Containing nine of publisher Namco Bandai’s Xbox LIVE Arcade releases and then tossing in 25 old-school arcade games, Namco Museum Virtual Arcade is a tremendous value – IF you don’t have all this stuff already and you don’t mind a few rough edges. But as you might have noticed from the all-caps presentation, that’s a pretty big “if”.
The meat of this collection, which is $30 at post time, is the nine games already released on Xbox LIVE Arcade:
Mr. Driller Online
New Rally X
Pac-Man: Championship Edition
Our faves are the fantastic Pac-Man: CE, the vastly underappreciated Galaga Legions, and even Mr Driller Online - though its online performance, broken at launch, is still far from perfect. The remaining six XBLA games are largely unchanged from their arcade days, but considering they’re some of the most revered games in history, you might not mind so much.
What you will mind is the fact that the 360’s controller is terrible at handling any game that originally used a four-way joystick in the arcade. Yep; the controller many think is the best ever conceived rocks for cutting-edge fare such as Gears of War II, but fossils like Pac-everything and Dig Dug handle like crap. Consider the irony now, because you’ll be too aggravated to appreciate it when you’re actually dealing with it in-game.
Also notable is the strange way you play these nine offerings: You actually have to exit back into the Xbox menu system and select the game you want to play in the 360’s Arcade games menu … strange.
However, these oddities don’t change the fact that, if for some reason you don’t have all the XBLA offerings and you definitely want them, buying this is a no-brainer. Buying them all separately would run you nearly $60 at post time, and this comes with another 25 games.
What are those 25 extras? Oh, we dunno. Maybe…
Dig Dug II
Dig Dug Arrangement
King & Balloon
Pac & Pal
Pole Position II
Sky Kid Deluxe
The Tower of Druaga
It’s a worthwhile stack, with three big caveats. First, if you’re into arcade compilations, you probably bought many of these already in a previous Namco collection, albeit on a different system. Even the “Arrange” versions, basically remakes with prettier graphics and tweaked difficulty, have been released before. Secondly, like we’ve already mentioned, some of these just don’t control well with the 360 pad.
Finally, you’ll often find more than half of the screen taken up by art, while the game happens in a smaller area in the center of the screen. The playable area of Grobda was literally only about one-fourth of the 36-inch screen we tested. We understand there are challenges on getting 25 year-old games to look good on modern HD sets, but there has to be a better solution than this.
These three concerns are the reason Namco Museum Virtual Arcade didn’t score as highly as we’d have liked. But don’t let that deter you from picking it up if you have an interest. For the right buyer, this is a gleaming golden treasure even with bits of tarnish here and there.
Dec 8, 2008