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Galaga Arcade Machine. Retrospective Review.

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The Galaga arcade machine holds one of those coveted places as a classic, seminal cabinet. It is on a throne with Pac-Man, Rampage and Street Fighter in terms of teary eyed nostalgia trips. So what happens when you run a blog about retro gaming and arcade machines but have never even laid eyes on it? Well, you play it of course.

Galaga is a space themed shooter from 1982. It was created and developed by Namco and distributed by Midway in North America. It was the follow up to Galaxian, Namco’s first big arcade hit. The premise is that the player controls a spacecraft and must attempt to destroy the insect like forces of Galaga as they swarm over the galaxy. This is done by carefully and skillfully maneuvering around the screen, avoiding impact from the Galaga forces and of course, shooting.

First Thoughts

Going into the game I fully expected a Space Invaders clone but this is visibly and audibly much more exciting. The background is littered with incandescent, pixelated stars that quantum leap you right back to 1982. The palette is used really well, with enemies daubed in clashing colour schemes that subtly signal danger.

In fact, the enemies are the star of the show in this game. They are offensive, coming straight at you in swirling, swooping motions. They have you clenching your teeth as you race to the side screen while trying to avoid their kamikaze impacts. The formations they come in as they enter the screen are actually quite beautiful, like dancers on the floor at an Olympic opening ceremony. Their movement really gives credence to the hive mind operation of your insect enemy.

Galaga Arcade flyer featuring 2 cabinets

It is also possible for them to take over your craft with a tractor beam, which is a real moment of panic if you have never experienced this aspect of the game before. Overcoming this obstacle will give you a dual craft and thus, more firepower.

Galaga screen shot

The game is split into progressively harder stages with bonus stages in between. One really nice touch is the hit to miss ratio they give at the end of a stage, which adds another facet to the game and forces you to assess your targeting as you progress.

Improvements

What the game does lack is a soundtrack during gameplay. At the start a jolly chip tune beat introduces the load screen. After this, we get an ethereal melody worthy of any sixties sci-fi show when getting our score. But during the game play we have nothing. Not even a monophonic bassline to keep us in suspense. Now don’t get me wrong, the sound effects are awesome and really support the movement and character of the enemies. It may just have been that the programmers wanted more of this. But I felt it was sorely lacking.

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A few power ups would not go amiss either. The ability to shoot is really linear. I was hoping some upgrade would come along that would give me R-Type style plexi beams so I could really dive into the fight but they never materialised.

Conclusion

Galaga is well worth a nostalgia trip. In terms of gameplay it is fairly straightforward but the imagery, narrative and format rendered on software with such primitive capabilities are what set it aside from other games around at the time. It is for this reason it has gained so much respect and is remembered so fondly. Definitely worth an hour of your time.

If you enjoyed the review, you may want to check out the Galaga arcade machine cabinet by Arcade1up. It comes with Galaga and Galaxian and has the phenomenal pop art decals of the original cab.

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