Space Invaders Extreme PSP Review

It’s so great to see Taito release a game. In the UK they’ve been pretty much dead, and even in Asia you rarely see much from them unless you’re in an arcade. Or there’s their fantastic train driving simulator (now available on the Wii). But little else and it is sad because they pretty much changed arcades back in the day with the first release of this very series. Indeed when Space Invaders first appeared, the yen nearly ran dry and had to be quadrupled and then suddenly the whole world took notice of video games as a form of mainstream entertainment. Sure, Atari had produced more games by this time, but nothing like this. The game was quickly released for the Atari 26 system and despite having 112 variations on this cartridge alone – far more versions and clones of the game have been released on platforms the world over. Indeed the “2nd row” invader is – without doubt – the most iconic thing to come from a video game. Well now they’re back. How does the original shmup fair against current trends in the genre?

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Okay. I don’t need to go into how Space Invaders plays. You should know, and if you don’t you should crawl out from that base you’ve been hiding under. So what have Taito done to the game now? Well, they’ve “extremed it”. That is, taken the best variations of the game and added a brand new scoring technique. Well several actually. Plus they’ve added “space art” backgrounds and jazzed up and remixed the original theme. With “space ones”. It’s not the first time they’ve updated the game; there are various versions with the best being “Arkkanvader” (Attack of the Lunar Loonies) – which was a parody done in a similar vein to Parodius. It’s available on Mame (the PC emulator) or Space Invaders Pocket. Space Invaders Extreme on the other hand is only available on the PSP in Japan.

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Anyway back to this game and the same thing applies here as it did for the original – clear multiple waves of aliens as quick as possible for highest score. Well actually that’s not strictly true because being the “fastest shooter in the east” is not only what this game is about. It’s a scoring game and with a myriad of scoring techniques. To start off you’ll trigger a combo for hitting something – bullet, lander or mothership. Do it quick enough and the combo meter will keep rising. As well as this you have a number of score requirements as seen on the screen. “Row” bonus will highlight if you shoot 6 or more invaders in a wave along the horizontal. “Column” for shooting 4 in a column, Same shape for 4 or more of one shape and colour, for 4 or more of one colour. Hitting all these gives you a massive score and levels up your ship. But the waves are designed so you have to maximise with what you’ve got. You see, some rows won’t have 6 invaders so in this case maybe same “colour” or “shape” will work out better. You also have the extreme mode. What happens is that occasionally a flashing mothership will move across the screen and shooting it will initiate a bonus level. There are variations on this bonus wave, for example your ship will move on “space ice” or you’ll have a large number of ships to destroy all within a limited period. Complete the bonus wave and you’ll return to the main game in a limited time extreme mode complete with flashing “space colours”, “space music” and a large “space gun” with which to shoot the “space ships”. Massive bonuses are available in this mode and it also counts towards your final end of level ranking. Yellow motherships bring up a carousel of landers (similar to Namco’s Orydne) that you can shoot for a bonus.

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The gameplay is extremely simple – move left right and shoot. That’s your lot. It doesn’t sound immersive I know but that’s beside the point. Its minimalism, but just because something’s minimal doesn’t mean it is without soul and anyway, the graphical updates mean it’s awash with garish colour and this just about does enough to bring the title up to date – albeit to that of a modern doujin homebrew game. But this is not a bad thing. Extra permanent and more powerful temporary weapons are both available if certain conditions are met and completing the game opens up new extra modes too. Lander AI isn’t too advanced and given the 30 year period the landers haven’t advanced much, using the strategies of speed, size or mass against you. Later landers will be equipped with “space shielding” suggesting evolution in their design as you progress.

It’s an impressive game and despite the fact a hacked PSP has the largest shmup catalogue that exists on pretty much any format, it’s an impressive title. An essential purchase for any 2D shmup fan. Let’s hope the best Space Invader game in the series gets a western release.

8/10

by

Version tested: PSP

Developer: Taito

Publisher: Taito

Genre: Shoot em up