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Super Six: Namco

This week, it’s time for us to take an overdue look at six of the finest games from the famous arcade giant Namco. Founded in 1955, Namco enjoyed moderate success with various amusements until, in 1977, it joined the videogame boom. Building off the mechanics of Taito’s colossal hit, Space Invaders, Namco’s Galaxian redefined the fixed shooter and paved the way for the stratospheric success of Pac-Man and more in the early Eighties.

Kicking off this Super Six is Namco’s most renowned game, the round yellow fellow known as Pac-Man. Pursued by four relentless ghosts throughout each maze, Pac-Man completes each stage by consuming all the yellow dots. Additionally, the larger power pills allow Pac-Man to turn the tables on his pursuers, and as long as they are petrified blue, he can chomp on them for a high-score bonus. In a sky full of Space Invaders-style shoot-‘em-ups, Pac-Man was a breath of fresh air back in the early Eighties and became a mammoth hit once audiences had taken to its cute charms. Behind the simple gameplay, there’s much more going on that will engage anyone looking to notch a high score. The four ghosts each have a distinctive pattern, with Blinky constantly chasing the player, Pinky trying to cut them off, Inky stalking Pac-Man subtly, and Clyde alternating between chasing and running away. With the inclusion of novel cut-scenes also setting it apart, Pac-Man is a true legend of the arcades and a vital part of gaming history.

Namco released this brilliant maze racing game early in 1980. The player scoots across each labyrinthine maze in their blue Formula One racing car, dodging their crimson pursuers and collecting the small yellow flags. While many commenters noted the similarity with Pac-Man, Rally X has become a phenomenon of its own in the last 40 years, thrilling gamers with its lightning-fast pace and exciting challenges. Like Pac-Man, it’s a deceptively complex game: boulders block some roads, the opponents become more aggressive as the game progresses, and the player’s fuel meter is constantly chugging down. If you’re after more maze-based antics post-Pac-Man, there’s no better choice than Rally X!

We roll forward to 1987 for our next game, and the spy caper Rolling Thunder. Starring as Albatross, a member of the World Crime Police Organisation (WCPO), the player takes on the Geldra, a mysterious secret society based in the crime-riddled streets of Eighties New York. Unfortunately, Geldra has kidnapped your colleague Leila Blitz. Across various levels (called stories), Albatross ducks, dodges and shoots the enemy agents, occasionally nipping through a nearby door to replenish his ammo supply. With its colourful cartoon graphics and gripping James Bond gameplay, Rolling Thunder is an exceptionally tough arcade game that’ll prove a handful to even the finest gameplayer!

Pookas and Fygars have invaded Dig Dug’s underground world, and it’s up to this diminutive hero to crush them under falling rocks or inflate them with his pump until they explode. Dig Dug is another celebrated Namco arcade game, easy to get into yet devilishly hard to master. It inspired a whole genre of ‘digging’ games in the early Eighties, eschewing the pre-set mazes of Namco’s earlier hit, Pac-Man.

While its plot was never likely to win any prizes for originality, Xevious revolutionised arcade games back in the early Eighties, becoming one of Namco’s biggest selling coin-op machines. Until Xevious, most shoot-‘em-ups were fixed screen, rarely offering any type of scrolling. Xevious changed all that, its vertically-scrolling landscape a revelation for shooter fans. Mix in the addition of a bomb mechanic for those pesky ground turrets, and you’ve got a tight and lean shoot-‘em-up that justifies its place in this Super Six through historical context alone.

Finally, we have the marvellous Galaga, another of Namco’s celebrated Eighties arcade games. Galaga is the sequel to Galaxian and operates similarly. The player’s craft traverses the bottom of the screen as swarms of enemies (the Galaga) swoop down and attack. At the top of each phalanx sits a row of boss aliens. Should one of your fighters be captured, you can engineer a powerful double fighter by gunning down the guilty boss alien. With manic bonus stages, a steep difficulty curve and plenty of shooting action, this is one of the finest arcade games of all time and a fitting end to the Antstream Arcade Namco Super Six.

Play all these fabulous Namco games for free on Antstream Arcade now, to carry on the discussion with your favourite Namco titles visit the Antstream Arcade Discord and stay tuned for another Super Six soon!

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