Saturday, October 3, 2015

Namco Museum Volume 1 (PSX) Review

Written: September 6th & October 1st-3rd, 2015
Year: 1995 | Developed by: Now Production | Published by: Namco
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit, and today I'm going to talk about a very special compilation.
The mid-'90s sparked a movement thanks to a resurgence of interest in '80s arcade games wanting to be played at home; not only that, but it also brought forth the birth of video game compilations.  In 1995, Namco made a plan to create five compilations in a row featuring their well-known and not so well-known games for the PlayStation One, each one comprising of a letter spelling out their name.  Luckily for them, it was a major success, and it was successful not just for the content in them but for the eponymous museum aspect as well.  Enter Namco Museum Volume 1, the first ever Namco Museum compilation ever made, where you get a chance to play seven games for the price of one.
And these games are the ones that you get to experience in this Namco Museum in particular, so let's cover them before we get to the real meat of the package.  =)

Alternate Title: Puck-Man [|O|]
Year: 1980 | System: Arcade
(Get ready to see this in-game arcade border over and over again in console compilations)
Everyone knows about Pac-Man, but in the off chance that you don't: it was one of Namco's most successful arcade games worldwide in 1980, and despite its simplicity by today's standards it's still an example of one of the best early games in the maze genre; with Pac-Man being chased by ghosts--and when swallowing a Super Pellet, turn the tables on them.  It's thirty-five years old and still holds up really well, and it's not hard to see why it garnered a successful franchise and throughout the years spawned merchandise (like sweaters, notebooks, and even TV shows).  It's a lot of fun, and not a bad way to start a series.  =)
In the DIP Switch screen there is also the option to play the game as a vertical screen a la the arcade game, to which it'll fill up the screen turned counterclockwise 90 degrees (don't even turn your TV to the side and just keep it as it is, unless you wish to risk breaking it and having to save up for a new one).  It's nice, but I'd much rather have the arcade border screen so I don't experience a neck injury.

Year: 1980 | System: Arcade
While we're on the subject of maze games, here is another one that Namco made in the same year, except this time you are a car who is trying to outrun other cars who are trying to ensure that you don't last very long should collisions be made; you can temporarily stop them in your tracks by using your smoke screen, but be careful otherwise BANG!  In Rally-X you must collect all the flags in the maze which are highlighted on the radar, but make sure you don't run out of fuel otherwise you won't survive very long; another hazard you must be careful for aside from adversary cars are rocks which are not present on the radar on the side.  Occasionally there is a bonus game where you're given a head start as you drive fast while the other cars hold still until your fuel gauge is empty.  Rally-X is a fun and colorful game to play, plus it's the first arcade game to have music playing in the background, first one to have a radar screen, and the first game Namco made that featured "Special Flags".  Not bad.  =)

Year: 1980, 1981 | System: Arcade
A new version of Rally-X, New Rally-X is in some regards more of the same in terms of structure, but there are notable differences sprinkled throughout: the gameplay's been made a bit easier for fewer red cars are chasing you, the color scheme is partly different, the cars are bulkier, there now were Lucky Flags based on how much fuel you had by the time you reach it, and the music is new.  Aside from those differences, though, it's still a pretty fun racing/maze game, if not more so.  =)

Year: 1981 | System: Arcade
The second most well-known game in the package, Galaga, the first successor to Galaxian, is an improvement in every way to its predecessor; it plays better and smoother, the pace is brisk, the gameplay is fun, and it's famous for incorporating the double ship feature should one of your lives be snagged by one of the aliens and liberate it (it also helps during the bonus stages).  What else is there to say about Galaga that has not been said before?  It's a very fun shoot'em up, and one of the best '80s arcade games Namco made.  =)
Like with Pac-Man, there is the option to turn Galaga vertical thereby making it rotate 90 degrees counterclockwise; and likewise, it's a nice option to have, but not really worth breaking your neck over.  Just stick with the normal screen mode.
Year: 1981 | System: Arcade
Another Namco arcade game that takes place in space, Bosconian is a free-roaming shoot'em up where you travel in all eight directions as you must eliminate enemy space stations and beware of formation attacks that are out to get you which are tracked on your radar.  It's also got a digitized voice whenever certain situations happen (i.e. "Blast off!", "Alert!  Alert!", "Battle stations!") which is quite neat.  Bosconian is a fun game to play once in awhile, and while it starts out easy it doesn't take long until the difficulty picks up.  =)
Year: 1982 | System: Arcade
Another familiar Namco classic, Pole Position is a racing game where you must race against other cars on the fast track up until time runs out.  During the course of your remaining time you can alternate between driving at high speed or low speed (preferably when driving around curves), but be careful about your surroundings otherwise you'll find yourself either slowing down or being blown up which takes a bit of your time.  Pole Position is very colorful to look at, its scaling and rotation are impressive for its time, the cameos featured on the billboards are a quaint idea, and it plays really well; but what I don't get is how specifically in this compilation there are no digitized voice samples.  So with Bosconian you had no trouble fitting them in, but with Pole Position you didn't bother adding them?  Why?  It's very different without it; but it's still a fun time in short bursts regardless.  =)

Year: 1986 | System: Arcade | [|O|]
The youngest game in the collection, the bright and colorful Toy Pop was originally a Japan-only arcade game before it became available in Namco Museum Volume 1 (and hasn't really been available in the West since).  In it you take control of Pino and/or Acha, representations of childrens' fan favorites Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood respectively, as they roam around collecting enough golden hearts to open the door that leads them to the next area.  However, while doing this you must contend with a multitude of toys that are out to get you, of which certain projectiles are required in order to dispose of them proper, which are hidden inside several of the wrapped gift boxes which you must shoot open.  Another thing you must keep an eye out on is the timer, as you have until it reaches zero to reach the door in one piece, but if you don't then the entire room will start being gradually covered by blocks until there's no room at all and you'll be crushed.
Every eight stages you'll find yourself in a bonus room where you must collect as much apples as you can falling down from the tree before they hit the ground.  Sometimes inside the gift boxes you'll find a star or 7, and collecting all three will make something special happen (if only for a temporary amount of time).  Toy Pop is a cute and adorable arcade game to play once in awhile, and I like the innocent lighthearted charm embodied throughout.  =)

What's cool is how in the lobby you get to see a catalogue of the arcade games that Namco made, with the ones marked in red being the ones that are available in this compilation; it's also cute when Pac-Man guide looks up at the highlighted games and thought balloons representing them appear or shudders at the thought of Blinky when he sees the name of his game.  =)
The neat thing about Namco's video game history here is that they even bring to attention games that never left Japan.
Libble Rabble, anyone?  =D  This compilation was how I first heard about this fun and colorful arcade game long before I got the Super Famicom port years ago; it's too bad that Western gamers never got a proper chance to play it outside of importing (or the fact that it hasn't been made available on a Namco Museum anything), but it's really not that bad a game after a bit of time and practice adjusting to its controls.
It displays pretty much all the arcade games Namco made up to the release of this compilation in late 1995; made by Namco (so no Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man on the catalogue).

One of the most novel things about Namco Museum Volume 1 is the museum aspect itself, and how you could look around and even up in any room.  As fun as the games in this compilation are, it's the interactive museum that really sells it, and given that it's viewed in first person it really feels like you yourself are in it lending an immersive feel (despite the obviously dated 3D visuals).  =)
Each games have their own rooms dedicated to them, and if you wanted to play a certain game you could decide to either go the end of a game's room, or you access the game menu wherever you are a choose to play it from there.  It's always nice to have options like that; there are also slideshows with each game's animations and sprites as well as a chance to look closely or from a distance certain items.
One of the other things you could even examine and explore are the covers of several of Namco's first NG magazines, which is a sweet addition.
In the end it all works incredibly well: looking around, exploring, looking at relics and memorabilia of the past, reading up on their history, listening to soothing and sometimes haunting music playing in the background, and getting a firsthand glimpse at rooms pertaining to certain subjects (based on the Japanese release).  This is what a museum is, and the developers successfully managed to create that unique feel for its time.  =)  It's too bad that after Namco Museum Volume 5 the museum aspect was dropped entirely from the Namco Museum franchise, no matter what games were on there, as that element really helped these early compilations come to life and distinguish themselves from the rest; in fact, a part of me wishes more compilations had that.  =(

I remember first playing Namco Museum Volume 1 when I was very little over at one of my cousins' houses, and remember being impressed by the games available and the museum aspect itself; it was the first exposure I've ever had to Galaga.  I eventually bought my own copy years later after having gotten an NTSC PlayStation One console shortly after having moved to America in 2002 (since my old PAL one didn't function in America).  For me it was one of the first video game compilations I had ever played, and to me it's the best of the bunch.  The games that were selected are all good and fun to play, and they are worth playing here, but it's the immersive interactive museum aspect itself that really makes this Namco Museum shine and is worth the price of admission alone.  =)

My Personal Score: 10/10
 <( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. Up until I replayed this game recently I had completely forgotten about Namco's neGcon controller's existence.

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  I hope you have a great day, take care!  =D

1 comment:

  1. November 22nd, 1995 - November 22nd, 2015

    Happy 20th Birthday, Namco Museum (Volume 1)!!! ^(^o^)^ YEAH!!!!!!