Namco is the king of the arcade and to celebrate their retro catalog, I thought it would be a good idea to spend the next couple weeks reviewing their five Namco Museum compilations for the original PlayStation. Before we begin, I want to mention that I'll be discussing the included games exclusively and not the extra content. If you're ready, grab a roll of quarters and pop one in!
I never thought I would be reviewing the original arcade Pac-Man. What do I say? It's a classic for a reason. Every time I play it I can't stop until I beat my high score, then I play it some more. The simple graphics and gameplay in addition to the obsessive need to collect every dot while being chased by relentless ghosts is a winning formula that still holds up to this day. I guess the only downside is that you probably own a few versions already whether it's a console port or part of another compilation. Either way, here it is again for you to enjoy.Pac-Man vs. Ms. Pac-Man
Although more people are familiar with Galaga, it's actually a sequel to Galaxian. It plays similarly to Galaxian where you strafe left and right and shoot at insect-looking aliens that swoop in before joining the formation at the top of the screen. Stages become tense as the alien forces weaken and one by one they desperately try to crash into you. Galaga differs from this formula by featuring a bonus round every few stages and a mechanic where enemies can now abduct your ship. If this happens, you can retrieve it to double your firepower but become more vulnerable. Is this a worthwhile sacrifice? You can argue either way, but it sure makes me feel powerful. Overall, it's more action-intense than Space Invaders and just as entertaining.
Pole Position 1982
Pole Position paved the way for the 3D racing genre. Today, we can look back at this highly influential game and understand the origins of modern racers. That being said, playing Pole Position in this day and age (especially with a controller) is not that fun. It may have innovated the genre, but it definitely doesn't stand the test of time. It's a great inclusion for nostalgic and curious gamers, but besides that, just turning left and right on the only included lifeless track simply doesn't cut it anymore.
Bosconian is an interesting space shooter where you freely roam around stages while simultaneously shooting forwards and backwards at enemies and taking out large bases. As you blast your way to victory, a computerized voice alerts you of oncoming dangers. It may be a little rudimentary, but it's still fun to play. Seeing the large enemy bases explode as you advance to the next stage is incredibly satisfying.
Rally-X / New Rally-X 1980 / 1981
When it comes to being innovative, few games match Rally-X's ingenuity. It's the first game to feature actual background music, bonus rounds, and onscreen radar (that was later used in Bosconian). It plays like Pac-Man on steroids as you rapidly navigate through mazes while collecting flags and avoiding enemies and obstacles. Personally, it's one of my favourite arcade games of all time. Not only do you get the original, but you also get New Rally-X which incorporates marginally better graphics, new music, a lucky flag that awards extra points, and easier difficulty in the form of less roadblocks and opponents. Whether you want to keep it purely old-school or play the enhanced version, both are here for your enjoyment. This is surely the best game to be found on this disc.
Toy Pop 1986
Wait a second, what the heck is Toy Pop and what's it doing here? It's quite an obscure Namco arcade game where you play as a toy who shoots enemies and boxes in an overhead perspective to find four gold hearts that allow him to move on to the next stage. Even though it has muddled graphics and mediocre gameplay, a very cool aspect about it is that you can play cooperatively with a friend. That'll make working your way through the campaign's 44 levels a lot more fun!
Namco Museum Vol. 1 includes some obvious choices along with a game straight out of left field. Overall, it's a mixed bag that contains games that don't hold up well along with true classics in every sense of the word. I'm looking forward to checking out volume 2!
- + Rally-X is top-notch arcade fun in both of its included iterations
- + Pac-Man and Galaga are instant classics
- + Toy Pop is otherwise hard to come by
- - You probably already own most of the games on other formats
- - Pole Position hasn't aged well
- - Toy Pop's visuals are hard on the eyes