The Switch really is the perfect console for the odd bit of retro game action.
It’s all thanks to the machine’s unique selling point, that take-it-anywhere aspect. The fact that it can run something as incredible as Breath of the Wild while you’re on the train is one useful aspect of it, but sometimes you don’t want to dig into such a meaty game – and that makes it ideal for classic re-releases.
This was really the ultimate charm of Ultra Street Fighter 2 on the Switch – a classic game that’s perfect for undocked action with a couple of people gripping one joy con each. While we wait for Virtual Console to provide a more general solution Namco is next-up with a retro release in the form of Namco Museum – and it’s a neat little package, even if its $29.99 price point is pushing its luck a little.
“It’s a good collection of classic games, though you do need to know what you’re getting into with these sometimes frustrating older games.”
The collection is primarily a suite of classic Namco coin-operated classics from the 80s and 90s, though there is one other vital addition that made me very happy indeed – more on that in a bit.
For your money you get access to Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, The Tower of Druaga, Sky Kid, Rolling Thunder, Galaga ’88, Splatterhouse, Tank Force and Rolling Thunder 2.
These are the arcade versions of each of these titles replicated well on the Switch, right down to having to insert credits before you play with a tap of a shoulder button. They run well and faithfully, as you’d now expect, but the fact it’s on Switch offers Namco some unique little opportunities when the system is undocked.
Many of these arcade games ran with portrait screens. When docked or in their default settings they run with cute little borders of official artwork around them – but if you’re undocked, you can comfortably put the Switch into a portrait position, prop it up, detach the joy cons and adjust the settings so that you can play something like Galaga with a proper vertical screen position. That’s a pretty cool touch, though you’ll need some sort of makeshift stand to prop the Switch in that position since the built-in stand isn’t designed for that orientation.
Each of the arcade games included has two modes, Normal and Challenge. Normal is each game as it was in the arcades, but Challenge is a spot more interesting, tossing out tailored goals for each game that you have to complete, running from the simple such as eating as many ghosts in Pac-Man as you can within a time limit up to the much more complicated.
Both the normal and challenge modes have online leaderboards tracking your performance both for high scores and challenge completion, and for what it’s worth it’s also briefly worth noting that the UI is crisp, clean and easy to use.
To cut a long story short, it’s a good collection of classic games, though you do need to know what you’re getting into with these sometimes frustrating older games. I for instance have a lot of time for Rolling Thunder and Splatterhouse but really think Sky Kid is a bit crap, but these are ancient games – you have to accept them for what they are, and this is a package with a decent variety to it.
“Pac-Man Vs. is perfect for Switch, and that makes it the star of the show here.”
What really sets Namco Museum on Switch apart, however, is the inclusion of Pac-Man Vs. This game is a modern classic, but isn’t so well known – when it released back on the GameCube, shipping as a bonus on the Pac-Man World 2 disc and in some territories it was even only available as a Club Nintendo release. It later featured on the DS Namco Museum. Basically, it’s multiplayer Pac-Man where one player can play as Pac-Man and the others as the ghosts. Being a GameCube game means that Namco hasn’t had to do much to it – it runs in high definition, and is a crisp-looking 3D game.
On a single Switch you can play up to three players, which each taking control of a ghost against a CPU-controlled Pac-Man. The simple controls are perfect for using a single joy con turned on its side and the game is a great idea – you end up screaming out orders to other players as you try to entrap the CPU. Pac-Man Vs. is perfect for Switch, and that makes it the star of the show here.
Back on the GameCube this was one of the few games that used the GBA connection – Pac-Man would play on a GBA while the ghosts would play on the big screen. Thankfully, this has been cleverly replicated on Switch – and this is where the real charm and fun comes.
All you need is a friend who also has a Switch. You connect the two together, and Pac-Man then has one Switch screen while the ghosts have another. The ideal solution is to invite a friend with a Switch over and have the ghosts on the TV on one Switch and Pac-Man playing in handheld mode on the other. You don’t even need two copies of Namco Museum for this, as Namco has smartly released a free eShop application so a second player can get into Pac-Man Vs. that way.
Pac-Man Vs. is a great, inspired take on Pac-Man and really is the stand-out game in Namco Museum – but the package in general is still pretty good.
There’s 11 games in the package, but one still can’t help but be a little disappointed with the games left out, or that the arcade collection stops at 1991. There are some curious 80s ommissions, but also this woukd’ve been a perfect place to toss in things like Pac-Man Championship Edition – alas.
Exactly how much these 11 games are worth to you is going to depend greatly on you – nostalgia will surely be a factor. $30 seems on the high end of acceptable but still firmly in the realm of acceptable, and I’d probably happily pay half that for Pac-Man Vs. alone as a party piece. As such, Namco Museum feels like a pretty worthwhile package, and I predict it’ll be a staple on my Switch for a good while to come.