1 Difficulty level
Ship speed fixed
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Developed by Taito
Published by Taito in 2008
I'm sure a lot of people out there share the same opinion I have towards the Space Invaders series. Taito created the first game in 1978, and it soon "invaded" every single gaming platform that came along ever since, eventually saturating the market with endless ports or variations that didn't actually add anything noteworthy to the basic formula (with a few exceptions only known by hardcore players). Of course I do acknowledge the importance it had to our beloved genre, but at the same time I'm obliged to confess that the vast majority of the Space Invaders titles represent nothing more to me than pure boredom. Imagine our surprise, mine and of those who also find the series boring, when we laid our eyes on one of the available versions of Space Invaders Extreme.
Released to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original game, Space Invaders Extreme simply materializes a lot of what I believe should've been done years ago with the series. It's a major departure from the slow moving aliens from before, but it also preserves the core aspects of the gameplay that made so many people happy during the 80s. There lies the secret Taito unleashed on both casual and hardcore players alike, since this awesome title can be enjoyed by both factions to great extent. It's a visual and aural feast for the senses, a massive overhaul with a huge potential to please everybody.
On the outside, the game plays just like a regular Space Invaders chapter. With the exception of the barriers, which are totally absent in this version, all well-known invader sprites are there hanging above your lonely ship. The first notable difference, besides the pumping music in synch with your shots (much like in Rez), are the crazy psychedelic backgrounds. Then you have the aggressive use of colors. A few invader waves into the game and you get intermission screens such as "bonus", "roulette" or "boss", this last one followed by a huge invader that must be hit on a weak spot. Oh yes, you have just found out Space Invaders Extreme has stages, five to be exact. And starting on the 3rd stage the game branches much like in Darius, depending on how good your performance is.
And while the game can be played for fun only, its intrincacies regarding scoring are what elevate it above its predecessors. Each division in the HUD means something and since covering them all would take too long, let me just point out the most important things I learned in this brief playing period:
- Hitting a series of 4 invaders of the same color will release a power-up. You can preserve it if you don't want to use it right away by pressing any of the shoulder buttons (not many people know about this because they just don't read the manual or, if they do, they own the Japanese game - like me!).
- The "round" is a special challenge where you have to fulfill a certain task; if you succeed, you get back to the game in "fever" mode, with augmented firepower and bonus points to collect while this mode lasts. To trigger a round you have to hit the blinking UFO on the top of the screen, and to make the UFO appear a combo of 8 invaders has to be shot, the first 4 in one color and the last 4 in another color. The colors selected will dictate which bonus round you'll be playing. Note: you don't die by getting hit in a bonus round, instead your time there is just shortened.
- The background has indications that light up when you fulfill certain combos: same row, same column, same shape and same color. Fulfilling all these combos in the same stage without dying will grant the player an extra life.
- When the "rate" gauge to the left surpasses the ×5 count you enter BREAK mode, and the multiplier is boosted to ×10 for a brief amount of time. Killing invaders fast is the key to trigger BREAK faster and, if fever mode is activated during a BREAK, it lasts more than usual.
- Roulettes are triggered by hitting the yellow UFO. Hitting the yellow invader inside the roulette grants an extra life, and hitting the red one brings up a random round.
- White invaders have no effect in combos, so they can be shot amidst any combo you're trying to accomplish - just don't mistake them for the gray ones;
- Enemy shots are destroyed by the player's shots and, more importantly, they keep the overall chain count going - very useful when the aliens are too far for you to reach them.
1st stage gameplay with bonus round + fever time
(courtesy of www.ign.com)
At the end of a stage the player's performance is given a rank note. After stage 2, a rank of at least B will allow you to choose a different path for the 3rd stage, 3A or 3B. All alternate routes from here on are considerably harder, so mastering the A routes first should sound as good recommendation. Every stage that's completed in the main game (Arcade mode) is unlocked in Stage mode for isolated plays. Beating Arcade mode will unlock Extra mode, which is in fact a much harder version of the game. Continuing sends you back to the start of a stage but preserves the score - not a manly way towards a better achievement at all...
The default high score is awkwardly high, and it's perfectly normal to beat the game and still not reach the 5.000.000 top score. My best run through the upper route resulted in the following number: