If you’re ever wondered what Rez would be like in 2D, Space Invaders Extreme is one of the closest examples you will find. That’s right, this is not another one of those vanilla Space Invaders remakes. The masterminds at Taito and Square/Enix have put a fresh spin on the pioneering game to bring it more into the league of the modern arcade shooters on XBLA and PSN like Geometry Wars and Everyday Shooter. Much like Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s masterpiece, Space Invaders Extreme is a wonderful mix of rapid shooting, a juxtaposition of colors, and a dynamic audio experience that is partially created by you’re the rhythm of your shooting..
While most of the stages in Extreme have the classic Space Invaders enemy patterns, they usually have a unique spin on them in order to keep things fresh and interesting. There are also a variety of special weapons (lasers, bombs, wide shot, etc) that keeps your appetite for destruction going strong.
Every so often, you will see a flashing rainbow UFO traveling across the top of the screen. If you shoot it, you are thrown into a bonus stage that takes more liberties with the enemy patters and gives you different objectives to meet within a short period of time. If you are successful in meeting the goal, you are treated to a Fever Mode back in the normal game that gives you rapid-firing bonus weapons for a limited amount of time. Not only does the Fever Mode let you fly through some of the level quickly and easily, but it also give you the opportunity to rack up your score – especially with the Jackpot bonuses for shooting UFOs.
Also at the end of every stage, there are bosses to defeat. Even the bosses remind me a bit of the ones in Rez. Nothing too difficult (at least in the first part of the game), but a bit more challenging and engaging than your standard enemies.
Space Invaders Extreme also does a great job of increasing the difficulty as you progress through the levels. Later levels don’t simply get faster, there are also more complex enemy formations, shielded enemies (require more than one shot), and some new types of enemies that will require you to shoot a bit more strategically.
I also felt that Space Invaders Extreme was a very fair game. I had many moments when I struggled to get past a level, but it was always my fault. It seemed that if I didn’t stay focused on both what I was shooting at and what projectiles were coming at me, I would get in trouble (primarily when your bullets quickly return back to after bouncing off of certain shields). I guess many of these game concepts apply to most shmups, but I think it is especially true in this case.
The scoring system in Space Invaders Extreme is also very deep when it comes to chain combos and such. However, to be honest, I have yet to really memorize/pay attention to them to the point of optimizing my scores just yet. If you are a modern shmup fan, you’ll probably catch on a lot quicker and will appreciate what Taito has done with the game. If you’d like to read a more detailed explanation of the scoring system, I would recommend RyanDG’s lengthy review on Arcade Renaissance.
Technicalities aside, Space Invaders is full of extremely fun, challenging, and satisfying gameplay. Like most great games, it’s extremely easy to pick up but you can spend a long time mastering your skills.
Space Invaders Extreme is oh so colorful. It is definitely inspired by the likes of Geometry Wars, Meteos and Rez, but it still has its iconic Space Invaders charm. The backgrounds are interesting and colorful, but nothing that will blow you away. To be honest, Extreme could have made a bit better use of the DS hardware while maintaining the 2D look and feel, but I’ll let them off the hook for being a budget title.
The overall presentation and menu system has a modern look that suits the game well and is easy to navigate. Not big surprise coming from Taito and Square/Enix, but it’s still appreciated.
As I mentioned before, the audio in Space Invaders Extreme seems to be heavily inspired by Rez, but doesn’t quite go far as far as they could have – It’s more like a watered-down Rez vibe. Still very good, but there’s room for improvement. (From what I’ve heard, the PSP version has better audio)
Multiplayer : 7
I heard a few guys in the forums talking about how they liked the multiplayer (whether it be online or local wireless) as it reminded them of a vs puzzle game setup like Puyo Puyo Fever. Because that word of mouth and my adoration for the single-player game, I had very high hopes for the multiplayer modes. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Multiplayer mode isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as the single-player mode, in my opinion.
As I mentioned before, some of the aspects that make the single player mode so good is the flood of weapons, bonus rounds/fever modes, and bosses that are sprinkled throughout the core gameplay. It seemed to me like the Multiplayer modes lacked most of that.
You still have the weapon upgrades, but they seem far less abundant and I often found myself trying to peck away at a bunch of shielded enemies with my normal weapon. I suppose that’s all well and good if you’re an old-school Space Invaders purist, but it got a bit old for me.
From what I’ve heard and read, the key to success in the multiplayer mode was supposed to be shooting the UFOs (which are more abundant) in order to hurt your opponent. The impression I got was that the more UFOs you shoot, the more enemies will show up in on your opponents screen. I was trying to watch for this effect, but I just couldn’t see any difference between when I shot lots of UFOs and when I didn’t shoot any. If this does have some effect on opponents, the developers should have given us a visual cue to this effect like having some enemies swoop from our bottom screen to the top (where we can view our opponent) , much like Puyo Puyo Fever.
Again, most of these complains are due to high expectations and nitpicking. In the end, my wife has bugged me numerous times to play against her. That’s gotta be worth something.
If Space Invaders Extreme was $30, I would probably only recommend it to fans of old-school 2D shooting. However at the budget price of $20, I have to recommend this gem to anyone that would frequent this site. I’m far from a shmup expert, but I thought Space Invaders Extreme is one of the best values on the DS right now. The game also happens to be very easy to find even in big retailers like Wal-Mart or Target.
You can also order it easily at Amazon.com
The bottom line is that if you are into old-school games with a modern flair, Space Invaders Extreme is practically a required purchase for your DS library. While I haven’t played the PSP port, I would strongly recommend PSP owners give it a try. At $20, you really can’t go wrong with Space Invaders Extreme.