Japanese promotional sales flyer.
|Platform(s)||Arcade, SG-1000, MSX, Nintendo Entertainment System, Atari 7800, Game Boy, Mobile phone, Xbox 360, Roku, iOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC|
|Cabinet||Upright, cabaret, cocktail|
|Arcade system||Namco Galaga|
|CPU||3 Z80 microprocessors|
|Sound||Namco 3-channel PSG|
|Display||RGB raster, vertical orientation (19-inch diagonal)|
Galaga[a] is a 1981 fixed shooter arcade game developed and published by Namco. In North America, it was released by Midway Games. Controlling a starship, the player is tasked with destroying the Galaga forces in each stage while avoiding enemies and projectiles. Some enemies can capture a player's ship via a tractor beam, which can be rescued to transform the player into a "duel fighter" with additional firepower. It is the sequel to Galaxian (1979), Namco's first major hit in arcades.
Development was led by Shigeru Yokoyama and a small team. Initial planning took about two months to finish. The original goal of the project was to make a game that could help clear out inventory of Namco Galaxian arcade systems, however technical limitations instead shifted development to newer hardware. Inspiration for the duel fighter mechanic was taken from a film that Yokoyama had seen prior to development, where a ship was captured using a large circular beam. The project became immensely popular around the company, with Namco's former president Masaya Nakamura even taking interest.
Although early location tests proved to be unsuccessful, Galaga received widespread critical acclaim, widely regarded as a classic title during the golden age of arcade video games in North America and one of the greatest video games of all time. Critics applauded its gameplay, innovation, addictive nature and improvements made over its predecessor. Several home ports were released for a multitude of platforms, including the MSX, Atari 7800 and Nintendo Entertainment System, alongside releases on digital distribution platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade. Galaga would also be included in many Namco video game compilations. It was followed by a direct sequel in 1984, titled Gaplus.
Galaga is a fixed shooter video game. The player mans a lone starfighter at the bottom of the screen, which must prevent the Galaga forces from destroying all of mankind. The objective of each stage is to defeat all of the Galaga aliens, which will fly into formation from the top and sides of the screen. Similar to Galaxian, aliens will divebomb towards the player while shooting down projectiles; colliding with either of them will result in a life being lost.
Atop the enemy formation are four large aliens known as the "Boss Galaga", which take two shots to destroy. These aliens have the ability to release a tractor beam and capture the player's ship, retreating with it to the top of the screen. Should the player shoot down the Boss Galaga dive-bombing with a captured ship will transform the player's ship into a "duel fighter", increasing the amount of firepower while increasing the ship hitbox. However, destroying a Boss Galaga with a captured ship while in formation will instead have the fighter turn against the player, diving down towards their ship while shooting projectiles.
The third stage and every fourth thereafter is a "challenging stage", which will have the aliens fly in a pre-set formation without firing at the player. Shooting down each alien in these stages will award the player with a 10,000 point bonus. Some enemies have the ability to morph into new enemy types with different attack patterns, with one even taking the form of the Galaxian Flagship. Stages are indicated by emblems located at the bottom-right of the screen. Enemies will become more aggressive as the game progresses, increasing their number of projectiles and diving down at a faster rate.
Galaga was created by Japanese developer Shigeru Yokoyama, a long-time veteran for Namco who worked on many of the company's earlier games. Namco's first big hit in arcades was Galaxian (1979), credited as one of the first video games to utilize RGB color graphics and becoming a popular game during the time. The success lead Namco producing a large amount of Namco Galaxian arcade boards in order to keep up with demand, however by the early 1980's the game was becoming harder to sell. To help clear out inventory, Yokoyama was tasked with creating two new games that could run on the Namco Galaxian board. The first of these was King & Balloon (1980), a fixed shooter that is cited as the first video game to incorporate speech.
The second game, originally set to run on the same hardware, was instead made for newer hardware, suggested by Namco's Research & Development division. This new arcade board was titled Namco Galaga, and would be used for several future titles, including Bosconian (1981) and Dig Dug (1982). Although Yokoyama wasn't given explicit to make shooting game, management expressed desire for him to make a game similar to Galaxian. Initial planning for the project took two months.
The idea for the dual fighter stemmed from Yokoyama wanting to create enemies with different attack styles. The tractor beam emitted by the Boss Galaga was inspired by a film that Yokoyama had seen prior to the film, which had a character's ship being captured by a circling laser. Taking interest in the idea, Yokoyama decided to incorporate it into the game, where an enemy could capture the player's ship and need to be rescued. Originally rescuing a captured ship would award the player an extra life, which was soon changed to having it fight alongside the player. This idea proved to be a problem at first: due to hardware limitations, the game only allowed for a certain number of sprites to be added, resulting in the duel fighter being unable to shoot any more missiles. To work around this, Yokoyama modifed the duel fighter sprite, having a length of 16x16 pixels, shoot a 16x16 bullet sprite.
Inspired by the intermissions in Pac-Man and bonus stages in Rally-X, Yokoyama decided to add a special bonus level into the game. While planning, lead programmer Tetsu Ogawa informed him of a bug he found in the game, where enemies would simply fly off the screen instead of moving into formation. Ogawa expressed interest in incorporating the idea into the game, leading to the inclusion of the Challenging Stages. Enemies originally flew in one type of pattern, which was changed to increase the game's replay value. Graphic designer Hiroshi Ono designed many of the game's sprites, including the player's ship and the Boss Galaga alien.
Prior to the game's location testing, the team focused on designing the game's instruction card, a sheet of paper that showed how the game was played. The text was done by the planners, while the actual design was handled by a graphic artist. The card originally showed the control layout and the basics of the game, which was stripped early on for being too boring. Yokoyama suggested that the card instead show off the dual fighter mechanic, as a means to draw in players. The team kept bringing in designs to Namco president Masaya Nakamura, who continued to reject them until he ordered the team to simply make it in front of him.
The team was allowed to set their own deadlines, due to Namco's then-laidback corporate structure. Feedback on the project was given by Nakamura and other employees, including Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani. Despite the game's immense popularity around the company, early location tests failed to meet expectations due to players being able to get far in the game with only one coin, thus generating low income. Although Yokoyama stated that the game's popularity could still generate income, Namco executives forced the team to strengthen the difficulty level. Galaga was released in Japan in September 1981. It was released in North America by Midway Games in October of that year.
Galaga was met with widespread critical acclaim upon release, many applauding the game's addictive nature, gameplay structure, innovation and improvements over its predecessor. AllGame highly praised the game's strategy for making it stand out amongst other games of its type, labeling the gameplay as "perfectly balanced shooting action." Reviewing the NES home version, GameSpy called it a "must play for arcade freaks", praising the port's accurate representation of the arcade version in terms of its graphics, sound effects and gameplay. IGN would also praise the NES port's element of strategy within the duel fighter mechanic, and would complement the addictive gameplay. GameSpot, in their review for the Xbox 360 digital release, stated the gameplay was "as tricky as it ever was", praising the inclusion of online leaderboards and for being a faithful arcade conversion. Eurogamer would agree, citing that the leaderboards add into the game's already addictiveness.
Nintendo Life praised the 3DS Virtual Console port of the NES version for remaining accurate to the original, stating that it "aged surprisingly well" and for being worth revisiting. Eric Berlin of Games magazine would praise the title's improvements over games such as Space Invaders and Galaxian, commenting how the game still holds up years later. Joystick magazine praised the NES version's accurate portrayal of the arcade original, notably in its graphics and gameplay structure. Famicom Ts?shin commended the Game Boy version's faithful conversion alongside its support for the Super Game Boy peripheral, while Electric Playground stated that it should " be near the top of your Game Boy's next purchase list". Some publications would express disappointment towards home releases for lacking extra features. GameSpot disliked the lack of online multiplayer in the Xbox 360 release, as well as the lack of an updated graphics setting, saying that the port was "awfully bare bones" compared to other XBLA releases. Eurogamer expressed distaste towards the Xbox 360 port's high price point, as well as the achievements for being "insultingly easy" to obtain. Eurogamer also agreed with GameSpot in the lack of online multiplayer.
Galaga has been listed by numerous publications among the greatest video games of all time. Flux magazine ranked it at #57 on their "Top 100 Video Games" in 1995, while Game Informer listed it at #23 in their "Top 200 Games of All Time" in 2010. Next Generation ranked it at #96 in their "Top 100 Games of All Time" for its innovation to shoot'em up games as a whole. Game Informer labeled it the 19th greatest video game ever made in 2001, calling it the best game of the fixed-shooter genre. Electronic Gaming Monthly listed it at #20 in their "100 Best Games of All Time" in 1997 and "Top 100 Games of All Time" in 2001,, and as #28 in their "Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time" in 2006. GameFAQs users voted it the 15th greatest game ever made in 2004 and the 10th in 2009. GameSpy staff voted it the eighth best arcade game of all time in 2011. It was ranked at #93 in IGN's "Top 100 Games of All Time" for its addictive gameplay and long-standing appeal. The Killer List of Videogames listed it as #27 in their "Top 100 Video Games" list, as well as the 4th most collected arcade game and 2nd most popular on the site. Electronic Gaming Monthly listed Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga - Class of 1981 as the second best arcade game of all time for its inclusion of both games.
The first home port of Galaga was for the SG-1000 in 1983, where it was published by Sega and titled Sega-Galaga. An MSX version followed a year later in 1984. A port for the Family Computer was released in 1985 for Japan, which was later released internationally by Bandai for the Nintendo Entertainment System, subtitled Demons of Death. Atari, Inc. published an Atari 7800 version, becoming one of the thirteen launch titles for the console.
Namco would publish a Game Boy port in Japan in 1995, which was bundled with Galaxian and titled Galaxian & Galaga. Nintendo would publish the game outside Japan under the Arcade Classic brand. Two mobile phone versions were released, both confined to Japan; the first was for i-Mode in 2001, and the second for EZweb in 2006. The original arcade version was released for the Xbox Live Arcade service in 2006, featuring online leaderboards and achievements. The NES release was ported to the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, followed by the arcade version in 2009. A Roku port was published in 2011. In 2013, the NES version was released on both the 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console. Galaga was one of the four games released under the Arcade Game Series brand, which was published for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC in 2016.
Galaga would be included in many Namco video game compilations, including Namco Museum Vol. 1 (1995), Namco Museum 64 (1996), Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (2005), Namco Museum Virtual Arcade (2008), Namco Museum Essentials (2009), and Namco Museum Megamix (2010). The 2010 Wii game Pac-Man Party and its 2011 Nintendo 3DS version include Galaga as an extra, alongside the arcade versions of Dig Dug and Pac-Man. In celebration of the game's 30th anniversary in 2011, a high-definition remake was released for iOS devices as part of Galaga 30th Collection, which also included remakes of Galaxian, Gaplus and Galaga '88. Alongside the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sequel Galaga Legions, it was ported to the Nintendo 3DS in 2011 as part of Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions. The original version was also added to the iOS Namco Arcade compilation in 2012. The NES release is also one of the 30 games included in the NES Classic Edition.
Shortly after the game's release, Namco produced miniature Galaga cabinets for buses and airplanes, housed in small 17-inch CRT monitors. In 2000, Namco would release an arcade cabinet made to celebrate the game's 20th anniversary at the time, which was bundled with Ms. Pac-Man and titled Ms. Pac-Man / Galaga - Class of 1981. A similar cabinet was released in 2005 that also included the original Pac-Man, made to celebrate the latter's 25th anniversary. Galaga is also included in both Pac-Man's Arcade Party (2010) and Pac-Man's Pixel Bash (2019).
Galaga has made cameo appearances in several films, including WarGames (1983), The Karate Kid (1984), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), The Avengers (2012), and Pixels (2015). A submarine named after the game appears throughout the ABC television series Lost. Hallmark Cards released a Galaga arcade cabinet ornament in 2009, which played sound effects from the game. In 2019, researchers at North Carolina State University named an extinct species of shark Galagadon nordquistae, due to the shark's teeth baring resemblance to the aliens found in the game.
Galaga was used as a loading screen minigame in the PlayStation version of Tekken. As a tie-in with the anime series Space Dandy, an iOS remake was released in 2015, titled Space Galaga, featuring characters and starships from Space Dandy intermixed with the Galaga gameplay. A similar crossover game was released the same year, titled Galaga: Tekken Edition, replacing all enemies with characters from the Tekken franchise. A Galaga-themed costume is also available as downloadable-content in LittleBigPlanet 3. The Boss Galaga appears as an item in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and its followup Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, where it can capture an opponent and carry them off the screen. Ultimate also features a remix of the Galaga soundtrack.