Namco Museum brings a new collection of arcade classics to Nintendo Switch, but is it worth the high price of entry?
Although Nintendo has yet to exploit the potential of their extensive back catalogue on Switch, other publishers have wasted little time in bringing their own libraries to the console. Most notable is Hamster Corporation’s excellent work in porting over an increasingly large range of NeoGeo titles. In addition, there’s Lizardcube’s wonderful remake of Wonder Boy The Dragon’s Trap’s. And now Bandai Namco have pitched up with a new edition of Namco Museum, a compilation of 11 games that, in a variety of forms, has previously been released on everything from the original PlayStation to the Nintendo DS.
There are a couple of ways of reviewing a compilation like this. On one hand there are the games themselves; your mileage may vary depending on whether you have a nostalgic affection for them, you’re a retro gaming enthusiast, or you’re just looking to fill up your Nintendo Switch with as many new releases as possible.
On the other hand, there’s question of how well the games are emulated, and whether any effort has been made to present them authentically, and with historical context. This is a museum, after all.
So… let’s start with that.
The good news is that Bandai Namco Studios has done another sterling job in making each game look and sound beautiful as possible. There a number of configurable options that allow you to zoom in, zoom out, add scanlines, and change the aspect ratio. In the sound settings you can even add reverb length and depth to recreate the echoey, cavernous sound of a video game arcade. In addition, the game support online leaderboards and a range or newly added challenge modes.
There’s also the option to flip the screen display 90 degrees, so that – with the Switch undocked and stood on its side – you can play the likes of Pac-Man and Galaga in a format similar to their original releases. Each title also supports – depending on the game – either simultaneous or alternating multiplayer. With the Switch having two Joy-Con controllers as standard, this, in-effect, turns Nintendo’s console into a mini arcade cabinet.
The biggest misstep Bandai Namco has made with this collection is putting the word ‘Museum’ in its title. There’s nothing here to provide a history of these games, or tell the story of their development. Each title has a small choice of, admittedly lovely, background images that have been cribbed from the original arcade cabinets, but that’s about it.
Digital Eclipse’s amazing work on the Mega Man Legacy Collection – which featured historical notes, high-res art, and original concept drawings – shows how it can be done, so it’s a real shame to not have something similar here. Some content of this nature might also have gone some way in soothing the pain of the game’s relatively high £29.99/$29.99 price point.
But what of the games themselves? Well, here’s the other problem. There are relatively few outright classics here, so unless you are genuinely nostalgic for the rudimentary thrills of, say, Rolling Thunder, it’s doubtful that you’ll find much enjoyment in about half of the included titles.
Namco Museum – Nintendo Switch
- Pac-Man (1980)
- Galaga (1981)
- Dig Dug (1982)
- The Tower Of Druaga (1984)
- Sky Kid (1985)
- Rolling Thunder (1986)
- Galaga ’88 (1987)
- Splatterhouse (1988)
- Rolling Thunder 2 (1990)
- Tank Force (1991)
- Pac-Man Vs. (2003).
It’s the maze games and shoot ‘em ups that fare best. Pac-Man refuses to age one jot, and the welcome inclusion of the oft-ridiculed, but truly enjoyable GameCube curio Pac-Man Vs, is actually the collection’s highlight.
Dig Dug also retains the ability to charm and excite. Its groundbreaking mechanics were literally ground breaking, and way ahead of their time. The Tower Of Druaga, meanwhile, is fun in concept, but becomes brutally difficult all too quickly. Fortunately, Namco Museum dispenses an unlimited supply of virtual quarters that can be used at will, a much appreciated gesture for this ageing gamer.
As far of shmups go, Galaga ’88 has the edge over its older brother, and Sky Kid is an enjoyable diversion if played in short bursts. The omission of Xevious and Super Xevious, two games that have been included in other editions of Namco Museum – and are far superior shooters – is keenly felt.
Namco Museum for Switch does debut one new title, 1988’s side-scrolling slasher, Splatterhouse. Unfortunately, as with Rolling Thunder and Rolling Thunder 2, it’s a bit of a slog, with one hit kills and a tediously slow pace testing my patience and sapping my enjoyment.
It’s no crime if a game from the late ‘80s doesn’t hold up to modern-day standards – and it’s perhaps unfair to judge them on that basis – but without any contextualising within Namco Museum‘s package, there’s very little sense of why theses games are historically important, or why they are worth revisiting 30 years after their original release.
If you played these games first time round, Namco Museum will be an enjoyable walk down memory lane. Each title is extremely well presented, infinitely configurable, and a reminder of a time when games were simple to play, hard as nails to complete, and cost your parents a small fortune in loose change. But if you are new to these Namco classics, be warned: many don’t hold up, and the lack of supporting content is a big disappointment.