Pac-Man: Championship Edition? Count me in.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Pac Man will be reborn on Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox Live online service on Wednesday as a final tribute for designer Toru Iwatani, who is retiring from the $30 billion games industry he helped ignite.

The new version of the iconic arcade game is a faithful interpretation of the addictive 27-year-old original, where players wrenched joystick controllers to race a character — resembling a yellow pizza missing a slice — around a digital maze to chomp white pellets and chase multicolored “ghosts.”

The new game, “Pac Man Championship Edition,” is the second and final version Iwatani personally designed, and was created for the final round of the Xbox 360 Pac-Man World Championship in New York, when nine finalists played it for the first time.

Iwatani, 52, an employee of Japan’s Namco Bandai Holdings, said in an interview he will retire from active duty at Namco and spend more time teaching the next generation of game designers at Tokyo Polytechnic University.

He said there were no immediate plans for another version of Pac Man, but that he could work with Namco in a supervisory position or work on a new version with his students.

The new game, which pulses to dance music and has mazes that change shapes, marks Iwatani’s swan song from electronic interactive entertainment, an industry with annual revenue that now tops U.S. box office movie sales.

Despite the last decade’s advances in computer graphics technology and design, Iwatani created the new Pac Man as he did the original — in two-dimensions. “I wanted to stay with the original simple rules of Pac Man,” he said.

The new version also reshuffles older formats. In one mode, called “Dark mode,’ most of the maze is hidden from view with players guided only by a flashlight lighting Pac Man’s path.

“Pac Man Championship Edition” will be sold for about $10 as a download on the Xbox Live service, starting on Wednesday.

Those who have known me since my elementary school days are well aware of how much I loved Pac-Man growing up. I had a shitload of Pac-Man memorabilia, from the desktop game unit from Coleco to bedsheets and the like. I’ve always had a soft spot for the game even since, going as far as to have it installed on my last cell phone. :-) Hell, back in 2003, my favorite game at E3 was Pac-Man VS. for the GameCube. What made it so kickass was the fact that there were four players: three used standard controllers, watched the screen, and played as ghosts. :-) The fourth person used a Game Boy Advance for a controller, and played as Pac-Man, using the GBA’s screen to play (where it looked like the original arcade game). You can see a few shots from the game here.

As for this game… damn straight I’ll be getting it soon. I’ll just have to remember to get it once I get back from Odessa, as tomorrow will be spent packing for my trip and whatnot. :-)