Well, how about that? Namco Museum is back! This compilation series has been running since the Playstation era. While it did seem to die off at the beginning of this decade, this Switch release is here to let gamers know that the series is not going anywhere yet. That said, this is a rather average entry. What’s underwhelming is that the quantity of titles featured this time around is smaller than that of the Namco Museums released during the previous console generations.
Of these, it only slightly surpasses Namco Museum DS‘s lineup. Come on, Namco. The Nintendo Switch is way more powerful than the Wii and Gamecube. Surely, you can fit plenty more games from your ginormous archive into this thing! Even some of the recurring games aren’t present (such as Ms. Pac-Man and Mappy). What gives?
The arcade games are as clean and pixel-y as they could get. Nothing’s more timeless in gaming history than seeing the iconic Pac-Man maze on-screen. If that doesn’t entice you, it’s likely the sight of the Galaga boss coming down to capture one of your ships. The borders make it feel like it’s emulating the sides of an arcade cabinet, albeit they can make the screens feel small when playing in portable mode. At least there’s an option for a vertical view in that case.
And then there’s that special eleventh game that showed up out of nowhere: Pac-Man Vs. This version of the Gamecube classic is a carbon-copy right down to the 2003 copyright date. The visuals are cleaner than they were in the original (which is a given considering neither the Gamecube nor the Wii were in HD), but they are still exactly as anyone would remember it.
“PAC-MAAAAN VERSUUSSS!!!!” goes Charles Martinet’s signature Mario voice as players reunite with the classic title theme for that game. There’s something nostalgic and heartwarming about his deliveries when the title is in action. Speaking of nostalgic, you can bet that Namco Museum‘s catalog of arcade classics is bound to tickle those retro senses with each game’s sound effects and jingles.
If the visuals aren’t iconic, the sounds certainly are. From the sounds of Dig Dug‘s walk cycle to SkyKid‘s background music, there is plenty of ear-catching goodness to be had for retro fans out there.
I think it goes without saying classic arcade games are fun. However, I’m going to vent for a bit and say that Namco Museum should’ve provided a lot more. Pac-Man is good and all, but I think it would be much more interesting if the content-crammed mobile version got to be featured in this thing. The lack of Ms. Pac-Man, Mappy, Pole Position, Galaxian, and other games that stuck around in the series for a long time is concerning. Given Namco’s extremely huge archive of old games, they should have been adding more rather than subtracting. As special as Pac-Man Vs. is, I don’t know why Namco didn’t utilize more titles from the late 90s’ or early 2000s. They clearly have a lot of those that fans want to see return, such as the very title Pac-Man Vs. was initially bundled with.
The missed opportunities continue with Pac-Man Vs. itself. Now, don’t get me wrong. I could argue that this is actually the best version of the game since it’s literally the Gamecube version touched up, made portable, and with a cute single-player mode that’s alright for a distraction. My issue here is that there is no online play with this obviously multiplayer-centric title, despite the arcade games having online leaderboards. That is such an obnoxious tease! Challenges for each arcade game add to the replay value to some degree, but unlike Rare Replay and Mega Man Legacy Collection, there’s only one challenge per game and it’s usually some time limit premise. So what you can already be doing in the unaltered arcade game can now be done under a time limit! Yay…?
I think I’ve said more than enough about Namco Museum‘s unwillingness to capitalize on its potential. Fortunately, there are still some inclusions that benefit the package. Galaga ’88 and SkyKid are playable on a handheld entry in the series for the first time, and Splatterhouse, Rolling Thunder 2, and Tank Force mark their debut here. In fact, Tank Force was never released internationally at all prior to this release. All of these games are faithfully brought to the Switch with arcade-perfect emulation, and players can use a few different control options with the Switch controllers to play all of them.
In spite of its need of content, I still like Namco Museum. The games that are on here are as fun and challenging as they ever could be, and Pac-Man Vs. is fantastic fun in its own right with friends and family. There is also a sense of convenience when getting to play these on the go since they are great for bite-sized play sessions. It’s hard to not compare this to other Namco Museum releases from the past, however, and think “Hm, maybe there could have been more to offer by now”. It’s certainly not as bad with this as Ultra Street Fighter II, but the situation is similar enough to be cautious about. Maybe Namco could create free updates containing more games, or they could release another Namco Museum with a much bigger library. Who knows?