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Namco Museum

Score: 78%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Studio Inc.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Arcade/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

The most recent game in this collection dates to the early 90's (with the exception of Pac-Man Vs, so youíre not going into Namco Museum expecting to be blown away. However, thereís much to admire in the look of these retro games. Looking at a game like Galaga or SkyKid will make those of us old enough to recall think about the huge gap between consoles and arcades at the time. Thereís detailed animation, rich color palettes, and a sharpness to everything that makes you remember how amazing it was to walk into a dimly lit arcade back in the day.

A particular standout for animation is Rolling Thunder. True, thereís little to do but duck, jump, and shoot. But I look at how smooth the animation is when the character swings over the banister to the upper floor and itís hard not to appreciate the work that went into it.

As for music, most of these games have a way with catchy tunes. SkyKid has a jaunty tune that makes it sound like youíre already taking part in your military victory parade. Galaga doesnít have much for music, but the theme that plays when you warp to the next battle always gets me amped up. Dig Dug probably makes the most creative use of sound, as the music only plays when you move.

And, of course, if youíve come for sound effects, these games will give you your retro fill. They run the spectrum from the Pac-Man "wakka wakka," the sometimes eerie sounds of space bugs in Galaga, to the charming "pew pew" sounds from all the rest of the shooters in this collection.


Gameplay:

While it feels as though I have reviewed about 20 versions of collections of Namco games, to be fair, thereís always a little something new that we havenít seen on consoles or even in any format other than arcade. This collection includes:
  • Pac-Man (1980)
  • Galaga (1981)
  • Dig Dug (1982)
  • Tower of Druaga (1984)
  • SkyKid (1986)
  • Rolling Thunder (1987)
  • Rolling Thunder 2 (1991)
  • Galaga '88 (1988)
  • Splatterhouse (1988)
  • Tank Force (1991)
  • Pac-Man Vs (2003)

Most of these games are standard shooters or sidescrollers of some kind. Theyíre addictive if youíre into constantly trying to improve your high score, and improve your twitchy reflexes. Tower of Druaga stands out as an RPG like game with procedurally-generated dungeons. Dig Dug remains unique, as far as I know, as the only game where you inflate your enemies to death (still a little gross, to this day). But for the most part, these games are shoot or be shot, which was much of the arcade scene for a long time.

One of the more modern standouts in this collection (and the only simultaneous multiplayer game) is Pac-Man Vs.. It allows you to play as the ghosts chasing Pac-Man or as Pac-Man. Itís a funny eureka moment when you realize that the ghosts have trouble catching you because they are extremely nearsighted. But this also makes for an enjoyable game, especially if you can wrangle up enough Switch players and therefore enough ghosts to come up with a solid Pac-Man killing strategy.

You might be wondering where that Teen rating came from on a collection of innocent arcade games. Well, thatís probably all due to SplatterHouse being included in the collection. As an 80's kid, I sort of naturally missed this game due to its timing and rarity. However, I would recommend you give the rating heavy consideration, as itís pretty violent and disturbing, with little subtext or story to explain that, "Hey, this is wrong." There are mutilated, tortured people in the backgrounds. Different weapons seem to be available just to splatter your enemies with differing gory results. The music is a constant loop of frenzied horror movie. The age of the game hasnít taken much of the edge off its impact, as you can definitely see, hear and comprehend some messed up things happening. Itís hard to say how a kid under 10 would react, but I would avoid it just to avoid the middle-of-the-night nightmare calls from your kid.


Difficulty:

Namco Museum is a collection of old arcade games, and therefore, you should expect a pretty high degree of difficulty. Most of these games didnít really have an ending, per se, they are just there for the ever-increasing Challenge and then they end. Thereís a reason many arcade games were called "quarter eaters."

If the Normal difficulty isnít enough, thereís also a Challenge Mode you can enable on each game. These Challenge Modes are actually specific tasks, often changing the gameís goals. For example, a Galaga Challenge might give you a large number of lives, but ask you to rescue captured fighters as a goal, instead of necessarily attempting to get to the next stage or get a high score. These Challenges can breathe a bit of new life into these old games, so they actually add a lot of replay value.


Game Mechanics:

Namco Museum controls and functions just fine. Sure, a few of the games are frustrating, but you canít always blame the controls. Sometimes you just have to start over, and over, until you meet the game on its terms. But thatís pretty common for arcade games of the era.

I had a hard time figuring out how to get the joycons to switch from horizontal (single player) mode to a different mode; however, this is probably more a function of the Switch than anything. You canít switch your controls in any in-game menu, but you can always quit the game and restart it to force it to recognize the controls in whatever format you want.

Though it probably wasnít intended, that quirk was one of the reasons I tried playing SkyKid as a team game. Start the game with two joycons in the vertical position, connected to the grip. Then just split the joycons up between two people, and one can fire, while the other does the piloting. This could actually be a fun option if you have a younger player in the house who wants to help, but is not quite good enough to play on their own. Again, this probably speaks more to the versatility of the Switch console, rather than anything the developers did intentionally, but itís still something that could make these games a little more interesting on party night.

Namco Museum, especially with the inclusion of Splatterhouse and Pac-Man Vs, is a pretty well-rounded offering of classic games. The only real drawback is that itís padded with a few sequels, so itís essentially a smaller collection. Still, with the special Challenge Modes, thereís enough here to recommend if you want a little classic arcade gaming on your Switch.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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