Written: September 23rd, 2014
|Image from MobyGames|
Year: 2003 | Developed by: Empire Interactive | Published by: Taito | [|O|]
It's incredible how Space Invaders has been around for thirty-six years now. When it first came out in arcades in 1978 it must've been quite the phenomenon that took gamers by storm; so much so that it got high acclaim and got ported, rereleased, and remade for almost every console since. But how does one look at it from today's perspective? After all, gaming has evolved a lot since then, and I don't think it would be fair to judge it by its age, but my thoughts on the game are: it's okay.
Don't get me wrong, it does earn its place in the history books as one of the first (if not the first) shoot'em ups ever made, not to mention a lot of the games in the genre owe a lot to this game. But the thing about Space Invaders was that it was a '70s arcade game, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's a game I find fun enough to play in short bursts. I don't know, maybe it's because I've grown too attached to console gaming that I feel this way. Or maybe it's because I recently played more than one version of the same game on my cousin's PlayStation 2 European-exclusive compilation commemorating its 25th anniversary Space Invaders Anniversary.
One of the most interesting aspects of the original Space Invaders was that it had four versions made for it: the monochromatic version that was black and white, the cellophane version where there several layers of colors that make it look colorful, the version where everything had its own color, and an upright version with a background. Usually there's only one version when it comes to classic games, but with Space Invaders is an interesting case. I guess the problem with having four versions of the same game is that while they look different they ultimately play the same. But hey, while I think the game is okay, I do acknowledge it as a classic: hell, this compilation wouldn't even exist had it not taken gamers by storm, or any of its sequels or reiterations for that matter.
I believe the main draw to the compilation is that there are "nine versions of the classic" as claimed on the cover. On one hand, it's enticing; but on the other hand, it can be worrying because Space Invaders is not exactly a game that's best played in long bursts. Fortunately there are plenty of aspects that make this compilation worth experiencing... a little. Among the nine selections are: the first game (four versions), Space Invaders Part II (two versions), Space Invaders Vs, Space Invaders 3D, and Space Invaders Doubles. The story is not very complex: alien spaceships have come to invade, and it's up to you to stop them in their tracks.
While I have played Space Invaders prior to having experienced this compilation, this was the first time I got to play its 1979 follow-up Space Invaders Part II (or Deluxe for America). Aside from a neat title sequence, the alien spaceships creeping down and getting into position before the area starts, invaders being split and being turned invisible, and cutscenes that were implemented after each stage has been beaten, it's really more of the same; in that I also think it's okay. What happens is that the armada sidles over to the left or right, and once they do they'll go down a row and move the opposite direction; when you get close to shooting all of them they'll start to move very fast (even on the last ship). There are four barriers that separate you from the aliens, which can be shot at from both sides; and when that happens it slowly gets torn apart. The game is over if either you lose all your lives, or the some of the last space invaders reach your zone (regardless of how many lives you have) ending up killing you. You can only move left and right, and from time to time there are saucers which pop up from time to time which are worth extra points if you manage to shoot it.
Space Invaders Vs is the competitive (and colorful) version of the game, much like Pac-Man Vs was the competitive version of Pac-Man, and what's neat is how it's split-screen with the adversary being played by either the computer or the second player. The gameplay is the same as the arcade predecessor, but there is a twist: you are able to shoot to the upper side (while the enemy tries to shoot you at the lower side) as well. There are a few difficulty settings, and you can choose how many sets (1, 3, or 5) you would like to play. It's actually pretty fun, and the added difficulty settings lend it replay value. Space Invaders Doubles is to the original Space Invaders what Pong Doubles is to the original Pong: a simultaneous cooperative version of the game.
But the best game in the compilation I feel is Space Invaders 3D, which is exactly as it sounds: a 3D version of the classic. While the ship you control is comprised of a vector shape, everything else has got a 3D look to it. And if that's not enough, it's also possible to enable up to one of five points of view, whether it be first person, third person, seen in a way which shows everything, et al. It makes things pretty exciting that way, and while it plays the same it's rather fun. The main menu has you surrounded by arcade machines, several of which consist of any of the nine games in question; what I find a little cool (albeit a bit disorienting at times) is how in the other eight titles you can also enable different perspectives.
Usually when it comes to game compilations they would show you the game either in its original aspect ratio or stretched out to the size of the screen; Space Invaders Anniversary does things different in that once you select the game the camera will be dragged to said arcade machine; and then you can either have the screen be shown close up, see the game from far away, or have it be shown where the upper corners are farther while the lower corners are closer. I don't know exactly the word for it, but it looks something like this:
|Screenshot from MobyGames|
It's pretty cool, actually. Makes me wonder how cool it would be if other arcade collections had that feature; then again it would be a pretty complex process to go through, but I like that these titles had that.
Not enough, you say? Well, are you tired of hearing the same Space Invaders sound bytes over and over and over again? Don't worry, Empire Interactive has got your back, for while the game is paused you can select the central song of other Taito arcade classics such as Night Striker, Elevator Action, The Legend of Kage, Darius, and even Bubble Bobble to fill the background. That's awesome; who wouldn't want to play Space Invaders with Bubble Bobble music? The same music that you choose will especially play while you're in the menu; it reminds me of how Intellivision Lives! did it (a little). As for extras, you can view some nice sketches, schematics, and even promotional posters of the game; sadly you cannot zoom in to appreciate every detail like you could in most compilations (I did find it curious how one of the posters involved polar bears; what?)
Space Invaders Anniversary only saw release in Europe (despite the fact that Empire had the rights to release it in America as well), which is a shame because it's not a bad compilation at all. The only downside is that there are mostly versions of the same game, which can be a bit redundant if you're not in the proper mood to play the arcade classic. I may find Space Invaders okay, but it doesn't mean that I wish to dissuade gamers from trying it (on this compilation even). I recommend you try the compilation for Space Invaders 3D and Space Invaders Vs, as well as the chance to play these games while listening to the awesome music of Taito's gems from yesteryear as well as the multiple viewpoints that you choose to view the games. If you're curious, I say give it a go (or import it if you live in America or Japan); if you haven't played the game before (and how could you not have, it's been available on almost every system now) this isn't a bad place to start. As far as classics compilations go, this one's not too shabby.
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
Thank you for reading my review, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought. Take care. =)