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Space Invaders Extreme DS Review

By Neilie Johnson, 7/9/2008

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When's the last time you played Space Invaders? Last time I played Space Invaders, I was at Chuck E. Cheese wearing two-tone corduroy bell-bottoms and listening to “My Sharona”. Yep, it's hard to believe, but this year marks the 30th anniversary of this beloved arcade classic and Taito is celebrating by re-releasing it on the DS.

It's a gutsy move, releasing a thirty year old title—in an entertainment medium that's only been around for about four decades, Space Invaders is a veritable antique. How can it possibly compete with all of today's new gaming hotness?

Well, like so many aging entertainment icons, the game's had a little work done. Originally, the game's basic 2D graphics made it only slightly more interesting than Pong and the “story” was nothing but your garden variety alien invasion. The music was nothing but a monotonous Jaws-like “DUH-duh, DUH-duh” and the gameplay consisted of mashing the fire button as fast as possible while moving your cannon left and right. Us 70's kids had it rough.

Today's Space Invaders makes the '78 version look Amish. Following a product trend that's been going on for a while now, the new Space Invaders isn't just new, it's Extreme. And when they say extreme, they're not kidding. It's still the game we know and love but it also has extremely distracting background effects, extremely manic music and an extremely cluttered UI.

Taito's done everything they can to update the title for today's gamers, including adding trippy background graphics, weapon power-ups, techno music and boss battles. Not only has Taito enhanced the game's music and graphics, they've beefed up the core gameplay as well.

The Invaders of the 21st century have become much more cunning, and to beat 'em, you'll need more than fast reflexes. Some fire missiles, some change form, some zoom all over the screen, some turn to the side, making them nearly impossible to hit. And as if fighting off the descending hordes wasn't enough, you also have to catch falling powerups and target space saucers as they dart across the screen. This is just as important as the core game because saucers grants bonus points, trigger mega-score modes and mini-game levels and powerups are often the difference between victory and defeat.

One last update to the game is the leveling up mechanic. Scoring high levels up your cannon, making blasting enemies that much easier. And since Space Invaders Extreme doesn't have the old style barrier shields to hide behind, it's important to rack up the points for protection as well as bragging rights.

All these bells and whistles have definitely reinvented Space Invaders for today's gamers but even so, there is one annoying relic left over from the arcade days. It's an old-school game feature called “having to re-play everything if you die”. The game is definitely challenging, requiring you not only to move fast but to think fast, adapting to new scenarios every second. It takes skill (and sometimes luck) to make it through multiple sub-stages and nothing sucks more than making one wrong move during the boss fight and having to start all over again—not from the boss fight, but from the beginning.

In spite of that one possibly frustrating element, the game has a lot to offer hardcore and casual gamers alike. Having the most basic of mechanics and controls as well as an unexpected depth and difficulty, it's a game that's easy to learn but difficult to master. Whether you want just to hold your own at a DS party or become a full-on Space Invaders master, Space Invaders Extreme's three game modes offer plenty of ways to train. Polish your skills in single player Arcade Mode by advancing through five stages as in the coin-op game, compete with yourself for your all-time high score on individual stages in Ranking Mode, or take on your friends in two-player Multiplayer bouts via local wireless play or online. As an added plus, a Global Rankings system attached to both the Ranking and Multiplayer Modes allows you the satisfaction of rubbing your skillz in your friends' faces.

Keeping all this in mind, in our fast-moving, highly-competitive world of modern day gaming, how did this retro remake measure up?

The Good: A classic title with solid gameplay amped up to 21st century standards.

The Bad: A “kitchen sink” approach to graphics that clutters the screen and is possibly seizure-inducing; punishing gamers for failing with needless repetition.

For some, Space Invaders Extreme 30th Anniversary Edition will be a fresh take on a golden oldie; for others, an engaging new title. For everyone, it's a great deal—for $20 you not only get hours of great entertainment, you get your own little piece of video gaming history.

Overall: 80%



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