Skip to main content

Galaxian: In the shadow of Galaga

Galaxian — an improved take on Space Invaders — hit American arcades in early 1980. By all accounts it was a big success but was surpassed the following year by its own sequel, Galaga, one of the most beloved arcade titles ever.

Ports of arcade games didn't arrive on the NES until 1986, at which point titles like Galaxian looked awfully dated. So Namco wisely brought over Galaga instead. But in Japan, the Family Computer received a number of arcade ports before the NES even existed. Galaxian launched on 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 collections.
Famicom cartridge of Galaxian
I haven't played the arcade original, but gameplay footage (such as David Lyne setting the world record of 2,010,000 points in 2016) shows that the port is very faithful, the major change being the aspect ratio. Early arcade games used vertical monitors (3:4), so the screen layout needed to be adapted for TVs (4:3).

The concept of shooting alien spaceships is as basic as you can get, and this game has timeless appeal. Although I had never played it before, I instantly enjoyed it, even more than many of the NES launch titles. As in Space Invaders, the ships move toward you slowly, but here they also swoop down at you in loopy patterns, significantly adding to the challenge and interest.
Now the downsides: you can only shoot one shot at a time, which makes the game somewhat slow and difficult. In addition, the game is very repetitive. Whenever you clear a screen of aliens, it just fills up again. The difficulty seems to ramp up, but each stage is virtually indistinguishable. The only objective is to rack up as many points as you can before all three of your ships are destroyed. And there's no music.

There's no doubt that Galaga is the superior game, leaving Galaxian as a matter of historical interest. Nevertheless, Galaxian is fun, too.

Grade: C

Gameplay: Fun, but perhaps not for everyone (16/20)
Theme: Interesting concept and characters, if a bit generic (16/20)
Controls: Controls are solid, if limiting (12/15)
Challenge: Not much challenge (unless you're a high-score chaser) (12/15)
Graphics: Good-looking but generic (12/15)
Sound: Music is absent and sound effects annoying (5/15)


Popular posts from this blog

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja: A whimsical adventure in Japan

Growing up, I played The Legend of the Mystical Ninja at my best friend's house (though I was bad at it), and I had been looking forward to trying it again. It's an unusual, fun adventure game. I recently learned that in Japan Legend of the Mystical Ninja was preceded by three Famicom games and followed by three more Super Famicom games, none of which were localized for the West! The Japanese name of the series is Go for It, Goemon! It's based on a 1980 Japanese arcade game called Mr. Goemon. The emulation community put out fan translations of the Famicom games between 2009 and 2017. Surprisingly, no translations of the Super Famicom games existed until 2020, all three created by the same people . The series takes places in early-modern Japan. It has a light-hearted anime aesthetic. The titular character is a spiky-haired kid named Goemon. If a second player joins the simultaneous action (highly recommended), Goemon is assisted by an older, overweight ninja named Ebisumaru.

Mario Kart 64: 25th anniversary

Mario Kart 64 brought the fun of go-kart simulator Super Mario Kart into the 3D age. A few chunky polygons notwithstanding, Mario Kart 64 still holds up, even alongside sequels like  Mario Kart 8 Deluxe . MK 64 doesn't alter the fundamental formula laid down by Super Mario Kart. You still choose one of four circuits (Mushroom, Flower, Star, or Special) and an engine speed (50, 100, or 150 CC), then race against seven other racers, trying to place at least in the top four. Whereas the SNES allowed only two players, the N64 was built with four controller inputs, and MK 64 happily can use them all (though the music shuts off with more than two). Battle Mode returns as well, in which players attack one another with items, trying to pop all three of their opponents' balloons. This is always a blast when playing with friends. Lastly, there is the Time Trial mode, in which you race alone trying to set the fastest time. Is this the origin of the "Trollface" meme? MK 64's

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts: 30th anniversary

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is an SNES-exclusive sequel to Ghouls 'n Ghosts, itself a sequel to Ghosts 'n Goblins . Like its predecessors, its claim to fame (or infamy) is being ridiculously hard. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts follows the formula of Ghosts 'n Goblins to a tee. You control a knight named Arthur who must rescue Princess Guinevere by battling endless hordes of monsters and demons: Zombies, Ghosts, Weredogs, Bats, Red Arremers, and even Mimics (the D&D monster that disguises itself as a treasure chest). He picks up various weapons along the way but can only hold one at a time. Some of them (especially the torch) are worse than the throwing spears he begins with. Three new weapons are the crossbow, scythe, and tri-blade. The crossbow is good because it shoots two arrows at once, at about 45 and 30 degree angles upward. I avoid the scythe because Arthur can throw only one at a time and the ability to arc it downward by holding ↓ does not compensate for this. The