The preservation of video game history is extraordinarily important to me. On a broader level, the gradual shift from physical to digital media means that yesterday’s games are increasingly less accessible; not everyone wants or needs to hold on to delicate, outdated hardware when more powerful alternatives are within arm’s reach. For my part, I simply enjoy being able to round up entire collections of the games I used to enjoy as a kid in a single location. Namco Museum is one such compilation to find new life on a modern console.
With eleven titles included, Namco Museum may not offer the most robust selection of Namco classics, but many of these would take root and leave enduring legacies in the years hence. Pac-Man, Galaga, and to a slightly lesser extent, Dig-Dug are household names that helped define gaming as a medium in the 1980s. Their inclusion in this collection is a matter of course, and each holds up as a timeless classic worth revisiting in pursuit of ever-higher scores. Rolling Thunder and its sequel, on the other hand, feel sluggish by today’s standards. Likewise, while The Tower of Druaga deserves to be venerated for its contribution to developing the action RPG genre, it’s surpassed by the myriad games that would later be made in its mold. The “challenge mode” variants of each title add some longevity to the collection, too, though they don’t fundamentally change how these games play.
For most players, the real draw of Namco Museum is undoubtedly going to be Pac-Man Vs. This four-player party game debuted on the GameCube in 2003, making use of Game Boy Advance link cable in an early example of asynchronous multiplayer. In the Switch version, one player controls Pac-Man on a console in tabletop mode while the other three play as ghosts on a second docked console. To get the ideal Pac-Man Vs. experience, you’ll have to navigate an unusually cumbersome process that necessitates the download of a free multiplayer app on the guest console and some menu-wrangling, but it’s worth it once the game is up and running.
If Namco Museum truly is a “museum,” it’s not a terribly informative one; it features neither developer commentary or digitized assets, like instruction manuals or artwork. Where it does excel is in the variety of its emulation options, including adjustable scan lines, pixel scaling, and best of all, an option to rotate the screen 90° to better replicate the arcade experience. Propping up the Switch vertically in tabletop mode and kicking back with a controller in each hand is delightfully comfortable.
Let’s be real, though: Pac-Man Vs. is where it’s at.