Y’know what’s a great game? Galaga.
G-A-L-A-G-A. It even has a great name. Galaga.
I don’t have a funny story here or any quirky memories about how I totally tripped and fell onto that Galaga arcade machine that one time and nearly severed my ankle.
Nope. Nothing like that at all.
Instead, I’m going to expound upon the greatness of Galaga in a few paragraphs. Please bear with me as I gush.
Galaga was bestowed upon the world by Midway (or Namco if you were in Japan) in 1981. I occasionally played in it in the “arcade” at our movie theatre when the Ms. Pac-Man machine was taken; but I primarily remember playing the Atari 7800 version. If you haven’t played Galaga, I…I have no words for you except that…you should. You just really, really, really should. I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to find. Look, the search bar, it’s right up there, and “Galaga emulator” is all you need to type.
Like Defender before it, Galaga was one of those simple yet mesmerizing games that made one completely lose track of time. It was like Space Invaders and Galaxian, except SO. MUCH. BETTER. You commanded a ship that you moved laterally across the bottom of the screen. Your goal was to shoot aliens — wave after wave of colorful aliens. They came swooping up, down, and around until they reached the center of the screen. Once they reached their formation, they began dropping like flies…crazy, unpredictable bomb-wielding flies with the intent to kill…kill…KILL! But you, the awesome little ship, could shoot the aliens at any point. If you destroyed them all before they reached the center, onto the next wave you went. The further you got into the game, the quicker the aliens flew, formed, and attacked.
From YouTube user Retrogamer125. Oh, that intro music is enough to make me squee!
The thing about Galaga was that, after several waves, it got easier to recognize repetitions in the alien’s flight paths. Depending on the wave, I knew that if I started my ship in just the right position, I could hit all the aliens coming on from one side or the other. So eventually my goal in each wave became to kill as many aliens as I could before they reached the center; because once they got there, their patterns became much less predictable. This also led to some rather exhilarating play (for the 80s, and a kid with an Atari). For edutainment purposes, I can’t think of many old school games that were better at developing hand-eye coordination than Galaga.
And yes, I did just write “hand-eye coordination, ” which, at the time, equaled F-U-N without me knowing it. Gotta love them vidja games.
But even better than trying to keep up with the aliens was Galaga’s single-best secret: obtaining multiple ships! That is, having two (OR MORE!) ships shooting the aliens…together! TWO ships! Because two was totally better than one!!
I realize that in this day of dildo bats and dubstep guns (hmm, wanna play Saints Row much?) that two ships firing simultaneously at a bunch of sprites might not mean much. But oh…oh, my friend, having two ships in Galaga was just…so...damn good. And Galaga was the first(?) game to introduce this mechanic. During some waves, certain aliens tried to kidnap your ship using a tractor beam. If successful, the alien carried the ship back up to the formation and you went onto to your next “life.” However, all was far from lost. If you killed the alien holding your ship, it fell and linked to the current ship. Double your pleasure, double the fun! All with no chance of getting gum in your hair or on the sofa!! (Doublemint gum? The twins? …oh forget it.) Having two ships was a game changer. For a moment, you felt invincible. You blazed away, vaporizing aliens left and right like there was no tomorrow.
(Also, OMG…also, if you played your cards right, it was easy to string together 3 or even more ships! The most I remember getting together was 3. At 3 ships, it was super easy to kill aliens, but those that remained had an easier and larger target.)
Galaga is, without a doubt, one of the best and most quintessential old school games. In the arcade or on the Atari or some other port, it was fun, addicting, colorful, well-paced, and simple. No tutorials, no loading, no updates, no complicated moves.
There is the beginning. There is the end. And in between, there is Galaga. It was, is, and shall always remain a great game.