The new Namco Museum Archives collections have a lot to offer! Each pack of 11 games is available for $19.99 on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam. These newest entries in a Namco Museum franchise that’s sold millions (and even managed to spawn the best-selling third-party game on the GBA) are a collaboration between the trusted veterans at M2 and Super Robot Wars team B.B. Studio.
What’s interesting about these two new volumes that make them different from other Namco Museum releases? And which games should you play first if you pick them up? We’re here to help!
Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1
Most of Vol. 1 is filled with the early NES ports of Namco arcade hits. It’s not surprising that these were the focus of the early years, but you should know going in that a lot of your enjoyment of this pack depends on whether you like those. It’s also what makes this collection special: known as Namcot Collection in Japan because of the company’s branding choices on Famicom ports, these packs straight-up do not have arcade releases. While home consoles were more limited and the games often feature some compromises, if these are the versions that spark your nostalgia, it’s nice to have one of these collections that focuses on them.
Pac-Man Championship Edition
Each volume includes one “special” release along with the older games, and the first volume’s bonus is definitely the standout. It’s weird to say we’re impressed with how much the game gets out of the hardware when… well, we’re not playing it on that hardware. Still: the effects and smoothness squeezed out of the NES’ capabilities is pretty cool. And if you don’t think that’s cool? Yeah, you’re probably better off playing one of the other versions of Pac-Man Championship Edition that are widely available (and maybe free). The appeal here is definitely the weirdness. And, uh, achievements? Anachronisms abound.
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti
That’s not to say that this bundle doesn’t have a few weird inclusions. Is your problem with horror classic Splatterhouse that is just wasn’t cute enough? Wanpaku Graffiti brings the franchise back to a more limited 8-bit platform, and it adapts to simpler looks and a younger audience by becoming more of a super-deformed platformer. There are parodies of genre tropes, and some may even prefer how it plays to its more plodding older sibling.
Also on this volume: Galaxian, Pac-Man, Xevious, Mappy, The Tower of Druaga, Sky Kid, Dragon Buster, Dragon Spirit: The New Legend.
Namco Museum Archives Vol. 2
Vol. 2’s special game isn’t quite the marketing boon, but this special NES port of the sequel to Galaga is still interesting to see and play. While Gaplus didn’t have the widespread success of Galaga or Galaxian, it’s been praised for its innovations. The inclusion of the arcade original in recent Namco Museum collections has given it a bit more notoriety, but after playing this new NES port, it’s increasingly clear that this was what it was missing. Not that it’s a particularly impressive port! It feels like Galaga. But its lack of home versions in its day probably held it back.
Dragon Buster II
If the first volume’s focus is on arcade ports, the second is filled more with “console-style” games. (It is still Namco. Even the console exclusives had arcade-like sensibilities.) Dragon Buster II is essentially this compilation’s deeper fantasy adventure, attempting to carve out a place for itself alongside The Legend of Zelda. Its gameplay feels somewhere between Mystery Dungeon and Gauntlet, navigating labyrinthine dungeons and attacking monsters on the way to the exit. Still, its aesthetic trappings are certainly angling for the Zelda crowd. It’s a peculiar little release!
This collection may focus on Namco’s history, but Mendel Palace gives players a special look into the origins of Pokémon developer Game Freak. This first project from the team is an arcade action game through and through, with players pushing tiles on the screen to defeat a screen-sized room of baddies. You can play the game alone, but much like Bubble Bobble, it’s best experienced as a co-op romp with a pal. As a later release, it holds up well relative to many of the titles in the collection!
Also on this volume: Galaga, Battle City, Pac-Land, Dig Dug II, Super Xevious, Mappy-Land, Legacy of the Wizard, Rolling Thunder.
Bonus: Namcot Collection
The Japanese release of this collection has its own peculiar wrapper and pay structure. It’s a free download, and games are releasing in paid packs. But that free download’s one included game isn’t in the Western releases! Wagan Land is a fun little platformer in a series that was long-running in Japan and unreleased outside of it, and it’s worth a look. Check it out for free if you have a Japanese account!