The Game: The Galaxian/Galaga saga continues! You control a solo space fighter against unending hordes of alien attackers who dive, weave, and evade your fire, while trying to nail your ship with their own shots. But one of the aliens is hauling precious cargo: a device used to generate a tractor beam. In Galaga, the aliens used this weapon to capture and control your own fighters, using them against you. Now you can turn the tables by destroying the alien ferrying this precious piece of technology (but don’t shoot the device itself!). You’ll be able to capture an entire row of alien ships, using all of them to fire simultaneously at the next wave of attackers. If alien fire destroys one of your captured ships, the others, and your ship, survive; if they manage to draw a bead on your own fighter, however, all bets are off. (Namco, 1984)
Memories: This sequel to Galaga was titled Gaplus in Japan (and in its limited original release in the U.S., if I’m not mistaken). In an attempt to draw more attention to it by tying it to a familiar property, Namco rechristened the sequel Galaga 3 for widespread American distribution. Whatever you call it (I tend to remember it as Gaplus myself), it’s a very difficult game.
The aliens move with lightning speed in this game, and the kamikaze dive that nailed so many of us in Galaga often happens in this one with even less warning.
The graphics show signs of refinement since the game’s 1981 forebear; the starfields move very fluidly, and the alien enemies are given colorful shadings that are light-years away from the flat, 2-D characters in the original Galaga.
The challenging stage from Galaga also appears here, but in a very different form. A smaller number of aliens dives into view, and you must shoot them long enough without destroying them to spell out the word “BONUS,” hit by hit. It’s not as easy as it may sound…
By 1984, there was virtually no home video game industry to pay any attention to Gaplus/Galaga 3. The original Galaga itself wasn’t even ported to a home platform until 1987 with the Atari 7800 and NES versions. Therefore, it was quite a long while before Gaplus escaped its coin-op cabinet. Eleven years, actually – Namco included Gaplus with several other games as part of their second volume of Namco Museum emulations for the Sony Playstation in 1995; that volume, sadly, has become the most difficult to find of the five collections in that series.