When Pac-Man hit arcades in 1981, it was a phenomenal success. Spawning clothing, cereals and even a hit song, the game took the world by storm. It saw a rash of home console and personal computer releases during the 80s — some better than others — but it wasn't until the NES release in 1985 that the game finally saw a replica close to the arcade version. It wasn't perfect, but it was certainly closer than some of the half-hearted attempts seen before. Now the game is getting yet another shot at glory on Wii U Virtual Console and a whole new generation now have the chance to experience the phenomenon that captured arcade gamer's hearts three decades ago.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a simpler set up than the one found in Pac-Man. You basically spend your time guiding Pac-Man around the maze, gobbling up dots and avoiding the four pesky ghosts that are bent on catching you. Of course, to help even the odds, there are four power pellets around the maze that, when eaten, turn the spirits blue and temporarily give you the opportunity to chomp on them. It's balancing evasion and knowing when to snatch up a power pellet that determines your success in completing each maze.
The NES version features a very accurate representation of the arcade game, both visually and in terms of gameplay. Even the AI of the ghosts seems to be one of the closest of any home console version when compared to the arcade counterpart. Moving Pac-Man around requires nothing more than four directions on the D-Pad or analogue stick, with absolutely no action buttons required throughout the experience.
Home releases of Pac-Man have varied quite measurably from a visual standpoint over the years. Thankfully, on NES Namco managed to create a near arcade perfect replica of its stand-out arcade hit and it's definitely one of the better releases graphically. Dots look like dots this time around and even the ghosts and mazes themselves show a lot of accurate similarities to the arcade version.
Much like the visuals, the audio package in the game is fairly accurate. There are a few misses when it comes to sound effects, but overall the developers managed a fairly spot on representation that mimics the original arcade release very closely. It's a shame more home releases didn't do a better job, but it's difficult to fault this rendition as it does what most home releases could not from an audio standpoint.
The simplicity of the concept, coupled with the insane amount of playability, makes Pac-Man one of the all-time greats. You'd think roaming a maze eating up dots would be a redundant affair, but the layout of the maze and the AI of the ghosts does a fantastic job of mixing things up and keeping the gameplay fresh and challenging. The NES version is one of the closest to the original arcade titles you'll find and in reality, it was a long time coming given some of the lacklustre attempts and bringing the arcade original to a home console. If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane, this is a game you definitely should check out.