I’ve Got Pac-Man (And Galaga, And Mappy, And Splatterhouse) Fever!
HIGH A “demastered” version of Pac-Man: CE is included.
LOW A lack of personality.
WTF Seriously, Pac-Man: CE rules as an 8-bit game.
Like death and taxes, Namco Museum releases are inevitable. Unlike the former, however, I welcome these wonderful compilations with open arms and wallet. This time, Namco has returned with a gathering entitled Namco Museum Archives. This collection (in total) features 22 classic titles comprising the company’s mainstay franchises and a few surprises.
What makes this release interesting is that it’s actually a localization of the Japanese-only Namcot Collection that featured Nintendo Entertainment System versions instead of actual arcade code, so we’re getting some cool pieces of gaming history with a slightly different slant than we normally do.
Before I talk about the games themselves, I have to say that the usual supporting content found in collections is MIA. There aren’t any cool ‘museum’ aspects or any archival bonus features, behind-the-scenes photos or trivia. Namco is one of the premier arcade devs/publishers with a storied history, so it’s incredibly disappointing to see such a lack of extras for fans or history buffs.
The general presentation is also lacking. There’s no charm in the bland menus, and it would have been nice to see the personality of each game somehow shine through in the layout. As it stands, players will have to be content with drab gray, blue and black backgrounds.
On the other hand, there are some nifty modern conveniences like save states and a heavenly ‘rewind’ feature to make these often-brutal games easier.
Now, about the games themselves — what struck me first with this collection was how radically different some of the entries feel compared to their arcade counterparts. The visuals don’t look as smooth as they did in the arcade, and controlling them is a bit harder.
Pac-Man is a perfect (and famous) example of a home console conversion that doesn’t feel right. The blocky, 8-bit graphics look especially dated, the controls feel stiff. and the entire thing feels like a slowed-down, uglier version of something I’m intimately familiar with. This seemed (at first) to be a huge red flag, but thankfully, the other titles are pretty solid. I don’t have the wordcount to go through all 22, but here are some highlights:
Pac-Man Championship Edition Back in 2007, Namco released an HD remake of Pac-Man that featured new mazes and gameplay variations. This is an 8-bit demake that plays similarly. This ‘remix’ of the original Pac-Man has eaten up more of my time than anything else in this collection, and I’m still trying to beat my top score even after writing this.
Galaga Debatably the greatest arcade shooter ever, it might not be as flashy as some, but its beauty lies in its simplicity. After years of playing this game in other compilations, this specific version feels the best.
Dragon Spirit: The New Legend This vertical shooter is a remixed version of Dragon Spirit. Essentially, players control a dragon that fires at enemies and gains different power-ups. This was a pleasant surprise since I didn’t know much about it beforehand, and it left me feeling that we need more games where we control dragons.
Overall, the Namco Museum Archives collection offers a bunch of great games in versions that some players might not have seen before, but the whole package is missing some personality. Sure, that doesn’t detract from the titles themselves, but it’s shame to see these historical artifacts treated in such a slapdash way.
Disclosures: This game is published by Bandai Namco and this collection was developed by B.B. Studio. It is available on PS4, XBOX, Nintendo Switch and PC. This copy was obtained via publisher for review and was reviewed on PS4. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player. There are multiplayer options for some titles, but none were played for this review.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ for Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, and Use of Tobacco. The official description reads as follows: This is a collection of 11 classic Namco titles across several genres (e.g., space shooters, side-scrolling platformers, 8-bit arcade games). Some games allow players to fight their way through monster-themed levels using an axe, sword, or shotgun. Several games involve piloting a spaceship through 2D environments while shooting vehicles or fantasy creatures (e.g., dragons). In one background scene, a character’s chest pulses before spider-like creatures burst out. One sequence depicts a character emitting flatulence. Another cutscene depicts cigarette smoking. The word “hell” appears in the collection.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: The games are perfectly accessible, as there are no audio cues necessary for play and everything essential is displayed on screen. Just be aware that text sizes and colors cannot be adjusted. See a sample size of the menu text below.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable and vary from game to game. A basic example of the simple arcade-style controls is below:
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