Namco Museum Review
Games are getting more and more complicated lately, which makes retro gaming all the more enticing and important. Shorter, more pure gaming experiences often deliver something that today’s big, boisterous adventures simply don’t. Arcade gaming is usually the best representation of this, with Namco holding a fantastic stable of classic games that they haven’t been too shy to re-release before. Today sees the launch of Namco Museum on Nintendo Switch, just the latest release for this title. However, this one has a couple of additions and changes that make it better than its many predecessors. But does it all add up to something that’s worth your money?
Namco Museum features eleven games spread across Namco’s arcade heyday. The classics are pretty much all here with Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, and many more filling out the collection with plenty of truly classic games. Of course, almost all of these games have been seen in collections like this before, or have been available via other means, such as Nintendo’s own Virtual Console. So, what does Namco Museum offer that’s unique in its release on Nintendo Switch?
Splatterhouse, the horror beat em up from 1988 makes its first appearance in a Museum game. This actually raised the game’s ESRB rating, so its inclusion was a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one at least. By today’s standards, the game isn’t actually that violent, but it’s still a good amount of fun. The other big inclusion isn’t technically brand new, but it’s easily the biggest and best thing to be added. Pac-Man Vs. was first released on the Gamecube.
The game has players take control of either Pac-Man or one of three ghosts trying to track him down. The Pac-Man player can see the whole map, allowing him to try to avoid the ghosts and gobble up all the pellets in the maze. Ghosts have a much more limited view and have to rely on others to help track Pac-Man and then corner him to win the game. Offering a unique and fun asynchronous multiplayer experience, this little game was the highlight of the collection, but was nearly impossible to play due to its hardware requirements.
Namco Museum on Nintendo Switch gives you a decent set of classic arcade titles
To play Pac-Man Vs. as part of Gamecube’s Namco Museum release players had to have the game, a Gamecube, three Game Boy Advance handhelds, and link cables for each. This was prohibitively expensive and exceptionally difficult to arrange. Now however, the game is fairly easy to setup, with each player simply needing their own Switch and either a copy of Namco Museum or the multiplayer only app.
And if that is still too much for you, perhaps because your friends still can’t find a Switch to even buy, then you’re still in luck. Pac-Man Vs. in Namco Museum on Switch also features a new mode that lets you play on one console. It does this by having an AI take control of Pac-Man himself, so that between one and three players can play as the ghosts. It’s not quite as enjoyable as when you have a full setup, but it’s nice as an option anyway, and many will still get some good fun out of it when friends aren’t around.
Outside of these two things, this set is largely similar to past Namco Museum releases. There’s suspended saves that let you drop out of games and back in without any hassle. A Challenge Mode also offers some extra replay for these classic titles. Giving players a set amount of time, a unique objective, and/or a point goal, this is a nice way to tackle old favorites. There’s also online high score boards so players can get competitive about who’s the best Galaga player once again.
HD rumble is also included, though in handheld mode it is more of an annoyance. The games trigger it quite often, which can be nice with a standard controller, if you want that extra level of immersion, but when it’s attached to the screen it makes an odd noise and feels distracting. The game does give you a lot of control over things though, so you can just turn it off. This helps elsewhere as well, such as letting you change the screen orientation, allowing for a more full screen experience. Without this the game’s screen is quite small on the Switch. You can even zoom and change placement of the game within the border frame, but it’s odd that the game doesn’t enlarge to fit the screen by default. Before messing around with the settings the screen is actually quite small.
Outside of these additions Namco Museum will live and die by how much you enjoy the games it includes. On Switch, this set includes: Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, The Tower of Druaga, Sky Kid, Rolling Thunder, Galaga ’88, Splatterhouse, Rolling Thunder 2, Tank Force, and Pac-Man Vs. These titles have actually aged fairly well, with some being all time greats that are easily still worth playing today. Others, like Sky Kid, might not be as well received by modern audiences. They’re still a nice look at how games used to be though, so if you go in with that mindset even the bad ones won’t bug you too much.
There’s also the problem that many of these games feel very similar to each other. Two are direct sequels to others in the collection, which might give you a good look at how the series progressed, but also means many games just repeat a lot of what others already do. The first Galaga, for example, is a classic, but its sequel doesn’t really offer much worth checking out. Players should probably expect to enjoy 3-4 of these games a lot, with the rest being interesting distractions.
And that’s Namco Museum’s biggest flaw, that it is still just a collection of older games. It doesn’t remake these titles, it just takes them and gives them to you, with the aforementioned additions. If you need a new way to play Pac-Man, Galaga, and the others in this set, then Namco Museum will be worthwhile. The audience that fits this description is probably pretty small though, especially given the game’s somewhat high price tag. Being on the Switch does let you take these games on the go, so that might make the value assessment come out better in the games favor.
Namco Museum on Nintendo Switch gives you a decent set of classic arcade titles. Pac-Man, Galaga, Rolling Thunder, Splatterhouse. Many of these games are worth playing today, and their nostalgic fans will certainly enjoy being able to take them wherever they want to go. This is still just a set of older games though, so you might already have them available in some way. Thankfully there is Pac-Man Vs. to add some extra asynchronous multiplayer flavor. If you’re dying to play some retro games then this fits the bill, but everyone else can wait for the Virtual Console to hit someday.
- Available On: Switch
- Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Developed By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Genre: Arcade
- US Release Date: July 28th, 2017
- Reviewed On: Switch
- Quote: "Namco Museum offers players eleven arcade greats in a nice new package on Switch. Getting to take these games on-the-go is a nice treat, but they're still the same old games that have been re-released quite often. Pac-Man Vs. does give you a cool addition though, and it's much easier to play this time around."