The years 2004 through to about 2006 or 2008 are what I typically jokingly called “The Edge Era”. Games like Bomberman: Act Zero, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, Doom 3 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl emerged trying to take what what were typically more colorful franchises and make them darker and gritter, per say with a darker tone and look. In 2005, Namco quietly released Pac-Man World 3 capitalizing on the domestic success of the first two games prior to it, with a darker atmosphere and a heavier focus on combat and storytelling. The game was… “polarizing” to say the least. But little do people know the project started out as possibly – a bigger project – one that time would forget known as Pac-Man Adventures.
For you see, I was a simple play tester and concept/modeling artist at Namco before their merge with Bandai in 2006. Ever since Pac-Man’s heyday of the 80’s had ended they’ve been continuously trying to chase that success hoping it’d come back to them – trying desperately to make him relevant with the crowd again. Pac-Man World was more or less an “evolution” of 1984’s Pac-Land which ultimately would be overshadowed by Super Mario Bros. on the NES and brought a decent amount of success. However, they still felt they weren’t hitting that ball in the park. By 2004 when the “Edge Era” officially took off, they finally had brainstormed an idea of where to take their little mascot. At that point they brought in famous animator Don Bluth along with Blitz Games and after a bit of paperwork the project was started in just a few weeks. Nothing more but a few concept sketches and writing. The game was originally supposed to be sort of an “Action-RPG”, similar to the Paper Mario games in a way.
They wanted to take the franchise to a “new level”, and the game had a significantly darker storyline. I sadly can’t remember much of it but I do remember the opening was rather unsettling: With the Ghosts opening upon a terrorist attack on Pac-Village, blowing up a statue as a child calls for help. Bluth eventually shared images of the storyboard on his Twitter and recovered artwork of characters he created and drew; these were recovered and archived online. Other Namco characters were supposed to appear but Dig Dug (Taizo Hori) was the only one who ended up having finalized concept art. One of them that was also slated to appear was Klonoa though, hoping it would boost recognition in their more obscure mascot. Things were going well up until Namco of Japan and Mr. Nakamura officially stepped in, and, honestly he was pretty pissed. But considering how I can vaguely remember scenes like Pac-Man coughing up blood probably was just too much. Most of the staff ended up being laid off and Bluth ultimately would end up leaving, but told the company they could re-use the assets he had created. Blitz Games ultimately ended up staying and were told to rework the project from the ground up but the problem was that we were only given a full year to rebuild what we had.
When it was finally finished and released of course, the game ended up underperforming. Blitz essentially had to “gut” the earlier versions of the game they did due to it being unstable. This was why mechanics such as the inventory system and power smoothies never made it into the final game. I shortly left Namco after that dispute as the company had lost too much money and resources that they had to merge with "Big-Toy Giant" company, Bandai. And honestly, looking at Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, I’m glad I had nothing to do with it. I’m writing this to inform everyone that there was much more behind this than the game you ended up getting. Several disputes were made. Arguments between Namco of America and Japan and something that… possibly could have given Shadow The Hedgehog a run for it’s money should it have been released as it was meant to be.
But then again… Maybe it’s better it just stays in Namco’s vault.