Thursday, September 29, 2005

Games: NAMCO Museum 50th Anniversary

Genre: Arcade classics
Curious fact: Rather than video games, the 50th anniversary stems from NAMCO's rides for small children commonly found outside department stores.
Verdict: Games &&&1/2, Presentation & extras &&

It's a little sad, maybe, that probably 50 percent of my gaming time on a modern console like the Sony Playstation 2 is devoted to compilations of classic arcade games like Pole Position, Tapper and Galaga, but that's fine with me. With each passing year, it is abundantly clear that I will remain hopelessly nostalgic for the decade of Atari and Miami Vice. My weakness for these simple yet insanely addictive games is such that I'll snap up a compilation like NAMCO Museum 50th Anniversary Arcade Collection just to gain a few titles I didn't already have, like Pole Position II, Bosconian and Galaga 88. This is really just a retread of the previous PS2 NAMCO Museum release – there's even a "greatest hits" label on it – but there are a few more games (16), and it thankfully corrects the audio problem from the Nintendo 64 NAMCO Museum version of Galaga, wherein the audio cues of the challenging stages were mixed up. On the other hand, Ms. Pac-Man seems twice as difficult here; the ghosts are ruthless, and I'm struggling even to make it to the third maze configuration where the banana appears. My strategy there: Snag a power pellet and go straight for the fruit. Similarly, differences in the controller response between the N64 and PS2 versions of Pole Position are giving me fits. Other disappointments include a curiously low audio level and a complete lack of extras. Bonus-laden compilations like Midway Arcade Treasures make this one seem particularly threadbare. Of the remaining games, the unlockable Galaga 88 is perhaps one of the best sequels ever, adding snappy new visuals, aliens and sound effects while retaining the essence of the game. The other unlockable, Pac-Mania, is a sort of 3-D Pac-Man with a fifth ghost and the ability for Pac-Man to jump, and it just goes to show that Ms. Pac-Man was as far as that one needed to evolve. Best of the games I'd never played is Mappy, which, with its levels, doors and trampolines, brings to mind Elevator Action, and I can't stop playing it. Bosconian, which feels like a cross between Galaga and Sinistar, grows old quickly, and Rally-X has the sophistication of a weak Atari 2600 title. Nevertheless, for anyone bred on the classics, this will do nicely until Taito Legends arrives on Oct. 25.

// Included games //
Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Rally-X, Pole Position, Pole Position II, Xevious, Dragon Spirit, Bosconian, Rolling Thunder, Mappy, Sky Kid, Galaga 88 (unlockable), Pac-Mania (unlockable)

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