Namco Museum Battle Collection Review
1) It's portable.
2) It includes 21 games (17 classic originals and 4 "arrangement" remakes). That's twice as many as previous Museum releases, and still a couple more than were included on the Namco Museum 50th Anniversary Arcade Collection that was just released for PS2, GameCube, and Xbox.
3) The emulation is as close to the real deal as you're going to get without shelling out $500 for an arcade cabinet. Seriously. Previous Namco Museum collections have used re-programmed games instead of the original arcade code. The PSP compilation is running the original arcade code. I compared Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Mappy, Rolling Thunder, and Xevious side-by-side with their actual arcade cabinets and the graphics, audio, and gameplay were identical. I did notice that Ms. Pac-Man is hard-locked to the arcade game's "hard" difficulty setting, which only means that the ghosts are a little faster and smarter than they are on the more traditional "normal" setting.
You really can't go wrong with this collection. Sure, the graphics are extremely outdated and the audio is barely more than beeps and bloops... but the gameplay in these games is still just as addictive today as it was back in the 70's and 80's. In terms of original arcade games, the disc includes Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaxian, Galaga, Dig Dug, Dig Dug II, Rally X, New Rally X, Bosconian, Grobda, Motos, Mappy, Xevious, Tower of Druaga, King & Balloon, Dragon Buster, and Rolling Thunder. Also included in the mix are four "arrangement" versions of Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, and Rally X. These games take the old gameplay and spice it up with new graphics, audio, and power-ups. Oh, and for the record, the Pac-Man and Galaga arrangement games are totally different from the ones included in past Namco Museum collections.
Features are about what you'd want out of a compilation like this. High score tables are included for each game. 2-player alternating play is supported for games that originally offered it. All four of the arrangement games support 2-player simultaneous play via ad hoc WiFi. You can also make use of the "game sharing" feature to beam a demo of one of the original games to a friend's PSP, but, in a disappointing turn, the demos are limited to a single round or level of play. Each game also includes a service menu that lets you adjust settings for number of lives, bonus life score requirements, screen ratio, and so on. In a potentially controversial move, the developers added pause menus and the ability to continue to all of the games in the collection. Purists may cry foul at the continue option, but, let's keep in mind that it is 100% optional. I'm fine with this feature set, although I do wish it were possible to adjust the basic difficulty of certain games (Ms. Pac-Man in particular, since it's locked on "hard").
Purists that prefer "true arcade resolution" and original aspect ratios will be happy to know that Namco Museum Battle Collection offers a number of different display options. You can choose to display games in their original resolution (with blue borders surrounding the remainder of the screen), or pick from two settings that will stretch the graphics to fit the screen's full dimensions. In some games, mainly the shoot 'em ups in the collection, the display is cropped by 16 pixels due to the difference in screen dimensions between the PSP and the original vertically-oriented arcade monitor. Most of the time, it's just the score strip that's cut off. That's no biggie since that chunk is re-situated next to the playing field. If that sort of compromise isn't sufficient for you, no worries--the options menu also includes a vertical rotate mode. This will rotate the screen and controls 90 degrees, enabling the game to display the graphics in their original vertical format completely un-cropped and un-molested.
Namco's development team put a great deal of care and effort into this compilation and it shows. If you own a PSP and enjoy classic games, you owe it to yourself to add Namco Museum Battle Collection to your library.
8/26/2005 Frank Provo