Long ago, in a time now only remembered as the late 1900s, there existed a company named Namco. Later to be succeeded by Bandai Namco Entertainment, Namco was a key industry pioneer that helped the videogame industry become what it is today. Back in the late 20th Century, however, they weren’t so much making games for consoles – they were making arcade cabinets (many of which were, of course, later ported to consoles, but that’s besides the point).
And they didn’t just make any arcade cabinets – they made some of the greatest arcade titles of the time. Perhaps you’ve heard of a little game called Pac-Man? Alongside this smash hit came a number of other successes you’ve likely heard of – Galaxian, Galaga, Rally-X, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Mappy, Xevious – the list goes on. Many of these games were later gathered into carefully curated bundles and sold as Namco collections across various modern consoles.
Namco Museum Archives, which comes in two volumes, is the most recent such collection, which was released on June 18, 2020 for the Nintendo Switch.
Each Volume consists of 11 titles – why each has exactly 11 is beyond me, but that was the number chosen. While each collection seems to gather a number of titles across a number of genres somewhat randomly, there is a distinct difference between the two – Namco Museum Archives Volume 1 contains older titles, or original titles in a series (such as Pac-Man, Mappy, Xevious and Dig Dug), while Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 primarily consists of later titles in the family (including Pac-Land, Mappy-Land, Dig Dug 2, and Super Xevious). On top of these classics, there are some popular 8-bit RPGs, shooters, and puzzlers thrown in for good measure, and I have to say, each collection is fairly well rounded.
While all of these games were ported to consoles over the years, not all of them were localised, so several titles are new to the Western market, which is always appreciated (this includes the very cool Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti in Volume 1, which is a hell of a lot of fun).
Where the true distinction lies between the two, though, is in the inclusion of Pac-Man Championship Edition in Volume 1. Yes, this is an 8-bit “demastered” version of the recent hit of the same name, and – perhaps unsurprisingly – it’s just as amazing and fun to play as the modern original. In fact, it might even be better suited to the Switch, as it is a blast to be able to pull this out and play anywhere.
Options available to players are minimal – you can change the resolution to view it in the original 4:3 format or stretch it out to fill the 16:9 aspect ratio of the modern Nintendo Switch. This is a welcome addition – it doesn’t look stretched in any way and fits the screen perfectly, but the 4:3 ratio still feels more natural. Beyond this, you can choose from a couple of simple backgrounds and… that’s about it.
Beyond that, though, and beyond the core functionality of the games themselves, are a couple of cool, but very important additions. For one, there’s the obligatory save function. Each game can have up to four game states saved – yes, that’s game states, so you would effectively be loading from a kind of paused state.
On top of this, though, is something new – at least, it’s new to me. A rewind function. At the press of a single button, players can choose to rewind the action by a few seconds, going back to just before they lost their life – or even earlier if they wanted. This is a fantastic addition to those that just want a bit of casual fun but might feel a bit cheap to those that are looking for a challenge.
Two left thumbs
The emulation is nigh-on perfect – at least in as much as the games feel authentic and respond to button presses accurately, which is all I want from these kinds of collections. Do they glitch accurately at the right times as compared to their arcade counterparts? No idea, and if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m not sure this is the right place to look. But it must be said that the joycon controllers don’t really suit twitch-style arcade games, so it can be hit-and-miss at times. Still, that’s a minor nitpick, as it’s really quite well done.
If I’m honest, though, the most disappointing thing about these two games is… that there’s two games. If all of this was in a single collection, it would be a no brainer to recommend to anyone that is a fan of retro arcade games, or is just looking for a bit of classic fun. But split across two collections, it’s not as easy to recommend. The clear winner here is Volume 1, though – the original arcade classics are always the best, and there are several here to dig your teeth into, PLUS Pac-Man Championship Edition and Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti, which was a title I hadn’t heard of before and is now a firm retro favourite.
Namco Museum Archives Volume 1 & 2 were reviewed using a digital copy provided by the publisher.