Sunday, December 20, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Galaxy Force

Retro Game of the Day! Galaxy Force

Galaxy Force by Sega, original arcade release in 1988 and ported to the 8-Bit Sega Master System a year later, and then to the Sega Genesis in 1991 (and several subsequent systems years later).

Let's face it - back in the 1980s, Sega meant serious business when it came to their arcade operation. They put out no shortage of above-average standard coin-op fare, but they really stole the show time and again with their deluxe units. Space Harrier, Thunder Blade, After Burner, Outrun, Hang-On - each was available in a super deluxe version in addition to the normal uprights, and these deluxe machines were breathtaking. For years, one machine dominated the others amongst them - Galaxy Force!

Essentially a souped-up version of After Burner in space - sort of - Galaxy Force was a feast for the senses. Sega obviously poured lots of money into the tech and hardware of this one, and it was an immersive experience unlike anything else available at the time. That is, if you could actually find a unit to play!

The game was not anything particularly deep, just another behind-the-ship space blaster. Dodge enemy fire, fire your thrusters, launch missiles, try to prevent your shield from depletion - all in a day's work. You'd enter mazelike enemy fortifications and manuever through dangerously tight corridors. It was tense, it was rewarding, it was the king, baby!

The game was ported of course, it was one of the short-list of 4-Megabit carts to appear on Sega's 8-Bit home console. Not much to write home about, as of course there were literally worlds of difference between the home version and what was possible with the full arcade experience - still, for the time, it was a fun title in its condensed presentation.

A couple of years later, a new Sega console released and with it, upgraded versions of their big arcade hits slowly trickled out to be more beefily-represented at home once again, with the power of the new hardware behind them. Games like Hang On, Space Harrier II and Super Monaco GP all made rather impressive debuts on the new Genesis/Megadrive console - when Galaxy Force was announced as coming down the pipe, it was certainly cause to raise a brow.

Unfortunately, the 16-Bit Genesis version landed with quite a thud rather than a sonic boom. The game seemed pooped out, stripped down to a very skeletal state - much of what made the arcade experience so remarkable was gone, leaving a bare shell of a game. Still playable, and not what one would consider an outright failure - but they definitely phoned this in. A shame!

In spite of Galaxy Force's seemingly ruined legacy, the game is still remembered and loved to this day by those who were lucky enough to enjoy the proper arcade monster during its heyday. It's seen re-releases on the Sega Saturn (which still wasn't an appropriate port!) and much more recently on the Sony PlayStation2. In fact, I really need to see about picking up an import of that someday - I've never had the opportunity to really put the game through its paces, and it still looks pretty gorgeous even today.

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