Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone





Namco’s latest Museum installment is the first for the PS2 and as such features a larger number of games than previous installments. As usual, Namco has included a couple of surprises in the pack that should keep classic gamers happy: three of the remixed ‘arrangement’ versions of these oldies make their first appearance on console along with a bevy of timeless classics. Join us as we take a nostalgic trip back to gaming’s golden age when things were much simpler.

There’s been a large underground movement towards the simplicity of the classic era video games from the early 80’s. Whether its collecting for classic systems themselves, or playing gray-area emulators on the PC, there’s been a growing trend looking back with fondness on these classic days. A big factor in this has been Namco’s popular Museum series for the PlayStation. While five volumes were released for the PS1 domestically, the series hasn’t had a new installment on the console in several years, which is a shame since Namco didn’t completely mine their more obscure classics, though the appearances of gems like Rally-X Mappy, and Gaplus was greatly appreciated. Into this void comes the latest installment for the PS2, simply titled Namco Museum, setting the series numbering back to one. This edition is the most extensive yet, with 10 emulated arcade classics plus two more hidden titles included giving it a lot of breadth and making it’s price tag a real bargain.

As usual, There’s an extensive selection of classic games including Galaga, Galaxian, Pac- Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Pole Position I & II. These are all straight conversions from the arcade originals, exactly as you remember them. Unfortunately, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac Man still have the annoying decals on the side of the screen which is a tad annoying, and both games look a bit scrunched down, luckily they still play great and retain their timeless appeal. One of the cool features this time out is that you can also unlock PacMania and Pac-Attack later on, though this isn’t that hard and these are two cool games. Pac Mania has always been a favorite, as it ties in the classic game with a few upgrades, such as jumping and increased speed with a super cool angled perspective that reminds me of Zaxxon. While it’s a nice game, Pac-Attack is just a tame Tetris variation and really doesn’t have the appeal of the other games, though it’s a cool bonus. For those who grew up with these games, they hold up well for the most part and you must have an arcade style joystick to truly appreciate it. It also doesn’t hurt that Namco has chosen the best of the best from their library. Of the games in this pack, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga and the two Pole Positions still have the greatest appeal. Dig Dug especially holds up well, since the simplicity of play is still appealing, and blowing up Pooka and Fygar is still loads of fun. Most of the games hold up well thanks to their timelessly addictive gameplay which is still quite challenging especially at the later levels. Galaxian is such a simple game, yet that’s what makes it so cool, there’s something about the primacy and urgency of the swooping alien ships and the simple soundtrack that represents everything that made this era in games great. All of these faithfully emulated titles work perfectly and the load times are much quicker in the PS2 pack than on the PS1 editions which are another huge plus. One note about the conversions is that while most of the games in the PS2 pack appeared on previous Museums, they’ve been improved in some key areas. The most noticeable change is the Pole Position voice sample that says “Prepare To Qualify” which finally appears at home, after going missing in the PS1 collections. Its in these little touches that make this so much fun.

However, the real treat this time are the three “Arranged” versions of Namco’s Dig Dug, Galaga and Pac-Man which can almost be considered half-sequels with all the new features and upgraded. The cool thing is that none of these has been available for home consoles before this time making for a nice change of pace. Each of the games has improved graphics and look a lot nicer but the most important thing is that the gameplay has been enhanced significantly and these twists add to the game’s appeal without losing the original feel. There are new features in each, such as new speed arrows in Pac-Man, different types of boulders, more enemies, and some new abilities for the original Mr. Driller. The best thing about the new game is that there are now objects you can collect that explode the enemies from afar that make Dig Dug Arrangement mix in a bit of Mr. Do! with the classic Dig Dug style. Then there are several all-new boss sequences, which is a bit shocking since it’s a bit unexpected but this adds to the fun of this new version making it more challenging and less repetitive. Again while it’s called an “Arranged” version, there are points where it feels like an entirely new game. Of course, the graphics have been given an upgrade and Pac Man Arrangement has similar effects, with mazes that actually change shape, several types of dots to eat and much better animation, with the look of Pac-Man changed to a 3D-esque form death animation from Pac Mania replacing the original melting animation. Players should also enjoy the new types of enemies, more difficult “Challenge” levels in Galaga Arrangement which is the new version that stays truest to the original. Along with the more complex enemy formations players will again face boss confrontations. It’s not as elaborate an update as Galaga ’90 was on the T-16 but it’s a decent effort. These arranged games are all excellent games in their own right and do a great job of updating the classic games’ winning formulas without ruining them.

While the three Arranged games make this an excellent package, most of the other titles have appeared in one package or another previously. Though they’ve been split up on different discs and the sheer number makes this a more convenient package overall. Namco should’ve also put in an obscure title such as Gaplus to sweeten the deal but perhaps their saving this for a future installment of the series. Another disappointment with this is that the game museum from the PS1 games where you could walk around and view virtual Namco artifacts, artwork, cabinets and merchandise from the classic era is missing from this edition which is surprising since you’d think this mode would be more elaborate given the jump from PS1 to PS2. These complaints however, don’t amount to much since these all offer the original solid play of timeless arcade classics in faster-loading and convenient form makes this a no-brainer for classic gaming fans. So in the end, this title transports players back to a simpler time and throws in some cool updated. Namco Museum is strongly recommended for nostalgic gamers and those who are wondering what it would have been like if there was ever a Galaga 2.