Reviewed: February 22, 2011
Released: November 16, 2010
Why do they do this to me? |
I love Namco – I really do. From the old school arcade cabinets like Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Pole Position and Galaxian, to the new school console franchises like Ridge Racer, Tekken, Soul Calibur, and Ace Combat, there is just something about Namco’s library that really strikes a chord with me. And for the most part, seeing what Namco has pulled off with the recent Pac-Man Championship Edition is simply astounding, and proves that the company still has a lot of life left to milk from these classic franchises. But there is one thing that Namco does year after year that traps me in an uncomfortable reviewer’s conundrum – they release yet another Namco Museum compilation and ask me to review it. I may be a real sucker for compilations old school arcade games, but enough is enough, people.
A quick scan of Wikipedia’s “List of Namco Games” shows that over all consoles, handhelds, and TV games, there have already been well over a dozen individual Namco Museum variations released. And other than basic modifications to the presentation and menu structure, each of these Namco Museum titles is nearly identical in content. Namco gets by with swapping-out just enough ancillary titles from version to version to designate each grouping as “unique” – but offering up only one exclusive title out of the 24 included games hardly helps Namco Museum Megamix stand out.
Still, if I were to somehow be able forget the numerous prior Namco Museum releases; I would definitely be impressed with Megamix’s library of classic arcade offerings. With titles like Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, Galaga, Galaxian, Grobda, Mappy, Rally-X, Motos, Xevious, Bosconian, Galpus, Dig-Dug, and Dig-Dug 2 – there is a lot of history to enjoy. Namco even throws in a couple vault titles, Cutie Q and King & Balloon. There are 18 “Classic” titles in all but sadly once again Namco once again fails to put Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man on the same compilation – I guess we will have to wait another year for Gigamix to get Ms. Pac Man.
Namco make an attempt to step up the plate with a few remixed, or in this case “megamixed” versions of the classic titles – Grobda, Galaga, Pac-N-Roll, Motos, Rally-X, and even a virtual version of Namco’s Whack-A-Mole clone, Gator Panic. All are fairly disappointing and come nowhere near what we enjoyed with the recent Pac-Man CE remix. In fact, the only remix to actually match the enjoyment of the original title would be the bumper-ball fun of the Motos remix, Pac-Motos. On the other hand, the on-rails point-and-shoot debacle they call the Galaga Remix actually does a disservice to the original material.
The games might have been more enjoyable had the controls transferred well to the Wii remote – but they don’t. In fact, to call the controls an absolute mess would be an understatement – especially when toggling back and forth between classic games and the hub world menu system during which the controller orientation changes by 90 degrees. Suddenly up means left, right mean up, action buttons become pause buttons, and the pause buttons become action buttons. It’s really quite perplexing.
To their defense, Namco is trying to cover all the bases at the same time by allowing gamers to use the Classic controller attachment, the Wii Remote sideways with 1 and 2 buttons, or Nunchuk analog stick and Z and C buttons. All will all work, but none are optimized to the device, resulting in awkward and clunky gameplay. I did a side-by-side classic Pac-Man comparison between the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii versions and the Wii trailed significantly behind the others.
Visually, Megamix’s remixed games sits on the lower end of the spectrum, even for a Wii title. The classic game visuals are authentic to their source material, and actually offer a surprising degree of customization allowing gamers to modify the window size and aspect ratio as they see fit. The playfield stretches to match the selected window, as do all the characters and objects on screen resulting in a bit of distortion – but distortion is a small price to pay to minimize the sidebars.
I know I am being a bit tough on Namco Museum Megamix, but it’s simply because the title seems like a cheap cash-in on material that has been released many times over already. At an MSRP of only $20, it is a great deal for folks who don’t already own a Namco museum title. But for the folks who do, you should really research the list of games to see if you really want to shell out $20 for the same old same old.
In closing, I really wish Namco would simply come up with one comprehensive disc that contains all of the classic games and put these yearly Namco Museum releases to rest. Instead they keep dishing out these cookie cutter compilations with only a modicum of changes and expect fans to bite. I, for one, have had enough. But I still love Namco’s games.