The quality of SG-1000 games may vary, but the cover art is generally fantastic.
PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
DEVELOPER: Namco (port by Sega)
RELEASE DATE: 1983 (JP)
I consider Galaga to be one of the greatest games of all time, so I was equally excited and skeptical to play Sega’s take on Namco’s classic shooter. While I never pass up an opportunity to destroy legions of hideous space bugs, Sega hadn’t exactly been kind with some of their own arcade ports for the SG-1000, let alone other companies. Would Sega butcher Galaga the same way they butchered Congo Bongo? Well, yes and no. Sega Galaga lacks the detail and vibrancy of the arcade original, and the port omits the Challenging stages, which could be a deal breaker for some. Basic Galaga gameplay – shooting waves of dive-bombing creatures – is replicated in full, but the port’s slight difficulty increase means Sega Galaga isn’t a Galaga for greenhorns.
In both Galaga and Sega Galaga, you use the provided white ship to destroy every single dad gum space bug that shows itself. The ship is in a fixed position at the bottom of the screen, which means it can move left or right, but not forward or backward. As the level begins, lines of creatures emerge from the sides of the screen and stack themselves atop one another in groups, then proceed to shoot and kamikaze towards your ship with unfettered schoolboy abandon.
Each species of creature has distinct moving patterns, but one in particular – the crab-like green fellas – will plummet down and release a tractor beam that can capture your space ship. Unless you’re on your last life, let your ship get captured. Once the crab who has your ship flies towards you, destroy it, and your once-captured ship will proceed to fight alongside your current ship, giving you double the fire power.
Galaga also has bonus “Challenging” stages, where groups of enemies will fly onto the screen in set patterns, but won’t attack or fly into your ship. Shoot all the enemies and you’ll receive a 10,000-point bonus (perfect for extra lives); otherwise, each enemy you shoot is worth 100 points. Galaga continues until you lose all your lives or beat level 255. Achieve the latter and you’ll be crowned King of the Galagaxy. The title is an honor, until you realize there’s no such thing as a “Galagaxy.”
It’s just you and me, butt-face.
Besides the removal of the challenging stages (likely due to cartridge size limitations) and the off-model creature sprites, Sega Galaga‘s screen isn’t as long as the original’s, which means when the creatures emerge, they stack themselves closer to your ship. The creatures also come at you faster and shoot more bullets at you than the arcade version. As a result, Sega Galaga becomes difficult in the earlier stages, unless you’re able to get double ships for double firepower. Even then, the enemies seem to behave even more violently if you have double ships, a feature I didn’t notice in the arcade. Basically, Sega Galaga is a neat option for hardcore fans looking to test their mettle, but those looking for the complete Galaga experience should play the arcade game or NES version.
Believe it or not, there are many who walk on this earth that have never experienced the joys of Galaga. Younger generations raised on Angry Birds and Skylanders, perhaps, or sheltered types who never ventured into their local pizza parlor or seedy downtown arcade back in the 80s. Whether you’re eighty-five and getting ready to board the midnight train to Slab City or you’re a five-year-old weaned on sugar and superheroes, Galaga is for you, me, everyone.