Version tested: Xbox 360
It's funny to look back on Kristan's review of the original Galaga, back when it plopped onto Live Arcade. Released in the middle of the 360's post-launch games drought, it was yet another retro arcade game shovelled online without much passion or care, and nobody was particularly surprised.
Now we're all giddy from the avalanche of quality released on Live Arcade over the last few weeks, it's sobering to think that once upon a time we were supposed to be grateful to wake up to a crappy port of New Rally-X on a Wednesday morning. But Microsoft's download chute has made giant retro leaps since then. Capcom has started producing proper remakes of its best-loved games, and Namco has gone from being one of the main culprits in the shovelware scandal to one of the best examples of how old games can be updated for today's gamers.
Case in point: Pac-Man Championship Edition, which retained everything we know and love about the wakka-wakka fellow yet completely revitalised the gameplay with shrewd tweaks. The same team has now turned its attention to Galaga, and while the result isn't quite as surprising, it's a ferociously addictive and forward-thinking shoot-'em-up that is still unmistakably a part of the Galaxian/Galaga family tree.
The basics are still the same - you pilot a lone spaceship against waves of Galagan aliens. It's still a single-screen game - this is not a vertical scroller - and everything from the graphics to the sound has been painstakingly chosen to evoke classic arcade memories without being a slave to nostalgia. Even all the tweaks and additions to the gameplay have their roots in elements of Galaga games past, just cleverly reworked, reinvented or turned upside-down to better extract the gooey gameplay goodness inside.
The biggest change is the addition of two detachable satellites, which can be dropped into the playfield using the right stick and instantly recalled with the left shoulder bumper. They fire when you do, and as you can face them in different directions they soon become a vital strategic component of the gameplay. Between your guns and theirs, you can create inescapable killzones - or leave yourself horribly exposed. Swirling blue lines show you the flight paths of incoming Galaga waves, while orange reticules give you a split-second warning as to where they'll appear. Success, then, becomes a relentlessly fast-paced scramble to place your satellites where they can cause maximum damage to incoming attacks, while moving yourself into a better firing position, out of danger, or some nail-biting combination of the two.