Remember arcades? I sure do. Well, kind of; I was a wee tot at the time, but I do recall that a trip to an arcade held a certain magic – a magic I’m sure you’ve heard about a thousand times before from a thousand different writers, so I won’t go into it at length. Given that not every arcade game eventually found its way to consoles, the odd arcade collection is a nice way to bring a little bit of that fun back without the creeps or truant officers. Case in point: Namco Museum on the Nintendo Switch.
Namco Museum on the Switch is, simply, a bunch of old arcade games all collected and gussied up a bit for your consumption, ideally on the go. You’ve got your old classics like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and two flavors of Galaga; your more long-form quarter-munchers like Splatterhouse and the Rolling Thunder games; your oddballs like Sky Kid, Tank Force and The Tower of Druaga and so on. All of these are presented in typical fashion and you’re able to play and switch between them at will.
So what’s special about this collection, then? Well, the fact that it’s on the Switch is nice since, as mentioned, you can take these games with you, and there’s a handy online leaderboard component to encourage you to hone your skills. There’s also the centerpiece of the collection, Pac-Man Vs., a former GameCube-exclusive rarity from none other than Shigeru Miyamoto himself that’s essentially Pac-Man with players controlling both Pac and the ghosts. It’s a neat idea, though it does require two Switches for the best experience, as one Switch will control Pac-Man and up to three ghosts will play on the other; a free online multiplayer app is available so you won’t need to buy two copies of the game if Vs. is all you’re after.
I also appreciated the presence of detailed instructions and guides for many of the games. In particular, The Tower of Druaga is a game that’s all about hidden secrets. It’s a good idea in theory and it certainly resonated with Japanese players back in the day, but modern gamers are likely to be frustrated by the game’s tendency to hide things too well, rendering them inaccessible without luck. Namco Museum comes to the rescue by offering a full guide for each floor of the Tower, including what needs to be done to find each treasure. The increased accessibility makes Druaga one of the more enjoyable games in the collection, where in previous forms it felt like a bit of a dud.
Presentation-wise, uh…well, it’s a bunch of older games. They look and sound pretty much like they always have, with some nice cabinet art to enjoy while you play. Pac-Man Vs. is on par with its GameCube incarnation, meaning it’s head and shoulders above the other games in terms of graphical fidelity…but it’s still Pac-Man, so that’s no huge deal. The aforementioned guides are a bonus, as are the challenges available to add a little longevity to each game – these are bound to appeal to more progression-focused modern players who enjoy having more guidance beyond simply going for a high score.
All in all, Namco Museum is a decent collection here on a system that really enjoys hosting this kind of party. Smaller games like this are ideal for a hybrid console like the Switch, particularly in handheld mode and in situations where launching into an epic multi-hour session of Zelda might not be convenient. The asking price on this one can be a little high (I’d have priced it around $20) but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good value for your cash, so if you want some more handheld-friendly games for your Switch, give this one a look. Maybe we can see more of these collections in the future – Say, Capcom, how about a little CPS-2 love?