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Galaga Pic 1
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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Galaga Classic
The original Galaga,
an arcade megahit
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 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.

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