There’s a sense of profound satisfaction when you make it through one of Galak-Z‘s mission. It’s not only because they are difficult and thrilling to play, but also because everything is on the line all the time. One death means complete and utter failure in Galak-Z, and unlike any game I might have happened to play recently, the burden of loss is always at its highest whenever I’m out among the dangers of space.
But before getting in all the drama of my personal battles within the game, it bears mentioning what it’s all about. Galak-Z is molded after classic 1980s space soap animes like Macross/Robotech and Gundam, in which the odds are always gigantically against the heroes and the cheese is at an all time high. It plays that so well that it might as well have been one back in the day, with colorful ships, characters and worlds to explore, or in this game’s case, the void of space and its many, many dangers.
Speaking of dangers, Galak-Z is absolutely chock full of it. In fact, it’s the constant feeling of dread that permeates throughout the entirety of this game that makes it so unique to play. Surely there have been other games in the past that evoked the same sort of feeling each time your character dies and thus loses everything he or she did up to that point, but Galak-Z plays that to an even higher level because everything you do in the game is completely random.
That random element also helps keep the game fresh each time you jump into it. There’s a logical progression to it, with each episode in a season introducing stronger and more varied enemy types, as well as upgrades for your ship. Luckily, a handful of these ship improvements can be carried over to your next game, at a cost, in the form of blueprints. Actual ship parts that you pick up, though, are lost when you ‘game over’, forcing you to find them all over again at the start of a new session.
Then again, restarting things is where the fun in these games come from. Namely, gradually learning every enemy’s tells and weaknesses is what turns out to be experience points, and in that regard, Galak-Z is fantastically put together. While it’s extremely easy to put yourself in a pinch right at the outset, you’ll be rewarded for your patience in exploring each of its mission maps and slowly building up your arsenal.
All the while, it’s fun to get in over your head from time to time. Space is a dangerous place to be, and some of the foes that hide within it are incredibly powerful and fun to fight against. And the more powerful your ship becomes, it’ll obviously help you clear out weaker enemies faster, as well as keeping bigger baddies at bay. Still, you’re bound to run into trouble from time to time, and not all fights are worth jumping into, warranting a quick escape if you can manage it.
Control-wise, you’re given practically full range over your ship in space. Thrust is relegated to your controller’s triggers, and much like Asteroids and the laws of gravity (or lack there of) movement is continual as you thrust forward or back, which gives you room to make some incredibly cool moves or be extremely dumb and put yourself in unneeded pinches. The same goes for your weaponry, which isn’t restocked in between missions, forcing you to be precise and conservative with your bombs and such.
There’s an undeniable charm to Galak-Z thanks to how it was so thoughtfully put together by 17-bit. Be it the little character portrait on screen that reacts to each and every movement in your ship to the dumb one-liners during combat, it’s clear that a lot of love has gone into its presentation and refinement. Fans of that particular generation of animation and comics are bound to have a special blast with Galak-Z, and those looking for a challenge will find it most certainly to their liking. It’s been a long wait to get it into our consoles and an even longer one for PC (which is still to come), but damn, it’s been worth it. Games like this are few and far between, so get into it while the going is good.