You may have missed it, but Namco Bandai has rebooted the Pac-Man brand. Through the Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures cartoon series on Disney XD, the publisher has given the yellow blob much more than arms and legs. Not only does he have a surprising childish personality, but he has the ability to eat things with a giant tongue a la Yoshi and absorb powers a la Kirby.
We spoke with franchise director Konito Komori about Pac-Man's new identity and whether or not he thinks he's aping Nintendo's classic characters.
Komori argues that the similarities between the new Pac-Man and other characters is simply due to how easy these powers are to explain to children. "Firstly, we need to think about who is the target market? When thinking about kids, ice and fire are pretty natural weapons in the cartoon world," Komori said. In both the TV series and the upcoming game, Pac-Man can absorb fire and ice power-ups, amongst others. "Because it is simple, other games and animation may have that idea too. But, that's just a detail, not a big thing."
Ultimately, what's driving Pac-Man as a ratings success is the world Namco Bandai has created. "We have a new 3D world called Pac-World. And Pac-Man is the only one who can save the Pac-World. This is important. The type of new power-ups is a detail thing," Komori told us. "The important thing to remember is we have to make it easy to understand for kids. If we make some complicated outer space material, then kids will be confused."
Once Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures launches later this year, the brand reboot will have come full circle: from game, to cartoon, and back to game. However, what else is in store for Namco Bandai? Well, they could certainly look at their other legacy IPs. "Maybe it's another homework to do something about Galaga," Komori said. "My production is in charge of classic titles, not just Pac-Man. But this year, we're focusing on Pac-Man first. For our company, the Pac-Man IP is pretty important."