Many of you probably remember the original Galaga arcade game from the days of yore. This fast-paced shooter was essentially a more frantic version of Space Invaders, but its furious raids of looping enemy ships convinced a generation of players to keep pumping in the quarters. Now Hasbro has brought this classic title back from the grave with Galaga: Destination Earth. While Destination Earth has a lot in common with the original, few - if any - upgrades have been incorporated besides the typical graphical transformation into polygonal 3D.
There are three different types of levels in Galaga: Destination Earth. Thankfully, the classic top-down 2D gameplay is one of them. Side-scrolling levels similar to Irem's R-Type are also included, along with completely new 3D levels where your ship flies directly into the screen much like those seen in Nintendo's Star Fox. In all three variations, Galaga manages to retain the core gameplay from the original. The aliens fly onto the screen in formations that culminate at a turning point. Constantly battering this point with your blasters is the key to wiping out dozens of aliens at once. Like the original, certain aliens will come down and emit a tractor beam that will suck your ship up into its vortex. If it's your last ship, then it's game over. If not, you can take out the ship holding yours captive with your next fighter and be awarded with double firepower once your original returns to you. It's both impressive and disappointing that, no matter which camera angle Galaga is played in, the same gameplay mechanics have been retained. Unfortunately, in this century, it's not nearly enough.
There are nine levels to play through, and each one is broken up into seven or eight stages. As you play through the game, the perspective switches throughout each stage. Sometimes you're required to swat as many aliens as possible during a given time limit, while at other times your duties include stopping missile launches or activating aqueducts. One of Galaga's major issues is that the shooting techniques are very basic. There are no high-powered weapons to pick up, and there are no secondary functions for the blaster that your ship is equipped with. This ultimately results in a sore thumb and boredom. About the only reprieve is a brief period where you sit in a turret and blast the aliens from a first-person perspective.
Galaga's gameplay can be a focal point of frustration. Like the original Galaga, the aliens will loop around your ship just before returning to the top of the screen. Since the game is 3D, the aliens often fly offscreen - only to return and smash into your spacecraft when you have no chance of avoiding it. Another point of annoyance is the fact that there is just too much going on at once. This, in itself, really isn't an issue. The problem is that your ship often blinds you to head-on attacks, resulting in your ship taking hits that you may not have even seen coming. Compounding things even further, there is no save feature. You get three continues, and once they're used up, you must start from the beginning again. The lack of two-player support is also puzzling, considering the option was present in the original arcade game released decades ago.
Galaga: Destination Earth isn't exactly visual splendor personified. Objects often pop out of a thick blanket of fog so quickly that they catch you off guard. After you complete each stage, the computer takes control of your ship while the camera darts around it. The problem is that your ship still takes damage during this time, and the computer isn't exactly Mario Andretti while it has control. When the action slows down, polygon seams rear their ugly heads, and some texture flickering takes place as well. There is also a significant amount of slowdown when the screen is flooded with enemies. Additionally, there are only a few different variations of enemy ship, and the camera is usually zoomed so far out that it's difficult to tell one from another. In Galaga's defense, each of the nine levels is completely unique with its own texture set. You have the opportunity to fly over a lava planet, along the moon's surface, and through open space.
Of all the old-school to 3D remakes, Galaga: Destination Earth may be the most uninspired. It fails to build upon an already simplistic premise and opts instead to stick with a formula that made it popular almost 20 years ago. While it can be fun at times, there are so many annoying gameplay issues that the overlying feeling of hindrance is difficult to shirk. While old Galaga fans will appreciate the 3D upgrade, even they will grow tired of Destination Earth after a few hours. If you're looking for a great PlayStation shooter in this style, pick up Einhander and forget about this one.