Skip to main content

Galaxian: Simple, timeless spaceship shooting

Galaxian is an improved take on Space Invaders that hit American arcades in 1980. By all accounts it was a success, yet it was destined to be surpassed by its sequel, Galaga, the next year.

Ports of arcade games didn't arrive on the NES until 1986, at which point games like Galaxian looked dated. For this reason Namco wisely skipped Galaxian and went straight to the superior Galaga. But in Japan the Family Computer received a number of arcade ports before the NES even existed. Galaxian came to the Famicom in the fall of '84. It at last found its way to these shores less than a year ago as part of Namco's Museum Archives.

The Famicom version is very faithful to the original. The only major change was necessitated by the fact that early arcade games used vertical monitors (3:4), so the screen layout needed to be adapted for TVs (4:3). As a result, the distance between your ship (the Galaxip) and the enemy is shortened. Perhaps to compensate for this, they move a little more slowly. The only other noticeable change is that the blue ships are now green.
Famicom cartridge of Galaxian
Shooting spaceships is about as basic as a video game can get. Seen positively, this means it has timeless appeal! Your ship can move only left and right, not forward or backward. The game is difficult because, unlike in Galaga, the Galaxip can shoot only once at a time! There are no power-ups. The alien ships, arranged in six rows, move left and right like in Space Invaders, but instead of marching downward, individual ships swoop down at the Galaxip in looping arcs. Only while making one of these attack runs do they shoot.
Whenever you clear the screen of all aliens, it merely fills up again. The number of flags in the top-right corner indicates your current level. With each the difficulty ramps up, as ships make sorties in more rapid succession. The goal is to score as many points as possible. Ships are worth different amounts of points. The slow, green ships are worth 30 points, the more aggressive purple ships 40. The red ships at the back are worth 50, and the yellow flagships 60. You get three tries (you earn a fourth ship after 20,000 points) at destroying as many spaceships as possible, then it's Game Over.

The game is all about timing, as you have to lead your targets. If you destroy a ship while it's attacking you, its point value doubles, so it pays to wait. The flagships attack in formation with two red ships. This is where high-score chasers need to pay attention: if you destroy the flagship before the red ships, you get 300 points, but if you first take out its wingmen, its value jumps to a whopping 800. These high values are available only if it launches with both wingmen. A solitary flagship is worth just 150, while one with a single escort scores 200. 

The graphics in Galaxian are plain, but not without their charms. Unfortunately, there's no background music, just the beeps and boops of swooping ships and your shot. Despite its simplicity, I enjoy Galaxian, even more than most of the NES launch titles. There's no doubt Galaga is the superior game, but Galaxian is fun, too.
Grade: C-

Linked Review
"Despite the fundamental simplicity of Galaxian, it offers enough nuance and dynamism to make for an interesting shooter that truly does feel like Space Invaders taken to the next level. And the Famicom version is just about perfect."
— Jeremy Parish, NES Works Gaiden 


Popular posts from this blog

SimCity: The OG city simulator still rocks

When I ordered an Analogue Super Nt to begin collecting and playing SNES games, I knew which game I wanted to play first: SimCity. This game hasn't been rereleased since the Wii Virtual Console in 2006! Analogue Super NT SimCity was created by Will Wright as a PC game, published in 1989. Nintendo worked with Maxis to have it ported to the Super Nintendo for their new console's launch. The SNES version is a huge improvement over the original, with better graphics, pop-up advice screens from Dr. Wright, and, most importantly, gifts. But let's start at the beginning. SimCity was the first ever city-simulation video game. Your goal is to build up a city as successfully as you can. You can play however you like, as it is not possible to "beat" the game, but the main achievement is reaching a population of 500,000, at which point your city becomes a "megalopolis." The maps are fairly small (and some have a lot of water), so the only way to achieve this is to h

Rock n' Roll Racing: 30th anniversary

Although not marketed as a sequel, anyone who has played Blizzard's RPM Racing will recognize Rock n' Roll Racing as its successor. They are both isometric racing games with weapons, similar to Rare's classic R.C. Pro-Am on the NES, but Rock n' Roll Racing is the superior game by far. You can enjoy Rock n' Roll Racing solo or with a second player. At the beginning, you choose your racer from six colorful, punky characters: Tarquinn, Snake, Cyberhawk, Ivan, Katarina, or Jake. Each is good at two skills from among acceleration, top speed, cornering, and jumping. Olaf, from The Lost Vikings , is secretly available by holding down L, R, and SELECT while Tarquinn is selected. Olaf is busted because he's good at all four skills! Four characters race and attack one another's vehicles with lasers, missiles, and mines. You begin with only one laser shot per lap. Between races, you can purchase additional shots and upgrade your vehicle's armor, tires, shock abso

Mega Man X: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago Mega Man X brought Capcom's beloved blue bomber into the 16-bit era, to great acclaim. In a creative twist, Mega Man X (called X for short) is a new robot, not the original Mega Man . As with Super Metroid, Super Castlevania IV , and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past , Mega Man X uses the winning formula of remaking the original NES game but with more and better. Mega Man X, like his predecessor, faces eight robot masters, now called "Mavericks." Instead of "men," they are made in the image of animals: Chill Penguin, Storm Eagle, Launch Octopus, Spark Mandrill (a kind of monkey), Armored Armadillo, Sting Chameleon, Flame Mammoth, and Boomer Kuwanger (a Japanese stag beetle). An opening stage ends with X being defeated by the robot Vile, a henchman of Sigma, who wants to destroy humanity using something called "Reploids" (the Mavericks?). Fortunately, a "Maverick Hunter" robot named Zero jumps in to save X. He encourages