30 years later and Space Invaders is still kicking ass and taking names.
Space Invaders revolutionized gaming 30 years ago. Famed Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto did not even express the slightest interest in video games until he had seen Space Invaders in action. The game was so revolutionary for the time that it practically invented the concept of high scores and caused a shortage of 100 yen coins in Japan. Space Invaders helped usher in the golden age of arcade gaming in 1978, and in 2008 it returns in style.
Space Invaders Extreme puts a twist on the classic Space Invaders formula by including many modern features of shmups including power-ups, combos, hidden bonuses, and seizure-inducing colors and themes. The giant shields which once protected your cannon are removed, which speeds up gameplay and makes the game feel more frantic due to your vulnerability. Though changed to suit the times, Space Invaders Extreme retains the focus of the original title - destroy all the aliens before they land on Earth (a.k.a. the bottom of the screen).
The original Space Invaders featured enemies of a single color with no distinguishing characteristics between them.. Now each invader has a unique color with a power-up assigned to it. Destroy four invaders of the same color and the last invader killed will drop a power-up. Each power up has its strengths and weaknesses, and using them requires strategy. For instance, picking up a blue power-up will give you a devastatingly powerful laser, but it is completely ineffectual against invaders equipped with a shield. The single shielded invader will protect all invaders from the laser behind them as well.
As you play, you’ll memorize the formations of the invaders, allowing you to save certain enemies for last in order to have acquire an optimal power-up for the next stage. Of course, the quicker you destroy enemies and progress through each level, the better your score. In effect, the seemingly simple power-up system doubles as a replayability feature, encouraging you to replay levels to attain the greatest score via optimal enemy kills and power-up use.
A fantastic new aspect of Space Invaders Extreme are boss fights at the end of each stage. These boss levels are inventive, unique, and make for an excellent way to wrap up a stage. In one particular battle, you are forced to shoot at shielded invaders who rocket your shots back at you upon contact. Normally, this is used to catch you off guard and cause you to shoot yourself, but in this case you need to time it such that the shots bypass you and hit the giant invader boss on the bottom screen. These fights combine a variety of the concepts found in the game and make for some extremely unique and challenging experiences.
This title also has engaging music to accompany the stellar gameplay. At the beginning of each stage, a simple techno track plays; though not particularly interesting, it is sufficient. However, as you begin to play you start to realize that you are creating the music that accompanies the techno track with your actions. Each shot fired makes a particular noise layering over the base techno track, creating a unique beat structure. Shooting your cannon, destroying enemies, enemy fire, fever mode, and enemy movement all make sounds that match the beat of the base track. This approach to the in-game music makes the whole experience that much more engaging, putting you in a groove as you destroy your alien foes.
Another excellent inclusion that draws you into the experience is Rumble Pak support. Approaching invaders cause the pak to forcefully vibrate, growing more feverish as the enemies draw closer. Destruction of the invaders also causes rumble. This combination of the appealing visual cues, engaging gameplay-driven music, and tactile rumbling provides for an unmatched experience that titillates all the gaming senses.
As if the core experience was not enough, Space Invaders Extreme provides a solid multiplayer offering, both locally and with the Nintendo WiFi Connection. The multiplayer mode included is essentially the same as the story mode experience, with a couple of small exceptions. In the multiplayer modes, combos add invaders to your enemy’s screen; there is also no real stage progression, only back-to-back levels in which the last man standing wins. This concept is simple enough, and it provides for a unique experience with each battle. For those who don't have an online connection or those looking to brush up on their skills without going online, the game provides a Practice Mode that lets the player square off against the computer.
Space Invaders Extreme is an outstanding package complete with everything you could possibly want from a Space Invaders title. The core game experience simply bombards your senses with awesomeness and could not be a greater joy to experience. Even losing in the game is tolerable because it has no real effect besides making you restart the stage, giving you further opportunity to brush up on your skills and eventually crush your enemies. If you are even remotely interested in shooters, or loved the original title, you owe it to yourself to get this game.