Namco Museum Review — A Well Executed Blast from the Past

Namco Museum may be a couple of titles short of an amazing collection, but it's hard to argue that the games don't shine on Nintendo Switch.

on August 8, 2017 9:00 AM

While I may have not grown up in the heyday of arcades, I came to appreciate many of the titles from that era. Most of my parents’ experiences with games comes from playing titles such as Pac-Man and Dig Dug in arcades, so when I started getting into video games more heavily, they were sure to introduce me to these arcades classics. It helped me notice and appreciate gaming’s long history, and also made me a pretty passionate Pac-Man fan. Due to my personal connections with some of the game’s contained, Namco Museum on Nintendo Switch piqued my interest upon its announcement.

While the collection would have benefited from the inclusion of a few-more classic Namco titles (such as Pole Position or Pac-Mania), Namco Museum features spot-on emulation of many arcade classics and takes advantage of some of the Switch’s more unique features, making it the definitive way to play all of Namco Museum‘s titles.

Namco Museum contains ten arcade titles from Namco: Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaga ’88, Dig Dug, The Tower of Druaga, Sky Kid, Rolling Thunder, Rolling Thunder 2, Splatterhouse, and Tank Force. This is a solid lineup of titles, and it blends highly known titles such as Pac-Man with lesser known ones such as Sky Kid and The Tower of Druaga well.

One of the titles I ended up spending the most time with in the collection was Tank Force, a fun top-down title where players must defend their home base as a tank from waves of other tanks and vehicles. I had never played the game before getting this collection, so the experience was brand new to me. If you want to get more familiar with some arcade classics, Namco Museum is definitely a great place to do it.

That being said, there are some surprising exclusions, with Pole Position being the most glaring omission. It is clear that Bandai Namco could never please everyone with such a collection, as they have a remarkably dense classic lineup with tons of fan-favorite titles; but at only ten arcade games and eleven in total, Namco Museum would’ve benefited from having a few more games to beef up its lineup, especially with its $30 asking price. Personally, I would love to see more other games such as Pole Position, Xevious, and Pac-Mania added to the game through updates in future if possible.

Namco Museum Review -- A Well Executed Blast from the Past

The emulation of these arcade titles is also very good, for the most part. While I did sometimes run into a tiny bit of lag when switching between games mid-action, the games themselves normally run flawlessly. Great emulation is key in collections such as this, and Namco Museum hits it right on the head, providing players with a gameplay experience that seems almost identical to what was present in arcades.

That being said, the game does have a wide variety of options for titles so players can customize their experience to their liking; for example, it is possible to turn off the level 256 glitch (which a whole game has been based around) in Pac-Man, add scanlines, and adjust the size or position of the game screen.

Each game also features its own background, which are very well designed pieces of art. There are also a variety of hints and guides for many of the games included, which helped me familiarize myself with titles such as Sky Kid, and will surely benefit many new players. This feature is the most useful in The Tower of Druaga, as it helps advise one on how to find secrets and complete all of the tower’s maze-like floors.

Another thing players can do to make the experience more authentic, while also taking advantage of the Switch’s screen, is turn the screen vertically to emulate playing in an arcade cabinet. While the effect is minimal for side-scrollers such as Rolling Thunder and Splatterhouse, it definitely helps in others such as Galaga. Further, it is one of the most unique uses of the Switch’s screen that I have seen so far, and proves that there is a ton of hidden potential left in Nintendo’s new system.

Namco Museum Review -- A Well Executed Blast from the Past

While the great emulation makes this a good jumping-on point for people who may have not played these arcade classics, Challenge Mode gives arcade veterans a reason to return. Each game has a Challenge that tasks players with competing certain objective within a time limit to achieve a high score; for example, Pac-Man’s tasks players with eating as many ghosts as possible. While the included games on their own are a huge time-sink, these challenges do give the game some more depth a replayability, even after you have played all of the titles multiple times.

After beating these challenges, you are given a score and ranked on a leaderboard, so you can see how you fare against players from around the world. All of the base games also feature leaderboards, which should evoke that feeling of checking the high scores for a popular game in arcades.

Overall, every arcade title included in Namco Museum runs well, plays well, and is a ton of fun, from the side-scrolling shooting action of Rolling Thunder and its sequel, to the simple yet addictive space battles of Galaga ’88. While a couple more arcade titles would have been nice, the titles present are very enjoyable.

Namco Museum Review -- A Well Executed Blast from the Past

In addition to these arcade titles, Bandai Namco also threw in a special eleventh game: Pac-Man Vs. Unlike the other games in this collection, Pac-Man Vs. originally released on the GameCube back in 2003, and was designed with the help of Shigeru Miyamoto. Interestingly, it turns Pac-Man into a multiplayer experience, with three players taking control of the ghosts, while another helms Pac-Man himself. To take full advantage of this game, two Nintendo Switches are required, as one is needed for the ghosts, and the other for Pac-Man.

While this does make the experience very fun with a group of friends or at parties, it’s very limited if you are playing on your own, as you are can only control one of the ghosts. Giving players the option to play Pac-Man in single-player would have been a nice addition. There is no real online play, so if you don’t have a friend nearby who owns a Switch, you are out of luck. While it would have been neat if all of the games in this collection could feature online multiplayer, the titles still manage to be entertaining in single player or local co-op without its inclusion.

Namco Museum Review -- A Well Executed Blast from the Past

Namco Museum also would have benefited from some sort of gallery (or for lack of a better word “museum” mode) where players could’ve learned more about the individual games’ development. Its omission doesn’t hamper the experience much, as the How To Play option still informs one how each game plays in depth, but it would have made the “Museum” in the game’s title a bit more fitting, and helped justify the steeper price.

While the game just makes its $30 price tag, I would still definitely recommend it if you are a fan of retro arcade games. All of the titles included here are well-made and, while I would have liked to have seen titles like Pole Position and Xevious thrown into the mix, I still got a ton of playtime out of the Namco classics present.

Namco Museum was able to preserve games that I remember fondly, and introduced me to some enjoyable new experiences that I can’t wait to get back to. It could have had a bit more meat on its bones, but this collection ultimately is a great addition to the Nintendo Switch’s ever growing library and a fitting tribute to some of Namco’s greatest hits.

 /  Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at DualShockers, writing a variety of reviews and shedding light on upcoming games for both PC and consoles. While he has been a gamer most of his life, he began writing for DualShockers last year, and has almost never put his computer or a controller down since.