(Original release: 1980)
Everybody has played Pac-Man, right? It's a concept (almost) as old as gaming itself and sees players guiding the little yellow glutton around a maze, eating dots, pieces of fruit and power pills that will allow you to turn the tables and swallow the marauding ghosts. Imagine being chased though a bus station by a group of drunk tramps, only to find a fully loaded harpoon gun discarded in a rubbish bin. The hunter becomes the hunted, such is the power of the pill. The
(Original release: 1981)
A variation on the original Pac-Man formula, Ms. Pac-Man is an odd inclusion in this compilation as it wasn't originally developed by Namco, but instead by Midway initially as an enhanced version of the original. This isn't really a history lesson though - anybody can go and copy stuff from Wikipedia. No, you've come here for my gloriously inept opinions and that is what you'll get dammit.
(Original release: 1979)
Galaxian was Namco's answer to Space Invaders and the format is pretty similar, not only in aesthetic but also in practice. You move a little ship left and right at the bottom of the screen and shoot the marauding aliens at the top of the screen. The unique selling point in Galaxian is that the aliens have the ability to swoop down into the player's personal space and get uncomfortably close - a bit like that weirdo at the office Christmas party who stands way, way too near to your face. The one guy who also happens to have the breath of a low-level demon and spits when he talks.
(Original release: 1981)
The sequel to Galaxian, Galaga plays an awful lot like the prequel but with a couple of new features. The player can now shoot two shots in succession as opposed to the single shot mechanic seen in Galaxian, and there's an added threat (which is actually pretty inventive) in the form of bosses that can capture the player ships and add them to the alien invasion force at the top of the screen, thereby using your own craft against you. My first experience with both Galaga and Galaxian came on the original Gameboy when my brother got one for Christmas in around 1995 (if memory serves), and it came with a two in one cartridge with both of these Namco classics on it.
(Original release: 1982)
Going to be honest here. Before playing Namco Museum I don't think I'd ever played Pole Position, but that's not to say I wasn't aware of the game's legacy. Pole Position is one of the most highly regarded and critically acclaimed racing games of all time, and back in the day it represented a huge leap forward in terms of arcade graphics technology. Playing it today, you can still see why. Pole Position was originally released in 1982 - the same year as I was born - and yet it still holds up as a decent arcade racer. The graphics are bright and colourful, the cars handle really well and the two-speed gear system quite possibly influenced a whole host of other racers from another company we all know and (sometimes) love.
(Original release: 1982)
My least favourite game in the collection, Dig Dug is clearly the inspiration for Namco's later (and aforementioned) Mr Driller series. In fact, you actually play as the father of Mr Driller in Dig Dug...so there's that. Anyway, players have to dig down into the Earth and find innocent beasts who are just minding their own business...and then blow them up to obscene proportions with a pump until they explode in a grizzly mist of blood, bones and offal. What a twat.
The Science Bit
The Namco Museum series actually goes back several years before the Dreamcast version was released and has its roots on the Sony PlayStation, beginning with Namco museum Volume 1 in 1995. The series spanned 6 different volumes before Namco Museum was brought over to the Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 and Gameboy Advance...and this is where I have an issue. See, while the PlayStation games all had similar number of games contained in each volume, they also had a sort of 'museum' where you could walk around a fully 3D environment and examine game artwork, read facts and figures and further information on the games themselves. You know, like in an actual museum. Reports of a disgustingly over-priced souvenir shop located near the exit, just opposite the equally expensive cafe, are unconfirmed.
When the series jumped to the other platforms, all of this extra content seems to have been dumped into the ether. The games in the PlayStation series also came with different letters on the front of the cases, so once you collected the main entries they would spell 'Namco' when lined up in order.
As mentioned earlier, if you want an example of how a retro compilation should be handled, check out either Atari Anniversary Edition or Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits volumes 1 and 2. You could also investigate Yu Suzuki Game Works (we'll be looking at that very soon) or Jimmy White's 2: Cueball if Dropzone is your thing. If you're a collector and/or see Namco Museum going cheap then by all means add it to your shelf, but I wouldn't go spending a fortune on it. Bang for puck* it ain't.
*This was a weak attempt at humour using Pac-Man's earlier title Puck Man as a comedic device. I am truly sorry for any offence caused.