Namco 50th Anniversary Museum @ 28 March 2007 12:59 AM
It’s hard to imagine a Video Game company surviving long enough to reach half a century but that’s just what Namco are celebrating at the moment. And they want you to celebrate with them too with this special anthology of some of their greatest Arcade hits from yesteryear.

As retro compilations go this is pretty good, with some undeniable classics and a few hidden gems in the mix. What is disappointing is the fact that these same games have appeared in nearly every retro set Namco have released since the SNES days. While the arcade hits of the 80s represent a ‘Golden Era’ in Namco’s and gaming’s history, for an anthology such as this, which is supposed to be a celebration of their entire history, there could and should have been some slightly more modern games included as well.

Classics like Pacman and Galaga will never get old but it there would have been more reason to buy this had Namco had included games like Tekken or Ridge Racer. There isn’t even an appearance for their first game Gee Bee or other 2D arcade classics like Final Lap, Tower of Druaga and Tank Battalion. Considering some of the previous Museum titles have contained these games means the decision not to include them in this compilation is quite bizarre.

Also, strangely, this release features no bonus material of any kind. Even the very first Namco museum on the Playstation featured a virtual museum, containing various extras like concept art and advertising posters. Other Retro offerings from Sega, Midway and the rest have gone as far as including documentaries giving brief details about each game’s development and this set would have benefited greatly had something along these lines been included. A small retrospective about Namco’s early years creating mechanical toys for children and how they rose to become one of the biggest players in the arcade and home console markets would also have been nice.

As it is we are left with a collection of sixteen games that have, mostly, retained their appeal twenty plus years down the line. Highlights include Pac-Man, which will never grow old; the thoroughly excellent shoot-em-up Dragon Spirit; and the eight-way scrolling shooter Bosconian. Some are less likely to provide any real sense of nostalgia; both Mappy and Sky Kid probably seemed more playable upon their initial release.

Any retro enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that each game play just like their arcade counterpart, thanks mainly to developer Digital Eclipse emulating the individual ROMs directly. As a nice and unexpected bonus there is also a small selection of classic 80s tunes playable in the menu screens. ‘’She drives me crazy’ and Come on Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners make a nice appearance as background music.

If you have bought any of the previous Namco Museum sets you needn’t bother with this, unless you’d prefer to play the perfectly replicated versions on offer here. Considering this is supposed to mark such a big moment in their history Namco really should have done a lot more to ensure this was the ultimate retro collection.

Maybe we can expect a little more in 2056…
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