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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 Classic Collection Volume 2

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2The Game: Three of the most popular games from Namco’s arcade heyday are brought back in the ’90s, both in their original forms and in “remixed” versions with updated sound and graphics and tweaks to the game play. Pac-Man Arrangement adds power-ups, new mazes, new graphics and a whole new breed of See the videomonsters to the most classic arcade game of the 80s, while Rally-X Arrangement refuels with power-ups and audiovisual enhancements of its own. Dig Dug Arrangement revamps the underground classic with a new breed of enemies – and a new variety of ways to eliminate them. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: Building on the success of the Namco Classic Collection Volume 1 coin-op compilation, Namco returned here to the jewel in its crown. Not that Mappy or Xevious are anything to sneeze at, mind you, and Galaga certainly isn’t a minor entry in the arcade pantheon. But how can you possibly beat a revisitation of Pac-Man? 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

Pac-Man Collection

Pac-Man CollectionBuy this gameThe Game: Namco raids the archives once more, offering up arcade-perfect handheld adaptations of Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, one of the first-ever home versions of Pac-Man Arrangement, and the Tetris knock-off Pac-Attack. (Namco, 2001)

Memories: Namco has offered some dandy attempts at bringing Pac-Man home from the arcades. They tried with the premiere volume of the Namco Museum series for the Playstation, which suffered from having its display savagely reduced in size to include a lame bitmapped version of the original side art. They tried again with the Game Boy Color version of Pac-Man, and got damn close. Even their battery-powered 5-in-1 TV Game is close enough for government work. But I’ll be gobbled by a quartet of colorful blobs if this ain’t the closest thing this side of MAME to real live honest-to-God Pac-Man. Continue reading

Pac-Man Vs.

Pac-Man Vs.The Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, one player maneuvers around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters, up to three of which are controlled by his fellow players, who can eat Pac-Man on contact. In four corners of the screen, large flashing dots enable Pac-Man to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period of time. Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and Pac-Man can consume these for additional points as well. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to the chase. If cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster. The game continues until a preset target score is reached, or until Pac-Man is caught by one of the monsters; the player controlling that monster is then handed the Game Boy Advance to take over Pac-Man’s role. (Namco, 2003 – for Nintendo Gamecube)

Memories: Let me just come right out and say that I have a bit of bias toward this game. Pac-Man is an all-time favorite of mine, the very reason I’m still as into video games now as I was 20+ years ago. You just can’t go wrong with Pac-Man – well, then again, maybe you can. In recent years, the character has gotten to star in a series of platform quest games, boldly going where Mario and Luigi have already gone before plenty of times themselves. As much fun as the original Pac-Man World could be, that game’s killer app was still, undoubtedly, that it could play the original arcade Pac-Man, or a slightly 3-D remake of it in “maze mode.” There hasn’t been a really good use of the Pac franchise in years – until now. Continue reading

Katamari Damacy

Katamari DamacyOrder this gameYou control the pint-sized Prince, whose dad, the massive King of All Cosmos, seems to have inadvertently blotted out every star in the night sky. Now, your old man is sending you on a mission to go down to Earth – a planet blessed with a lot of stuff – to gather that stuff into large sticky clumps called katamari. You start out small, picking up tiny everyday items like pushpins and matchsticks, but as your katamari grows in size, it can pick up larger objects – frogs and mice, crabs, dogs and cats, people, cows, cars, trees, and eventually even things like buildings and giant squids. At the beginning of each stage, you’re tasked to accumulate enough stuff to grow your katamari to a predetermined diameter, and once the timer runs out for that stage, your katamari is either launched into the sky to become a new star See the video(don’t ask us about the astrophysics on this one, because this game’s universe throws the whole hydrogen-and-helium thing out the window), or the King of All Cosmos returns to chide you for your puny efforts and makes you start again. There’s also a split-screen battle mode where two players can not only build up their katamari, but hurl their katamari at each other; a katamari of sufficient size can engulf your opponent and his katamari too! (Namco, 2004)

Katamari DamacyMemories: I love Namco. When I go looking up my favorite classic arcade games of all time, they’re almost all by Namco. And some of them are so strange. I mean, think about Pac-Man on a purely conceptual level. Or Dig Dug. Or Phozon. Now apply the same attempt at a logical explanation to Katamari Damacy. (Good luck.) Give up? Even a generation later, Namco’s still turning out some great, offbeat, innovative, fun games. Continue reading

Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary

Namco Museum: 50th AnniversaryBuy this gameThe Game: To commemorate their 50th Anniversary, Namco has released pixel-perfect translations of sixteen of their greatest classic arcade games, all on one budget-priced disc. (Namco, 2005)

Memories: Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary brings sixteen classic arcade games such as Pac-Man, Galaga and Dig Dug directly into your living room. All the games play exactly like their upright counterparts, and they should by now; this is at least the third time Namco has released ported versions of these arcade games to the home console market. Continue reading

Namco Museum Megamix

Namco Museum MegamixThe Game: Join Pac-Man as he rolls around the carnival-like grounds of the Namco Museum. Six “remixed” games are featured: Buy this gameGalaga Remix, Rally-X Remix, Gator Panic Remix, Pac ‘n’ Roll, Pac-Motos, Grobda Remix – as well as a healthy selection of Namco arcade classics: Cutie Q, Galaxian, Pac-Man, King & Balloon, Rally-X, Galaga, Bosconian, Super Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Xevious, Grobda, Motos, New Rally-X, Dig Dug II, Pac-Mania, Gaplus, Pac & Pal and Mappy. None of the games are hidden away as “unlockables,” achievements or Easter eggs, and all can be enjoyed freely. (Namco, 2010)

Memories: A Wii exclusive, Namco Museum Megamix elicits both suspicion and joy from this reviewer. On the “suspicious” side of things, the Wii has already had Namco Museum Remix, which had five of the six “remixed” games listed above, and maybe half of the arcade games that appear in Megamix; even Megamix‘s manual seems to acknowledge that you’ve already been suckered into buying Remix and therefore you already know the control scheme for the selection menu (which is almost a game unto itself). But on the good side, for the first time in quite a while, Namco has finally acknowledged something else: the media on which Namco Museum Megamix arrives has a much greater capacity than the 74-meg Playstation CD-ROMs that carried the first iteration of Namco Museum in the 1990s. Let’s fill that open space with… more games! Continue reading

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