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ARCADE OF MY YOUTH: NAMCO MUSEUM ARCHIVES REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Developer: Bandai NamcoPublisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
(Distributor provided review copy)
Available: Out now on Switch and PC

Saying that something changed the landscape of videogames is so overused these days that the diminishing returns from it are suffering from diminishing returns. Only a rare few titles can lay claim to something as lofty of a title, and most of them originate from the golden age of arcade gaming. Namco Bandai, keenly aware of the goldmine they hold in their vaults, are now releasing their museum archive treasures on the Nintendo Switch. 

Included in the double collection is a wealth of gaming history. Everything from DIG DUG to PAC-MAN, GALAGA, XEVIOUS, and SPLATTERHOUSE is represented; all quintessential games that shaped and in many cases created genres. 

The classics remain untouchable in playability and design. PAC-MAN is by and large heralded as one of the most influential and definitive games ever created, sitting alongside titles like TETRIS and PONG as simple designed crafted to perfection. No matter if this is your first time playing it or the millionth, the game remains as thrilling and captivating as ever. The port on the Switch is lovingly rendered right down to the instantly recognizable sounds. 

Other titles like DIG DUG and GALAGA show their age a little more, but only because their design is even more ambitious than that of PAC-MAN’s. But as with retro consoles like the GAMEBOY or Nintendo DS, there’s endless amusement in being able to travel with your favorite arcade games in your pocket. 

PAC-MAN remains a quintessential example of perfect game design.

The archives also represent considerable historical value. Games like SPLATTERHOUSE will feel remarkably quaint by today’s standard, yet they remain an important stepping stone in what topics were considered pursuable within the context of the blossoming art form. So while the tamed down version found here may feel clunky to play, the content in it (a pop-art mashup of damn near everything) is by itself an interesting look at what would later become a common staple in game design.

A good deal of the games have never been localized in the West, meaning this is also the first time to experience them in any way outside of a rare arcade sighting at a niche gaming convention. 

But curiosities aside, not everything has aged well. Titles like MAPPY and THE TOWER OF DRUAGA are just as easily dismissed now as they were upon release. The latter remains an infuriating exercise in poor controls, obtuse level design, and generally not fun playability. For masochistic fans of games like DARK SOULS or BLOODBORNE this might remain an interesting curiosity, but it’s easily the weakest offering in the collection.

At 20€ a piece for each collection, the argument could be made that Namco is relying a little too heavily on nostalgia alone. As with any Best Of-collection, there are wonderful hits on both releases as well as clear filler titles to make the whole feel more padded out than it actually is. And considering how many of these games have been ported as fan projects online for free, losing little if anything in the process, asking nearly the price of a full modern title feels a little too much.

Also, if you’re wanting to get most out of the multiplayer modes you will need two Switch consoles, which feels like a waste considering what a massively successful party machine it is.

THE TOWER OF DRUAGA is still a waste of time.

But getting either package separately or on sale is easily a no-brainer. For older fans this is a wonderful stroll down memory lane, showcasing the rare scenario where sometimes nostalgia really is as good as you remember. Younger gamers can rejoice in seeing where the influences of their modern favorites come from and enjoy experiencing the joys of timeless games in the most portable, user friendly way they’ve ever been released before. 

Considering the history of Namco Bandai in the gaming landscape, I’d love to see more of these archival collections being released for the Switch. There are still tens, if not hundreds of great titles, and many more unheard of that deserve the light of day. Here’s hoping we’ll get to see more down the line. 

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