These Namco compilations keep getting better. However, does the third installment maintain this trend? Seeing as it fills in some missing gaps from Namco's library, let's have a look at what's in this chest full of retro goodness.
Now that we've played Galaga and Gaplus, here's their long overdue prequel. Although it's interesting to explore the origins of the Galaga series, Galaxian may be a little too archaic to thoroughly enjoy after playing its sequels. Probably the most annoying part about it is that you can only shoot one blast at a time. Making sure that every shot counts can get tricky and ultimately makes the gameplay feel unsatisfying. Also, the lack of later introduced complexities such as bonus rounds adds to the monotony. All of that being said, Galaxian was incredibly innovative for its time as it was the first game to have enemies with personalities, multi-coloured sprites, a scrolling background, and icons for remaining lives and completed rounds. Its legacy would continue as the Galaxian flagship can be seen in many games all the way from Pac-Man to Tekken to Super Smash Bros.
Ms. Pac-Man (1982)
It may surprise you, but Ms. Pac-Man was actually not made by Namco. Because of this fact, you may expect it to be an inferior sequel, but it isn't. As it happens, it improves on the original Pac-Man in many ways. To be specific, Ms. Pac-Man contains four maze designs, ghosts that move more randomly (this makes memorization of patterns far less effective), and fruits that bounce around the maze. Besides these enhancements, it plays exactly the same as the original which ends up making it feel like a fully featured yet not too complicated sequel thus creating one satisfying retro arcade experience.
Pole Position II (1983)
Although the original Pole Position was the inspiration for future 3D racing games, its follow-up doesn't do the best job of differentiating itself from it. The only significant improvements are the variety of four selectable tracks (instead of one in the first game) and slightly better graphics. You're still just turning left and right on flat boring tracks which simply isn't that much fun anymore.
Dig Dug (1982)
Enough with the sequels and prequels, here's Dig Dug! It's thought of as one of the best arcade games ever created and for good reason. Tunnelling beneath the earth, our hero is so awesome that a song plays whenever he takes a step. What makes it such a fantastic game is that it's complex enough to keep things interesting yet not so complex that it detracts from the gameplay. You can take out your enemies (that consist of the easily recognizable Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars) by pumping them up with your trusty air hose or dropping rocks on them with some lucky timing. In order to emerge triumphant, you'll have to use strategies such as passing through inflated enemies, snatching enemies that try to move through the dirt and escape, and making an effort to dispatch your foes deeper in the stage to receive more points. After all is said and done, it's a prime example of fine-tuned arcade perfection.
Phozon is one of those hidden treasures that's quite fun to discover and play. You control a nucleus of sorts while trying to collect molecules that stick to your outer surface and each other. The point of each round is to create the shape that's in the center of the screen while avoiding a constantly moving and rotating amalgamation of balls. If you accidentally stick a molecule to the wrong spot, you can shoot it off by the tap of a button. It's very simple to play but gets quite challenging which makes it a worthwhile inclusion.
The Tower of Druaga (1984)
Finally, we have The Tower of Druaga which helped build the framework for the action RPG genre. Our painfully slow-moving hero Gilgamesh must navigate through many maze-like floors in order to rescue a maiden from the demon Druaga's tower. The most frustrating aspects come in the form of a rapidly depleting time limit and an overly complicated set of rules. You usually die by running into an enemy without having your sword drawn but you can also perish by breaking a wall on a particular floor or encountering a specific enemy without wearing a certain ring. It's one of the odd arcade games that needs a manual. Also, memorization won't help since everything is placed in random locations. The mixture of a slower-than-molasses protagonist, a constantly ticking clock, and randomly placed objects means that luck plays a huge role when it comes to success. If this isn't frustrating enough, you can find more difficult versions known as Another Tower and Darkness Tower hidden in the museum. Good luck trying to master those versions!
The first collection may have been a mixed bag, but this third one takes the cake. Although you get a couple of incredible arcade gems, you also get a handful of average titles that simply aren't as fun as the Namco arcade games that you're used to. Let's hope the fourth volume turns this around and makes a triumphant comeback.
- + Ms. Pac-Man significantly improves a classic
- + Dig Dug is a retro arcade masterpiece
- + The rare Phozon's inclusion is welcome because of its simple and fun gameplay
- - Galaxian isn't as fun as its sequels
- - Pole Position II is as tedious as the original
- - The Tower of Druaga can be an exceptionally frustrating game