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GoNintendo Review: Namco Museum Archives: Pac-Man Championship Edition

Pac is BACK!

So happy to write a review up for this one. I am uncontrollably ecstatic about it. Hopefully my passion for the game comes through! As always, thanks for reading.

Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1 and 2 are jam-packed with classic NES games from Namco's past. Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Mappy, and so on. Two collections meant to tickle the nostalgia bone in older players. It's always nice to see companies revisit the games they cut their teeth on, and give today's players a way to enjoy them, while also making sure those classics aren't forgotten.

While seeing all these games collected in two virtual packages is lovely, there was one thing I've had my eye on ever since it was announced. We've known about Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1 and 2 for awhile now, but Pac-Man Championship Edition was only revealed a couple weeks back. This title is not like the others in the collection. Instead of a port of a classic NES game, this is a brand-new NES title, while also being a demake of 2007's Pac-Man Championship Edition. The second I learned about this, I knew I had to have it.

For someone like me who was on the fence when it came to grabbing Namco Museum Archives Vol. 1 and 2, Pac-Man Championship Edition made it a no-brainer. I'll always have a special place in my heart for both Pac-Man and the NES, and something brand-new that combines the two was just too much for me to resist. I knew right then and there that I'd need to get my hands on this game, and I couldn't hop in fast enough on launch day. I already knew that Pac-Man Championship Edition was going to be good, but I didn't know it would be this good.

The best Pac-Man games are the simplest ones, and Pac-Man Championship Edition is about as simple as it gets. The game follows along with the original Pac-Man very closely. Run through a maze, avoid the ghosts, eat pellets/power pellets/bonus items, and go for the high score. All the elements that made the original Pac-Man such a big hit are present here, but it's how they're slightly tweaked that makes them even more enjoyable.

While the original Pac-Man remains fun to this day, Pac-Man Championship Edition aims to provide an experience that is more in-line with today's gamers. The gameplay has been sped up to a ridiculous level. You're going to be flying through the mazes at breakneck speed, dodging ghosts left and right. Twitch skills were always a part of Pac-Man, but you really need to have them honed for Pac-Man Championship Edition. The maze has also been changed, going from a stage-clear approach to a never-ending run. Depending on the pellets you eat and bonus items you grab, the left and right portions of the maze will fill in with new pellet patterns. You zig-zag back and forth to constantly eat the new supply of pellets to see just how many you can gobble up in an allotted time. Again, it's the same Pac-Man mechanics as the original, but with some revamps that make the overall experience much more intense.

Pac-Man Championship Edition offers two modes of play; Normal and Extra. Normal gives you a 5-minute run through the maze, and gameplay starts off at a modest speed and only grows as the timer ticks down. Extra is a much more intense experience, with a different style maze/pellet pattern, a three minute time limit, and a ridiculous starting speed. Both modes are sure to push you to your limits, but Extra is absolutely insanity right out of the gate.

That's all that Pac-Man Championship Edition offers, and quite honestly, that's all it needs. Two modes of roughly the same thing might sound like an embarrassingly small amount of content, but that's not something I ever experienced while I played. That's because both modes in Pac-Man Championship Edition are pushing you to do one thing. They want you to snag the high score and see just how good you are. Each 3 or 5 minute round plays out like a blur, and when all's said and done, you see just how well you did. The thing is, every time you see that score, you get the urge to play one more round. You know you can do a little better...you know you can change your route to squeeze out a few more points.

That simple motivation mixed with the equally simple gameplay mechanics make Pac-Man Championship Edition quite an addictive experience. It's legitimately hard to put the game down, and I find myself keeping my Switch close by in order to sneak in a round or two. I constantly want to hop back in and improve on what I did last time. I'm often thinking of ways I could approach the maze differently to get a better outcome. The game definitely has its hooks deep in me, and that's how I know it's something special. Even with all the new games coming out left and right, my day doesn't feel complete unless I spend some time with Pac-Man Championship Edition.

The game itself is an absolute blast, but for me, the visual and audio package make it that much better. As I mentioned earlier, Namco Museum Archives' Pac-Man Championship Edition is an NES demake of the 2007 title. I played a ton of that version of the game as well, which was full of base-pumping music, neon visuals, and all sorts of flashy effects. While this NES version can't stand alongside the original release, it really does an amazing job of capturing that same style and feeling of the 2007 release. It's just so damn cool to see this type of experience with an NES approach.

It should be no surprise that this demake is top-notch, as it was handled by the team at M2. They are the go-to team for bringing classic titles back to today's platforms. They've done straight ports and revamped classics with new features, so an NES demake of Pac-Man Championship Edition is right up their alley. Everything in this version of the game looks, sounds, and feels just like an NES game. There's even sprite flicker worked into the experience to mimic how things would have run on an actual NES. This doesn't just pay tribute to a bygone era, it feels like it came straight from it.

The same goes for the game's soundtrack, which is so damn cool. If you like chiptunes, then you're going to love what Pac-Man Championship Edition has to offer. Just like the original Pac-Man, there aren't a ton of tracks to listen to in Pac-Man Championship Edition. You get a few menu themes, and then just one song for Normal and one song for Extra. That said, everything here is absolutely top-notch. The music really sounds like something an NES could handle, albeit genres that you've never heard in an NES game. We're talking about hardcore techno/bass/EDM style stuff. It's so crazy to hear how that kind of music would have sounded on an NES. The crunchy nature of it all perfectly fits the on-screen action, and it without a doubt heightens the entire experience. When Pac-Man is flying by at insane speeds and the chiptunes are blasting with old-school thumps, you really get immersed in it all.

I really do consider Pac-Man Championship Edition to be an almost perfect game. I have to say almost because the game lacks an online leaderboard. You do get your own high scores, and those are saved for as long as you'd like them to be. Still though, when a game's focus is high scores, it's a damn shame that you can't measure up what you've done against other people online. That would only help to keep the game alive for years to come, and give people more motivation to keep diving in. If you want that high score competition, you'll have to find a corner of the internet that's dedicated itself to tracking scores.

Outside of that gripe, I have nothing bad to say about Pac-Man Championship Edition. I was unbelievably pumped when the demake was announced, and the final product is even better than I could have imagined. Pac-Man Championship Edition is some of the most pure gaming fun I've had in a very long time. A timeless series elevated with a few new features, and it results in an experience you'll constantly want more of. Just writing about it now has me itching to go back.

Here's the best bit of praise I can heap on Pac-Man Championship Edition. The only way to get this game is by buying Namco Museum Archives: Vol. 1, which is priced at $20. You get 10 other games in the package, making it quite a good deal. That said, I honestly think the entire Archive is worth $20 just for the inclusion of Pac-Man Championship Edition. I really do find the game to be that damn good.

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