Game Review: Galaga

Galaga Title Screen

  • Publisher: Bandai
  • Developer: Namco
  • Released: September 1988
  • Game Type: Arcade
  • Players: 2 Alternating
  • Product Number: NES-AG-USA
  • Rarity: B (Rare)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 9

    Box Scan
    Galaga Screen 1 Galaga Screen 2

    One of Namco's top arcade hits (that isn't related to Pac-Man) in the early 80s has to be the space shooter classic Galaga, which was the sequel to their other shooter hit, Galaxian. With its simple-yet-addictive Space Invaders-style gameplay, Galaga ruled the arcades and continued to do well throughout the 80s into the 90s, even spawing a few sequels. Surprisingly Galaga was ported to only a few systems, with the NES receiving a translation courtesy of Namco themselves, which Bandai published in the U.S. Since I have fond memories of playing the original coin-op in my local bowling alley, I took a look at this port and was not disappointed in the least.

    This game features your standard shooter story, with you once again playing the lone starfighter pilot out to defend your planet or star system. This time the threat comes from the Galaga armada, a race of bug-like aliens.

    Throughout the game's unlimited levels you control a spacecraft than can move left and right along the bottom of the screen, but can't go up and down. At the beginning of each level, insect-shaped enemy ships come swooping down the screen shooting at you before getting into formation (some try a suicide run at you). Once all the ships are in formation, they come down again, shooting lasers and trying to ram you. You need to dodge the ships and fire back. If they miss, they go back into formation before taking another run. Most enemies die in one hit, but you need to be careful of the Galaga commanders. The commanders take two hits to destroy, and they can fire a tractor beam that can capture you ship. If you have at least one ship left in reserve, you can get revenge on the flagship that captured you by blasting it to free your former ship, which causes it to line up next to your current ship giving you double the firepower. But beware, you can destroy the captured ship with a careless shot, and your double-ship makes you twice as vulnerable to getting hit. Once all the aliens are gone, you'll start the next round with more hostile fighters. Every third stage is a challenging stage, where you simply shoot enemies for bonus points. Better double your firepower in the early stages, because the farther you get the more agressive the enemies become.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are simple but still pretty good. There's some nice scrolling of the stars in the background, plus all the characters look great. There's very little breakup and the screen never gets cluttered. Best of all the visuals match up to the arcade original nearly pixel for pixel. The sounds are also nearly arcade-perfect. There's only a few music tunes, but they are pleasant to listen to. The sounds effects consist mainly of shooting and exploding, both of which are fun to hear during the action.

    The controls are very easy to use. You just move left and right and use either button to fire, so you shouldn't have any problems. For that real arcade feel, try using a joystick such as the NES Advatage with this cart.

    Challenge & Playability:
    The simple but fun gameplay Galaga has certainly stood the test of time well. Shotting at the ships is fun and it never gets old, plus this a game anyone can get into. The game is also very addicting, constantly challenging you to try and beat you high score. The difficulty does progress at a pretty good pace and never gets frustrating, though some may find this version slightly easier than the coin-op.

    Simply put, Galaga is old-school shooting action at its best. Namco and Bandai have graced the NES with a near perfect port of the arcade mega-hit, so gamers who still have fond memories of the original will find all the arcade action they love here, only without the coin slot. Plus this game is able to stand up against the other more advanced shooters on the system. Galaga is an excellent addition to any NES library, especially for fans of the "Golden Era" of arcade games.

    - Review posted on April 3, 2006