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Galaga (Arcade) artwork

Galaga (Arcade) review

"Namco's Galaga (1981) is an interesting game. While it continues on the Space Invaders / Galaxian thread, it manages to be a much better game. How can that be? After all, the game play is the same. Or is it? Namco spent some serious think-time in the two years since Galaxian's release and returned with a killer game. "

Namco's Galaga (1981) is an interesting game. While it continues on the Space Invaders / Galaxian thread, it manages to be a much better game. How can that be? After all, the game play is the same. Or is it? Namco spent some serious think-time in the two years since Galaxian's release and returned with a killer game.

Following the same line as Galaxian, the object of Galaga is to use your space ship to destroy waves of alien invaders which fly from the corners of the screen then assemble in a grid. You move left and right to fire at different aliens and avoid shots. Occasionally, a few aliens detach from the grid and make a pass at your ship and shoot at you. The stage ends when all aliens are destroyed; then you move on to a more challenging screen.

So far the play is nearly identical to Galaxian, but Galaga adds a new twist. Certain ships can capture your craft and hold it hostage, and you can recover the ship by shooting the alien that stole it next time it makes a pass at you. Once recovered, the formerly captured ship sits right next to the existing one; both can shoot simultaneously, doubling fire power. However vulnerability is also doubled as your ship now takes up twice the room thus is twice the target. Additionally, Galaga is the first game with bonus stages. Termed ''Challenging Stage'', aliens swoop down; while they cannot kill you, shooting them racks up points and a bonus if all are struck.

Sometimes it's the details that make the game. While essentially the same concept as Galaxian, Galaga breaks through the barrier of atrocity with its nimble controls and fairness. No more dragging through space or firing ineffective bullets, Galaga allows you to effectively maneuver past shots and aliens and retaliate with equal ferocity. The aliens still barrage you with shots when they swoop down, but they can only fire two at a time, like you. While one likely wouldn't think being able to shoot twice (four times with double firepower) rather than once would make an enormous difference, it sure does; firing effectiveness may likely be one of the enormous improvements to Galaga.

Don't let the better controls fool you, Galaga is still a very challenging game, but this time you'll actually want to put more quarters in rather than vandalize the cabinet. Alien shots move faster and in sneakier angles compared to Galaxian, but the nimbler Galaga can easily escape peril. There's more variety to stages and more strategies to make Galaga more interesting than either Galaxian or Space Invaders.

Graphically, Galaga is a sure improvement over Galaxian. Improved technology and artistry give Galaga bigger and more varied foes, sharper and more visible shots, and a more interesting vessel to control. Additionally, the minor graphical tear present in Galaxian is now gone as well. Vessels now twist, bend, and flex more often, giving them a ''live'' feel and animate much more smoothly.

Galaxian's irritating alien swooping sound effect is still present, but it's much more tolerable this time. While not an altogether pleasing sound, it won't make you turn away from the game, either. Shots sound much more interesting, and aliens make neat sounds when hit. However, the exploding sound your ship makes is much louder than any other sound in the game. If you're not expecting death, prepare to be startled when you meet it as the sound will make you jump.

Musical tunes play when you inset coins, start the game, and when you reach and beat bonus stages; otherwise, Galaga is devoid of music. The existing tunes are forgettable and just serve to release tension every few rounds.

Galaga is probably the peak of the Space Invaders vein. Variations on the theme by other companies and Namco's own Gaplus (also known as Galaga 3) came out but none recaptured the glory of Galaga. Along with Space Invaders and Pac-Man, Galaga was a game you could find any place where there was enough time to stand for thirty seconds. Galaga was also one of the most hacked and pirated arcade games of all time, a strange but certain tribute to its greatness.

So great was Galaga's success that Namco decided to bundle Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga together for a re-release in the United States. Sure enough, you can still find lines in certain arcades, nostalgic forty year old men still striving for that top score. While feeling a bit derivative, Galaga is a great game which paved the way for future shooters, and with its re-release it is again widely available. This game is certainly worth a quarter and perhaps the many more it will claim after it sucks you in.

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Community review by whelkman (May 26, 2008)

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