Celebrating greatness in arcade game logos. It’s Namco’s turn. I’m going to admit to being a little surprised here. When I think Namco, I think of Pac-Man, obviously, which had no in-game logo. I think of Dig Dug and Mappy, early games with primitive, uninspired texts. I think of later titles like Rolling Thunder and Steel Gunner, and all those titles Namco created while pioneering 3D arcade gaming like StarBlade and Ridge Racer, and I am not impressed by what I remember. Great games, terrible, bland sometimes generic logos.
But then, as I actually started to look through Namco’s very extensive list of arcade releases, I was actually impressed. Like Konami, Namco goes way back in the arcade scene to the 1970s. Their biggest success, hands down, was Pac-Man back in 1980, which is the highest grossing arcade game of all time. It was all downhill from there, of course, but that didn’t stop Namco from creating a lot of hits over the years and games that may not have been blockbusters, but are certainly remembered fondly.
As early as 1982, Namco was incorporating impressive (for the time) graphics in their title screens with Xevious, a shoot-em-up that was itself pretty amazing back then. While the Xevious logo seems a little simplistic, for an 8-bit arcade game more than 30 years ago, it was a sight. In 1984 they brought out The Tower of Druaga, which is a little-known title in the states but featured not only a massive quest (60 different floors of the tower to be scaled) but a nifty logo featuring one of the dragon enemies perched atop cracking rocks that spell Druaga. Over the course of the following years, Namco game logos often fell into one of two categories: graphically modified fonts that rather smartly portrayed the game’s personality (such as the oozing blood of Splatterhouse and the ground-level, coming-at-you perspective of Assault) and games with custom or highly stylized text combined with some sort of crest or insignia–the more impressive kinds of logos.
As previously mentioned, the title images of some of Namco’s most famous and successful games like Rolling Thunder are downright boring, because those games relied not on the logo but on things happening on the title screen. On the other hand, there are some real gems in the Namco library. Dragon Spirit manages a sense of charm due to its obviously hand-drawn letters and the careful placement of a dragon, for example. Marvel Land, by virtue of merely rotating some letters and attaching them to some sort of virtual plaque, really stands out. But it’s Namco’s truly obscure library that shines the greatest. Dangerous Seed and Exvania, both Japanese-only releases which are virtually unknown today, bear gorgeous logos dripping with style. You can’t miss both the insectoid style of Dangerous Seed’s enemy armada nor the classy, nearly-gothic environs of Exvania (which admittedly seems more appropriate for a horror RPG than a Bomberman-style game.) They would certainly help part me from my tokens. While in the grand scheme Namco wasn’t as dedicated to the art of logos as Capcom, they have some real triumphs over their lengthy history.
Warrior Wednesday: A U.S. Marine machine gunner from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment moves with the rest of his unit into attack positions outside the city of Karabilah during the sixth day of Operation Steel Curtain on November 10, 2005.