Namco‘s classic arcade sequel was initially released in 1987 in Japan – 1988 everywhere else – and proved a big hit with shoot ’em up fans with its fast graphics and colourful, firework-like explosions.
The original Galaga was good, but this update is something special. Features include: warping ships, colourful starfields, changing backgrounds, weird cut scenes, “That’s Galactic Dancin'” bonus sections (including a secret bonus, for not touching the controls), and even crystalline-like asteroids that release canisters which allow you to open a ‘rift’ in Space-Time, which in turn allows you to travel to higher dimensions.
This dimensional travel element really opens up the game – if you’re skilled enough to activate it. Each higher dimension reached increases the number of points you get for shooting stuff, as well as increasing the difficulty level. Once you’ve reached a higher dimension you stay there for the rest of the game (unless you go higher) – there’s no going back. Activating the dimensional rift requires you to collect two canisters during ‘normal’ stages and then survive to complete the next “Galactic Dancin'” stage. At the end of the bonus stage – if you have two canisters in your possession – they will fly up the screen, open the rift, and bump you up a dimension for the next stage. It’s quite an interesting and innovative gameplay mechanic – definitely unusual for arcade games at the time.
You still have the cool Galaga ‘ship capture’ tactic in Galaga ’88, whereby you can allow the aliens to capture your ship, only to win it back later in order to double your firepower (you can actually do it a second time to beef up your ship even more). You can even choose to start with dual ships (and lose one backup), which is generous.
Galaga ’88 is a stand-out vertical shooter from the late 1980s and is still well worth a play if you can find it now. It’s much more complex and interesting than it looks.
A faithful PC Engine conversion came out in 1989, and there were also X68000 and Sega Game Gear versions. It’s also available on Virtual Console too.
More: Galaga ’88 on Wikipedia