Namco Museum Remix Review
Posted by Sean Aaron
Something classic, something new, Namco we love you!
In recent years purveyors old arcade games have seen fit to repackage them into "Greatest Hits" collections. Namco first had their Museum series on the original PlayStation in a series of six volumes (cleverly one for each letter of the name "Namco" and then a Japanese-only Museum R that came with a big album to put the other volumes into) with further repackaging of many of the games on subsequent consoles and handhelds. Namco Museum Remix is a further repackaging with five of the fourteen games in the collection "remixed" in 3-D and with motion controls specific to the Wii.
Whilst the original Namco Museum featured a rather tedious interface controlling a walking Pac-Man who sauntered through rooms that had to load from a double-speed CD-ROM drive, Namco Museum Remix loads quickly and has a greatly simplified interface consisting of a courtyard with a central fountain and game areas represented by buildings surrounding it. Pac-Man is a ball with a face and somewhat disturbingly rolls around like a severed head using the analogue stick on the Nunchuk. The full controls used in the Pac 'n' Roll game are present so it's kind of a practice area for that game with dots littered about to eat. Some of the dots can be challenging to get, but eating them all doesn't unlock anything of interest, so don't spend too much time on this.
The classic arcade games are in the Carnival Arcade building. After entering you will find a bunch of mini arcade cabinets with shapes appropriate to the game in question; all at Pac-Man's height. Rolling in front of one causes a semi-translucent display to come up showing the different control schemes available for the game along with its name and an invite to press "A" to play it. Moving away causes this display to disappear, so there's no loading of menus to exit and you can quickly move from game to game. Brilliant, simple and intuitive. The classic arcade games are as follows: Pac & Pal, Super Pac-Man, Cutie-Q, Xevious, Mappy, Galaxian, Gaplus, Dig Dug and Pac Mania.
All of these games are ports, so purists please note that you won't see boot sequences and there's no inserting of coins (or their sound effects) or pressing of start buttons. Having said that these ports are quite good and you'll be hard-pressed to tell them from the real thing. Each game has a submenu where you can choose difficulty by modifying the extra life settings; you can disable sound in attract mode or listen to the various sound effects via a sound test. You can also change the positioning and aspect-ratio of the games. Most of these games had vertical arcade monitors, so on a widescreen display simulated bezel art surrounds the game which is a nice treat. For fans of the stats from the original Namco Museum sadly these are absent, though at least your high scores are saved.
The classics all control with one of three control schemes: Nunchuk (without exception these are all games that use a joystick and one or two buttons), Remote on its side or Classic controller. Note that navigating the in-game menu assumes you're using the Remote oriented for playing the game, so up-down maps to left-right on the d-pad on the Wii Remote. Nunchuk / Wii Remote controls are enabled simultaneously, so you can switch back and forth to find which works best.
The Remix games are as follows: Gator Panic, Pac 'N' Roll, Galaga, Rally-X and Pac Motos.
Gator Panic is like Whack-a-Mole except that you're defending a turtle and the gators come out of holes towards him and try to bite him. A hammer is moved by the analogue stick and a downward movement with the Remote brings it down on the gator's head. The game is timed and points are scored for every hit. There's also a multiplayer mode where up to four people can have a go at whacking gator heads. It gets quite frenetic towards the end, but it's not a terribly deep game by any means.
Pac 'N' Roll is a 3-D Pac-Man game similar to Pac Mania. Unlike Pac Mania, you're not in a maze, you roll rather than glide, you can take three hits before losing a life, you don't have to eat all the dots to progress and you can control the camera. Pac-Man rolls through various levels attempting to eat enough dots to get past a gatekeeper at the end and battles the occasional boss. There are also a couple of costumes with environmental effects: a knight's helmet that allows you to break metal crates and sink to the bottom of water and a winged helmet that causes you to drift to earth after vaulting into the air. Unlike the arcade classic there are additional controls beyond the stick: A or B will put on the brakes -- which is handy to stop Pac-Man rolling off ledges -- and a quick Remote waggle gives him a shot of speed which helps in flying up ramps or over platforms in later stages. It's good fun and more in the spirit of the original Pac-Man game than the 3D platformers from the late 90s.
Galaga is an on-rails shooting game. The game is played with 1-4 people with the objective of defending Pac-Man from Galagas as he rolls along a half-pipe through spectacular space scenes. Shoot with A or B (hold for a brief bit of autofire) and if necessary push up on the control stick so Pac-Man can jump to avoid the odd missile. It's a shame that it's so brief with only three worlds culminating in a tricky boss fight, but it's quite fun.
Rally-X is a remix of arcade classic New Rally-X, but 3D with Pac-Man at the wheel of a go-kart. Like other remix titles, multiple players can have a go and this game supports Miis as well. There is an alternate motion-controlled interface option using the Remote on its side, but the control stick does just fine. C gives you a burst of speed and A releases the signature smoke cloud. As with the original arcade game the goal is to drive around a maze picking up yellow flags whilst avoiding hazards like rocks and 1 or 2 rival go-karters who will try to ram you into oblivion. After finishing all the levels you have the option of playing a variant level where you control a rival go-karter and try to ram Pac-Man. A great update that improves upon the arcade original.
Pac Motos is an updating of the Japanese arcade classic Motos. You control Pac-Man and try to ram objects off of a floating platform before they push you off -- kind of like and abstract version of Sumo wrestling. As with other remix games there's a multiplayer option available. Pac-Man doesn't roll in this game, but maintains an upright posture so he can better shove balls and such off the ledges. As the clock ticks down parts of the ground will disappear at random, ensuring players don't dawdle. There are upgrades that are the ones from Pac 'N' Roll with different effects: the winged helmet allows for jumping and the metal helmet enables a charged attack and a 3rd power-up improves Pac-Man's general strength. Power-ups are earned by picking up tickets which you can use for the next round, though it's best to save them for the boss fights that end every world. Like Rally-X, Pac 'N' Roll and Galaga, Pac Motos keeps separate stats for each stage and auto-saves after each stage so you can easily quit and come back to play through any bit you like.
The remix titles show a good amount of work and aren't just tarted-up versions of the originals, but add to the classic gameplay. Compared to buying them all separately on the Virtual Console (what few of the line-up are currently available) the classic arcade games alone make this collection worthwhile for fans of the oldies.