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Namco Museum Battle Collection

Reviewed October 2005 by Alex Lifschitz

Publisher: Namco Hometek
Developer: Namco
Release Date: August, 2005
ESRB Rating: "E" for Everyone 10+
Genre: Classic Arcade
Price: $39.99

Founded in 1955, Namco's humble roots began in making children's rides for department stores. However, it soon migrated to the coin-op videogame market. A young man named Toru Iwatani created a number of games for the fledgling new company. He then created Pac Man, and the rest, as they say, is history. Recently, Namco, much like other older game companies, has been releasing compilations of their older and more prolific titles. Many of these collections have been preying on the nostalgia of gamers past, but Namco's most recent compilation has gone above and beyond, rehashing games with new graphics and gameplay. But is a simple facelift enough to make these ancient games appeal to today's gaming crowd?

When you first boot up the game, you are treated to a slot reel of Namco's classic games. Namco has decided to run the full gamut of old titles, releasing golden oldies such as Pac Man and Dig Dug, and less-known games such as Mappy and Rolling Thunder. Some of these games are still as fun and innovative as ever, while others have proven that time is not kind to all old games. All the good games are perfect examples of what gameplay should be, and prove it by still holding their own in today's market.

Games such as Pac Man, Dig Dug, and Galaga need no introduction. However, one of the first things you may notice is the unabashed similarities between games. For instance, you may have fun reliving the good old days in the arcade with Galaga, but you also have similar airplane shooters such as Bosconian and Galaxian clogging the selections. Some games also sport sequels, such as New Rally-X. Many of these games are simply not varied enough to support their inclusion in the game. And some games, such as Tower of Druaga, are simply tedious at best, requiring nearly no skill to play and plenty of patience to wade through the cavalcade of near-identical levels.

Fortunately, Namco has not just rehashed their old properties. They have also introduced a number of games that many have yet to experience. Yet once again, only some of these games still stand the test of time. Some try valiantly to inject some life into the mix, but once again prove stale. This is not to say that other new titles are all that bad; some may enjoy playing them just to experience a mixed feeling of nostalgia and discovery. Some games, such as Rolling Thunder, a side scrolling shooter reminiscent of Shinobi, still look rather nice for their age, though all the games are still as nail-bitingly tough as you remember. Still, the variety in games is rather nice, so you'll probably find something to like here.

Since many of these games were released in a time before widescreen, you can adjust their appearance on the screen. Though some games, such as Rolling Thunder, are better in widescreen, blowing up these old games is only a painful reminder of their age, as the 30-year-old resolution is made painfully clear. Still, even at smaller settings, the PSP's screen makes the games easily visible.

But if pure nostalgia isn't your thing, there are also brand new versions of Pac Man, Dig Dug, Rally X, and Galaga. Thankfully, Namco didn't stop with a mere graphical tweaking; they have added brand new gameplay elements to each game, such as bosses in Dug Dug and speed panels in Pac Man. While they sound minor, these new tweaks can change the gameplay entirely, and make tired old classics fun and refreshing again. Watching the background change from level to level in Galaga may not seem exciting, nor would a "world selection" screen in Dig Dug be very interesting, but the new graphics add a nice sense of progression to these games. And yes, they are still quite addictive.

Finally, new multiplayer elements have been added to the mix. You can choose to share with a friend in one of two ways. You can either use the game sharing option to let them download the first levels from 10 games, or play the new game arrangements in their multiplayer modes. While the former is a good way to let a friend try out the game, the latter is the meat of the gameplay experience. The new Pac Man offers a multiplayer mode like that seen in Pac Man Vs. for the consoles, as well as a co-op mode, and the other games offer similar multiplayer experiences. They are more along the lines of party games than anything, good for a quick blast with some like-minded friends, though this mode does require additional copies of the game.

The controls adapt quite well to the new games. You have the option of using either the analog stick or directional buttons in most games, though the directional pad offers better control for these games, as many were created without 8-way functionality. Other than that, the controls are quite competent and responsive, but most of all, they are exceedingly simple (given the subject matter).

Graphically, the ports are faithful to the original games, so you may want to play these games in their native resolution. The new arrangements have undergone a very nice graphical facelift, though they do stick to the core gameplay. Sorry, no full 3D Galaga. Some segments, however, are fully 3D, such as the new Pac Man, and the backgrounds in Galaga, as opposed to the flat, two-dimensional hand-drawn updates to Dig Dug and Rally X. Really, the game isn't meant to be a feast for the eyes, but it could have used some graphical reinventions for other titles (more than four, at least).

All the classic boops and beeps of the arcade classics are present in this compilation. The new arrangements also feature slightly tweaked sound effects, though they are similar enough to their older counterparts to have a charming, nostalgic feel. Still, much like those many years ago, the sounds can simply get on your nerves after awhile. It's hard to press a compilation game for great sound, but once you get past the warm, fuzzy memories of the arcades, the tinny sounds will have you reaching for the volume faster than you can sing the Pac Man theme.

Overall, the game is mostly a crash-course in gaming history for younger gamers, and a trip down memory lane for the grizzled ancients. They do try to freshen up the action by introducing newer games and arrangements, but many of the games don't hold up with time, while some, including a few new ones, are just plain awful in retrospect. There is still gameplay to be found in many of the classics (some of which will get you hooked all over again), and the arrangements are a nice touch, but not enough to really justify a $40 price tag. The game definitely could have used some other content, such as chronicles on the makings of the classics, developer interviews, game histories, etc. If you love compilations, pick this up immediately; you will appreciate the new content and older classics. But if you like your games epic and long-lasting, you may want to pass this up. It's a fun little romp down memory lane for gamers both old and new, but not much else.

 

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Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

All of the older games are nearly perfectly emulated, while the newer arrangements have a nice graphical touch. Still, it's hard to give a good graphical score to decades-old games, but I have to give kudos for the faithful ports.

Sound

Once again, nostalgia helps to justify the faithful sound ports, but after a while, it can just get irritating, or worse, stuck in your head.

Fun Meter

While many of these games don't stand the test of time, all the classics are still here in their full glory. The arrangements are different enough to warrant replaying your favorite classic franchises, while some older content still holds up thanks to classically entertaining gameplay.

Addictivity

The games that had you hooked years ago have come back to haunt you, and you may just find that putting them back down is harder than you think. Multiplayer is a blast, and the old quarter-munchers will keep you in their steely grips… Minus all the lost cash, of course.

Total Score= 3.5 Dragons, 70%



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