Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 contains another ten classic NES games plus a bonus one that’s been 8-bit sized to look as if it had been on the console all this time. Sort of like sequels that don’t live up to the originals, this compilation pack falls a bit short in terms of fun games when compared to the first volume. Of course this is all subjective depending on what types of games you enjoy and if you have any sort of nostalgia for the titles included, but for the most part I can safely say that the first one is by far and above the better choice for me, and probably for anyone I’d recommend games to. That’s not to say there aren’t some fun choices included here, because there definitely are. So, let’s break it down.
This package seems to put an odd focus on shooting games. The one that sort of put Namco on the map back in the early ‘80s is Galaga, and the NES port is included here. I know quite a few people enjoy this arcade shmup. It’s sort of an evolution of Space Invaders with different enemies flying around the screen in different patterns before taking their spot at the top of the screen where you can blast them away. While I can appreciate this for what it is, even as a youngster the game never really resonated with me. Perhaps it was my first exposure to a sort of “me-too” rip-off of another game and that always rubbed me the wrong way. That being said, if you loved this one in the arcades or on the NES then no doubt you’ll put some time into this one.
Another shooter and probably one of the first overhead auto-scrollers of its type is Xevious, but you’re getting the enhanced Super Xevious in this collection. You fly around in an aircraft and must shoot down enemies flying around the screen as well as drop bombs on the ground below you to take out targets. The concept is great, but the gameplay is lacking and quite honestly I was bored after five minutes. There are some semi-cool power-up systems in place, including acquiring another ship that attaches to the main one and getting upgraded bombs, but the game is rather plain looking and the music…oh the music. You might want to mute this one.
Back in 1984 the sequel to Galaga was released in the arcades and it was called Gaplus. This game never made it over to the NES, but it’s included as a bonus port here! I’m sure fans of the arcade version and collectors will be interested to see this on the collection. It plays very similar to Galaga, but it’s a nice alternative for fans of the series.
Never making it over to the NES in the States, Battle City is a tank game where you try to eliminate your opponents before they take you out or blow up your base. This is very similar in concept to the Atari 2600 game called Combat that included a game called Tank. There are a variety of game maps to play through, each with a different layout and increasingly intricate scenery. Some levels will have bushes to hide behind, which can make it very difficult to target the enemy tanks and others will have other obstacles like water. You need to destroy 20 enemy tanks before they succeed in taking over the stage. Some of them will drop power-ups that can give you a shield or even wipe out all enemies on the screen at once. What seems like an extraordinarily simple game at the beginning turns into a strategic one down the line with the enemy getting smarter each round. The lack of background music and the simple graphics make this an average game at best, but there’s a cool level builder that you can screw around with to have a go with a buddy.
Mappy-Land is a game that came over to the NES in the West courtesy of Taxan. It’s a strange 2D side-scrolling action platformer that has you playing as a mouse that must collect various items throughout the levels. This one features trampolines to reach different floors of the levels. This one’s cartoony and fun to play in short bursts, but there’s so many better NES games of this type that it just doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Dig Dug II is included in the compilation. It’s funny, growing up I knew all about Dig Dug and played it on numerous consoles and computers and of course in the arcades, but until the last few years I didn’t even know a sequel existed! We played it for the Warp Zone podcast and I was quite surprised that the game plays so differently from the first game. You still have your handy air pump that you can spear enemies with and inflate and pop them. But this time you’re not really digging through layers of earth but instead you’re on top of the land and you have a jackhammer that can be used to chop off sections of the stage so they fall into the ocean, taking the enemies out in one fell swoop. I give the developers credit for trying something so different, but in the end it’s just not that fun to play.
If you read my review of Namco Museum Archives Volume 1, you’ll know that Dragon Buster was kind of entertaining to play through because it sort of reminded me of the building blocks for Zelda II. Well, Dragon Buster II is included here and what in the world happened? At first glance I like the isometric graphics as they are improved over the first game, but there’s much to be desired in the actual gameplay. I do like that you have a bow and arrow this time around, so you can fling arrows across the screen, which by the way can bounce off the walls and hurt you. There’s a surprising lack of enemies in some of these mazes, many of which can be rather large.
They use a sort of fog of war system where only a small part of the passage is shown with other areas blacked out. Only by walking into these zones will the darkness fade and show you what’s there. Most of the game is you simply moving to these areas to poke and prod your way through a maze where you’ll stumble across a monster or two and some extra arrows to help you fight them off. Then the game transitions to an overworld map that you can walk around and you might get a special item, like an axe, that allows you to chop down a forest and reach a new area. With almost no music at all in the game this one is a real clunker. But, hey…we finally get to play it over here! Yay?
A game I had never played before that’s on this anthology is Mendel Palace. I know it’s due to be talked about on the October episode of the Warp Zone podcast and that it was published in the US by Hudson Soft. Interestingly enough Game Freak is listed as the developer on the title screen. I came into this game not understanding the mechanics, but left this game having quite a bit of fun. It’s a single screen puzzler, not unlike Kickle Cubicle and The Adventures of Lolo.
Here the entire level is made up of squares and these squares can be pulled/flipped, sometimes revealing a star or other power-up box underneath.With no instructions and having no prior knowledge it took me a few minutes to figure out that if you pull a tile while an enemy is standing on it they will get pushed backward. It took me another minute or two to discover that if you do this while they are next to a wall they will hit the wall and be destroyed. You solve the room once all enemies are killed, but strategically you’ll want to try to collect all the items first to get more points. This one does have a two player co-op mode, which I imagine makes the game even more chaotic! I ended up spending the most time playing this one and although it’s not an amazing NES game, I had a fun time with it and can see myself going back and playing more. Definitely a small gem that I didn’t expect.
Pac-Land is a game that never made it out in the US, but is finally available thanks to this collection. Wow, is this a strange take on the franchise! It sort of reminds me of current day runner-type games where you are trying to run through the stages and avoid enemies and obstacles. Originally in the arcades, this game does predate Super Mario Bros., and it shows that off in spades with odd controls and strange gameplay choices. For example, to move Pac-Man right you hold down the A button and to move left you hold down the B button. To jump you press up on the d-pad (or any direction will do the same thing). The graphics are bright and colorful but have this sort of flat polygon look to the backgrounds that make it look cheap. As you run through the levels fruit will appear that you can collect for points. Soon the game becomes quite the platformer with very difficult jumps and instant deaths galore. The music is instantly recognizable if you’ve ever seen the cartoon from the ‘80s, but it’s on loop and gets old rather quickly. As an early game of this type it deserves some credit, but as someone who had never played it back in the day, I found it rather boring after a few levels.
Up to this point the games have been rather poor to slightly good, but the final two in the collection are good to great. One of my favorites of the bunch is Legacy of the Wizard. This was quite the adventure game on the NES, especially in the early days, and it’s still fun to go back and play today. It’s got a high difficulty curve and the graphics are pretty basic, but the soundtrack is rocking (thanks to Yuzo Koshiro) and I like being able to play as several different playable characters with different powers. This was originally released in the US by Broderbund and developed by Falcom, who’s still around making Ys games! Are there better games of this type available now? Of course, but those who grew up playing this will no doubt have a great time playing this one, and even newcomers will find something to like if they put in the time.
The last game in the collection is Rolling Thunder, released in the US by Tengen. This a classic side-scrolling action game that many people have fond memories of. It features rather large sprites and super smooth animation. You can jump up and down from higher parts of the levels and throughout there are various doors that you can open up and hide in. You start off with a pistol to take out enemies with a shot or two and you can upgrade to a machine gun. There’s not a lot of gameplay variety to this title, as it’s based on an arcade game that was designed to take your quarters. Later games like Capcom’s Code Name: Viper deliver on this concept better, but this one still has its fans after all these years and it’s still very playable today.
The same set of features and problems exist with this collection as with the first. It’s great that you have several save slots for each game and even the ability to rewind time to fix a mistake you made. However, the lack of customizable buttons is a real bummer and I’m not a fan of the constant menu in the lower left corner of the screen. Actually as I was tinkering around and writing this review I discovered a way to get rid of the annoying text that explains how to rewind and access the system menu. To do this you hit ZL and then go to Settings, and then select Wallpaper Settings, and then press X (or the upper action button if you’re playing with a single Joy-Con) and that will toggle on and off the information pane. Phew, could they have made it any more hidden? Still, the option is there and I’m happy for it.
In the end, Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 just doesn’t have the same level of fantastic games as the first one. Admittedly that’s mainly because the original has the amazing 8-bit demastered version of Pac-Man Championship Edition that is just too much fun to ignore. This one is more hit and miss with its selection of titles and it’s going to come down to personal preference. I don’t think these are as ageless as the ones in the first compilation, but if you grew up playing these then of course this collection is worth you time and money. For me there was more mediocre here than great, but it’s still worth considering!
Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 5/105/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 contains a more eclectic batch of games that may have a harder time resonating with much of the gaming public. That being said, it’s worth checking out if you have a history with the titles included and several are still very playable today.