by Hokum on Monday, January 21, 2002
Pac-Man was groundbreaking and endlessly popular in the early eighties, but eventually the game got a tad slow and predictable for those who spent enough time with it.
Arcade owners and distribution companies began to tinker with the game's inner working to make it harder and more varied, creating various "hacks" of the original Pac-Man that provided more suprise and challenge for gamers. General Electric created a hack of their own and presented it to Namco, which was struggling to find a sequel to their most popular title. Thus, Ms. Pac-Man was born.
It is hands-down the most popular of all the Pac-games, and most people seem to prefer it to the original. It plays faster, the monsters are smarter, there are different styles of mazes, the bonus items dance across the screen, and it's generally much more fun than the game that started it all.
Unfortunately it's a tad complicated for the NES because, as with Tetris, there was an unliscensed Tengen version - which is now quite rare because it was pulled off the market shortly after - and an official Namco/Nintendo version, which is also not too easy to come by now because it was released very late in the NES run and not very widely purchased.
The Tengen version is not a direct arcade port and was coded from the ground-up. It gives the player a lot of options at start-up, too: either a wider maze that fits the television screen better ('Mini'), or the regular-sized maze from the arcade game, which is larger than the viewing space and requires scrolling to see different portions of it. There are also two augmented versions you can play, 'Strange' & 'Big'. 'Big' adds an extra 1/3 of maze to the original courses, 'Strange' just mangles the maze designs a bit. You may also select difficulty, and add a new feature known as 'Pac-Booster', which simply makes Ms Pac-man go really fast. This is a very feature-packed rendition, but it does lack the option to simply play a scaled-down, proportional, fully-viewable version of the arcade game like the NES version of Pac-Man did. But the topper that makes this by far the one to have is it's 3 different 2-player modes, which include simultanious co-operative or competitive play, or alternating.
The Namco/Nintendo cartridge is a little more common I believe, and is just a straight port of the original arcade game, scaled down and all viewable at once. No simultanious 2 Player action, no tweaking options. Not bad, but kind of bland in comparison to Tengen's monster release.
Tengen's provides more fun, but runs for about $20-$30 on Ebay in most cases. The other is slightly cheaper but can still drive a hard bargian. If you see Tengen's for a decent price, snap it up.
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