that’s not all! In a move that can only be described as a betrayal of everything a bonus item stands for, if an item comes in contact with a Power Pellet, both the item and the pellet will explode! And you’re down a Power Pellet! Oh, the humanity!

And, most bizarrely of all, Jr. Pac-Man decides to add to the Pac-Mythos. The round clear cinema scenes of Ms. Pac-Man showcased the pairing of two Pacs, and the attract mode of Jr. Pac-Man features the stork dropping off the new Pac-Bundle. Jr. Pac-Man scenes show another love story, but one between Junior and… a ghost! Yum-Yum is Blinky’s daughter, and it’s clear that he does not approve of these star-crossed lovers. Will Pac-Man Jr. run off with a tiny ghost with a bow in her hair (“hair”)? Play the game to find out!

Or don’t, because you can’t play the thing anywhere.

So verticalFor the sin of creating a licensed-but-unapproved Pac-Man title, Bally-Midway will no longer see any profits from the adventures of the second-littlest Pac. As a result, Jr. Pac-Man is not allowed to appear in any Pac-Collections, and, should you mention Jr. Pac-Man in polite company, the duchess shall be offended, and you will be asked to leave the premises. Jr. Pac-Man may be an interesting twist on the Pac-Formula, but it is nothing more than a redheaded step child to Namco, so it must be thrust out into the cold, never to be seen again (except maybe at Thanksgiving).

And more’s the pity.

Jr. Pac-Man isn’t the best Pac-Man game out there. It might not even be in the top three. But is it better than Pac-Land? Is it more of a Pac-Man game than Pac-Man 2? Does it have more to say about Pac-Play than Pac-Mania? There’s a clear “yes” to each of those questions. Jr. Pac-Man might not be an instant classic, but it’s unavoidably part of the Pac-Pantheon, and should be regarded as such. Jr. Pac-Man deserves a seat at the table, and that means someone born after 1988 deserves a chance to play it.

But it’s never going to happen, because of a licensing dispute from thirty years ago.

Videogame preservation is important, but it seems like the legal department is more important.

FGC #398 Jr. Pac-Man

  • System: Arcade, Atari 2600, DOS, and Commodore 64… and then never again. If you can’t tell, you’re seeing Arcade and Atari 2600 for this article.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. Does this means the Pacs have two sons?
  • Attempted Preservation: In an effort to find some version of Jr. Pac-Man, I managed to turn up a random flash version online.

    Not wakka

    It is… not great.

  • Continuity Issue: Actually, Jr. Pac-Man first appears as part of Ms. Pac-Man (the game… man, the phrasing on that sentence is weird) being dropped off by the stork as part of a later cinema scene. But then he arrives at the start of Jr. Pac-Man, when the Pacs have a home? Which is it, Pac-Authors?
  • Favorite Item: The final released maze is the “beer maze”. Let’s just go ahead and assume that’s a root beer, and Jr. Pac-Man is not trying to get drunk with his bad-influence ghost girlfriend.
  • What’s in a name: The orange ghost of Jr. Pac-Man is known as… Tim. Maybe he’s a ghost wizard?
  • Did you know? Ms. Pac-Man was a Midway hack, too, but Namco liked it. Go fig.
  • Would I play again: I would like to, but there’s no way I’m fighting the Atari into playing this cartridge anytime soon. I suppose I could always drop a quarter in this guy, though…

    WAKKA WAKKA

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pocket Tennis Color for the Neo Geo Pocket Color! It’s going to be 399-Love here at the FGC. Please look forward to it!