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[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 01/24/05 ] = The Chain Of Last Days

Sometimes I don't give Namco enough credit. I'm not the developer's biggest fan, but as I look back at the last 4 years, Namco has actually released some good games. My relationship with Namco has always been hit and miss; I like some of their games (Soul Blade, Soul Calibur II, Ninja Assault, Time Crisis, Ridge Racer 64), but I'm not too big on some of their others (Pac-Man, Mr. Driller, The Tower Of Druaga, Tekken Tag, Weaponlord). However, there have been some good Namco releases over the past few years, and other developers have made some quality games on Namco's PlayStation 2/System 246 hardware, as well. And while I've always had mixed feelings about them, over time I have come to respect them more...

The releases of Ninja Assault and Mazan impressed me, and lately I have come to like Soul Calibur II and Time Crisis 3. Ninja Assault is cool because it's a gun-game with a ninja theme to it; ninjas are awesome, and a gun game with a ninja theme can't be beat. Ninja Assault is the best gun-game Namco has ever made (I like it more than their flagship gun-game series, Time Crisis). Then there's Mazan, an interactive game similar to that of Namco's gun-games, but with a samurai sword. I have to give Namco credit where credit is due, and what they did with Mazan was unique and cool. In Mazan, the player uses a katana sword (similar the guns used in gun-games) to slash enemies that appear on the screen (similar to shooting enemies in gun-games); it's fun, and takes skill to stay alive. I wasn't very interested in Soul Calibur II upon its release, but the combination of watching friends play it, reading Play magazine's coverage on the game, and seeing its impressive artwork eventually drew me in. I picked the game up recently (better late then never, right?), and while I think it shouldn't be used as a model to judge other fighting games (as Soul Blade and the first Soul Calibur were), it is a good game. Time Crisis 3, while not as good as Ninja Assault, is still just as fun as Time Crisis II, with improved visuals, effects, and character design.

I also like the partnership efforts Namco has made with other developers in the past few years. Not only did they take part in the development of light-gun games like Vampire Night (Sega) and Dino Stalker (Capcom), but they also licensed their System 246 hardware out to other developers for titles like Gundam (Capcom), Capcom Fighting Evolution, and Bloody Roar 3 (Raizing). I've been impressed at the bonds Namco has created with other developers (both first-party and third-party) in the last few years. It has shown character; a lot more character than when they developed the sub-par Ergheiz with bullshit Square. Namco also developed the GameCube arcade hardware together with Nintendo and Sega, which is something I give them a lot of respect for. The GameCube technology is great, but it hasn't really been successful, so it's cool to see that Namco's support is behind it with good titles like the upcoming StarFox Assault. The game looks even better than StarFox Adventures, complete with redone graphics, explosive multi-player support, and fresh character design. It's good to see Namco bringing some quality to the table, and I'm looking forward to trying it out. In the future it would be nice to see more PlayStation 2/System 246 titles make it to the GameCube/TriForce with enhancements and upgrades (similar to Bloody Roar: Primal Fury), but this is just a minor suggestion, considering the fact that Namco has been successful in strengthening their bonds with other developers in the industry...