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 Zelda: A Link to the Past: 30th anniversary

Hard to believe it's been thirty years since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past came out on the Super Nintendo, yet here we are! A Link to the Past is in contention for the title of Best Nintendo Game Ever . It perfectly reinvented, reimagined, and revolutionized everything great about the original Legend of Zelda . First off, the story is expanded, with five pages devoted to it in the manual, including background mythology not included in-game about the three gods that made the Triforce. The opening cinematic tells of a war centuries earlier, which resulted in seven wise men sealing the Triforce away in the "Golden World." When the game begins, the boy Link awakens on a dark and stormy night, hearing the voice of Princess Zelda in his head, asking him to rescue her from the dungeon of Hyrule Castle, where she's been imprisoned by the evil wizard Agahnim. Link finds his uncle, wounded, who gives him his sword. Link's first task is to rescue Zelda, then lead h

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 place 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.

Street Fighter II: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago today Street Fighter II made the transition from arcade to living room on the Super NES. Although quickly eclipsed by its two successors, for one year it was the hotness. It would be hard to overstate how popular Street Fighter II was in the early 90's. Its predecessor was downright bad, but Street Fighter II invented the PVP fighting genre as we know it. Its roster of eight characters was a huge step-up from Street Fighter's two (Ken and Ryu, who returned for the sequel). The next iteration of the arcade game, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, which hit arcades just as the SNES port arrived, let you play as the bosses as well, increasing the roster to twelve. A false rumor said a secret code would let you play them at home. While that wasn't true, there was a code (↓, R, ↑, L, Y, B) to let both players choose the same character for a mirror match. A prime strength of the game is how interesting each character is: the American airman Guile (think Top Gun