Galaxian (ギャラクシアン) is an arcade game that was developed by Namco and released in October 1979. It was published by Namco in Japan and imported to North America by Midway that December. A vertical scrolling shooter game in which the player controls a spaceship at the bottom of the screen, and shoots enemies descending in various directions, it was designed to compete with Taito's successful earlier game Space Invaders (which was released in the previous year, and also imported to the US by Midway).
The game was highly popular for Namco upon its release, and has been a focus of competitive gaming ever since.
It was ported to the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Bally Astrocade, Nintendo Famicom, and home computers.
It spawned a successful sequel, Galaga, in 1981, and the lesser known Gaplus and Galaga '88 in 1984 and 1987 respectively, as well as many later ports and adaptations. Along with its immediate sequel, it was one of the most popular games during the golden age of arcade video games.
Originally released in 1979, Galaxian was one of the early arcade games that is still considered a classic. Developed by Namco and released by Midway, it is a vertical scrolling shooter arcade game, and is characteristic of the genre, which was created by the release of Space Invaders a year earlier.
Galaxian stays true to the formula established by Space Invaders, in that you control a spaceship at the bottom of the screen and must destroy groups of ships at the top of the screen by means of shooting. The main gameplay addition offered by Galaxian to the Space Invaders formula is the kamikaze like behavior of enemy ships. The rate of shooting is relatively slow, however your weapon is reloaded immediately upon a successful hit. Once a wave is conquered, another one, with increased difficulty, would replace it.
Galaxian was a technical breakthrough in several ways. It was the first game to use fully RGB color graphics. It also offered multi-colored animated sprites (including explosions), a tilemap layer, vertical scrolling background, theme music, background music, representative icons to indicate number of lives left, and individual AI routines for the enemies. While not all brand new additions to video games, Galaxian's use of them would influence game development for years to come. Its Namco Galaxian hardware was used by many developers during the arcade golden age.
The game was considered a success and spawned the even more successful sequel, Galaga, in 1981. Galaxian's success drove the development of several versions for various home consoles, and can found collected in various Namco Museum collections for modern day consoles.
Galaxian expanded on the formula pioneered by Space Invaders. As in the earlier game, Galaxian features a horde of attacking aliens that exchanged shots with the player. In contrast to Space Invaders, Galaxianadded an element of drama by having the aliens periodically make kamikaze-like dives at the player's ship, the Galaxip. This made it the first game to feature enemies with individual personalities. The game's plot consists of a title screen that displayed the message "WE ARE THE GALAXIANS / MISSION: DESTROY ALIENS".
Galaxian was very successful for Namco and introduced several "firsts". Although not the first color video game, Galaxian took RGB color graphics a step further with multi-colored animated sprites and explosions, different colored fonts for the score and high score, the vertical scrolling starfield, and graphic icons that show the number of lives left and how many stages the player had completed. It also features a crude theme song and more prominent background music/sound effects. These elements combine to create a look and feel that would set the standard for arcade games in the 1980s such as Pac-Man.
The objective is destroy endless 'waves' of enemies. The enemy ships are arranged in a formation at the top of the screen. At regular intervals enemy ships on the sides of the formation swoop down and shoot at the player. There are 4 different types of enemy ship, each type behaves differently on its attacking run.
The player must destroy all ships in a wave to complete it. With a minor exception that one yellow ship may dissappear after a bombing run and will appear as an extra yellow ship in the following wave. The yellow ships attack in a formation with two red ships, the order these three are destroyed determines the points awarded for destroying the yellow. The maximum is 800 points if the two reds are destoyed first. Once a wave has been completed a red flag is added to the bottom of the screen. When 10 flags are accumulated they are replaced by a larger flag.
The player has 3 lives at the beginning of the game. A bonus life is awarded when the player reaches a score of 7000 points. Once all lives have been lost the game ends. The player can only have one shot on screen at one time. This means if the player misses he must wait until the shot leaves the top of the screen to fire again. This makes accuracy very important.
The current world record score for Galaxian is 1,653,270 points.
Development and Release
The game was developed by Namco in 1979, and released in Japan that year. It was designed to build and improve upon the formula of Taito's game Space Invaders, which revolutionized the gaming industry upon its release a year earlier. Galaxian incorporated new technology into its dedicated arcade system board, the Namco Galaxian. Unlike Space Invaders, which was black & white and featured enemies that could only move vertically and horizontally as they descended, Galaxian had a color screen and enemies that descended in patterns and came from various directions. The result was more complex and difficult game play.
In 1980, Namco partnered with the American company Midway to release the game in North America. Midway had previously published Space Invaders in the market, but had to seek new foreign partners when Taito decided to market their games themselves.
Reception of Ports
Home Computing Weekly in 1983 gave the Spectrum version of Galaxian 3/5 stars describing it as a well-written version and praising the graphics as fast although flickery. Softline in 1983 criticized the Atari 8-bit version of the game for being shipped on cartridge, which raised its cost, and stated that "this game becomes tedious very quickly". Famicom Tsūshin in 1995 scored the Game Boy version of the game a 24 out of 40.
Galaxian has spawned several follow-up games. The most popular of these was its immediate successor, Galaga, which largely eclipsed its predecessor in popularity, introducing aliens attacking in intricate formations, multiple shots, and bonus stages. A third official sequel, Gaplus, was released in 1984. As with Galaga, this was a fixed shooter, with limited vertical movement. However, by 1984, the novelty of the Space Invaders formula had faded, and it was no longer successful. A fourth sequel, Galaga '88, was released in 1987, and imported to North America by Atari Games. Namco then released Galaxian 3 in 1990. A final sequel, Galaga Arrangement, was released as part of the Namco Classic Collection Vol. 1, in 1995.
The original arcade version of Galaxian has been ported to many different systems. These include:
Coleco also released stand-alone Mini-Arcade tabeletop versions of Galaxian, which, along with Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Frogger, sold three million units combined. A port for the Game Boy Color was planned, but never released.
Moon Alien Part 2
Nichibutsu released a modified version of this game for the arcades as Moon Alien Part 2. Besides the graphics, the only main difference between this and Galaxian is the inclusion of an energy meter that drains with every second the player spends clearing a wave. If the player doesn't clear the wave before running out of energy, the ship is destroyed.
Main: Galaxian (franchise)
Galaxian was one of the most widely pirated motherboards during the early '80s. Numerous hacks were made of the game and featured slightly redesigned enemy characters and special bonus stages. The scrolling starfield and death explosion were still familiar as those from Galaxian, however. These hacks include: Galaxian Part 4, Galaxian Part X, Galaxian Turbo, and Super Galaxians.
- Galaxian³ (1990) - Galaxian³: Project Dragoon (Theatre 6) for six players on two 110-inch RGB projectors - 18-foot-wide (5.5 m) screen
- Attack of the Zolgear (1994) - a ROM and laserdisc upgrade for Galaxian³