Namco Museum Remix: more than just a retro collection

The Wild and Wonderful World of Wii banner

Today we’re looking at Namco Museum Remix for Nintendo Wii! Yes, it’s still 2022 at the time of writing — but I probably owe you an explanation.

I think enough time has passed now that we can reasonably ask a question like “hey, who remembers the Wii?” and not feel like it’s a daft thing to say. It was a full two console generations ago now, after all, which I’d say qualifies it quite nicely as “retro” — plus I (and several other people on the Rice team) have always argued that both the Wii and its successor the Wii U are still eminently worth talking about, for a variety of reasons.

Much of the Wii’s library was written off at its time of original release as either inferior versions of games that were available on other platforms, or shovelware collections of minigames. And sure, in some cases, the “shovelware” accusation is correct — though you might be surprised how much enjoyment value you’ll find in less-than critically acclaimed titles. On top of that, Wii games are as cheap as chips to collect these days, with many selling from second-hand specialists like CEX for as low a price as 50p.

So that’s what this new column is about. With Wii games — and the consoles to play them on — still readily available in 2022, I think it’s high time we revisited this platform and took a look at what it has to offer, with a particular focus on games that might not have had a ton of attention given to them first time around.

Namco Museum Remix

We begin, as previously noted, with 2007’s Namco Museum Remix, a package that might initially seem to be just another retro compilation — but which actually offers a surprising amount of value and collectability, even bearing in mind Namco’s predilection for releasing many of its old games on each new generation of hardware.

One of the things I’ve always liked about Namco is that outside of their refusal to ever give us another Ridge Racer ever again — or to rerelease the old ones, for that matter — they have a remarkable amount of respect for their history. And not just the well-known parts of their history, either, like Pac-Man and Galaxian — each “Namco Museum” release we’ve had over the years has paid tribute to both the company’s big hits and some of the more obscure titles from their back catalogue.

Namco Museum Remix for Wii actually provides some surprisingly deep cuts — and some even more surprising omissions — and thus is well worth taking a look at simply for its small but well-formed library of retro titles included. But arguably the more significant attraction to the package comes in the form of the titular “Remixes” — brand new takes on previously released games, designed to take advantage of the Wii hardware. We’ll come back to those in a moment.

Namco Museum Remix - Xevious

The retro titles on offer include Galaxian, Dig Dug, Mappy, Super Pac-Man, Gaplus, Xevious, Pac & Pal, Pac-Mania and Cutie-Q. Galaxian, Dig Dug and Xevious — plus possibly Mappy — will doubtless be familiar to even casual retro gaming fans, since these are some of Namco’s most commonly rereleased (and consistently popular) old games. It’s not hard to see why, either; they were all genre-defining games in their own way — Galaxian helped move the fixed shooter genre beyond Space Invaders, Dig Dug helped codify a lot of the conventions of the “dirt and boulders” genre, Mappy established some interesting conventions for side-on platformers, and Xevious is one of the main origin points of the vertically scrolling shoot ’em up.

But from a modern perspective, it’s those deep cuts that are perhaps the most interesting, because we don’t see them nearly as often. Perhaps they might not be as revolutionary or popular in some ways — but they’re certainly interesting, and definitely enjoyable.

Take Super Pac-Man, for example. After Ms. Pac-Man, which began its life as a strictly unofficial sequel to Pac-Man by General Computer Corporation and Midway before receiving Namco’s blessing, Namco decided that it would try its hand at a Pac-Man sequel itself. The result was a slightly more complex game, which still involves the original Pac-Man’s “maze chase” aspect, but which now requires Pac-Man to open doors by eating keys, and instead of eating dots, he must consume all the fruits on the level.

Namco Museum Remix - Super Pac-Man

Super Pac-Man didn’t perform as well as expected in arcades, so it’s not as well-known as its illustrious predecessors, but it’s still a fun game. The same is true for the unusual Pac & Pal, another attempt by Namco to make a Pac-Man follow-up — this time featuring a computer-controlled partner character in the form of Mil, who picks up and moves around the items that Pac-Man has to eat in order to clear the stage.

In Pac & Pal, you have to pick up cards in the maze, which in turn open doors and allow you to access items. Most of these are simply worth points, but several items themed after other Namco games — including a flagship from Galaxian and the car from Rally-X — allow Pac-Man to actually attack his enemies with a beam blast for a limited period. It presents a markedly different take on Pac-Man’s maze chase formula while still being easy to pick up and enjoyable.

Probably the deepest cut in the collection is 1979’s Cutie-Q, a game designed as a hybrid of Breakout-style block-breaking and video pinball. It’s actually quite historically noteworthy as one of the first games Namco put out that used recognisable, cute characters — something which would prove to be a great influence on sprite designer Toru Iwatani’s later work on the original Pac-Man — and also quite a remarkable, rare example of what was originally rotary paddle controls being well implemented on a modern(ish) system.

Namco Museum Remix - Cutie-Q

For the unfamiliar, a paddle controller is a rotary dial that is typically used in “bat and ball” games like Pong and Breakout; it’s an early form of analogue control that allows precise positioning rather than simple on/off switches for using left and right. It’s a control scheme that fell out of favour quite early in the lifespan of the video game medium — and when emulating classic paddle-controlled games on modern systems, very few developers get it right.

Namco, meanwhile, absolutely hit it out of the park with the Wii version of Cutie-Q simply by using the Wii Remote’s pointer functionality to control your bats in the game. This is the most precise implementation of not-paddle controls you’ll ever see that doesn’t actually use a rotary dial, and actually makes me a bit sad that the Wii Remote is a thing of the past.

These retro games are all well and good — and it’s worth noting that rather than being simple emulation, they’re actually native Wii ports, which means they run beautifully well — but it’s clear Namco wanted the main attraction of Namco Museum Remix to be the… well, the remixes. There are five of these on offer, and each of them pays homage to a Namco title of years gone by in one form or another.

Namco Museum Remix

The simplest Remix on offer is Gator Panic, which was originally a Whack-A-Mole-style ticket redemption game. Here, alligators pop out of four different holes, and by using a combination of the Nunchuk analogue stick and swinging the Wii Remote, you cause Pac-Man to act as a “hammer” and bonk the gators on the head. You have a time limit to score as many points as possible, with your score affected by both the gators you bonk and the number of times they bite you.

It’s a simple game and likely to be a fun party game if enjoyed with friends, but it’s by far the least interesting and substantial of the Remixes in Namco Museum Remix if you’re playing solo.

Namco Museum Remix

Next up, we have Rally-X Remix. This is based on the 1980 spiritual successor to Pac-Man, which sees you driving a car around a maze collecting flags while attempting to avoid the unwanted attentions of the evil red cars. The game contrasts with Pac-Man in that it’s possible to lose a life through crashing into certain obstacles as well as simply being caught, and it eschews Pac-Man’s power pills in favour of a smokescreen you can deploy to confuse enemies hot on your tail.

The Remix version of Rally-X is pretty true to the arcade original — right down to its controls being a bit wobbly, especially if you’re using the Nunchuk’s analogue stick — but presents the game from a polygonal forced perspective rather than a simple top-down view. The anonymous player car has been replaced with Pac-Man driving a go-kart, and it’s now possible to collect power-ups around the field to give you more smokescreens or activate nitro boosts.

Dodgy controls aside — and this problem is mostly alleviated if you play with just the Wii Remote’s D-pad rather than the Nunchuk — Rally-X Remix is a good take on the Rally-X formula. It’s a bit of a shame each level is completely self-contained rather than allowing you to play an arcade-style survival/score attack challenge as in the original game, but those levels do offer you a gradual escalation of challenge at a good pace, plus a nice change of scenery and music every few levels.

Namco Museum Remix - Pac-Motos

Next up we have Pac-Motos, which is an adaptation of one of Namco’s lesser-known titles. Here, you control Pac-Man from a top-down perspective, and your job is simply to butt all the enemies off the stage without falling off yourself. Take too long and comets start falling on the stage, making holes in it.

Both in the original Motos and Pac-Motos, you can collect “parts” in various stages, then make use of them prior to a new stage beginning. Power parts allow you to increase your bumping power, making it easier to force heavier enemies off the stage, while jump parts allow you the ability to jump over gaps as well as cracking and destroying the tiles that make up the play arena. A new addition to Pac-Motos is the Charge part, which brings in the “Knight Pac-Man” power-up from Pac ‘n Roll — more on that in a moment — and lets you charge up a hefty thwack to hopefully send your enemies flying.

Namco Museum Remix - Galaga Remix

After that, we have Galaga Remix, which sees Pac-Man rolling down a bunch of rollercoaster tracks in space, with us in charge of protecting him from the aggressive tendencies of the insectoid Galaga. This game unfolds as a lightgun-style shooter, making use of the Wii Remote’s pointer feature to allow you to aim.

This is a real highlight of the Namco Museum Remix package, as it starts simply but gradually grows in complexity with each passing stage. What initially appears to be a fairly mindless affair becomes quite strategic over time, with prioritisation of targets and knowledge of their individual capabilities becoming more and more important the further you go. It’s also dramatically presented with plenty of sweeping camera angles, making it an exciting, joyful arcade-style experience — even if its overall connection to Galaga in gameplay terms is a tad tenuous!

Namco Museum Remix - Pac 'n Roll Remix

Finally, we have Pac ‘n Roll Remix, which is a port of the 2005 Nintendo DS game, with a number of features stripped out and one of the original game’s worlds replaced with a brand new one. The missing features — which include collectible gems, time trials, challenge stages and an unlockable world — aren’t really missed, since the core game experience is pretty solid, and the lack of story allows the game to feel nicely focused.

In Pac ‘n Roll Remix, you take control of Pac-Man as he rolls around a series of 3D levels collecting dots and attempting to make it to the goal. At various points in most stages, you must have collected a particular number of dots in order to pass “Golvis Gates”, and there’s an additional optional challenge of getting a perfect score on each level by finding all the dots — some of which are inevitably hidden.

Pac-Man’s basic abilities are to roll around, controlled by the Nunchuk analogue stick, and to have a short burst of speed by shaking the Wii Remote; the latter move can break wooden boxes, which often conceal secrets. Collecting a chocolate bar with a knight image on it allows Pac-Man to break metal boxes and be heavy enough to roll around underwater, while collecting a winged cap allows him to float over larger gaps than normal.

There are also Pac-Man’s trademark power pills in certain levels, allowing him to chow down on the ghosts who show up occasionally — some of which carry dots or additional power pills on their heads, making it necessary to defeat them for a perfect score.

Pac ‘n Roll Remix feels like the most substantial and fleshed out part of Namco Museum Remix, despite the material it had cut compared to its Nintendo DS incarnation. It feels like a game that could have quite easily been released by itself on Wii — but the addition of all the other stuff you get in Namco Museum Remix just makes this a really lovely package overall.

Namco Museum Remix

Is it the finest collection of Namco classics available? Absolutely not; taken by itself, this is an utterly bizarre collection of some of Namco’s weirdest games plus some equally weird modernised versions. But considering Namco’s more well-known and beloved games are available in umpteen other places at this point, Namco Museum Remix becomes a worthwhile acquisition precisely because it’s filled with so much weird nonsense.

It’s worth noting that North America (and only North America) actually got a rerelease of Namco Museum Remix in 2010, which added ports of Bosconian, Dig Dug II, Galaga, Grobda, King & Balloon, Motos, New Rally-X, Pac-Man and Rally-X to the mix, plus a new Grobda Remix game. If you have access to a Wii that can play North American games, Megamix is undoubtedly the version to go for, since it’s otherwise identical to Namco Museum Remix.

But if not, don’t sleep on Namco Museum Remix; it’s a great example of Namco paying tribute to some of its lesser-known games — and an even better example of the Wii playing host to a number of experiences you simply can’t get anywhere else!

Namco Museum Remix can be had for about £6 (at the time of writing) from CEX.

Join The Discussion

Rice Digital Discord
Rice Digital Twitter
Rice Digital Facebook

Or write us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page by clicking here!

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on them. This is at no additional cost to you and helps support Rice Digital!

Pete Davison
Spread the love!

Related post