Namco Museum Beta (PS3) (2008)
Namco Museum .comm / Namco Museum Essentials (PS3) (2009)
Review by Faididi and Co.
Needs more .comm
Gameplay: Below Average
Namco Museum .comm (Namco Museum Essentials) is a PS3-exclusive, downloadable-only entry in the Namco Museum series of arcade classics compilations. It's the same stale offering of Pac-Man, Galaga, Xevious, and Dig Dug, but it also attempts to mix things up by including Dragon Spirit and Xevious Resurrection, the latter being yet another remake of Xevious. In case you're wondering about the .comm part, it refers to what is little more than online highscore rankings, made possible by PSN and the wonders of the internet.
There's no doubt that hits like Pac-Man represent the best of their eras, but the problem is this compilation doesn't bring anything really special to the table, aside from some PSN Trophies and hidden items for PlayStation Home. The earliest four games are already ubiquitous across online media, nevermind the previous Namco Museum collections, while the presence of Dragon Spirit and Xevious Resurrection skews the balance of genres, resulting in two-thirds of the entries being space shooters. One may also question the inclusion of Dragon Spirit, which many wouldn't consider a classic, let alone recognize. Seeing why isn't difficult, thanks to its needlessly randomized items that don't float down the screen correctly.
Xevious Resurrection is the sole new content, if you don't count its status as a remake, and it's the only game here that features local simultaneous 2-Player support, just like Xevious Arrangement. It could've been a straightforward update of the original Xevious, but it shoves in a needless laser defense element, where the heroes need to activate special shields that deflect only certain enemy laser beams and nothing else. Contrast this with the much superior Xevious 3D/G, which adds new weapons that actually work with the series' core concept of distinguishing between aerial and ground targets.
Needless to say, a great deal of potential is wasted in Namco Museum .comm. Instead of Dragon Spirit, a true classic like Mappy would've made a far better fit and brought more gameplay variety. Xevious Resurrection is pointless in light of the uncluttered, proper remakes that are Xevious Arrangement and Xevious 3D/G, and it also highlights another flaw with this compilation. With the capabilities of the PS3 and PSN, Namco Museum .comm clearly should have aimed for simultaneous multiplayer games that take real advantage of networking technology, instead of settling for mere online rankings. That's a shame, because Namco has created several noteworthy or otherwise solid 2-Player games since the late 1980s and early 1990s, some examples of which include The Return of Ishtar, Rolling Thunder 2, Valkyrie no Densetsu, and even Dragon Spirit's very own sequel, Dragon Saber.
The controls are perfectly fine. The Player-friendly options include a new turbo fire setting that can make Dragon Spirit a lot easier, although purists aren't forced to use it.
The visuals of the older games are authentically replicated, right down to the slowdown. As for Xevious Resurrection, its fully revamped spritework looks nice and fancy, if out-of-place next to the pixellated graphics of its retro breathren.
The sound effects and the music of the older games are also faithfully reproduced. Too bad Xevious Resurrection's tunes are nothing highly memorable.
Overall: Below Average
In short, Namco Museum .comm is a disappointingly mediocre compilation that doesn't feature any significant online support. Pac-Man, Galaga, Xevious, and Dig Dug may deserve their reputation as arcade hits, but chances are you're already familiar with them. Meanwhile, Dragon Spirit and its nasty power-up problems don't belong with those true classics, and the underwhelming Xevious Resurrection is apparently oblivious to Xevious Arrangement and Xevious 3D/G, both of which are remakes over a decade ago that are actually cool.
(Namco Museum Beta is the shareware-like preview of Namco Museum .comm that's free to download but is available only to PSN Japan. It contains merely the first two levels of each of the four earliest classics: Pac-Man, Galaga, Xevious, and Dig Dug.)