Pac-Man (NES)

Game Review

Pac-Man Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Ghost gobblin' on the go

If you were to ask one hundred people to make a list of the most classic video games of all time, you shouldn't be surprised to find Pac-Man on every one of those lists. It's an unrivaled masterpiece of gaming simplicity, an experience that involves nothing more than moving endlessly around a single maze, yet which somehow manages to be endlessly addictive and immensely challenging. It is, in short, a fantastic game.

And then, of course, there are its ports and remakes. These run from the disastrous (the Atari 2600 port) to the sublime (2007's Pac-Man Championship Edition). This game, the NES port of Pac-Man, is fortunately on the positive side of the ledger. It's quite faithful to the arcade original, and it offers a smooth and solid gameplay experience. It didn't exactly represent a step forward for the franchise, and it doesn't supplant the original as being the definitive Pac-Man title, but what it does it does very well.

The game itself is played on a single screen. As you advance the speed and points values attached to bonus fruits both increase, but otherwise you're playing the same level over and over again. Remarkably, the game never feels dull, or even predictable.

As you work your way through this simple maze, you're pursued by four ghosts. Each of these behave slightly differently to the others, and anticipating their next move is crucial if you intend to make it any further than the first few stages. Touching them means instant death — unless, of course, you grab a power pellet first. Doing so temporarily renders the ghosts vulnerable to your greedy mouth, and you can chain these frightened meals together for extra points.

The level ends once you clear the screen of dots, at which point you'll get a short breather — and perhaps a cut scene — before you're plopped right back into the thick of it, and expected to do it all over again. Just...faster.

Of course, we doubt anybody's reading this review in order to learn how to play the game. It's Pac-Man! What you're interested in is information specific to the port, and that's something we're glad to do, as this version looks great and controls beautifully.

The colours are vivid and the graphics are clear, even on smaller 3DS screens. Pac-Man is a game that never aimed for a visual thrill, opting instead for a simple and frantic race through confined spaces. As such, its graphics scale down neatly, and lose nothing for their shrinkage. The controls are also great, with the Circle Pad allowing for some fast maneuvering and smooth turns.

The audio, unfortunately, can be a bit irritating, as there's a repeating siren-like sound in lieu of music, and it becomes particularly annoying on later stages, when it too increases in speed. When this game was an arcade fixture that made sense, because a noise like this would attract attention and, hopefully, quarters. At home, however, it's just obnoxious.

It's also worth nothing that this port is absolutely great to have on the go. It's inexpensive, easy to pick up, and fast to play. Owning this on an NES or the Wii Virtual Console is one thing, but having it in your pocket at all times is a much better alternative, as it's a perfect — and undeniably classic — way to kill a few minutes on the go.

Having this title in the eShop, however, is causing us here at Nintendo Life to do something we almost never do: say conclusively that this renders another game redundant. In this case, it's Pac-Man for the Game Boy.

When the Game Boy version of Pac-Man was the only one in the shop, it was understandable that fans of the franchise would want to grab it, in spite of its irritatingly large sprites, its frustratingly scrolling playing field, and its totally disabled two-player mode. Now, with this version sitting right beside it on the digital shelves, there's no reason whatsoever to download that lesser port. This game has faithful graphics, allows you to see the entire maze at once, and — yes — allows you to alternate with a second player.

Pac-Man for the NES is a solid port of a fantastic game. Having it on the go is even better.


The NES version of Pac-Man is a solid port, but there's nothing in the way of unique content. Therefore your mileage with this one will depend on how much interest you have in the original game. It's an absolute classic and portability is a big plus here, as is the thankfully intact two-player mode. Fans of the hungry yellow disc will be glad to have this on the go...especially if they didn't already make the mistake of shelling out for the lesser Game Boy port.

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User Comments (42)



New_3DaSh_XL said:

I already have this on one of my copy of Namco Museum, so I won't be getting this, but good review.



RevolverLink said:

Semi-OT, but between the 3DS' capabilities and the Wii U being the Wii U, the time would seem ripe for a Pac-Man Vs. revival. It was an obtuse fit for the GameCube, but Nintendo's hardware has finally caught up to that game's fun ideas. Just a thought.



MrWalkieTalkie said:

I just really want that amazing PAC-Man Championship Edition on Wii U. Or even 3DS just for the convenience of it...



bezerker99 said:

Oh, so this is being released this Thursday? Sweet!!! Soooo glad I never got the inferior GB version.



Morpheel said:

I already have the arcade version in pacman party 3d... But I still don't know what's fun about being chased by ghosts D:



SteveW said:

That had to have been difficult to come up with that many words for a Pac Man review



Knux said:

Soooo glad I never got the inferior GB version.

Don't remind me, Zerk.



Xilef said:

Any words on this coming to Europe? I don't own any versions of Pac-Man (sorry...) and this being on a handheld is a must buy.



Boo_Buster said:

Soooo glad I never got the inferior GB version.

Try having three different golf games on your 3DS before the one you want comes out (GBA Mario Golf) lol



UnseatingKDawg said:

Already have the GB version... And the 3D version from Pac-Man & Glaga Dimensions... So I most likely won't be grabbing this one... Unless I tire of the GB one...



iBazly said:

I have this on my Wii... and on a little plug and play machine... but I will still be getting it on my 3DS... YAY Nintendo take ALL of my monies, I don't need it for anything! xD



CrazyOtto said:

I'd get it if I didn't already have 3 other ways to play it on 3DS (Pac n Roll, Namco Museum DS, and Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions). Are you sure it's coming to America this week? Wikipedia says were getting Ninja Gaiden this week.



TheDreamingHawk said:

@SRArter NG was never confirmed, but it better since it has a place on the coming soon section.

And please, is there ANY Point in buying this if I have the original arcade game on Pac man an galaga dimensions?



Philip_J_Reed said:

is there ANY Point in buying this if I have the original arcade game on Pac man an galaga dimensions?

Having it on your system permanently as opposed to needing the cart is a big selling point to me for a game like this, but your mileage may vary. You also get restore points, obviously, but if you use them on Pac-Man you're history's greatest monster.



Megajack said:

What I'm wondering is... did this game really need a review? Everyone know's how Pacman plays and knows what they are in for if they buy it... But its NL's duty to review any e-shop game.



Knuckles said:

I might sound stupid, but is this already out, or is it coming out on Thursday?



TheDreamingHawk said:

@Philip_J_Reed If it was the ARCADE game I would do it instantly, but the awful and deeper sound effects of the NES version make me want to keep P&G...

And BTW, how did you get a review copy of this game if we never got it confirmed? This is the first report of Pac man on 3DS outside of japan I heard. Is Ninja Gaiden coming too?



Lobster said:

This review and this new item popped up in my twitter stream right next to each other, which made me laugh!


Pac-man is also in Spaaaaaace! (Science!)



Philip_J_Reed said:

If it was the ARCADE game I would do it instantly, but the awful and deeper sound effects of the NES version make me want to keep P&G...

Well, yeah, but you asked if there was any reason you might want this as well, and that's what I answered.

And BTW, how did you get a review copy of this game if we never got it confirmed?

I'll contact Nintendo and complain immediately.



HaastMK7 said:

Give me a break Nintendo Life, Pac-Man deserves better than 7/10.
When it comes to great games such as Pac-Man your reviewing is a bit off edge



Morpheel said:


Scoring_Policy wrote:

7 - Good
A seven is not average in our eyes. This game will sport a few areas where the game is blatantly let down to the detriment of its overall quality and enjoyment, but it is NOT average. A seven is still a recommendation, but you might want to consider what we thought let the game down and decide for yourself if it would bother you before buying.

Considering this game really fits that description (according to the review), I say that the score is spot on.



StarDust4Ever said:

Huge Pac-fan. I've even got a tattoo to prove it! I just checked the eShop - not up yet...

But yeah, I'm glad I didn't download the monochrome version.



Freelance said:

Never knew this game was coming out. I haven't bought the GB version either. That looked so cruddy.



RetrogamerFan said:

I already have Pacman (3DSVC/GB) and Pacman & Galaga Dimnensions (3DS), (Pacman Championship Edition is brilliant). I like the GB version but always use the zoomed out view, hated the scrolling in the close-in view, it totally messes up the gameplay.



TheDreamingHawk said:

@Philip_J_Reed I'm not asking for sarcasm. I'm asking a honest question. When did they give you that review code? I haven't heard of it being on 3DS until this review popped up, that's why I'm asking



Philip_J_Reed said:

When did they give you that review code?

Shortly before I downloaded it, played it, and wrote the review. You asked how I got the code if it wasn't confirmed yet...that's not a question I really understand. They sent it to me, same as every review code. Whether or not — and when — they "confirm" it publicly is their business.



Gioku said:

I already have Pac-Man for 3DS with Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions. I really don't need another port, be it the Game Boy version or the NES version. The 3DS version is good enough for me (and it comes with a few other good games, too)!



grumblegrumble said:

I totally disagree, Philip! I like the gameboy version best since the tiny screen of this NES port drives me nuts. I have many color versions of this game (including the original Taito cart for the NES this was emulated from) and Namco Museum, but if you really want a TRUE Pac-Man fun experience, buy Pac-Man/Galaga Dimensions 3DS. It's a wonderful game, greatly utilizes the 3D on screen and is a great buy if you love Pac-Man as much as I do.



softserve said:

I wish they'd just give the arcade version and be done with it. I don't get the insistence from these companies to release the same subbar NES ports of much better, very old arcade games over and over and over again. Meanwhile, the VC grows very slowly.



craigun said:

The TRUE Pac-Man (or Ms.Pac-Man Dig Dug and Galaga for that matter!) experience is either on the PS3 or Xbox 360 (Namco Museum). They actually use the original Arcade coding!

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