Namco Museum Volume1 is the first in a series of five compilations of arcade classics. Each edition contains multiple games, and the entire collection creates a retro-80s...museum? This first volume features Pac-Man, Pole Position, Rally-X, New Rally-X (go figure), Bosconian, something called Toy Pop, and the mighty Galaga. These titles are, without exception, true to their original stand-up arcade machines.
Was Pac-Man really this slow? Pole Position this difficult? New Rally-X this much like old Rally-X? For those who were there, these near-perfect emulations (despite the missing voices in a few of the musical scores) are chilling. They induce instant past-life regression, and will undoubtedly deliver older gamers to a time before anti-aliasing - the salad days, when the only worry was literal annihilation by global thermonuclear war. Those who enjoyed video gaming's formative years will see these games and look past their extreme shortcomings: They won't mind the primitive graphics and sound because they'll be rediscovering a wealth of gameplay. Those who did not...probably won't.
The fevered rush of countless split-second decisions drove gamers to the primordial quarter slots fifteen years ago, and for good reason. The pace of Rally-X is daunting. The process of passing cars around tight turns in Pole Position is sure to provide whole orthidonture's worth of tooth-grinding. The double firepower of a rescued fighter in Galaga provides glory unmatched since the first Space Shuttle mission; the loss of said fighter invokes a sense of tragedy that rivals Chernobyl...unless, of course, you never played the original.
In addition to the games themselves, Namco's Museum offers virtual tour through a disappointing first -person, 3-D "museum." Suffice to say that load time has never been more annoying and fruitless on the Playstation. Once the museum has loaded, players are able to walk through a hall dedicated to one of the games. Load (2-D, unanimated) pictures of Pac-Man sweatshirts, Toy Pop original Japanese instructions, or the Galaga PC Board - yes, a picture of the actual motherboard. It isn't possible to do anything with it, except gaze at its sloppy rendering, push the exit button, and wait for the hallway to reload. Obvious tips, inane memorabilia, and a 3-D book that magically contains high scores (but requires a memory card to do so) are also available for players to load, wait for, glance at, and abandon (upon loading the previous screen). The content of this awkward show of ineffectual nostalgia pieces would be better off in a manual or Web site. Luckily, the entire ordeal can be avoided - the games are selectable from a separate menu outside the "museum" itself.
As a revisitation of past obsessions (what does lie beyond Pac-Man's ninth key?), these titles excite the forgotten Dee Snyder and Cyndi Lauper of the soul. To the uninitiated, however, Namco's encyclopedic offering may be little more than the Big Chill of the first video game generation.