If you were to take a group of non-gamers and ask them to name the most iconic videos games ever, what titles would they list?
Depending on their age they might say Pong, the old bat and ball game. I'd be surprised if Pacman wasn't mentioned, with his wacka wacka ghost-eating antics.
And then of course there's Space Invaders...
Guaranteed it would be brought up, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't played some version of it or was familiar with it at least. Hell, I bet there are lost Amazon tribes who would recognize the alien sprites and gameplay of Taito's most well-known franchise if you showed it to them.
So, given its status as a HUGE part of gaming history AND the fact it's now been over 40 years since the original was released, it makes sense that "Space Invaders Invincible Collection" was put together to commemorate the series. Originally available in Japan only, this now worldwide release give players everywhere the chance to enjoy the 11 available titles in one handy package.
But what's included in the collection?
Well, first up is the classic. The one that started it all. The OG.
The original Space Invaders from 1978.
Actually released on 4 different cabinet types at launch, it meant there were 4 slightly different versions of the game floating around in the wild at the same time. This is a port of the most widely recognized one, featuring a black background with white sprites and a counter with 4, yes count 'em, 4 digits to track those High Scores. We all know how it works I'm sure but, just for the sake of it, let's go through it. You control a small ship that sits at the bottom of the screen and can move left and right. High above you, waves of aliens are in formation and also move left to right, occasionally firing at you and dropping down closer to you each time they reach the edge. Your job is to shoot them all down, while also avoiding their fire, and trying to destroy all of them before they reach the bottom. If they do, it'll cost you a life. 3 lives lost and it's Game Over. Simple, addictive, and way more difficult than it seems, it led an entire generation to pump quarters (or 10ps in my countries case) into the arcade machines and kicked off an entire franchise.
Next up is the final version of the above game, Space Invaders Color Version.
The first-ever Japanese game to use a microprocessor, it was created at a time when there were no PCs to set up game development environments. As such it took 6 months to just create the engine to create the game and then, even with a dedicated Dev team, the actual title itself still took another 3 months to put together. Features wise it's almost identical to the above version but in color. Featuring bright neon sprites, it's the version most people will be familiar with and is certainly the one I think of when "Space Invaders" is mentioned. It's also when the 5 digit score counter was introduced.
Thirdly is Space Invaders Part II
The sequel to Space Invaders, released in 1979, kept the same formula as its predecessor while introducing new mechanics. Aliens can now split in two, call reinforcements, and more. It was also the game that introduced leaderboards to Japanese gaming AND the first title to be protected by Japanese copyright law.
The fourth game in the collection, Lunar Rescue, is the first game to not feature the Space Invaders name. Released into arcades in 79, it's included here because it was the first game to be developed on the circuit board originally created for the above Space Invaders game. The player's goal is to rescue human survivors from the moon and return them to Earth. Starting in a lander at the top of the screen, which travels left and right until the player decides to jump out. They'll then begin falling towards the lunar surface and must avoid various obstacles on the way down. You can use a retro rocket to slow your speed and to help line up yourself up with the landing zone, which in this case is a number of locations where humans have gathered and are worth different amounts of points. After picking up a survivor you take off again, traveling up the screen towards your dropship. Blocking your progress are aliens of different types but luckily your weapons are now active, giving you an offensive option to deal with them. You repeat this process over and over, with it getting faster and having more obstacles, trying to get as high a score as possible before you run out of lives. Because of the popularity of Space Invaders, cabinets featuring Lunar Rescue became a common sight in arcades and the game's title screen even featured cameos of the Invaders to highlight its pedigree.
Our 5th title, Space Cyclone, continues the precedent of Lunar Rescue by being another game not directly related to Space Invaders but being included because it was released on the same tech used to create it. Featuring the same gameplay style where your ship sits at the bottom of the screen and shoots at enemies above, it shakes up the familiar with a few new mechanics. Insectoid enemies called Bems now float around randomly on clouds, firing towards the surface, but also waiting on a chance to jump down to Earth. You can destroy them on their clouds, or in the few seconds while they're falling, however, failure to do so will allow the Bems to escape and begin construction of a powerful attack craft on the left side of the screen. If enough enemies successfully land and complete this ship, you'll have a large and powerful sub-boss type enemy to deal with. Kill enough Bems and move onto the next stage where things get faster and more hectic. Interestingly enough, by the time this game was released, there was so much competition from other companies and board types that Space Cyclone cabinets were relatively rare in arcades. This lead to the title reaching a cult and legendary status due to its rarity. This collection is also its first appearance on any home console making it probably one of the most interesting games for collectors and fans in the entire release.
Game number 6 is the 4th installment of the Space Invaders franchise. Called "Majestic Twelve" and released in 1990, it's also known as Super Space Invaders '91 and includes many features that tried to bring the game into the modern era. Keeping the same basic gameplay as the original, it added shields to your ship allowing you to take a few hits before death, as well as many special weapons. Electrical beams, swirling missiles, screen wiping explosives, and more can all be collected by shooting the mothership that moves across the top of the screen at regular intervals. It's also added a zone selection, various changing backgrounds, different ship appearances for each level, bosses, and most memorable for many, a bonus stage where you save cows from being abducted by the Invaders.
Game 7 is an alternative version of the above game and is listed as "Super Space Invaders 91" but was also known as Majestic Twelve, just like the above game. Almost identical to the 6th title in this installment, the only difference being that the zone selection option has been removed, meaning you play each stage in a preset order instead of picking the order yourself. More popular in the European and North American regions, it found more success there than in its native Japan where the other version was more dominant in arcades.
The 8th game, Space Invaders DX, was released in 1994 and included new content in the form of 3 new game modes. Original is as you'd expect, a straight version of the original game. The Parody mode featured improved graphics based on a SNES port and also starred classic Taito characters who appeared as stand-ins for the usual aliens. It also had a 3rd mode, VS, where 2 players could compete head to head on a split screen and featured a host of modifiers that created unique challenges such as allowing you to increase the enemies on your opponent's side of the battlefield or even swapping sides between players.
Title number 9 is Space Invaders Extreme, which was created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders. Combining very flashy and bright visuals, with a pumping soundtrack and interactive sound, this version feels like a modern rendition of the classic formula. Enemy movement is much more complex and has patterns unique to this release, you have many more weapon upgrades to collect like Multishot, Broadshot, and Beam attacks, and will face unique bosses with weak spots to discover. The version chosen to be included in the collection is also a further enhanced version based on the 40th-anniversary Steam release, giving it the most modern feel of all the titles included here.
The 10th game, Space Invaders Gigamax 4SE, is the multiplayer-focused title. Allowing up to 4 players to combine their skills simultaneously for the first time, it features both classic and new stages and HUGE screens of enemies. All players must work together to take down waves and defeat bosses as fast as possible, trying to clear the game in record time. A unique version to play with friends on one screen, it has a real party game feel to it.
There's also an 11th game, a copy of Arkanoid Vs Space Invaders, that's available free with every paid-for copy. Although it's not included with our review codes, so we can't comment on how it plays, take note that it's a little bonus to enjoy on top of the other games.
Each title is a faithful port of its original version, featuring a perfect representation of it in both graphics and sound effects. They look, sound, and feel exactly like they should, making these versions the most accurate you'll play outside of an arcade and you get to see how the series evolved with each iteration. Each title also has some gorgeous artwork bordering the screen, mimicking the cabinet artwork of the time, and looking great.
Along with the games, there's also a host of features included to round off the collection. Each game has its own leaderboard where you can compare your score with players from around the world. There's a normal mode for many where you play with standard rules or a challenge mode where you compete for a high score while various special rules come into play. You can quickly save and quick-load any game, allowing you to continue your current run later. You can adjust the number of lives available, and also remap controls. It's possible to turn off or on things like scan lines and various counters, as well as changing the screen size. You can also change the screen orientation, ideal for the OG Switch in portable mode where you can lay the screen length-wise to take advantage of playing on a longer screen. One of the points I found most interesting though is the small blurb of information you get on each game, giving a little bit of history and knowledge that fans might find interesting. It would have been cool to also include posters, pictures of the cabinets and their artwork, as well as any promotional material from the time here as well but I suppose you can't have everything.
Ultimately, a great addition to any gamers collection with retro game enthusiasts getting the most out of this release. Featuring a range of games from across the whole of the Space Invaders franchise, it's a history lesson in video game form. Whether it's the classic titles from the 70s or the new updated ones with a modern twist, you'll experience perfect ports of their original versions. Those interested in video game history get an instant collection spanning 40 years and younger gamers get to experience how these games changed over time. The only downside I can see is the price point, $60 is a lot to pay for this collection. Those who might have taken a chance on this experience will certainly be put off by that full AAA price tag but those that do pick it up will find a faithful and very competent release full of retro sprite work and excellent sound effects.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 8/10
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