Namco Museum DS
“Namco’s museum enables gamers to explore retro classics for inspiration, learning and enjoyment.”
Adapted from The Museums Association definition, 1998.
Veteran gaming companies usually put very little effort into re-mastering their golden oldies for the new generation. They know that Generation Y and the next lot wouldn’t care much for them anyway, especially in the HD-thriving world we live in today. However, us veteran gamers – retro gamers – are still as fond of the perennial coin-op classics that we grew up on. The rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia allow us to see past the audio-visual discrepancies that have developed over time, focusing on what really matters the most in any game: raw, unadulterated gameplay.
And so, along comes Namco Museum DS; 7 retro titles in all their original bad-ass sprited glory. If you were a fan of the original Shmup, Galaxian, and its updated sequel, Galaga, or the more advanced shooter/bomber, Xevious, the aliens are beckoning once more. Mappy requires some assistance to retrieve his stolen goods scattered about a gigantic 8-bit mansion, Dig Dug II has been entrusted with sectioning out the island by jack-hammering through focal weakspots, and Gil needs to rescue his mate, Ki, in the labyrinthine Tower of Druaga. The original Pac-Man rounds off the collection with his signature “wakka wakka” pac-dot chomping antics amidst a quadruplet of incessantly pursuing, inky ghosts. If – heaven forbid – you aren’t familiar with these names, you may find that these itty-bitty romps are still worth a quick go, as they were originally intended for. But, the quality declines over these chosen ‘classics’, and the likes of Dig Dug II (where the heck is Dig Dug I?!) can’t compare to the majesty of my clear favourites: Xevious and the legendary Pac-Man!
How long would 7 retro titles last you? That is a question rivalling the meaning of life. Ultimately, it depends on how much retro-goodness you can take before succumbing to the allure of games above the First generation. A trove of goodies is available at the outset, from complete sound tests to galleries featuring scans of those novel instruction cards that were slapped onto arcade cabinets. You can view brief histories of each game, as well as hints straight from the developers themselves. The screen image is stretched by default, but you can squeeze it back to its original aspect ratio (i.e. a more vertical orientation) or else rotate it 90 degrees to view the games as they are meant to be played on full screen dimensions. The latter option, however, does make the control scheme awkward with some titles, having to play with one hand above the other. The more gameplay-altering options such as distribution of lives and points can be manipulated too. Glitches may be turned on/off allowing you to access Pac-Man’s 256th level amongst other (quite pointless) things. You can even tinker around with a virtual-visual representation of the internal dip-switches, if you’re that way inclined.
What clearly makes this package stand out is the presentation: easily negotiable menus via touch-screen, a multitude of options to tinker with, perfectly emulated conversions of Namco’s retro classics, support for DS Download and Play, and everything moving along at lightning speed with nary a hint of loading time. Score attack will keep track of the best-of-the-best records, guaranteed to keep you and others coming back for more. (It’s a shame you can’t send your scores over, though.) And if the one Pac-Man wasn’t enough (it isn’t, by the way), there’s also Pac-Man Vs. which allows for 4-player Pac-Man versus friend-controlled ghosts via local wireless play, and with just the one card required! This addition alone is worth the price of admission. Yes, it could’ve been done better: more games and WiFi connectivity – c’mon guys! It isn’t very difficult to obtain emulated copies of the included titles either, so the question of ‘$’ plays a deciding factor too. But, for what it is, Namco Museum DS is a worthwhile collection for collectors.