Galaxy 5000
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8  |  Race, Destory, Win!
Dezoris , 9/13/2008 10:22:07 AM

If the title doesn't satisfy your gaming requirements, you might require medical attention. This is a somewhat rare game that has a special place in my gaming heart. Now don’t think that means this entire review is slighted...I can specifically recall NOT liking this game the first few times I had a chance to play it. And to take that one step further, I was never a huge game of 8-bit racing games in the first place. Throw in what at first glance appears to be that dime-a-dozen 80s space fighter motif and you could have a recipe for disaster. But if you take some time to peal away the many layers of this underexposed NES title, you will discover a true gem that remains unique to this day.

 

Gameplay: 9/10

The goal of Galaxy 5000 is to successfully race across every planet in the solar system and become the champion racer in the galaxy. Standing in your way are three other skilled pilots, as well as an onslaught of changing terrain that becomes littered with more items and obstacles as you progress. Now you might think that as an NES game focused on traveling through the galaxy, that you’ll be only briefly entertained by nine short races, but Activision added a tremendous value to their title by pitching you against your opponents in four heats per planet. The first race usually consists of the empty track that allows you to become somewhat familiar with the new course, which is helpful for learning shortcuts and pitfalls of each planet. Don’t forget, you’re flying in space, so staying on the track is probably a good thing. Each planet offers more difficult terrain to navigate, and parts of the track even become separated, which requires you to take advantage of your racer’s ability to use it’s hover-booster. Or, for you uncreative folks, “jump”. This might sound like a funky addition to the gameplay, but we loved it in Metal Slug, so why not here? In fact, it provides some sweet opportunities for cutting corners, finding shortcuts, and shaving every possible second off your lap time.

The following three races on each planet employ additional objects, some intended to help you, others intended to whiten your knuckles as they whir by. But fear not, your ship is equipped with the latest in competitive weaponry…and nearly every object in your path is destructible! That’s right, not only are you expected to race through these tracks, you’re expected to leave havoc in your wake (evil grin). Destroying obstacles will often times uncover item orbs, that suspiciously look like snowflakes in space. If you’re crafty enough you can collect these orbs immediately, or during a following lap around the track. Green orbs give you cash, red orbs partially repair your ship, and blue orbs upgrade your weapons system. In fact, collecting multiple blue orbs will not only give you access to a togglable secondary weapon, they will increase your rate of fire up to three times. So you can make even more things go boom.

You earn points and cash for everything you blow up and every item you collect as you fly feverishly through each race. Money that will be spent for repairing your ship and, if you’re lucky, being able to upgrade the next level of racer. Benefits of upgrading your ship are crucial to staying competitive the deeper you get into the galaxy. Each tier of craft gains a noticeably faster top speed, quicker acceleration, and tighter handling. And, if that wasn’t enough, each racer is fitted with two completely unique forms of weapons to help you cause more destruction and win more cash.

 

Multiplayer: 6/10

An amazing aspect of this game is the addition of a 2 Player race mode. Sadly, it is not as awesome as it could be, due to the limitations of the NES itself. There is obviously no option for a split screen perspective, so the two human pilots are limited by one screen’s worth of distance. Despite this really nasty handicap, Activision actually handled the situation quite well. If one racer falls behind they get pulled closer towards the leader while the head racer gets jerked slightly back. It’s kind of like being tied together by a rope. Because of this, rather than competition, the 2 Player game would best be described as a Co-op mode that encourages both racers to stick together and come in first and second against the other two AI opponents. I’ve never actually had a chance to play 2 Player, but I can imagine that finding an equivalently skilled pilot could really provide a fun time. On the contrary, a pick-up-and-play alliance will no doubt be an unpleasant experience.

 

 

 

Controls: 10/10

In order to successfully navigate these tracks you’ll need to become familiar with the control systems available. You have a choice between Alpha and Beta styles. Alpha is a straightforward setup that only requires you to press the direction you want to fly. Once your ship reaches a particular speed it will cruise without slowing down, which is actually pretty convenient and makes the increasingly-intense races easy on the thumb. The responsiveness of the movement controls are smooth and will have you feeling like you can cut corners by Venus. The other controls are typical. ‘A’ button boosts your craft into the air, ‘B’ button shoots your currently equipped weapon, Start pauses/unpauses the game, and ‘Select’ lets you toggle between your two weapon systems, provided that you’ve earned the secondary.

To this day, I don’t know exactly what the Beta controls do differently. As I recall, it has to do with the driving mechanics, but behold my laziness at not checking before finishing this review.

 

Replay Value: 8/10

Galaxy 5000 is always fun to pick up and play. And it’s entertaining enough that if you have the time to complete it, you’ll find yourself racing to the end of the galaxy. The largest downside to this is that the two player mode remains limited by the non-split screen technology. I could only imagine how fun a newer sequel could be for providing races the chance to truly compete without being tied together like a typical sack race.

 

Graphics: 8/10

The graphics in Galaxy 5000, in my opinion, are actually really great, especially for the 4-color NES pallete. The 3/4 perspective means that each moving object needs to have 8 series of sprites for each cardinal direction, rather than two or four like a lot of side or top-down titles. This adds a nice level of realism to the races as you fly clock-wise around each track. It’s also nice to see the full screen images of your different crafts in between races. The track obstacles are usually animated and many are also drawn from different angles so things like boost pads aren’t limited to a specific part of the course. Explosions look pretty neat and dusty as your run stuff through, but they do lack a touch of fire, so that’s a bit of a downer. Track styles are similar across each planet, but varying colors and weathered effects create a fun atmosphere as you get farther and farther from the distant sun. You might even find some scarce traces of plant-life creeping up the side of the track.

 

Artificial Intelligence: 8/10

The AI doesn’t offer much in terms of seat-rattling competition, but the real fun comes from being able to blow them up and thereby forcing them to spend their hard earned prize money for repairs rather than ship upgrades. In fact, since all you need to do to qualify for the next planetary round is to FINISH the current race, one could argue that other pilots could be considered unnecessary. Still, Activision spent plenty of time creating opponents that will intelligently navigate the tracks and make you feel like you’re smack in the middle of the most heated race in the galaxy. And they won’t be afraid to launch their own attacks against your ship if you try to cross them! So, although perhaps lacking some competitive edge, the AI in Galaxy 5000 is really a great success you rarely see in games of its generation.

 

Music: 6/10

The biggest fault I can find with this game is the music. Particular songs aren’t actually bad, but the overall game suffers from some poor instrumentation which takes away from the professional finish this title deserves. Though you won’t find your ears bleeding, I do wish there were a few more memorable tunes from this game (like the opening fanfare before each race).

 

Sound: 9/10

Sound effects, unlike the game’s music, are a big plus. There are actual voice tracks that you’ll hear as you fly through the game. “Excuse me!” you scream as you bump into other racers. “Whoaoaoa!” as you fall off the track into the void of space. And, of course, the immortalized “Sheboygan!” as you hit a jump pad. All of which are screamed out in a crazed, skateboard-punk voice. This really caps just how much fun and witty the game tries to be. And, if nothing else, it gives some personality to the drivers that you never get to actually see.

In addition to the voicepack, the sounds are all fairly believable. From explosions, to boosters pads. The only cheesy sound I’ve had a problem with is the slightly off-pitch laser sound reused across several ships/obstacles.

 

Conclusion: 8/10

Galaxy 5000 is hands down the best psuedo 3D racer I believe you can play on the NES. It’s a shame the game didn’t receive more exposure because I definitely feel like it deserved a sequel on the SNES. So many features of the gameplay were before their time and solidified the game as a truly unique experience. If you’ve never played this title, I absolutely recommend it. If you’ve tried it before and went “meh”, I encourage you to give it another shot and see how much your perspective might change.

 

 

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