It's finally time to discuss the last volume of the original Namco Museum anthology. Of course, there are plenty more Namco Museum collections that have come out since and maybe I'll review a few of those down the road. For now, this will have to suffice. Anyway, does the series end on a positive note? Let's put on our winged helmets and take a walk down memory lane to find the answer.
In Metro-Cross, it's your job to make it past the finish line of each course in as little time as possible. However, it's not as easy as it sounds because there are a ton of obstacles to jump over and make your way around. If you get snagged on one then you'll lose valuable seconds. The time that you bank is later added up to help you complete a challenging boss level. If you manage to beat a few of those then you're a much better gamer than I. What makes this game so much fun are the hilarious animations. Watching your character flatten like a pancake or fall on his face takes away from the frustration of failure and makes you want to keep trying.
Baraduke puts you in the boots of a spacewoman named Kissy who battles alien forces. You're equipped with a jetpack and an enormous gun that packs quite the punch. Every time you use it when you're airborne, you get knocked back a little bit. The simple gameplay makes battling in the small side-scrolling arenas an enjoyable challenge. Once you descend to the bottom of each area, you'll face a giant boss that can be difficult to beat, but that makes their demise all the more satisfying.
Dragon Spirit 1987
If you like Xevious then Dragon Spirit will blow your mind. Both games play almost exactly the same with their use of regular shots and bombs, but Dragon Spirit adds an interesting power-up system. You play as a hero who transforms into a dragon and breathes fireballs at his enemies. Upon collecting a power-up, you grow more heads and can therefore shoot even more fireballs at a time. The main problem with Dragon Spirit is that it's incredibly difficult (just like Metro-Cross and Baraduke). Can't a guy get a break already?
I guess I got my wish since Pac-Mania is a walk in the park in comparison. In this iteration of Pac-Man, you control your favourite spherical hero in an isometric game world. It plays the same as the original except now Pac-Man can jump! You can imagine how much easier this makes things. However, don't get too cocky because there are way more ghosts in this dot-gobbling adventure and some of them can jump, too. As you progress, you'll explore a handful of environments including Pac-Man's Park, an area made of Lego blocks, pyramids, and a jungle composed of incrementally raised platforms. An issue that I have is that you can't see the entire maze so knowing where the missing dots are can be rather difficult. You may even end up working your way around the whole level a couple times just to collect the last few. Besides that, listening to the fresh new tunes while eating up dots makes this one enjoyable incarnation of Pac-Man.
The Legend of Valkyrie 1989
Now here's one awesome hidden gem! You play as the mighty Valkyrie who descends from the heavens to save Earth from an evil power. It plays very similarly to Taito's KiKi KaiKai in that the action takes place in an overhead perspective and you fire projectiles to take out your enemies. Where The Legend of Valkyrie excels is in its vibrant colourful graphics, smooth and endearing animations, and the variety of characters to interact with, enemies to fight, and power-ups to collect. You earn gold as you play and can exchange it at shops for power-ups, but you can sometimes acquire these upgrades for free from friendly townsfolk. If this isn't enough, you can also invite a friend to play cooperatively as a lizard named Sandra. In the end, it feels more like a fully-fledged console game than an arcade game and it's such a joy to play that it's worth picking up a copy of this collection just for this game alone.
Namco Museum Vol. 5 is the best of the original set of Namco collections. Although you won't find any obvious choices, the included games are each special in their own way. Everything here is worth playing for any retro enthusiast. What a way to end the anthology!
- + Metro-Cross and Baraduke are simple and fun
- + Dragon Spirit and Pac-Mania do a great job of updating classic Namco game formulas
- + The Legend of Valkyrie is simply awesome
- - Most of the games are way too difficult
- - Finding all of the dots in Pac-Mania can get tricky since you can't see the whole maze