It’s time for another cart.
It’s presumably either Saturday or Sunday when I publish this article, which means it’s time for another Evercade cart review for this week’s Retronomicon piece. The second Namco collection contains eleven games, of which I will be reviewing eight of them with a bonus three extra reviews.
Aren’t I generous?
If you’re already familiar with the games and are looking up this review to see how the games run and what versions they are, I’ll summarize it here. None of them are the arcade versions, all of them run fine without framerate issues.
1. Burning Force (1990)
Burning Force is a 1990 Sega Genesis conversion of an arcade game, go figure. A pseudo-3d shooter where the player is stuck to the bottom of the screen for most of the levels and one that has you fighting back wave after wave of enemies. The game itself is notoriously short, making up six “days” with each day consisting of three levels. But it’s an arcade game, meaning that in its primal form the length of content comes from numerous game overs along the way.
Burning Force isn’t a bad game, it’s certainly more lenient than others of its ilk by having three hits per life instead of dying on a single shot. It’s fun and the camera does a good job of displaying depth although it will still take some getting used to. The toughest part involves predicting where shots will go, because they don’t angle quite the way you’d expect.
It’s an old formula, but a functioning one.
2. Dig Dug 2 (1986)
Dig Dug 2: 2 Dig 2 Dug was a rather unexpected sequel to Charles Bronson’s Death Wish 3. I’m kidding, it’s the sequel to The Goonies. This game is kind of what you would expect out of a sequel to Dig Dug. What’s left to do when the player can already dig and dug to their heart’s content? You expand on the gameplay mechanics.
In this game rather than being underground the player and enemies are on an island. Why? Where? That’s not important, this is an arcade game. The point is that in order to complete each level you have to kill all the enemies and not be killed by the enemies. You have the standard issue air pump as well as a new jackhammer to dig fault lines and cause parts of the island to collapse. What I’m saying is that Dig Dug 2 is a direct allegory to insert historical moment.
On one hand you’ll be killed a lot less by enemies in this version. On the other hand you’ll kill yourself a lot more. There’s something about Dig Dug 2’s movement and the enemy getting caught up on fault lines that makes the game easier than Dig Dug but also harder. It’s great that the title isn’t just “Dig Dug but more levels” and actually thinks outside the box to bring in new elements.
I believe this is the Famicom version.
3. Dragon Spirit (1989)
Dragon Spirit is sort of interesting for the time in that it has an opening mission that determines what difficulty mode you’ll play on by whether or not the game thinks you suck. Essentially if you die on what is basically the warm up level, you get thrown into easy mode. Don’t die and you’ll be on normal difficulty. I only know about this because I read the wiki before writing these reviews.
The game itself reminds me more of Xevious from the previous Namco collection in that it’s a top down side scrolling shooter that makes use of land and air enemies and forces the player to juggle two separate weapons to deal with them. The five years of experience between Xevious and Dragon Spirit lead to a game where air and land enemies are much easier to identify, not to mention what you can and can’t fly through.
Dragon Spirit is short and simple and fun.
4. Galaga (1985)
In my previous Namco review I said that Galaga is legions ahead of Galaxian, and after some careful consideration I have a modification to that statement. Galaga is legions upon legions ahead of Galaxian in terms of quality. Presumably the Famicom version of the arcade game, Galaga comes to us from the world of Space Invaders successors, titles that took the tried and true formula and made it better.
One thing I love about Galaga is that enemies come in to the screen instead of just starting off every level like a pre-made Roman legionnaire. They fly into formation and there’s a lot of joy and satisfaction to be had from wiping them out before they take their place, it’s like the game is putting you on somewhat more equal footing to make up for the fact that it’s one lone gunman against an army of aliens.
Enemies are more aggressive and have new tactics here, but the game doesn’t quite feel unfun or unfair. Galaxian felt like the deck was unfairly stacked against you. Galaga feels like you have more of a fighting chance.
5. Pac-Attack (1993)
We eventually had to hit a bad game on this list. Pac-Attack isn’t bad in the sense that it doesn’t function well, just in the sense that it’s not that fun to play. A puzzle game that’s actually a reskin of Cosmo Gang The Puzzle, Pac Attack is like the bent fork of Tetris clones; just because it’s unique doesn’t make it useful. Groups of three blocks and ghosts fall from the ceiling and your job is to position them before they hit the ground, like Tetris.
The blocks work like Tetris; fill a row and they’ll disappear. For the ghosts you need to get a Pacman to eat them. Pac-Attack is incredibly tedious, especially at higher levels when the blocks start dropping faster and faster.
Another scrolling shooter, this one an arcade game ported to the Genesis. Phelios puts players in charge of a knight mounted on a Pegasus fighting monsters from Greek mythology as well as a legion of smaller minions. It’s a perfectly competent shooter scroller and I honestly don’t have much more to say about these games at this point.
You do have the benefit of being able to take multiple shots before dying, and as you go through each level you gain power ups that increase your speed and give new weapons. You can hold down the fire button to charge, and it’s overall just a fun shoot em up.
7/8. Splatterhouse Part 2 & Splatterhouse 3
Splatterhouse is abject trash, it’s one of those series that came out at a time when games would advertise themselves as being totally radical, tubular, and grossout bodacious to distract kids from the fact that the game itself wasn’t very fun. Your mom wouldn’t approve of this game, so annoy her until she buys it anyway you chumps.
If it hasn’t been obvious, I’m not a fan of the old arcade brawlers and most of that comes down to them being designed around gobbling quarters. When ported over to consoles you’d think that the games would be improved upon, but most of the time the quality was even worse due to hardware limitations. Splatterhouse puts the player in control of a Jason Voorhees knockoff who just goes to show how much less scary Friday the 13th would have been had Jason been the big lumbering monster but also very easily killable.
These games suck and it mostly comes down to the completely stiff controls and cheap hits meant for arcade players. Rick controls like the living embodiment of arthritis and enemies move far too fast to make either game enjoyable. While Splatterhouse 2 is a 2d side-scroller, Splatterhouse 3 moves into more of an open, Double Dragon style beat-em-up.
For both games the draw comes from the atmosphere and brutality, both of which have these in spades. An impressive presentation can’t save either game from being a frustrating, monotonous adventure.
Verdict: Pass for both
9. The Tower of Drauga (1985)
No. Just no.
The Tower of Drauga is one of those games that lying liars like to lie and claim they really really enjoy. Why? Because it makes them look smart. Tower of Drauga is needlessly complicated, obtuse, and boring. The player goes through 60 levels completing the most arbitrary and obscure tasks to find hidden treasures. The amount of investment not to mention trial and error required to play this game to the fullest is far beyond what it provides in terms of enjoyment.
The Tower of Drauga is credited as influencing a number of far better games including The Legend of Zelda, and the title was extremely popular in Japan. For the rest of us it’s like being kicked in the crotch repeatedly with the ultimate prize being a 10% off coupon at Quiznos. It’s just not worth the pain.
10. Warpman (1985)
Warpman is…fine. The player takes control of a little spaceman with the goal of shooting everyone else on the level. The other aliens walk around slowly and fire blasters of their own that are easy to dodge or just shoot out of the air. Every so often the black hole flashes and you can enter it to get to a different mini-game emulating Bomberman. One interesting aspect is that the weapon upgrades you pick up affect the other half, so the Bomberman bonuses affect your gun in the normal game.
Completely passable if not entirely memorable. Turn the sound off since the blaster firing is likely going to give you a migraine.
11. Weapon Lord (1985)
Weapon Lord will rip out your beating heart, show it to you, and then make you watch it get crushed as you take your final breath. You can tell that the designers of Street Fighter II worked on this game, as Weaponlord is a fighting game that takes no prisoners. It’s a complex fighting game that I have neither the skill, hand coordination, or will to actually learn.
But boy howdy is this a complex and demanding fighting game, especially for what we’ve seen on the Evercade so far with titles like Clay Fighter. There’s a small selection of fighters to choose from, but each fighter has many special attacks to learn. Combat is a complex series of moves that brings in weapon breaking, unblockable attacks, and more. And while I’m no expert on this genre, reviews suggest that tropes like corner camping and cheap shots are basically nonexistent here.
For the average player Weapon Lord might seem overwhelming. It definitely was for me. But there is a lot of game here, even more so when the Evercade Vs. comes out.
So for the Namco Collection #2 gets 6 keeps out of 11. For the price of $20 you get some scrolling shooters, a whole lot of arcade ports, Galaga, and a bunch of crap. The Namco collections have been the hardest to push for since they are smaller collections of more consolidated games meaning if you’re not a fan of a specific genre then you’ve already lost 1/4 to 1/3 of the games on the list. But I also don’t claim to be an expert on games, which is why I include YouTube videos of each game to accompany my thoughts and give the reader a more complete view of what the game offers, so you can decide if you don’t agree with me.
Next up is the second Interplay collection. See you next Sunday.