Namco Bandai has long been aware that it has a rich backlog of classic arcade games that have the power to sell, regardless of the era. To that end, Namco Bandai has been releasing Namco Museum compilations of these games since the PlayStation days. The Namco Museum series was originally a celebration of these old titles, showcasing faithful home versions of the games and featuring comprehensive information about their production and release. As the years wore on, less effort was expended on these compilations, and more strange decisions were made. Namco Museum Megamix isn't quite rock-bottom, but it's on the fast track there.
Megamix puts on a good show when one first boots up the game. A fun 3-D hub world shows up for Pac-Man to roll around in, with doorways leading to each game, Sonic Jam-style. Menus for the Remix games are clear and comprehensive, with easy-to-follow gameplay instructions, and the games largely allow for multiplayer. Pac-Man also stars in all of these, and I'd be lying if I said his inclusion didn't add a welcome cuteness factor to the proceedings.
The Remix titles are a mixed bag but often work out well. Games like Pac-N'Roll Remix, Gator Panic Remix and Grobda Remix are a good fit for the Wii Remote/Nunchuk control scheme, using simple inputs on the analog stick for most actions. Others — such as Rally-X Remix, which constantly misinterprets players' directional inputs, and Galaga Remix, which is pretty but bears no gameplay resemblance to Galaga — aren't so lucky. As usual, much of Namco's older product still holds up in this day and age; games like the original Galaxian series, Mappy, Pac-Man, Pac-Mania and Xevious play just fine and are immensely fun to revisit if you haven't in quite some time.
I'll admit to having a decent amount of fun playing the games on this disc, as I rarely get the chance to touch the Namco Museum series, but in the back of my mind, I couldn't shake the feeling that after so many years, there could have been so much more to it. After doing some research and putting the games' control schemes through their paces, my fears were confirmed. This collection could have easily been so much more.
The retro games collection is somewhat impressive but has a decent amount of head-scratching omissions. The biggest of these is Ms. Pac-Man. More so than the original Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man has kept the Pac-phenomenon going in the West for decades, especially among female players. Given the Wii console's large female install base, not having this on the disc is mind-boggling at best, especially since it has shown up in multiple past Namco Museum editions. It also would have been nice to have the innovative scrolling Jr. Pac-Man included as opposed to Super Pac-Man, which is, for a lack of a better term, just plain weird and had limited distribution to begin with.
Despite the title of the compilation, this collection isn't very "Mega" at all. There are games missing here that were in previous Namco Museums, and given that we're in the age of DVDs, there's just no excuse for larger collections. There was arguably no excuse back in the days of CDs, but more of an effort was applied back then.
The Remix titles are strange in their own right. While they mostly look nice and play well, they also don't give the player a choice in terms of play style and interface. With this collection being on the Wii, Namco Bandai decided to make motion controls mandatory, but they're so shallow here that they can truly be called "waggle." Digital and directional controls are completely missing for vital gameplay functions, so if you want to play something like Grobda Remix or Gator Panic Remix with precise positioning controls, there's no way to do it. Prepare to miss with your grenades and have your gator-hammering hands just not work sometimes.
There's yet another flaw with this collection: It's almost a rerelease. The previous title in this compilation series, Namco Museum Remix, was released in late 2007. As far as differences go, Grobda is the only new Remix title, and only six retro games were added to the mix since last time.
The last version didn't even have the original Pac-Man, which is an oversight corrected here, but that only serves to make things look that much worse. After over three years of waiting, it's beyond disappointing to see so little added to this collection.
Namco is selling Namco Museum Megamix at a budget price, so if you're not concerned about the mentioned flaws, then there's a whole lot of retro gaming to be had for the buck. The quality of the games will vary per person, and anyone who shelled out for the prior collection may feel cheated. Namco Museum Megamix is worth a look … but a cautious one.
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