A pocket full of history.
Elitist gaming know-it-alls like yours truly have a terrible habit of referring to the past as the "good old days." Gamers my age grew up with Pong machines, a fact we tend to remind everyone of as often as possible in order to prove some sort of retarded point about contemporary games being too reliant on graphics. We're old-school and we're not shy about it.
Well, we're also wrong. No offense, Pitfall Harry, but most classic games don't really hold up after two decades of bigger, flashier and often just better games. I converted roughly 80% of my allowance into quarters ceremoniously crammed into coin-ops, but that only makes them part of my past, not timeless, infallible pieces of code. Old geeks wear glasses, but too many of us prefer rose-colored lenses.
Then again, some old games are still awesome and can be just as addictive and engaging now as they were when they first appeared. Namco's Museum Battle Collection, the four millionth such collection but the first to appear on Sony's sexy torrent player, manages to hit both sides of this classic game duality by including some real gems alongside some real bums. But thanks to solid recreations of these titles, you'll at least get your quarter's worth.
The past meets the future right away, as you can't actually play these ancient games until you've updated your PS firmware. Namco has been nice enough to include this on the game disc, so most people will just install the update and start playing. More, uh, homebrew-oriented PSP owners might find this saddening, though, since it closes more than a few loopholes that have allowed for some creative homebrew apps. Get firm or get bent.
This collection of roughly twenty games includes mostly high-profile titles from Namco's past: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaxian, Galaga, Dig Dug, Dig Dug II, Rally-X, New Rally-X, Xevious, Bosconian, Mappy, Rolling Thunder and The Tower of Druaga should all sound familiar. Four others – Dragon Buster, Motos, King & Balloon and the painfully-named Grobda – will elude the memory of most gamers, but that's okay because those four pretty much stink.
The rest, though, are just as you remember them, having been ported faithfully and beautifully in all their old-school glory. Pac-Man is still yellow, famished and not as cool as his wife, Galaga is still a tough shooter, Dig Dug is still bizarre and Mappy still has the most addictive/irritating gameplay music loop ever. Rolling Thunder, which is sort of a 007 version of Shinobi, suffers from a few weird graphical shadowing quirks, but is one of the more engaging games in the collection. It's kind of hard to objectively critique these games considering their age and overall simplicity, so let's just say that if you liked 'em or hated 'em then, you'll feel the same way now.
Since the PSP's screen is really geared towards horizontal play, 'rotate' and 'ratio' options have been added. You can play games in their original – albeit tiny – states, or opt for full screen mode, although this will tax the resolution. Rotating the entire screen to skew it vertically makes games look more like they did in the arcades, but good luck trying to play Galaxian with your PSP turned on its side.
To add some extra spice, this PSP version also includes updated versions (dubbed "Arrangements") of Galaga, Rally-X, Dig Dug and Pac-Man. These are mostly identical to their older kin but with juiced up graphics and a handful of small tweaks. Dig Dug can collect speed or digging boosts, for instance, while the ship in Galaga can morph into a few different forms. Pac-Man suddenly gets boost pads and some weird, pulsating dots to consume. They play well enough, but by and large, all four offer little incentive other than giving new looks to old feels.
In addition to traditional two-player games, Namco Museum Battle Collection sports two multiplayer options. If you only have one game disc, you can pull a DS and allow another PSP owner to download the first level in 10 games. However, they can only do this if they install the required browser update, which means you'll have to lend them the disc, wait for them to load up the new firmware, then take back the disc to send them the data. All that for one level of some old games might not seem so hot, and you're right – it's not. A better alternative is to just hand them your PSP until they've had their fill of Ms. Pac-Man.
The other option is to play the Arranged games in Wireless mode, though that does require multiple game discs. These are decent fun, though good luck finding another player with the game.
While there's a lot of classic gaming crammed onto this one disc, it's pretty short on anything else. You don't get to stroll down memorabilia lane with old box art or anything, and I'm bummed they didn't include any cool video extras, maybe interviews with the unsung heroes behind such famous games. Talk about an empty museum, and one that still requires full price of admission (40 bucks).
But if you've already made up your mind that your futuristic PSP is incomplete without the attendance of old farts like Pac-Man and Dig Dug, this does the trick by providing a smooth, glitch free emulation of the selected games. Just make sure to take off those rosy glasses before you slap any cash on the table.