Published by: forahobby on 2004-05-15
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For many gamers Soul Calibur is the only Namco classic they're aware of, but us elder gamers remember some of the games that defined a generation. These games -- Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug -- are responsible for breeding a generation of gamers. Many of the people designing (or reviewing, or playing) games today started out with these games in the arcade. And for that reason, Namco continues to put out a classic collection on every new console that springs up -- because old school gamers get nostalgic.
Being among that group, I assure you that nostalgic feel is real and ever-present. No matter how many times Namco releases their Museum, people of all walks of life manage to wander by and say, "Oh man, I love Dig Dug." It then takes about twenty minutes before they'll give up the controller and go back to their drinking binge. Includes the following games:
Pac-Man - The classic maze game
Pac-Man Arrangement - A befuddled mess filled with disco flashes and horrendous music
Galaga - As Virtua Tennis is to pong, Galaga is to Space Invaders
Galaga Arrangement - Like a halcyon-induced hallucination... one bad trip
Dig Dug - You pump up monsters until they explode -- genius.
Dig Dug Arrangement - As the Mona Lisa is to a painting made from elephant feces, Dig Dug is to this Arrangement
Pole Position - A classic racer in need of a steering wheel
Pole Position II - No wheel, but more Position
Ms. Pac-Man - One of the best games ever made
Galaxian - A poor cousin to the better-loved Galaga
Pac-Attack (unlockable) - It's like Tetris with Pac-Man! Wait... where are you going?
Pac-Mania (unlockable) - Pseudo-3D Pac-Man where you can jump the ghosts (or just turn off the game)
The package The true classic games of Namco Museum (Mr. And Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaxian, Galaga, and both Pole Positions) are well represented, with the exception of Ms. Pac-Man. Each game features the true arcade side-paneling on the borders to give you the feel of playing on a real arcade board. But while Pac-Man and most of the rest seem exact translations, Ms. Pac-Man is actually slower than the original. It felt sluggish and I thought maybe I was nuts, but then I went and played Ms. Pac-Man at the local nickel arcade. Sure enough, this console port is really slow. What made Ms. Pac-Man great was the fact that it was faster than the original Pac-Man. But here, Pac-Man actually seems a bit quicker on the gobble. All you have to do is port a handful of old games onto a console that can run Halo and you don't even get the tempo right? Boo.
Beyond the Ms. Pac-Man faux paus, the rest of the classics are perfect. Everything from graphics on down to the exact sounds is as it should be. The only real problem comes with the Pole Position games. As great as they were in the arcade, they just don't feel right being controlled with a D-Pad instead of a steering wheel. It's a bit too sensitive and just not the same experience as it was in the arcade.
To add some value to the compilation, Namco has included what they're calling Arrangements. What I would call them can't be printed. These three Arrangements are the reworkings of Pac-Man, Galaga, and Dig Dug. The idea was to add some visual punch and some gameplay twists to each one. But here's the thing, you buy this compilation, you want to play Pac-Man. You have no desire to play something "like" Pac-Man. It's not that you consider Pac-Man to be the greatest game ever and Halo is just something to line the bird cage with, you want Pac-Man because you played it when you were a kid. It's the essence of the game and the era and your youth. So slapping together some fancy graphics (which look worse than the originals) and adding twists to the gameplay isn't the right way to go.
The worst offender here is Galaga Arrangement, a game that actually has some good ideas but then some terribly flawed design choices. The first level begins as if it's the normal Galaga game with some slightly spiffed-up graphics. But hit the second level and aliens begin entering in bizarre fashions, like in circles and warping in and out. There are plenty of new and odd enemies to fight and many of them are kind of cool. The problem is that some idiot decided to have an endless meteor shower raining down throughout the game. These big thick trails of light look a lot like the missiles enemies shoot at you, making it almost impossible to tell what's part of the scenery and what's about to frag you. It's difficult to see or tell what is going on here. You can't go about trying to make some half-assed game. If you're going to implement some cool new ideas for an old game, don't make it a weekend project.
There's really no presentation in Namco Museum at all. It's just some menus and then the games. Considering Namco has already put this Museum on several other systems, it seems like the port to Xbox wouldn't take long at all, meaning there should have been some time left over to do something interesting with the presentation. Why not a history of the games? Or perhaps a gallery of renders that can be unlocked through superior gameplay. All that you can unlock currently are two lame-as-can-be Pac-Man games that anyone could unlock in fifteen minutes (score 25,000 points in Pac-Man and 20,000 points in Ms. Pac-Man). No making-of video, no galleries, no info, nothing but some old games and a thirty-dollar price tag. Weak.
I love these classic Namco games and I've had a copy of the Namco Museum for another system for quite some time. And to see that after all this time there's nothing new to offer? It's just a cash cow for Namco and you can get these games on your PC and probably have a more enjoyable experience. Ms. Pac-Man is one of my favorite games, as is Dig Dug, but a compilation this old and overused should have more than just some quickly ported games and a handful of awful filler titles. If you really gotta have these and you must have them on your Xbox (as opposed to your PC or for just a few bucks, your Dreamcast), then it may be worth your $20. But as much as you think you will play endless amounts of Dig Dug, likely you won't spend more than a couple of hours getting reacquainted with some old friends.
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