More Failures with Galaga: Destination Earth

Since Ultimate Spider-Man showed a very similar reluctance to run under Windows 10 as Galaga: Destination Earth, it seemed plausible that the cause might be the same: DRM. Specifically, USM uses SafeDisc, which Windows 10 considers to be a security violation. I still don’t know if that’s the case or not. I haven’t found a nocd crack for Galaga online. I did find some general instructions for circumventing SafeDisc on Windows 10 by downloading and signing a driver in administrator mode, but it didn’t seem to help. Maybe Galaga instead uses SecuROM, another DRM system that Windows 10 doesn’t like, with a bigger reputation as a security risk, widely accused of flat-out being a rootkit. Or maybe the problem was never really DRM at all.

Regardless, it seems like my best bet is still to set up a Windows 98 machine, which is something I kind of want to do anyway for the sake of other games. But in the course of searching for nocd cracks, I discovered another option: has the Playstation version of Galaga: Destination Earth available to play online. And I did play that for long enough to get through the first level, but I won’t be continuing there. The sound is unbearably choppy in my browser, just constantly cutting in and out, and the resolution is significantly below what I’m willing to accept for this game. That is, it’s probably 256×224, designed for a standard definition television with a certain amount of blur. I’m not really very demanding about resolution. 800×600 is plenty for me in a game designed around 3D graphics, like this one. I might even get used to 256×224. But the sound is a real deal-breaker.

At least I did legitimately play it for a little while, though!

Ultimate Spider-Man

For the last couple of days, my Twitter feed has been all agog over the new Spider-Man game for the PS4. I don’t have a PS4, but I do have an open-world Spider-Man game I haven’t finished: Ultimate Spider-Man (Treyarch, 2005). I recall playing just the start of it back in 2006, in the last days before this blog. I’m not sure why I didn’t play more. Possibly I found the open world intimidating. Or maybe the framerate was slow and I wanted to wait to play it on a faster machine — it had to have been pretty demanding at the time.

Running it on Windows 10 was a little difficult. It installs without apparent problems, but the game itself simply exits immediately, much like Galaga: Destination Earth did. But USM is apparently a better-loved game than G:DE, because I was easily able to find an explanation online, if not a solution, via It’s all down to the DRM. USM uses SafeDisc DRM, which apparently doesn’t work on Windows 10 for security reasons, just like SecuROM. Fortunately, I was able to find a reputable-looking no-CD crack on the web. Windows 10 doesn’t much like the security implications of running random programs downloaded from the internet either, but at least it’s willing to ask me about it instead of just shutting the thing down automatically. When I’m through with this, I’ll have to give G:DE another look and see if it’s using SafeDisc or SecuROM too. If it is, it’s conceivable that I could hack around it.

One other problem: some of the cutscenes glitch up the screen badly. Only a few of them, though, and it hasn’t been an impediment to understanding what’s going on, so I’m putting up with it.

I’ve played for a few hours, and it’s already feeling repetitive. To some extent, that’s my fault. I could propel the plot forward faster than I’ve been doing. It’s just that it’s fun to just swoop around exploring, and there’s a lot of stuff clamoring for Spidey’s attention in New York: tokens to collect, timed web-swinging races, “combat tours” where you follow an arrow and beat up gang members. Those all have GTA3 equivalents, but there’s one more type of collectible: “events”, which is what the game calls it when a citizen needs your help. A red spot appears on the mini-map, and when you reach it, you find a woman menaced by hoodlums, or a getaway car fleeing a robbery, or a man dangling precariously from a ledge. You can hardly refuse those, can you? But the game seems to have only so many event types, so they get repeated a lot.

The game doesn’t entirely give a choice, either. Before you can go to the next plot-advancing checkpoint, you have to meet a quota of “city goals”, which is to say, a minimum count of tokens, races, combat tours, and events. Your totals carry over, however, and I’m currently well ahead of the requirements on all points except combat tours. I suspect that it’s calibrated so that you don’t really have to grind the goals, that you’ll meet the minimal requirements just by doing the things you happen to come across on your way to the Daily Bugle or whatever.

Between spider-missions, there are bits where you play as Venom. I’ll talk about him in my next post.

More Adventures with Twenty-Year-Old Operating Systems

Sometimes, you really have to regard retrogaming as a journey-not-the-destination thing. I don’t for a minute believe that the experience of finally playing Galaga: Destination Earth will justify the effort I’ve been putting into it. The only experience that can justify that effort is the experience of the effort itself.

When last we left off, I had more or less given up on running this game on my usual gaming machine, even in emulation. So this weekend, I dug some older hardware out of the closet. First up was my previous rig, in an ingeniously-designed compact case made by Shuttle. It turned out to be completely intact — the last time I upgraded, I upgraded everything. Once I hooked it up to a monitor and keyboard, it booted into Windows XP without problems — it grumbled about the CMOS, due to the battery being run down, but automatically figured out what hardware it had anyway. G:DE made no claim that it would work on XP, but I figured it was worth a try anyway, because at least it was a 32-bit OS and I had vague memories of its compatibility mode being more reliable. Well, no dice. It had exactly the same problems as under Windows 10. I contemplated downgrading the system to Windows 98, but gave up when it failed to recognize my Win98 install CD as bootable. Just as well. I can imagine a working XP machine being useful someday.

Going back another generation took a little more work. My pre-Shuttle mid-sized tower case was missing a graphics card — presumably because I had transplanted it into the Shuttle box when I first got it. But I found a suitable disused one in a box of loose cards. It’s very likely the one I had removed from this machine in the first place. Strange how upgrading graphics cards used to be such a routine part of gamer life, but at this point I haven’t bothered in years. Getting it in was a little awkward, due to the case coming from an era before people got case design really figured out. Oh, it was fairly innovative for its day — the motherboard is mounted on a section that slides out for easier access. But “easier” is relative, and the device’s innards are almost inevitably an intestinal tangle of cables, just because that’s how things were back then.

Once it was up and booting, the machine reminded me that it no longer considered its copy of Window XP to be valid and would not me log in. Which is fine, I suppose, seeing how I really intended to install Windows 98 anyway. But, as with the Shuttle box, it wouldn’t boot from the Win98 install CD. Was it even bootable at all? Perhaps not; apparently some Win98 install CDs are, and some aren’t. When I had been trying to get Windows 98 running under emulation, I downloaded a Win98 install CD that I know to be bootable, because I booted it in the emulator, but burning it to a disc failed to produce a bootable CD. Apparently Microsoft disabled the ability to burn bootable CDs back in Windows 7, probably to make it harder to pirate Windows.

But there was always an alternative to booting from the CD: booting from a floppy disk.

This machine actually still had a 3.5-inch floppy drive mounted in it, albeit not connected. After I connected it, I found that the machine seemed no longer capable of getting through its startup sequence. It would get to the point of displaying “Press DEL to configure, TAB to continue with POST”, but no keypresses would get it to do anything more. I almost called it quits right there, but after taking a break, I realized that the only plausible explanation for this change in behavior was that I had wiggled or jostled something in the case while plugging in the floppy cable. Giving all socketed items a thorough additional wiggle solved the problem.

I’m a little surprised that my collection of floppies have survived as well as they have, considering how long it’s been since I’ve used them. Every bootable disk I’ve tried has booted successfully, including the Windows 98 Startup disk. But this leads to an immediate additional roadblock. Every bootable floppy I own boots to some kind of command line or prompt that requires keyboard input to do anything. And, although the BIOS knows how to get input from a USB keyboard, these programs do not. I have a USB-to-PS/2 adapter. I have several, in fact. But it turns out that these adapters only work on USB keyboards that know how to use them. I’m fairly sure I had a PS/2 keyboard around not so many years ago, but got rid of it because it was taking up space and collecting dust and didn’t fit into a neat little box the way those graphics cards did. The lesson here is clearly to never throw away anything.

And there, for now, I stand. My options going forward include figuring out how to burn a bootable Windows 98 install CD and hoping that it’ll recognize the keyboard once it’s into the install process, or gaining access to a PS/2 keyboard for long enough to do the install. My options do not include, obviously, giving up.

Galaga: Destination Earth problems

For reasons I won’t describe here, the team I’m currently on at work recently declared a month-long internal Galaga competition, planned to be the first of a series of contests around different classic arcade games. Well, it’s not without precedent for managers to officially sanction non-work-related recreational gaming. I’m unlikely to win, but I’ve been playing a little every day, and have managed to reach scores that aren’t too entirely embarrassing. But more importantly, after a few days of this, I remembered: Wasn’t there a Galaga remake on the Stack? One of those classic arcade remakes from around 2000, with 3D models and power-ups added?

Indeed there was. Galaga: Destination Earth, a largely-forgotten title for Windows 95/98 and the original Playstation. I have the Windows version, which is unfortunate, because it doesn’t work any more. I vaguely recall that it had some problems back when I first played it, too — graphics glitches and whatnot — but on my current system, although the installer runs without problems, the game itself exits shortly after starting, or sometimes just hangs, without displaying anything on the screen in either case. And that’s a pretty hard problem to solve.

Playing with compatibility modes did nothing but sometimes make it display an error message: “The application was unable to start correctly”. Googling this, I found that it could be the result of a failure to load a DLL — but which DLL? I installed a program from Microsoft called “Process Monitor” to find out, only to learn that galaga.exe was not itself reporting any failures. It was apparently just deciding of its own accord to not run.

I tried looking online for help, but this is not a well-loved game, and therefore not a well-supported one. Hasbro Interactive’s tech support website doesn’t seem to exist any more., an inestimable source of game fixes, had nothing. One disreputable-looking patch site claimed to have a fix, although it wasn’t specific about what problems it fixed. Once downloaded, it was easy to identify as just a malware installer.

As of this writing, the most extreme measure I’ve tried is installing Windows 98 under an emulator to run it there. (I still have my old Win98 installer CD, and its sleeve with the license key on it!) This hasn’t worked any better so far, but there may be a better emulator out there. And if there isn’t, I can try to put together a real Windows 98 machine out of hoarded parts, like I’ve been planning ever since starting this blog. Or, alternately, I can buy a copy of the Playstation version on ebay for five bucks. But at this point, that would feel like giving up.

The galling part is that in the process of googling for help, I found some complaints that the game is too short — just a few hours long, apparently. I probably could have polished it off in 2001 if I had just played a little longer.