Admit it. Great shooters have been few and far in between on
32 and 64-bit systems. Sure, there are a few notable exceptions
such as Omega Boost and Thunderforce V.
Unfortunately for shooter fans, more often than not the vast
majority of them are absolute duds (Star Soldier: Vanishing
Omen anyone?) or the gems among the lot are reserved for
the Japanese market. Bangaioh and Soukyugurentai
are examples of critically acclaimed blast-a-thons which never saw
the light of day on our shores.
In an effort to soothe the souls of shooter fans everywhere,
Atari licensed the premiere shooting game franchise from Namco,
and is hard at work developing what they hope will light the
fire within all classic gaming fans while at the same time
resurrecting a genre that has long ago since been passed by
in popularity by puzzle, platform, racing, sports and fighting
games. Oh, and Doom clones. It didn't used to
be this way. Even quite recently, (well, recent IS
relative in this case!) Galaga '90 was blowing
away shooter fans on the TurboGrafx-16, which, ironically enough,
is generally agreed upon as the last great system for shooters.
For those who never had the privilege of enjoying the goodness
that was Galaga, the game had you defending the world against
Galagans which attacked in a series of waves, each fiercer than the
one before. From the very outset, entire fleet of invaders began
flying in formation, then instantly plunged towards you, bombarding
your ship, then rushing back to the lineup -- if you didn't shoot them
first. Galagan flagships never flew alone: protective escorts in
colorful uniforms always flanked them. Escort rank was easy to
identify: Drones, the lowest rank, wore blue; Hornets were outfitted
in red; and Flagship Commanders, the highest rank, wore yellow.
After two waves of attack, then after every third wave, you faced a
Challenging Stage. Five groups of eight ships flew in various attack
patterns. Hit all 40 ships and you got 10,000 bonus points.
The coolest aspect of Galaga was undoubtedly the awesome dual-fire
mode. Galagan Flagships deploy blue macro-beams that could capture
your Command Ship. If you hit the Flagship while it has your captured
ship, you not only regain your ship -- you get two ships, moving and
firing in sync... a devastating combo machine!
Since we were only able to see an early alpha build of the new
Galaga, it remains to be seen whether there's anything
really groundbreaking here in terms of gameplay, or originality for
that matter. As is expected of all great shooters, Galaga promises
to pack explosive special effects, pinpoint control and the mandatory
high framerate. The screenshot at the top shows a pseudo first-person
perspective that is reminiscent of Total Eclipse (3DO)
and the old arcade classic Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom.
By virtue of a 3D rather than a single-screen 2D viewing angle, it's
quite a departure from what we've become familiar with in Galaga.
More importantly, however, is the issue of whether the spirit of
classic Galaga will remain intact in this PlayStation update.
One can only assume that most of the trademarks from the 1981
hit -- especially the dual-ship option -- will make the migration
to this remake.
The original Galaga,
an arcade megahit
The new Atari has thus far done an exemplary job in rekindling the
enthusiasm toward classic gaming in general and Atari in particular
with carefully redone remakes such as Pong and
Q*Bert. If the company's recent track record is any
indication, everyone can start making plans to fall in love with
Galaga -- and shooters -- all over again.