Thursday, July 18, 2024

Space Invaders Invincible Collection Nintendo Switch Review

The ultimate anthology of the ultimate arcade classic.

In the late 1970s, the term “video games” wasn’t the same back in the day as it is known now. Video games were seen as moving sprites, flashing lights, and high-pitched blips and boops. It wasn’t until the cusp of the 1980s did video games began to take a form of their own, with the creative mind of Tomohiro Nishikado being one of the frontrunners to usher in a new era of gaming. A culmination of everything Space Invaders, known as Space Invaders Invincible Collection, was released as the most complete compilation that the veterans and newcomers can enjoy. A quick thanks, once again, to Taito and ININ games for providing me the opportunity to delve into a bit of gaming history!

Space Invaders (1978)

Space Invaders was released in 1978 by Nishikado as a very simple shooter where players control a spaceship to fend off the “Space Invaders”. The Invaders move in rows of 11 with 5 rows apiece, making each round at least 55 enemies to gun down with the occasional UFO bonus enemy making an appearance. The game was first adorned in black and white with a color version releasing some time later, both versions taking the arcade scene by storm. It was games like Space Invaders that helped create the arcade culture that would give birth to the competition’s Galaxians and the revolutionary Donkey Kongs in the near future.

Compared to other variations, the original is as barebones as they come, only allowing lateral movement and four bunkers to take defense in from enemy fire. As the player takes out more invaders, the enemies will move faster until there’s only one left, in which they will move at a blistering speed until either it’s destroyed or crashes into your ship. Due to the slow rate of fire of your craft, careful timing is advised as many games will end from having too fast or too slow of a reaction.

Space Invaders Part 2 (1979)

While labeled as a “sequel,” Space Invaders Part 2 is more of an updated release to the original color version. New mechanics include aliens that split into two when shot, new UFO mechanics, and cutscenes in-between levels that future games like Pac-Man would establish. While the core gameplay remains the same, now would be a good time to discuss the various settings included in each game.

There’s an option to shift the viewing platform clockwise to allow the game to be played vertically. Other options include scanlines, adjusting the number of lives, and other settings to enhance the player experience for each playthrough. There’s even a quicksave/quickload function that took me by surprise as that’s something you don’t see in arcade games such as this.

Lunar Rescue (1979)

Perhaps the most different of all the games in this compilation, this game features a different take on the Space Invaders formula. Rather than gun down the Invaders, you control a rescue ship with the intent of saving stranded stragglers by landing on any of the point marked pads. 

Upon rescue, you must reach the main ship safely while shooting the invaders along the way. Out of the games featured, I like this one the most as it offered a different mechanic rather than “hide behind formations and gun down aliens.” It provided a unique challenge and not just “The same game but with a fresh coat of paint.”

Space Cyclone (1980)

The second game that isn’t a part of the Space Invaders series per-say yet retains most of its mechanics, Space Cyclone reminded me more of Galaxian. Players control a ship that can be moved laterally, shooting these mini aliens that will attach themselves to spaceships and other obstacles. Defeating them will eliminate them from the counter on the top left needed to complete the level. 

If the little alien dudes reach the bottom of the map, they will eventually form a giant mecha that will shoot at the player. The mecha can be destroyed like any other enemy, but when this happened the first time I was caught off guard. Overall, not a bad spinoff!

Majestic Twelve The Space Invaders Part 4 (1990) / Super Space Invaders ‘91 (1990)

The next two games are when my confusion began to take centerfold as we jump a full decade into the future, beginning with Majestic 12: The Space Invaders Pt. 4, which, as the name would suggest is the fourth game in the Space Invaders series skipping the third game Return of the Space Invaders in its entirety. However, what we have instead are two of the same game on paper as Super Space Invaders ‘91 is almost the same as Part 4.

From what I could gather, MJ12 is the Japanese name for what would become Super Space Invaders ‘91 everywhere else. Both games played similarly to each other yet the former had a level select, making the former I guess the preferred title? So why have the other version if there’s no difference between the two?

Can you guess which of these games is Majestic 12 and which one is Super Space Invaders ’91??

For a Space Invaders aficionado, this may be a treat, but for someone who only knows the serious outside of its original gameplay, I’m not sure if having two variants of the same game was the right idea. Maybe one of the variants could have been replaced with Return of the Space Invaders so players could have all parts rather than two “Part 4’s”. 

Anyways, the graphics are up to part with games of the late 80s and the crafts are as responsive as ever, moving faster than ever before and rapid firing shots rather than one bullet at a time. This makes this game as fast pace as other conventional shmups at the time, which is something I appreciate. Even though I don’t appreciate two versions of what essentially is the same game, but, again nitpicking.

Space Invaders DX (1993)

Originally released to commemorate the 15th year anniversary of the original Space Invaders, this reimagining of the original game, hence the “DX,” takes the traditional gameplay and aesthetics with a new “modern” (at the time anyway) look. Back then, I can imagine this was a novelty but included in this collection, especially comparing Majestic 12 and its updated graphics and mechanics, it offers not much else that players hadn’t already seen. 

It’s a fun game to play especially its “parody” mode, replacing ships and other details with cameos from other Taito games, but it’s nothing that reinvents the wheel. Though, this assessment isn’t fair as I’m sure this wasn’t Taito’s intention. The next two games, however, will do just that although fans will have to wait quite a long time to experience it.

Space Invaders Extreme (2008)

Taking another leap into the future, this time in the new millennium, Space Invaders celebrated its 30th anniversary with the release of Extreme. Originally released on the Nintendo DS and PSP, with an Xbox Live Arcade port the following year, the game was re-released on PC in 2018 to commemorate the 40th anniversary. Imagine having the same game celebrated two decades in a row? 

Before the player passes it off as a reused gift, this game is probably the most different of the bunch, playing more like a rhythm game with shooting elements than a traditional Space Invader game. Power-ups are earned through enemy drops and the rate of fire is dependant on the action taking place on the screen. Certain music cues will adjust the action accordingly, giving me memories of Rez among others. After each level, players will earn a grade, with the whole experience feeling more like a console game than an arcade.

Overall I’d say if there was one game to serve as a starting point for Space Invader players, this would definitely be the one as the aesthetics, ease of gameplay, and content makes it a treasure to enjoy. We’re not finished yet however.

Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE (2020)

A mouthful of a name, this game is special to the list as this is the first time this game was included in a compilation, much less for home use. Remember how I said consumers got an Extreme port as the 40th anniversary of Space Invaders? There was an event-only game known as Space Invaders Gigamax which housed eight players and a giant screen. Perfect for expos, but unfortunately for those who hadn’t attended these events, players would have to wait for the experience to be had at home.

This reimagining of Space Invaders features a boss rush mode where players must defeat a giant invader in the allotted time, and much like the event-only counterpart, four players can join in on the fun. This may be a novelty game, but it’s an interesting one at that and a perfect way to celebrate the series 40th anniversary.

Conclusion

As a bonus, Arkanoid vs Space Invaders is also included in the bundle, but it was a late addition and it wasn’t included in the review copy we were given, so, with that aside this is the end of the Space Invaders Invincible Collection review. 

Overall, I can only recommend it to the biggest Space Invaders fans, or as a gift for the older generations of gamers who don’t mind taking a trip down memory lane. Who knows? Maybe they can reminisce to the younger generation about their experiences at the arcade, dropping quarters and drinking 50 cent milkshakes after school trying to beat the high score as they replicate their high scores?

 I just made that scenario up in my head, but, I feel for that particular crowd this is a worthy investment. It’s also the biggest Space Invaders collection to date, if one can ignore the questionable additions, so it’s great for collectors of older titles as well. What you see is what you get, aside from settings and leaderboards, so the lack of original content may deter players away. Otherwise, it’s a solid anthology that gets the job done.

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