Retrogaming would have to be one of my biggest vices. There are times where I would much rather chill out with a nice game of Pac-Man than dive into the latest blockbuster game. Maybe it’s because I still hold some fond memories of playing these classics in the local arcades, or maybe it’s just that even 20 years later they are still great games. Either way, I’ve blown a small fortune on all manner of retro collections for the various consoles. Oh, and I’ve probably put in a few years worth of gameplay into these on emulators as well… like I said, I’m a huge retrogaming fan.
Well I better get this out of the way up front. This game is the first released into the North American market that requires a firmware update greater then 1.5. This UMD ships with the 1.52 updater, so if you haven’t updated yet you can easily do so. Of course, if you are already running 2.0 you will be fine. I got this out of the way upfront because I didn’t want anyone to pick this up who also wants to keep their 1.5. Although I’m sure that any game coming out after this will require an update… back to my review.
After the PSP announcement blitz, one of the first games announced for the Japanese market was a little game called Namco Museum. This title would allow us to play arcade-perfect versions of such classics as Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaxian while on the go. I was so close to importing the Japanese version when I picked up my PSP. Seeing all the quality titles available at launch I decided to hold off until the North American release was out. Seeing what’s now included in this version, I’m glad I did. Unlike the Japanese release of this game, which only contained 7 games, Namco has packed in 17 titles for us North American gamers. The included games are: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Rally-X, New Rally-X, Dig Dug, Xevious, Bosconian, Motos, Mappy, Grobda, Rolling Thunder, Tower of Druaga, Dig Dug II, Dragon Busters and King & Balloon. But that’s not all, Namco has also included 4 “Arrangement” versions of some of its more popular titles, those being Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga and New Rally-X. These Arrangement versions offer updated graphics and gameplay, while still keeping the basic theme of the games intact. They are a nice bonus to an already huge bundle.
Seeing as most of these games were in the arcades in the ’80s, they aren’t going to blow anyone away with their great graphics. Namco has done a few things to get these games looking great on our beloved portable however. The 16×9 screen on the PSP has allowed Namco some freedom in the display of certain games that shipped with vertically mounted monitors. For example, in the Pac-Mans, you can play them with your PSP horizontal like normal, or choose to engage the rotate option and hold the PSP vertically with the control pad towards you. The rotate option is my preferred display method as you end up getting a bigger play-field in the end. Such a simple addition went a long way to increase my enjoyment of this bundle
Besides the rotate setting, there are a number of stretch modes as well to allow you the freedom to view these classic games as they see fit. The Arrangement games are where the graphics truly shine though. Namco went back to the drawing board and totally overhauled not only the gameplay, but also the look of these games. For example the new Galaga game takes place over cool 3D backgrounds, each stage ending in an impressive boss battle. The updated enemies feel right at home in their new world, not looking out of place or rushed at all. I was quite surprised by this, seeing as most “remix” versions of old games end up looking out of place in their new clothes.
While the sound is nothing to write home about, unless you love the bleeps and bloops in old arcade games that is, all the games sound authentic to their full-size arcade brothers. Realistically there isn’t much that could have been done here. You are playing old games with their old sounds. Any modification to this would have just insulted the purists out there. The arrangement versions do feature updated soundtracks and sound effects, but they are just subtle changes and won’t increase your enjoyment that much. But if you are buying this game you probably know what you are getting into. And hey, listening to Pac-man gobbling dots is strangely soothing, so I’m glad Namco didn’t change it!
Now the multiplayer features in this title are where things start to get interesting. Namco Museum is the first PSP title in North America that supports game sharing. What that means is that for 10 of the games in this collection, you can share a copy of with your friends wirelessly. While being cool, these shared versions wind up being more of a tease then anything offering only a couple screens or levels before the game ends. It should be enough to get your friends hooked enough to go out and buy a copy so the real multiplayer gaming can begin.
All of the Arrangement games support wireless multiplayer for up to 4 people. The multiplayer modes are interesting to say the least, and were a fun time. I can see this mode taking off in a party situation with you and your friends chasing after each other in Rally-X or Pac-Man. One particularly interesting game is the PacMan multiplayer… you see when you die you can become a ghost and hunt down your friends. There are also co-op modes that you can play if you aren’t interested in going after your friends.
I would have to say that the Namco Museum offers the most bang for your buck of any of the titles released for the PSP thus far. The great single player games would be enough for me, but the multiplayer additions to the arrangement games are just gravy. That is if you can find 3 other friends who happen to love the old games as much as you do. And the way I think of it, if you only play each of the included games for a couple of hours each before growing tired of them, that is still over 40 hours of gameplay out of a game retailing for $40. That’s some good value in my books.
Hey you are playing 20-year-old games here, they aren’t going to blow you away. That said these games are classics for a reason, the graphics were breathtaking for their time.
Just like the graphics, the sound is what was expected out of that era, not today. These games sounded just like they did in the arcades and that is good enough for me.
These games, well most of them, are classics for a reason. They offer quick pickup and play options, but are deep enough for extended gameplay sessions. And who doesn’t like grabbing the high score?
The replayability will differ from person to person, but if you are a fan of the old school games you will get hours of enjoyment from this collection.