These days, video game collections really really aren’t anything special. In-between big releases, console manufacturers are always pushing old games down our throats. But back in the PlayStation days, the concept was more novel. Whenever my parents would buy a new console, they’d always get Ms. Pac-Man for my mom, without exception. So, for our PS1, they bought Namco Museum Vol 3. Years later, when I was rediscovering the PS1 (by way of a “PS one”), we had long since lost Namco Museum so, not knowing it was a different game with different included games, I bought Volume 1. It’s thanks to games like these, that I have my appreciation and love of classic arcade gaming.
The Namco Museum games on PS1 weren’t just a simple collection of games. They actually had, well, a museum in them! From the main menu you can just select a game to play, but the main attraction is the 3D museum included in the game. This was always really cool to me, and I spent hours exploring around that virtual museum. You could find the arcade machines to play the classic games, of course, but there was so much more. All around you could find old ads, brochures, and artwork for the games to look at. There’s also some really interesting trivia; I had no idea Pac-Man was called Puck-Man in Japan before I played this game. Not only that, but the rooms were exhibits styled after the game. For instance, the Galaga room is a starship cockpit, and Pac-Man’s is Pac-Man’s yard, complete with tiny Pac-house.
I’m not sure why, but this virtual museum always really resonated with me. It somehow made these old games feel more alive. You weren’t just playing old games, you were also exploring a location. It almost felt like I was actually going to a real museum, when I was a kid. Though, unlike a real museum, the atmosphere is very lonely. The music is very calm, and there aren’t any other people around. If they had tried to include virtual people (in all their low-poly glory), it would’ve only been to the game’s detriment. I’d love to explore a real-life museum all alone, that’d make for an interesting experience I’d think. Furthermore, I’d love it if a real-life Namco museum existed. Or, rather, a classic arcade game museum.
In terms of an actual game collection, this is one of the best ones I’ve ever played. These are all arcade games, and lots of effort has been taken to keep the arcade experience. Most of these arcade games had a 3x4 aspect ratio, instead of a 4x3, so there’s been some compromises. Most of the games have the HUD information to the right side of the screen. However, there is an option to rotate the display, if you’re brave enough to lay your TV on its side. The ports really excel in their authenticity: You can control all the DIP switch settings, as on a real arcade machine. Also, the games boot just as the arcade machine would, displaying the “crosshatch” screen and all. None of these games are emulated, they’re ported from the original source code. Some of the games allow you to display cartridge artwork around the sceen to emulate the arcade feel, but these are all based on the Japanese cabinets.
Game selection in this iteration is pretty good. First, you have Pac-Man, which is an absolute classic. Granted Ms. Pac-Man is better, but what can ya do? Rally-X and New Rally-X are basically Pac-Man but in cars, and it’s pretty fun. I hadn’t played Rally-X before getting this collection, and I really rather like it. Galaga is an absolute classic of the fixed shooter genre, and is soooo much better than its prequel Galaxian. It’s thanks to this collection that I first played and subsequently fell in love with Galaga. It’s easily the best game in the collection. Bosconion is another space shooter game, with a more free-roaming feel. Pretty fun. Pole Position is a classic arcade pseudo-3D racing game. It’s a classic, but I find it pretty hard to play these days, though it’s much better with a steering wheel or any neGcon compatible controller. Toy Pop is a strange top-down shooter-ish affair, but I never enjoyed it much.
Do I think you should get Namco Museum Vol 1? Probably not, since most, if not all, of these games can be had somewhere else, without having to bust out a PS1 (or play it on your PS2 or PS3). However, if you’re into PS1 collecting, I’d say there’s no reason not to get this game.