Namco Museum compilations are nothing new. The series has been around since the original Namco Museum Volume 1 gave PlayStation owners the opportunity to play Bosconian, Galaga, New Rally-X, Pac-Man, Pole Position, Rally-X, and Toy Pop in 1995. Installments have appeared on over 11 platforms. What I’m saying is, the concept of this collection is nothing new. The Nintendo Switch version is one of many. What makes this entry special is the perspectives it offers players.
There are different ways to take that. The most obvious way is visually. The Namco Museum is important because of the options it offers people who decide to play it. The default option is a horizontal mode where the actual game is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio with a border around them to fill the 16:9 screen. But people aren’t limited to that display option. Each game has multiple backgrounds to choose from, including a Type C option that removes all borders so you can adjust the vertical and horizontal positions to your liking. You can go with varying Fixed Dot Sizes and adjust the degree of visible scanlines to mimic the CRT appearance, with 0 offering none and 20 offering very defined lines and dimmed images.
What I found most important was the option to rotate the screen. If you have a supportive stand, perhaps a spare one from a tablet, you can detach the Joy-Cons, prop your Switch up vertically in Tabletop mode, and see the games as they would have appeared on an actual cabinet. I found going with no backgrounds, cranking up the Aspect Ratio to 1.25, setting the Zoom at 1.29, and putting Scanlines at 8 made me feel like I was playing Namco Museum’s games at Galloping Ghost Arcade instead of in my home. As much as I appreciated having the default approach for when I was in front of a TV or didn’t have a spare stand around, the option of a more traditional approach was appreciated.
Another way Namco Museum makes people think about perspective is with Pac-Man Vs., a game that casts three players as ghosts looking for Pac-Man on one Switch and another person as Pac-Man on a second Switch. While the person controlling Pac-Man is playing the game as normal, the people cast as ghosts have to change how they play due to the view they have of the field. Because of their limited windows, which only increase slightly when they happen to get a fruit before Pac-Man, they need to rely on insight from fellow ghosts and occasional glimpses at their field of vision to coordinate attacks. It forces you to think about Pac-Man differently.
There’s another way in which Namco Museum gives us a new perspective. It makes us think about which Namco games we would consider classics again. This is due to the compilation’s choices. Many of them are familiar faces. We have absolutely seen games like Dig Dug, Galaga, and Pac-Man before. We see Galaga twice in the same collection, since Galaga ‘88 is here too. But we also have games we don’t see very often. Rolling Thunder 2, Splatterhouse and Tank Force are all appearing in a Namco Museum installment for the first time in this entry. It makes us reevaluate which games we would and wouldn’t consider classics. Splatterhouse is definitely a notable release due to its violent nature. Rolling Thunder 2 and Tank Force don’t feel as notable by comparison, but they do help round things out.
Finally, there are the challenges. Each of the eleven games in Namco Museum has a standard and challenge mode, with the challenge imposing new rules and regulations. You might need to play for a certain period of time and try to get a high score. You could be dropped in a very specific map or section and need to get by. Honestly, one of my favorites is Tank Force. Armor Battle was one of my favorite games when I was a kid playing on my parents’ old Intellivision, and while this is a different sort of tank game, it makes me remember and appreciate that. I enjoyed the opportunity to just try and get as high of a score as I could in a three minute period, not worrying about lives and only protecting the base.
Namco Museum isn’t anything really new. The games are classics that have been around for years. There have been plenty of volumes on plenty of platforms as well. What’s nice about the Switch version is how it manages to switch things up. By changing the way games look, the arrangement of the system as we play, the rules, and our thoughts on what we consider important classics, it makes itself more relevant than it would be otherwise. It makes itself something people may want to pick up one more time, even if they already own one or two previous Namco Museum releases.
Namco Museum is available for the Nintendo Switch.