Namco Museum Archives Vol. 2 landed on Xbox One on the very same day as the first volume, which is a bit disappointing given the asking price and how these games could very well have been bundled as a single collection for the price of one. Alas, money talks and we have two rather pricey collections. Much like Vol. 1, Vol. 2 comes with 11 Namco arcade classics and suffers from the same issues as well: notably the absence of actual museum features and a clumsy rewind function.
Namco Museum Archives Vol. 2 has a collection of arcade classics released from the mid-late ‘80s, and between the two volumes it is fascinating to see how Namco, and arcade gaming in general, has evolved over time. Where Pac-Man was the highlight of Volume 1, especially the demake of 2007’s Pac-Man Championship Edition, in this volume the pellet chaser makes an appearance in the rather obscure and best-forgotten Pac-Land. Even during the time of its release, Pac-Land was a rather clunky and outdated runner-platformer which simply paled in comparison to some of the genre pioneers at the time, namely the timeless Super Mario Bros. on Famicom and NES. Pac-Land is an interesting curiosity but showed that Pac-Man simply belonged inside a maze. Unfortunately this was a lesson the developer would not learn, given the average-at-best Pac-Man World series of 3D platformers.
Galaga is certainly among the highlights of Vol. 2; this was a game that took the foundation of Space Invaders and really turned it up a notch. Although the shmup genre has come a long way since, this 1985 shump arcade classic still manages to entertain. Although not nearly as enticing as a demake of Pac-Man Championship Edition as in Vol. 1, the second volume of Namco’s archives does offer players an official 2020 Famicom version of Gaplus, which technically was a direct sequel to Galaga. The game certainly is a lot of fun, as unlike the prequel, where the spaceship is stuck at the bottom of the screen, in Gaplus you are free to move around the entire screen. Plus, it is rather colourful and vibrant too.
There are a few sequels in this collection, such as Dig Dug II and Mappy-Land, but of interest is Dragon Buster II, which certainly achieves its open-world RPG ambitions more convincingly than its predecessor in Vol. 1. Some of its ideas can be found today in games like Blaster Master Zero. Speaking of RPGs, Vol. 2 features a rather fascinating title called Legacy of the Wizard, which certainly has a lot in common with Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap given its open 2D platformer RPG design. Granted, the game design isn’t as polished, but it’s still cool to see an alternative from that same era.
Rolling Thunder is definitely one of the cooler games in Vol. 2, harkening to the days of spy action manga during the ‘80s. This 2D run and gun shooter is quite tough, especially to softened gamers of 2020, but the charming visuals and presentation go a long way to make this a game worth coming back to again and again.
And then, if there was one game nearly everyone who grew up during that time would have played, it is Battle City. This is a fun and addictive top-down shooter involving tanks, and really set the template for this rather niche genre for decades to come. Even now, players would be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining video game about tanks than Battle City. The two-player mode makes this an easy couch multiplayer recommendation, and best of all the “Construction” mode allows you to create your very own levels. This game alone is worth hours of entertainment with friends.
Long before Game Freak became known as the Pokémon Company, they were designing some pretty inventive titles, and one of these included in Vol. 2 is Mendel Palace. Just from the outset it is fascinating to see how the character sprites and art would lay the genesis of what gamers would eventually end up having in those Game Boy Pokémon titles. Mendel Palace is a colourful and fun romp where the player must flip floor tiles to send enemies crashing into a wall. It’s a simple whack-a-mole setup with plenty of power-ups and other level design gimmicks to keep things interesting.
Namco Museum Archives Vol. 2 on Xbox One may not have anything as interesting as a demake of Pac-Man Championship Edition like that seen in Vol. 1, but this is still a strong collection of some of the company’s best Famicom classics, with most titles still as enjoyable now as they were decades ago. It may not have actual archive features, but this is still a fun trip through gaming history.