This is the lable from the HuCard['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Namco's Shooter: Galaga '88]

In the Beginning

Time for a short history lesson: Galaxian was originally released in 1979 by Namco. Galaga, released in 1981, is its sequel. In 1984 Galaga 3 (aka Gaplus) was released, which was no where near as popular as either previous game. In 1987 another sequel to Galaga was released in arcades titled Galaga ’88. Finally in 1995 Galaga Arrangement was released as the last for the series.

Of all these games in the series, Galaga has been milked the most by Namco, even with an HD release on Xbox Live Arcade for the 360. Next to Gaplus, Galaga ‘88 is the least promoted game by Namco. In 1988 it was ported to the PC Engine then in 1990 it was localized for the Turbo Grafx as Galaga ‘90. For one reason or another it is not well known, yet is the best version to date.

Screen shots for this are hard to find and I didn't think anyone wanted me to take pictures of my TVThat is Galactic Dancing

For the time the PCE port of Galaga ’88 was damn good and captured the arcade version with little loss. Aside from some graphical downscaling, the mechanics remained in place with the general feel translating perfectly. As we all know Galaga was about managing one ship (two if you knew the trick), and two bullets on screen at a time while you traveled on the X-axis somewhere just above the bottom of the screen. Pretty much the standard formula for a single screen shooter that stared with Space Invaders - so what makes this version better than the original?

It’s damn cute – almost too damn cute. Everything from the brighter color palette and musical montage bonus stages to the eyes bugging out of the, well, bug’s head are all a good-hearted poke at their own franchise. This doesn’t mean the game is any easier than the original Galaga: it is still just as tough. If it does seem easy, the game balances itself out with the addition of dimensional warps, which are also a nice score bonus when you collect the right items.

so-o cuteBosses and Scrolling

The addition of vertical scrolling levels is easily my favorite new mechanic twist on the standard formula. While there aren’t many, they are thrown in between the standard single screen levels resulting in a nice mix-up; they also feature a boss at the end. It’s interesting to play a vertical scrolling shooter while being restrained to the bottom of the screen.

Galaga ‘88 has the most character and best gameplay of all the Galaxian games, and stands out as one of my favorite single screen shooter (with Akkanvader at the top of that short list). The game was also released as an unlockable game in the Namco Museum 50th Anniversary Collection last year for the first time in an arcade perfect form. Right now I think I am going to get back to playing the Xbox Live Arcade version of Galaga as I still have a few achievements to unlock.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer’s Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]