Total time played: 2 Hours
Short review: An arcade classic that is easy to learn, tough to master and a ton of fun to play.
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Demons of Death!!
The subtitle to Galaga is “Demons of Death” which I never realized even though it is right there on the box and front of the game cartridge. But, for some reason the title screen of the game just says Galaga. Not a big deal, just something I found interesting.
Less is More
There are a lot of very simple yet challenging games and Galaga is close to the top of the list. Every stage is the same, enemy ships fly in from all sides of the screen and fly around until settling near the top of the screen. They shoot projectiles at your ship which is at the bottom of the screen. You move left and right and shoot vertically with either the A or B button and try to destroy the ships. If you take too long to defeat the ships they will fly down in seemingly random patterns and try to destroy you.
The game only requires 3 buttons…left, right and shoot. It doesn’t get much easier than that and somehow it is still challenging and very fun. There is an art in creating something so fun and timeless that is also as simple as it is.
Shoot them before they shoot you.
The “Galaga” ships are the green ships that always sit at the top of the screen and take 2 hits to kill. If you shoot them one time they turn blue, the second shot makes them explode. Every once in a while one of the ships comes down just past the midway point on the screen and shoots out a beam that if you touch it causes you to lose control of the ship as it attaches to the top of the Galaga ship.
If you are on your last life when this happens you will get a game over. If not you lose a life. But…if you shoot the Galaga ship that has captured your ship it returns to you and attaches to your current ship. This makes your ship twice as wide and allows you to shoot two bullets at a time.
Enter the beam to maybe get a nice double ship advantage. But, only if it isn’t your last life and you don’t accidentally shoot yourself.
This is a double edged sword as it greatly increases your chance of shooting the enemies but it also doubles their chance of shooting you. In my experience it is well worth it to do this. You have to be careful though, if you accidentally shoot your own ship and not the Galaga you get 1,000 points but blow up your captured ship and lose that life.
How Do You Beat the Game?
This question depends on who you ask. According to www.NintendoAge.com the game loops after 3 stages so after 3 stages you have seen all the game has to offer.
The arcade purists say you need to get to the “kill” screen where the game runs out of memory. This happens sometime after level 200 (this may only apply to the arcade version).
The Mexican Runner, well known to be the first person to beat every NES game and record video of each says to beat the game you need to play to level 32. The reason for this is that after every 3 stages you go to a “Challenging Stage” which is a short bonus stage where 40 ships weave around the screen. If you shoot them all you get a 10,000 point bonus which helps out a lot as you get an extra life at 30,000 points, 70,000 points and every 70,000 points after that.
After playing through 9 different “Challenging Stages” the pattern and ship types repeat. So, after all of those stages you have seen literally everything the game has to offer.
What did I do? Well, I really like this game and I know if I let myself I could play an hour every night indefinitely and just kind of zone out. I’m not great at the game and I don’t want to waste too many hours on it so I just played for a couple of hours and consider it beaten since I beat the in game high score of 30,000, in fact I more than doubled that score (even though, this is still a low score to many better gamers than me). The farthest stage I reached was 12.
Sure, maybe it is cheap to wuss out on not playing to stage 32, but, with 500+ more NES games to beat I have to move on before I get obsessed with this game again.
Back in elementary school I spent a lot of weekends staying the night with my friend Jimmy. We both were huge into Nintendo and spent most of our time playing games. He had around 20 NES games and I had around 10 so I was like a kid in a candy store at his house. Galaga was one of the games he had that we would spend a lot of time playing because it was quick and easy to pick up and play. In fact, the copy of the game I have today is the copy we used to play as kids. I don’t think either of us were great at the game but it was a short enough game that we could easily take turns and neither got bored.
Move your ship along the bottom of the screen and destroy everything.
15 years after those Friday nights playing Galaga I lived with another friend named Jeremy who was the first person I knew that owned an XBOX 360 and he bought a digital only game called “Geometry Wars” which has a similar game play style to Galaga. In this game you control a ship that can freely move around the screen and your only job is to shoot enemies which come at you from all directions. We spent an embarrassing amount of hours taking turns playing this game and going for high scores. It wasn’t until YouTube came around that we realized our high scores were not so high at all. There is something humbling about finding out you suck at something you thought you had mastered.
It looks like a lot is going on but the game is simple. Shoot bullets out of your little white ship and destroy everything on screen.
One thing I really enjoy about Galaga is that when you get game over the game presents you with a few in game stats. It tells you how many shots you made, how many hit a target and the percentage of hits you had. In games today it is very common for dozens of stats to be kept but in early NES days it was a unique and interesting bonus to a really fun game.
Of all of the arcade classics that were made to make the player keep popping quarters and were later ported to home consoles, I think this is my favorite. The true goal of the game is just to get the highest score possible. As there is no true end I never feel satisfied that I’ve “beaten” it. Even if a game is not fun and has a sub-par ending I still feel satisfaction that I’ve completed it. So, even though I enjoy playing Galaga more than most games I don’t get that endorphin rush that I’ve beaten it. It’s definitely a classic and I can’t wait to play it again in the future.
In fact, my daughter showed some interest in Galaga today so I let her try and on her first attempt she got 2,000 points. Of course she wasn’t really looking at the TV and just kept saying “Ree” (which is red in her language) referring to the color of the button she was hitting on the controller.