02nd Aug2017

‘Namco Museum’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

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A staple of a number of console generations – previous iterations have appeared on consoles before, including on PS2 and Nintendo DS – Namco Museum (released exclusively on the Nintendo Switch) features catalogue favourites from Namco’s classic arcade collection, including PAC-MAN, Dig Dug, Galaga, Galaga ‘88, The Tower of Druaga, Rolling Thunder, Rolling Thunder 2, SkyKid, Splatterhouse, and Tank Force.

With NAMCO MUSEUM, players will be transported back to the days when coin-operated arcades reigned supreme, for a truly nostalgic experience. Through the Nintendo Switch, these retro classics can be played anytime, anywhere, and against anyone through the game’s online ranking system. With the ranking system, players can compete to earn the number one spot on the worldwide challenger board for their favourite Namco arcade classics. Players nostalgic for the classic coin-op era can transform their Nintendo Switch into a miniature cabinet by turning the handheld console vertically for a taller, slimmer screen that replicates the original arcade experience. NAMCO MUSEUM also offers a challenge mode, presenting players new and unique challenges for each game, giving classic games a fresh twist.

If you’ve ever played a compilation title before, you know what to expect from Namco Museum, however… this title has a few surprises up its sleeve! The biggest surprise is the inclusion of a “tate” mode for a number of the games! Built into the options menu is the ability to rotate the display by 90-degree increments, which means games like Dig Dug and Galaga can be played ALMOST full screen if you turn your Switch screen sideways and use the joycons either in each hand or with the joycon grip. The only downside to this mode AND the display as a whole – it’s that the default screen size is just too damn small! I had to increase the zoom each and every time, with each and every game, whether in landscape or portrait orientation.

The games this time round are a diversive mix: from shooters like Galaga and Sky Kid (I forgot how tricky that game can be!); old-school arcade titles like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and 1991′s Tank Force (though it looks like its from the early 80s – Namco were even aiming at the retro market back then); not one but TWO Rolling Thunder games (gems that are ripe for rediscovery and/or remake); as well as one of my all-time favourite side-scrolling beat ‘em-ups: Splatterhouse. There literally is something for everyone.

A great addtition to Namco Museum is Pac-Man Vs., 2003′s take on the classic game that sees gamers given a choice to play the GHOSTS and not the titular hero! Debuting on the Gamecube, Pac-Man Vs was one of the few games to utilise the connectivity between the Gamecube and the Gameboy Advance. This is not the first appearance of this game in a Namco compilation, it was also included in the Nintendo DS iteration, but here the game has had something of a facelift AND the ability to go online and play complete strangers, giving the game a whole new edge. That “new edge” can actually be applied to all the games included in this “Greatest Hits” compilation (for that’s what Namco Museum really is) as Bandai Namco have seen fit to include not only the original games in this collection but also all-new challenge modes – new ways to play that will will be very familiar to those Nintendo gamers that enjoyed the NES Remix and its sequel.

If I had any qualms, besides the aforementioned display preference issues, it’s that there are some key Namco titles missing from this game, including two of my personal all-time favourites: Xevious and Pac Land (both of which are available in Namco Arcade on iOS), Pole Position, Dragon Spirit, and Mr. Driller.Though saying that, since there are so many Namco games, old and new, that aren’t included in Namco Museum I’m sure there will be plenty left to include in a sequel!

Although you do have to wonder if the mid-to-late 90s Namco games will ever make it into an all-new compilation, instead of recycling the same – albeit classic – titles?

**** 4/5

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