Namco Museum Review (Nintendo Switch)

The Namco Museum on the Nintendo Switch might be the best place to play classic Namco games, even if some of them haven’t aged particularly well. The 11 games in the collection range from iconic masterpieces like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga, to some lesser known games such as The Tower of Druaga, Rolling Thunder and its sequel Rolling Thunder 2. There are certainly some questionable entries such as the ones listed previously, and some notable classics that would have made a better fit for a portable museum collection such as Pole Position for example.

The games included are, for the most part, enjoyable to play in small bursts; just as they would have been during their reigns in the arcade cabinets of the 80’s. These games were designed to eat quarters and their level of difficulty proves it. Even as a seasoned gamer with fond memories of playing through games like Splatterhouse and Galaga ‘88 as a child, I found myself staring at the game over/”insert coin” screen just as often as I did the game screen itself. Without standing in front of an original arcade cabinet it’s difficult to say if these deaths were solely related to my skill level or if the controls played any part. Both Splatterhouse and Pac-Man experience minor input lag, and in the case of Splatterhouse, a slight floaty-ness to the main character whenever I had to jump over obstacles in my path of destruction.

There are of course games in the set that are certifiably boring and tedious to play. The inclusion of The Tower of Druaga is absurd. Navigating the puzzles in the game would be fine if combat could be avoided; however, this isn’t the case. Instead, trial-and-error and repeat deaths are a certainty as the hit detection is spotty at best. For the better part of 30 minutes I struggled to determine at what point in the attack animation my sword made contact with the enemy slime. Try as I might I simply couldn’t pinpoint what caused success at times, while in others spelled death for my shining Knight.

There is one game that does stand out from the rest and that’s Pac-Man Vs. Originally released on the Nintendo Gamecube, Pac-Man Vs. is a multiplayer Pac-Man game in which up to 3 players can control one of the ghosts, while a 4th controls Pac-Man himself. The original game required the use of a Gameboy Advance and a special cable to connect the handheld to the Gamecube. With the advancement of technology this can now be accomplished on a single system; although in order to have the full experience, a 2nd Switch is required. In single screen mode, up to 3 players can compete as ghosts to see who can kill Pac-Mac the most before time runs out. With a 2nd Switch, 1 player controls Pac-Mac on his/her own screen, while the other 2-3 control the ghosts on the 2nd. This is truly the star of the Namco Museum and it’s a lot of fun with a group. The only complaint I have is the requirement of a 2nd system.

As far as game collections go the Namco Museum doesn’t offer much in the way of extras such as art galleries, or even “did you know” facts about the games included ala the Mega Man Collection. It could be argued that these games pre-date that sort of nostalgia-kick to make additions like that worth the time or effort to include, but at $30 for 11 games that could otherwise fit on a small USB stick, it would have made the price a little easier to stomach. There is an included challenge mode, which tasks players with unique goals to accomplish in a given time; such as Pac-Man’s challenge to eat as many ghosts as possible in the allotted 3-minutes. These challenges, along with the base games each come with their own unique leaderboard which make comparing your successes or failures with friends easy to do.

The Switch version of this game does come with a unique ability not present on other consoles; the ability to rotate the screen 90° to mimic the verticality of the arcade cabinets. This is a welcome addition for games like Galaga and Dig Dug which benefit from the added screen real estate. My only complaint is the fact that the built in kickstand on the Switch yields little help so rotating the screen 90° will require some other form of support. I played in bed with the Switch leaned up against a pillow and it worked as well as I’d hoped it would. Your mileage may vary while in portrait mode.

Overall the Namco Museum for the Nintendo Switch is a fun trip down nostalgia lane even if the road has some notable potholes in it. There are some missteps with the list of games but the good ones stand out and offer a good bit of fun. The leaderboards give players a reason to come back and try to best their friends in challenge mode and the portability of the Switch makes this easy to break out at parties or while on a lunch break at work. The $30 price tag might turn some off especially when the quality of the games varies so largely, but if you have the money to burn and want to show your children just how far games have come, the Namco Museum isn’t a bad place to start.