Zunou Senkan Galg (NES) review
"To be honest, I got my first hint that Galg might become a thorn in my side as soon as I started up the game. As the first level began, I was informed I must collect 100 parts to destroy someone or something known as Dragg. Not five parts, not 10....but 100! But that's only a harbinger of the true horrors that were yet to come...."
Zunou Senkan Galg seemed to be less of an actual game than a cruel joke played on me by the callous minds at db-Soft. As someone who masks insecurity and self-loathing by hunting down extremely obscure retro games and then bragging about how I’m more hardcore than other gamers, this vertically-scrolling Famicom shooter hit me where it hurt.
A person stepping into the room to watch a brief excerpt of my Galg time might not understand what about the game got me so bent out of shape. “But Overdrive,” they’d say, “what’s so ungodly bad about this game? Sure, it’s ugly and my ears are bleeding from the short, annoying, constantly-looping excuse for music, but for a 1985 game, it can’t be that bad! It can’t be worse than Star Force, Exed Exes and those other crappy shooters you’re always playing. Now, go back on your meds and stop being such a douche, dude!”
Well, not only would a situation like that go a long way towards justifying my tendency to isolate myself, but it also would prove that the absolute depths of putridness Galg reaches cannot be determined by a mere glance. No, a few minutes with it does little more than show the player one of the many hastily-designed (or ported), run-of-the-mill shooters that were pretty prominent on most console systems. It takes a special kind of masochist to invest the necessary time to find out just how bad things are....it takes someone like me!
To be honest, I got my first hint that Galg might become a thorn in my side as soon as I started up the game. As the first level began, I was informed I must collect 100 parts to destroy someone or something known as Dragg. Not five parts, not 10....but 100! But that's only a harbinger of the true horrors that were yet to come....
After going through a few short levels taking place above one of the plainest river settings known to the galaxy, I slowly started to realize only one of these parts was placed in EACH LEVEL! Sure, levels were tiny compared to those in good games, but still — who in their right mind would think a person would want to play 100 (or more) extremely repetitive shooter levels at one sitting?
I realize this game is known by a second name, Scroll RPG, in some circles, but that's pretty misleading. The closest thing to an RPG element present in Galg is the way one is expected to play forever in a quest to gain a bunch of items. However, to my knowledge, there's no way to save the game and I wasn’t able to find many special items (those 100 parts serve no purpose other than providing a pale replica of a quest). Late in my playthrough, I somehow made a gigantic “N” appear which bestowed 10 parts upon me. That was cool. I also found a few things which didn’t seem to do anything and one item that, if shot enough times, apparently took away all my parts. That sucked.
But I could say that about virtually every element of Galg. To get all those parts, I had to go through the same 30-stage rotation over and over, with the difficulty rising each time through (up to a certain point). If that doesn't sound repetitive enough, those levels are divided into three themes: river, base and outer space. No level in any particular group sticks out from the others, so it didn't take long to feel I was only playing through the same three stages over and over again, with the only difference being a gradual rise in the game’s difficulty.
And make no mistake about it — this game gets TOUGH! I found the first couple of levels in any group are pretty easy, with most foes doing little but blindly charging into my ship’s bullets. By the time I reached the final couple of stages of any particular theme, things were a lot different, especially after I’d completed a couple of 30-level loops. Now, bullets cluttered the landscape and the enemy patterns were a bit trickier to read, which led to a number of deaths. As I mentioned before, these stages are very short, but with no checkpoints (another winning idea), it’s all-too-conceivable the same wave of enemies could be responsible for multiple deaths.
To relieve some of this frustration, Galg was kind enough to give players a chance to avoid the toughest levels in each sub-section. A floating warp pops up roughly halfway through each group of levels and can take the ship all the way to the next section's beginning — a great way to keep away from those levels where survival doesn’t seem possible.
But one tiny positive doesn’t make up for a horde of gigantic negatives. Galg doesn’t allow the player to power up their ship. After collecting all 100 parts, it’s necessary to advance all the way to Level 30 for the final, horribly anti-climactic battle with Dragg — even if that last part was snagged on the very first level! Other than the independently-scrolling stars in the outer space level, there is nothing remotely impressive about this game’s appearance....and it sounds worse than it looks! I’ve heard about a “create-your-own-shooter” game called Dezaemon that was released in Japan for various systems. After playing Galg for a few hours, I’m convinced some developer never trashed his first creation from that game and eventually earned enough clout in the industry to have it legitimately published. And finding out Dezaemon was released for the Famicom nearly six years after Galg does nothing to change my mind on this issue — you have heard of time travel, haven't you?
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 09, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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