Five wonderful Namco classics and one brand new Xevious game in a neat bundle.
As video game history will show us, Namco has been one of the most prominent companies in the business for a very, very long time. They have been re-releasing their classic arcade games for the home consoles for quite some time now, and this has led to the Namco Museum series.
In 2010 the PlayStation Network got the Namco Museum Essentials as a digital download release. It includes five lovable classics from the Namco arcade library and a unique, brand new addition to the Xevious franchise.
As with most other video game compilations, Namco Museum Essentials starts from a main menu from which you can browse the various games that are included in the bundle. All six games are available right from the start, leaving you with a really tough choice; will you spend some virtual coins on Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga, Xevious, Dragon Spirit or the newcomer Xevious Resurrection?
Fans of arcade classics will enjoy the fact that the games look, play and sound exactly like their original counterparts. Playing on a HD resolution is fully supported and Xevious Resurrection sports colorful 3D graphics. Furthermore, each game has specific hidden goals, that when completed will reward you with Stamps which in turn translate into PlayStation Home items and PlayStation Trophies.
Each game supports two main game modes called High Score Attack and 1P Start. This is not as cryptic as it may sound; either you play for score or just for fun. When playing High Score Attack you can not adjust the game settings and you are only allowed one single coin to achieve your best possible score. Your score will then be automatically recorded to your PlayStation account and on the global ranking leaderboards.
The 1P Start mode is quite the opposite; you are allowed to adjust game settings such as difficulty level, how many lives you get with one coin and at which intervals you gain extra lives. Furthermore, you can also choose to start your game from any level that you have previously played, so it’s quite useful for practicing purposes.
The games included in this compilation are;
The original Pac-Man from 1980. This is one arcade classic that anyone can play and enjoy. The goal of the game is to eat all the pellets that are spread out in a maze while four ghosts are trying to catch you. You can use a special tunnel to traverse to the other side of the maze, and there are power-pellets that lets you eat the ghosts, but other than that you are left to your own devices.
This is a very hard game and it doesn’t pull any punches. It’s good fun though, and certainly delivers a few laughs every time it’s played.
Dig Dug was originally released in 1982. Here you play as a dude who’s on a mission to eliminate various hostile creatures that inhabit underground caverns. You tunnel your way through the dirt and kill enemies by inflating them with a special harpoon-style pump or by dropping rocks on them. This is a fast paced game that requires quick thinking and the ability to foresee the enemies movements, because they can outrun you very quickly and they’re very dangerous when they gang up on you.
Without a doubt, Dig Dug is a joy to play, and it has a very cute design to it. It’s also one of those games that easily becomes addicting if you let it.
One of the early space shoot ’em ups – Galaga was released in 1981 and is the sequel to Galaxian. In Galaga you control a lone space ship and fight oncoming swarms of insect-like aliens called Galagans. The game may look simple at first glance, but it has a quite sophisticated scoring system, and the game is deceivingly difficult. You must constantly anticipate enemy attacks as they both charge at you head first and pepper you with bullets. You can let one of your ships get captured by the Galagan tractor beam, and if you manage to rescue it with another ship, your two ships with merge and fight together – effectively doubling your fire power. It requires full focus, is fun to play and just never gets old.
Xevious is one of the revolutionary games in the vertically scrolling shoot ’em up genre. In 1982 when it was released, it was the first shoot ’em up that depicted a terrestrial setting in multiple colors. It is also widely known as one of the greatest games of all time.
In Xevious you pilot a space ship armed with bombs and long range cannons. You fly over a huge landmass bombing ground targets and shooting enemy aircraft. The game has huge bosses, seamless level progression and random enemy attack waves.
Xevious is also a very tough game, and it is a must-play for any shoot ’em up fan. It has great colorful graphics and lots of replay value thanks to its random nature.
Dragon Spirit is another of Namco’s cult classic shoot ’em ups. It was originally released in 1987 and it lets you play as Amul the dragon fighting to rescue an imprisoned princess. Like in Xevious, you have two different attacks – one for ground targets and one for airborne targets. Dragon Spirit also features various power-ups in the form of weapons, shields and health – yes, Amul has a health bar, meaning that you can take a few hits before going down.
This game has a wonderful and memorable soundtrack and it has lots of variety in the levels and enemies. Also, the level bosses are all unique. Needless to say, this is a great game even though its difficulty level can be somewhat punishing.
Like mentioned above, this is a brand new game that is (to this date) unique to the Namco Museum Essentials compilation. It is a vertically scrolling shooter that draws heavily on its lineage. Unlike the original Xevious it features a shield system that you can use to absorb incoming enemy projectiles. Another great feature here is the two player co-op mode.
Xevious Resurrection delivers solid gameplay and has lush graphics. Fans of Xevious would argue that it’s worth getting this compilation just for the sake of this game.
You may have seen some these games on other platforms such as the TurboGrafx-16, Nintendo Entertainment System or Commodore computers, but these arcade perfect versions are superior any such conversions in both graphics and sounds. It’s also worth noting that all the infamous bugs from the arcade originals have been fixed in these versions making for a better game experience overall.
The main menu of Namco Museum Essentials tracks the game progress of your friends also. You’ll see a dynamically updating list of Stamps that your friends have earned, along with their top scores for each of the games.
For every Stamp that you earn, you’ll get Namco Museum Points, which are supposedly used to grade your skill on a ranking system. These grades will in turn unlock new background artwork that are displayed while playing the games. On top of that, you can also listen to the music and sound effects from each of the games from a special sound test menu.
Another point of interest is that the games here supports auto-fire, meaning that you can simply hold down the shoot-button to perform an endless rapid succession of shots. This is especially useful in Dragon Spirit where the rate of fire is insanely high, and certainly makes the game easier to play when compared to the arcade original.
Perhaps the most prominent feature of this compilation is the online leaderboards. Your scores are ranked on a huge list of players, but sadly it seems that at least some of these scoreboards are hacked in one way or another, because there are some ridiculous entries there. Despite this common problem, the online leaderboards do add some value to the overall experience – it’s great to be able to compare scores with friends this easily.
As mentioned, the things you need to do in each of the games to get Stamps is kept secret, so you can’t really just play casually and hope to earn them all – it’s kind of a needle in a haystack scenario, which you may or may not enjoy.
Also the Namco Museum Points and the related ranking system isn’t very useful as it is very static and ultimately meaningless overall. On the other hand, these small shortcomings are easily forgotten considering all the fan service, retro-fun and hardcore challenge that is contained here.
Namco Museum Essentials is a must-have compilation of arcade classics. Whether you simply want to relive some retro arcades or you are a newcomer to the past generation of arcades, this collection is sure cover some of your needs for the foreseeable future. Indeed, these are timeless milestone games from an era where simple fun gameplay was the main attraction. This is old-school back to basics arcade love, and the online scoreboards will certainly gauge your retro arcade prowess. After all, who in their right mind could turn down a game of Galaga and Xevious?