I don’t have a fondness for 80’s mech themed anime. I wasn’t hampering for a game that wrapped itself with VHS artifacts or era appropriate audio imperfections. I was sold on 17-bit’s Galak-Z: The Dimensional and its promise of a challenging 2-D space shooter. They pitched vicious enemies akin to the likes of Halo and punishing consequences for biting more than I can chew.
I haven’t seen many games take on Halo’s A.I in the first person shooter space let alone in the 2-D space shooter scene. By the end of the game, I was forced to pick my battles or risk losing a half hour’s worth of progress. I surveyed the surrounding areas and made sure the coast was clear before taking on enemies. I lured the more vicious ones into areas where I could maximize my strengths. There aren’t many games like this out there.
Galak-Z was officially my first rogue-like game. I’m familiar with the genre but I never got around to playing one. Admittedly, it was tough to see an hour’s worth of effort go to waste due to my own stupidity but since Galak-Z was technically a “rogue-lite”, I wasn’t forced to restart the entire game from the beginning after each death. Each season was broken up to five episodes and I was only forced to start a season over if I died during in an episode. Incidentally, since each season was self contained, I couldn’t carry upgrades or equipment into subsequent seasons either. I thought it was a fair compromise.
I was able to carry “Crash coins” between seasons but I often wasted the cash bonus with a reckless death. Collecting five of these “Crash coins” allowed me to resume my adventure after a mid-season death but since I respawned without the mech transformation or the dodge capabilities, I was better off converting the Crash coins into cash and starting the season over again. Navigating deep into the bowels of a late season level was either a long and drawn out process or a quick trip towards a swift death — it just wasn’t worth it.
Very few games instilled a sense of dread in me like Galak-Z did. It was like I as playing Bloodborne or Dark Souls in space at times but unlike in those games, a handful of Galak-Z’s enemies were persistent and didn’t give up the chase easily. I had to make sure I knew the path to safety and didn’t corner myself in an enclosed area. My ship’s shields seemed like they were paper thin in the latter stages of season 3 and 4 and since health packs were scarce, I tried to air on the side of caution as much as possible. There were times that I couldn’t even repair in-between episodes because the shop didn’t offer repair items for sale; I had all the money in the world and I was unable to spend it on what I needed most.
That’s the nature of Galak-Z and rogue-like games though. Play enough and eventually everything clicks and I’m flush with health, shields and an array of arsenal that can take on all comers. But in the back of my mind, I recall that feeling of confidence before so I force myself to stay humble and cautious. I tried not to overextend myself and treat every enemy with respect. And that’s how I managed to beat Galak-Z.
I didn’t get the memo about Galak-Z’s fifth season coming later down the line and thus I was a little surprised to see the game end abruptly. It’s going to be free and I hope it injects a completely new environment in which to do battle in. I felt all four seasons blended together aesthetically. I think the game would do well to run the gamut of environments a la Super Metroid.
There were only two glaring issues that irked me in Galak-Z. Performance issues (hitching and slowdowns) and the “anime” cutscenes made me wonder if this game was ready for primetime. The slowdowns was especially bad when there were multiple enemies or missiles on the screen but that’s the one instance where I didn’t want technical issues to interfere. Subsequent patches addressed the hitching but the framerate drops were still an issue.
The “anime” cutscenes were antithetical to the 1980’s aesthetic. They looked like placeholder art that made its way into the final product. They remind me of Flash animations and that’s not a flattering look for a game that’s trying to conjure up memories of Voltron and Robotech.
I got what I wanted from Galak-Z: The Dimensional. There were areas of improvement all over but the core gameplay was solid and satisfying. I threw a fist pump when I finally finished season 4 after three days of trying. Any game that gets that reaction out of me is doing something right. I wasn’t frustrated at the game after each failure. I was frustrated at myself and in the end, I can only credit myself when I succeed. That’s a good feeling.
I like it