Retro collections must seem like an awfully good idea at the time of conception. Grab a few old games and bundle them together in an elaborately named 'anniversary' pack or 'classic' collection and you're bound to be on the road to easy money. Namco is at it again in the shape of Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary. While you can't argue that most the games included are classics in one way or another, it's hard not to feel rather disappointed.
Namco was founded in 1955, so this marks their 50th anniversary, but the company didn't start making video games until the late '70s, making the title seem a little out of place. The collection includes 14 games (Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Rally-X, Pole Position, Pole Position II, Xevious, Dragon Spirit, Bosconian, Rolling Thunder, Mappy and Sky Kid) with an additional two games being unlockable. Even for a semi-budget title, it's certainly a little short on numbers.
You're presented with a fairly attractive 3D arcade when you start the game, but this is rather ruined by an inability to walk around it, with each cabinet simply being selected by scrolling through from one to the next. All the games seem to be accurately recreated, although it's hard to say for sure if they're perfect conversions. Settings for each can be changed, with difficulty, lives, laps etc, all there to set up as you wish. Once inside a game you can save your high scores so other players have something to aim for, but that's it. There's no history about the games, no artwork; it's about as barebones as it gets.
Die hard fanatics might argue that all the games included should be treasured, but in reality only a few of them really stand up well today. Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man still play as well as ever, although if you have any interest in either you'll likely have got your pill-popping fix elsewhere. Xevious, Galaga, Galaxian and Dig Dug are all worth playing, but the others can only really be of interest to fans. As with all collections of this type, the initial nostalgia factor is high, but you'll probably only return to a small number of the games included.
The game's 80's soundtrack seems like the perfect accompaniment to the games, but it simply hasn't been given enough attention. The track list is ridiculously short, and while listening to 'She Drives me Crazy' by the Fine Young Cannibals is possibly more fun than playing some of the included games, there's only so many times you can do that before it becomes a little repetitive. Music is also limited to the game select screen, obviously a decision made to try and hide the woefully small number of tunes included.
It's incredibly hard to recommend Namco Museum 50th Anniversary to anyone other than complete Namco fanatics, but fans would probably have wanted more than a few old games thrown onto a game disc. If you're looking to dabble in a bit of retro gaming I'd advise looking at the far more entertaining Capcom Classics Collection, which includes superior games and has been created with far more care.