Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: November 4, 2008
Fans of old-school Namco arcade compilations are probably going to find a lot to like in this latest entry, Namco Museum Virtual Arcade. Not only do you get your typical mix of different arcade titles from the 1980s, but this disc also comes packed with all of Namco's current Xbox Live Arcade offerings, including the recently released Galaga Legions and the ever-popular Pac-Man: Championship Edition, along with popular titles like Dig Dug, classic Galaga, Mr. Driller Online, Ms. Pac-Man, Original Pac-Man, New Rally-X and Xevious. That's a pretty hefty amount of points if you haven't picked up any of these titles yet, and even if you picked up one or two in the past, the low price point for this entire compilation makes these additions well worth it.
Along with those XBLA entries, you're getting a list of additional games that span the gamut of Namco's 1980s titles, and a few more current additions that are probably a bit unnecessary. Altogether, minus the XBLA titles I listed earlier, you're getting 25 arcade titles, with only five of those having shown up on a previous Xbox release in the past. A few others have carried over from some of the PS2 compilations, though, so it's not all-new stuff, but it's still a pretty generous number of titles that old-school gamers will definitely appreciate. They're not all gems, and I thought I'd outline the list a bit with some small impressions of each title.
Baraduke is an odd side-scrolling shooter that plops you into rooms that are filled with varying amounts and types of enemies. Once you clear the room of enemies, you can move on to the next room, and so on. It's pretty difficult in reality, with only two hit points for your character and some pretty floaty controls that make accurate aiming feel really tough. I had never played this one prior to this compilation, but it's not something I could see myself going back to again and again.
Bosconian is kind of like an Asteroids/Sinistar-style shooter, where you pilot a small ship along eight different directions and try to destroy these multipart space stations while avoiding mines and enemy ships. You can fire out of the front and rear at the same time, and the only way to destroy the stations is either a direct shot into the center (which is hard to line up), or by taking out each of the pods surrounding the center. This one is pretty fun, and while the controls take a bit to get used to, it's well worth checking out.
Dig Dug 2 is a definite departure from the original Dig Dug, with most of the action taking place above ground but on small islands populated by the standard Dig Dug enemies. This sequel isn't anywhere near as difficult as the original Dig Dug and not quite as fun either. If you've never tried it out, you should at least give it a go, if for no other reason than nostalgia.
Dig Dug Arrangement is a pretty horrible remake of the first Dig Dug title. Made in 1996, it sports ugly graphics, poor (and really low-sounding) music, and a really garish take on the sprites from the original. All three of the "arrangement" titles on the disk ? Pac-Man, this one, and Galaga ? can all be avoided.
If I were going to compare Dragon Buster to anything, I'd say it's a bit like Zelda 2, but it actually predated the Zelda series by a couple of years. This is a side-scrolling action/adventure title with a hero character who walks along an overworld map to set locations that work as levels. Each level has a few different paths that lead to small boss encounters in certain rooms. One boss unlocks the door to get back to the map, and you do this over and over again until you get to the end boss for a map, which is always a big, giant dragon. It's interesting, but way dated, and while I feel like it's worth seeing, it doesn't really play that well.
Dragon Spirit, on the other hand, is completely awesome. It's a top-down shooter that features air and ground enemies, giving you a basic air projectile plus bombs. The soundtrack is great, the gameplay is fun and challenging, and even though it's pretty archaic compared to current top-down shooters, it's still well worth trying out. I had never played or heard of this before, so I was pretty happy to come across it on this compilation disc.
Galaga '88 is probably one of the best versions of Galaga out there. It takes everything that worked well about the original Galaga and tweaks it just a bit, including the enemy designs and overall look of the game. If you've ever enjoyed a Galaga game but have never played through Galaga '88, you need to check it out.
Galaxian is another Galaga title, but with Galaga '88 on the disc, it's already a little redundant. It's worth checking out if you've never played it before, but to me, it pales in comparison to '88.
Grobda is a somewhat odd tank fighter game, where you control a small tank on an equally small map and wipe out the enemy tanks. Each map has different obstacles in the way to make things a little more challenging, but the game is pretty straightforward aside from the explosion mechanic, which is kind of neat. When an enemy tank explodes, it has a blast radius of sorts, and anything caught in that radius will explode with it. Ideally, you can chain together a series of tanks, but they rarely group up to make this possible. It's a neat game, but it won't keep you interested for long.
King & Balloon is a really odd take on the Galaga formula, where you have a small ship fending off enemy balloons that swoop down and try to pick up the king that walks around below you on a small walkway. If they pick him up, you need to shoot them back down, or else you lose a life. The balloons have projectiles that can hit you, but they don't take away a life and just keep you from defending the king for a second or two, which can be costly. It's a pretty fun variation on Galaga, and one that I hadn't played before either.
Mappy is pretty unique, and I really can't compare it to anything. I had played this game in arcades before, but I completely forgot about it until I saw it again on this compilation. You control a police mouse through a mansion populated with enemy cats, trying to collect the stolen goods these guys have stored up. The mansion is split into levels, divided by doors, and you can access each level by hopping on a trampoline on the bottom floor. You have to avoid the cats or it's an instant death, and the challenge is pretty high with this one. It's a lot of fun, though, and will probably keep you busy for a bit.
The Tower of Druaga is probably going to sound familiar to some of you, but the first Druaga was a dungeon crawler that was spread out across 60 floors. Each floor had a maze-like look to it, with one exit and one hidden treasure that could be accessed by performing a certain task. It's a pretty difficult game, in part because the attack control isn't too responsive, and the deaths come a little too quickly early on. It's still a pretty neat game with some cool music attached, and it's definitely worth trying out if you haven't played it before.
Metro-Cross is really fun; you control a runner who goes across a side-scrolling corridor hopping over barrels, slime pits, and collecting skateboards and cans of something while trying to finish the course in time. It's really easy to jump into and understand, and it still controls surprisingly well. Time trial enthusiasts will enjoy this one the most, and it reminds me a bit of Flash titles that you see now using a similar gameplay mechanic.
If you've played The World Ends With You and played the mini-game within called Ten Pin Slammer, then you've kind of already played Motos. You control a small ball on a platform that you run into other balls or creatures and try to knock them off the platform. Each hit will cause both sides to bounce back, so it can be pretty challenging to take on multiple foes at once. It's a lot of fun to play, and in the long run, the really basic idea behind the game ends up making it pretty addictive.
Pac & Pal and Super Pac-Man are a bit similar in play style, and both differ quite a bit from the original Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man titles, but at the same time, they're both a lot of fun (Super being the best). Instead of dots populating the mazes, the only things you have to collect this time out are power pellets, fruit and keys. In Pac & Pal, there's a buddy who goes along with you picking up stuff, but in Super Pac-Man, you can eat a pellet that will turn you into a huge Pac-Man, allowing you to break through barriers and take up a large portion of real estate. There are keys in both games that unlock barriers, which in turn hold the fruit or other items you need to collect to pass each stage, and while I do think Super is the better of the two, they're both pretty fun variations on Pac-Man.
Pole Position 1 and 2 is one of the first arcade racers, and I'm pretty sure just about everyone everywhere has at least played one of these titles at some point, either in arcades, on an Atari, or some other console. They don't hold up very well today, but they're fun in short bursts.
Rally-X is a slight variation on Pac-Man, but with a race car in a maze against other cars as you try to collect a series of flags to pass the stage. It's pretty fun and has held up surprisingly well over the years, but it lacks the charm and character of the Pac-Man games, so in the end, it's not one that a lot of people will bother with.
Rolling Thunder is a fantastic action game, and I've played the sequel quite a bit on the Genesis. You control an agent through a series of levels that feature enemies that pop in and out of doors or just run and gun you to death, and it has a decent amount of challenge, some large and colorful sprites, and a pretty great soundtrack to boot. It's been a while since I've played the original, but it's definitely worth going back to.
Sky Kid and Sky Kid Deluxe are a pretty interesting take on side-scrolling shooters, and they require you to take off and land at the end of each mission. It's not the hardest thing in the world to pull off, but it adds more depth to the game than most side-scrolling shooters had at the time. Each mission has a certain target to beat, usually done by picking up a bomb and dropping it on said target before landing. Both versions are pretty tough but definitely fun.
As you can see, there's quite a bit to this one-disc compilation package, and that's not even including the various XBLA games tossed in here. Unfortunately, the presentation is a pretty bare-bones affair, and there's nothing outside of a list of a titles and some background art to help fill the screen while you're playing. Although you can change the resolution, there's nothing really in the way of unlockable art, ads, or a few other features we've seen on other recent compilations.
In order to access the XBLA titles included, you need to back out of the game to the Xbox 360 dashboard and go into your Live Arcade menu, where these games will now be listed. You can only access them as long as the game is in the drive, and they still actually run off the disc, unless you make use of the new download feature on NXE. Once you take out the disc, the games disappear from your Live Arcade list, which is a little bit odd. However, on the plus side, each game comes with the same Achievements as the versions you could buy on Live Arcade, meaning that this disc actually has 1800 possible achievement points with it, as opposed to the standard 1000.
Even with these menu and presentation issues, Namco Museum Virtual Arcade is definitely worth picking up at the current price for classics like Dragon Spirit, Galaga '88, Mappy, Super Pac-Man and a few others that are worth trying, in addition to the XBLA content. I'd definitely suggest giving it ago, provided you don't already own the Arcade content in other forms or on other discs.