Even when I was a kid and Space Invaders was new, I knew that it was kind of cool, but also extremely plain. While it must have seemed totally revelatory when it first came out, I probably didn't encounter it until well after more complicated and more colorful games, like Defender, were already out there. But I always found myself totally drawn to the actual design of the invaders themselves. They had a cool look to them that really stuck with me over the years, so much so that when it came time to start designing custom cars for Forza 2, one of the first things I did was study the pixels that made up the bottom row invaders so I could slap it onto a car.
Why am I telling you this? I don't know, it seemed relevant at the time. But I really wanted to post about Space Invaders Extreme, a new PSP/DS release that's currently out in Japan and will be heading to the US in June courtesy of Square Enix. I went ahead and got my hands on the PSP version and have been enjoying it a great deal... which is kind of weird, because for the most part, it's, ya know, Space Invaders?
But it's also pretty different than Space Invaders. It's the sort of Space Invaders game that could only come out in a post-Lumines and post-WarioWare world. While it isn't especially rhythm-heavy on the gameplay side, the game features a good soundtrack that properly pulsates with the action. And like WarioWare, it's sort of crazy, occasionally whisking you away to different battles for a few seconds before tossing you right back into the main action. It also plays around with the conventions of Space Invaders a bit by occasionally tossing in shielded invaders that take more shots to kill, giant invaders that shoot huge lasers, and so on. The game also colors the invaders, and if you hit four invaders of the same color you get a bonus and a weapon power-up drops, giving you bomb shots with a wide radius on impact, a laser beam that devastates anything in your way, and more. The game keeps throwing racks of invaders at you until the level ends, at which point you fight a boss and move on to another area.
In addition to the single-player, you can also face off against another player or practice the two-player mode against an AI-based opponent. The multiplayer takes the Tetris approach, with each player having his own screen. If you do well, it sends more invaders over to the other player.
It's not complicated, but so far, I'm really enjoying Space Invaders Extreme. It sticks to the Space Invaders basics while being just weird enough to keep me going. It's mostly English, so you could import it now without missing out, but the domestic version is hitting in June for $19.99, which is around half as much as you'd pay to import it. Do your wallet a favor and wait.
Oh, and here's a ten-minute video of the PSP version.