Namco Museum Virtual Arcade (360)

Review: Namco Museum


Retro Compilation

Another seven chances to play fucking Pac-Man.




For a company like Namco, which has the morals of any alley cat, this compilation offers surprisingly good value.  Unfortunately, that’s the only surprise on offer as what we have here is what must be Namco’s fifteenth anthology piece.  Yep, stock up on ProPlus and energy drinks and get ready to play Pole Position yet again.

This package comes in two halves, as indicated by the main menu.  First up we have a compilation of all of Namco’s Xbox Live Arcade output.  Most of this is awful dogshit but if you don’t own them there is some value to be had and there is at least one real gem in there, Pac-Man CE.  Yes, I know… Pac-Man has never been good but this is different.  A subtle but envigorated remix of the original formula with the now-standard neon makeover and leaderboard friendly timed game modes.  I hate Pac-Man usually but can’t recommend this version enough.

The ever-lovely Pac-Man CE.  The only decent Pac-Man game on the disc.

The ever-lovely Pac-Man CE. The only decent Pac-Man game on the disc.

Also notable is Galaga Legions.  It’s a decent update of the series (although not one for Galaga purists) but has a horrendous difficulty spike half way through which more or less kills the game for normal players.  Aside from those you’ve also got Mr Driller: Online which, like all Mr Driller games, is boring and pointless but is now afflicted with an unreliable online mode and the coin-op ports of Pac-Man (yawn), Ms Pac-Man (Ms Yawn), New Rally-X (suprisingly enjoyable maze-based driving nonsense), Galaga (non-nonsense fixed shooter), Dig Dug (likeable Mr. Do rip off) and Xevious which remains to this day the most boring shoot ’em up ever made.

That little lot would cost you 4800M$P which comes to £40.80 in your Earth pounds.  Not bad when you consider that this package can be picked up for £25 in-store and probably less online.  That said, Pac-man CE is only 800M$P by itself, which remains your best course of action if we’re basing this on the XBLA content on the disc.  Achievement whores will also have access to 1800 points of silky soft gamerscore with several of these games giving up their pointage without too much resistance.

The brutal but elegant Rolling Thunder.

The brutal but elegant Rolling Thunder.

Of course, that’s not all you get though and your willingness to purchase the game may end up being swayed by the Museum section of the package.  Here we get 22 ports of Namco’s old shit as well as ‘arrangement’ versions of Dig Dug, Galaga and Pac-man.  These arrangement versions date first appeared on other Namco compilations back in 2005 and feature updated graphics and gameplay.  The enhanced Dig Dug seems to be the best of them but even that is likely to put you in coma if you’re not careful.  Enhanced Pac-Man and Galaga are quite shit.

The no-thrills ports are pretty much vanilla with no online play, eaderboards or achievements (they surely could have allocated 1000GS across the Museum titles) although they do seem to have been smoothed out graphically with some sort of filter.  All the usual suspects are here and quite why Namco keep inflicting them on us I’ll never know, unless they actually believe that Dig Dug 2 or Mappy were any good.

Here’s a swiftish run down of the good ones:

Rolling Thunder.  The star of the whole show.  A Shinobi-esque spy romp that still looks and plays as good as it did in ’80s.  It’s weepingly hard and you’ll never ever complete it (it’s easier to get to the Earth’s core than it is to get to the final boss and he’ll fuck you up quicker than Chuck Liddell armed with hammers) but it is still as classic an example of late ’80s arcade gaming as you’ll find.  Marvel at the pallette-swapped baddies, digitised speech and savage difficulty!

Metro-Cross: Running Man but coked up.

Metro-Cross: Running Man but coked up.

Galaga ’88.  By far the best Galaga ever released.  This game would have benefited from the XBLA treatment as it’s perfect for high-score competitions but even in this utterly straight port the game’s addictive action and quirky humour still shine through.

Metro-Cross.  This one here is a bit of a curio.  You run horizontally whilst avoiding traps and obstacles in a futuristic race against time.  It’s a true classic and robbed me of countless ten pence pieces in my youth.  It’s also a little more forgiving than most of the games on this compilation.



Secondary Review

Well, well, well what do we have here then? Looks like Namco are not done pushing their old arcade games on to an unsuspecting new market, that of the next generation of gamers that is. So Namco have dusted off their classics and put them on a shiny new disc.

Most of the games in this collection have been “collected” before and a lot of the games in this collection appear to be repeats, I mean how many different versions of Pac-Man do we need when there is Pac-Man C.E. on the disc. The same could be said for Galaga and to a lesser extent Dig Dug.

That said this is a fairly bare bones collection with some good games on there but this DVD is missing some features that would stop me recommending it to a die hard arcade fan. The games don’t have any history pages so no nice artwork or interesting text to read but the killer is the fact that you can’t rotate the screen for all those lovely TATE (stand up) monitor screen games which is disappointing.

That said I would only suggest getting this game if you do not currently own the Xbox Live Arcade games on this disc otherwise you might just want to stick to emulating these games on MAME as only a few of these titles hold any kind of value. Here’s hoping for a Capcom or Taito collection soon…Secondary Score: 5/10

As far as worthwhile titles go, that’s it.  The other twenty or so vary from ‘distinctly blaverage’ (Motos, Pole Position and Pac-Mania) to ‘horrific’ (Baraduke, Tower of Druaga, Dragon Buster).  Some of them (the multiple versions of Pac-Man and other games that have better versions on the XBLA section) are just utterly pointless which unfortunately makes up a large portion of them and unfortunately the Museum titles lack the videos and developer information that turned up in earlier Namco collections.  Which would have been such an easy thing to add to the package to round it out a little.

So, while this is a fairly sizeable chunk of Namco’s early output its presented in such a dry, uncaring way that you’ll end up giving less of a fuck about these games than Namco seem to.  Also, it almost goes without saying that the 360’s d-pad still isn’t anywhere near being useful against the challenges these games offer.

Probably the worst thing about this collection is that we’ve all seen these games re-released time and again and to be honest it’s getting irritating now.  The thing is, Namco have other, more interesting games that they constantly overlook in favour of Pac-Man variants (of which there are seven on this disc) and other usual suspects.  If they’d taken the chance and thrown in with Pac-Land (a platforming title and probably the best Pac-Man spin-off), Splatterhouse, Questor, Blazer, Final Lap and Assault then this might have been more interesting for retro junkies.

As for the score… well if you own the better XBLA titles already and have a PC set up with MAME and a half-decent controller then this honestly is worth maybe one or two out of ten.  If that’s not the case then the score you see below reflects the good value for money on offer here but I’m not awarding a single point more considering what a missed opportunity this is.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 3/10

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