"To the modern day gamer, a title like Namco Museum has little to offer, but to an old schooler it represents pure gold. It consists of five classic arcade titles, and a fairly varied selection at that, and brings a lot of classic goodness to the GBA. I judge it unlikely that anybody who did not grow up with these and similar games will find them much fun, but if the titles Ms. Pacman, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Galaxian and Galaga mean anything to you, here's your chance to replay these arcade clas..."
To the modern day gamer, a title like Namco Museum has little to offer, but to an old schooler it represents pure gold. It consists of five classic arcade titles, and a fairly varied selection at that, and brings a lot of classic goodness to the GBA. I judge it unlikely that anybody who did not grow up with these and similar games will find them much fun, but if the titles Ms. Pacman, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Galaxian and Galaga mean anything to you, here's your chance to replay these arcade classics on the move, and without having to insert any quarters.
Firing up the game brings up a menu where any of the five games included can be chosen. For each, you have access to the game itself, a few gameplay hints, and the ability to tweak some "factory settings" like the number of lives you start with and how many points it takes to earn bonus lives. The games themselves are, for the most part, true ports from the arcade originals, though some work better than others.
Ms. PacMan, a direct successor to the original PacMan, is a solid choice. Each level consists of a maze filled with dots to be eaten, four monsters to chase you around, and a select few "power pellets" which let you temporarily turn the tables on them. The choice of Ms. PacMan instead of the original is a good one on Namco's part in my opinion; most importantly it has superior AI. The monsters in the original PacMan did have distinct personalities (the red one would always chase you while the pink would try to cut you off, for instance), but this behavior fell into fully predictable patterns. Experienced players could devise a route through the maze that would flawlessly get them past the enemies as they'd always do the same in response to your moves. No such luck here; while the four enemies still have unique behavior patterns, there's enough randomness involved that you won't be able to set up foolproof routes. It all comes down to skill and paying attention again. All in all, this was probably the better choice for representing the PacMan line of games.
Dig Dug, the second title, is a rather unique arcade game in which you dig tunnels, encounter monsters and either blow them up with a handy pump or drop heavy rocks on them. What starts as an easy enough game where enemies wait for you to come and kill them quickly becomes harrowing on higher levels as monsters come and seek you out, usually all at once, and from as many different directions as they can. This was a major hit at the time and it's still a great game now; of the five titles on this cart, it's the one that aged best. This one in particular may be of interest to newcomers as well, though it's still a bet. Great to see it included, though, and the only concession that had to be made for the port (a vertically scrolling screen as levels don't quite fit on the GBA's screen) doesn't impact gameplay too much.
The third and fourth titles on the cart are Galaxian and Galaga; Galaxian being the spiritual successor to Space Invaders and Galaga the third in line. Both give you a single well armed space ship to take on waves of alien invaders. Galaga has more features and more advanced gameplay here, and unsurprisingly the bigger fanbase. But it comes down to personal preference; I myself am mostly a Galaxian fan and it's my favorite game in Namco Museum as a whole. Whichever you prefer, it has to be noted that the games are fairly similar, so if arcade shooters weren't your thing you may feel a little bit cheated to have them both together. Of course, if you *are* an old schooler shooter fan you'll be delighted to have them both with one purchase.
The fifth and final title on the cart, Pole Position, is the only disappointment. This racing game worked great in the arcade, but is particularly hard to control with a GBA's D-pad rather than the steering wheel the original had. I found myself crashing into competing cars all too often. Granted, it was never an easy game, but the control problems bring the challenge to a whole new level here and not in a good way. But admittedly this was my least favorite out of the five to begin with, so perhaps I'm a tad harsher on it as a result.
With the exception of Pole Position's D-pad problem, all titles have smooth controls. I have no problem doing split second dodges in Galaxian and Galaga, or quickly rounding corners in Dig Dug and Ms PacMan (the latter is noteworthy because I *did* have a lot of trouble with this in the NES Classics PacMan game). Namco Museum definitely gets the thumbs up in terms of playability. Old arcade games like this one just work really well on a handheld; grabbing a quick game of Galaxian on the bus can be very satisfying.
Apart from the games itself, the cart doesn't offer much in the way of goodies. Whether or not Namco Museum is a good purchase for you will therefore depend entirely on if you'll enjoy the games, and that in turn will depend on if the titles mean anything to you. If you're too young to have experienced these games, and didn't develop a liking for old school gaming somewhere along the way, you probably don't need to bother. You'll find that these games do show their 20 years of age with very simple and repetitive gameplay compared to what you may be used to. But if the very mention of Galaga or Dig Dug is enough to make your mouth water, you'll want this. The games are for the most part good and well-ported picks, and an excellent time waster for both casual play and hardcore high score pumping.
Community review by sashanan (December 05, 2007)
Sashanan doesn't drink coffee; he takes tea, my dear. And sometimes writes reviews. His roots lie with the Commodore 64 he grew up with, and his gaming remains fragmented among the very old, the somewhat old, and rarely the new.
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