It was 30 years ago in June that Space Invaders hit arcades and exploded. Space Invaders changed not only the perception of arcades in general, but also video games themselves. The game created and defined a genre, and it’s still a cultural touchstone that’s as relevant today as it was back in 1978. Amazingly, the entire game programmed by one person, who also did the sound and built the hardware to run it. With alien designs based mainly on seafood, the simple idea of aliens attacking from space took flight.
Nostalgia is nice and all, but to be blunt, Taito has pretty much made sure no one forgets its Space Invaders series by revisiting it every five years or so. The latest example, Space Invaders Extreme, has been released for both the PSP and Nintendo DS. Although the game can be challenging to locate, once you get your hands on it, the gameplay definitely makes it worth the effort — provided you’re familiar with the series.
Space Invaders Extreme nicely and deftly updates the franchise without changing any of the iconic gameplay. In a nod to Lumines and Rez, music is more prevalent, and there are combos now for columns and same enemy types. The game consists of five stages, each of which ends in a boss fight. Along the way you can access challenge stages by hitting a certain types of UFOs (the enemy that would fly above the invaders and actually took skill to hit in the old days). These challenges are similar to those found in Galaga: hit “X” number of enemies before the time runs out, with little reward other than points. At least the rounds are quite fun. Other UFOs offer up a roulette, and depending on which enemy you shot, you earn a different reward, extra lives and a few curious other items.
Colors splash across the screen throughout the game, and to see them light up the PSP’s screen in particular is really something. The invaders themselves remain unchanged, although you will encounter bigger versions of the sprites you’re used to seeing, and they will take a few more shots to kill. The game also includes bankable power-ups for the fearless laser cannon, although these are pretty limited due to their time and usage limits.
Once you’ve beaten the game, a few other modes unlock, and you’re always able to repeat the stage you just beat to see if you can get a higher score. Even with that replayability, the game is still short, but it’s sweet and has a $20 price tag that makes the game all the more enticing.
It may sound simple — and really, it is — but Space Invaders Extreme loses nothing in playability. It may seem initially easy, but it’s not a cake walk by any stretch. As long as Taito can keep adding timely updates to the Space Invaders franchise, it’s certainly in no danger of being lost amid the wave of old quarter munchers that have passed by the wayside — especially when the updates are this fun.
- Score: 8
— Phillip Vollmer