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Meanwhile, at Namco…

Game: Namco releases Release: Fall 2010 Platform: Creative Director:

As a source for creative output (the opposite being a business in a capitalist economy), Namco has been a stalwart in the gaming industry. Namco has contributed enough great design in both game mechanics and artistic talent, that one could spend a near-lifetime analyzing it all. As previously covered on this blog, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, stands as one of their most amazing packages of art. Lately, Namco has been on a bit of a slump for me.

The majority of their output consists of licensed games, or publishing deals for titles developed by third parties. While the relative quality of these titles rests outside the purview of this blog, the overall great sense for design that Namco bled all over the late-90s era of gaming seems nearly washed away.

Namco Generations

Their latest move then, was somewhat of a nice surprise for me. The first in what is apparently going to be a series of re(re)-makes on digital distribution channels, Pac -Man Championship DX (itself a re-work/sequel of Pac-Man Championship) was recently released under the banner of “Namco Generations”. The logo can be seen below:

Namco Generations logo
(English releases have the Japanese text removed)
Pac-Man Championship DX logo
(for font comparison)

The logo not only recalls the “Pac-Man” font (most easily seen in the similar triangle-A shape and the “flat-bottom”-M character) but adds a small twist with the pronounced and elongated corners on some of the letterforms. The terminator on the “G” doubling as an arrow is another great little touch; it doesn’t convey a particular message but does evoke the general sense of motion and iconography synonymous with gaming.

However, upon first seeing this logo something bothered me. There was something strangely familiar that I could not place. Thankfully a poster in this thread on the NeoGAF forums unintentionally helped me. The “NG” is the exact same as the logo for Japan-only Namco Community magazine “NG”, which I had seen scans of before, but could not remember when. The magazine ran approixmately from 1983-1985 in a quarterly fashion, but switched to bi-monthly for the duration of its run until 1993. The version of the “NG” logo seen in the Namco Generations artwork first appeared in issue 28:

Cover of Issue 28 of “NG”

While this connection will remain unknown for the majority of Western gamers, its a great move on Namco’s part; simultaneously celebrating the great design of their past work while adapting an old design to represent their newest output.

Some selected covers from NG that I particularly enjoyed:

Bandai Namco is now Namco and Bandai, again.

In addition to re-purposing an old design from their past, it seems Bandai Namco Games have partially revived their former logos. In 2005, Bandai Co., Ltd., and Namco Ltd. merged to form Bandai Namco Games (as depicted in the logo, however both “Bandai Namco” and “Namco Bandai” are used), underneath the holding company Namco Bandai Holdings (not a typo). Corporate merger, acquisition, and confusing naming conventions aside, the company revealed its newest logo in 2006, seen below:

Bandai Namco Games Logo (2006-Present)

As a long time lover of great Namco franchises like Ridge Racer, Ace Combat, Tekken, and Soul Edge/Calibur, I was familiar with and fairly nostalgic about the “old” Namco logo. It made me quite sad and a little upset that something I so strongly associated with some of the best games of the “Playstation-era” was overwritten in the name of simple business; especially so since the logo has been with the company almost since its inception as “Namco” in 1971. The earliest instance I could find of the Namco logo is this flyer for Breakout, released in 1976:

Breakout Arcade Flyer (1976) Namco Logo (1976? – 2006)(2010 – Present)

I fully expect in a future entry to discuss the fact the “O” in the Namco logo is marginally larger than the preceding characters.

However, lately it seems as though Bandai Namco has decided to return to their original methods of branding by using their respective, original logos. I noticed this myself a few weeks back after staring at the cover for my copy of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West trying to decipher what about it was ‘strange’ to me; the top photograph in this article is directly from the box art of my copy.

This got me wondering why exactly this logo had suddenly made its re-appearance. Upon some basic digging from the Bandai Namco website its made pretty clear that Namco has begun making decisions as to which titles/products are marked with a respective logo. I’m not fully-educated on license holders and property rights, but it seems as though the more “merchandise”-oriented titles are marked with the Bandai logo whereas the more strictly videogame releases seem get the old Namco mark.

This apparently only applies to Bandai Namco in North America, as many of their Japanese only releases have continued to utilize the “original” Namco logo in the years since the merger. Below are some samples of North American releases from Bandai Namco this year. You will notice my conclusion about which titles are branded with which mark stems from Clash of the Titans and Naruto being branded as Bandai, whereas Enslaved and Ace Combat (an internal property) are branded Namco:

Clash of the Titans box art (2010) Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 box art (2010) Ace Combat: Joint Assault box art (2010) Back of Enslaved cover art, showing less prominent use of Bandai Namco logo(2010)

For comparison’s sake, here’s cover art from the Japanese-only Tales of VS. PSP title, released in the summer of 2009:

Tales of VS box art (2009)

You can also view Bandai Namco’s line-up of current releases on their Games page here. Its fairly easy to see which titles are being branded Bandai and Namco.

Why is any of this important? In the grand scheme of things it’s not too much to make a fuss over. However, as a big fan of the great legacy Namco built for themselves in the 1980s with design work that looks outstanding even by today’s standards and their amazing output on the PlayStation in the late 1990s I am glad to see they have in some small way resurrected a part of their identity that I feel has become synonymous with great visual design. It’s also an interesting glimpse into the kinds of decisions being made at levels beyond the consumer level. I wonder if separately these brands have more cachet with gamers/consumers than as a single branded entity; or perhaps someone at Namco realized the boring and utterly “corporate bland” the Bandai Namco Games logo looks terrible in almost any usage.

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Posted in Logos, Logotypes, Promotions

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