The series Nintendo is Great will explore every game ever released for a Nintendo console/handheld, beginning with the Famicom.
RELEASE DATE: 09/07/1984 (JP)
ALSO ON: Arcade, Atari (2600, 5200, 8-bit), Apple II, Bally Astrocade, IBM PC, Intellivision, ColecoVision, Cassette Vision, Famicom Disk System, FM-7, Commodore 64, Mobile, MSX, NEC PC-88, VIC-20, Sharp X1, Sinclair ZX Spectrum
FEATURED IN: Innumerable Namco compilations.
Galaxian continues the time honored gaming tradition of blowing up space invaders begun by, er, Space Invaders. Whereas the latter presented a descending enemy force onto your ship’s fixed location at the bottom of the screen, Galaxian‘s overwhelming space bug threat stay clustered together, only shifting slightly. The bugs don’t even fire any shots at first! They are ripe for the killing… until they unleash hell. Slowly but surely, a bug here, a bug there, dive bombs your ship, firing no less than three shots while they attempt to kamikaze into you. The longer you survive, the more bugs take the suicidal “death to infidels” path. As more and more are killed, their rage grows until all they care about is destroying you and your ship. What once looked like an innocent cluster of space bugs is now the largest threat in the galaxy… to you, anyway.
They’re just waiting to eat my face off.
There are four different types of bugs: green (blue in the original arcade version), purple, red, and special Flagships behind the rest. The green bugs occupy the first three rows, the purple take the next two behind the green, then a singular red row behind the purple, with two Flagships spaced out evenly behind the red line. Each bug has a slightly different pattern when they fly towards you. Green bugs fly directly towards you before veering off diagonally The purple bugs move in a zig zag pattern, occasionally re-emerging from the bottom of the screen to give you a spook. The red bugs with the Flagship dive bomb you straight away.
Here comes the bugs, do do do doo.
Destroying all the bugs in each stage requires more skill than it initially seems. Before they dive bomb you, you try to destroy as many as you can to make the looming threat slightly more manageable. The more bugs you destroy, however, the more refuse to sit still. Instead of aiming at a straight row of bugs, you aim where you think the bug is going to move to. All this, of course, while the bugs shoot white lines of bug mucus towards your vulnerable ship.
“Now hear me out. Why don’t you bugs close your eyes… and let me shoot you?”
There is nothing more to Galaxian than this. No bonus stages, no secret items, nothing. Just round upon endless round of space bug shooting. This was likely enough in 1984… or maybe not? Sure, arcade games where points mattered were still the norm during this time. But Galaxian‘s by far the oldest game to come to the Famicom at this still-early juncture; the original arcade release was in 1979 compared to Donkey Kong‘s 1981. The world of gaming moved slower then, no question. Still, I can’t help but wonder if Galaxian felt antiquated next to other early Famicom games like Mario Bros., Golf, and especially Lode Runner.
Guys, relax. We can all be Galaxians.
Perhaps my speculation is unwarranted. Galaxian was supposedly a massive success when it released in 1979 (1980 in the US). According to Wikipedia, the arcade cabinet sold over 40,000 units by 1982. Wikipedia doesn’t cite the source for this, and I couldn’t find this number anywhere else. I’d be surprised if that number wasn’t accurate, though. Space Invaders was a colossal hit worldwide, and Galaxian absolutely improved upon that game’s winning formula.
Given Galaxian‘s initial arcade success, it’s hard to imagine a Famicom port not selling well. That said, Galaxian‘s feels downright antiquated compared to the mighty Galaga released in 1981. Galaga has bonus stages and the ability to acquire two ships for double the firepower. Galaxian can only process one shot on screen at a time. Even if your high score lust knows no bounds, there’s nothing to break up the endless repetition. For some, bragging rights are enough. Not for me. I admire Galaxian for moving the fixed “space creature shooting” genre forward, and it remains a pure and, at times, addictive experience. But if I have to play a really old arcade game where I destroy untold hordes of space bugs, I’m rolling with Galaga.