Saturday, January 17, 2015

Namco Museum (GBA) Review

Written: January 15th-17th, 2015
(As played on Game Boy Player)
Year: 2001 | Developed by: Mass Media | Published by: Namco
Hello everyone, StarBoy91; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  Long before Namco got bonded with Bandai they were at the top of their game, especially when it came to rereleasing their arcade games in compilations for home consumption.  =)  Nowadays whenever they announce another compilation it results in a groan-inducing tone due to them making Namco Museum titles ad nauseam, mostly due the fact that most of their collections under that name usually contain the same content (give or take a few different ones).
But, at the time that they started their Namco Museum franchise back in 1995 with Namco Museum Volume 1 (developed by Now Production) for the PlayStation One it was a refreshing and novel concept that was rarely seen before.  Many games of old to play for the price of one?  How could anyone resist that?  Another rarely seen aspect was a virtual museum, which was a very welcome and enthralling feature which would sadly last until Tose's Namco Museum Volume 5 on the same console two years later.  Since then all subsequent Namco Museum compilations which were made would include a big amount of titles... but not implement the namesake museum at all.  Doesn't matter what cool arcade gems they had in store for us next, it just wasn't the same without the interactive museums.  =(
Still, this would continue for awhile longer, which is where today's version comes in.  Namco Museum for the Game Boy Advance, which came out in 2001, is actually a port of the Nintendo 64 game which came out in 1999 for the Nintendo 64, developed by Mass Media.  Yep, there's that elephant in the room again, although what separates this one from the rest is that this came out before gamers felt the novelty of the namesake wore off.  The Nintendo 64 assembly piece contained six games while the Game Boy Advance port only comprised of five.  The lone standout is the original Pac-Man, which is understandable since the Game Boy Advance Namco Museum came out roughly at the same time that Mass Media worked on Pac-Man Collection on the same console (which contained that title); so if you notice any similarities in structure between the two it's no coincidence.  I'll get to those later, but anyway, let's go over these arcade games and see how they fare in their thirties.
System: Arcade | Year: 1979
One of the very first video games Namco made in the late '70s, Galaxian is the oldest in this Namco Museum installment and their very first of many forays into the space shooter genre.  The object of the game is to shoot all the aliens at the top of the screen with your Galaxian at the bottom of the screen, whom you move to the left or right.  The alien horde will be gradually positioning themselves to either side of the screen, so it's imperative that you properly aim.  Another thing to bear in mind is that from time to time some aliens will try to dive-bomb towards your Galaxian in kamikaze fashion, unless you shoot them before it happens.  The controls are pretty simple, and a lot of the aliens exhibit quite a bit of personality; but there is one little problem: it's slowToo slow!  Your Galaxian moves at a snail's pace, the alien horde shifts itself slowly, and when the aliens try to dive-bomb towards you only have a little bit of time to react before they get to your level; whether by shooting at them or by avoiding them.  And even if you do manage to overcome the obstacles you'll be hard pressed to get farther into the game.  There's also the sound effects for when the aliens go down which I don't really like and find them all to depressing to listen to.  I know I probably shouldn't harp at Namco since as I said it was their first space shooter, but even then you could do better.  Taito's Space Invaders, which Galaxian tried to compete with, was faster and had playable controls by comparison--and it preceded Namco's game by one year!  Point: Taito!  Yes, Galaxian was the first to achieve some elements that would resurface in games since (icons for lives and stage numbers, scrolling starfield, colorful explosions, background music), but even as a kid it was never my favorite.  =|
System: Arcade | Year: 1981
The first sequel to Galaxian, Galaga is in my (and pretty much everyone elses') humble opinion a vast improvement over its predecessor on virtually every category.  Namco got it right this time around, which led to this 1981 hit being one of the most successful arcade games of all time.  Right from the get-go the game feels very playable and manageable, with your starfighter moving (once more left and right) at a decent quick pace, avoiding dive-bombing aliens is now manageable and swift, and the gameplay feels more responsive this time around (especially with the rapid fire option).  The aliens, instead of just starting off a full horde, would make various entrances until they went into to position; coming from all angles and even going in circles.  One of the things that makes this game awesome is the fact that it is possible to have up to two ships side by side doubling your firepower--all it requires is for you to deliberately be sucked in once by the alpha alien, and then when said alien is close by shoot at it (but don't shoot your ship otherwise it won't work).  After every few stages there are even bonus stages where you shoot oncoming aliens in a chance to score lots of points (and possibly a life).  Something you'll notice about both of these games is how they're presented in letterbox format, with the aspect ratio preserved albeit at the expense of detail (with the HUD on the sidelines); but considering how these shoot'em ups are structured it's really the only way they could be presented.  Galaga is a very fun title that has stood the test of time well, and it is leaps and bounds better than its immediate predecessor; it's just too bad that Gaplus and Galaga '88 weren't on it, but oh well, at least there's other collections they're available in.  =D
System: Arcade | Year: 1981
When Pac-Man took the world by storm in 1980 it has inspired lots of ports and merchandising.  Another thing that was inevitable was the fact that there would be some clones or hacks that would cash in on its success.  One of them was made by General Computer Coorporation as an enhancement to the original titled Crazy Otto.  Bally Midway, at the time Namco's American distributor, took notice of this and were impressed by it that they bought the rights and altered it to a Pac-Man game, which would become Ms. Pac-Man.  As a result it became not only one of the most profitable America-made arcade games of all time, but also the first video game to be made starring a female character.  Because of its success Namco was pleased and surprisingly decided to include it into their Pac-Man canon.  Yes, this is one of those rare cases where a hack job led to something good.  Amazing!  The rules are the same as the first game, with Ms. Pac-Man trying to munch all the pac-pellets in the maze in order to proceed to the next stage, all the while she's in pursuit by the four ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Orange Ghost who frequently changes their name between games this time named Sue.  Luckily, you can turn the tables on the phantasms once you munch on a Power Pellet, giving you the small opportunity to munch on the now-turned blue ghosts thereby temporarily placing them out of commission.  Once in a while differing fruits will hover around the maze for extra points.  The mazes actually have a bit of color to them, the cutscenes are fun to watch, and every few stages the maze design actually changes.  As was the case with Pac-Man in Pac-Man Collection due the size constraints of the handheld, your options of playing it were either Scroll (with the shoulder buttons letting you see outside your playing field) or Full Screen where the aspect ratio is retained while it loses its detail due to low image resolution.  There's really not much else to say that hasn't been said before, but I find Ms. Pac-Man to be tons of fun--better than Pac-Man even.  =)
System: Arcade | Year: 1982
I'm just going to say it: Dig Dug is my top favorite arcade game made by Namco ever.  And I'm not just saying that because I played it a lot during my childhood; I'm saying it because despite the controls being very simple to play it can be a hell of an addicting game to play, even in short bursts.  =)  The goal is to guide the eponymous digger Dig Dug down through destructible layers of dirt and defeat all the goggle-wearing Pookas and the fire-breathing Fygars deep underground.  Digging in untouched spots will add holes, in which case Dig Dug will just walk and/or climb inside the open pathways.  There are two ways of dispatching yourself of these enemies; one is by pumping them until they blow up (which come to think of it is pretty graphic for 1982) and another which you may have to rely on sometimes involves walking under the boulder rock, thereby loosening it up making it fall down resulting in an enemy or two being squished (if they're under it, of course).  One advantage the enemies have over you is the fact that after awhile they can phase through the wall trying to reach you, and in later stages there will be more enemies than you would expect.  There is just so much personality with this game; I love how every few stages the color layer of the environment would be different, and having a row of flowers serve as stage number indicators is very clever.  The original arcade game was vertical-screened, which means that for the Game Boy Advance they had to crop and scroll it; which doesn't entirely hurt it, in my opinion.  Dig Dug is awesome, it stands the test of time after all these years, the challenge value is great, and it will always hold a place in my heart.  I loved it when I was little, I love it now, and I will still love it in the years to come.  =D
System: Arcade | Year: 1982
And now the final game of the lot, this is the racing game that defined racing games to come.  Pole Position centers around a Formula One racecar who must drive as far as he can until time runs out.  The main thing to watch out for is the opposing racecars who you must avoid coming into contact with, and being careful to make turns while staying inside the curve and not flying into oncoming billboards on the side of the road.  Failure to do so will result in your racecar exploding, costing you a few seconds in your time window.  You can just hold down the button to make your racer fly, but with another you can decide whether to alternate between driving at high speed or moving at slow speed (preferably when it comes to driving around curves).  The scaling and rotation is very impressive for 1982, the amount of color available onscreen is equally impressive for its time, and I like how several billboards feature cameos or references to different Namco media.  Pole Position is a fun time to race once in awhile, and despite controlling with the Control Pad as opposed to the steering wheel like in arcade cabinets it doesn't detract from the fun.  =)
Like Pac-Man Collection this version of Namco Museum is a solid yet imperfect assembly piece of classic games, and the fact that both were made by the same company makes them easily comparable in more ways than one.  What must be said about Namco Museum is that that compilation feels more balanced as far as its content is concerned than the aforementioned Pac-Man Collection, and the reason for this is because the four games in that one spanned sixteen years; whilst Namco Museum for the Game Boy Advance's five games spanned only three.  And while Pac-Man Collection had a common theme in that all games starred the main character, this compilation goes for more diverse titles adding variety to the proceedings.
And while I'm on the subject, the link between games is incredibly obvious if you've played one or the other before experiencing the other or the one.  The title font is the same; the game selection screen is the same; the options and settings screen is the same.  If not for the different games available to play (and the fact that its menu screen is a glowing vortex instead of a series of Pac-Man sprites changing colors) it would just be the same exact thing.  But I did find it surprising how bluntly similar the structure was for both compilations when I first played both in 2003, and I still find it surprising today.
Even so, I still find it to be a worthy assembly piece to play once in awhile .  =)  I got Namco Museum before I got Pac-Man Collection that same year in 2003, and like that compilation this too has recently seen the light of day on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console; as such I wanted to express my thoughts on today's subject while it was still relevant.  If you're a classic arcade enthusiast I think you'll get a lot of this one.  It's not the same without the virtual museums to explore and be immersed in like the PlayStation One Namco Museums, but at least the games in it are good (most of them have aged well), and it's always interesting to change the settings for each game which augment replay value.  =)  Even if the original arcade games have been cropped down to size, it doesn't hugely detract from the enjoyment.
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
P.S. Seriously though, I do find Space Invaders slightly superior to Galaxian=|
P.S. 2 Again, briefly summarizing multiple games in one post head on (without rough drafts) is not my forte; and while I managed to survive this one just fine, I sadly took much longer than I did doing it for Pac-Man Collection=(
P.S. 3 Since this was the first Namco Museum video game I reviewed, I want to assure you all that it won't be the last.
P.S. 4 Query: Dig Dug's enemy Pooka is seen as an ally in Pac-Man World, but in Pac-Man World 2 he's an enemy.  Consistency, Namco!  What is he in the Pac-Man universe?
I'm StarBoy91, and may your day shine brightly!  =)
Thank you for reading my review, my readers, please leave me a comment whether it be about the game or the specifics of my blog and let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great day!  Take care!!  =)
Still-shots screengrabbed from my Region 1 Wreck-It Ralph DVD, property of Disney
Dig Dug cameos are the best cameos!  That makes Wreck-It Ralph more awesome than it already is in my eyes.  =)

No comments:

Post a Comment