August 06, 2017

Namco Museum - Review

With the video game industry approaching 40 years old, there are a lot of companies that have been around for the amount of time and Bandai Namco are just one of many to release a collection of some of their classic titles. Now that the Namco Museum has landed on Switch, it is time to see if the games of the past are worthy of time today.

Off the bat the first thing that you will notice about the Namco Museum on Switch is that it comes packed with an extra game, above the version released on other platforms, but outside of that extra game, the content is the same. With 11 games in total, there is bound to be something for everyone, the problem is there are far and away games that deserve to be there and some games that do not, and while that list may vary from person to person, the package as a whole is a very well put together. The game, for lack of a better definition, has a solid layout and provides a bevy of options for players to explore, but enough about that, let’s talk about the games.

Pac-Man is the one that most people will likely start with, as a gaming icon, it makes sense to, the game is the original released in 1980 and while it might be old, it still plays very well. Each of the games does play well, but the issues come from some of the games not being worth your time, for example I would recommend either of the Galaga’s in a heartbeat, Rolling Thunder and its sequel can be included in that list, however I would avoid Splatterhouse and The Tower of Druaga and simply boring. The remaining games, Sky Kid, Dig Dug and Tank Force are fun games for a diversion, but never really captured my attention like the others did and while Pac-Man Vs is a fantastic game, it must be played with friends, something I was not able to do with the Switch release.

While the quality level of some of the games has slipped in the years since they were first released, they do all play well here, which is the most important part, as even Nintendo have struggled with releasing older games on newer platforms. Given that the games are packaged in a Museum collection, the lack of extra content is strange, there is no art gallery, sound gallery or anything to discover, which is a shame. However, the game does have different artwork, that you can use to border the games, which is a nice touch. Pausing the game will give you a menu, where you can learn how to play the game, which apart from Pac-Man and Galaga is a good thing, while the games might appear simple, there are layers to each of them.

That pause menu can come in very handy when playing the games, as most of them have no option to pause, but the menu contains a few extra things to pay attention to. First up is the aforementioned artwork, each game offers up a few different pieces of artwork, from the game it’s for, so you can change things up as you go. In addition, the menu also allows you to rotate the image in 90-degree chunks, letting you play games like Galaga in the way they were designed. While not a deal breaker, it is a nice option for those looking for as close to authentic as they can get. Perhaps the best part about the entire collection, is every game, save Pac-Man Vs has a save state, so if you quit out of the game, you can pick up your progress again when you return, games like Tank Force may not require it, but it is a welcome option none the less. The games also come with a challenge mode, which will let you test your skills in challenges, your scores and results can be shared with players around the world, giving you incentive to try and be the best, a cool little addition to be sure.

Where the game falls short is in its presentation and not in the way you might think, the games menu’s are really well designed, each game plays a few seconds of animated cabinet art, prior to taking you to a little demo of the game. Jumping into a game, has them acting like they were in the arcade, same load screens, demo shots and more, the issue lies with the borders around the games themselves and simply put, they are pointless. Yes, I am aware I stated how swapping them around was cool, but they actually serve no purpose, expect to take up screen real estate. Games like Tank Force or Rolling Thunder are played in a traditional 4:3, but they are still shrunk down and placed within a virtual black border, for no reason I can discern. Games like Galaga and Pac-Man are played in a more vertical sense, which results in 2/3rds of the screen being nothing but artwork.

The collection also has done a decent job of letting you tweak the video and audio settings for each game, which can help recreate that old school look, on a newer tv and it is in here, where you can adjust the zoom settings, making the screen bigger, but doing that just forces the image over the artwork, which in turn results in a bizarre and honestly, stupid look. Sound wise, the settings are the basic, level of certain volumes, but the option to tweak the reverb length is a great touch, while it does nothing to the game itself, for me it gave me a cool feeling of being back in an arcade. Overall, the presentation is solid and while I would have loved to have seen an art gallery of the various games, it is still a great effort overall.

The Namco Museum is a fun collection, a few of the games are not worth being placed against some unequivocal classics, but they help break things up. The lack of any sort of bonus art or sound galleries is annoying, compounding by the fact that each game offers up different border artwork. If you have a friend with a Switch, Pac-Man Vs is a game you need to play together, but on your own, there is value to be had with admission to this museum.

Thanks to Bandai Namco Australia for supplying the game for review

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