In my review of the fifth cartridge in the Evercade’s growing library – the Atari Collection 2 – I lamented the fact that the very first compilation released for the […]
In my review of the fifth cartridge in the Evercade’s growing library – the Atari Collection 2 – I lamented the fact that the very first compilation released for the Evercade was an Atari one, already full of a wide range of classics and obscure curiosities, so why go back to the well so soon?
That feeling of repetition with Namco’s second collection is mostly absent, thankfully – though it is another mixed bag from a variety of genres and formats (across both the 8 and 16-bit eras).
Released to coincide with Pac-Man’s 40th anniversary – as was the first Namco Museum Evercade cartridge – you’d think that this would see the little yellow pill popper represented a bit more, but the only game featuring Pac-Man in this compilation is 16-bit puzzler Pac-Attack. The Tetris-esque game can’t decide whether to be too slow or too fast, ramping up in speed ridiculously after a period of being incredibly laidback. Still, it does offer some fun, even if it can sometimes feel like it’s missing a certain something that addictive titles such as Tetris or Puyo Puyo have; eating ghosts in a specific order against bland looking blocks just doesn’t quite click for me, as much as I’ve tried getting into it over the many years since the game was first released.
A couple of excellent arcade shoot ’em ups are included, at least in their NES forms, with single-screen classic Galaga and the addictive scrolling shooter Dragon Spirit – which puts you in charge of a dragon, instead of the usual spaceship or aircraft. Both are well worth playing. A third – Phelios – is another shoot ’em up in fantasy clothing, though unlike Dragon Spirit it takes its cues from Greek mythology. It’s the Mega Drive/Genesis version we have here; it’s not bad per se, but it is slightly forgettable.
Splatterhouse 2 is extremely similar to its predecessor, which doesn’t appear on this collection. Like the first Splatterhouse, it was pretty shocking in its day from a visual and subject matter point of view; it still does hold a certain creepy charm and is a solid arcade beat ’em up. Oddly, the third Splatterhouse game is here, but the game is much more Streets of Rage/Double Dragon style scrolling beat ’em up – it’s a bit of an acquired taste, though the suitably gory visuals and creepy atmosphere remain.
Dig Dug II is a bit of a departure from the first game, given that your main character stays entirely above ground this time. So there’s no digging at all! Your cute little character still viciously inflates poor animals just defending their territory though – albeit in a cartoony, cute manner. It’s not a patch on the original, but it’s great to see it on a collection at least; Dig Dug II is oft-forgotten for good reason, but for preservation and curiosity value alone I’m glad it was included.
Fantasy themed, pseudo-Pac Man maze game Tower of Druaga is here and though it’s been featured on quite a few Namco Museum compilations over the years, it’s still an enjoyable game even now – so it’s not a bad thing that it’s now made its way to the Evercade.
Warp Man is another fairly obscure game from Namco’s history, but it’s not bad: a single screen shooter with maze stages too, it’s a fairly compelling high score chase that’s a lot more challenging than it looks.
Lastly, two little known 16-bit titles. One on one fighting game Weaponlord is yet another fantasy themed title for this collection, which has a surprising amount of lore despite only featuring a small selection of playable characters. It’s got a bit of a learning curve and quite a bit of complexity to its mechanics, so it’s a game that would definitely appeal to more hardcore, dedicated players rather than filthy casuals. Lastly is the Space Harrier-esque Burning Force, which has some great graphical effects, beautifully colourful art design and genuinely addictive gameplay. I’d never seen or heard of it before, but I’m definitely glad to see it on this cartridge.
Though it’s a bit of an inconsistent collection, one of the great things about this – and the first Namco cartridge – is the sheer variety in the games on offer, not to mention the clever mixture of familiar (some may say over familiar) titles with genuine obscurities and oddities in the Namco back catalogue that would normally be overlooked. Though it lacks the genuinely timeless classics that made the first collection essential, there’s some excellent games here that are well worth sinking your teeth into, and it’s a great dive into gaming history in general.
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