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Galaga

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Arcade/ Classic/Retro/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Before the inevitable complaint about repurchasing the same game every year for the last decade, letís just get it out there: This oneís for the fans. Yes, there are the saliva-inducing tech demos and the envelope-pushing games out there, but thatís not what Galaga is about. Itís about reliving the best of the arcade era, going back in time to the days when a quarter bought you as much gameplay as your skills would afford. In that vein this is a perfect revival, a digital museum piece that isnít stuck under glass.

When youíve had your fill of nostalgia, there are plenty of knobs to twiddle in the settings that tweak the game graphics, sound, and the surrounding visuals. The original presentation is a bit jarring on todayís widescreen equipment, but thatís emulation for you. Itís possible to stretch and adjust the play space to fit, but purists will find that a bit strange. Even with the original format itís possible here to change the art youíd have seen on the arcade cabinet itself, which is a nice touch. All of these changes are playable to keep Galaga in 2016 feeling like something in a history book. Nope, this is one youíre going to want to mess around with, and thank goodness for that opportunity.


Gameplay:

It would be great to be in the mind of a person encountering Galaga for the first time in 2016. Itís possible that our world of VR-ready, photorealistic graphics has robbed this old game of some of its lustre, but equally possible that new players will marvel at the throwback sprites and chiptune soundtrack. The basic gameplay is unchanged here, in perfect fidelity compared to the version we played ages ago in arcades. Galaga for kids in the '80s was like Space Invaders on steroids, a space shooting game where the aliens suddenly felt a million times more menacing. Of course, the best feature was the ability to have your ship captured by the enemy, to be reclaimed by you and used to double your gunpower.

There are many options for modifying the way the game plays, with the caveat that these will lock you out of posting high scores to online leaderboards. If you loved seeing your initials on the old arcade cabinets, this will feel like a big downer, but the main purpose of all the mods is to make Galaga more accessible, so theyíre not necessarily aimed at core arcade gamers. Whether youíre changing the number of ships youíll start off with cycling through similar variations on the game, itís fun to try what amounts to slightly different approaches that may help you get a feel for Galaga before dialing things up to arcade difficulty.


Difficulty:

And make no mistake about it, classic arcade "hard" is some of the most unforgiving gameplay youíll find. The best strategy is counting and memorization, to learn exactly where ships will come and what changes from stage to stage. The Challenge Stages offer a break from enemy ships coming at you on offense, but theyíre not exactly relaxed. Youíll need to use the time afforded here to rack up big scores and earn your way to bonus ships. After all, that twin-ship strategy has the downside of forcing you to give up an entire life for the (often) brief pleasure of getting 2x firepower.

You can lose one of your twin ships and still keep blasting, but the slightest collision with another ship or an enemy shot will result in instant explosion. Thereís no wiggle room at all, so it really helps if you can earn points to unlock extra ships. All this is totally consistent with the original game, but new players may be surprised how quickly they see the Game Over screen. Imagine when you had to put in a quarter to play! Luckily there are some ways to blunt the difficulty with those settings, as long as youíre not concerned with posting high scores.


Game Mechanics:

Itís hard to imagine a more simple control scheme. The ship doesnít even move up and down, just left and right. Arcade players will remember that the original cabinet only had a stick with left-right controls for this purpose, plus a button to fire. The controls here are emulated nicely to feel as close to the original as possible, which is probably the best experience you can get on a modern system. It doesnít feel responsive, but thatís not the point. Itís all about getting the feeling for what it was like to play this game back in its '80s heyday.

If classic gaming is your thing, you canít lose with Galaga for Xbox One. Sure, itís been released in various other formats, but especially as part of a three-pack with its bedfellows Pac-Man and Dig Dug, itís a great throwback to simpler times for your 21st Century console.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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