Space Invaders Extreme (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 07.02.2018 2

Review for Space Invaders Extreme on PC

From the furthest reaches of space, the invaders make their approach. The people of Earth, ill-prepared for the sudden invasion, hastily construct a few laser cannons. Clearly, there was no hope for mankind's future, but that didn't dissuade the cannon operators from mounting a heroic defence. The year was 1978 and the arcade game Space Invaders quickly became the biggest sensation since Star Wars. Thirty years and many iterations later, Taito released Space Invaders Extreme. The classic tale of humanity's last stand against an overwhelming force entered the realm of electronica. Dizzying sights and entrancing sounds surrounded players as they fought against a veritable rainbow of intergalactic adversaries.

There tends to be a certain duality to the classics of yesteryear. It's not so much a matter of yin versus yang, but it does require players to think beyond the next coin they grab or next enemy they destroy. In Defender, not only did pilots have to avoid marauding aliens and their deadly weapons, they also had to prevent the remaining humans from being captured. River Raid not only involved dodging or destroying obstacles, but also required its players to manage a constantly draining fuel gauge. Before either of those games, there was Space Invaders. Sure, dealing with wave after wave of bullets is strenuous enough, but the real tension comes from the invading armada. With every passing second, they are getting closer. With every fallen ally, they are getting faster. If they reach Earth, then it's all over.

Although Taito's most popular franchise has seen frequent sequels, the basic rules haven't changed much at all. The player takes control of one cannon that can move left or right. They are allowed one, maybe two bullets on-screen at a time, so they can't afford to miss a single shot. Now here's where it gets interesting. The secret to a game's depth is rarely found in the player's ability to go anywhere or do anything. It's all a matter of working within limitations. Knowing exactly when to shoot, where to move, which enemies to focus on, and all of the nuances in-between is how they achieve mastery in a game like this.

Screenshot for Space Invaders Extreme on PC

Consider, for example, Space Invaders '95: Attack of the Lunar Loonies. In this cute 'em up, the scoring system required players to avoid missing shots, otherwise their combo bonus suffered immensely. There were power-ups and other features that made this slightly easier than the original, but overall the skill ceiling was raised. Easier to get into, harder to master - that was the MO of arcade game developers through the '90s and beyond. This same philosophy extends to Space Invaders Extreme (originally on Nintendo DS, along with its sequel). If the only intention is to survive, then people are going to have a much easier time than ever before. Now, if they intend to earn S-ranks and achieve the highest scores… well, they have got quite a struggle ahead of them.

From the outset, newbies are liable to be bamboozled by everything going on. There's a chaining system that tracks the destruction of multiple invaders in a short period of time. A multiplier bonus is available to the especially efficient. A myriad of skill-shots also result in bonus points, and even extra lives. The order in which enemies are destroyed is imperative. There are separate rewards for destroying a line of enemies, a column, multiples of the same shape and, most important of all, the same colour. Within seconds, a smorgasbord of scoring opportunities has dropped into the player's lap, and that's not even taking into account the Invaders themselves. Yes, they are still evil and doing everything possible to eliminate the precious laser cannons. Phew. The action's barely started and things are already getting exhausting!

Screenshot for Space Invaders Extreme on PC

Now, what was that about colour? Almost all of the invaders are colour-coded. This determines what power-up they drop when four in a row are defeated. Four blue aliens will gift the cannon a massive laser, while four greens lead to a handy spread-shot. In order to have a chance at maximising the potential score, players must destroy two different sets of like-coloured aliens in a row. In other words: four greens and four blues, or four reds and four blacks. If this condition is met, then a dazzling UFO appears. Once that shiny object is destroyed, the player is whisked away to the bonus round. If they can accomplish whatever goal is set in front of them, then they catch… the fever.

The fever, or FEVER as it's sometimes called, is an ever-so-brief moment of pure joy. The cannon is granted an exceptional powerful weapon, allowing them to run riot on the hapless invaders. Valuable UFOs spawn at regular intervals, which bring in even more points. During a fever, destroying wave after wave of enemies in quick succession is as simple as turning one's palm. If well-versed in the stage and knowing what to expect, those in control can almost immediately catch another fever as soon as they recover from the last one. Provided they are still chaining everything and making those difficult skill-shots, then there's no telling how high the final score can get.

Of course, all it takes is one mistake, and everything falls apart. That mistake could mean anything from losing a life, to messing up a colour-chain, to missing a single shot. Space Invaders Extreme is essentially a puzzle. The solution isn't always clear, but budding pilots are always required to think three moves ahead. Murphy's Law could apply at any moment, ruining an otherwise perfect run. Spending an eternity in the depths of madness will break all but the most hardened of gamers. This is the sort of intense experience that asks for a lot, but doesn't give all that much in return. About half of the stages are locked behind the ranking system. These more difficult (and profitable) variants require at least an A-rank in order to access.

Screenshot for Space Invaders Extreme on PC

For anyone that successfully completes the game, they are allowed to play the Extreme route. This is where survival starts to become a difficult task, as enemy bullets pepper the screen, pummelling any who aren't "extreme" enough. Both the Normal and Extreme routes have their own leaderboards, which track the player's position in real-time. There's also a free-play mode, which allows practice of any stage unlocked so far. Most of the replay-value is going to come from vying for the number one spot, as well as the very difficult achievements. Woe to anyone who tries to beat this without missing a single shot.

In terms of sound design, this is phenomenal. It adopts the groundbreaking style of Rez, so every effect carries a melody. Otherwise mundane scenarios become enthralling thanks to the wondrous musical fusion, to the point where the fire button is bound to be tapped to the rhythm. This quasi-interactive soundtrack adds so much to the experience. The visuals haven't aged quite as well, but they still serve the on-screen action nicely.

However, it's worth pointing out that the aesthetics, appealing as they are, will eventually be pushed aside in pursuit of a high score. This is a title designed for perfectionists. Here, mistakes that would be considered trivial elsewhere, will lead to restarts and rage-quits. The level of intensity and precision required to catch those elusive S-ranks, can sometimes run counter to the enchanting aesthetics. It's difficult to get caught up in the moment, when even the most minor slip-up has devastating consequences.

Screenshot for Space Invaders Extreme on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The story with Space Invaders Extreme is that it's brutal and unforgiving, but not in an immediately obvious manner. It's not like those danmaku shmups, where ships have to make pixel perfect dodges through seas of neon pink death. All of the challenge is in the complex and very exact scoring system. The infectious grooves and charming graphics could almost be considered a smokescreen, for all of the challenge and frustration that can be found within. Still, there aren't serious problems that could affect the player's chances of success. This puzzle-shooter is finely tuned and superbly designed. The perfect controls also ensure that it's only the player's fault if a run fails. All in all, Space Invaders Extreme is an experience as wonderful as it difficult.

Developer

Taito

Publisher

Degica

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Del_Duio (guest) 07.02.2018#1

The best old school shooter by far is still Galaga. Playing that at the arcades, as a kid.. Man I know many of you guys wouldn't understand but it really blew our minds back then.

I'm glad I was around to experience it!

I loved this on DS! I really hope the sequel gets releases on Steam, as well, along with eventual ports to Switch! I always remember the soundtrack being especially addictive.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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