Memories: Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary brings sixteen classic arcade games such as Pac-Man, Galaga and Dig Dug directly into your living room. All the games play exactly like their upright counterparts, and they should by now; this is at least the third time Namco has released ported versions of these arcade games to the home console market.
A decade ago, Namco released five separate compilation discs for the original Playstation. Some of the games on those discs include Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Pole Position II, Rally-X, Bosconian, Xevious, Mappy, Dragon Spirit, and so on. In case you missed them the first time around, Namco released Namco Museum in 2001 for the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. Namco Museum includes, and stop me if this list sounds familiar, Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Pole Position II, and so on. The five disc Playstation collection included a museum area, where players could view development stories and view related pictures. Namco Museum for the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube included updated versions of many of the games.
This brings us to Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary, which contains the following sixteen games: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Rally-X, Pole Position, Pole Position II, Xevious, Dragon Spirit, Bosconian, Rolling Thunder, Mappy, Sky Kid, Pac-Mania and Galaga ’88. If you include the import-only Namco Museum Encore (which included Rolling Thunder and Sky Kid), fifteen of the sixteen games have already appeared on previous Namco collections for home gaming consoles (Galaga ’88 is the odd game out, and to play it on Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary, you’ll have to unlock it first).
The menu on Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary presents gamers with rendered versions of arcade cabinets, and (only) three 80s tunes that play in random order. Trust me – you will get sick of hearing Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen” in a hurry. In an ironic note, while the games themselves take only a second or two to load, the rendered menu takes a solid 10-15 seconds to load each time you quit a game.
Analysis of the disc shows that the entire contents of Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary take up about 250 megs; it’s a shame the other 4+ gigs of space (this is the DVD generation, is it not?) weren’t utilized. Why not include 300 songs in the menu instead of 3? If this is supposed to be an anniversary disc, treat it as such! Where are the interviews, the behind the scenes footage, the commercials, the music, the extras? If you were to celebrate your wedding anniversary this poorly, you might not have another one!
The one thing Namco did manage to nail was the emulation. All the games play perfectly and are indistinguishable from the originals, but is that enough in a world where every 10-year-old kid knows where to download emulator ROMs? I’m not sure Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary offers gamers enough for their money. The games look and feel great, but they looked and played great the last two times I bought them. Without any extras or bonus features. These games are re-re-rereleases, and without anything extra included, I have no reason to purchase this. If you don’t own one of Namco’s previous compilations, then by all means this is a good deal – you can’t go wrong with 16 classic games for $20. But if you already own one (or more) copies of these games, Namco hasn’t given you any reason to purchase them again.