Namco has never been a company bound to only one system. They have always jumped from console to console trying to find the best fit for their games. Oh sure, they have some exclusives (the Tekken series that seems destined to be on the PlayStation for the rest of time), but they don't ignore any of the major players, which makes them all the more endearing to their fans.
Namco's 2004 line-up has defined this principle that they should not leave any system untouched, as they've released games on just about every system, including the Nintendo DS. And when Sony's PSP launches next year, Namco will be front and center with a brand new Ridge Racer game. But does this "go-get-em" attitude work against their website? Or have we just found the perfect game publisher website??
Look and Design:
I have a love/hate relationship with Namco's website. For the most part I love it, since it's masterfully designed with all kinds of cool little touches. It's full of personality and manages to set itself apart in almost every way. This is a high bandwidth website with all the extras you expect, and a few you'd never expect. This is a great looking website, a real pleasure to go to.
This guy wants you to lose. He wants to take your money. He wants to watch you cry. Play another game and don't even give him the oppurtunity!
The problem is I hate some of the bells and whistles. More specifically, I hate the noises they've added to the Namco page, it makes surfing the site annoying. Every time I hit the main page I hear the sounds of airplanes thanks for the promotion for Ace Combat 5. Click on Katamari Damacy and you are subjected to a glass shattering yell. Thankfully these sound effects are only available on the front page, so as long as you ignore that page you'll be fine.
Let me just say, if you can put up with the sound on the front page, then you find one of the most intuitive websites. It's easy to find the pictures, descriptions, user comments, screen shots, and more. Of course, all the sites offer these accoutrements, but Namco makes it look effortless, and manages to impress even the most jaded viewer. Some of the game specific pages could use some sprucing up, but overall Namco's site does its job better than any other site we've reviewed so far.
But that's for the new games, what about all those classic games we grew up loving? Searches for Klax, Splatterhouse, Treasures of the Deep, and other classic Namco titles turned up fruitless. Like all the other sites we're reviewed, Namco just doesn't have a place for their past games. They have no problem keeping track of everything after the Dreamcast, but trying to find anything for the Genesis, Super NES, Turbo Grafx, or NES is futile. Still, this seems to be a trend, so we have a hard time docking points from the site for this one and only shortcoming.
If you qualify for access to their news section you will find a page that looks much like all the other pages we've reviewed. Namco doesn't have a lot of news, mostly shipping dates and game announcements, but
If your game sucked as much as the Trigger Man's, you'd be a little pissed off too!
it's presented in an easy to read and find way. Don't let the fact that it's not open to the public fool you, Namco's news site is just as good as the rest of their website . it's just not as flashy.
Not only has Namco gone the distance to give the media the information they need, but they are also doing their part to help parents choose the best game and better understand the ESRB. Not only does the Namco website link to the ESRB page, but they also have a link for a more helpful guide to the various ratings (incase the M for Mature wasn't obvious enough for you). This is a great idea, but would have been a lot more effective had the links to the ESRB's website actually worked.
Namco's webpage isn't all looks and flashy designs; it actually offers at least one enhancement I wouldn't mind seeing on other websites. With the click of a button you can listen to Namco's own radio station, a streaming radio mix of all their classic songs from recent games, classic arcade games, and more. Some of the music will drive you right up the wall, but most of the time it's worth listening to. I can only imagine how cool this feature would be on the Square Enix page, a company that has literally dozens of hours of great music to share with the world. Still, this is a great feature that compliments one of the best game publisher websites out there.
FINAL GRADE: A-
(Important Note: This review was written in 2004. As is the case with websites things tend to change and get moved around. We've decided to cover major companies who should have a presence on the web for many years to come, but the actual reviews of the layout may not be relevant for more than a month to a year. Having said that, we're hoping this article was still interesting, and if not, at least you go this extra little paragraph of explanation that you wouldn't normally get on the other websites.)