Namco Museum EncoreThe Game: All aboard! Now departing the Namco Museum aboard the spaceship Game Space Milaiya. Namco’s retrospective series literally takes off for its final ride on the Playstation with a collection of seven games, from the earliest days of Namco’s video game empire to more recent arcade titles. (Namco, 1997 – for Playstation)

Memories: For the final PS1 outing of the Namco Museum series, Namco turned out what easily could have been the user-friendliest volume yet, dispensing with the tedious “Doom minus the action” museum settings and otherwise simplifying things dramatically. In short: doing away with the extraneous trappings to make way for more games.

Namco Museum EncoreAnd those games may well be the most eclectic selection yet on any of the Namco Museum collections. Titles range from the incredibly early and obscure (King & Balloon) to early NES-era delights (Sky Kid and Motos) and even early 90s titles (the Xevious-like Dragon Saber, the slightly Pac-Man-like Rompers, and yet another fighting game, Rolling Thunder). The “museum” material here is limited to advertising slicks, instruction cards, and character sketches – which is just fine and dandy, seeing how bit-mapped scans of printed circuit boards didn’t seem to help anyone with the first five volumes. The interface used to reach the games places them in a ring which you can rotate (memory card and information Namco Museum Encoreoptions are on that ring as well). It’s possible to change the main menu “environment” from floating through space to somewhere on the spaceship, Milaiya.

Speaking of the Milaiya, it shows up in load screens and the CG intro movie, and – according to the load screens – appears to have a floor plan! Star Trek fans would be proud. Another thing that shows up in a load screen is a Terminator-esque view of Pac-Man whose fine print, in English, is really rather amusing. “Pac-Man arms: VOOM! VOOM!! VOOM!!!” – need I say more?

Control of the games themselves is smooth and precise, though I still long for dual analog support, especially in a game like Motos, which tends to stop just short of leaving my left thumb blistered from all the quick directional changes. The drop-down menus, refined to their best possible use, make one wish that Namco might go back and redo some of the early Museum volumes this way. They offer a considerable number of very useful options, as well as allowing players to ditch out to the main menu easily.

Namco Museum EncoreOne little-known bonus included with the Encore package is a very cool sheet of pre-cut, pre-printed memory card labels allowing you to customize that all-important piece of plastic that preserves your high scores for posterity. The copy of Namco Museum Encore we obtained for this review had the entire sheet intact, so we’ve scanned them for those of you who are curious.

Namco Museum Encore5 quarters!Overall, Namco Museum Encore shows that there’s more potential in Namco’s library of arcade titles – both new and old. Methinks it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we were now seeing Namco Museum 8 or some later volume, rather than retreading the territory of volumes 1 and 3 for different platforms.

Namco Museum Encore