Namco Museum is a collection of golden oldies straight out of the 80’s to your cutting-edge 128-bit console. I’m not sure who buys an Xbox to play Pole Position but apparently they exist. To them I say ‘more power to you,’ but for the rest of us, who either aren’t interested in 16-kilobyte games or already own them via emulation, there just isn’t a whole lot here to pique a gamer’s interest. Nevertheless, there is a market for this sort of game and if you must play 20-year-old games on your powerful current-day console, you would be hard-pressed to do much better than this.
In fact, as far as classic arcade collections are concerned, you get quite a bit of bang for your buck. Namco Museum includes no less than 12 games, three of which are “arrangements” that add a few spins on the original games and were not featured in the arcades until the mid-‘90s as combo systems that allowed the user to choose between the original or the arranged version. Pac-Man, Galaga, and Dig Dug are the three arranged titles. Other titles that are readily available from the onset include Pole Position, Pole Position II, Ms. Pac-Man, and Galaxian. Pac-Mania and Pac-Attack can be unlocked by scoring over 20,000 or 25,000 points in Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man, respectively.
The emulation used to get these games to properly display on a television set is, for the most part, spot-on. In some cases, discriminating gamers may notice a few minor differences, like somewhat cropped displays or sound-effects that are nearly-imperceptibly modified. But basically these are all faithful reproductions of their arcade counterparts almost without exception. It goes without saying that the graphics in Namco Museum can’t compete with today’s visually-stunning titles, but perhaps it should be noted that this game could have benefited greatly from some pre-rendered cinemas or a making-of featurette, just anything to offset the sheer ridiculousness of its antiquated a/v presentation.
The biggest issue most gamers will have with this package is the obvious lack of the original control input devices, like the steering wheel for Pole Position, or an arcade-joystick for Pac-Man. While there isn’t a whole lot Namco could have done about this, short of releasing an arcade-style controller-unit with multiple input variations (like the XArcade controller for use with MAME), it is still very noticeable. Pole Position was never intended to be played with a D-pad, and as a result the control is more twitch-based and jerky.
If you are the type of gamer who sighs nostalgic anytime someone mentions Pac-Man or Galaga, then this is definitely the game for you. If, however, you only have a passing-interest in these classic titles, a rental will be more than adequate. The arrangement spin-offs of Galaga, Pac-Man, and Dig-Dug are appreciated additions though, mainly because this marks their debut on a non-arcade platform, though the novelty of these remakes are fleeting. With an MSRP of $30, Namco Museum won’t break your piggy-bank, but considering that Namco has been releasing this game, or something like it, for nearly every popular console over the last six years, including the GBA, PS2, GameCube, and Dreamcast, this title just doesn’t bring enough new elements to the table to warrant a purchase.