Burgertime

BurgertimeThe Game: As Chef Peter Pepper, you climb around a multi-level factory whose sole function is to make some really big burgers. We’re talking about some BIG burgers here. But your ingredients aren’t exactly cooperating with you… (Namco, 1985 [Japan] / Data East, 1987 [US])

Memories: A little bit of an oddity – a Data East-originated arcade game ported to the Famicom by arcade competitor Namco (and then sold in the US by Data East itself) – this version serves up a happy meal worth of authentic Burgertime action on the NES. Continue reading

Dig Dug

Dig DugThe Game: Who said landscaping was easy? You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, which you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the Pookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into See the videoyour tunnels, and if a Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. (Namco, 1985)

Memories: For some reason that I have a hard time trying to fathom, this game was released for the Famicom only – the Japanese console which was re-engineered as the NES for the English-speaking market. The reason I can’t fathom that is that this is a perfectly playable port of Dig Dug. Did Namco really think that this cute classic was past its sell-by date in the States? Continue reading

Galaga: Demons Of Death

Galaga: Demons Of DeathThe Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships See the videowhich arrives with each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Bandai, 1988)

Memories: Despite being one of the most consistent arcade hits of the early ’80s, Galaga seemed to be left out in the cold for years before coming to the home console scene. The first attempt, Atari’s passable Galaga cartridge for the Atari 7800, didn’t quite have the audiovisual flair of the arcade version. By the time the NES version was released, it was clear that things had changed – for all intents and purposes, this was the arcade game, and it looked and sounded and played just like the original. When the litmus test of ’80s consoles was arcade authenticity, you just couldn’t do better than that. Continue reading

Mappy Land

Mappy LandThe Game: Mappy the Mouse is back, pursuing his feline arch nemesis Boss The Big Bit and his kitty kohorts through several themed zones of an amusement park. Riddled with ladders, trampolines, secret weapons and treasures, the park goes from wild west to tropical and beyond. Just avoid the cats, lest Mappy become someone’s mousy morsel. (Taxan [under license from Namco], 1988)

Memories: As much marketing muscle as was flexed for the introduction of Namco’s Mappy, you can tell that there was a strong feeling that he was the next big thing. But apparently law enforcement’s #1 rodent didn’t quite catch on; Mappy wasn’t the expected super-hit, going over moderately better in Japan than it did in the U.S. Continue reading

Xevious

XeviousThe Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, bombing tanks, and trying to destroy the Buy this gamemothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and deadly ground-based defenses become the norm. Also look out for tumbling airborne mirrors – they’re impervious to your fire, but you’re toast if you fly right into them. (Bandai, 1988)

Memories: It wasn’t the first version of Xevious ever to hit a home console – Atari, who held the arcade rights for Namco’s genre-defining scrolling shoot ’em up in North America, made sure it had the rights for its home consoles too. But, in one of the more unfortunate coincidences of the video game industry, none of the three planned versions of Xevious made it out of the starting gate on time. Continue reading

Dig Dug

Dig DugBuy this gameThe Game: You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, which you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the Pookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if a Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. In New Dig Dug, you guide Dig on a series of subterranean adventures, trying to unlock buried doors by finding some equally buried keys. Pookas and Fygars still stalk the underground tunnels in the new game, only each one that Dig dispatches is replaced by a new Pooka or Fygar from above. (Namco, 1992)

Memories: Okay, so we’ve got arcade-quality Dig Dug on the Game Boy Advance thanks to Namco Museum. But I thought it’d be fun to go back and revisit the original monochrome Game Boy version of Dig Dug to see how close it was to the arcade game. And the answer is…well, not very. Continue reading

Galaxian3

Galaxian3The Game: An alien war fleet is closing in on Earth, armed with a powerful weapon that can eradicate the entire planet. You (and, if you happen to have some fellow gunners, four others) man the artillery batteries of an armed-to-the-teeth ship on a mission to take the fight to the aliens before they can bring it to Earth. If you successfully complete that mission, you can also move on to a second mission to defend the planet Gourb from the Galaxian fleet. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: This is the home adaptation of Namco’s theatrical walk-in video experience which appeared in arcades and amusement centers around 1990. How theatrical is it? The game’s literally in widescreen, with scoring information and statistics appearing outside of the letterbox area. Continue reading

Namco Arcade Classics 3: Galaga / Galaxian

Namco Arcade Classics 3: Galaga / GalaxianBuy this gameThe Game: A two-fer! In Galaxian, attacking formations break off from the usual rows and columns of invaders to dive-bomb you. And in its sequel Galaga, you’re up against another alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives with each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Namco, 1995)

See the videoMemories: Along with the release of a newly revamped PC and Playstation edition of Galaga – one of Namco’s best-loved classic titles, a new Game Boy version of that game has arrived in stores as well.

This is not a review of that game. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 1 (“N”)

Namco Museum Volume 1Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest exporters of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man at your side, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum, where you may examine classic video game sales brochures, promotional items, posters, and the arcade cabinets themselves – which contain, naturally, the actual games. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: A fantastic idea in a so-so package, Namco Museum‘s first volume on the Playstation is a mixture of picture-perfect emulations and a not-so-perfect framing structure. The thought of all the extra material is great in theory – and it has turned out to be one of the “compelling applications” for the DVD format. But in Namco Museum, these nifty ephemera from the 80s are presented to you as exhibits in clumsily bit-mapped hallways and rooms which aren’t even as convincing graphically as the Windows 95 “maze” screen saver. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 3 (“M”)

Namco Museum Volume 3Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated and encased in digital museums. Some game companies, like Namco, are big enough to spread their best titles out over five discs. With Pac-Man hanging around, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum once more. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: Namco Museum 3, reprinted in the “greatest hits” range of Playstation games, contains some of the biggest coin-op successes to emerge from Japan’s video game supergiant – but this volume, also known early on as “Volume M,” also sees the beginning of the Namco Museum collection’s shift toward fighting and action-RPG-style games. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 2 (“A”)

Namco Museum Volume 2Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest exporters of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man still underfoot, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum yet again. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: The second volume (also known as Volume A) in Namco’s 5-disc collection of arcade emulations for the Playstation is the most difficult to find – one often sees it going for nearly twice its original retail price in eBay auctions – and yet it has some of Namco’s biggest “cult” hits… and yet only volumes 1 and 3 have been reprinted. Go figure. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 2 (Japanese version)

Namco Museum Volume 2 (Japanese version)The Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest makers of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man still underfoot, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum yet again. (Namco, 1995, for Sony Playstation)

Memories: It’s hard for me to really justify blowing $25 on this particular import. Maybe it’s just the perversity of having two different versions of Namco Museum Vol. 2 when the American edition is hard enough to find as it is. Or maybe it’s because I want to be able to play as many classic arcade games as possible on my Playstation. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 4 (“C”)

Namco Museum Volume 4Buy this gameThe Game: Namco has even more games they’d like us all to remember, only this time, you might not remember them half as clearly as Pac-Man, who’s still dragging you through the halls of the Namco Museum, eager to play each and every one. Oddly enough, you’ve probably never seen any of these games before. The greatest challenge in your path in Volume 4? Figuring out the controls for The Genji And The Heike Clans and Return of Ishtar. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: Personally, I don’t remember any of these games, save for the bizarre scrolling exploration game Pac-Land and Assault, which I believe was licensed to Atari. Inspired by the ABC-TV cartoon series, Pac-Land may indeed be the only reason anyone might now try to track down the now out-of-print Volume 4 of Namco Museum. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 5 (“O”)

Namco Museum Volume 5Buy this gameThe Game: The Namco Museum is open for business one last time! Today’s exhibit features games of the late 1980s, and of course Pac-Man – being the prideful little single-celled organism that he is – simply must see all the displays. You wander the halls one last time, visiting some really cool themed rooms for each game, with the yellow one underfoot. Games included this time around are Metro-Cross, Pac-Mania, Dragon Spirit, The Legend of Valkyrie and Baraduke. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: For the final installment of their series of classic arcade emulations, Namco mined their late-80s games, concentrating on fighting and quest games primarily. The only relatively simple title included on Volume 5 (a.k.a. Volume O) is the final arcade appearance of Pac-Man in Pac-Mania, a very simple updating of the original Pac-Man set in a vaguely Zaxxon-esque three-quarter perspective. In a way, Pac-Mania is the direct predecessor of the 3-D “maze mode” of Namco’s recent retro revival Pac-Man World. Continue reading

Namco Museum Encore

Namco Museum EncoreThe Game: All aboard! Now departing the Namco Museum aboard the spaceship Game Space Milaiya. Namco’s retrospective series literally takes off for its final ride on the Playstation with a collection of seven games, from the earliest days of Namco’s video game empire to more recent arcade titles. (Namco, 1997 – for Playstation)

Memories: For the final PS1 outing of the Namco Museum series, Namco turned out what easily could have been the user-friendliest volume yet, dispensing with the tedious “Doom minus the action” museum settings and otherwise simplifying things dramatically. In short: doing away with the extraneous trappings to make way for more games. Continue reading

Xevious 3D/G+

Xevious 3D/G+Buy this gameThe Game: Evil aliens are taking over the world and building heavily-fortified installations on land and undersea! Our last defense against them? You – and your well-armed Solvalou Fighter. You can repel air attacks with your lasers, and See the videotake out ground bases, missile launchers and tanks with your bombs. (Fortunately, you never run out of either of these!) Every so often, you’ll have to fight the odds to take out one of the aliens’ primary bases – and then you’ll have to deal with the huge “Bosses.” (Namco, 1997)

Xevious 3D/G+Memories: This somewhat obscure Namco title updates and revives their classic arcade title Xevious, which accumulated a cult following in 1983 when the game was released Stateside by Atari. Truth be told, Xevious 3D/G+ doesn’t rewrite the book or reinvent the wheel. For the most part, the game simply puts the original Xevious in a vaguely third-person 3-D perspective, adds some weapons and enemies (most notably the enormous and hard-to-kill Bosses), and kicks ass graphically. I liked this a lot. It has a great deal of respect and reverence for its source material. Continue reading

Galaga: Destination Earth

Galaga: Destination EarthBuy this gameThe Game: A couple of centuries after the attempted Galaga invasion of Earth in 1982, human terraformers have set their sights on a nearby world for colonization, and a massive expedition is launch – but, of course, since such an exploration is a costly venture, defense cutbacks are made, leaving Earth vulnerable to a new Galaga invasion. Of course, you’re the only surviving space fighter pilot in the outer solar system, so it’s up to you to take on the Galaga invaders single-handedly. Now, however, you wage war on the bugs from one of three perspectives: Alpha configuration (an exceedingly difficult first-person vantage point), Gamma configuration (a side-scrolling shooter, a la Defender), and Delta configuration (an upward shooter like the original Galaga). You can also capture the aliens’ tractor beam device and use it against them, capturing their own ships and commandeering them. (Hasbro Interactive [under license from Namco], 2000)

Memories: This game has been much pooh-poohed by the modern gaming press, as well as by several classic gaming outlets. I’m here to break ranks with the masses – who are all too ready to declare that a new title sucks anyway – and let you know that Galaga: Destination Earth isn’t that bad. Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness

Ms. Pac-Man Maze MadnessBuy this gameThe Game: The evil witch Mesmerelda kidnaps Professor Pac-Man into her alternate dimension before Ms. Pac-Man’s very eyes. To rescue Professor Pac, Ms. Pac must retrieve the four crystals of virtue (what, is she gonna run into Lord British along the way or somethin’?) and defeat the countless evil minions of Mesmerelda, ranging from the usual pesky ghosts to fast-moving, whirling-dervish-type critters, fire-breathing dragons, a special guest appearance by Centipede, and more. Power pellets, of course, provide the universal solution to all of these problems: if it gets in your way, eat it! But the challenge becomes how to find that all-important next power pellet? (Namco, 2000)

Memories: I really liked the “maze mode” of last year’s Pacs-travaganza, Pac-Man World, and I can safely say this: those of us who enjoyed that aspect of Pac-Man World will get a big kick out of Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness. Unlike her hubby’s retro revival game, which imbued Pac-Man with numerous new powers such as the rev-roll, the butt-bounce, and so forth, Ms. Pac just has herself. She can’t butt-bounce, rev-roll, or any of that strange stuff. She can only jump with the help of strategically-placed springy things, she can push movable blocks and crates of TNT around, and she can fly with the aid of magic carpets. No super-powers for Ms. Pac-Man – just her own resourcefulness…and, of course, yours. Continue reading

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