BY KYLE VAN DEN HEUVEL
On Sept. 30, 2014, Sony added games to the PlayStation Store for its PlayStation consoles and handhelds. This update had new games like ”Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor” and ”Persona 4 Arena Ultimax”, but it also includes a rerelease of the five ”Namco Museum” games. These games are named “Namco Museum” because they are compilations of Namco’s older games and they also include virtual museums that you can walk around in first-person to view exhibits on the various games. These exhibits consist of things like promotional posters, sprites from the games and even pictures of the actual arcade boards. The only complaint I would have with these is that they focus solely on the Japanese promotional art, but this is probably due to the fact they didn’t want to deal with companies like Midway and Atari like they did in the 80s. Each of these five compilations has some kind of a theme that ties the games together. The nice thing about some of these compilations is that they include games that never came out in America and if needed, are even translated.
Namco Museum Vol. 1
Theme: The Classics
“Pac-Man”: Namco’s most popular game. Eat pellets. Avoid ghosts.
“Galaga”: Another popular Namco game. Shoot aliens. Don’t get shot.
“Bosconian” (Pictured): A somewhat obscure shooter. What’s nice about this game is that you can move in 8 directions and choose to destroy bases in any order you wish. “Bosconian” was the first arcade game to have a feature to allow players who “game over” a chance to continue. This is my favorite game of the collection.
“Rally-X”: Another maze game that Namco developed after “Pac-Man.” You have to drive your car to collect flags and try not to collide with other cars. This game was not very popular which lead Namco to make an improved version.
”New! Rally-X”: The “sequel” to Rally-X. The differences between “Rally-X” and “New! Rally-X “was mostly small improvements that made the game more playable. This game was much more popular and is the basis of most of the home ports baring the name ”Rally-X.”
”Pole Position”: An Indy-racing game. Not much is to be said about this game other than try to avoid collisions with other cars. One collision will almost guarantee that you will not finish the race.
“Toypop”: An odd Japanese-only game that involves two toys trying to stop a demon. It’s an okay game, but it’s easy to see why it wasn’t brought to the United States.
Namco Museum Vol.2
Theme: The Overlooked
“Gaplus”: The obscure sequel to “Galaga”. “Gaplus” plays very similar to “Galaga” except now you can move up the screen rather than being stuck at the bottom. There are also various different powerups you can get to make your fighter’s missiles shoot faster or more often. This game was also referred to “Galaga 3” when it came to the United States.
“Mappy”: An odd maze game in which you play as the Micro Police mouse Mappy as he tries to take back the loot stolen by a gang of cats. One of the more unique elements of “Mappy” are the trampolines Mappy can use to navigate different houses. These trampolines are somewhat iconic to Namco games to the point that one of “Pac-Man’s” moves in the newest “Super Smash Bros.” references them.
“Dragon Buster” (pictured): A very bizarre action game in which you play as the heroic Clovis as he tries to save princess Celia from evil dragons. This game has an odd control scheme as you jump by pressing up, which can be annoying to players not used to it. This game is often cited as one of the first games for a character to have a “Vitality” bar to determine remaining health. This collection marked the first time this game left Japan.
“Xevious”: An interesting shoot-em-up that involves the fighter Solvalou trying to stop an evil computer named GAMP. It is fairly basic, but it is also fairly fun.
“Grobda”: At first glance it does not seem like it, but this game is actually the sequel to “Xevious”. It stars the eponymous enemy tank Grobda as it tries to take on various other enemies in a sort of battle arena.
“Super Pac-Man”: The true sequel to “Pac-Man”. This game is very similar to it predecssor except now Pac-Man also has to find keys to unlock parts of the playing field. This game also features a special pellet that allows Pac-Man to transform into Super Pac-Man which can break down barriers as well as go through ghosts.
Namco Museum Vol. 3
Theme: The Other Classics
“Galaxian”: This is the game that “Galaga” is actually a sequel to. It plays fairly similar to “Galaga”, except much slower. It almost feels like “Space Invaders” which is relevant as it came out around the same time.
“Dig Dug”: This is probably one of Namco’s most popular games before “Galaga” and “Pac-Man.” If you have never heard of “Dig-Dug” the premise is to dig underground and pop monsters with your inflating harpoon gun. The bizarre satisfaction one gets from inflating and popping a monster is probably why it is so popular.
“Ms. Pac-Man”: What most Americans know as the sequel to “Pac-Man.” This game plays pretty much the same as “Pac-Man” but with different ghost AI and different maze shapes. The history behind the development of this game is actually pretty interesting. The basic gist of the story is that a company used a bootleg copy of the original “Pac-Man” to make modifications to come up with the game “Crazy Otto.” Midway (the company that distributed “Pac-Man” in America) saw this game and changed it to what we know as “Ms. Pac-Man” and distributed this without Namco’s consent. This is one of the reasons that Namco severed ties with Midway as a distributor.
“Pole Position II”: Plays almost identically to the original game, but you can now pick from four different courses.
“The Tower of Druaga” (pictured): This game is very peculiar as it is essentially an Action-RPG set in a “Pac-Man”-like maze with some flavoring from Babylonian mythology. The main draw of the game is that every floor hides a treasure that requires the player to perform some action in order for it to appear. The problem with this is that sometimes these actions are often non-intuitive and practically require a guide to solve. This game is actually very popular in Japan to the point where it recently received an animated version called “The Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk.” The nature of the puzzles for each floor is probably why it never left Japan as most Western arcade gamers preferred more fast- paced games.
“Phozon”: This game is an odd matching game where you try to collect flying molecules in the air to match a pattern in the background. This would be hard enough, but there is also a giant floating group of orbs that are trying to collide with you and kill you. This game never left Japan, but I cannot think of a reason why.
Namco Museum Vol. 4
Theme: The Black Sheep
”Pac-Land” (Pictured): Rather than being stuck in a maze, Namco decided to give Pac-Man his own platformer. What’s odd about this is that ”Pac-Land” is essential the video game version of the 1982-1983 Hanna-Barbera ”Pac-Man” cartoon. While it does not have a plot that is reminiscent of the show, some of the characters and the music are taken straight from the show. This has the odd distinction of being one of the few games to be based on a cartoon that was itself based on a video game.
”Assault”: This is a strange game in which you control a tank and destroy enemies. The strange part comes in with the control scheme which involves using two separate sticks to move the tank. An improved version named ”Assault Plus” is hidden in a special room that requires inputting a code in the one empty room.
”Ordyne”: This is a fun shoot-em-up in which you control a scientist who is trying to save his captured girlfriend. This game has a fun atmosphere to it and allows you to play with someone else at the same time. This game never left Japan (except for a Turbografx-16 port) and has thankfully been translated.
”The Return of Ishtar”: This is the sequel to ”Tower of Druaga” and takes place exactly where it ends. This game is odd for not only being an RPG in the arcades, but also for requiring two players to play. One person controls the knight Gil who can hit enemies with his sword at the expense of health while the other plays the priestess Ki who can cast magic but goes down in just one hit. The game actually is long enough to warrant giving the players passwords for keeping track of progress. For some reason, the default control scheme involves using one controller.
”The Genji and the Heike Clans” (also known as ”Genpei ToumaDen”): Of all the odd games in this collection, this one is head and shoulders above the others in terms of oddness. This game mixes various styles of play from side-scrolling platformer to psuedo fighting game to overhead adventure. The most bizarre thing about this game is its plot which stars Taira no Kagekiyo, a real life fighter in Japan’s Genpei Wars of 1180-1185. He is resurrected to fight against other warriors from the era and monsters from Japanese mythology. The game has such a Japanese flavor to it that its original release used Japanese hirigana to denote the score rather than the standard arabic numerals. This game unsurpisingly never left Japan before this compilation, and thankfully it has been translated.
Namco Museum Vol. 5
Theme: The Difficult
”Pac-Mania” (pictured): After ”Super Pac-Man” and the not-well-received ”Pac and Pal”, Namco decided to go back to their roots with this game. This game plays the closest to the original ”Pac-Man” but rather than having the “camera” above the maze, the game uses an isometric perspective. While this does cut off the vision one would have with the old camera, Pac-Man compensates for this with the ability to jump over ghosts. This jumping ability becomes necessary when there are eight ghosts in the maze at the same time with some also gaining the ability to jump in later levels. This game can get really hectic in later levels and is easily the most difficult of the ”Pac-Man” games.
”Dragon Spirit”: This is a fun shoot-em-up that, rather than some sort of star fighter, has you play as a dragon. Other than saying that the game is pretty fun and has good music, there is not much else to say about it.
”Metro-Cross”: This game is unlike any other I have ever played. You play as a guy who runs through various corridors trying to get to the end in a certain time or else be electricuted. Items that help you along the way include a skateboard and soda cans that if jumped on will stop the timer.
”Baraduke”: A very creepy game where you play as an astronaut named Kissy who decends into the depths of the Paccet Planet in order to destry the aliens that have infested it. Rather than have a cheery and catchy tune like most arcade games, the game features almost no music as most of the game is set to the beat of the heroine’s heart which gets faster as she gets hurt. Kissycan get help from the Paccets who, at the start of every game, welcome the player with the message “I’m your friendI assume this clip was popular with Namco themselves as it appears in one of “Pac-Man’s” taunts.
”The Legend of Valkyrie” (also known as ”Valkyrie no Densetsu”): This game is the closest thing to an arcade version of ”The Legend of Zelda” as one will probably get. This game plays like ”Legend of Zelda” mixed with some platforming elements. One of the nice things about this game is that you can play simulatenously with a friend which makes the game a bit more enjoyable. For some reason, Namco never released this game outside of Japan, but now the game can be played in full English.
Source for all of the images is arcade-museum.com