Retro compilations have been coming thick and fast lately, with just about every company deciding to release a compilation of some kind. Just this year alone gamers can expect to be reliving their first gaming years with Sega Classics Collection, Capcom Classics, Tecmo Classics & Midway Arcade Treasures. All of these compilations are being joined by the company that started the idea of bundling old titles together, Namco. Namco are releasing a 50th anniversary title for the Xbox, Playstation 2 and Gamecube, and along with this they have produced a PSP version, Namco Museum Battle Collection. We can tell that Namco have tried to create an entertaining game, but a few shortcomings really hinder what could have been the ultimate classic compilation.
In total, the compilation includes twenty one games, comprising of 17 retro collections and four rearrangements. The rearrangements include popular Namco classics such as Pacman, Galaga, Dig Dug and Rally X. The 17 retro games comprise of Pac-man, Ms. Pac-man, Galaxian, King & Balloon, Galaga, Rally-X, New Rally-X, Bosconian, Dig Dug, Dig Dug II, Xevious, Mappy, Tower of Druaga, Dragon Buster, Grobda, Motos & Rolling Thunder. As usual, with any compilation there are great titles and some fairly average inclusions.
On the good side, Pac-man, Miss Pac-man, Galaxian, Dig Dug and Motos are all fairly decent, and should keep most people entertained. However, some of the poor games include Dragonbuster, Rolling Thunder, (which just isn't any fun to play anymore), and King and Balloon. It is also important to stress that these games are based on the concept of getting high scores. Anyone expecting different gameplay each play through is obviously looking at the wrong game; these games save your high scores to the memory stick and it is quite easy to be drawn into the games to beat your own high score.
The arrangements are fairly well done as well. None of the arrangements are huge upgrades to their original games, and basically update the graphics a little and add a little more depth to the title. The Pac-Man arrangement (which is one of the best of the arrangements) doesn't make many changes to the overall gameplay, the colours are much more vibrant, and the view has tilted a little. Boss stages have been included and everything looks much clearer. If anything, this is the reason to purchase the compilation, as the game is just as addictive as before, however it still doesn't take long to complete the game.
The Galaga arrangement is sure to please fans, and doesn't make too many changes to the general formula. The backgrounds have more detail and the targets all look better and move differently, but the game still plays like classic Galaga. Namco have even included boss battles during different parts of the game. If you die you can also continue from the level you were playing, so after an hour the arrangement can be completed entirely. Rally-X (which also made an appearance at the beginning of Ridge Racer on the PSP) has also been redone and it hasn't really changed much at all. Aside from a few small graphical changes there is a speed boost option, but this seems like the least upgraded of the four titles. The final game to be arranged is Dig Dug, which is fairly addictive. The game has power-ups which change the gameplay quite a bit, and the game itself also looks great on the PSP screen. There is a Dig Dug game coming out on the Nintendo DS, but this version is arguably the best update.
One of the most promoted features of the game is the game share feature. this feature allows you to transfer a small part of the game wirelessly to your friend, even if they don't have a copy of the game. The game sharing feature had a lot of potential, but turns out to be a huge disappointment. It definitely could have been utilised better. Only ten games can be sampled and you only get one stage to play, essentially if you want to play multiplayer it really is advisable to get a second copy of the game, as the sample you get just isn't good enough for two players. This is even more disappointing because the game sharing feature is one of the first times this feature has been added into a PSP game; so we could have appreciated a bit more than a sample.
Control is fairly basic and can be done with the analog nub or the directional pad, the directional pad feels a lot more responsive, so it's likely most people will use the pad. None of these games really require precise control, so using the directional pad isn't a hassle of any kind. Namco have been kind enough to include a feature to switch the screen, so you can play Pac-man with your PSP flipped, it's unlikely you'll use this feature except for novelty, but the option is always there. It's also a bit of a surprise though because the game is often easier to play with the screen titled, if anything this game shows the potential for developers to utilise this feature. Thankfully all the emulation is spot on, and each game runs at full speed, with no noticable slowdown. The sound is authentic, and has made the transition well as well. There is a little bit of loading in between games, which is a little disappointing because it doesn't seem like the game is loading that much in the first place.
Graphically, the arranged games look fairly decent, none of the classic games feature slowdown and all of them look just as they did when they were released over twenty years ago. It is unfair to judge the graphics of a title like this because they take a backstep, but sometimes the PSP screen will ghost during the 2D games. The sound in the game is fairly average. Not many people are really fans of the old music, especially because it has been heard so often, the main menu music is especially annoying, but is an introduction to what you can expect from the rest of the music.
Depending on your taste, the game itself could last a fairly decent amount of time. Out of the seventeen games, there are probably about ten that you will return to on an occasional basis, and about three you will play fairly regularly. Part of the fun of the arrangements is discovering the changes, so once the novelty of that is over you won't return to the arrangements too often. Multiplayer could have been a highlight, but is ruined by the limited game share feature.
Overall Namco Museum Battle Collection is a fairly content compilation, but some of these games are so boring that that they overshadow the good ones. Most of these games have appeared on a different compilation sometime in the last decade and we think it's about time Namco looked to their 32 bit catalogue, and included some of them in their compilations (image Tekken or Ridge Racer in full emulation glory?), much like Midway did with Midway Arcade Treasures 3. The game itself is fairly solid, but we wanted more than what we've seen before.