In lieu of a proper Virtual Console on the Nintendo Switch, we’ve seen various gaming companies taking matters into their own hands. In Japan, Square Enix has released the Seiken Densetsu Collection, which includes classics like Final Fantasy Adventure (Game Boy) and Secret of Mana (Super NES). Then there’s Hamster who has been busy putting out classic NEO GEO games on the eShop. Namco is now joining the fray by releasing a classic arcade game compilation: Namco Museum. The name won’t sound strange to longtime gamers, since a version of Namco Museum has manifested onto various platforms over the last 20 years, but this one has a different lineup of games and features.
Namco Museum won’t be for everyone, let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat. It’s targeting older gamers who have nostalgia for ‘80s arcade classics. This collection on the Nintendo Switch contains these arcade faithful titles: Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga, Galaga ’88, The Tower of Druaga, Rolling Thunder, Rolling Thunder 2, Sky Kid, Splatterhouse, and Tank Force. In addition, the GameCube game Pac-Man VS. is also included, but requires two Nintendo Switch consoles to play (more on that in a moment). The game costs $29.99 on the Nintendo eShop – not bad for eleven games, especially if you’re a huge fan of one or more. However, if none of these games really tickle your fancy, then this package won’t be for you.
Each of the arcade games has extra options for you to tweak. Of course you can add as many credits as you like so you can keep continuing in many of the titles, but there’s more to customize to your liking. Several of the games allow you to rotate the screen 90 degrees, which means you can actually set your Nintendo Switch up vertically. This better matches the actual screens used on certain arcade machines, like Pac-Man, and allows for a better view. You’ll be able to choose various borders to put around the games when playing handheld or on TV as well. Perhaps one of the more disappointing things with this collection is that most of the games don’t take advantage of the entire Nintendo Switch screen. They are bordered off into a smaller screen, wasting much of the system’s precious screen real estate. I understand that the developers wanted to maintain the aspect ratio, but we’ve seen other arcade ports at least use all of the vertical space of the screen and just put black borders on the left and right. Luckily you can go into most of the games’ options and manually zoom the picture to make it larger, but it’s an unnecessary step that some might not ever discover if they don’t mess around with the options menus.
Although each person will have his or her favorite Namco games that they’d want included in a collection, I have to say that personally I found the selection be rather lacking. Why put Pac-Man on the collection and not Ms. Pac-Man, an indisputably better game? Why are there two versions of Rolling Thunder and Galaga, when perhaps different games could have been substituted in to give the collection more variety? How come we seemingly never get later Namco arcade releases, like Ridge Racer or Soul Calibur? Sure, we’ve had console ports over the years, but the actual arcade versions would be a welcome change.
Arguably one of the coolest additions to Namco Museum is Pac-Man VS., a GameCube game that never really seemed to get the attention it might have deserved. This game has one player playing as Pac-Man, and three others controlling the ghosts. Each side tries to eat the other, and it can be a really fun time if you have a full group of four players. The player controlling Pac-Man sees the entire maze, just like normal, but the ghosts have a much more limited view. Those players will need to work together and call out when they see Pac-Man to try and take him down as a team. Because of the asynchronous gameplay, two separate Nintendo Switch systems are needed to play the game – perhaps a tall order for many out there. Luckily only one copy of the game is needed. The other system just needs to download an app from the eShop to play along.
As a kid who grew up in the 1980s, I played a vast majority of the games included on this collection in the arcade. I have fond memories of Dig Dug and Pac-Man, but even as someone who grew up alongside them, they don’t really hold up. That’s not to say I didn’t get some entertainment out of them, but usually after about ten minutes I’d had my fill. There are online leaderboards for the games, so you can see how you stack up against some others – although a filter to only show your friends seems to be a glaring oversight.
In the end, Namco Museum is a collection of games that can be fun and entertaining if it finds the right audience. It’s probably worth a purchase if you find at least three of the titles entertaining enough to come back to over and over again. For me, even with friends over giving it a shot, it just never quite stuck the landing. I did enjoy my time with Rolling Thunder 2, Sky Kid, and Pac-Man, but the excitement was fleeting and my interest waned. If you’re looking for a quick way to kill time in handheld mode or nostalgic for the games included in the compilation, then this could be a potential purchase. Everyone else will want to skip it altogether.