The 8 Ball 12.04.12: Top 8 Namco Games
Welcome to another edition of The 8 Ball games column. I plan on looking at some of the top Namco games to have been released, either developed by Namco, or produced by them. My own knowledge is a little spotty on Namco, mainly because they’ve been around longer than I’ve been alive. Never the less, I hope to include a few classic games as well as some of the later ones that have made Namco a recognizable name in the gaming world. Let’s begin:
8. Dig Dug
Starting off with an oldie, but a goodie, Dig Dug was a pretty big deal back in the day, and people over 30 still have fond memories of it. The basis of the game is that you, as the titular Dig Dug, want to kill the various monsters that inhabit the underground levels. You do this by going around breaking up the ground, which can free rocks to fall on enemies below them, or by inflating the monsters up with your air-pump that looks like a whip until they explode. It’s a pretty simple idea by today’s standards, but still is kind of fun to mess around with. The challenging part comes in when you have a lot of monster’s chasing you, or trying to line up a few monsters in a row so you can get a massive score bonus by dropping a rock on all their heads.
7. Time Crisis
While there were other light gun games at the time (or earlier), notably Area 51, Terminator 2, and Virtua Cop, Time Crisis was the first that actually felt like you were involved in the action. This was primarily due to the pedal which was used when you wanted to attack. Normally in the game, you’re always behind cover (so you can’t attack), but when you press the pedal down you pop out of cover and that’s when you can shoot the bad guys. Ducking behind cover is also how you reloaded your gun once it was out of bullets. While Area 51 might have been a cooler game, Time Crisis was the game that really tried to evolve the light gun genre and make it a lot more player-driven then its brethren.
6. Eternal Sonata
This game seems to pop up on a lot of lists I make, simply because I enjoy it, and think it’s a fantastic game. While the first 5-10 hours are pretty slow, the game just really spoke to me, as a good representation of what a roleplaying game should be. It looked lovely, had a nice story, a few really good standout characters (Viola and Salsa), and while it was a bit melodramatic, it wasn’t obnoxiously so. The biggest problem actually is just that the main character, Polka, looks like a reject from some weird Disney-Anime fusion and has almost no personality. The battle system alone was very interesting and it kept you on your toes the entire time you played the game.
5. Tekken 3
I’ve never been a huge Tekken fan, as a general rule. My old college had a Tekken 2 arcade machine set on FREE PLAY and even then it cost too much to play. Just the five minutes or so of playing it was too expensive to me. Tekken 3 though, despite it being Tekken was fairly solid, especially on while on the Playstation 1. It managed to look better than the arcade version, had the same fighting action, and included two completely bonkers characters, Gon and Dr. Bosconovitch. While I think there are much better fighters out there, one of which appears later on in this list, Tekken 3 was still a quality game, even by today’s standards.
4. Ridge Racer Type 4
While the first Ridge Racer (and Revolution) get all the accolades, Ridge Racer Type 4 is where the game actually clicked with me and I started to enjoy it. RR4 was a kind of supremely weird game to have come out. While Gran Turismo came out a year before and was the standard for simulation driving, RR4 came out a year later and set a new standard for arcade “fun” based driving. There were cool cards, well-laid tracks, an incredibly ill-conceived controller as an optional pack in (which I had, God was the Jogcon terrible), and an intro sequence with Reiko Nagase that is so Japanese, it borders on parody. Ridge Racer Type 4 was the high point of the series, one Namco desperately keeps trying to get back to.
3. Pac Man Championship Edition DX
Yes, Namco’s classic mascot finally makes his appearance on this list. Truth be told, I was never really into any of the older Pac Man games. While they might be classics, the gameplay just never really struck me as interesting. It always just boiled down to “run around the maze until you get cornered, then go for the Power Pellet, rinse & repeat”. DX changes the formula up though by constantly having the maze shift as you gobble up pellets, along with having a massive line of ghost’s chase you as you start waking more of them up. Add in a rocking soundtrack, and some very cool graphical options, and it makes Pac Man the game it was meant to be.
2. Katamari Damacy
Coming out of left field completely, Katamari Damacy really took the gaming community by storm. It combined elements of hard-core Japanese culture (in a farcical way), inventive and addictive gameplay, and one of the strangest stories in gaming, made Katamari Damacy one of the real break-out hits of the Playstation 2 era. The crux of the game was just having the Prince roll around the Katamari picking objects up, making the Katamari bigger and trying to please your insane father, the King of All Cosmos. But the game had such a great style mixed in with such simple, but fun gameplay, that people still look fondly back on the game to this day.
1. Soul Calibur
This was the game that really *made* the Dreamcast such a cool system to own. Like Tekken 3, Soul Calibur’s port not only matched the arcade version, it far surpassed it. Adding in vastly superior graphics, a new (fun) character, and a mission mode, made the game a “must own” on the Dreamcast. Aside from all that though, the game was just a well-balanced fighter, from the quick Taki, to the slow & powerful Nightmare, to the uniqueness of Voldo or Yoshimitsu, every fighter was capable and could be deadly against everyone else.
Probably the big ones that people will complain about is the absence of original Pac Man, or Ms. Pac Man. “Feh” to that, like I said earlier, I was never hugely into those games. I did like the Namco-produced Naruto games, but they cranked out so many of them that you just lose track of which is the best one. Also, Dark Souls didn’t make this list because while it is interesting, it’s too unwieldy as to be a classic game.
The big game that people seemed to say a lot about last week’s column was Bioshock. Yes, a Bioshock movie would be great. It also would fall into the category of “They tried to make it a movie already, and failed” though, with the Gore Verbinski stuff. Saints Row 2 is garbage, period. Half Life would be a terrible movie, unless they actually had a mute actor play Gordon Freeman. Then it would be ok. There’s also not enough actual story in the Legend of Zelda as to make a movie, let alone three of them. Although if they got Danny DeVito to play Tingle, that would be the best casting ever.
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