Jakks Pacific TV Games: Namco
by Polly





A good friend of mine ended up getting me this thing back for Christmas in '03. I'd seen the damn little things hanging around stores in various flavors, but figured they were just there to cash-in on the whole retro thing the world seemed to start going through at around that time. Ya know, people running around in Zelda and Mario shirts being the big hip thing, though I'm not sure that one's went away quite yet. So, while the thought of these little things irked me a bit, I have to admit I was at least a bit curious, so getting little guy with someone else's money was certainly an easy to way to scratch that curiosity itch.

What I found is that the damn thing isn't that bad at all. For something I just pop four batteries into and plug into my TV, it's actually quite the impressive little fellow. From what I can tell by knowing a few of these games in their original forms (and various things I've read around the interbutts), these aren't straight-up arcade ports, but rather games re-coded from the ground up for this piece of hardware. That leaves room for a bit of inconsistency, but overall it's still not all that bad.

From a design standpoint, the actual unit itself is clearly made to resemble the control panel of an arcade cabinet. Defying all control configurations over the course of the last twenty years or so (no big stretch of time REALLY!), for some reason the joystick is on the right and the fire button is on the left. This is just unbelievably uncomfortable for games that require use of both elements. If this is a bother for you (it is for me, as I'm a lefty) your only option is to maybe hold the box in your right hand with your right thumb going under the joystick to hit the fire button and using the joystick with your left hand. It works, but the sharp edges on the sides of the system dig into your right palm and it becomes a bit too uncomfortable for long play sessions...which I endured anyway.

Since it's all Namco games you probably have an idea of what to expect from the selection of five games on here:

Pac-Man
Galaxian
Dig-Dug
Rally-X
Bosconian


Of course, there's Pac-Man. We've all played Pac-Man before and we all loved it, I'm sure, but it was never really one of my favorites. Pac-Man is pretty much just given free reign to be in any Namco product he wishes and I can't say the little guy doesn't deserve it.

I was never that big of a fan of Galaxian either. Space Invaders-type games were always too slow for me to really enjoy, so I've never really wasted much time on this one either. For some strange reason, the friend that bought me this thing could spend hours in front of it if you let him though.

Dig-Dug? Who the fuck doesn't love Dig-Dug? Raise your hand right now so we can identify all the queermosexuals in the audience. This game's always been fun no matter how you look at it. This one's just a teensy bit scaled down from the arcade in terms of vertical size and the music is a tad different, but a great version of the game nonetheless. Again, if you can't have fun, go back to your dick salad sandwiches.

Rally-X could almost be considered Pac-Man with race cars. You use the radar on the right side of the screen and navigate your way around maze-like courses to capture ten flags before you run out of fuel or the enemy cars smash you out of lives. You can put a stop to the cars chasing you by puffing out smoke, though it's extremely limited. This one's fun in small doses, but the enemy car AI feels way too rigged most of the time and has a tendency to just get on my nerves if I'm not in the mood.

And now, for my personal crown jewel of the collection. The "nobody gives a fuck about it" Bosconian. I could say I've wasted up to three or so hours at a time on this one game and it wouldn't be an exaggeration at all. I've done it. Damn if my hands didn't hurt something fucking awful afterward, but I've done it.

I guess if I was to compare it to something I've played that's more popular, it'd be Time Pilot maybe? It's a top down free-flight shooter where your goal is to simply hunt down enemy space stations on the map and destroy them. Each station can be destroyed by either destroying the six pods on the outside (if you're a score whore like me) or by taking out the core in the middle. You do this all the while taking down barrages of enemy ship formations and avoiding asteroids and space mines. Spend too long in a stage and it goes into Red Alert Mode where enemy forces hound you even more fiercely until you die or clear the board.

What makes Bosconian neat is your ship fires forward and backward everytime the fire button is pressed so you can be a little fancy with how you can outmaneuver your opponents and take out stations. The only thing missing from the arcade version is the ability to fly diagonally since the unit's joystick only goes four ways. This does take some flexibiilty away from how you can take down enemy craft, but the game feels like it was programmed to compensate for this and doesn't get quite as insane with enemy ships and fire. Love this game to death.

So, to say that I'm happy with this little guy is an understatement. I've had it for six years and I still drag it out on a somewhat regular basis for some Dig-Dug or Bosconian action. They're a little hard to come by now and somewhat pricey, but if you do find one on the cheap, maybe give it a look and enjoy your easily portable nostalgia fix.






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