Category Archives: Namco

Warpman: Another Lost Namco Treasure

Probably the best thing about Blaze’s Evercade retro gaming platform is the fact that the releases so far have specifically eschewed hugely well-known retro titles in favour of hidden gems, lost treasures and just plain previously unlocalised titles.

A great example of this can be seen on the Namco Museum Collection 2 cartridge. Have you ever heard of Warpman? Chances are, unless you collect Famicom games, probably not; it’s a 1985 Japan-only sequel to a fairly obscure 1981 Namco arcade game called Warp & Warp, also known as Warp Warp for its North American release.

Warpman (and, by extension, Warp & Warp, which it closely resembles in gameplay terms) is a particularly interesting game, because it introduces a specific mechanic that, today, is more commonly associated with a later game from a completely different company. But Namco did it first! So let’s take a closer look.

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Xevious: Are You Devious Enough?

Namco really were trailblazers back in the early days of gaming; so many of their titles were true pioneers.

Much of the vertically scrolling shoot ’em up genre as it exists today owes a lot to 1983’s Xevious, for example. Xevious established or at least popularised genre conventions such as making use of different weapons for different targets, regular confrontations with powerful enemies and dynamic difficulty scaling.

Namco’s port to the Famicom became one of the system’s first “killer apps”, selling a mighty 1.26 million copies — and it still plays great today. And wouldn’t you know it? You can play that 8-bit console version on the Evercade retro gaming system thanks to the Namco Museum Collection 1 cartridge. Let’s take a closer look!

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Dig Dug II: Bring Out the Drill

Dig Dug is one of those retro games that is an established classic, but which relatively few people seem to be aware actually got a rather enjoyable sequel.

Most of this is likely due to the fact that the 1985 arcade original was only released in Japan, and the game wouldn’t come West until the 1989 release of the NES version. And, well, good luck to any mid-’80s 8-bit arcade-style game releasing in the same year that gave us Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Phantasy Star II, SimCity, Populous, Mega Man II, Golden Axe and an early incarnation of Windows Solitaire.

Still, that doesn’t mean Dig Dug II should be consigned to the dustbin of history by any means. It’s fortunate, then, that we can try it out for ourselves on the Namco Museum Collection 2 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system! Let’s take a closer look.

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Star Luster: Namco Does Star Raiders

One of the great things about the Evercade retro gaming handheld is its unofficial mission to bring a variety of overlooked, underappreciated or unlocalised retro gaming titles to a worldwide audience.

The publishing partners who have signed up to distribute their games on the platform are seemingly more than happy to jump on board with this philosophy too — and this is especially evident with the two Namco Museum Collection cartridges, which not only provide the classics we expect to always see on such compilations like Pac-Man and Dig-Dug, but also some lesser-known titles, some of which never officially left Japan on their original platforms.

Part of the reason for this is the Evercade’s initial focus on retro home consoles, whereas Namco’s own Namco Museum releases have historically tended to focus on the arcade side of things. And so, we come to Star Luster, a 1985 release for the Famicom that never came West. Until now!

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Rolling Thunder 2: Leila Takes the Lead

Rolling Thunder is a classic Namco title with good reason. Its slower pace, methodical gameplay and learnable patterns make it an obvious precursor to the stealth games of today.

Its 1990 sequel offers more of the same in many ways — but with considerably enhanced visuals, refined mechanics and presentation and an all-new option to enjoy the game with two players simultaneously.

It’s not nearly as well known as its predecessor, but it’s a great game in its own right. And, conveniently, it’s part of the Namco Museum collection on Nintendo Switch!

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Splatterhouse: Elements of Horror

Yes, yes, yes, I know it was Halloween yesterday and thus I was supposed to cover a spooky game then, but I was busy then, so you’re getting it now instead.

Splatterhouse is a classic 1988 horror game from Namco, and there are a variety of ways you can play it today — the most recent and readily accessible of which is the excellent Namco Museum on Switch.

It’s also a very interesting game to look back on from a modern perspective, given how popular horrific, gory games have become as the gaming medium has matured.

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Namco Essentials: Libble Rabble

At the time of writing, people are getting seriously excited for PlatinumGames’ next release, Astral Chain — and with good reason!

As the release approaches, we’re starting to learn more and more about the game: what we can expect from it, what sort of experience it will be and what its main inspirations are.

In the latter case, an interview by Polygon reveals that a particularly strong influence on director Takahisa Taura was an obscure 1983 release from Namco, developed by the creator of Pac-Man. I give you Libble Rabble.

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PS2 Essentials: Ace Combat: Squadron Leader

The Ace Combat series is a jewel in Namco’s crown that people sadly seem to forget about quite often — though hopefully the seventh installment due early in 2019 will rectify that to an extent.

The series mostly stretches across the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 eras, with a less well-received (but still enjoyable) spinoff installment in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. For most, the series’ peak was with its PS2 installments; opinion varies as to which one of these is really “the best”, but they’re all very much worth your time.

At the time of writing, we’ve already talked about fourth installment Distant Thunder (aka Shattered Skies), so today let’s take a look at the fifth game, known as Squadron Leader in Europe, and The Unsung War elsewhere. It’s a good ‘un.

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Taiko no Tatsujin Drum ‘n’ Fun: Plastic Drums and Music Most Definitely Mix

A little while ago, I offered my first impressions on the demo version of Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum ‘n’ Fun! for Nintendo Switch.

I came away from the experience less than enamoured with the game’s motion controls, but starting to understand the appeal of the game when I switched to playing with buttons.

Despite my slightly tepid response to the demo, I came to the conclusion that this was still a game I wanted to support a Western release of… so I splurged on the £90 game-and-drum bundle which comes with a standard copy of the Switch game, and the HORI-made USB drum accessory. Let’s take a closer look!

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Namco Essentials: Galaga ’88

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.

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