| paleface [sys=GBA; cat=Action_Variety; loc=NA] |
|Despite Namco's best efforts never to release a console version of Ms. Pac-Man that runs on a correct vertical screen, they nearly blew it this time--they forgot about the Game Boy Player (see entry 86).|
The GBA version of their latest reshash of their old stuff, Namco Museum 50th Anniversary, handled by Digital Eclipse, a western studio known for ports, features yet another collection of familiar names: Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Rally-X; all as endearing, or crappy, as they've always been, more or less.
Except for one thing: screen presentation. Digital Eclipse got creative in how they squeeze the things onto the GBA's tinier screen. All feature a full-screen horizontal version, either slightly scaled down in the case of Rally-X, or radically squished for the other, vertical games. But they didn't just squish everything in one big scaled swoop; no, rather, they squished most of the backgrounds, but left the sprites unsquished. The result is that the sprites retain their normal shape and appear slightly larger than normal, and this works surprisingly well for Galaga and Dig Dug.
You don't really want to play the Pac games that way, though, because they look really weird, and your speed changes drastically when you go from horizontal to vertical movement. So Digital Eclipse got really crazy, and gave all the games except for Rally-X a vertical screen mode, rotating the screen graphics 90 degrees clockwise. So you turn your GBA 90 counter-clockwise, and play it sideways. This sounds like it would be weird and awkward with the SP, but I was surprised how quickly I got used to it, even for games where us lefties have to sort of twist our hands around to get at the fire button. The graphics have to get scaled down a bit to fit onscreen in this mode, too, but they left the main sprites unscaled, to all appearances, so again they loom rather larger than usual against their backgrounds. While in principle I abhor mucking about with the graphic presentation in ports, in this case, particularly for Ms. Pac-Man, the result is rather endearing.
And here's where the plot thickens: stick the cart into your Game Boy Player, pipe the output through to your vertically-oriented monitor (which you all have, since you're big vertical shooter fans, right?), and you have Ms. Pac-Man (and those others) playing full screen at correct vertical orientation.
Perhaps you don't understand the significance of this. To repeat, it is this: to my knowledge, Namco has never released a port of Ms. Pac-Man that has a correctly-rotated vertical-screen mode. Their version on the PS1's Namco Museum 3 (see entry 179) had a vertical screen mode, beautifully sharp and not rescaled at all, but unfortunately rotated the opposite way of any other company's vertical games, leaving it upside-down on your traditionally tilted vertical screen. While I'm rather obsessed with Ms. Pac-Man, I'm not about to flip my big tate monitor over every time I want to play the game.
So this is it; finally, we have it, in this unobtrusive, rehashed, nth release of the game on the handheld system. A real vertical Ms. Pac-Man. It isn't a clean win, to be sure, with the scaled-down graphics, but as its own thing it looks quite nice, and seems to play just fine.
Actually, it may be a bit faster than the arcade default. On the other hand, I may just be getting old and slow. Both Pacs also have a scrolling-screen horizontal mode that gives you the original graphics in their pixel-perfect glory, only not visible all at once, like the NGPC Pac-Man (see entry 336), but allowing you to see the entire width of the screen at once, at least, although you get less of the vertical than you did on the NGPC screen.
That mode looks much cleaner, but I think I'm going to leave this in my Game Boy Player for a while, and feel the silly thrill of tate play.
As for the actual gameplay/port quality, I'm not very qualified at picking out small emulation flaws; it looks pretty good to me. The ghost-eating sound in Pac-Man sounds a little funny, but I haven't gone back to compare it directly against, say, the PS1 Namco Museum version. All in all you don't feel absolutely confident that these are perfect arcade ports, due to the graphic rejiggling, but you do feel that Digital Eclipse did everything they could to present them as well as they could on the GBA's tiny screen.
The only thing that rather annoys me is the lack of high-score saves. Cheap.
| paleface 19:34:16 09/05/05 [relations updated] |
|The PSP Namco compilation (see entry 879) actually has Ms. Pac-Man at full original resolution in vertical orientation, even when holding the system horizontally. My caveat with this is that that's handheld only, and as of yet the PSP has no means of outputting to a big screen like the GBA does via the Game Boy Player.|
|For some reason, I really like the vertical-mode Dig Dug here. I usually suck at it but I got to level six or something on my second try, which is way good for me--and that was on the GBA, holding it sideways and twisting my hands around to operate the D-pad and A button left-handed. Go me.|
Rally-X sucks though. It feels like a Pac-game, only loose because the roads get wider than one lane, and frustrating because obstacles rush onscreen at super high speed.