TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Gaplus’ is more than a ‘Galaga’ sequel – it’s a worthy challenge
One of the coolest things about owning a game shop is hearing about a customer’s all-time favorite game – and the fact that sometimes it’s a game often regarded as not just tough, but ultra tough. Gamers can have a love/hate relationship with some of their games and, for yours truly, we’re going to look at one of the more frustratingly fun video games in my list of favorites today, one that isn’t for everyone, but rewards those who take on its challenge.
Let’s blast some big bugs in the Namco arcade game “Gaplus!”
“Gaplus” (arcade, 1984)
The eclectic fury that is “Gaplus” begins with a nonstop blast of sound that is both intergalactic and totally ‘80s arcade in every way. The flurry of shots from your ship as they collide with the alien bugs attacking it, the rewarding sound of a power-up, and the fun of each and every bonus round all create this crescendo of nostalgia that is instantly embedded in you after just a few turns.
“Gaplus,” later renamed “Galaga 3” to increase name recognition, also has one of the most ominous tunes in classic arcade action that lets you know when the difficulty is about to amp up and the mood is about to change.
“Gaplus” isn’t anything too flashy, but it definitely ups the ante from what we were used to in the original “Galaga.” Everything appears a bit more futuristic, showing almost maturity in the universe in which “Galaga” took place. You feel really small in this galaxy of alien bugs, fending them off to the best of your ability.
This increases with the flashes and explosions during the action, the space you operate in with stars, sometimes just coasting through, other times – when the game really tests you – flying back at you and, of course, your enemies, some of them among the most pesky in the series’ history, with just enough detail to discern them from each other. It all creates this unique atmosphere you want to come back to again and again.
Let’s not mince words here. “Gaplus” is one of the toughest games of its kind you will ever play. The original “Galaga” is made to look like a kid’s game in comparison.
Don’t get me wrong – the addition of power-ups, most notably the ability to suck up enemies and use them as extra firepower, certainly seems like it would make the game a lot easier. But this is just one of the examples of how “Gaplus” lures you in with this false sense of security because, sure, having three or four extra aliens to fire back at their brood may seem like a nice thing but, most of the time, this makes you more vulnerable to an attack, with most of your extra help being wiped out quick. Your enemies are not just fast – they get more and more dangerously speedy in each level with the, as I like to call them, “ominous ‘Jaws’-ish theme” levels being the most bloodthirsty.
So what keeps someone playing “Gaplus” if it is this tough? Because it is a challenge you look forward to, one that harkens back to the days when you’d beg one of your parents for just one more quarter or some dollars to go get more tokens to play because “Gaplus” is an experience. The fact that it misleads you into thinking it’s going to be a cakewalk, or at least a mountain you can climb, is what makes it that much more than just a follow-up to “Galaga.”
In 2018, you can call yourself a true arcade gamer, a real shoot ‘em up master, and “Gaplus” will still humble you – and quick.
If there’s any downside to “Gaplus, it would be its availability to play. Sure, it can be played via the ol’ Wii Shop Channel, or you can plop down $30 for a copy of “Namco Museum Volume 2” on the PlayStation 1 (this is the most rare of all volumes and includes “Gaplus” and other arcade classics you don’t always come across in arcades), but I still prefer taking a daytrip up to Binghamton, New York’s own Robot City Games to enjoy this beauty on an original cabinet. If you’re a fan of “Galaga” and games like it, I encourage you to do the same.
Well, that does it for me. Next week, I’ll finish up the month with the third installment of a popular beat ‘em up series on the Super Nintendo – “Final Fight 3!”
Until then, take care, line up those quarters and, as always, game on!