Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 takes us WAY back

Posted on July 28, 2020

Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are the latest in the long running Museum series of releases, taking gamers back through the Namco back catalogue. Fact – Namco are one of most successful and influential producers of arcade games in the history of the video game industry. They dominated the 80s and 90s with titles such as Pac-Man, Galaxian, Tekken, Ridge Racer and the list goes on and on. They have also had a big impact at home and were a big part of the success of the original Sony PlayStation by providing it with exclusive ports of their arcade hits. To this day they consistently turn out impressive games on multiple platforms.

The first Namco Museum set was released all the way back in 1995 for the Sony PlayStation. Since then the series has appeared in one way or another across any modern gaming platform you can think of from the Gameboy Advance to the Xbox One. The latest collection, Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, feature 22 games circa 1985-1989 and is available across Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Steam and Nintendo Switch. On the face of it, most of the titles are available elsewhere and to be honest they have been re released to death, so what makes this collection worth considering?

Fun fact – back in the early 80s Namco were one of the first licensees for the Nintendo Famicom – the NES – and had set upon converting their arcade hits for the then shiny new console. As a result Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 contain the NES versions of their most well known hits of the era.

It is a bit of an interesting call because in the 80s, home versions of arcade games were pretty much always inferior and also it is a little strange to release old NES games cross platform. As an addition to the NES section of the Switch Virtual console I could understand, but as a stand alone release with a price tag? Hmmm not so sure.

Vol. 1
Dig Dug (1985)
Dragon Buster (1987)
Dragon Spirit: The New Legend (1989)
Galaxian (1984)
Mappy (1984)
Pac-Man (1984)
Pac-Man Championship Edition (2007)
Sky Kid (1986)
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti (1989)
The Tower of Druaga (1985)
Xevious (1984)

Across the two sets are usual suspects such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaxian. There are a couple of treats thrown in for good measure too such as Pac-Man Championship Edition which is a NES-ified version of the 2007 game, Gaplus, and one or two other titles that never saw release in the west. The thing is though, the majority of these games are 35 years old or more. I like going retro as much as the next person, but for me games of that era are just a step too far back.

Vol. 2
Battle City (1985)
Dig Dug II (1986)
Dragon Buster II (1989)
Galaga (1985)
Gaplus (1984)
Legacy of the Wizard (1987)
Mappy-Land (1986)
Mendel Palace (1989)
Pac-Land (1985)
Rolling Thunder (1989)
Super Xevious: GAMP no Nazo (1986)

I don’t doubt that these are perfect ports of the console releases, but the reality is that games of this era are exceptionally primitive in graphics, sound and gameplay. The majority of these are first generation NES games. The gameplay mechanics that were considered fun at the time really don’t cut it in 2020. The vast majority of games will end if you are so much as touched by an enemy. Bizarrely, one game uses the A and B buttons to move and the D Pad to jump. Most of the games here are of the type that the goal is to get the highest score before a game over, it’s not something I find particularly fulfilling anymore.

As a retro collection, Namco Museum Archives has all the features you would expect. It has things like save states, you can also change the screen ratio to resemble a CRT monitor and you can rewind the action if you like, although doing so would surely disqualify any high score attempt. Outside of that though I must admit I was a LITTLE disappointed with the presentation. Aside from some pretty background music there isn’t anything too special to speak of.

It would have been fantastic to have a little bit of information about the history of the games or some box art included within this collection. It’s also not immediately clear that these are NES ports from the game menu. When I first started playing I had suspected that these were not the arcade versions based on the graphics and sound, but it took some research to confirm the fact. I think it’s also a little cheeky to sell it in two volumes given the games are a couple of KB each in size and are quite short.

I do accept though that there are fans of the era and of early Namco titles out there and they are probably keen as a bean for this collection. If you were to try and collect the original NES versions of these games they would cost a fortune – that is even IF you could locate a copy. So for those that want a Namco fix and want to try some unique (inferior) versions of their favourite titles, this one is certainly something to think about. For the rest of us though, I think this is a set where you will give each game a play for a few minutes then put it back on the shelf.