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Old 07-08-2009, 12:48 AM
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Yeah, so this is the first time I've ever reviewed a video game. So excuse me if I'm wet behind the ears.

Space Invaders Extreme
Platform - PSP/DS/XBLA
Genre(s) - Classic Shooter
Developer - Taito Corporation
Multiplayer? - Yes
Reviewing on which platform? - PSP

In my years as a gamer Iíve personally had experiential dislike of sequels or remakes that attempt to revitalize retro video games to adapt to new technology, partly because itís done either incredibly incorrectly or the developers were just straight up half-assed and took no account of the hopes and feelings of existing fans. Sega Classics Collection for the play station 2 proved that fantastic arcade classics that represented the pinnacles of Segaís arcade stardom could be transformed into a huge pile of three-dimensional chaos, Sonic 3D Blast Ė Flickies Island transitioned the anthropomorphized blue blurís breakneck side scrolling speed to a groggily slow pre-rendered buffoon upon a patterned isometric field, Hell, Even Bubsy 3D for the playstation looked like it was trying to teach a geometry lesson or become the starfox with legs rather than controlling the platforming feline through a fully 3D environment, looking way too late for itís time and having less innovation than any of Uwe Bollís films put together.

So you could understand my immediate cynicism when I found out about Space Invaders Extreme for the PSP. Iíve played a few previous iterations of Space Invaders ďImprovedĒ versions prior, such as space invaders revolution and space invaders invasion day, and none of them stood out to me as anything necessarily revitalizing or revolutionary, nor building onto the groundwork that the original game formed. Most of them were either small cosmetic improvements which make minimal effect to the gameplay itself and were as appealing to me as a ham sandwich to a Jewish boy, or large cosmetic improvements, fully bringing the series into the 3D world, but with large and arbitrary gameplay compromises and repetition beyond sustainability. However, since I barely step out of my confinements in terms of genre, I decided to pick it up, just for the heck of it. I had a receipt anyway, and could return it if my pessimistic interpretations were indeed true. However lo and behold, now that Iíve played and completed it, I can now safely say that I should be currently castrating myself for being so profusely over-judgemental. Space Invaders Extreme is not only a fantastically presented remake that celebrates the arcade gameís 30-year worldwide conquest better than ever, but is also one of the most engaging pick-up-and-play portable shooters Iíve ever had the fortune to encounter.

He's-a chargin his lazor.

Space invaders is just one of those names that requires no introduction to anybody who hasnít lived in a confined well for 3 decades of their life (if youíve even lived that long anyway). Space invaders was Taitoís stellar arcade hit, released in 1978. Space invaders represented the beginning of the shooter genre and found extreme commercial popularity worldwide (especially in Japan), and remains as one of video gameís most important and most iconic aspects in the history of video gaming.
Since its release, Space invadersí legacy has sported many remakes and spiritual sequels across various different platforms over the 3 decades, with many adding differing changes in game play and actual levels for a more linear experience, however, as I stated above, the particular iterations of remakes and sequels I have played, have never really captured the pure space invaders feel whilst conforming to the technological standpoint gamers almost demand today.

Space invaders extreme was released for two platforms Ė The Play station portable and the Nintendo DS to mark a part of the celebration for Space Invadersí 30th anniversary, and was released in February 2008 in Japan, with other regions being released slightly later on.
The game has 3 different modes Ė Arcade mode, Stage Mode, And Multiplayer. Arcade mode, as the title implies, is the beef of the game. You can do a complete play through of the game, or continue from the stage you last left off, which proves very useful for reasons stated later. Stage mode allows you to play one particular stage, corresponding to the ones youíve already completed and unlocked in the arcade mode. Multiplayer allows you to connect up PSPs via an ad-hoc connection for competitive play. I have yet to test this myself, but when I do I will most likely be updating this review with my thoughts. What unfortunately slings the game down is the complete lack of online infrastructure play. Considering the natures of this game along with itís strong apparent premise of ďpick up and playĒ, online play would have been perfect and would most certainly sported a more positive response from me. However, despite not being able to play with others across the world, ad-hoc connection is perfectly reasonable and sufficient if youíre with friends on the bus, or at home, or whatever.

If my assumptions apply to you and you have in fact lived in a well for the past 30 years, let me inform you of the simple premise of the space invaders series as a whole. You control your ship/laser cannon at the bottom of the screen, which can move left and right along with shooting projectiles. During this hordes of aliens attack in different formations, whilst moving left or right in sync with each other. When the aliens get to the boundaries of the screen, they descend, and slightly speed up(they also speed up as you defeat more aliens in the formation), and this continues until they reach the bottom, in which case youíre pretty much screwed. The aim of the game is to shoot the entire horde before they reach the bottom, and after you do so youíll be presented another horde of aliens, and this continues ad infinitum.

Space invaders extreme pretty much covers on the same groundwork as its granddaddy, and thus previous players of space invaders wonít feel uncomfortable during the first few minutes of playing the game. The visual style is the same (albeit very aesthetically improved), the controls are the same, the gameís objective is the same, I mean, this is the space invaders you were playing back in 1978 in the palm of your hand, without any of itís old charm and addictiveness demised. What is interesting however is the lack of defence bunkers(The walls which would slowly wear away by enemy projectiles) which were intact in most other games, leaving your ship to dodge the enemy projectiles on itís own. This isnít a personal complaint by any means, nor am I implying that this is a downside for the game; it was just a personal wonder of mine as to why they have been removed.

Fever time!

Although space invaders extreme, like I stated, is built on the exact same premise as itís forbears, the gameplay is significantly more fast-paced and requires your reflexes to be intact the vast majority of the time. The enemy aliens move notably faster than previous iterations and shoot projectiles regularly, putting most of your offensive and defensive skills to the test. This in turn is a very pleasing addition, as I am one of many regular SHMUP players whoís every intent is to dodge every single projectile, laser, or explosion intact on the screen, and still have my ship emerge from the residue and smoke unscathed. Although the gameís action in terms of speed and abundance in enemy shots doesnít even come miles close to that of games like Einhander or R-Type, the game should still cater to your needs wholly, hardcore/elitist shoot-em-up player or not.

One of the strongest elements of the game is simply just how much enemy aliens you will find. The game is consistently surprising, adding aliens with differing abilities and vitalities, each of them being colour-coordinated. Some aliens can emerge from their formation and can directly descend at an alarming speed, some can split into two different enemy aliens, some can sport shields that can protect them from a certain amount of projectiles, some can charge lasers and shoot directly at you in an instant, the game really does thrive in diversity to high altitudes like something I have never ever seen in a remake before. Youíre also presented with boss battles at the end, these either being two or more significantly enlarged aliens, or one large alien which uses itís pixel amount to serve as itís health. The game really does present a satisfying linear experience.

Various power-ups and in-game modes have also been added into the game. If you happen to shoot invaders of exactly the same colour in a row, you are awarded with weapons and power ups which you can temporarily use, depending on the colours of the aliens you shot down. These include weapons such as the laser and the bomb, which are extremely useful for shooting down multiple aliens at once. If you happen to shoot another subsequently, a UFO will appear on the screen, taking you into a bonus round. Here you get given certain objectives such as shooting a fixed number of invaders down within a certain timeframe, and completing such an objective will take you into a temporary state called fever time, in which your firing rate is significantly increased, which will most certainly help you get through hordes of invaders at a faster speed. Other bonus rounds include the roulette, in which you can earn extra lives and points among other bonuses. The game rewards you very generously which expands the audience in a somewhat more casual sentiment.

The graphics for this game are simply gorgeous. Sure, itís no resistance retribution (And I would almost certainly not want it to reach such feats anyway), but you can blatantly foresee that the developers took care in upping the ante of the old arcade game in terms of graphics. Enemy Invaders are vibrant and colourful, and although relatively retaining their original designs, look very visually satisfying on the PSPís saturated 16:9 LCD screen. Particle effects are utilized in low-pixel incarnations, included in explosions and projectiles both yours and the enemies, and look astounding. The backgrounds are fully animated consisting of visualisations and full motion videos, and compliment the foreground action flawlessly whilst contrasting to ensure that everything on the foreground is perfectly clear. Everything just looks so crisp and fresh, yet still retaining that retro pretence, despite not investing in the full cutting edge technological feats that the PSP can most certainly achieve.

As for the sound, the gameís soundtrack pretty much revolves around electronic music, ranging from techno to drum n bass, which is all very pleasing if thatís your thing. The songs are vibrant and upbeat, pretty much consisting of Nintendo-esque synths and leads, corresponding to the general nature of the game. However, what the most surprising aspect I came to discover about the sound, is that everything actually within the gameplay just sounds so incredibly musical, which I can safely say that I have never ever encountered upon in a shooter game in my entire life. As you shoot, the sound effect has a different pitch and tone to it, which corresponds to the music in the background. This almost immediately thrusts me back to my times with Rez, which is most definitely an innovative touch. Everything in this game just seems to synthesized and futuristic, almost appearing like a form of synesthesia, which caters to the game undisputedly well.

Yeah, you'll tend to see this alot.

Despite the gameís attractiveness to the more casual gamer, the game is by no means a joy-ride, and does become increasingly difficult as you progress through stages. As a general rule to many other videogames, you are given 3 lives. If you use these up, youíre given the option to return to the menu, or to restart the level. This may immediately sound tedious but I for one wholeheartedly praise the game for forcing you to restart the whole level Ė because truth be told, you will want to. Take my word on that. This game is addictive. Really addictive, and although the instance of me praising a videogame for itís difficulty factor may never ever present itself again I would like to take the time to state that once you hit that retry screen, 9 times out of 10 you will be inclined to hit retry unless you are a ridiculously stubborn person, in which case you probably shouldnít have a PSP in the first place. Space invaders extreme just has that grasp on you which you struggle to evade, and to be encouraged to press on through a game is a trait that most certainly deserves praise.

I have always looked upon the PSP with the premise that I could pick it up, hit the power switch, and play, and I have always looked at handheld consoles in this way ever since I had the dated gameboy colour as a young-un. Space Invaders Extreme is not only one of the most prime and well-demonstrated examples of a pick-up-and-play game, but is also one that has been presented in such a way that disliking the game is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, even if you encounter the retry screen an uncountable amount of times. Itís just one of those remakes that not only celebrates the arcade game that most likely devoured my parentís change 30 years ago (and still today), but built upon a concept with nothing but well-planned and well thought-out gameplay additions that overall make this a viscerally satisfying PSP game that should be in your little collection of UMDs every time you go on an outing. And itís cheap. You canít really get better than that.

Rating - 8.4