Review: Namco Museum (Switch)

Are these classics still classic?

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 08/23/2017 14:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Splatterhouse and Pac-Man Vs. have never been more accessible; great use of the Switch hardware; games look great in portable mode
Poison Mushroom for...
Some games don't hold up as well as others; most gamers have probably played these titles ad nauseam

On Christmas 1999, I received Pac-Man for Game Boy Color. My parents had bought me a GBC that Christmas alongside Pok√©mon Yellow, and tossed in Pac-Man as an added bonus. There wasn’t anything all that special about it; it was just a fairly basic version of the arcade original alongside Pac-Attack, and it likely set my parents back $30. Portable games have come a very, very long way since then.

For around the same price, Switch owners are now treated to Namco Museum, an anthology collecting 11 games spanning Bandai Namco’s history. While the collection doesn’t bring all that much new to the table, it does offer a faithful recreation of a handful of games that haven’t been made otherwise available on the Switch, just yet. For the most part, these games are a very welcome addition to the system’s library.

Just about every video game platform has received some variation of Namco Museum. Chances are, most gamers have probably played or owned games like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga in multiple formats. The added bonus now, of course, is the fact that these games can be played at home or on-the-go. Each title is recreated perfectly, and they look absolutely spectacular while played in portable mode.

Since these games have been offered in so many different formats, some gamers may feel entirely justified in skipping this compilation. That said, Bandai Namco made a couple of additions that are as welcome as they are surprising. The original arcade version of Splatterhouse is contained here, and it’s a version that hasn’t seen nearly as many wide releases as the rest of the games in this package. Splatterhouse‘s slasher film-inspired backdrop is a welcome change of pace from the other games collected here, yet its 80s aesthetic still makes it feel like a fitting addition to the roster. As a horror-buff myself, it was also the title I found myself most drawn to.

Perhaps the most impressive addition to the game’s roster is Pac-Man Vs., a game that never actually appeared in arcades. The title originally debuted on the Nintendo GameCube as a showcase for the system’s Game Boy Advance connectivity. Unfortunately, like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, the amount of technology needed just to play the game made the experience both cumbersome and expensive. Not only does this version of Pac-Man Vs. rectify that problem, it also makes the experience about as user-friendly as possible. Bandai Namco offers a digital download of Pac-Man Vs. on the eShop for free, but it can only be played online or in-person with someone that has purchased Namco Museum. It’s a very smart move on Bandai Namco’s part, giving players an easy way to find other people to play with, and perhaps giving players more incentive to buy the game for themselves. I hope more publishers make similar choices in the future.

Not every game in Namco Arcade holds up quite as well as the others, however. Sky Kid and Tower of Druaga in particular feel a lot more dated than the rest. The latter title’s awkward collision detection makes it one of the most frustrating games in the package. There’s a reason these games never received the same level of notoriety as the rest on display here. I personally would have preferred Ms. Pac-Man.

Namco Museum does take advantage of the Switch’s handheld format in a rather interesting way. Players can rotate the screen 90 degrees and place the system vertically to have a screen that more closely emulates arcade cabinets. It’s a neat little extra, but the Switch’s kickstand cannot rotate along with it, so fans will have to prop the system up against something, or stand it up on its side to get the most out of the option. Still, this was probably the most I’ve ever used the Switch in portable mode with Joy-Cons detached. I even showed it off to older friends and family members, as a showpiece for what the hardware can do. Bandai Namco certainly thought outside the box for the addition, and that’s commendable.

Namco Museum is a testament to just how far along handheld games have come since the days of overpriced Game Boy Color ports. With challenge modes, online leaderboards, a unique use of the Switch hardware and the most accessible versions of Splatterhouse and Pac-Man Vs. ever, Namco Museum is a surprisingly strong package. It might not offer enough incentive for fans that have revisited these games ad nauseam, and some offerings holdup a lot better than others, but the compilation offers perhaps the best way for passionate fans to revisit a handful of classics.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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