Namco Museum 50th Anniversary Arcade Collection

What is it about those old arcade games that keeps us coming back decades later? For some it is pure nostalgia, but what about those who didn't spend their younger years in an arcade? I know people who didn't set foot in an arcade until they were adults, yet they still love these games. Perhaps it comes from the fact that games are our passion, and these are our roots. Whether it be acknowledging the games that started it all or reminiscing about a misspent youth dropping our hard-earned quarters into games like Pac-Man, Galaga and Pole Position, there is no denying that these games hold a special place in gamers' hearts.
One of the companies that kept us in a pellet-munching-induced daze was Namco, creator of some of the most memorable arcade games. The company is celebrating their fifth decade in the entertainment business, and to commemorate this achievement they released Namco Museum 50th Anniversary, a compilation containing 14 of their most memorable classics. Well, most of them are memorable anyway. I'm still not sure what to think of Mappy.
Namco Museum 50th Anniversary is a great collection of some of the most beloved arcade games, but there isn't much that sets it apart from any of the other Namco collections that have been released over the years. This made it hard to judge the game due to the fact that it is a mixed bag of joy and disappointment. On the one hand, I was let down by the lack of presentation. Most of the games can be found on previous releases, the menu is boring and there is no additional content. Other compilations on the market (which, as of late, has been flooded with arcade collections) feature more games and plenty of bonus content, including game histories and developer interviews. While Namco offers gamers the opportunity to "explore a virtual arcade," this consists of viewing the games in their original cabinet. There is no arcade atmosphere to it, save the few 80's songs that play and the blipping and bleeping of the games. I would like to have seen an actual arcade, dark and with lots of blinking lights, maybe a mini-game where you actually insert the quarter. An actual arcade setting would have made the experience more enjoyable.
On the other hand, I was completely giddy at the prospect of playing some of these long-forgotten favorites, and it was easy to forgive the shortcomings of the overall package. Some of my favorite games are on this disc, and I completely enjoyed running down memory lane with the likes of Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, Rally-X, Pole Position, Bosconian and Rolling Thunder.
There are two other games that are not mentioned on the disc, Galaga '88 and Pac-Mania, and you open them by achieving a certain score on some of the other games. The high scores they set are rather low, and anyone who has ever held a joystick could pull off these scores blindfolded.
As far as the technical aspects of the game, the games are a good emulation of the originals. The menu is a bit awkward though, and it requires you to start a game before you can exit it. So, for example, when you are done chomping on pellets and ghosts, you have to start a new game just so you can pause and exit to the main menu. This is inconvenient, and there should have been a simpler way. The load times getting back to the main menu are long enough that you could run to an arcade and play through several levels of Galaga.
Namco Museum 50th Anniversary could be scored lower due to the fact that it just doesn't give us anything new. There is no bonus content, no cool menu, no spiffy packaging and only a couple of games more than previous Namco collections. I prefer to keep my fond memories. However, the price on the game is the same as previous Namco Museum that was released a couple of years ago, so it isn't like Namco is trying to stiff you by charging more for their Anniversary collection. The game does lose some points for the lack of presentation, but it is still full of games that are incredibly fun to play.

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