Galaga is an updated Galaxian and features new look and new abilities. The enemies now fly in, in a swarm like birds and like before come down and attack. The enemy can also capture the players ship. However the ship can come back after being defeated.
Galaga is one of the most iconic games of the early 1980s and has arguably surpassed the original in mainstream recognition.
Galaga plays similarly to Galaxian, but with multiple additional features. At the start of each round, the enemies fly into the stage to create the formation. The player is able to shoot down the enemies before they get into formation. In the first round, the enemies do not fire while getting into formation but do fire from round 2 onwards. The player earns more points depending on whether they are in formation or moving, though unlike Galaxian, the flying score is fixed regardless of position. The player is also able to fire two shots at a time, as opposed to Galaxian's one.
There are three types of enemies. The blue and yellow Mako/Bees are the most common. Rather than exiting from the bottom of the screen and reappearing at the top like other enemies, the mako will often loop around from the bottom to try and destroy the ship from the bottom. The goei/butterflies are red and white enemies that function like the enemies in Galaxian. The Boss Galaga/Galaxian Commanders can take two hits, turning from green to purple on the first hit. They can also use a tractor beam to capture the player's ship. If successful, they will fly to the top of the screen with the ship. If the player has at least one remaining life, they can attempt to shoot the Boss Galaga to free the ship. If successful, the captured ship will link up with the current ship, allowing for double the firepower. If one of the ships is hit in this state, it will be destroyed, but leave the other ship running.
Stage 3 and each 4th stage afterwards is a "Challenging Stage." In the Challenging Stages, the enemies do not fire, but fly in elaborate formations. If the player is able to hit them all, they will be awarded bonus points. At the end of the game, the game will count how many times the player fired, how many times the shots hit and calculate a hit-miss percentage.
Galaga was the first arcade game by Namco to use the Namco Galaga system board. However, the game was initially planned to use the Namco Galaxian board. In a 2011 interview published by Bandai Namco, designer Shigeru Yokoyama said that the reason that Galaga began life on the Galaxian board was simply due to the large amount of available Galaxian boards. He further states that a working prototype was made on a Namco Galaxian board, but R&D engineer (and future Namco president) Shigeichi Ishimura decided that the game deserved to debut a new arcade board. This would help to separate Galaga from the increasing amount of Galaxian imitators.
Many of the game's unique features were considerably different during the development. In that same 2011 interview, Yokoyama stated he was inspired by an unknown sci-fi movie to include a tractor beam. Originally, the player would score an extra life by saving the captured ship from the Boss Galaga, but in order to separate it from other extra life tricks in contemporary games, he decided to add the twin ship. Yokoyama also wanted a feature similar to Rally-X’s bonus stages. Programmer Tetsu Ogawa called him over to discuss a glitch where the enemies would stop firing. Yokoyama thought the idea of a stage where the player could shoot down tons of ships without the risk of being attacked was fun, and thus created the Challenging Stage. Ogawa would further help by lending code from another one of his projects to add more than one flight pattern to the stage.
Yet another innovation presented by Galaga came not with software, but with hardware. The late 70s and early 80s saw the renaissance of “cocktail cabinets.” These were low tables with embedded monitors, named for the fact that you could easily set beverages on the table. Galaga did not invent the cocktail cabinet, which was already widespread at the time, as Namco had already released cocktail cabinets of such games as Pac-Man & Galaxian. However, those cocktail cabinets had awkward control layouts, where the joystick and buttons were on the side of the cabinet. Yokoyama thought it would be a wise idea to put the controls on a horizontal panel instead. Namco’s managers loved the new idea, while the executives hated it, believing they’d never sell. The managers stood their ground and the cocktail version Galaga had the panel, which was subsequently adopted by other manufacturers.
Though considered a classic, Galaga has multiple infamous glitches.
Galaga has a kill screen. Reaching Level 256 (Labelled Level 0) will have different effects depending on difficulty. On the lowest difficulty, the game will reset. On Medium difficulty, a "Challenging Stage" will play, except the enemies’ fire. On Hard mode, the stage never begins and the ship is left at the title forever. On the hardest difficulty, Stage 1 repeats but with the firing patterns of Stage 255.
In any given stage, shoot all the ships except one of the bee-shaped ones on the far left. Now, avoid hitting the enemy until it passes the screen 4 times without shooting, which can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. This is most easily done by sticking to the right corner. Once this occurs, the enemies will stop firing until the player loses all their lives. It is possible that this is the glitch that inspired the Challenging Stage.
It is possible to get a 200% ratio. Immediately when the game starts, fire one shot. If timed just right, it will hit 2 enemies at once. Then, lose all lives. When the Hit-Miss ratio comes up, it will say 200%. This glitch is in several versions of the game, including the NES, Sharp X1, Game Boy, Namco Museum Vol. 1, Namco Museum 64 & Namco Museum Game Boy Advance versions. The MSX version has the double kill, but it only counts as one hit and a 100% ratio. The SG-1000 version has the double kill, but does not show your ratio at the end of the game. The Atari 7800 version does not have the double kill at all.
During the demo, a Boss Galaga will use its tractor beam to capture the ship. When the beam starts, the player can take control and either let the ship be captured or destroy the Boss Galaga. Doing the latter causes some enemies to freeze, allowing for easy shots on them. However, after 20 seconds, the game will crash and reboot.