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3D Galaxy Force II (3DS eShop)

Game Review

3D Galaxy Force II Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

A sense of Super Scale

Galaxy Force II has something of a bad reputation with many players, purely because the domestic ports of the game which followed the arcade release way back in 1988 were, by and large, abysmal. Many fans base their opinion of this on-rails space shooter on the Mega Drive / Genesis version, which was downright unplayable. However, few realise that the reason for the poor quality of the home editions is because the hardware of the time simply couldn't hope to replicate the coin-op original faithfully; simply put, Galaxy Force II represented the cutting-edge of video game graphics at the time of its arcade release.

Like After Burner and After Burner II, Galaxy Force and its sequel are in fact the same game, with the second release being an updated version with gameplay tweaks and additional levels. Built around Sega's Super Scaler board, the arcade version was nestled inside an incredible rotating cabinet which moved in practically every direction imaginable, well and truly placing the player "in the game". Those lucky enough to have encountered this machine in its natural habitat will attest that it's the ultimate Sega coin-op experience, with only the R-360 providing a more immersive ride.

Astonishingly, the magicians at M2 have managed to cram this incredible coin-guzzling epic into the humble 3DS, complete with visual modes which do a surprisingly effective job at conveying what it feels like to step into this monster of an arcade machine. In purely technical terms, Galaxy Force II is M2's finest work to date on Nintendo's handheld; the game runs at 60 fps and features all the graphically trickery that was present in the original. If you want an indication of how well flat, 2D sprites can be used to portray a sense of three dimensional space, look no further — Galaxy Force II doesn't contain a single polygon, yet the impression of rushing through space, avoiding collisions with asteroids and dodging incoming enemy fire is so intense that it puts many modern 3D titles to shame.

Galaxy Force II is a game that was designed expressly to dazzle and amaze with its aesthetics. Each of its six levels is a visual tour de force, effortlessly surpassing what Sega had achieved in both After Burner and Space Harrier. The screen is often packed with detail and there are numerous stand-out moments which are certain to elicit a gasp of astonishment the first time you witness them. From level one's sweeping space battle-cruiser — which drifts ominously into view at the top of the screen — to the amazing interior base sections that are showcased in each stage, Galaxy Force II looks as impressive today as it did a quarter of a century ago. The 3DS-exclusive auto-stereoscopic effect only adds to the spectacle, making it easier to spot incoming threats and navigate the game's tight, twisting passageways.

It's also worth mentioning the game's fantastic, bass line-heavy soundtrack. Like so many Sega titles of the era, Galaxy Force II is blessed with funky music which simultaneously seems at odds with the Sci-Fi setting, yet perfectly matched to the on-screen action. The audio package is, overall, very impressive, as long as you are mindful of the limitations of the period. Speech is crackly and low-quality, but it's impossible to not smile when you hear your pilot performing an impressively thorough list of routine system checks during the stage select screen.

One of the criticisms levelled at Sega's Super Scaler games is that they put looks first and gameplay second. Space Harrier is gloriously playable, but it's also incredibly shallow — the same thing could be said about After Burner, but perhaps to a lesser extent. Although Galaxy Force II does indeed push the envelope when it comes to graphical finery, it actually has a lot more to offer than its predecessors in terms of pure entertainment.

Armed with a rapid-fire cannon and lock-on missiles, the player's ship can been seen as an early relative of the flying beasts in Panzer Dragoon and the numerous craft which would populate Taito's much-loved Ray series. The cannon is handy for taking out close-range targets, but you'll rely almost solely on missiles for your kills. By sweeping your targeting reticule over distant foes you can tag them and unleash a volley of projectiles with a single tap of the B button. This mechanic was also present in After Burner, but the fact that your stock of ammo is unlimited in Galaxy Force II means you'll use it more often. There are no power-up items to speak of, aside from a pod which is dropped onto your ship near the start of each level which boosts the number of targets your missiles can lock onto in a single burst.

Another big advantage the game has over previous Super Scaler shooters is the freedom of movement. You're still being funnelled down a set path, Star Fox-style, but you can explore this area to a surprising extent. This manoeuvrability means you're better equipped to avoid enemy ships and bullets, as well as being able to duck under the fire dragons on the flame planet Ashutar and skim the raging waterfalls of the lush plant world Malkland. You can enhance this experience even further by enabling the game's "moving cabinet" mode, which is as close as most people are ever going to get to actually sitting in a Galaxy Force II machine.

The DX and Super DX versions of the original cabinet are both supported, with the latter being the one which boasted full rotational movement. In some respects it actually makes the game harder to play, as the visuals are shrunk down to fit within the confines of the (virtual) arcade screen, but it's still quite a ride — something which is accentuated by the fact that there's a real arcade in the background, complete with a Thunder Blade sit-down unit.

The control options on offer are robust, as well. The 3DS Circle Pad is the ideal way to deliver the original game's analogue movement, and you can even bolt on the Circle Pad or Circle Pad Pro to fully replicate the arcade configuration — a stick for directional movement and throttle to command your speed. The touchscreen option offers another choice; movement is mapped to the Circle Pad, while the throttle is influenced by the screen. You can also swap this arrangement if you wish, but you'll also the tinker with the button mappings as it's impossible to move using touch control and fire your weapons using the face buttons at the same time.

Galaxy Force II is a jaw-dropping feat and shows just how much M2 cares for Sega's past, but ironically its devotion to matching the original experience as closely as possible proves to be its biggest weakness. The arcade version — like so many coin-op titles of the period — was designed to gobble coinage at an alarming rate. As a result, Sega enforced an energy system which gradually depletes as you play. Losing your shield and taking damage reduces your energy further, and to restore this vital commodity you must "combo" as many enemies as possible with your lock-on attack — the larger the number of foes you take out in a single volley, the more "energy bonus" you earn, and this is added to your energy stock upon the successful completion of a stage. Some of the longer levels also grant you an energy restock mid-way through.

Because your energy level carries over to the next level, many new players will find that they run out during the second stage, and there's no option to continue. Skilled players will relish having to memorise enemy patterns and use the craft's booster and brake system to ensure they take out the maximum number of foes before dashing to the end of the level with as much energy in reserve as possible, but it's an incredibly demanding challenge and one that you feel you're never really supposed to master — after all, Sega wanted people off the arcade unit as quickly as possible so that the next player in the queue could have a go. M2 has offered a few concessions to the handheld gamer by allowing you to slow down the rate of energy depletion and bolster your shields so they can absorb more punishment before breaking, but even with these aids in play, Galaxy Force II remains a difficult and borderline unfair game.


Galaxy Force II is arguably the culmination of M2's 3D Classics range. Taking one of the most technically advanced coin-ops of its period and transferring it to Nintendo's handheld console — at 60 fps and in 3D, no less — is an achievement which warrants massive praise. Despite the years that have passed and the rapid advancement of video game graphics, this game never feels like a relic from the past; instead, it's a tantalising glimpse into what interactive entertainment could have looked like had polygons never happened.

However, despite the brilliant visuals and engaging gameplay, Galaxy Force II's coin-eating parentage actually works against it. The difficulty balance is totally skewed for an arcade environment, which is to be expected given that M2 has sought to produce as authentic a facsimile of the original as possible. Unless you're willing to really knuckle down and master each level to its fullest, chances are you'll never complete the game. In that respect, Galaxy Force II could be seen as the ultimate test for shooter fans — or a title which, in its original form, was shameless in its quest to consume your spare change. Either way, finding out which side of the fence you're on is all part of the fun, and we should be eternally thankful to Sega and M2 for giving us the opportunity to experience this remarkable title in arcade-perfect form at such a reasonable price.

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User Comments (59)



undomiel said:

Never played the arcade original though I did eye it a number of times. Looks like fun!



Einherjar said:

This game looks rediculously good. The Fire / Lava stage is definitly a sight to behold. Any fan of pixel / bitmap art will simply fall in love with it. And cosidering how old it its, its a technical marvel. And the port ups it with a framerate smooth as butter and a 3D effect that really enhances the experience.
But like it says in the review, to really enjoy it, you have to tinker with its options quite a bit, since its one of the few arcade games thats not only hard but arguably unfair in its default setting.
But the amount of customization (not only with this title but with the entire SEGA 3D classics line) shows how much effort, love and attention to detail went into it. You can even set up the CPP for a much more comfortable experience in my opinion.
I hope that the entire line of 3D classics sells well and encurages SEGA to continue it. It lets nintendos 3D classics line feal pale in comparison.



Gioku said:

Started seeing screenshots of this on MiiVerse, and as a fan of scrolling shooters this looks fantastic! I really want this and 3D Sonic the Hedgehog... but I'm waiting to see how much money/what I get after Christmas... so I gotta wait...



ACK said:

Can't anyone confirm whether this uses assets from the PS2 Sega Ages release?

Can't wait to download this along with the entire line. The Sega 3D Classics line WILL be my Christmas present, whether anyone else likes it or not.

Any recommendations whether to play it on the original 3DS or XL? Are the pixels too large on the XL? Is the Super DX mode annoyingly small on the regular model?



ACK said:

@Gioku Heh. Thanks. But what of my eyesight?

Never mind I basically play with 3D full blast, but if I suddenly go blind playing Galaxy Force II...

(Gotta say, your avatar really sells that sort of post. Great work. My kids tell me it's Flutter Shy and "she's the one that's good with animals.". Guess you really do learn something every day...)



Damo said:

@ACK Yes, I believe M2 has said It uses the assets from the PS2 version. When you complete the game you unlock the arcade version with the original assets.



ACK said:

@Damo Thanks. Wonderful news, the best of booths worlds. Maybe Christmas can't wait...



sinalefa said:

One of those games I never knew existed. Definitely trying it out. Thankfully these 3D classics are easy on the wallet. The problem is that it is hard to pick just one or two.



masterLEON said:

I've played the DX version only a few times and finally I can play it as much as I want! Thanks, M2! The game's still hard as fudge!!



blackknight77 said:

I bought this expecting the genesis version,but this arcade version is awesome and look great in 3d. Very happy with this purchase



AyeHaley said:

Anyone wondering to get Ecco in 3D: its magnificent! Never played any of these SEGA titles before so I am definitely buying this one next.



FritzFrapp said:

It's wonderful to see the developers going that extra mile. Let's hope they are rewarded with good sales accordingly.



XCWarrior said:

As a huge fan of Star Fox, sounds like this is a must have game. And since it is from the good old days, I actually believe you when you say its difficult.

No stupid tutorials and baby step world 1s in this era, thank goodness!



GuySloth said:

The M2 interviews are always fun to read and their ports of SEGA's classics put Nintendo's to shame. The amount of effort involved in recreating these is crazy.



KnightRider666 said:

I never knew this title existed in the arcades either. I grabbed it yesterday, but I haven't had a chance to try it. It looks like I'm in for a real treat!



Tetris911 said:

Thank you Damien for this review! I was waiting for yer review since I wasn't too sure if I should buy this or not but I am glad to see that Sega is REALLY doing a good job with these classic re-releases lately! I wish Nintendo would do this with several of their Virtual Console games and now I am off to download galaxy force 2 thanks to Damien!



BinaryFragger said:

Never heard of this game before but I'm glad I downloaded this version. I was a big fan of After Burner as a child, and Galaxy Force II is like After Burner on steroids.
SEGA, please keep these 3D classics coming!



DreamOn said:

"Galaxy Force II doesn't contain a single polygon, yet the impression of rushing through space, avoiding collisions with asteroids and dodging incoming enemy fire is so intense that it puts many modern 3D titles to shame."

This is what I kept thinking as I played this game for hours last night.



sleepinglion said:

Thank you for another excellent Sega Classics review! They really help me give games a shot that I would not have otherwise.
I downloaded this title after reading what you had to say and it's totally worth the 6 dollars. The screenshots and eShop video, which are mind-bafflingly in 2D, don't do it justice. This game looks amazing and just as good as any game produced today.
Very cool!
Sega keeps schooling Nintendo on how to properly release 3D classics.



MAB said:

We never got this arcade in Australia and I wasn't expecting much when I downloaded it... This kills SNES Star Fox and leaves him floating in blocky lame SuperFX chip space



drexegar said:

@ACK The version you are playing is the PS2 neo arcade version. When you beat it, you unlock the option of downgrading the graphics to the original arcade.



DreamOn said:

The 3D classics started with Nintendo but what ended as a mere novelty, a brief promotion of the hardware, has started up again with Sega and M2 as a labor of love and dedication to retro games. Nintendo's 3D classics just do not reflect the retro love next to this series and it's too bad cuz stereoscopic pixel art is sweet sweet gaming nectar:)



MeWario said:

Man, this game looks gorgeous! Great review by the way!!! You've sold me on it completely.



kurtasbestos said:

Awesome! I'm glad to hear this turned out well. I absolutely loved this game in the arcade (the full rotating version), and I still own the Sega Saturn version. I can't wait to play it again!



accc said:

The complaints about the difficulty don't make any sense. There are various settings to tinker with that let you make the game as easy or as difficult as you want it to be, most notably the option to increase your total energy from 1200 to 2500 or even 5000. Every single person who plays the game should be able to complete it with 5000 energy. M2 handled the difficulty just as perfectly as all other aspects of this port. It deserves a perfect score in my view.



DreamOn said:

@accc yeah, the 5000 timer makes it fairly easy to get through most everything while hitting stuff a lot. ..But maybe not if your grinding the walls of the bases the whole way through lol



EdwardCORE said:

This game is hands down the best game on the entire 3DS eshop. Can't say enough good things about it. And as a Sega fan, I really wish this new series of ports catch up, because they are fantastic. I hope more games are on their way, such as Out Run, Power Drift, After Burner 2, Rad Racer, Super Monaco GP arcade, Virtua Fighter and Virtua Racing too. But it is a shame Altered Beast is the Genesis/Mega Drive version, hope they get Golden Axe 1 and 2 arcade, and some damn good classics as Shadow Dancer, Eswat, Castle of Illusion, Quackshot, Musha Aleste, Valis 3, Rolling Thunder, Gunstar Heroes, Thunder Force 3 & 4, Elemental Master, Alexx Kidd, Revenge of Shinobi... Gosh, I need Sega to comeback!



Discostew said:

I may go and pick this up, but I told myself after indulging in a number of Wii U games during Black Friday that I'd hold off on any more. It may be only $6, but I've spent quite a bit on games this holiday season already.



FantasiaWHT said:

I owned the Genesis version way back when. (Never even knew there was an arcade version.) Why do you think it was unplayable? Unwinnable, maybe, but I could make it through 4 of the 5 levels and a part of the 5th before dying.



ACK said:

@xj0462 Well, I did just stockpile a load of eShop cards at 35% off (price match Best Buy sale + Target employee discount)... So...

Probably not, now that you mention it... But "ALL Sega 3D Classics minus Altered Beast" just didn't sound snappy on my list.



ACK said:

@drexegar Thanks. To be fair, I don't have it in my hands, right now it's just the object of my infatuation...



Damo said:

@accc Playing it with 5000 energy totally breaks the game, though. The challenge is to keep getting combos to ensure you have enough bonus energy at the end of each stage. You should really try to play the game as intended, even if it is insanely hard!



Windy said:

This game is Awesome! Best lookin 3d classic so Far! We love ya sega!



sleepinglion said:

So glad to see enthusiasm about these releases.
When Nintendo first announced it was doing 3D classics I instantly thought of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania, Mega Man, Contra... and they delivered Urban Champion.
Sega seems to understand the titles fans want and how to give them the attention (and customizable options) that make these titles a must-have.
Curious, though, does anyone know why they went with the Genesis version of Altered Beast over the arcade port? The arcade version had a few more frames of animation per character and slightly better colors and detail.
Still, solid releases all around.



Windy said:

I said this on MiiVerse and I will say it here:

"Sega is single handedly saving the 3D Classics! 3d Galaxy Force II is just incredible. Go Go Go Sega!"



Damo said:

@sleepinglion They said in an interview that the MD version was really popular on the VC, so they picked that. I also think the arcade version's lack of parallax scrolling played a part - it wouldn't have shown off the 3D effect very well.



MAB said:

@Damo Altered Beast is a good game to play while sitting on the bog... I think it has something to do with the game telling me to 'power up', offering a great sense of encouragement



sdelfin said:

Very cool seeing them bring the arcade version of Galaxy Force 2 to the 3DS. I spent a lot of time in arcades back then and I remember seeing Sega's huge, expensive, deluxe cabinets all over. They were an impressive sight and helped Sega stand out. Galaxy Force 2 is a stunner, perhaps the most breathtaking of all the Super-Scaler games and it still looks great. It was built as an arcade game, which explains the lack of depth. The game was meant to be an experience.



Windy said:

@EdwardCORE Man I hope your wishes come true. Cause all those games you mentioned would make the Eshop the best service in the entire industry. With these 3D Classics releases it does feel like the old Days when Sega was in the game. So far they have all been wonderful



Sixmillion said:

Great games by Sega on the 3DS. These games bring back a lot of good memories to me. I do have one wish : please release the 1981 Sega game TURBO. I loved that race car game. I think this would look great in 3d on the 3DS.



Gashole said:

Wanna know how awesome this game is? NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX BLOCKS OF MEMORY awesome.



MC808 said:

I thought a 3DS game's framerate would be cut in half when 3D was activated? I remember reading that the hardware would essentialy have to be rendering @120fps to achieve 60fps 3D, and that the hardware simply couldn't do that. I'm now questioning that "fact", since this review says it's running @60fps in 3D.
Supposedly, SFIV behaves this way when 3D is enabled, going from 60fps 2D to 30fps 3D. Although, I can't notice any drop in framerate when going from 2D to 3D while playing. Cutting the framerate in half should be quite obvious to the naked eye, so I'm not sure what to think.
Anyways, are you certain Galaxy Force II is running @60fps?
Maybe it is,.... and maybe it illustrates how talented SEGA's M2 team is.......

I'm a bit late for the party with this comment, but better late than never.

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