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If you asked an arcade aficionado from any generation to name their “Mount Rushmore” of arcade games, chances are you’d hear them say “Galaga” more often than not.
Firmly planted in the upper echelon of the arcade game pantheon, Galaga took a simple concept that worked for Space Invaders and applied some unique twists and highly addictive gameplay to create something timeless. No video arcade worth its weight in salt would ever exclude Galaga from its lineup!
It is safe to assume that the large majority of arcade visitors have played Galaga, but it might also be a reasonable assumption that not everyone who has played it is familiar with its history. After Space Invaders set the stage for fixed shooter arcade games to dominate arcades in 1978, so many imitators and look-alikes game out of the woodwork that it was hard to give anything that wasn’t Space Invaders any clout.
One of those inspired by this new style of gameplay was Galaxian, which used the familiar style of only moving side to side and shooting at an ever-approaching fleet of enemies. However, Galaxian also incorporated new elements, such as faster gameplay, different designs for each ship, and the occasional rushing attack from the attacking aliens.
After finding some success with the fusion of the Space Invaders style with some new ideas, Namco built upon their accomplishment with the introduction of a sequel called Galaga, and the rest is history.
If you’ve ever played or seen somebody play any of the classic side-to-side shooters, then you can easily get a pretty basic idea of how the game works. You control a ship at the bottom of the screen that can only travel in two directions – left and right. The goal is to shoot down a constantly approaching fleet of enemy ships while avoiding getting hit by their lasers. Some enemy ships attack in different ways, with some using the dive-bomb tactic and others tracking back around for a second attack. Certain ships even have a tractor beam that can capture your active ship, which can be won back if you have another life and shoot down the capturer’s ship. This scenario rewards you with a “double ship” and stands as one of the many unique new features that set Galaga apart from competitors.
Galaga has been entertaining audiences for years and is still one of the most popular cabinets at any arcade. Just as Space Invaders inspired the initial gameplay of its predecessor, Galaga inspired an entire generation of side-to-side shooter games.