Ota, Tokyo – The idea is simple: a yellow circle with a mouth floats across a dark, neon-highlighted maze eating dots and fruits while upended grocery bags called ghosts chase him. Straight-forward and to the point, this simple concept has gone on to make millions, spawn sequels and cartoons, and even inspire a 70’s pop hit. However, it seems as it Namco, the owners of the Pac-Man franchise, have lost the simplicity of the idea and has resorted to prostituting out their once beloved character in cheaply produced and rather confusing titles.
But, according to Namco, this is all part of their plan.
Recently, we ran into Pac-Man Creative Consultant, Hiro Takahashi, on a subway in Tokyo and took a moment to interrupt his cigarette to ask him if there was a overall master plan for the Pac-Man series.
Superb – We’re happy you could take the time away from your Newport Slim to talk with us about this.
HT – Absolutely, it’s my pleasure (deep drag on cigarette).
S – First things first, we’re really happy to see Pac-Man in the new Smash Bros. game. It feels like a true celebration of the character.
HT – Yeah….(knocks cigarette against knee) they did a fine job with that.
S – Upon reflection though, it seems to many that Nintendo understands how to make that character work more so than Namco. Especially when one looks at the recent releases associated with Pac-Man, it appears Namco is a bit lost when it comes to knowing what to do with the character. What do you think about this? What do you plan to do with the series?
HT – (sits with elbows on knees, staring at subway floor. He stays this way for around 5 minutes, taking a drag every 30 seconds) That’s a very…..umm (he lights another cigarette, using the burning embers of the lit cigarette as the lighter)..that’s a very good question. (Sits back, takes a intense drag, the end of the cigarette lights up like traffic light, and holds it inside of his mouth for what feels like an eternity, then exhales, expelling a stream of smoke so thick and heavy, it appears to completely envelope the ceiling above him. I begin to wonder if this is the first time he’s exhaled this whole time. The ceiling has clearly been by a thin film of nicotine. I think he has been sitting here all day smoking, inhaling as much as possible and then waiting, holding smoke in to humidify it inside his lungs before spewing it onto the ceiling of this subway train. Why do they even let him smoke here?) You know the McConnaissance? (He looks at me for the first time since we began talking)
S – Yes.
HT – (He leans forwards again on his knees. He drops the cig on the floor near his foot. He lifts it to stomp it out, revealing a pile of Slims underneath his white Keds sneaker. How long has he been at this? There’s at least two packs worth under there. I have never seen anyone smoke on the train, much less polish off two packs of unfiltered Virginia Slims untouched). That’s what we’re doing with him.
S – With who?
HT – The guy.
S – Pac-Man?
HT – Yeah, that Pac-Guy. We’re doing a McConnaissance with the Pac-Guy.
S – So, you’re releasing a bunch of inferior and, frankly, terrible games to undermine his value and then you’ll stop for a while and release a few amazing games that re-solidify his worth in the gaming community?
HT – (pulls another pack of Slims out of his pocket) Sure.
S – Looking forward to seeing this plan pay off. Thank you for your time, Mr. Takahashi.
HT – (put two cigarettes in his mouth at once) Okay.
– The Superb