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I could have sworn I'd played Galaga not too long ago, but no, I played Galaxian, the first of a number of space shooters that strove to do the whole alien menace thing in its own way. Galaga then serves as the sequel and is, on the surface, not much to write home about.
The graphics have been improved and the layout stays the same so we all know where we stand. And then the aliens introduce some new technology and tactics.
I'm playing the NES version of Galaga and while it takes a bit of a hit in terms of how much can be displayed at once, there is still plenty of stuff going on. Opposition fighters swarm across the screen like wasps, and don't sit still for too long before dive bombing you in an attempt to knock off one of your lives.
Keep moving, keep shooting, and keep hoping the old man got that tractor beam out of commission or you're going to have a real short trip.
If you get caught in the beam and aren't able to destroy the enemy in time, you lose your ship. Hopefully you'll have some left, unlike me, and if you do, you have a chance to rescue them, should you destroy the enemy who captured it. Doing so results in that ship fighting by your side, doubling your firepower but making you a bigger target for the next attack.
This simple mechanic plays on the notion of lives meaning something more than just 'have another go'. I have three ships. An enemy can destroy my ship, or take my ship. I don't want either to happen, ideally, but if I get my ship taken, I want the ability to take it back. It's all possible in Galaga. It's not a shameful cash in at all.
Space shooters of this era are incredibly simple to pick up but can be difficult to fully master. Eventually, whatever the 'flavour' of shooter, you're probably going to tire of how it works, either because you're getting too good or it's not holding your attention like it used to. If that's the case, simply changing up the shooter can do just enough to mix things up for you. Different movement speeds or game mechanics can give you new challenges, and Galaga should be one of your go-to mix it up space shooters.
Galaga has stood the test of time. It still serves as a nice little quick hit of gaming. Short on time? Fire up a classic. No plot, no fuss, just move and shoot.
There is a bug where enemies won't fire at you for the entire game. It can be triggered on the first stage and requires, among other things, waiting for around 15 minutes for the enemy to give up firing. Dedicated game testers right there...
Galaga, developed by Namco, first released in 1981.
Version played: NES, 1988, via emulation.