Saturday, August 6, 2011

An Afternoon Trying to Break the Famicom Galaxian Record

I finally got around to watching the documentary "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" the other day. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend it. A very entertaining yarn about one modest man's quest to wrest the world record for Donkey Kong away from the incumbent, Billy Mitchell.

I've read that the filmmaker's took a lot of liberties with the facts, which is kind of unfortunate, but I nonetheless found it to be a worthwhile way of spending two hours, if for no other reason than to simply see a movie with a lot of retro video game stuff in it.

Watching the film has inspired me to see if there are any video game records that I might be able to challenge on the Famicom. The records at stake in the film are those kept by Twin Galaxies, which in the movie is show to be the official scorekeeper relied on by Guinness. So I thought I might start there.

In order to break a record of course the first thing you have to do is choose a game. I have chosen "Galaxian", which I have played a lot of and pride myself on being reasonably good at. Not world-record setting good, mind you, but still pretty good.

So I wandered over to Twin Galaxies' website to see what the world record for Galaxian on the Famicom is. I was greatly disappointed to discover that despite billing themselves as "Twin Galaxies International" they don't list high scores for Famicom games.

As a second best solution I looked for the NES record, but unfortunately Galaxian was never released on that one.

So I am left with a couple of options. One is ironically this blog, in which I posted a list of Famicom high scores from 1985 a couple months ago which included Galaxian. The high score there was 85,030.

The second option is to use the Arcade score from Twin Galaxies which is....hold on a second I have to look this up.....


OK, option one it is!

Being a rainy weekend afternoon and with the wife out for a couple hours I thought I'd give the 85,030 point record a run for its money.

My first effort yielded this:
39,200. That is almost half-way there. Not too bad actually. This is about an average Galaxian score for me, if I get over 40,000 I'm usually quite happy with myself.

Take two, however, yielded this:
Ouch. Not a good game at all. I lost my first life on the third level and it was downhill from there.

I thought about the need to alter my strategy in some way. After about 10 good hard minutes of thinking I came up with this:
Absolutely brilliant. On my next try I exceeded the half-way mark:
In my fourth and final try I had my best game of all. I was doing it all right. 20,000.....30,000....40,000....50,000...I was racking up points like a man possessed.

Then this happened:
My dog just got fixed a couple days ago so he is wearing this conical thing to prevent him from scratching the stitches. The whole experience has made him rather needy, emotionally speaking. He wanted some attention, which he lets me know by jumping up and scratching me until I give him some. I paused the game and spent a few minutes playing with him. That broke my concentration and within 1,000 points of starting up again the game was over:
55,080 is a pretty good score. Not my all time high (63,000) but pretty good and within 30,000 of the 1985 record I am going by. Looking at Twin Galaxies Arcade score ranking that would have been enough to put me at #15 there had this been on an arcade machine.

A bit more practice and I should be able to make it. When I do, I'll post something about it here.


  1. I would have gone with Sapporo or Asahi, personally.

    Also, I don't think any editing needed to be done to show how much of a dick Billy Mitchell is.

  2. Yeah, normally I'm an Asahi man, but the Kirin Happoshu was on sale so....:)

    I think I agree on Billy Mitchell, at least from what I've read and seen in the film. What really intrigues me about the "Billy Mitchell is a dick" thing was reading the filmmakers saying they actually had stuff that made him look much worse which they didn't put in the film. I would love to see that footage:)

  3. So, the beverage included in this post is beer? If so, good choice!

    Also, that photo of your dog is so cute. He definitely looks needy in it :)

    Finally, good for you for nearly beating your previous record high score! I've never actually played Galaxian myself, but I imagine it's tough to get very far in it just like it's tough to get very far in Galaga or any of Namco's other arcade classics.

  4. Technically the beverage is "happoshu", which looks like beer, tastes like beer and has the same alcohol content as beer, but isn't beer. It was developed by the brewers to get around taxes on actual beer, which costs about twice as much.

    And thanks for the comment about Doogle, he does look needy, doesn't he?

    Galaxian is indeed a tough game to get far in. I would say Galaga is probably more challenging due to those ships that disappear off the bottom and then come up again to run into you. But they are close.

  5. Haha, every picture of that dog makes me chuckle away for a minute or two! :P

    Good effort with the record too. Despite being an enthusiastic fan, I've rarely been good enough at a game to get a respectable score. It's a shame to hear that Twin Galaxies don't support the Famicom though. I'm actually friends with Walter Day, the TG referee, on Facebook. He's a really nice guy :)

    Drinks-wise, I always look forward to a nice Asahi when I visit our local Japanese restaurant but when I was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, they had lots of lovely Japanese soft drinks in Liberdade (the Japanese neighbourhood) which has little bits of fruit floating in them. We made sure to bring some of those back with us!

  6. Thanks Simon, he is a rather photogenic dog I think:)

    For most games I never get a score that I would be comfortable sharing in public. I'm terrible at video games. For the amount of time I have played Galaxian, I suspect that these are terrible scores;)

    Interesting that you are friends with Walter Day on Facebook. After doing a bit of reading about the facts behind that King of Kong movie, I was left with the impression that the filmmakers hadn't done him justice. They made him and Twin Galaxies look complicit in Billy Mitchell's machinations to maintain his record score, though the facts don't really seem to support that. Seemed like a nice guy from what I saw on the film though!

    I like Asahi too and when I am flush with cash (once a year or so?) I will buy actual Asahi beer. Actually, my landlord just gave me a couple of cans the other day out of the blue (landlords do the strangest things here sometimes) and they were an excellent thing to come home to after a hot day! Interesting about the soft drinks, I've never had any with bits of fruit floating in them but they sound great, maybe they are from Okinawa?

  7. I've no idea what part of Japan they're from but I'm off to Brazil again in December so I'll get some and take some pics for you! :P I distinctly remember a coconut one...

    I haven't actually seen King of Kong, although I keep meaning to. I heard Billy Mitchell is a bit of a bunghole in it but I'll reserve judgement for now :P

    Regarding high scores... I'm the same really. There's only a handful of games I'd show off my scores for. I really should get rid of that 'First Day Score' on my reviews, they're nearly all awful!

    And yes, he is indeed a photogenic dog. I don't know much about dogs but what breed is he? My wife says he's a poodle but I thought poodles were weirder looking than him :)

  8. I recommend King of Kong, its an enjoyable film and would make a really good subject for a review on your blog:) Billy Mitchell does indeed come off as a bit of a bunghole!

    I've always thought it was brave of you to publish your first day score on the games you review:) Keep them up there I say!

    And your wife is correct, Doogle is a poodle! He doesn't look as weird as most poodles because we have steadfastly refused to give him one of those poodle haircuts. Poodles are actually pretty normal looking without them!