The Galaxian universe (ギャラクシアン, Galaxian) is a series of famous fixed shooters developed by Namco. The series revolves around the player in a spaceship who must shoot all of the enemies of an alien swarm. The second game in the series, Galaga, is among the most successful arcade games of all time.
The series was inspired by many other popular projects at the time. Director Kazunori Sawano previously worked on electro-mechanical shooting gallery games and wanted to make a game that could match the elaborate presentation those games were capable of. The presentation was also inspired by blockbuster science fiction films like Star Wars, particularly the large-scale space battles. Gameplay was inspired by Space Invaders, which had previously swept the world as the most popular arcade game of its day. While this new game was similar to Space Invaders, there were some fundamental differences to make it stand out. First was an improved presentation, including color graphics and synthesized sound, the game being among the earliest to use the latter. Enemies also swoop down and attack the player directly, with artificial intelligence programmed to examine the player’s movements and act accordingly. A sprite rendering system was also used, allowing for faster gameplay and more detailed graphics compared to the industry standard bitmap rendering system.
The game released in arcades on September 15, 1979 as Galaxian to critical and commercial success. Midway acquired the North American distribution rights as a response to losing the rights to Space Invaders, and it released on February 2, 1980 in that region. The game is often credited for revolutionizing video game development, particularly in how graphics are processed, as upcoming home consoles shifted to a sprite-based processor to save time and money. The game itself received many ports to home consoles and rereleases, often included in Namco game collections on modern hardware. A stage based on this game appeared in the arcade game Gorf, which was cut from console ports due to copyright issues. Namco also made a parody game in 1992 titled Cosmo Gang the Video, which is basically identical to its inspiration, but replaced the characters with the Cosmo Gang, a mascot group Namco was pushing at the time. The game was remade in a “miniature” format in 2000 on mobile phones titled Galaxian Mini.
A sequel was immediately put into production. Originally intended to be created on the same arcade board that powered Galaxian, developed shifted to a newer, more powerful architecture at some point. This sequel released in arcades July 23, 1981 as Galaga, and released internationally later that year. This game added several new features, including improved graphics and sound, more dynamic and complex enemy movement, and more power-ups to use, with some being secret. Galaga was also among the first games to have a proper bonus level; inspired by the intermissions in Pac-Man and a bug where they would travel off-screen to attack the player, the “Challenge Stage” was introduced and became a precursor to other bonus stages in a multitude of future titles. This game in particular became one of the most popular arcade titles ever made, spawning a sub-series of its own.
Also in 1981, American electronic company Entex Industries released an LCD game titled Galaxian 2. It is not an official sequel to the original Galaxian; the “2” is a reference to the two-player multiplayer mode built into the console.
A full sequel to Galaga released in 1984, titled Gaplus. While playing similar to its ancestors, some innovations include vertical movement, upgrades to make the player ship more powerful, and new bonus stages based on juggling the enemy as long as possible. Another sequel released in 1987 titled Galaga '88. Instead of endless levels until a game over, this game has several worlds with a set number of enemies, with different endings depending on the paths the player takes.
A particularly interesting entry in the series is Galaxian3: Project Dragoon. Originally released during the '90 Expo International Garden and Greenery Exposition, the game was a video game/theme park hybrid attraction that supported up to 28 simultaneous players. A version built for arcades was made in 1992 that kept the hybrid nature, but reduced capacity to 6 players. The game itself is a rail-shooter and acted as a fundamentally similar experience to previous entries, but from a first-person perspective. This game also received several direct sequels. The first was Attack of the Zolgear in 1994, which was a conversion kit for existing “Theatre 6” cabinets Namco created specifically for Galaxian3: Project Dragoon. Another sequel titled The Rising of Gourb released in 1996 as a bonus game for the PlayStation port of Galaxian3.
For the next several decades, truly original entries and sequels in the series were pumped out much less frequently, as the majority of entires have been adaptations, remakes, and collections of existing titles. Notable examples include the 1995 entry Namco Classic Collection Vol. 1, an updated version of Galaga with upgrades introduced in Gaplus and Galaga ‘88, another unrelated game titled Namco Museum Battle Collection released in 2005 as a different remake of Galaga with new powerups and boss fights, a 1996 crossover with the Gundam franchise titled SD Gundam Over Galaxian, a 2000 entry titled Galaga: Destination Earth that combines multiple types of shooting game style into one game, a 2008 twin-stick shooter titled Galaga Legions, its 2011 sequel Galaga Legions DX, and a crossover with the anime series Space Dandy titled Space Galaga.
Various elements from Galaxian appear in Super Smash Bros. 4, most notably the Boss Galaga item.
The Boss Galaxian "fruit" and tractor beam both reappear as part of Pac-Man's moveset, as do the three Namco Roulette cameos.
Boss Galaga also appears as a spirit.
Games with elements appearing in the Super Smash Bros. series
The Galaxian universe has games represented throughout the Super Smash Bros. series with a total of 3 games. The latest game represented in this universe is Gaplus, released on January 8, 1984.