During the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Nintendo unveiled a number of announcements for games both newly and previously revealed. Fitting into the latter category was what one might argue was the worst-kept secret in Super Smash Bros.: Pac-Man as a playable character.
Of course, it’s worth noting that no one really knew for certain whether he’d be in, but it was an extremely easy prediction to make when one looked at the bigger picture. Yet, despite this, there are a number of people who seem legitimately surprised and shocked about it. Unable to wrap their heads around the idea of Pac-Man sharing space with Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mega Man for any other reason than “just because,” some have said that Pac-Man doesn’t fit in with this crowd. What’s more, some have even gone so far as to say that he has nothing to do with Nintendo, and is merely shoe-horned in.
Some other things have been said following along those lines, some of which are just pants-on-head goofy and don’t really need to be repeated here. Others have met with the fact that Pac-Man is an icon, and has appeared in over 36 titles on Nintendo platforms alone (not counting Namco compilations, Virtual Console releases, etc.). Even so, such claims are generally dismissed rather easily by the naysayers, with some arguments put forth that other characters could fit in for those same reasons (sorry, but Sub-Zero, Kefka, E.T., and Fulgore don’t even compare– and I doubt Microsoft would be too eager to allow the latter to participate, anyway).
Not willing to let things lie, I’ve been spurred on to look at four main reasons why Pac-Man does indeed have anything to do with Nintendo, and as a result, why he fits in with the Super Smash Bros. roster at least as much as a Mega Man or a Sonic. Plus, I can just link back to this piece instead of repeating myself ad nauseam.
Nintendo is overseeing it, yes, but the heavy lifting is by and large being done by Bandai Namco under the supervision of Masahiro Sakurai.
As a result, it stands that if Solid Snake could make it into Super Smash Bros. Brawl for little other reason than because Hideo Kojima is friends with Sakurai and Shigeru Miyamoto (yes, there have been a few Metal Gear releases on Nintendo platforms over the years, most notably the co-developed Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, but still), then it makes sense that Bandai Namco be allowed at least one entrant into gaming’s greatest crossover. Heck, the main reason Mega Man is even here is more because fans demanded it due to his long lineage on Nintendo consoles, rather than any actual ties between the parent companies themselves.
So, who would they pick? Well, while some people are quick to throw out names from Tekken and SoulCalibur (likely the same ones who think it should have been Ryu or someone else from Capcom, rather than Mega Man), the obvious choice is the company mascot– especially when said mascot is not only a company icon, but a gaming icon and a pop culture icon as well.
Seriously, where is SoulCalibur‘s top ten Billboard Hot 100 hit?
(Speaking of SoulCalibur, though, one might also consider this a return-favor for the inclusion of Link from The Legend of Zelda in the GameCube release of SoulCalibur II back in 2003, as seen at left.)
That alone might be reason enough for Pac-Man to be in, but then you have to consider that…
Don’t you know who Shigeru Miyamoto is? Well, if you’re reading this site, then there’s a good chance you do, but for exposition’s sake: Miyamoto is the Senior Managing Director & General Manager of Nintendo’s Entertainment Analysis & Development Division. More simply, he’s the guy who led the creation of Donkey Kong, Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and other key games and franchises for the company. In fact, one of the first (if not the very first) Famicom (NES) games Miyamoto designed was Devil World, which itself was fashioned after Pac-Man.
Some have drawn comparisons which state that he is the video game industry’s equivalent of a Walt Disney, a Stan Lee, or even a Willy Wonka. To paraphrase from wrestling, the reason so many of us are here today is because he put our butts in these seats. As such, you have to expect that the man has some serious clout, even without asking for anything.
Going back to Stan Lee for a moment, there’s a legend in the comic book industry about how an off-handed remark by Lee about Iron Man’s faceplate having no nose led to the artists adding one for the next year of the book’s run. That said, whether Miyamoto actually stated anything specifically about Pac-Man being in Super Smash Bros., it’s not difficult to imagine that some would think it a good idea to add representation from the chief architect of the company’s favorite game to their biggest crossover title.
It would be easy to imagine the smile spreading across Miyamoto’s face the first time he saw Mario and Pac-Man together. However, Super Smash Bros. would not be that time; as it turns out, there had been some overlap prior, as…
Miyamoto had tried his hand at developing a Pac-Man-like game in 1984’s Devil World for the Famicom, but in 2003– nearly two decades later– he returned to that style of gameplay once again, this time with the genuine article. In a rare instance of Nintendo developing a game that would be published by another company, Miyamoto would create a version of the arcade classic which took advantage of the connectivity between the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube, with three players controlling ghosts with a limited view on the television screen as the Game Boy Advance player controls Pac-Man with a full view of the maze (not unlike “Mario Chase” in the recent Nintendo Land).
Besides the unique multiplayer style of gameplay, Pac-Man Vs. also had one other addition guaranteed to make sure those who play it don’t forget where it came from: An announcer. And that announcer? Mario, as portrayed by Charles Martinet.
But Mario would do more than just offer commentary on Pac-Man’s exploits, as one can reason that this partnership likely paved the way for…
4) Pac-Man appearing in all three of the Mario Kart Arcade GP games, which were also developed and published by Bandai Namco
Yeah, this Super Smash Bros. thing? This isn’t the first time Bandai Namco have developed games for Nintendo’s own properties. Star Fox Assault, the Donkey Konga trilogy, Mario Superstar Baseball… they’ve been around. But the one most relevant to this discussion would have to be Mario Kart– specifically, the Mario Kart Arcade GP sub-series.
It seems like this one should be the most obvious– well, besides #1, maybe– but given the ever-increasing scarcity of arcades over the past decade, perhaps this one should come as no surprise. The Mario Kart Arcade GP games (of which there are currently three) is a series of unique racing games which carry over the fundamentals of the Mario Kart series (using Mario characters to race around themed tracks, hitting each other with Koopa shells, etc.), but add their own twists as well.
Among those twists are a variety of content unique to theses games, including in-game cameras which display the players’ faces for other racers to see, bosses, distinct items, courses, vehicles, and of course, characters. In addition to the regular Mario crew, each Arcade GP title contains a variety of Bandai Namco characters, too. However, the only series to maintain a steady presence through all three installments? Pac-Man, of course. In fact, aside from Don-chan of Taiko no Tatsujin fame, Pac-Man himself is the only other representative from Bandai Namco in Mario Kart Arcade GP DX, leaving fellow racers Ms. Pac-Man and Blinky (who featured in the first two titles) behind.
In any case, this is three more Mario Kart games than either Mega Man or Sonic the Hedgehog have been in.
So there you have it: Four reasons why Pac-Man not only fits in, but perhaps even belongs in Super Smash Bros. with the likes of Mario, to say nothing of Mega Man and Sonic. Any one of these alone should suffice, but taken together, there is no denying that this feels right.
What does he have to do with Nintendo? Quite a bit, actually. Quite a bit. He’s practically family.