Arcade-era Namco was good at sequels. Not from a story perspective, mind — the sequel to “shoot the aliens” tended to be “shoot more aliens” — but definitely from a mechanical perspective.
One of the best things about arcade-era Namco’s handling of sequels was that they remained recognisably true to their source material while innovating in their own right. Galaga ’88 (also known as Galaga ’90, Galaga ’91 and Galaga 2 depending on where and how you played it back in the day) is one of the best examples of this, as the fourth installment in the Galaxian series.
Galaxian built on the basic premise of Taito’s Space Invaders by featuring a more dynamic arrangement of enemies. Galaga built further on this format with more dramatic enemy formations and movements. Gaplus — one of the few games in the series to not get many home ports, particularly back in the day — added powerups and vertical movement. And Galaga ’88… well, read on.
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Galaga ’88
Super Qix is an immensely irritating follow-up to an immensely irritating game.
And, like all the really good immensely irritating games of the world, there’s a magic ingredient in there that keeps you coming back for more.
Super Qix is also an interesting game from a historical perspective, in that it’s a game that Japanese developers decided to build on after an all-American original.
Continue reading Taito Essentials: Super Qix
Poor old Pac-Man’s been put through the wringer since his first appearance in 1980.
He’s gone on adventures, been platforming, attempted to educate the masses and even kicked the snot out of his fellow video game icons. But somehow it always comes back to doing what he does best: munching his way through mazes while attempting not to, in turn, get noshed off by ghosts. (Although some people are into that.)
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is Namco’s latest attempt to put an interesting twist on the original Pac-Man formula. And it’s a ton of fun.
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Pac-Man Championship Edition 2
Proper “spy games” are something I don’t feel like we see a lot of any more, perhaps since fascination with the concept waned somewhat with the end of the Cold War.
That said, there are tons of awesome “spy games” from back in the day that we can still enjoy, and Rolling Thunder, a 1986 arcade game from Namco, included on the Nintendo Switch version of Namco Museum, is a great example.
Initially appearing to be a fairly straightforward, early example of “run and gun” gameplay, spending a little more time with Rolling Thunder reveals a tightly designed game that shows first impressions aren’t always entirely accurate.
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Rolling Thunder
Ah yes, Continental Circus, the game which UK magazine Sinclair User declared “Cock-Up of the Year” in 1988 for the assumption that its peculiar title had rather prominently misspelled “Circuit”, only for it to become apparent sometime later that this was, in fact, deliberate.
The term “Circus” has been used over the years in both French and Japanese motorsports, and indeed there was even a 1972 French documentary called Continental Circus, which Taito’s 1987 arcade racer rather cheekily lifted a voice sample from to mark the beginning of each race. Although you can see how Sinclair User might have got confused; many of the original arcade machines for Continental Circus were actually branded with the title “Continental Circuit”.
The game itself is a “vanishing point” racer that attempts to build on what Namco had been doing with its Pole Position and Final Lap series since 1982. And, despite appearing superficially similar to those classic titles, it remains, to this day, a unique take on the racing genre with some very interesting ideas.
Continue reading Taito Essentials: Continental Circus
I am one of the least sporty people I know, and I find the prospect of winter sports particularly terrifying. But I’ve always found something appealing about games involving skiing and suchlike.
My interest in this type of game dates right back to the imaginatively titled Skiing on the Philips G7000 Videopac (aka the Magnavox Odyssey 2 for American readers, where the game was known as Alpine Skiing) and the slightly later Winter Games from Epyx for various home computers.
Sometime around the PlayStation 1 and 2 eras, winter sports games started to place a heavy focus on technical, trick-based gameplay rather than the straight racing of early titles such as Skiing. And I kind of missed that simplicity.
Enter Namco’s Alpine Racer 3, the third installment of a series that began as a 1994 arcade title.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Alpine Racer 3
While they’ve fallen a bit out of fashion in more recent years, tanks have been an important part of the gaming landscape pretty much since its dawn. (Then, of course, they trundled right over said landscape, flattened it and blew it up.)
Indeed, one of the earliest competitive games — Atari’s Combat for 2600, released in 1977 — is most well known for its highly enjoyable two-player tank battles, though the game’s myriad modes also incorporated a variety of other vehicles.
Namco got in on the tank battle action in 1980 with its arcade title Tank Battalion, subsequently followed up by spinoff title Battle City for Famicom in 1985. Then, finally, we come to 1991’s Tank Force, the game that we’re concerned with today — and an underappreciated arcade title that is well worth your time to check out.
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Tank Force