Released December 12, 2013 / $5.99
Version Reviewed: 3DS
Original Release: Arcade / 1988
Of all the games in the Sega 3D Classics line, Galaxy Force II was the one I was most excited for. While I love Space Harrier, Shinobi III, Streets of Rage, etc., those are all games I’m very familiar with. Galaxy Force II however, is the only Sega 3D Classic I had never played. After reading the Hardcore Gaming 101 article on the series, I desperately wanted to check it out, but didn’t want to settle for the Genesis port, or fork over the cash to import the PS2 Sega Ages Collection (and a PS2 to play it on) from Japan. Thankfully, the arcade version of the game has been released for a system I own (3DS) at an insanely good price ($5.99), with a plethora of options and improvements (we’ll get to those).
When I booted up 3D Galaxy Force II for the first time, I knew my hype was not misplaced. I jumped into the options first, and as expected from the series, the menu was an embarrassment of riches. The difficulty can be tweaked in a variety of ways from shield level, energy timer rate, amount of energy, and a general 1-4 star difficulty selection. With everything on the easiest settings, you can breeze through the game in the amount of time it takes to cook a frozen pizza, destroying bosses in seconds and never seeing a game over screen. But the almost limitless combination of difficulty options give you plenty of ways to challenge yourself during subsequent playthroughs. As in previous Sega 3D Classics, there are quite a few screen options, from simple and clean widescreen to views that frame the screen in a simulation of the arcade cabinet (multiple versions of the cabinet, in fact). Poking around in the options even revealed Circle Pad Pro support, a peripheral that I had completely forgotten existed until seeing it here.
It’s shocking how incredible Galaxy Force II looks for a game from 1988. Granted, it was on $26,000+ hardware, but it really is visually stunning. The detailed sprites are gorgeous, the inviting interstellar locales are varied, the frame rate is as smooth as any Super Scaler game, and the colors are as vivid as you’d expect from late-80s Sega. The additions of a 16:9 widescreen mode and well-executed 3D make this version a spectacle to behold, even over 25 years removed from the original release. Another throwback to its original era is the soundtrack (available digitally on Amazon), which is melodic synth-pop and pretty much exactly what you want for this type of game (although the excessive amount of bass guitar can grate slightly).
While Galaxy Force II sports some impressive production values, it also has the gameplay chops to back them up. The controls are simple and intuitive (L to speed up, R to slow down, Y to fire lasers, B to fire missiles- all customizable in the options, of course) and everything just “feels right” when you play. Whether you are maneuvering through tight corridors, locking onto a batch of enemies then launching a barrage of missiles, or simply gunning down foes with your lasers- every action in Galaxy Force II is responsive and satisfying; culminating in an exhilarating experience that you feel in total control of.
Galaxy Force II follows Space Harrier and After Burner in an impressive lineage that impacts some of the greatest Sega games of all time. From Rez-esque psychedelic tunnels to a satisfying lock-on system perfected in Panzer Dragoon, Galaxy Force II contains the DNA that would eventually spread through Sega’s rail shooters. While not Sega’s best known 80s arcade game, Galaxy Force II is definitely one of their best. The version presented here is crafted with care and reverence for the original that comes through in every moment of the game, from the options to the end credits. While I wish I would have had a chance to experience Galaxy Force II at its release, it’s a testament to both the quality of the original and M2’s brilliant port that I am so enamored with this release. I’m grateful for the opportunity to finally play Galaxy Force II, and in such a convenient, affordable, and extraordinary package.