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Galaga – Arcade

Galaga – Arcade

galaga cabinetPlatform: Arcade

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Midway

Release Date (NA): December, 1981

Genre: Fixed Shooter

Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Over the last 40 years, video games have undergone some radical transformations through rapid technological advancements. The current video gaming scene boasts extremely lifelike graphics, in-depth stories, big-name voice acting, complex control schemes, and seemingly endless in-game possibilities, but it wasn’t always so intricate. This shape-shifting evolutionary gamestorm has left a wake of forgotten titles in its path, some of which were once heralded for cutting edge technological achievements while others were equally praised for downright exceptional gameplay. While some of these games might have gone the way of the dinosaur, not all of them are entirely extinct. Thanks to a damn great idea and some exceptional marketing, some of these classic games that kids only know of from internet articles and movies can be found all across the nation in numerous bars, beach boardwalks, flea markets, and more. I am of course talking about the Multicade.

Galaga's precursor from 1979, Galaxian

Galaga’s precursor from 1979, Galaxian

The Multicade is an arcade cabinet with similar attributes to classic arcade cabinets from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, except now the gamer can choose from multiple games on one single cabinet generally from the ’70s and early to mid ’80s. “Multi” + “Arcade” = Multicade. Get it? One such Multicade gives the gamer a choice between 2 classic video games with Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga, the latter of which is going to be our topic of discussion for this review. Galaga was technically a sequel to the popular 1979 fixed shooter Galaxian, but oddly enough received no number in the name, confusing many fans when the game Galaga 3 was released in 1984. Galaga, however, would be one of Namco’s biggest and most memorable games, far-surpassing the success and popularity of any of the other Galaxian/Galaga games. Despite the release of the Multicade, it’s not entirely uncommon to find an original Galaga arcade cabinet in places that still have arcade machines. So, what’s the difference in playing Galaga in its original form versus playing it on the Multicade…? Continues versus NO continues. On the original Galaga, there were no continues and you only had 1 quarter per play as opposed to the Multicade version which allows gamers to put in more quarters after a Game Over and continue playing. More continues gives the opportunity for the gamer to beef up their score with more money, which goes against everything classic gaming was about.

Matthew Broderick playing Galaga in the popular movie WarGames (1983).

Matthew Broderick playing Galaga in the popular movie WarGames (1983).

The objective of Galaga is the same as any game of its time: Go as far in the game as possible and score as many points as possible. The player controls a fighter ship that is fixed along the bottom of the screen (fixed shooter. Get it?). Insect-shaped enemy ships swarm onto the screen in various formations (depending on which stage you are playing) and attempt to destroy your ship by dropping missiles or flying directly into you. Once they make their initial entrance they take formation at the top of the screen and slowly sway left to right, occasionally dropping out of formation to swoop down and attempt to crash into your fighter ship, capture your fighter ship, or drop a missile on your sorry ass. As the levels progress, the enemy ships become faster, much more erratic, and less predictable, dropping more missiles and dropping out of formation in larger numbers. There are challenge stages every few levels where the enemy ships fly onto and exit the screen without trying to destroy your fighter. Your objective on the challenge stage is to kill all of the enemy ships, awarding 10,000 points for a perfect score, or just 100 points for each destroyed enemy ship.

Boss ship tractor beam.

Boss ship tractor beam.

Sounds pretty simple and possibly a bit archaic right? Well, in a way, it is. But rarely does a game so simple provide such a rewarding experience. The extremely uncomplicated gameplay correlates directly to its fun factor, but don’t confuse “simple” with “easy” as Galaga is anything but. The most unforgiving games typically lie within the mid ’70s and the mid ’90s, and Galaga is no exception. One of the most challenging aspects is that your fighter ship’s range is somewhat limited by the width of the screen. Your fighter ship is also a pretty big target, and when you combine that with small width, you can imagine how truly threatening a swarm of enemy insects can be when they’re flying directly at you dropping missiles along the way. But therein lies the reward! Navigating your ship through a barrage of 6 or so enemies, all of which are dropping missiles, is no easy feat and almost nothing gives you more satisfaction. With each successive level you are met with faster, more advanced enemies with the levels reaching somewhere around 250 (a feat I have never accomplished). And with each successive level, your bragging power increases… And trust me, you’ll be posting your accomplishments on Facebook within minutes.


Gameplay is very straightforward and requires no tutorial. Your ship only fires one missile at a time, but there is a neat little trick that any experienced Galagan would know by heart. There is a boss enemy ship that will occasionally come down and extend a tractor beam towards the bottom of the screen. If you allow your ship to get captured you will lose one of your lives. Bad? Maybe. But here’s where it gets exciting. The enemy and your captured fighter ship will take formation along the top of the screen. If you wait until the enemy ship swoops back down in an attacking formation and shoot it down, your captured fighter ship will join alongside you, giving you two ships and granting the ability to fire missiles side-by-side. The advantage is undeniable, but you also leave yourself more vulnerable as dodging missiles and enemy ships becomes considerably more challenging due to your doubled size.

Double fighter ships! Suck on that you alien scum!

Double fighter ships! Suck on that you alien scum!

The graphics and sound effects are exactly what one would expect from a 1981 arcade game, but they are animated to perfection and present a timeless look that will never grow old. Playing Galaga today produces a genuinely fun experience regardless of your age or previous understanding of the game. There is no doubt that Galaga was a heavy contributor to the global growth of the video gaming industry. With simple yet challenging gameplay, rewarding experiences, and an immortal reputation as an ever-enduring game, Galaga will continue to grace arcades, bars, movie theaters lobbies, and anywhere else that will have them for some time to come. If you’ve got a quarter, then you know what you need to do.

Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

One of many Galaga sequels.

One of many Galaga sequels.

Written by Nerdberry


What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.


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One Comment

  1. Space Invader
    Space Invader says:

    Great review. And yes, continues are for blithering idiots. Every time I bump into a multicade that features Galaga, the “high score” is up in the 100s of thousands. No doubt some inept boob racking up points with $100 worth of laundry money. Oh Galaga. Oh humanity.


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