- Manufacturer: Bandai USA
- Machine: Nintendo Entertainment System
Eight years ago, Galaga made its American debut in arcades. Since then, it has been one of the more successful coin-op sequels in videogaming history. It was so popular on its own, in fact, that few today know that Galaga was the direct sequel to Galaxians, another arcade hit.
Now Galaga has come home for the Nintendo Entertainment System. First released in Japan for the original version of the NES (known as the Famicom), this game is a look-alike, sound-alike and play-alike translation of the arcade.
In deep space, your starfighter is under the missile and suicide attack of the Galaga, a strange alien race who look like insects. They swarm onto the screen in groups before diving for your fighter. This gives you the opportunity to destroy them before they can assemble into a powerful attack formation. The Galaga spiders weave side to side as they come down. The Galaga bees are the trickiest, for they swirl around in loops, and at higher levels will mutate into three aliens. The Galaga bosses are the toughest - they need to be shot at twice. Destroying one of these temporarily weakens the entire Galaga fleet.
What makes Galaga unique is its "double-fire" feature. Every so often, a boss Galaga descends and releases a tractor-beam. If your fighter gets caught in its field, the alien takes it to the top of the screen. With one of your remaining fighters, you must shoot the boss, as it dives, to free your kidnapped fighter. If you have no fighters left, the game ends. But it's possible to destroy your own captured fighter if you're not careful, and shooting the boss Galaga when it's not attacking makes the fighter turn on you. A freed fighter will connect side by side with the first one, merging into a dual fighter that has double firing. This makes destroying the waves of creatures much easier - but your new, wider ship will also be harder to protect from the aliens' suicide dives.
Every third screen is a "challenging stage". Various, non-attacking Galaga fly by in unpredictable directions. A bonus of 10,000 points is awarded should you manage to shoot them all. To make this perfect score, you almost always need to play with a dual fighter.
At the end of a game, results are shown indicating the total number of shots that the player fired compared to that of aliens hit, and the percent ratio of the two. While this information is somewhat interesting, it seems more trivial than necessary.
Galaga on the NES plays identically to its quarter-eating counterpart. The flight patterns of the Galaga as they swoop into formation are the same. And the little tricks and techniques used in the arcade still work here. Veterans will definitely feel right at home.
The graphics in Galaga bear more than a passing resemblance to their arcade counterpart. This game doesn't look similar - it looks exactly like the coin-op. The appearance of everything, from each of the Galaga aliens to the player's own ship, will be familiar to long-time arcaders. The one minus would have to be the scrolling starfieid, which does more flickering than moving but, thankfully, is not distracting.
Accompanying the graphics are the equally familiar sound effects and music. The squall of the Galaga aliens as they are shot and their screech when they dive are still here, reproduced fully on the NES. And the background music is just as captivating.
About the only justifiable complaint that can be made about Galaga is the size of the game field. On the arcade version, the screen is higher than it is wide. Obviously, this is not so on the NES, as the screen proportions on all televisions and computer monitors are the exact opposite.
To compensate for this, the playing field of the NES version is set to the left, in an area that is more square than rectangle. The high score, individual player scores, ships remaining and level indicators are displayed on the right side. However, there is no definite border separating the two. This makes it somewhat difficult to tell where the middle of the game field is, which is especially important to know for doing well on challenging screens.
Galaga is highly addictive. This isn't one of those games that eventually comes to an end or that you can complete - the Galaga attackers will always beat you, no matter what. But you'll find yourself pressing the START button over and over again. The challenge presented in this game is forever tempting and never seems too dull. Succinctly, Galaga is pure, simple fun.