Previous collections featured a large variety of classic Namco titles. I guess that means it's time to take a trip to the back corner of Namco's vast library. These games may be obscure, but are they any good? Since I still have some quarters left, let's find out!
You play Assault by controlling a tank to take out targets in each level. This is one of those games where the tank actually controls like one so it definitely requires some practice to be able to drive it effectively. As you rotate, the tank stays stationary but the stage turns left and right. Another interesting visual effect occurs after every completed level since you drop through the floor to land in the next level. It's as if the whole game takes place on a series of floating islands. How cool is that? Overall, it's a very solid game that can be a lot of fun if you enjoy tank combat gameplay. If you can't get enough Assault then you can unlock Assault Plus as a hidden game which is broken up into episodes and includes better graphics and tougher enemies.
If you thought Super Pac-Man was a weird turn for Pac-Man then you should play Pac-Land. The point of the game is to return the fairy under Pac-Man's hat to her home. After you accomplish that, you receive magic boots that allow you to infinitely jump in mid-air and begin your journey back. All the while, a purple ghost named Sue persistently chases you. When you first boot it up, you'll wonder why the graphics look like a kid drew them in Microsoft Paint. Although the visuals are primitive, Pac-Land is one of the first games to implement parallax scrolling for its backgrounds. Once you start playing, you'll see that you have to run right so you obviously push right. However, that makes Pac-Man jump. So how the heck do you play this thing? You actually have to tap one of two face buttons repeatedly to run left or right while jumping with the directional pad. At first, this is incredibly awkward, but as it grows on you, you might have an amusing time with this intriguing spin-off. The music is certainly catchy and you may even start to see the crude visual style as charming. It's one strange adventure but you can have a good time if you give it a chance to shine.
Ordyne is a scrolling shoot 'em up that's quite the hidden gem. It has beautifully vibrant 2D visuals complete with smooth animation that makes everything come alive. You control your little plane by using one button to shoot and another to drop bombs. It's similar to Xevious in this sense, except it scrolls horizontally instead of vertically. To add some needed diversity to the gameplay, you can collect crystals and exchange them at a store for power-ups. It feels great to save up a large amount of crystals and splurge to become an unstoppable machine. The icing on the cake is the fact that you can also play with a second player cooperatively. If you're lucky enough to have a friend who also digs 2D shoot 'em ups then Ordyne is definitely a great game to enjoy together.
The Return of Ishtar (1986)
As a sequel to The Tower of Druaga, you may be hesitant to play The Return of Ishtar. However, you'll be delighted to know that there is no time limit and the characters move much faster, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's good. Each level is again maze-like but they're not rendered as confining as they were in Druaga. It's played cooperatively but not in the traditional sense. You control the two characters (magic-user Princess Ki and the familiar Prince Gilgamesh) with each half of the controller so you can essentially play cooperatively by yourself (if that makes any sense). The most annoying aspect is that you get a game over as soon as either Ki or Gil gets hurt. Believe it or not, you'll even trigger a game over if you slay too many enemies. Therefore, you really have to be careful. Thankfully, a password system is implemented for those who care enough to continue their adventure. I personally don't know why you'd want to since it's an ultimately unsatisfying and frustrating game.
The Genji and The Heike Clans (1986)
Beat 'em ups don't get much more bizarre than The Genji and The Heike Clans. It starts as a side-scrolling action platformer but then you grow into a giant all of a sudden. Before you know it, you're playing in an overhead perspective. Sure, it's ambitious to incorporate three different perspectives into one game, but it just makes it an incoherent mess as a result. The muddled graphics and crazy music definitely don't help with this. Foregrounds blend in with backgrounds and everything just comes across as an unfinished slapped-together failed attempt at a game. That being said, if you're looking for a crazy off-the-wall experience then you can't go wrong with playing this because it'll surely deliver the chaos that you crave.
Namco Museum Vol. 4 is by far the most eclectic collection of games that I've ever played. On the plus side, you get a couple of awesome buried treasures, but you also get a couple of diamonds in the rough and a completely crazy almost unplayable action game. In the end, it's a welcome addition to any arcade enthusiast's collection and it makes me wonder what the final volume has in store.
- + This rare collection of obscure games is a must-buy for arcade collectors
- + Assault features great tank combat gameplay
- + Ordyne is a truly awesome shoot 'em up
- - Pac-Land has awkward controls
- - The Return of Ishtar is an unsatisfying sequel
- - The Genji and The Heike Clans is a ridiculous hodgepodge mess of a game