Galaga is one of those games that I saw in just about every arcade and pizza parlor in the ’80s. It’s iconic music and sound effects were an intrinsic part of the atmosphere. The game seemed about as common as Ms. Pac-Man. It even showed up in the movie WarGames. It was everywhere.
And for good reason. It’s a great game!
It’s also a simple game. Move a ship back and forth and shoot aliens, a la Space Invaders. While its inspirations are noted quite often, it has enough unique aspects to stand on its own. The aliens swooping in and attacking in formation, the capture mechanic, double ships, bonus rounds. But what doesn’t get mentioned as much is how well it all gels together. The game mechanics, as well as the graphics and audio, create something that’s a little more than the sum of its parts. Galaga is a very satisfying game to play.
The game was actually the follow-up to another game called Galaxaian, and it evolved the gameplay quite a bit. It later got a sequel titled Gaplus (aka Galaga 3) that also moved the gameplay logically forward, but Galaga really hits a sweet spot. It’s no wonder that the fourth game in the series, Galaga ’88, moved things back just a tad and followed a new evolutionary line.
Galaga is available on numerous platforms, both contemporary and retro. It’s been included on several editions of the Namco Museum compilation series, and is available as a standalone game on PlayStation Store, Nintendo Virtual Console, and Xbox Live Arcade.
Even today, I can still find Galaga in the arcade, usually in one of those combination cabinets with Ms Pac-Man. If you haven’t played it recently, I say it’s time to give it another go. It stands the test of time.