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Critical Reception: Taito's Space Invaders Extreme

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Taito's landmark arcade franchise revival Space Invaders Extreme, which critics describe as "a classic brilliantly infused with technicolor, variety, and heaps of caffeine."

Danny Cowan

June 18, 2008

5 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Taito's landmark arcade franchise revival Space Invaders Extreme, which critics describe as "a classic brilliantly infused with technicolor, variety, and heaps of caffeine." This year marks the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders' original release in Japanese arcades. The franchise has since seen numerous spin-offs and sequels, though recent efforts like Space Invaders Revolution have met with lukewarm receptions and mediocre review scores. This week's U.S. release of Space Invaders Extreme arrives as one of the franchise's highest-scoring entries to date, earning widespread acclaim and comparisons to Namco's similarly successful arcade revival Pac-Man Championship Edition. The Nintendo DS version of Space Invaders Extreme currently averages a score of 84 out of 100 at Metacritic.com, while the PSP port earns a rating of 85 out of 100. Shane Bettenhausen at 1UP.com gives Space Invaders Extreme a rating of A-, acknowledging that some may have doubts about Space Invaders' relevance in modern gaming. "The game's historical impact is undeniable," he admits. "Invadermania soon spawned countless imitators, and the addicting arcade blaster even inspired Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto to take an interest in gaming. But 30 years later, can such a simple concept still entertain?" "Much like recent retro-revival gems New Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man: Championship Edition," Bettenhausen answers, "Space Invaders Extreme wisely keeps the series' time-tested gameplay intact while adding a few clever twists and a funky coat of postmodern paint." Bettenhausen explains that Space Invaders Extreme contains enough new material to entertain current audiences as well as long-time series fans. "Fundamentally, you're still moving a dumpy little turret on a flat 2D plane, desperately fending off an encroaching armada of pixilated monstrosities," he describes. "But as you progress through the engrossing single-player game, you'll quickly leave the simple pleasures of yesteryear behind, as power-ups, pesky new invader types, and challenging bosses enter the mix." Space Invaders Extreme's improvements go beyond added enemies and items, however. "Extreme's wonderfully remixed gameplay comes at you in fluid, seamless waves that offer a surprising amount of freedom and replay value," Bettenhausen writes. "Depending on how well you perform, you'll traverse divergent branching paths, and nearly every level contains a secret challenge." An online-enabled versus multiplayer mode is also praised, as is the title's low cost. "With its solid, pick-up-and-play action and an easily digestible $20 price point," Bettenhausen concludes, "Extreme makes for a perfect summer gaming distraction." IGN's Craig Harris contributes a Space Invaders Extreme review scored at 9 out of 10, describing the game as a worthy celebration of the franchise's 30th anniversary. "It may seem like 'yet another remake' but honestly, it's without a doubt the greatest update to the franchise ever created," he asserts. "It's energetic and addictive, and does an absolutely fantastic job retaining the old-school charm of the original 1978 classic." Harris notes that Extreme's visual makeover is impressive, and mixes well with the audio design. "Those pixilated aliens from space have swooped in for another invasion, but this time they've brought the fight into an oversaturated world of sight and sound," he describes. "Space Invaders Extreme takes it all to the next level by injecting a certain energy to it all: a steady rhythm pulses a background beat while trippy motion backgrounds set a dynamic stage." Space Invaders' core gameplay sees a similar overhaul, according to Harris. "Space Invaders Extreme adds an awesome strategic element to the mix: destroying same-colored enemies in a four hit combo will drop a weapon power-up based upon that specific color," he explains. Additionally: "Players now control when the UFO wanders across the top of the screen by shooting a combo of combos: score four red and four blue aliens without breaking the chain and a bonus point UFO will zoom above the field of aliens. Shoot that and you'll jump to challenging bonus rounds that, if successful, send you into a 'Frenzy Mode' that can really bump up your score." The result, Harris says, is an update that proves to be as addictive as its source material. "It's amazing to experience how much power it has to suck you in," he notes. "It's as powerful a contemporary remake as Namco's awesome Pac-Man: Championship Edition is on the Xbox 360." At Games Radar, Eric Bratcher rates Space Invaders Extreme at 8 out of 10, describing it as "A classic brilliantly infused with technicolor, variety, and heaps of caffeine." Bratcher admits that the original Space Invaders may not have much appeal to modern gamers. "The original Space Invaders arcade game is the videogame version of a 78 RPM phonograph record," he explains. "It's a sacred totem of nostalgia for the veteran generation, but it's so primitive and clunky to youngsters that they feel actual pity for the old guys." He continues: "That's why it's so great that this reinvention, Space Invaders Extreme, blends old and new into a colorful, hyperactive, deeper than you'd guess shootathon that gamers of all eras should love." Space Invaders achieves this through frantically paced gameplay, according to Bratcher. "Basically, Space Invaders Extreme borrows a page from the WarioWare games and constantly switches up every possible thing it can every ten or 15 seconds," he says. "Both your ship and its bullets move faster than in the old days, there's a throbbing electro-soundtrack, and swooshy, psychedelic stuff going on in the background. You also get a ton of power-ups: bombs, shield, a spread shot, a laser." "The alien formations come in all different shapes and the aliens themselves wear every imaginable color and have a myriad of behaviors," Bratcher continues. "Some dive-bomb you. Some are gigantic. Some explode like a grenade or split into three when damaged. Some will actually turn sideways - and because they're only two-dimensional, like a cardboard cutout, this makes them way, way tougher to hit." This variety makes for a package of broad and lasting appeal, Bratcher explains. "The best thing is, it feels equal parts fresh and classic," he praises. "For quick-to-play, compelling arcade action - complete with a two-player head to head mode - it's hard to imagine a better package. Don't miss this one." Though Space Invaders has seen a rough recent history of mediocre rehashes and compilations, critics feel that Space Invaders Extreme is a bright spot in the long-running series. Reviews describe the title as an enjoyable remake that expands and enhances the arcade classic's gameplay, while avoiding many of the franchise's recent missteps.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan

Blogger

Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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