Namco is having its 50th birthday this year, and just about every system out there is getting a new collection of classic arcade games to celebrate. But if the consoles and PSP are getting one of those really cool store bought cakes with the super-rich frosting and a couple of Star Wars dudes or Matchbox cars on top of it, then the GBA is getting a crummy cupcake with a single, half-used candle stuck in it.
The most immediate problem is that there are only five games to choose from: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, and Rally-X. Considering that the console versions have 14 games (plus two unlockable titles) and the PSP version has a whopping 21 games, having just five here seems like a bit of a ripoff, especially when you consider that the GBA version costs as much as the console games. Now, of course there is the problem of storage space on a GBA cart compared to a CD, DVD, or UMD, but c’mon, these games aren’t that huge. Surely a couple more games could have been crammed on there.
Adding to this problem is that four of these five games are already available on GBA. A few years back, Namco released two other compilations, Namco Museum and Pac-Man Collection. Between those two games, the only “new” title in 50th Anniversary is Rally-X. Having a few extra games that we’ve not already played on the GBA would make this collection feel more like a legitimate release and less like a quick and easy way to make a couple of bucks.
To be fair, Namco didn’t just slap the previous released games on a cart and shove it out the door — each of the five games were completely re-emulated, although despite having a few new viewing options added, only the most hardcore retro gamer would be able to tell the difference between the old and new versions of the game. The new emulation is fantastic, though, and the games play just like they would in the arcade.
The new viewing options have been created to compensate for the fact that these games were all originally created for vertical monitors and are new being played on a horizontal screen. The default view slightly compresses the image to squeeze it all onto the screen. This works a lot better than it sounds like it would — you only really notice when there’s compressed text on the screen. A similar effect was used to fit Nintendo’s Classic NES Series onto the GBA’s screen.
From a Certain Point of View
By pressing select, you can then cycle through the other viewing modes available for each game. Most of the games (the only exception is Rally-X) feature a mode where the screen is turned on its side. The image is still somewhat compressed, but it’s now closer to its original arcade aspect ratio. Of course, this forces you to turn your system on its side to play, which is a bit more uncomfortable than it’s worth. The two Pac games also feature a zoomed-in mode, which looks exactly like the arcade version, but requires the screen to scroll as only half of the maze can be seen on the screen at once.