PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
RELEASE DATE: 02/21/88 – (JP)
REQUIRES: The Paddle Control
Do you have approximately three hundred and thirty dollars to spend? Might I interest you in Galactic Protector, a game that will not work without a Mark III (a.k.a. Japanese Master System), a Paddle Control, and the game itself, none of which were released outside of Japan? Oh, you can try to emulate the game, as I did, with a controller, the Meka emulator, and some grit and determination, but no amount of resolve will make this game work without the necessary tools.
This is a shame, as I think Galactic Protector would be a fun experience with the proper accoutrements. The game stars Sega’s occasional go-to mascot, Opa-Opa, fresh out of his curious non-shmup adventure in Fantasy Zone: The Maze. Here he circles around various planets – including the Earth, Saturn, and Jupiter, all of which have hilariously cartoonish faces – and protects them from space debris. The space debris includes: asteroids, moons, spheres, and other shapes one might expect to find in some galaxy-themed version of Lucky Charms cereal.
The jury’s out on the deliciousness of the debris, but they are certainly deadly. One hit by a single space mallow takes out one of Opa’s lives. The planet Opa is protecting from said mallows, however, has a life bar and can take several hits of damage versus Opa’s one hit. Opa has three lives before it’s game over. Depending on the size of the debris, the planet can get hit around eight times. Basically, it’s better to let the planet get hit a couple times rather than let Opa’s lives go to waste. As you advance in the levels, you’ll gain different upgrades, including rapid-fire, a triple-shot, and a speed boost. With the responsibility of upgrades comes more enemies, though, so it’s a glass half-full, half-empty situation.
Galactic Protector reminds me of Asteroids – if your ship was Opa-Opa instead of a random triangle and if Opa was tethered to a planet instead of floating deliriously in space. The debris doesn’t just hurtle randomly towards the planet, but shifts and changes directions so you’re always kept on your toes. Indeed, more than the tepid BMX Trial: Alex Kidd, Galactic Protector seems like the perfect game for the Paddle Control. I say this without having used the Paddle Control, so perhaps I should clarify: Galactic Protector seems like the perfect game for the Paddle Control, assuming the control allows you to tightly maneuver Opa-Opa around the planet as it should. I’m going to take the glass half-full approach and say that the control does just that and that the game is a marvelous arcade experience that can only be appreciated with the Paddle Control’s tight nuance. For this review, I am Sega’s cheerleader circa 1988.
Galactic Protector‘s inability to work with emulation isn’t the emulator’s fault, really, nor is it my controller’s. The emulator emulates the game just fine. The controller I used has an analog stick that should, in theory, move Opa around the planets. The Paddle Control is essentially a primitive analog dial with two extra buttons. What’s the problem here? I couldn’t say. Programming isn’t my bag. All I know is Opa rarely moved in the direction I twisted the analog, and even when he did, it was on some unknown terms worked out between the control and the emulator. Whenever I thought I’d figured out how to properly move Opa, the controls would get hung, stop working, and my planet would grow sad and wounded. Like space and time and the concept of galactic protection itself, the way the controls interacted with the emulator was and remains a mystery.
Is Galactic Protector any good? Well, in my desperation, I kept trying to have fun with it. If nothing else, there’s a spark in the game that made me wrestle with the controls much longer than I should have. Galactic Protector is not good enough to drop three hundred and thirty of my hard-earned American dollars, perhaps, but good enough for Lucky Charms aficionados.