GALAXY FORCE / Sega / Arcade
Galaxy Force's nomenclature is confusing. There was only one Galaxy Force game, but Sega released arcade versions called Galaxy Force II that were just the same game with some cabinet tweaks, and used that title for some later console ports as well.
The game is more of a tech demo for Sega's Super Scaler technology than anything else. Other Super Scaler games had come in the two years before - Afterburner, Outrun, Hang-On, Space Harrier, Thunder Blade - but Galaxy Force looks far better than any of them. The tradeoff is in challenge. Most Super Scaler games are notorious for being balls hard, usually thanks to being one-hit wonders. Galaxy Force gives you the cushion of a large amount of health. As it was the first of the Scaler games (that I'm aware of) to do that, maybe they just didn't get balance properly with that mechanic, as the game is a cakewalk that you can easily complete on 3 or 4 credits with no prior experience. You could probably 1-credit it on the first try if your energy didn't constantly deplete on its own a la Gauntlet.
The game just looks so damn nice it's worth a run anyway, even if you're just kind of enjoying the sights while barely piloting. One impressive touch is that some levels have branching paths where you choose a right or left turn a la Outrun. But collisions with solid objects don't kill you, so the turns can get a little funky if you make them late - your sprite just kind of bounces along the wall awkwardly taking chip damage until you jank your way back on track. You also just kind of clip through objects that you hit coming head on. And I guess they couldn't figure out how to slow down the action for boss battles, so each level ends kind of anticlimactically with you just Shooting The Core once and watching a big 'splosion.
Though play is slightly janky in spots and it lacks challenge, I'm giving it a solid rating anyway just because it's so damn cooooool. For 1988 this level of 3D gameplay (even if it's pseudo-3D) was mindblowing.