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Galaxy Force (Master System, 1989)

Sailing across the flaming seas.

Shooting in space, go!
The same, with our beloved black/white box pattern.


PUBLISHER: Activision (US), Sega (EU)


GENRE: Shooter

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.

Like “Star Wars,” sans puppets.

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 pure force of the galaxy… it’s too much!

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.

Kraftwerk was right: we’re living in a computer world and we’re all just computer girls.

Galaxy Force began its life as yet another one of Sega’s ostentatious arcade cabinets. Just look at this sucker:

Super Deluxe Cabinet picture courtesy of Reddit user killapimp.

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.

Your stomach during the holidays.

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.

Prince’s brain.

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.


10 replies on “Galaxy Force (Master System, 1989)”

Spot on review Dylan, yet another super scaler game that really doesn’t have any business being on the Master System.

I’ve noticed with the Master System reviews and it’s library in general. There are a lot of ok to good games but not many ‘great’ games or complete duffers just mainly in that middle ground.

The Saturn version is sweet though !

The Master System is a frustrating console. There’s quite a bit of power under its hood, but not for the arcade ports Sega tries to showcase. Games developed specifically for the console look and play leagues better, but for whatever reason, Sega kept pushing their choppy arcade ports, as if to say “Maybe, just maybe this one will look and play better than the rest.”

Only 16 more reviews until I can jump into Mega Drive…

Fortunately there are at least 3 really good Master System games coming up to tide you over until you get back to the Mega Drive.
Psycho Fox, Rastan and Wonder Boy are really strong titles.

Sega pushed arcade ports to the Master System because it had too – how else can you distinguish and compete with the NES?

I agree that with most super scale games it didn’t work out too well, there are several side scrolling games where the arcade port did work well (Shinobi, Golden Axe, etc).

The ship reminds me of a VF-Valkyrie from Macross (westerners know it as a Veritech from the Robotech series). Interesting final note you make there regarding its in-house competition. I guess compared to those two arcade juggernauts it just looks lacking.

Having recently played through the arcade game through MAME, I am not a huge fan of the arcade version. I do not like the energy decreasing even without getting hit and was probably used as a cheap way too limit players time and get them to enter more quarters. It looks like Sega wisely dropped the automatic energy drop in the SMS version.

I also did not care for the weird soundtrack and prefer After Burner’s rock themed tunes.

The best way to play this is once again on the 3DS with the 3D classics release. It makes adjustments to the game to make it more fun. Has upgraded textures from the arcade, analog control, and of course is in 3D, which makes navigating the cave sections infinitely more playable. I’d give that version a strong recommend. Better than the arcade or any previous home release including the PS2 version.

According to Wiki, no less than Micheal Jackson had an original Galaxy Force cabinet in his massive arcade collection. So if you were one of those kids lucky enough to spend time at Neverland Ranch, you might have played it.

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