Galaxian (Commodore 64) review
"Namco's Galaxian was first released in the arcades in 1979 as a successor to Space Invaders. The Commodore 64 version, which is a remake rather than a direct port, came four years later. The premise is the same as in the original: you pilot a lone spaceship against waves of alien invaders, trying to gun down their formation without getting killed yourself. Galaxian differs from Space Invaders in the sense that enemies leave the formation to make swooping attacks on your craft, carefully at first..."
Namco's Galaxian was first released in the arcades in 1979 as a successor to Space Invaders. The Commodore 64 version, which is a remake rather than a direct port, came four years later. The premise is the same as in the original: you pilot a lone spaceship against waves of alien invaders, trying to gun down their formation without getting killed yourself. Galaxian differs from Space Invaders in the sense that enemies leave the formation to make swooping attacks on your craft, carefully at first, but more aggressively and in larger numbers as you proceed through the game. Points scored are directly related to the amount of risk you're willing to take (bonus points are given for taking out attacking enemies), leaving the player the option of either conservative cowardice or the much more entertaining gung ho approach.
The Commodore 64 version of Galaxian is, regrettably, disappointing. Graphically it is about equal to the arcade version, with slightly different artwork for the ship and the aliens, but pretty much the same quality. Gameplay, however, suffers in several aspects, making it hard to truly recommend this version.
An immediately apparent problem is the much lower speed compared to the original. In the arcade, Galaxian is a hectic game where you need to move quickly, identify threats as they come, and shoot down enemies in time before you get cornered. At the same time, because you can only have one shot on the screen at any one time, you must fire carefully and accurately. Firing blindly would just leave you defenseless. This is still true in the Commodore version, but with the game running much slower, the suspense isn't nearly comparable. You can see enemies coming from a mile away, watch closely where they fire their shots, and move away in time. With a little experience, a careful player will almost never get surrounded or driven to the edge of the screen, and can just clean up wave after wave of enemies at his leisure. Suspense and excitement become tedium, and the fact that you can easily score three or four times as high as on the arcade version doesn't do much to compensate for that.
Worse still, the game's speed is adversely affected by lots of graphics on the screen. If the enemy formation is still big, and especially if lots of aliens come down in swooping attacks, everything slows down noticeably. As you clean up the formation, the game speed slowly goes up. Considering how important it is to time your shots correctly, this gets annoying fast. If you get far in the game (and you will with a little practice), the slowdown reaches infuriating levels and you'll want to go psycho on the enemy formation just to speed the damn game up.
The problem of decreased difficulty doesn't end with the slower pace of the Commodore remake. The playing field is much larger, giving you more room to outmaneuver enemies (and your ship moves faster to accommodate for this). The arcade version was basically a vertical rectangle because a third of the screen was taken up by a vertical status bar with your score and the number of remaining ships. That information is now displayed in a narrow bar at the top of the screen, making the playing field basically square. Even if a horde of enemies comes down, raining down shots, there's wide open areas to both the left and the right to dodge them. In the arcade version, you had no such luck. Enemies would often cover most or all of the playing field and you had to quickly decide on a target and take it out to create a safe zone for yourself. To do that, you needed to pay attention constantly and be able to hit flawlessly with quick snap shots when they counted. Considering that this challenge was the core of the game, its absence from the Commodore remake is a major problem.
As a kind of a final insult, the enemy's movements have been dumped down as well. What made the swooping attacks of the aliens in the arcade Galaxian so interesting (and dangerous) was the erratic movements they made, turning in circles, suddenly changing direction, growing more aggressive the longer you needed to clear a wave, and generally making themselves as hard to shoot down as possible. No such thing here. Every enemy of a certain type moves in exactly the same way all the time, at perfectly predictable angles which makes them all easy to hit once you've played a few rounds.
It all adds to the main problem: this version of Galaxian is a lot easier than the original, and all the excitement is out the window. What's left is a mediocre shooter that's likely to get tedious once you've developed a little skill at it. While not a bad game, it has nothing on the original, and you'd be much better off playing either that or a version that's true to it (such as the one in Namco Museum on the Gameboy Advance) rather than this one. It would give you a much better impression of the hit that Galaxian was.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10, Originally Posted: 08/07/04
Community review by sashanan (June 19, 2009)
Sashanan doesn't drink coffee; he takes tea, my dear. And sometimes writes reviews. His roots lie with the Commodore 64 he grew up with, and his gaming remains fragmented among the very old, the somewhat old, and rarely the new.
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