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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Namco Museum Battle Collection (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Namco has returned to the vaults again with the release of Namco Museum Battle Collection for the PSP, which includes several more than 20 titles, including enhanced editions of four classic games. The classics gracing this pack are expected, with all-time classics like Xevious and Ms. Pac Man sitting side by side with more obscure titles like Motos and King & Balloon. From a technical standpoint, the emulations are superb, with the timeless gameplay and original music gamers have come to expect. While many of the titles have appeared in previous compilations, some haven’t and Battle Collection is worth buying for these obscurities plus the enhanced games and Wi-Fi Multiplayer features.

With its numerous iterations appearing on almost every platform known to exist, releasing a new installment of the
Namco Museum on any platform has the task of convincing gamers to shell out money to buy these classic titles again on another system. Luckily, there’s more than enough in the way of new twists in Battle Collection to make it worthwhile for classic gamers. We’ll start by outlining the most impressive feature of this compilation. That is the ability to battle it out with up to four other players using the PSP’s wireless connectivity. You can do this with a number of methods, including Game Sharing, which allows you to download portions of the classic titles to other players, who don’t have to physically own the compilation pack. The ability to share games with your friends adds to the fun, though unfortunately, not all the games include support for this feature. Players will also be able to play together co-operatively in split screen modes as well, which should add further replay value to these long-standing favorites. These new multiplayer modes are interesting and should give these timeless games a new lease on life, making for an exciting battle amongst players on these legendary arcade titles.

As you’d expect, all the games will be arcade perfect with the perfect emulation allowing the classic gameplay to shine through. The games will also feature the original graphics players remember recreated authentically. Obviously, the games on Namco Museum Battle Collection are going to look quite slick on the PSP’s gorgeous 16:9 aspect ratio screen, though some of them look a tad small thanks to their horizontal monitors used originally. Players can change the size of the screen in some instances to move the score to the side. More interestingly, players will also be able to switch the screen sideways, allowing them to play the games themselves in the proper aspect ratio without losing graphical details. Adjusting the screen’s orientation makes the d-pad adjust direction as well. You can then assign the firing function to either the standard buttons, which can be awkward or use the PSP’s analog nub as a firing button, which works a bit better. This mode is supported in all the games, except the enhanced games, which already take up the full screen and look fine.

The selection of titles on the pack is superb, and while some of these have already appeared in other Namco collections, they still remain timelessly addictive and appealing for the most part. We’ll begin with the usual suspects which includes Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Galaga, Rally-X, Galaxian, Mappy, Xevious, and New Rally-X. These titles are fairly well-known at this point, but Namco has included a number of more obscure releases which make this compilation more interesting for classic gaming veterans. These titles include: Xevious, Bosconian, Mappy, Tower of Druaga , Dragon Buster, Motos, Grobda, Dig Dug 2 and King & Balloon. Of these games, King & Balloon is one of the more interesting, with its Space Invaders meets Circus Atari gameplay making for a unique gameplay experience, and the primitive late 70’s graphics only seems to add to its appeal. The two RPG-type games, Tower of Druage and Dragon Buster are entertaining, yet seem a bit slow by today’s standards. While the sequel to Dig Dug was released on the NES in decent form, the arcade perfect version seen here is excellent, with its unique island play mechanics, and connecting lines that cause the island to sink, taking creatures with it. This is a unique sequel to the original that adds a new level of strategy and challenge to the experience. The most obscure game on the list is probably Motos, with its simple yet addictive gameplay making a worthwhile session or two. The newest game in Battle Collection is probably Rolling Thunder, a simplistic yet enjoyable side scrolling action title with some interesting level designs and enemy patterns. Overall, the compilation offers an excellent value for the money with a varied set of styles and games that makes for plenty of depth for both the casual and hardcore classic gaming fan.

While Namco Museum Battle Collection features many of the classic titles players have come to expect along with a few welcome rarities, Pac Man, Galaga, Rally-X and Dig Dug each include an enhanced mode. The classic modes play as you remember them, but the enhanced mode versions included new, more contemporary graphics and minor gameplay tweaks such as power-ups and boss encounters to make them feel more modern, without losing the essential appeal of the original games. The best of these arranged modes is Galaga, which keeps the feel of the original, but adds 3D objects in the backgrounds, boss battles and more challenging enemy formations. The gameplay is also a little faster and the famous “Challenge” modes have been made even more challenging as well. The new version of Pac-Man takes the action and tilts it, with the famous gobbler and his pursuers now rendered in splendid 3D. Rally-X Enhanced takes the same top-down approach as the original, but the cities in the game are much more detailed, with additional objects on the screen. Dig Dug’s Enhanced version offers a decent set of changes from the original, with newly 3D visuals for the characters, boss battles and additional items and new monsters to blow up along the way. These new Arranged modes offer interesting twists on the classic formula, while maintaining the spirit of the original games. All feature the timeless play mechanics of the original titles, tweaked and modernized for today’s gaming audience. Overall, these enhanced versions are excellent additions to the pack that add to it’s already impressive replay value.

Namco’s inclusion of the obscure games like King & Balloon and Motos makes the pack stand out from the packs they’ve done in the past. Baattle Collection’s additional gameplay modes and Wi-Fi connectivity gives these durable classics a new lease on life, adding to their timeless appeal. The PSP edition’s excellent emulation system means the game look beautiful on the PSP’s screen, not sacrificing any level of detail or sounds, as has been the problem in many of the portable emu packs of the past. While you may have played these game before, the arcade-perfect ports are excellent. The games also work perfectly on a portable system, with pick up and play mechanics, simple gameplay and more making them a perfect on-the-go companion. Overall, this is an excellent purchase for any classic game fans who wish to play these game in a convenient format.

Grade: B

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