Posted June 23rd 2008 by Oliver Chen.
Most people seem to share similar feelings of malevolence towards the original Space Invaders, released to arcades back in 1978. Thirty years later, Taito attempts to capture gamers' hearts once again with Space Invaders Extreme, a mixture of both retro and revival, for the Nintendo DS. And while much about the game has been overhauled to meet the standards of modern-day shoot-em-ups, SIE still manages to retain its classic "defend your base" flair while layering it all with a huge helping of style.
The basic premise of the game remains unchanged: take control of a cannon and obliterate formations of aliens before they destroy the earth. But while the original game just threw endless waves of enemies at the cannon until you perished, this game makes you destroy pre-determined formations of enemies before capping off the stage with a dual screen-spanning boss battle against a gargantuan space invader. These formations scale up in difficulty as you progress through each of the five stages. The invaders gain an ever-increasing arsenal of tricks and weaponry, ranging from teleportation to giant purple lasers of doom. I was pleased to learn that the formations weren't all just run-and-gun, either -- some of the waves require puzzle-like thinking in order to destroy the invaders with minimum loss of life.
While the enemy may seem to have stacked the odds against you, your cannon has learned a few new tricks over the past thirty years, too: defeating four like-colored invaders in a row will cause them to drop one of three powerups which can modify your shot into a bomb, laser, or broad shot. Once again, a strategic element comes into play with the game here, as certain invader formations are best defeated using certain weapon types.
Defeat two differently-colored sets of four enemies in a row, and you gain the opportunity to participate in a bonus round, which is essentially a minigame featuring both DS screens. Complete the round, and you briefly enter a Fever mode where your weapon is upgraded to full power for maximum pointage and invader destruction.
While these improvements sound nice, they only serve to bring Space Invaders into the 21st century. What really sets SIE apart from the crowd, though, is its graphics and music. Wild and abstract background settings juxtapose the 8-bit invader, cannon, and shot sprites. Not only do they look cool, they also add a touch of flair which many retro revivals recently seem to have taken to implementing.
Quite possibly the best feature of Space Invaders Extreme is its music. Featuring a techno soundtrack composed by the legendary Zuntata, the music features so prominently in this game that an entire section is dedicated to it on the user interface. Every fired shot and every destroyed invader adds to the background music, and your actions will actually influence the soundtrack itself -- think of the percussion overlays in enemy battles in The Wind Waker. I even found myself unconciously firing shots in time with the music instead of blindly mashing the A button on multiple occasions. It's that engrossing.
Playing through all five stages will probably take an hour or two to complete on the first run. Performing exceptionally on stages after the first one, however, will unlocking branching paths based on difficulty. Beating these more difficult stages will likely take another ten to twenty hours to complete. And after that, there is a ranking mode to contend with, which disables continuing and stores high scores for uploading via Wi-Fi onto a global leaderboard. And after that, there is a versus mode which pits you against a CPU, single-card downloaded player, or online opponent, in a Tetris DS-like battle for survival. Quite impressive for a remake of a thirty-year-old game.
There are a few things to nitpick about this game, however. First of all, the user interface feels way too busy. With all sorts of messages flashing around on both DS screens, background images zooming all over the place, and enemy battles just short of chaotic, things might get confusing for people. While the instruction manual does a good job of laying down the basics of the interface, there are a couple of nuances that players will have to learn and get used to on their own. Watch out for eye strain, as well.
The other minor issue is control -- thirty years, and the cannon is still only able to move left and right. While this is a mainstay from the original Space Invaders that some may swear by, it feels slightly archaic. Nonetheless, with sixteen challenging stages, an infinitely-replayable ranking mode, and graphics and sound that are just plain awesome, Space Invaders Extreme is a remake that is definitely a...
Heartstopper - Get ready to be invaded.
It's fairly clear that this game is intended for score attack junkies. But even if you aren't, playing this just might make you into one.
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These aren't your run-of-the-mill invaders anymore.
Those are some big pixels.
Fever Time gives you the opportunity to clear large formations in a matter of seconds.
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