Ten years ago, MAME was in its infancy, “retro” gaming wasn’t that big a deal, and Namco released its first ever arcade compilation. Back then, the idea seemed a great one for the small community of retro gamers that were around, the chance to play all their Namco arcade favourites on one home system was an instant draw, and Namco released six volumes of their arcade collection packs.
Being given the chance to wander around the virtual arcades and check out all the promotional material felt like we were stepping into a time machine and going back to the 70’s and 80’s. But then, MAME took off and it was possible for people to get their hands on thousand of classic arcade games, all run off of their PC’s.
Obviously, this isn’t the most legit route of playing classic games, so, you’d think Namco would take the approach of offering something over what you can get on MAME, just to warrant the price of buying their latest arcade collection (which have all appeared on their older arcade compilations). Something like developer interviews, making of features, unreleased games thats sort of thing, but instead all Namco have delivered is a collection of their most loved Arcade titles on a DVD with no extra’s.
Its not as though the same games aren’t available elsewhere, legitly, for a fraction of the price. Regarding the collection, few need any kind of introduction, which is a good sign at least. In the ‘classics’ camp, you’ve got some all-time must-haves in the shape of Pac-Man, Ms Pac Man, Galaxian, Galaga and Dig Dug. On the periphery, there’s the likes of Mappy, Bosconian, Rally-X, Sky Kid and Xevious, and a couple of reasonable unlockables like Galaga 88 and Pacmania, while the less impressive Pole Position, Pole Position 2, Dragon Spirit and Rolling Thunder help make up the numbers. A poor 16 titles compared to last years Taito Legends which featured a huge 29 games.
The 16 games that feature make this the largest Namco collection available, but, in many cases, its the worst of the lot. Digital Eclipse who compiled the collection seem to have done a rush job of the compilation, with nothing evident that celebrates Namco’s 50th Anniversary in any particular way. You cant help but think along the lines of “Why not include at least one game from each of those 50 years?”
The standard of the emulation here is pretty strong, although some of the games are really showing their age and others dont control too well. Rally-X, Pole Position and Pole Position 2 dont lend themselves to the Dual Shock to very well, leaving the controls feeling extremely twitchy, and the shooters tend to feel extremely slow and sluggish, and hardly exciting. Although, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are as fun as ever and are easily the highlights of the pack, often resulting in the famous “one more go” syndrome.
Overall then, Namco Museum 50th Anniversary is an underwhelming disappointment of a retro collection. Theres no bonus features, no real celebration and the controls on some of the games are downright poor. This is one retro collection to avoid.