I’ve come to love a good retro collection of games over the years. I didn’t really get into gaming until the mid to late 90s, and so there’s a wealth of classics that I missed out on and collections of these games is a great way for me to catch up on them. I’ve had plenty of fun with collections like Mega Man Legacy Collection, SEGA MegaDrive Ultimate Collection and Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. Each has offered a great look at classic games, along with some cool trappings and features that make the experience that much better. The latest classic collections that myself and Adam Ghiggino have played are Namco Museum Archives Volume 1 & 2, a collection of classic Namco NES games from the 80s. While we had high hopes, what we found were two barebones collections of largely poor-playing games that left us underwhelmed. Read on for our joint Namco Museum Archives review.
Andrew’s Namco Museum Archives Volume 1 Review
Namco Museum Archives Volume 1 features 11 classic Namco NES games, some of which are being released for the first time in the West in this collection. You’ve got Galaxian, Xevious, Mapp, Dragon Buster, Pac-Man, Dig-Duh, The Tower of Druaga, Sky Kid, Dragon Spirit: The New Legend, Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti and a new de-make of Pac-Man Championship Edition.
From a numbers perspective, it’s an impressive package given the $30 price tag, but beyond the number of games, it’s far from impressive. Maybe I’ve just become utterly spoiled by the other myriad classic game collections that have released over the last few years, but I’ve come to expect some form of unique selling point with them. That could be some cool historical content like magazine clippings or concept art from the time or even a way to listen to some of the game’s music from the menu. This collection has none of that. I can’t remember the last time I saw a collection like this that was so barebone. Beyond a couple of frames and different screen zooms, as well as implementing save states and a rewind feature, there’s nothing. No filters, no cool extra content, nothing that could help make this collection something more than a collection of poorly controlling and unresponsive NES conversions of Arcade games.
NES games controlling poorly compared to their Arcade counterparts isn’t a new thing. The console was woefully underpowered compared to its arcade brethren, and games that made the jump tend to be highly unresponsive and run extremely poorly. There’s a reason so many collections out there tend to use the arcade versions of their games as opposed to console ports, as they were always the definitive editions. This continued to how many of the games looked as well, with poorer graphics that haven’t stood the test of time.
This isn’t to say that all of the games play or handle poorly, as some of the later games in Volume 1 feel pretty good to play. Dragon Spirit: The New Legend and Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti in particular felt fluid and responsive when I played them, and I had some good fun jumping in and giving them a red hot go. Others though, like Pac-Man and Dig-Dug felt atrocious to play, with the controls so unresponsive that I would have abandoned playing them if not for the fact that I had to for this review. The best part of the collection by far is Pac-Man Championship Edition, with the game’s much more modern development being immediately apparent. The game is fast and frantic, with controls that respond perfectly and precisely, with a visual flair that is above and beyond anything else in the package.
Overall, beyond Dragon Spirit, Splatterhouse and Pac-Man Championship Edition, there really isn’t anything in this package that I want to play again and certainly wouldn’t recommend playing unless you’re an absolutely die-hard. Without any unique selling points or cool trappings and additional content, I can’t recommend buying this collection.
Adam’s Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 Review
Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 features 11 games, much the same as Volume 1, including Battle City, Pac-Land, Dig Dug II, Super Xevious, Galaga, Rolling Thunder, Mappy-Land, Legacy of the Wizard, Dragon Buster II, Mendel Palace and a new 8-bit converted version of the arcade game, Gaplus.
Like Volume 1, all of Volume 2’s offerings are inferior 8-bit NES conversions of arcade classics, with poorer controls, sound, visuals, etc. Their only real benefit comes from nostalgia, if you had a special attachment to these versions growing up, as they are reproduced faithfully. However, when there are the far superior arcade ports in 2017’s Namco Museum also on Switch (with better versions of Galaga and Rolling Thunder as well as several titles from Volume 1), it really makes the target audience for the Namco Museum Archives fairly niche.
Going through the highlights in the collection, Battle City is a Tank Force-like game where you drive tanks around a limited playfield from an overhead perspective, that actually has some nifty animation for the time in its explosion effects. Pac-Land was Namco’s attempt to translate the Pac Man cartoon series into an game, and is a very basic side-scrolling platformer that would eventually inspire Shigeru Miyamoto to define the genre in Super Mario Bros. Unfortunately in 8-bit form, it doesn’t quite share the cartoony magic the arcade release had.
Dig Dug II is a decent follow-up to the original, moving the action above ground, adding mazes and the ability to collapse entire sections of the map with the player’s drill. Galaga is on here and is indestructible, a fine game no matter how you play it. Gaplus’ 8-bit conversion is cute, and the gameplay still expands upon the original Galaga with the addition of a tractor beam.
Rolling Thunder is still quite a bit of fun in 8-bit form, a side-scrolling shooter with long-legged characters and hair-trigger reflexes. Mendel Palace is also pretty interesting, as a kind of addictive action/puzzle game where you flip tiles to push your foes back. It’s also the first game from Game Freak, who would go on to create one of the biggest franchises of all time in Pokemon.
Overall, beyond Galaga there isn’t really a great range of huge well-known titles in this collection, unless you’re interested in some curiosities from the past – and even then, the arcade versions would have been better inclusions.
Namco Museum Archives Volume 1 & 2 were reviewed on regular Nintendo Switch consoles, with review copies provided by Bandai Namco. More details can be found at the game’s official website.
- First time some of these games have been released in the West - Pac-Man Championship Edition is great
- Games play poorly and feel unresponsive - Collections are extremely barebones - Many of the games haven't aged well visually