| paleface [sys=DC; cat=Action_Variety; loc=NA] |
|References added: 179, 380|
"Ports of Ms. Pac-Man."
You get the original Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Pole Position and Dig Dug, all in one cheap (these days) little package.
I'd put off getting this disc because I already had the original Ms. Pac-Man in Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness (entry 380). But 'pon turning the Namco Museum case over in EB today I noticed three glorious little letters: "VGA." Yesss! No more slightly-blurry (even with an RGB cable) output! Crystal-clear (and what's more, legal ;) retrogaming, here we come!
The production quality here puts Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits (see entry 555) discs to shame: VGA support, flawless arcade stick support, colorful and well-designed menu interfaces and even helpful tips for each of the games. One of my favorite little additions is a dynamic simulation of what the arcade dip switches would look like (I mean, it actually shows realistic-looking white plastic togs on a green circuit board ;) based on the game options you select--you can twiddle with the number of starting lives, etc, for each game. And there's not a single load-time to be found once you've booted the disc up.
Midway's emulator sounds like its being played underwater--Namco's sounds crystal clear. I love the sound in the Pac games, and its been a real long time but Galaga's sound is just as pleasant as always, and cleaner than I've ever heard it. Awesome.
Midway offers more control remapping options, allowing you to remap any function to any control (in theory) but the result isn't as robust, with some problems supporting the arcade stick, for instance. Namco doesn't let you remap all the controls wherever you want but some of the games, esp Pole Position, offer enough optional setups that you should be able to find at least one to your liking, and the arcade stick works flawlessly.
Not much to say about the Pac games: you know them, you love them, they're here in all their full-screen, dot-munching glory.
I'd forgotten how much fun Galaga can be. As mentioned the game sounds great and shooting at those darned swirling alien ship formations against that trippy colorful star background becomes oddly compelling. Just... one... more...wave. I'd never specifically noticed before (I haven't played this for a looooong time) that your firing speed is based on how quickly you hit your targets: you can have two shots active at once, so if you're hitting targets near you you can shoot quite rapidly since the shots travel only a short distance before disappearing, whereas if you miss two long shots you have to wait until they've moved all the way across the screen and disappeared at the edge before you can fire again. Just brilliant how this mechanic affects the gameplay.
So what the hell's up with Galaxian then? You can have only one shot on screen, the ship is slower and uglier (not to mention exceedingly phallic), the aliens are slower and start in boring Space-Invaderish formations and then do nothing really interesting. Bleh. It makes a nice contrast to show how neat Galaga is, at least.
I never really got into Pole Position much in the arcade. The graphics just never pulled me in, the sound was annoying and the steering too twitchy. Still doesn't really do it for me here but man... it sure runs smooth. ;)
I fully expect my brother to freak when he sees Dig-Dug, since he played the C64 version absolutely to death as a tyke. And darn it, you really can't complain about dropping rocks on monsters' heads or, if you run out of rocks, inflating and bursting them like a cheap tire. The difficulty always fooled me: starts off easy, then at stage five or six you go for what looks like an easy kill on a monster in a cave and BAM the identical monster moving right on top of him jumps out and gets ya. The sound grates on the ears a bit compared to Pac-Man and Galaga but thankfully you can adjust the volume in each game.
Well done by Namco. On a VGA screen and with good speakers, these games have never been better. [Eds note: I wrote this before I discovered Namco Museum 3 (entry 179), which lets you play Ms. Pac-Man in vertical screen mode.] Now, I must say that overall I'd take Midway's Spy Hunter, Joust, Gauntlet and Rampage over the Pacs and Galaga but having all of them remains the ideal situation, and Namco's top-notch presentation evens the comparison between the dueling retro game packs.
|I should also point out that even though it is in VGA, theoretically capable of 480 lines of vertical display, Ms. Pac-Man (something like 288 lines vertical, I think?) appears to be rendered in low-res (240 vertical), which is probably better than doing it in high-res and then scaling it down blurrily since there's no perfect multiple, BUT the low-res display, while sharp, results in missing lines of the graphics here and there, and thus noticeable distortions: the lettering is a bit ugly, the grimaces of the ghosts are uneven, and there's a curious wobble in Ms. Pac-Man's movement as she eats dots, resulting in a rather jerky sensation.|
This sort of thing is also evident in Namco Museum 3's version when not played in the vertical mode. So currently my only really accurate version of Ms. Pac-Man is the one in Namco Museum Battle Collection on PSP--which is unfortunate since that's the one system I have that I can't play using a joystick! :P