PUBLISHER: Activision (US), Sega (EU)
RELEASE DATE: 10/1989 – (US), 1989 – (EU)
With four megs of power charging its engines, Galaxy Force was the best looking Super Scaler port at the time of its release, and certainly the speediest. Unfortunately, a decent framerate and relatively fast-paced action can’t hide the fact that Galaxy Force is a derivative space shooter, a lesser take on Sega’s earlier Super Scaler games.
You control a spacecraft of no great significance and guide it around four dangerous alien planets. The planets – a Green Planet which is less a planet than the depths of space, a lava planet, a jungle planet, and a desert planet – can be played and conquered in any order, which is great because the planets vary significantly in difficulty (screw that lava planet and its continuous fire showers). Your craft has two weapons, a red shot and a homing missile. The homing missile is stronger, harder, and better in every way, and with unlimited ammo for both weapons, there’s never a need to use the red shot. You also have a shield that displays how much damage you’ve taken. You can supposedly take sixteen hits, but I seemed to die with less than that. Basically, the more your shield is blinking, the worse you’re doing.
The outer terrain of the planet is full of enemies that get up in your grill and occasionally fire homing missiles at you. As long as you button mash the fire button and move constantly around the planet’s surface, you’ll be fine. While Galaxy Force is an on-rails shooter, in the outer terrain portions, you’re given freedom to fly in a curve instead of simply straight ahead. But once you venture into the interior portions of the level, your mobility is limited. Walls surround you on either side and if you crash into them too many times, so long insignificant spacecraft. Occasionally, you’re given instructions to turn left or right. The instructions are given with plenty of time, but when the turn does come, the pseudo 3D wall design makes it difficult to tell if you’re turning at the appropriate angle.
Galaxy Force began its life as yet another one of Sega’s ostentatious arcade cabinets. Just look at this sucker:
Clearly Sega wanted Galaxy Force to be as popular as After Burner, but due to the jaw-dropping price tag on both the Deluxe and Super Deluxe cabinets ($26,000 and $40,000 in 1988 US dollars, respectively, according to HG101), arcades opted for the upright cabinet if at all; I frequented arcades plenty as a child and I’d never seen/heard of Galaxy Force until this review. Interestingly,the Master System port is based on the first iteration of Galaxy Force, not the second. Galaxy Force debuted in April 1988, but had only been released for about two months before Sega replaced it with Galaxy Force II. Galaxy Force II was an upgrade rather than a sequel: two more levels were added, while bugs and balancing issues were addressed. Because of the quick release turnaround, the original Galaxy Force is incredibly rare. If you’ve ever played Galaxy Force in the arcades, you likely played Galaxy Force II.
As with Sega’s other Super Scaler titles, no way could the Master System replicate the trickery made possible by the arcade Galaxy Force‘s impressive System Y board. Thus, Sega reconfigured certain aspects of the game to make it work better with the Master System. The changes make the game easier in some aspects with unlimited continues and additional health, while the interior portions are more constrictive and difficult to navigate.
If you’ve ever wanted a cross between Space Harrier and After Burner, Galaxy Force will save your life. As in both of the aforementioned games, Galaxy Force is about shooting as much as you can, as quickly as you can, with little regard for strategy or depth. But unlike either Space Harrier with its jet-packed, cannon-equipped protagonist or After Burner with its rich arcade legacy, Galaxy Force lacks any personality. The spacecraft is bland, the alien planets are colorful but uninspired, and the gameplay is the same type of Sega shooting we’ve been “enjoying” on the Master System for the last three years. Galaxy Force might be visually impressive, but the experience it provides is completely unnecessary.