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Namco Museum

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: July 28, 2017


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Switch Review - 'Namco Museum'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 25, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Namco Museum is the ultimate collection of beloved arcade games from the 1980s.

Buy Namco Museum

Since 1995, Namco has been releasing its Namco Museum series on just about every platform imaginable, from the PlayStation to the current console generation. It feels inevitable  that Namco Museum would reach the Switch, a console that has already hosted a plethora of Neo Geo games in just six months. Like most versions of this game, the Switch iteration is done well, and while the price might feel a tad steep, the library is one of the more varied ones in a while.

The compilation contains 11 titles, which is fewer than in other recent compilations. In fact, this version only has one more game compared to the 10 for Namco Museum DS. Of the 11 included titles, there are three familiar classics in Dig Dug, Galaga and Pac-Man. Those three games need little introduction, as they've been included in almost every version of this series; most game players should be familiar with them unless the Switch is their first gaming platform. Also included is The Tower of Druaga, an adventure game that gets panned in North America but is immensely popular in Japan. For that reason alone, you'd expect to see this title in Namco Museum.

The next three titles didn't get released in North America until the 50th Anniversary version, but they're solid titles that still feel fresh today. Galaga '88 is essentially a remake of the original but with much prettier graphics and newer enemies. Sky Kid plays like a typical side-scrolling shooter of the mid-1980s, but it comes with the distinction of having to fly a plane from right to left instead of left to right. Rolling Thunder, on the other hand, is a fantastic run-and-gun shooter that values a slower pace compared to its contemporaries but makes heavy use of doors to refill ammo and hide from enemies.

Three of the other games are significant because they've never been released in a compilation before. Rolling Thunder 2 is a more refined version of the original, with different weapons at your disposal and the ability to play as a female agent. Tank Force is a welcome addition since it plays out like a more strategic version of Pac-Man in shooter form. You're placed in mazes with destructible walls, and you can only fire one shot at a time, forcing you to think about when you need to take your shot instead of spamming the fire button and hoping for the best. Then there's Splatterhouse, a gory beat-'em-up that holds up remarkably well. The inclusion of this title bumps up the compilation rating from E to T, which is hopefully a sign that the series may include some of Namco's less family-friendly arcade titles in the future.

Pac-Man Vs. is the final title and its most recent, as it was released originally in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube in Japan and one year later for North America. The game is a multiplayer-focused take on the classic Pac-Man but with a neat twist. One player takes control of Pac-Man on one screen, and they play the game normally. The other three players share the same screen but take on the role of ghosts trying to eat Pac-Man. The ghosts have a very limited view of the maze, so communication is key to cornering Pac-Man. The one lucky enough to catch the round yellow hero gets to swap roles with him, and the cycle continues until someone reaches the score limit.

The nature of the game makes this title feel like an expensive proposition if you wanted to play it in the intended manner. After all, you'd need two Switch consoles and at least one copy of the game. The developers released a free version of Namco Museum that's dedicated to multiplayer Pac-Man Vs. if the other system has a copy of the full game, so that brings down costs a tad, but this is a more expensive setup compared to the costs of doing this on a GameCube, complete with the GBA as the second screen. Players who lack multiple Switch consoles can still partake in this title but are restricted to playing as the ghosts; the goal shifts to catching Pac-Man as many times as possible in the given time limit.

With the exception of Pac-Man Vs., all of the games have online leaderboards attached, giving each title plenty of replayability since most feature high score chases. Aside from normal play, all of the games have a Challenge mode to spice things up. The Tower of Druaga has you trying to speed-run through 11 selected levels while Pac-Man tasks you with trying to eat as many ghosts as possible in three minutes. Like the normal mode, the Challenges also have their own online leaderboards, so veterans can show off their familiarity with the classics.

As far as presentation goes, arcade-perfect ports of every title are present, and Pac-Man Vs., while not necessarily a graphical powerhouse, looks very nice in HD. The inclusion of borders for almost every title is very nice, since there's some beautiful-looking artwork on display, and some of the bonuses — think scanlines — will please purists. There's also an option to rotate the screen, so titles like Galaga '88 can be shown in their proper form. That said, unless you're attaching this to a rotating monitor, you're going to need something to display this correctly if you're playing in portable mode, as the system's kickstand can't hold the system in vertical mode. Also, you'll have to detach the Joy-Cons if you're playing this way, as the controls can't otherwise be configured to change directions based on screen orientation.

The $30 price tag might scare away a few people, but there's no denying that Namco Museum is a bundle of fun. Just about every game is a classic, and while the overall collection could stand to be bigger, the fact that three games are new to the series shows that there's hope for some newer titles in the future, as opposed to the same library of classics. If you're a fan of retro gaming, Namco Museum is an easy purchase to make.

Score: 8.0/10

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