Bandai Namco has been releasing compilations of its classic arcade games since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and each game console is all but guaranteed to see a version at some point in its life cycle. The original Xbox got its edition in 2002, and now it's the Xbox 360's turn.
The main difference between the original Xbox Namco Museum game and this year's Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade is the addition of Namco's entire Xbox Live Arcade catalog to date. That means for $39.99 you'll get the XBLA games Galaga Legions
, Pac-Man Championship Edition
, Ms. Pac-Man
, Mr. Driller Online
, Dig Dug
and New Rally-X
. All are the full versions, and each includes 200 Achievement points (that's a possible 1,800 points for those keeping score at home).
In addition to those nine games, you'll also get a collection of classic Namco games from the 1980s, ranging from the truly legendary (Pole Position) to the questionable (Pac-Mania) and entirely forgettable (Dragon Buster). And unfortunately, this game also includes the tragic Arrangement remakes of Dig Dug, Pac-Man and other classic Namco properties that appeared on Namco Museum. Here's a complete list of the "Museum Classics" included on the Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade disk:* = Also available on Namco Museum for Xbox
Many of those titles will be instantly familiar to fans of old-school arcade games, and a quick scan reveals some popular names: Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, etc. However, the best games in those series have already been released on XBLA, and anyone with an Xbox 360, a couple bucks and an Internet connection can download them at any time.
But if you haven't yet downloaded Namco's excellent Pac-Man: Championship Edition, Galaga Legions, or the port of Dig Dug, then you should check out Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade. Those games alone are worth the price. But Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade is not a user-friendly game. The presentation is disappointingly bare-bones and it's full of stuff you probably won't want (hint: anything with "arrangement" in the title). But there's definite value here for a select segment of the gaming population.
We've reviewed all of Namco's Xbox Live Arcade offerings over the past few years, and you can read our thoughts about each by clicking on the links at the top of this article. The best of these are Pac Man Championship Edition and Galaga Legions, both of which have been entirely redone by Namco in high definition. Most of the others are just straight ports of the original arcade games and are good for some nostalgia (and achievements).
It's nice to have all the Namco XBLA games on a single disk at a reasonable price, but the way they are presented is definitely odd. When you put the Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade disk, you'll be prompted to choose between an Xbox Live Arcade Menu and a Museum Menu. Choosing the former takes you to a load screen, which shows a list of the nine XBLA games on the disk with a message overlaid telling you to quit out to the Xbox 360 dashboard and head to the Xbox Live Arcade menu to play them. Once in that menu, the games on the disk will show up in your XBLA library and you can play them from there.
It's an awkward method of getting to the most important content on the disk, and it's made more cumbersome by the fact that you can only play these games when the disk is in your machine. You can't copy them to your hard drive individually, and quitting out of a game takes you back to the Dashboard, not to the Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade. And once you remove the disk, you won't have access to these nine XBLA games until you put it back in. And what if I want to switch back and forth between the Xbox Live Arcade and "Classic" titles? Not easily done.
Compared to some past classic game console compilations, Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade is severely lacking in polish and pizzazz. When Activision released its Anthology for the PlayStation 2 in 2002, the publisher raised the bar for the genre. With unlockable retro commercials and art, licensed 1980s music, a creative menu system and easily accessible games and options, Activision Anthology showed that a classic collection of arcade games didn't have to be a boring list, which is essentially what you get with Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade.
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