NAMCO's Top 5 Revolutionary Firsts Video Games
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NAMCO's Top 5 Revolutionary Firsts

NAMCO was one of the most important video game developers of The Golden Age of Video Games (the late-1970s to mid-1980s.) Today, the company's contributions are standard video game practice. Then, NAMCO's innovations were mind-blowing ideas. This is a list of some of NAMCO's most important "firsts." You might not know NAMCO by name (ironic?) but you will be able to recognize the company's influence on some of your favorite games. -(by MaDonna Flowers)
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    FIRST GAME WITH ICONIC MASCOT

    Pac-Man, Namco’s pride and joy, is responsible for the birth of many video game conventions, but the most important of them all was Pac-Man himself, the first iconic mascot of a video game. Pac-Man was released in 1980 and was an immediate hit in North America, grossing more than 10 billion quarters by the late 1990s. (That is a lot of loads of laundry.) I feel like I don’t have to explain the cultural impact of the famous yellow… thing, but just remember: he came before Mario, before Sonic, before Link, before Donkey Kong. Before all those characters, it was Pac-Man Fever, baby.

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    FIRST GAME TO HAVE A BONUS ROUND, BACKGROUND MUSIC

    Bonus rounds! There is nothing more satisfying than completing a certain task in a game and then being given a free-for-all round to enjoy your hard work. (What comes to mind for me is Rare’s Donkey Kong Country; you collect a few items, and all of a sudden you are controlling one of those weird animals and get to run through hundreds and hundreds of coins. Bliss.) We can thank Rally-X for that. Rally-X, released in 1980, was an early driving game where the player controlled a car through a maze, capturing flags around the track. The bonus round? The enemies in the level are motionless until the car runs out of fuel, giving the player free-reign of the track. Not so exciting, especially since the player can still lose a life by hitting an enemy car, but it’s a start!

    Another huge first from Namco’s Rally-X was the inclusion of background music. Can you even imagine playing a game without some music going on? I can, and it is creepy. These days, if there isn’t music, it’s usually a way to add tension and suspense. Just picture Grand Theft Auto without a radio feature or Ocarina of Time without the atmospheric melodies for each different region. It would be like a ghost town.

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    FIRST GAME TO FULLY USE RGB COLOR GRAPHICS

    Galaxian was released in 1979 with the hopes to latch onto the popularity of Taito’s Space Invaders, which is the game that many people say kick-started the Golden Age. This shooter, like its successful predecessor, had the player control and protect a small ship at the bottom of the screen from incoming swarms of alien vessels. The big difference, however, was found in the graphics. While Space Invaders only featured black and white graphics, with some green cellophane covering the screen to alter the bottom images, Galaxian fully used RGB color in its design. This color model allowed the alien ships, explosions, and in-game text to be shown in multiple colors, which was never before seen in a video game.

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    FIRST GAME TO popularize "REALISTIC RACING"

    Okay, okay, Pole Position wasn’t THE first game to use a rear-view racing format, but it did set a standard for racing games that is still used. Plus, any game that gets a shout out in The Goodies is "good enough for me." The template set by Pole Position, which was released in 1982, includes AI cars that race against the player, time limits, tracks based on real locations, collision crashes, product placement, and qualifying laps. Sound familiar? The racing game also simulated driving into the distance by modifying the horizon point in a perspective view of the track.

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    FIRST GAME TO FEATURE A LIFE METER

    Life meters and action games – these two fit together so well that it is hard to picture one without the other. Thankfully, Namco introduced this feature in 1984 with Dragon Buster, a side-scrolling, action RPG. This new element changed a lot for action titles; monsters were able to have varying levels of damage, players were able to incorporate different strategies, and quarters, hopefully, could last a little longer. The life meter was shown as a bar at the bottom, but these days, the amount of damage that has been taken is shown in many ways: the screen slowly turning red, icons decreasing in number, or the character’s vision becoming increasingly blurry.

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