Namco Museum

Namco Museum Review

Arcade fun at home and on the go

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a Switch on

ESRB Teen rating

There's nothing quite like booting up a fresh arcade compilation to play the goodies packed inside. This latest installment of Namco Museum is bursting with both classics and delightful surprises so get a roll of quarters and let's play!

Namco Museum screenshot 1
Pac-Man Vs. makes chasing your friends around a fun time

The classics

Of course, an arcade compilation wouldn't be appealing if it didn't include some classic games. Here, you'll find both Pac-Man and Galaga (which are also featured in Namco Museum Vol. 1) as well as Dig Dug and The Tower of Druaga (also found in Namco Museum Vol. 3). It may be over 35 years old but Pac-Man is as addictive as ever. The simplistic dot-gobbling and ghost-chasing gameplay is a perfect combination for gamers of all backgrounds. Galaga is equally addictive with its hordes of aliens sweeping in from the sides then seeking their revenge. Shooting them down then intentionally letting one absorb you so you can sacrifice a life for a power-up is so much fun. Dig Dug tasks you with literally blowing up underground creatures and it blends combat and carefully tunnelling through stages wonderfully. Last but unfortunately least, The Tower of Druaga paved the way for the action RPG genre but it's a rather rudimentary and ultimately frustrating experience.

List of games included in Namco Museum (Switch)

  • Pac-Man (1980)
  • Galaga (1981)
  • Dig Dug (1982)
  • Tower of Druaga (1984)
  • Sky Kid (1985)
  • Rolling Thunder (1986)
  • Galaga '88 (1987)
  • Splatterhouse (1988)
  • Tank Force (1991)
  • Rolling Thunder 2 (1990)
  • Pac-Man Vs. (2003)

The gems

Next up, we have a few gems that you might not have played before as they have been featured in only a couple of previous Namco Museum collections. Sky Kid is a basic shoot 'em up that you can enjoy simultaneously with a friend. It's not as immediately gratifying as Konami's Gradius but there's something satisfying about dropping a perfectly-timed bomb on your target. Rolling Thunder is a slow-paced side-scrolling action game where you play as a secret agent named Albatross who's on a mission to rescue his fellow agent Leila. You must shoot encroaching enemies before they have a chance to do the same to you. It's simple stuff but enjoyable. Galaga '88 is the fourth title in the Galaxian series and features great-looking visuals and new enemy types that can be rather unpredictable. If you enjoy the original Galaga then you'll love Galaga '88. I wish Galaga Arrangement was included, too, but I digress.

Namco Museum screenshot 2Namco Museum screenshot 3
Galaga '88 (right) is a more than decent change from the original (left)

The newcomers

Believe it or not, this iteration of Namco Museum includes a few games that have never been ported to any other Namco Museum compilation. Splatterhouse is a side-scrolling beat 'em up where you fight off hordes of dastardly creatures with found weapons. It's reminiscent of Sega's Altered Beast although much more grotesque and violent. If that sounds like your sort of thing then it might be worth tracking down a copy of the 2010 reimagining of Splatterhouse as it contains the three original games as unlockables. Anyway, Tank Force is a little-known Japanese-exclusive arcade gem that I find incredibly endearing. The stages are set up as if they're Pac-Man mazes where you drive around and shoot oncoming tanks so they don't destroy your base. I highly recommend playing with a friend. Speaking of simultaneous multiplayer, Rolling Thunder 2 allows you to play as Leila who Albatross rescued in the first game. It plays a lot smoother than the original as it has much more intuitive stage layouts as well as clearly superior graphics.

The main event

A lot of gamers have been looking forward to this collection for one reason: Pac-Man Vs. On a personal note, I own the original for GameCube and have a Game Boy Advance as well as a few controllers so I can play it as it was intended (three ghost players against one Pac-Man player). It's such a fantastic game and I still play it from time to time. Heck, I even included it on my Top 10 GameCube Exclusives That Deserve Sequels list. Anyway, the version here is basically the same game although how the heck do you play it on a single screen? The entire point is that the ghost players can't see the whole stage while Pac-Man can. So, your options are to either have a computer-controlled player play as Pac-Man or set up multiple Switch consoles. Obviously, there's no other feasible way to accomplish this but the fact that you need more than one console may be disappointing to some gamers. Thankfully, you can download a free application that allows other players to link to your game without the need to purchase another copy of Namco Museum.

Namco Museum screenshot 4
Fun fact: Splatterhouse is the reason why the ESRB rated this collection T for Teen

The bells and whistles

Of course, Namco Museum collections aren't just compilations of games; they're complete retro experiences so let's take a look at what this iteration has to offer. For starters, the menus are super-sleek and once you jump into a game, you'll be delighted to see the game-specific frame surrounding the gameplay. They all look fantastic and make gameplay feel all the more arcade-like. As you play, you'll also realise that the Switch's nifty HD rumble is fully utilized. Feeling the controller shake as you nearly hit an alien in Galaga is just awesome. You also have the option to rotate the display by 90° so you can enjoy a fuller picture by placing the Switch upright.

Each game features online rankings as well as a challenge mode that has you play a timed version under certain circumstances so you can see how high of a score you can get. Another great feature is that you can suspend your game whenever you wish to take a break and also toggle an option that enables a stage select for each of the stages that you've made it to in a particular game. There are plenty of other in-depth options, too, and detailed instructions for every game. However, there isn't much museum-style content which is kind of disappointing. I would have loved to see scans of original materials, interviews with the developers, and such but none of that sort of content is present. Seeing as this isn't the definitive Namco Museum title, this content would have went a long way.

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Tank Force may be rare but it sure is a blast!

This latest Namco Museum features enough fantastic games to delight both long-time gamers and the retro-curious. After all these years, it's great to see Namco still putting together incredible compilations and digging up a few buried treasures in the process.

  • + Fantastic mix of classics and hard-to-find hidden gems as well as Pac-Man Vs.
  • + An overall beautifully presented package
  • + Loads of cool extra features
  • - Needing two consoles to fully enjoy Pac-Man Vs. may be disappointing to some
  • - It's by no means a definitive collection
  • - Missing museum-style content
8.2 out of 10
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