reviewed on NDS
In an industry as young as video gaming, a thirty year anniversary is a huge event. It is hard to believe, but that’s just how long it has been since Taito graced arcades worldwide with Space Invaders. To celebrate this achievement, Taito has polished and reworked the classic formula, and the fruit of their efforts is Space Invaders Extreme. This modernized Space Invaders isn’t the slow, plodding experience the original was; it’s lightning-quick, frenetic and possibly the most addictive game the DS has ever seen.
Space Invader’s core gameplay remains virtually intact; you control a small cannon, Earth’s last line of defense against ever-advancing waves of alien ships. The cannon can move back and forth and fire straight up with the press of a button. This, however, is where the familiarity ends. There are no longer defense bunkers to protect you from enemy fire, meaning you’ll always be out in the open. To make up for this, your cannon is much more agile and just easier to maneuver overall.
The most important new gameplay element is the Feature Panel, which appears on the right side of the screen. By shooting down the right colored invaders, you can earn point bonuses or power-ups. Power-ups are earned by shooting down four of the same colored invaders in a row, and can help substantially in dealing with incoming waves. There are four power-ups; Bomb destroys everything in its blast radius, Laser tears through everything it encounters, Broad shoots out five bullets at once, and Shield can block all enemy attacks. Each power is timed, but if you want to hold onto one you can keep either of the shoulder buttons pressed and your cannon will revert back to its original state. If you manage to complete two different Power-up Features in a row, a flashing UFO will fly by. Managing to shoot this down will activate one of the game’s many Rounds. These timed Rounds will task you with shooting down a certain number of invaders. Success will allow you to enter Fever Mode. Your cannon is much more powerful in Fever and can easily blow through waves of invaders.
Speaking of the invaders, they are much more varied this time around. Apart from color differences, they all have their own unique attack patterns to watch out for. Some will explode when shot down; others will dive at your ship after taking damage. There’s an absolute ton going on at all times and although this makes the game incredibly fun it’s also its weakest point. High-score fiends will have to keep an astute eye on too many meters and gauges to count, and the game does a terrible job of informing you what each does. Most are only briefly mentioned in the instruction manual, leaving most of the game to you to figure out – good luck.
The single-player Arcade Mode can be beaten in under an hour, but the game offers up an awesome multiplayer mode to make up for it. On the DS, you can play locally with one game card, or online via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi service. For the most part the multiplayer plays like the single player, sans the rounds. The goal is to outlast your opponent throughout identical waves of invaders. There’s one twist – enemies you destroy can be stocked and then sent at your opponent by shooting down a UFO. Multiplayer gets dangerously competitive after a few short rounds, and you’ll invest hours upon hours into it before getting bored of it.
While the invaders are the same pixilated sprites we’ve come to know and love, Space Invaders Extreme is actually quite a visually busy game. The blocky models are complemented by dynamic 3D backgrounds that always look great. The mix of old-school sprites and new-school backdrops is a sight to behold, although it does sometimes feel like it sacrifices function for form. Too often your eyes will get caught by the backgrounds, and a stray bullet will find its way to your cannon. Thankfully, you do have the option to turn off the 3D backgrounds.
The audio front is equally impressive – a couple cool techno riffs are accompanied by impressive Lumines-style musical sound effects. Every time you shoot or destroy an invader an instrument rings out, giving the sound design a delightfully random feel.
A must for DS
Space Invaders Extreme is a fast-paced, stylish shooter that every hardcore DS owner needs to buy. It’s probably the best old-school action the system has to offer this side of Contra and at only twenty bucks, there’s no reason not to pick it up. Some minor quirks stop it from becoming a classic, but all in all, this is one hell of a way to celebrate an anniversary.
No Pros and Cons at this time