REVIEW: Space Invaders Extreme

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

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Space Invaders Extreme Title Screen
Title Space Invaders Extreme
Developer Taito Corporation
Publisher Taito Corp, Degica
Release Date February 12, 2018
Genre Space Shooter
Platform PC Steam
Age Rating General Audiences
Official Website

As I have often said in my reviews, one of the benefits to being so (comparatively) old for the gaming industry is in having seen almost the entire breadth of video game development. The more things change the more they stay the same, for many aspects of gaming, while other things have obviously changed permanently and usually for the better. One particularly interesting phenomenon is the remixing of very old games. I’m very much a fan of this, not merely for nostalgia’s sake, but also for educating some of the younger gamers out there about the history of the medium that they love. And when it’s done right, it can remind us of mechanics that made those games such quarter munchers, while still evolving enough to appeal to even a modern audience. I’m grateful to say that Space Invaders Extreme is one of those games, hearkening back to the old but with something new to say.

Space Invaders Extreme | Anniversary

When 40 years old you become, look as good you will not.

Space Invaders Extreme was originally released for the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS back in February 12, 2008. This release marked the celebration of the original arcade game on the same day, back in 1978 (it’s almost as old as I am). Just over a year later the game was ported to the XBox Live platform of XBox 360, with the addition of 4-player co-op. This Steam port of the game is based on the graphics and sound of the XBox 360 version, only lacking the co-op. For some that might be a deal breaker, but this is not the type of game that I like to play co-op anyways, so your mileage may vary. What I do appreciate is the slight upgrade in visuals from the handheld version and the noticeable upgrade in musical quality. I don’t think the songs changed any, but they certainly sound a lot better coming out of my PC speakers.

Space Invaders Extreme | OG Space Invaders

This is the Space Invaders that I grew up with.

For those who never played the original Space Invaders, an image of it is seen above. You moved your ship back and forth on the bottom and tried to fire up at and kill all the aliens slowly descending from above. They can also fire down, so you had four shields that would take a certain amount of bullet damage for you to hide under, you just could not do so indefinitely. Every now and then a flying saucer would fly across the top and if you could snipe it you would get a large bonus to your score (which could possibly earn you extra lives). After the 1978 arcade version (which I only played a little) there were upgrades to it, such as color, and then a release on the Atari 2600. That is the version that I played for years before the release of the NES. Most of these mechanics are kept for Space Invaders Extreme, just twisted around a little bit. The only mechanic that is almost entirely absent is the shields protecting your ship. Instead, you can gain an upgrade that will attach a shield to your ship itself. That is only one of the five different shot upgrades that you can earn by collecting colored blocks that fall from defeated enemies. Your ship is a lot more maneuverable than it was before, but it is still stuck at the bottom. So you will mostly need to concentrate on picking up those shot upgrades and focusing fire on the correct enemies to make it out alive.

Space Invaders Extreme | Fever

Fever mode helps you get through several stages quickly and for a lot more points.

Another change from the old version is that occasionally after you kill a flying saucer, you will be transported to a special Bonus Stage. If you meet the condition in the Bonus Stage (usually killing a certain number of enemies within a time limit) you will return to the normal Stage in Fever Mode. In Fever Mode you maintain more powerful shots and you have a shield around yourself while the music and stage lighting changes rapidly. Any enemies you kill in Fever give you a lot more points (especially the flying saucers), so you can earn a lot of extra lives by trying to be in Fever as much as possible. Even though you do have a shield, you are not completely invulnerable from damage, so you will still have to be wary of taking hits lest your Fever end early.

Space Invaders Extreme | Boss Attack

The original Space Invaders didn’t have bosses, but other Atari games did.

Another welcome change to the original is the addition of a Boss Attack at the end of every Stage. This is something that was not in Space Invaders or really any of the very early arcade games. However, it had already started to become common by the end of the 2600 era, and games like Phoenix (another space shooter) started to have bosses to break up the same stages. Each of the bosses in Space Invaders Extreme is different from the other Stages, and they add a much more modern space shooter sensibility to the game. Most of them I found to be a bit easier than it was to reach the Boss, but there were exceptions (like the one pictured above).

Space Invaders Extreme | Stage Select

There are 16 stages to choose from of varying difficulty.

The other major change to the whole feel of the game is that there are discrete stages instead of an endless repetition of the same stage over and over. Once you get to Stage 3, if you score well enough on Stage 2, you will have the choice of bumping up the difficulty to the B route. Likewise if you score high enough on Stage 3 you will have the choice to enter the C route in Stage 4, and so on. Each letter increase in route will bump up the difficulty of the stage significantly and entirely change the enemy behavior. After you beat the game once on any route, you will have access to the Extra stages, which are the most difficult of any route. Also, after beating any stage, you will be able to unlock them in Free Mode (seen above). In Free Mode you can just play a single stage isolated from any progression if you want to get some practice on any particular part that is giving you trouble.

Space Invaders Extreme | Score

The long term replay value is in chasing those high scores and your Worldwide Ranking.

The reason you might want to get that practice in is for the long term replay value of the game, which is in increasing your High Score and therefore your Worldwide Ranking. The rankings are a large enough deal for this game that the developer even keeps them updated on their home page. But even if you aren’t into competition, the game still has a lot of value to it. The way that the music and sound effects interact when you fire and when you kill an enemy is a strong reminiscence of Rez. So the game is just fun to play, and an aural feast. It takes only about 30 minutes to go through a complete five stage run of the game, depending on your success with not dying. But there is also a lot of replay value to come back to and the game hardly takes up any space on your hard drive or requires a very hefty PC. So it’s worth just keeping on your computer for coming back to every now and then when you want to unwind while destroying some aliens. I would say that it’s definitely worth the $19.99 price tag, but some people who really wanted the co-op mode might feel that is too much. But for me, this is exactly what I wanted out of a very old game reboot. It keeps enough mechanics of the original game to remind me of why I played it for hundreds of hours, but it also adds enough fresh ideas to keep it from being stale.

Review Score

Review Copy Provided By The Publisher

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.