bitparade, Gaming

bitparade: NAMCO Museum: 50th Anniversary Collection (PlayStation 2)

Ten years ago, MAME was in its infancy, “retro” gaming wasn’t that big a deal, and Namco released its first ever arcade compilation. Back then, the idea seemed a great one for the small community of retro gamers that were around, the chance to play all their Namco arcade favourites on one home system was an instant draw, and Namco released six volumes of their arcade collection packs.

Being given the chance to wander around the virtual arcades and check out all the promotional material felt like we were stepping into a time machine and going back to the 70’s and 80’s. But then, MAME took off and it was possible for people to get their hands on thousand of classic arcade games, all run off of their PC’s.

Obviously, this isn’t the most legit route of playing classic games, so, you’d think Namco would take the approach of offering something over what you can get on MAME, just to warrant the price of buying their latest arcade collection (which have all appeared on their older arcade compilations). Something like developer interviews, making of features, unreleased games thats sort of thing, but instead all Namco have delivered is a collection of their most loved Arcade titles on a DVD with no extra’s.

Its not as though the same games aren’t available elsewhere, legitly, for a fraction of the price. Regarding the collection, few need any kind of introduction, which is a good sign at least. In the ‘classics’ camp, you’ve got some all-time must-haves in the shape of Pac-Man, Ms Pac Man, Galaxian, Galaga and Dig Dug. On the periphery, there’s the likes of Mappy, Bosconian, Rally-X, Sky Kid and Xevious, and a couple of reasonable unlockables like Galaga 88 and Pacmania, while the less impressive Pole Position, Pole Position 2, Dragon Spirit and Rolling Thunder help make up the numbers. A poor 16 titles compared to last years Taito Legends which featured a huge 29 games.

The 16 games that feature make this the largest Namco collection available, but, in many cases, its the worst of the lot. Digital Eclipse who compiled the collection seem to have done a rush job of the compilation, with nothing evident that celebrates Namco’s 50th Anniversary in any particular way. You cant help but think along the lines of “Why not include at least one game from each of those 50 years?”

The standard of the emulation here is pretty strong, although some of the games are really showing their age and others dont control too well. Rally-X, Pole Position and Pole Position 2 dont lend themselves to the Dual Shock to very well, leaving the controls feeling extremely twitchy, and the shooters tend to feel extremely slow and sluggish, and hardly exciting. Although, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are as fun as ever and are easily the highlights of the pack, often resulting in the famous “one more go” syndrome.

Overall then, Namco Museum 50th Anniversary is an underwhelming disappointment of a retro collection. Theres no bonus features, no real celebration and the controls on some of the games are downright poor. This is one retro collection to avoid.


#ThrowBackThursday: Rally-X

When we were kids my family would go on holiday to Jersey in the Channel Islands every summer. Obviously I’ve got loads of memories of those times (pretty sure they’re all from between the ages of 6 and 10, well, apart from one of them), standing on the sea wall with my Uncles as a storm raged and waves were crashing right at our feet (not sure why they thought me being there was a good idea), seeing a copy of The Beast of Jersey and its cover terrifying me to the point that I wouldn’t go to bed until my Aunt went up (her room was next door to the one my Dad shared with my sister and I, there was a listening service available so my Dad could check in on us), some strong winds the made my sister and I look like we’d jumped out of an aeroplane in our shellsuits (this was the early nineties). There’s loads of others, but the one that’s relevant to this blog is the little side room in the hotel.

The reason we would go on this particular holiday was because my Aunt and Uncle were friends with the woman who owned the hotel, we called her Auntie Joyce but she wasn’t a real Aunt. Anyway, this friendship (plus my Aunt helping my Dad out with our plane tickets) meant we could go on holiday every year despite my Dad being a single parent (we went when my parents were together still but I only have on memory of that time, which I alluded to above, and that was when I fell on a climbing frame and cracked my head open, resulting in me visiting the hospital). So, this side room was, predominantly, a storage room for extra chairs. But it did have a cocktail cabinet of the NAMCO game Rally-X.

For those that don’t know, a cocktail cabinet is an arcade cab thats set into a table rather than you standing at it. You and another person sit on either side of the table and the controls are built into the side with the screen facing up. Rally-X was a kind of maze based racing game. In single player you had to avoid the AI cars that would pursue you as you raced around the maze to collect flags. In two player mode you would have to race your opponent to get the most flags. As we arrived at the hotel Auntie Joyce would give my sister and a big bag of 10p’s each. My sister would spend the week frittering hers away in the sweet shop across the road. I would basically pump them all back into the Rally-X machine, sometimes even paying for my sister to accompany me (aren’t I generous!?) with one of us either side of the cabinet and our Panda Pop’s sat on top.