Review by Destination

Reviewed: 10/01/04

Slow and Steady Over Time

The biggest commodity of games in arcades has been then and still is shooters. From their wonderfully quaint and simple graphical nature to the pleasant concept of trying to get the best score, shooters have always been there to challenge us. Now how many of us today have heard of Galaga? Well, if you have been around for a while, you would know that it goes back a long way, especially in the arcades. Ah, the memories, I remember spending quarter after quarter, hoping to finally beat my friend’s high score, only to have him kick my ass afterwards. After all these years it was intriguing to pick up the game again on my dusty old NES, and to my surprise was still as enjoyable to play. Though it is a classic treasure, there are a few things that drag it down a bit, and it pertains to simplicity.

Short attention spans need not sign up; it takes a quick witted brain and steady hands to overcome the constant swarm of aliens that try to drown you in gunfire. Your mission is to evade the enemy attack and continue to try to upgrade your ship, while just trying to stay alive. Speaking of upgrades, there aren’t many, but getting increased firepower and endurance is just some of what you will be fighting for. It is definitely a quick paced game on the surface, but the sluggish feel of the ship and cheap deaths can really frustrate you. It is possible to get used to the pattern of those hellish insect like creatures, but only after about a hundred tries, which surprisingly is not that much, as the addiction is there. Trying to get to those bonus levels and having your friends screaming behind you to get that high score just adds to the nostalgia value.

Speaking for myself and for others, losing again and again, trying to progress further, you will find yourself frustratingly drawn in to its web. In this case it is sort of like a carnival ride at a local park; now that monstrous contraption may look inviting, but in the end you could come out sick to your stomach. However, what you get here, instead of nausea, is a sense of intuitive disappointment. Though it is amusingly exciting at times, it lacks any real depth or variety, which most of the game’s genre counterparts are capable of bringing to the table. The lack of any real distinction between most of the enemies, and with a very slow building difficulty to boot, most folks will likely decide to just quit playing after the first few stages. However, this game rewards the patient, and is not for the younger inexperienced pilots out there.

Eh, what happened here? There is a major flaw in the game design that seems to be an issue with most people, and that is its lack of an internal saving feature. Now, though you may have worked hard and put in a lot of time to get that high score, the problem is that after you turn the game off, it disappears. So, basically when you are done, haul your ass over to your desk for that pen or just take the damn screen-shot, or you can bet your entertainment system, that your friends will not believe you, when you tell them you got those “150,000” points. It is this lack of an important game design function that is kind of bothersome, and one that the designers should have assessed before putting the game out.

There is one thing that makes old Galaga seem outdated and that was its visual standard. There are plenty of other, more interactive NES games that had not only more depth, but better presentation capabilities. Gradius, definitely comes to mind here, but more on that game another time. Other than the insects fluttering around on the screen, you’ve got your empty black screen with the scrolling little lights in the background. It would have been nice to see some more lighting effects or perhaps some more distinction behind the curtain, but honestly there is nothing to see here really. However, there is something to hear, and that is the great classic musical theme. There are plenty of blasting noises and tiny explosions that are fun to play along to, and the bonus theme is one of my favorite little bits. It is all basically atmosphere letting your mind wander back to the “beeps” and “zaps” of the old arcade version.

While it does have some redeeming nostalgic value in the arcade, Galaga just cannot tackle the bigger powerhouses on the console. Little things such as the lack of record saving features, slow controls, and just a generic simplistic feel keep it from being legendary. However, if you are a softy for old arcade gems like I am, then this number is worth a test drive at least. It is a worthy transition from the arcade, and if shooters are your thing, then by all means grab a friend and throw down. I mean come on; it can’t be anymore than two bucks at your local gaming store. Man, and to think of all the coinage I used up playing this game, ah the memories…

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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