Written by: AJ Ryan
Arcades have always lent themselves well to multiplayer gaming. Pong, since its inception in arcades in the 70s, pioneered the idea of multiplayer gaming in public. In time, arcade machines allowed for more than two players to play at once. In the 80s, Gauntlet allowed for up to four players on one arcade machine. In the 90s, X-Men allowed for up to six players on one arcade machine. If you asked most arcade fanatics in North America which arcade game supports the most players, they’d likely answer X-Men, as it supports six players around one machine. How could you possibly have more than six players on a single arcade machine? Well, Japan found a way. In 1990, Namco released Galaxian^3: Project Dragoon to Japanese arcades.
I know what you’re immediately thinking, what happened to Galaxian 2? Well, it doesn’t exist! My best guess is that Namco considers Galaga to be Galaxian 2, but yes, Galaxian 2 does not officially exist anywhere! There’s enough mystery surrounding the lack of a Galaxian 2 that I could possibly write a second article on its absence from the world, but for now, I’d like to discuss Galaxian^3.
So, Namco released Galaxian^3 to Japanese arcades. A departure for the series, Galaxian^3 was a Full-Motion Video (FMV) on-rails shooter. What’s so special about another space shooter then, especially one that’s an FMV game? Galaxian^3 supported up to 28 players. It had an entire theater designed like a spaceship built to contain its awesomeness. The seats were on hydraulics and reacted dynamically to what was going on in the game. Multiple projectors allowed for a 360 degree gaming experience like no other. Galaxian^3 wasn’t created just as a game, it was created as an experience. A pinnacle of early 90s futuristic design. Below is footage of the 16-Player version of Galaxian^3. Footage of the 28-Player version exists (on the same YouTube channel), but the quality of the footage is so poor, you’re much better off seeing the 16-Player version in action.
Galaxian^3 was located in the Tokyo theme park Wonder Eggs in all of its 28-Player glory. Was. Unfortunately, Wonder Eggs closed in 2000, and with its closure, ended operation of the only 28-Player and 16-Player Galaxian^3 machines in the world. The legendary 28-Player arcade game is lost, but not forgotten.
But worry not! There are still a few ways to play Galaxian^3 today. Namco created a 6-Player Galaxian^3 arcade machine that was distributed around the world, along with its sequel, Attack of the Zolgear. While not anywhere near as impressive as its predecessor, the Theater 6 version of Galaxian^3 still has the same gameplay and features of its lost predecessor. A few years ago, a Youtuber found a non-operational Galaxian^3: Attack of the Zolgear machine in the United States and was able to give a good overview of it.
If you’re not interested in hunting down arcade machines, you still have an option. Galaxian^3 was ported to the original PlayStation, however, it was only released in Japan and Europe. This version of the game supports widescreen, and is the version of the game I’m currently playing on my PSP. The PlayStation version does not include the new Attack of the Zolgear campaign, but does include the original Project Dragoon campaign and an exclusive The Rising of Gourb campaign. The easiest method of obtaining this game today would be to grab it off ebay or by creating a Japanese PSN account and buying the PSOne Classics version.
How is the PlayStation version then? It only supports up to four players, and I’m not entirely clear on its light-gun support, but it’s short. You can see everything the game has to offer in 20 minutes, as each campaign only takes 10 minutes to beat. Difficulty doesn’t matter, and while Widescreen support and AI partner options are cool, there just isn’t much game here. I appreciate the home port, but this game doesn’t lend itself well to the original PlayStation. I had fun while it lasted, so if you can find Galaxian^3 for the price of a movie ticket, definitely pick it up!
Galaxian^3 was ahead of its time. The lost 28-Player arcade game was short-lived, but I believe we haven’t seen the last of it. Virtual Reality is getting better every year, and Galaxian^3 would be a great classic game for Bandai Namco to revive for modern gaming systems. I can easily see a PSVR port with all three campaigns, 28-Player online, and leaderboards flying off the digital, infinite shelves. Galaxian^3’s legacy must not end at a Wonder Eggs, for it has so much more to give to the world.
What are some of your favorite arcade experiences? Found any arcade machine oddities you're dying to talk about? Let us know in the comments below!