Review by Lebowski1
A star shining magnificently at the heart of the fighting game galaxy
Imagine an arcade, dark and noisy. The usual plethora of wheel and/or gun games presides, as do a few of the higher profile fighting game franchises. And yet the largest crowd is gathered around an inconspicuous little cabinet tucked away in the corner. The group howl and shriek in unison as a highly competitive match unfolds before them. You are drawn towards the group, wondering which game is provoking such intense reaction. It is difficult to see beyond the writhing heads and shoulders, but you catch glimpses of the game, of bizarre characters throwing powerful fighting techniques in front of fantastical scenery. And then the match is over, and two immortal words thunder from the lips of all present:
Sadly, the above is a fictional account of how I first encountered this game. Indeed, despite the Neo Geo being a popular format for arcades during the 90s, Galaxy Fight was not a popular game. But ever since picking up the Saturn version I have been a fan, more so now than ever (since I have been playing some competitive player-vs-player sessions).
The thing about Galaxy Fight is that for many of the defining aspects of a fighting game, it does the absolute minimum required. For instance, there are only 8 playable characters, these characters only utilise three buttons (light, medium, and hard attacks), and while these characters have regular and special moves, there are no super moves to be found anywhere. However, Galaxy Fight innovates with several features, giving it a surprising amount of depth.
First and most obvious is that the stages lack corners. This is often held up as the primary innovation brought to the genre by Galaxy Fight, but in fact it is only a natural extension of what truly gives the game its own unique style: the mechanics for running (or dashing, to use the fighting game nomenclature). The radical thing about it is that dashes give attacks a sliding property. So if you dash, and then throw a punch, your character slides forward while punching, gaining some extra range for their attack. Not only this, but dashing attacks also do more damage generally, and even do a small amount when blocked (chip damage, something usually reserved only for special attacks). Dashes also add a massive amount to a characters jump range too. And so, in a game so focussed on running and leaping great distances, it makes sense to remove corners, preventing the flow of the game being ruined by the player bumping into them.
The other major gameplay mechanic present in Galaxy Fight is the ability of special attacks to be executed during block-stun. This effectively introduces a counter system to the game. For instance, if you are absolutely sure that your opponent is going to unleash an attack, you can block it and then immediately execute your special move, which has a good chance of catching your opponent during their recovery frames. There is tremendous amount of depth to this considering the fact that the speed, range, and hitbox details of both the attacking and countering move will influence the outcome of every specific instance of this occurring.
Another strength is the games setting, and subsequent character design and art direction. Galaxy Fight takes place during a (you guessed it) Galaxy-wide fighting tournament being held by a god-like being known as Felden. This means that the fighters come from different planets throughout this (unnamed) solar system, giving them each a highly unique look, style and home stage. The cast is not exactly balanced, but most of the characters will have at least a fighting chance.
The least effective character is Alvan, who is a thousands-of-years old being with the appearance of a 12 year old boy. The problem for poor Alvan is that he is a fireball specialist in a game where fireballs are very weak. They do low damage, are small, and can even be negated simply by being hit. However he has an impressive variety of ground, anti-air, and air-to-air fireballs, a strong counter move, and a power-up mode he can activate when low on health.
Next worst is the robot character, Musafa. He is the less effective of the two tank characters. One problem for him is that all characters in Galaxy Fight take the same amount of damage. Perhaps if his resilience was improved he would fare better. As it stands, he is a big, slow, clumsy target, however his fireball is comparatively very good.
Gunther is similar to Musafa, but this giant lizard-man has a moveset more fitting for such a large character. He has two very powerful grapple moves, a shoulder barge, and even flame breath (which does impressive damage even to blocking opponents). He is still probably too slow to be a higher-tier character, but he is certainly competitive.
Golden Done is a mysterious being, again purportedly thousands of years old, but with the appearance of a street criminal (think Bloods and Crips). He has some spectacular aerial moves, and a roll which enables him to entirely bypass attacks and unleash one of his 6(!) throw moves. Sadly these all do the same amount of damage, but one of them has potential for an infinite loop if you can get the timing right (not sure this really works properly though).
As we enter the top half of the characters, we meet Kazuma, a space ninja. Yes, a ninja. From space. He is every bit as awesome as that sounds! He is something of an all-rounder with a great fireball, a good quick counter move, nice combos, and even a very powerful grappling technique. His dragon punch is one of his moves which utilises his sword and is thus very powerful, but tends to lose in trades to a lot of moves, and he struggles to do big damage safely.
And now the furries out there can rejoice as we meet Roomi, a rabbit-human hybrid. This buxom monstrosity specialises in powerful punch combination moves, impressive jump height, and a tremendous aerial dive move (with full start-up invincibility). Her crouching medium kick is one of the fastest moves in the game, but is not cancellable into special moves (unlike her lightning fast jab rabbit punches). Her specials are very strong, but can lead her vulnerable to heavy counter-attack if not used correctly.
In second place I would vouch for Rolf, an arrogant space hero whose physical abilities are augmented by a special space suit. He possesses the very best dragon punch type attack of the regular characters. It is not as powerful as Kazumas, but if timed correctly it will beat almost any other attack. He has a jetpack which provides him with a double jump, a laser pistol for both high and low shots, but his best move is the Striking Napalm. This is an incredibly powerful medium-range beam weapon. It is a little slow to come out, but if Rolf can catch anyone in the air with his standing medium (uppercut), the opponent will be put in a juggle state and will land on a follow-up Striking Napalm. Because the stages lack corners, juggle combinations are difficult to execute in Galaxy Fight, and Rolfs is by far the best one I have found.
The best regular character in the game would most probably be Juri. She is a space villain, psychotically obsessed with two concepts: Beauty, and Power. She expresses the former with a distinctly S&M-based style (sporting a revealing black leather outfit, stilettos, and a shocking-red punkish hair style), and the latter via a brutal, brawling-type of fighting style. You may recall earlier I said the game lacks super moves, but Juri effectively has one. It just requires no super meter at all (just an admittedly tricky input). It is the single most powerful move in the game, especially if dashed, and it can even be used in a combo. She also has the fastest and longest ranged light attack in the game (her crouching jab), the best heavy attack (a lunging elbow move), and an aerial kick which hits a maximum of five times against large characters, doing almost 40% damage. Basically, anyone fighting Juri will need to keep their distance, and/or keep her on the defensive. When attacking her, theyll also need to watch out for her wickedly fast flip-kick, which works excellently as a counter move (the exact behaviour of which is effected very precisely by her inertia at time of its execution).
There are also 4 boss characters. These are usually only controlled by the CPU in single player mode, but they can be unlocked via an input code. Bonus Kun is Sunsofts running joke character: a sentient punching bag. He is an abysmal character with only 1 special move (a fireball spit) and a complete inability to block incoming attacks. Yacopu is a rabbit with the ability to morph into any other character, with a power bonus to boot. This, along with an absurdly easy to execute infinite combo (light attack x infinity), makes him the best character of the game, but any sensible players will boycott him from the selectable roster. Felden himself is also very strong. The AI plays him very strongly and although beatable, he has by far the best fireball and dragon punch in the game, making him very difficult to attack safely.
In addition to these there is a secret character called Rowe. He is like a Neanderthal martial artist, and his stage is bathed in an orange glow. Again, he has a very strong dragon punch and a slow-but-powerful fireball, and also a hurricane kick. Hes probably not as good as Juri or Felden, but its a real treat to discover him. In order to fight him in single player, you need to defeat every enemy without losing a round, and as the AI is quite smart this is no easy task.
So, in summary:
The art, and especially the animation quality, is really great, even though the colour palette may be a little limited. Backgrounds have some nice parallex scrolling type effects, and even zoom in and out depending on the distance between characters. A word of warning though: do not download the PS version from the PSN! The graphics are markedly inferior, like the complete opposite of an HD remix (characters faces are impossible to make out, so low is the sprites resolution!)
The Saturn version features remixed versions of the games music tracks. Some of these are hilarious, such as Golden Dones rap (quote: Im a mixed-up guy with a mental disease!) Voice samples are not of the highest clarity, but are all highly charasmatic, and your attacks are accompanied by suitably meaty smacks and cracks.
This is a fighting game which doesnt require too much in the way of actual technical execution and yet still features deep and challenging combo and counter systems. In fact, on the Saturn version you can even bind special moves to the x and y buttons, leading to matches which explore the theoretical possibilities rather than the players technical skill (there is a slight flaw with this in that the shortcuts are binded to the moves themselves, not the inputs. For instance, binding A+B+C to the X button will only execute moves which are strictly A+B+C, not help you execute moves which involve a half-circle motion on the d-pad, and then A+B+C, for instance. A minor complaint, but it is a bit annoying). One strange omission in the Saturn version is that you cannot alter the default time limit of 60 seconds. Although this leads to a lot of draws, it also adds a real sense of urgency to the rounds.
A weak point of fighting games for sure, but it is fairly strong here, mostly thanks to the fact that every single matchup between characters has totally unique dialogue both before and after a battle is fought, showing more of the characters' personalities. The endings are also very well done.
I know it seems strange, but Id rank this game alongside the likes of Capcoms greatest. I only wish there were more competitive players so we could really see just how well the system held under the highest pressure matches. But from where Im standing, Galaxy Fight has just enough to make it a real classic.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Galaxy Fight (EU, 12/31/95)
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