Two arcade classics are reborn again and again.
There are few arcade games as notable as Pac-Man and Galaga. These two games have been released on dozens of platforms in dozens of different ways, and now they have made their way as a pair to the 3DS with Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions. The title features three versions of Pac-Man and three versions of Galaga, but all of these remakes are completely unique and could not be any more unlike their predecessors.
It’s not worth getting into too much detail about the first two games in the collection. Pac-Man and Galaga play exactly as they always have: great. The classic arcade games are playable in their original form, though a few 3D tricks are employed. You can play either the standing cabinet border or the cocktail table mode, the primary difference being the way the screen bends using 3D to replicate an old CRT screen. It’s a surprisingly cool effect, and adds a lot of style to these older games. Also available is a border-free version which uses the 3D effect to slightly lift the active sprites away from the background, which is a subtle but effective use of the 3D. In gameplay, however, these titles remain faithful to their heritage.
The next two titles on the list are Pac-Man Championship Edition and Galaga Legions, both ports of XBLA titles that are making their simultaneous debut on a Nintendo platform. Both of the games play great, with Pac-Man Championship Edition being a particularly fun take on the classic game. The maze continually shifts and reinvents itself as you play the game, allowing you to stack power pellets on top of power pellets for major high-score multipliers. There are seven different modes, all of which are just map and timer tweaks. The game plays great with the Circle Pad, and the colors leap off the screen.
Galaga Legions isn’t quite as fun as Pac-Man Championship Edition, but is still an interesting reworking of the classic game. Enemies swarm at you in waves of hundreds, but a rapid fire cannon and two helper ships help offset the odds. The game looks fantastic, but a little bit of Galaga Legions goes a long way, as the levels take just a little too long to play through, and don’t mix up the enemies often enough.
Finally, there are two brand new titles to play in the collection. First, Pac-Man Tilt is an interesting platformer that completely disables the 3D effect so that you can focus on tilting the 3DS without worrying about the effect breaking. The game feels a little bit like a Sonic the Hedghog title, as Pac-Man will roll into a ball and start to break through blocks if you tilt so far that he begins to gain speed. The platforming can be quite tricky when combined with the need to tilt the 3DS in a specific direction. It takes some time to get used to the tilting, and remembering to even do it at all.
Most of the gameplay in Pac-Man Tilt revolves around short stages that contain a specific number of fruits, dots, and ghosts to eat. After you finish the stage, you are graded on how many of these items you actually managed to collect, and scored accordingly. Bronze, silver, and gold medals are awarded for high scores in each stage, and bonus stages will unlock based on how many medals you’ve collected.
Galaga 3D Impact is the other new title in the collection, and is a completely new take on Galaga that puts you in the cockpit in an epic space battle. The game feels much like Star Fox, but unfortunately does not allow for any actual control over the flight; you only control the aim of the cannon. Each of the 3DS buttons corresponds to a weapon, but some of them must be unlocked by absorbing enemies using the tractor beam. This presents an interesting risk-reward dynamic: do you want to try to absorb enemies, or kill them for points and avoid damage?
Galaga 3D Impact is controlled either by the Circle Pad or the gyroscope, but unlike Pac-Man Tilt, the 3D effect is not only enabled, but actually encouraged. While it is technically possible to control the game using the gyroscope with the 3D effect intact, it involves swiveling your entire upper body to match your cannon aim. Needless to say, it’s not particularly practical – the game is best played either entirely with the Circle Pad in 3D, or even better, with the 3D off using the gyroscope.
A crucial feature in Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions is the online leaderboards, which can be accessed outside of each game in the main menu. Although the implementation is a bit clumsy, the presence of online leaderboards dramatically increases the replay value for these types of score-based arcade games. Friends from your 3DS Friends List will automatically show up in your leaderboards if they’ve played the game, which is a really nice touch.
These games are classics for a reason, and bundling them with two great recent remakes and two brand new spin-offs makes for a really fun collection. While it is arguable that these would be better off as downloadable titles, having them all on one 3DS cart is a decent compromise. This title would make a fine addition to the collection of any 3DS owner who loves classic arcade games.