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
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
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
One of the most interesting inclusions in the Nintendo Switch release of Namco Museum is Pac-Man Vs.
Originally released for GameCube in 2003, it’s an unusual title for Namco in that it wasn’t developed in-house as an arcade game; rather, it was designed by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto and developed by Nintendo specifically for the GameCube, which perhaps explains why we haven’t seen it rereleased for anything other than Nintendo DS (via that platform’s own Namco Museum release) and, most recently at the time of writing, Switch.
It’s also noteworthy as one of the first examples of asymmetric multiplayer gameplay, which makes the fact it never got a release on Wii U somewhat baffling. But, well, it’s a bit late for that now!
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Pac-Man Vs.
While I was familiar with most of the other games in the Namco Museum collection for Switch, one that I hadn’t come across before was Sky Kid.
First released in 1985, Sky Kid is a horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up based on the company’s Pac-Land hardware introduced the previous year. Indeed, this fact is fairly obvious, as the two games have a similar aesthetic, and in a later mission there is even a billboard where Pac-Man in his Pac-Land incarnation (sporting arms and legs) makes a cameo appearance.
It’s the first of Namco’s games to support two players simultaneously, and aside from all that, it’s an entertaining, interesting take on the arcade shoot ’em up.
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Sky Kid