Galencia – The “Galaga” that the Commodore 64 always deserved

Galencia is a new game created by Jason Aldred. At a glance, you could think it is merely a re-skinned Galaga but there is more to it, and we going to take a look here.

Galaga is an icon in the video game realm, just next to Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. I remember playing the game on arcades but, although I love the game, I wasn’t always very good at it. In my defense, putting quarters to keep playing kept me far from becoming a seasoned player. The game was released in North America in 1981, published by Midway. It was an astonishing success and, as usual, at that time, it was ported to uncountable computers and home consoles, including the Commodore 64.

Arcade version
Wasn’t the official C64 Galaga good enough?

By now, we all know what to expect of a mainstream C64 game, but Galaga was different. The official Commodore 64 port had great gameplay, but the TRS-80-like low-res graphics were disappointing, to say the least.

Update Aug 2020: This is not an official release but an unofficial game made by Henrik Wening in 1982. See comments section for details by Matt McIrvin.

Oficial Galaga on the C64

In my quick research, I couldn’t find why the game was like that since the Commodore 64 has excellent graphics and sound capabilities, and even its predecessor, the VIC-20 is better than what Galaga was presenting. Since the Atari 8-bit version is pretty much the same, my wild guess is that the publisher decided to develop for both machines using the same code base, including the (lack of) graphics. Maybe there was a PET version in development at the time, and that was the base for the other two ports. If you are curious, there is an excellent video on YouTube showing all the versions of Galaga on many different platforms.

To answer the question I posted up there; I say “no”, the Official Galaga version wasn’t good enough.

Will Galencia fill that void?

Okay, maybe the void is not that voidy since throughout the years, many different clones were created, like the excellent Zalaga. Galencia, however, is a bit different and worth some analysis.

The story behind the game is that aliens called Guardians, large queen bees have to abandon their native planet which was devastated by a civil war and find a right place for the survivor bees. After visiting many worlds, the Guardians found Earth to be the perfect habitat for their beloved bees. After settling them on our planet, the Guardians were satisfied with their choice and left them here to live and procreate. After millions of years living in perfect harmony, the bees population started to decline by the end of the 20th century and to make it worse, the humans have ignored all warnings about the risks of that decline, and now their Guardians decided to take action to protect them. They are fierce to protect their bees and attacked many cities around the World killing thousands. Your job as Ace Harper is to defend the Earth defeating the Guardians.

Excellent illustration of the main character

It is a shoot’em up game, so the plot doesn’t have to be airtight, but in this case, the author did a good job explaining the origins of the Guardians and introducing all the characters which are not necessary to play the game but enriches the player experience making it more “personal”. Galencia is excellent on that matter because the manual presents two pages of background story and the game itself includes cut-scenes for the intro, the fighter launch sequence and the end of the game.

Launch scene

I am reviewing the game using the retail package bought from, and I was surprised when I saw the zip file was nothing less than 70MB, which could fit almost 500 D64 images! After downloading it, I was more surprised to see the package included the D64 image as expected, but also two Cassette images, for PAL and NTSC, and the manual in PDF format. They also added beautiful wallpapers created by Lobo (also responsible for the manual and physical box layout), many other images that were used to develop the physical copy perks provided by Protovision (link at the end), the SID files of the tunes used in the game and much more. For only USD 2.50, the out-of-the-box experience is fantastic (The game is currently on sale. The regular price is US$ 4.99).

Galencia wallpaper (low-res copy here)
The game

Galencia consists of 50 levels with some very Galaga-like and others a bit different. The first level is very familiar with the waves of Guardians coming from the sides and then diving towards the fighter. Your job is simply to dodge and shoot them back.

One thing that you will notice is that while in Galaga the waves of enemies come from the sides in a line formation moving in a spiral and then stop at the middle building the rows. In Galencia they also come from the edges, but first, they build the row formation, and then they dive to attack the fighter. Although it is a subtle change, I found that Galencia solution works better in a 4:3 monitor.

The original arcade Galaga uses the monitor in a portrait (3:4 ratio) position, as most of the arcades we know and having the waves coming as they do, works perfectly. However, when changing the screen orientation to fit the home computers, the spiral waves are harder to dodge since there is less space for them to fly and where the fighter is.

Galencia introduces the waves from the sides, in a horizontal movement first, making it easier for you to get prepared for the dives. I am not aware if that design decision was intentional or due to hardware limitations, but at the end, seems perfect to me.

The best strategy I can advise is from the beginning, try to get a double-fighter formation to make the following levels easier to get through. To do so, you must let the Sirens Guardian capture your fighter. Doing that, you will be given the second fighter which you should use to destroy the Siren that will then release the first one resulting in the double-fighter formation. The manual explains the technique in detail and with pictures.

The game brings the weirdest looking Guardians of the game, not particularly pretty in my opinion as sometimes they look skulls and sometimes, bunnies. Introduced first on level 4, they will come in a different pattern than the previous levels, and at first, they won’t shoot you. That will only happen if you take too long to destroy them and clear the level.

As the game progresses, the difficulty level also increases either changing the Guardians speed or making you shoot each one many times before they are destroyed.

Bonus levels

The game also offers bonus challenge levels that will present targets for you to destroy and if you manage to take them all, you can get extra lives. The challenge levels will increase in difficulty over time, and it is not as simple as they look. As you will be able to see, the targets (mainly the last wave) don’t fly around for too long so if you miss them once, it is almost impossible to recover and try again. If you lose the challenge, there are no penalties, but you won’t get the prize as well.

Bonus level

The first challenge level is manageable but as I mentioned before, you need to be ready for the last wave as they will come and go very quickly. The second challenge level is pretty much the same as the first, but with some extra guardians flying around. I could only nail this one when using a double-fighter formation.

Perfect Bonus Challenge!

Another bonus level that shows a different gameplay is the Asteroid one which is first displayed on level 10. On this level, you have asteroids coming down the screen and your job is either destroy or dodge them. The way to get extra points is to collect the stars that also move in your direction now and then. The stars are not supposed to be destroyed but collected, meaning that you should just go over them to receive your reward. This level adds another exciting concept since to get the rewards you have to take risks and that means to be destroyed.

At the end of the game, either by finishing all the levels or most likely, to get killed before that, there is a high score screen where you can enter your initials, giving the game an even deeper arcade experience for the player.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics of the game are near perfect, and sometimes they seem to go beyond the C64 capabilities. All the Guardians are animated in so many different ways that only shows how careful the developer was to make the best he could. There are some designing choices like the skull/bunny Guardians that I believe could be better implemented, but I agree that is my personal opinion. I particularly like the explosion that happens when something is destroyed.

I am not a music expert but I can see the tunes used in the game fits well the mood the developer tried to create. The one played during the intro and cutscenes has a clear sci-fi style, but it gets a bit repetitive if you let it play for too long. Since the cutscenes are short, it works perfectly. The in-game sound effects are excellent, from the shootings to the explosions. The background music during the action is incredibly good, starting almost like an army march rhythm and then turning into music that makes it looks like the Guardians are flying and attacking following its beat.

Game customizations

Galencia also offers the player many options to customize the games, which is done pressing the F1 key which will take you to another screen where you can change different aspects of the gameplay like the difficulty level, the look of the starfield, the color of the characters, tournament mode option, and the presence or not of in-game music. The tournament mode consists in the same game, but you always start with the double formation and no extra lives.


Galencia is one of those games that makes me believe that we are indeed living the golden era of Commodore 64 games, for its polishing and quality. Galaga-like shoot’em up is the kind of game that makes you play over and over, either to beat the levels or merely to reach a higher score.

It is also a tough game to complete and to be clear here; I couldn’t finish it yet. After many frustrated attempts, I am recurring to Vice emulator and saving snapshots as often as possible. Maybe one day I can get to the end…

The game can be purchased as a digital download or physical copy. The latter is offered by Protovision, and it comes in a disk, tape, or cartridge. The prices vary depending on your choice, so check Protovision website if you want this excellent game in a very collectible box full of perks.

If you are a shoot’em up fan, I sincerely recommend buying Galencia. It takes everything that is good about Galaga and makes it fits perfectly the Commodore 64.

Link: Galencia Website
Link: Protovision Store for Physical Copies
Link: for digital download

Author: Paulo Garcia

5 thoughts on “Galencia – The “Galaga” that the Commodore 64 always deserved

  1. Outstanding review guys, I know that Skull bunnies are not for everyone. Give them a chance, they might grow on you ;)

    Wishing everyone at Vintage all the best for 2018, Happy New Year guys!

    Jay Aldred

    1. Glad to hear you like it, Jason. We are just happy to know there are people like you that are keeping the C64 game development alive, and in such a high quality!

      Btw, I promise I will keep my heart open for the skull bunnies :)

  2. I cant believe it – in the year 2019 commodore 64 games are still being made ? In a era of playstation 4, x box, internet games its almost unbelievable thinking that their is a market our there for a computer that goes back to last century !!! What even makes it more remarkable is that it is available on disk and tape !! Who would have thought in the mid 90’s when c=64 games were becoming scarce and hardly a soul was programing – that in 2019 new games would still be coming out. Amazing !

  3. Was that primitive-looking game actually an official release of Galaga?
    I think the reason it looks like that is that it was a direct port of Henrik Wening’s unlicensed version for the Commodore PET, a computer with no real graphics capability. (I encountered it via Norbert Kehrer’s very literal 2013 port to the Atari 8-bit computers.)

    1. Hm, I think you are correct. I didn’t do the proper homework on this one. That is not an official Galaga release. I’ve added an update to the paragraph. Thanks!

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