March 24, 2011

Japan Week Day 4: Konami & Namco

Today we con­cen­trate on two com­pa­nies with great lega­cies rang­ing back to the NES and beyond. I know that I have been tak­ing one com­pa­ny per day but I have so much mate­r­i­al that I will not fin­ish in a week if I don’t com­bined some and I am sor­ry if there are ones that I should have includ­ed it was hard nar­row­ing down to just a week’s worth of mate­r­i­al; I could have eas­i­ly done a month. But back to busi­ness, Kon­a­mi has two indus­try greats that I am going to focus on and Nam­co has one. Hideo Koji­ma, the mas­ter of great games with con­vo­lut­ed plots, Koji Igarashi the Castl­e­va­nia 2D expert, and from Nam­co Toru Iwan­tani, the father of Pac-Man.
Pac-Man is a game I could spend hours play­ing and nev­er tire. I should own a Pac Man cab­i­net with as much quar­ters I have spent on that game. Pac-Man is the most renown arcade game and with good rea­son. The game was made by Toru Iwan­tani back in 1979 when he want­ed to do some­thing dif­fer­ent than cre­ate pin­ball tables for Nam­co. He want­ed some­thing that would appeal to every­one; the sub­ject of eat­ing was per­fect.
“The actu­al fig­ure of Pac-Man came about as I was hav­ing piz­za for lunch. I took one wedge and there it was, the fig­ure of Pac-Man” – Toru Iwatani.  P. 138 the Ulti­mate His­to­ry of Video Games, Steven Kent.
Food was even the rea­son for his shape, as would be for the ways to earn bonus points in the game.  Pac-Man was a huge suc­cess sell­ing in an excess of 100,000 units in the U.S. alone. Iwan­tani would nev­er see any­thing for the vast suc­cess of Pac-Man. Iwan­tani left Nam­co in 2007 but his lega­cy lives on. There has been a great retro remake of his mas­ter­piece with Pac-Man Cham­pi­onship Edi­tion and Cham­pi­onship Edi­tion DX (which has become one of my favorite XBLA games). Even the great Shigeru Miyamo­to has tak­en a shot with Pac-Man with the sem­i­nal Pac-Man VS.  Pac-Man was immense­ly pop­u­lar for a rea­son, great sim­ple game play. Despite Pac-Man being old­er than I am, is a time­less clas­sic that can still be enjoyed by every­one of any age.
Kon­a­mi hit the jack­pot in the PlaySta­tion era. They had two great design­ers that would cre­ate some of the best games on the con­sole, Hideo Koji­ma and Koji Igarashi. Hideo Koji­ma was mak­ing games well before this with the Met­al Gear series dur­ing the NES, but real­ly nev­er hit a grand slam till Met­al Gear Sol­id. The PlaySta­tions tech­nol­o­gy opened the door for game design­ers to give their games a more cin­e­mat­ic approach. Res­i­dent Evil, Final Fan­ta­sy (7–9) and Met­al Gear Sol­id are excel­lent exam­ples of this. Met­al Gear was spe­cial. It had great pro­tag­o­nist in Snake, tight, tac­ti­cal game play that lead the way for games such as Tom Clancy’s Splin­ter Cell, and sto­ry that was deeply root­ed in gov­ern­ment con­spir­a­cies. The first time I played MGS was on a free demo disc that Piz­za Hut hand­ed out, that demo lead to a pur­chase and sev­er­al more down the course of the series. Even with the release of MGS4 on the PlaySta­tion 3 back in 2008, Met­al Gear Sol­id on the PlaySta­tion still cap­tures me like none of the sequels have. Koji­ma Still heads up Koji­ma pro­duc­tion a devel­op­ment house for Kon­a­mi. Despite cre­at­ing oth­er games that deserve recog­ni­tion, Zone of the Enders and Bok­tai, his Met­al Gear series will be his lega­cy.
Castl­e­va­nia: Sym­pho­ny of the Night was the oth­er hit Kon­a­mi had dur­ing the days of the PlaySta­tion. Ever since this title Koji Igarashi would pro­duce the Castl­e­va­nia series, from the 3‑D out­ings on the PlaySta­tion 2, to the great 2D games on the DS. Igarashi was respon­si­ble for the design of SOTN in which it wasn’t a lev­el by lev­el pro­gres­sion; it was an open cas­tle for you explore. Between SOTN and Super Metroid they coined the term Metroid­va­nia that would describe any game that was designed from this type of explo­ration, most notable was the XBLA Shad­ow Com­plex. Igarashi would pro­duce the 3 great DS titles, Dawn of Sor­row, Por­trait of Ruin, Order of Eccle­sia, and the XBLA Har­mo­ny of Despair. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Igarashi had no hand in the Castl­e­va­nia reboot, Lords of Shad­ow.
Anoth­er day, anoth­er great group of peo­ple that has giv­en us great titles through­out the years, I will con­tin­ue with these arti­cles through Sat­ur­day. Up tomor­row will be a Tec­mo and SquareEnix/Mistwalker and then on Sat­ur­day will be Nin­ten­do. Again, if I have missed games or devel­op­ers you like, I apol­o­gize. Nar­row­ing peo­ple down to write about has been dif­fi­cult, there are just so many great peo­ple in this indus­try; I wish I had all the time in the world to write ded­i­ca­tion pieces. I hope you all are enjoy­ing them, I will see you tomor­row.
One last note, Steven Kent, your book has been an invalu­able tome of video game his­to­ry and I have enjoyed it thor­ough­ly. There are not many video game his­to­ry books out there and yours I have enjoyed the most. Read­ing this made me miss the days of when G4 wasn’t trash and I would watch count­less hours of Icons.

7 comments

  1. CharcoalCoyote - March 24, 2011 9:10 pm

    up up down down left right left right B A start.

    Reply
  2. MacAttack42o - March 24, 2011 10:41 pm

    Hey you can turn this into Japan month! I don’t think any­one would mind. Enjoy­ing read­ing these and learn­ing some new things.

    Reply
  3. thsoundman - March 24, 2011 11:32 pm

    Wel­come to the site MacAttack42. Look for­ward to see­ing you around. Let us know what you think and if you have any sug­ges­tions please feel free to put them up! Enjoy your stay.

    Reply
  4. T8 - March 25, 2011 12:12 am

    what mac said.
    Japan has pret­ty much built the foun­da­tion for all gam­ing of today. Its great that you are doing a trib­ute CAB 🙂

    Reply
  5. zero_19 - March 25, 2011 9:04 am

    Great read. And as the oth­er have said, if you want to keep writ­ing these, I’ll keep read­ing them.

    Reply
  6. CharcoalCoyote - March 25, 2011 9:15 am

    And IMO, Sym­pho­ny of the Night was nowhere near as good as Super Castl­e­va­nia 4. It was a great game, but it did­n’t feel… Castl­e­va­nia-ey enough.

    Reply
  7. ScrotusKilmystr - March 25, 2011 12:15 pm

    ah yes pac-man the tran­sis­tion from black n white vec­tor graph­ics (asteroids)to hap­py shiney peo­ple (REM refer­ance) again many a quar­ter did that damn “PUCK”-man did eat!
    medal­grear was cool to the crazy-ass’d sto­ry­lines and yrs snake puk­ing when he ate a snake was halar­i­ous
    these are great pieces cab­bie! keep em com­ing…

    Reply

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