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Space Invaders Extreme

We should have seen this coming. It was inevitable, really. Despite all the bloody battles and hard-earned victories, the human race was never really safe. Not from these things, anyway. No matter how many of them you kill, there will always be more of them. Wave after pixilated wave of spaceships are now wandering the skies, descending ever so slowly like a waterfall in slow motion. There is no water here, though; these bastards are dishing out laser beams, bullets, missiles, and whatever else they can find in an attempt to wipe us out. Is that their only goal? Don’t they even care that thousands of their troops are getting ripped apart by our defenses? Perhaps they believe that old saying about having strength with numbers; there is only one ship left to save the human race, after all. That doesn’t take into account quality over quantity, but hey, whatever works. After decades of endless bloodshed, the Space Invaders are back…

And they’re learning.

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It took them long enough. After years of getting their asses kicked, the Space Invaders finally made some improvements. Sure, the basic ships still have the designs with the bulky midsections and the pixel antennae. They don’t bother just filling up the screen with a massive grid of ships anymore, though. They’ve trained their latest pilots to fly in various formations, greatly boosted their speed and agility, and gave them a slew of new weapons and capabilities. You’ll come across ships that can flatten into tiny slivers, fighters with diagonally-shooting scatter bullets, reflective barriers, and the ability to teleport with the blink of an eye. That’s on top of the cruisers that unleash screen-filling laser beams and gargantuan motherships that take multiple shots to destroy. Others have the ability to break into smaller pieces, while others have resistant armored plating and can set off explosive chain reactions if destroyed close enough to another unit. While of these can be overcome with some effort, it is the placement and design of each wave that makes the battles difficult; you could be struggling to whittle away at an advancing wall of shielded ships while having to dodge a barrage of laser cannon fire, or suddenly get rushed by a swarm of fighters while getting bombarded with bullets.

That doesn’t mean that you’re entirely helpless, though. While the Space Invaders have made some serious improvements to their forces, you’ve still got the tried and true methods on which to fall back. Your default ship can only shoot out a lone bullet at a time, which means you’ll be frantically mashing the attack button to ensure you get the job done. If you destroy certain colored enemies, however, you can recover weapon upgrades from the falling shrapnel. Aside from the standard peashooter, you’ll be able to temporarily wield incendiary missiles, spread-shot bullets, and a miniature version of the Invaders’ laser cannons. Since the human-made shields have been removed from the older games (not like they were ever really that useful to begin with), your ship will be able to scroll along the bottom of the screen and let loose with whatever weapons you have available. Besides, the shields you’ll be able to steal from the charred bodies of your foes are far more effective. Getting such power-ups does not ensure your victory though; some enemies are invulnerable to your weapons, so you’ll have to rely on the old peashooter to destroy everything.

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Even if you are faced with some challenging opposition, the game provides plenty of opportunities to net extra points and power-ups. If you shoot a passing saucer, you’ll engage a serious of bonus timed mini-games. There’s nothing too fancy to be done; it usually involves shooting down a set number of enemy formations, destroying a number of Invaders of the same color, or something equally engaging. Should you succeed, you’ll be transported back into the main stage with your winnings. These could range from anything like an extra life to freezing the enemy fleets for a few precious seconds. The most prominent award, however, is the Fever Mode; whatever weapon you had equipped beforehand is upgraded into something far more powerful. The regular peashooter bullets could evolve into streaks of light that split off to take out entire rows of foes, or into armor-piecing rounds. The laser cannon goes from a dinky little stream into something out of Dragon Ball Z. Regardless of what happens, all you’ve got to do is keep pressing the fire button and dish out some of the most devastating attacks ever seen in a Space Invaders game.

Your shots will have to be somewhat accurate, though. The game grades you based on how many enemies you can kill in a single chain; if you can’t kill the next foe by the time the counter on the top screen resets, you won’t net any of the bonuses. The same goes if you miss your targets or rely too heavily on continues. While the scoring may not be important to you, it figures largely into your progression through the game. The stages of the Space Invaders Extreme branch off every time you complete one; depending on the scoring and difficulty you choose, you’ll be treated to multiple levels with vastly different challenges and enemy formations. Though you only need to beat five stages to complete the Arcade Mode, there are a decent amount of branching paths for you to explore. Those, combined with a Stage Mode for practice, high score challenges, online connectivity for multiplayer and score rankings, and different difficulty settings will ensure that you come back for more long after you’ve first seen the credits.

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The biggest draw, however, doesn’t come with the extras. While Space Invaders Extreme retains a retro look for its various ships (the backgrounds are a mishmash of polygons, neon lights, and a swirl whatever random images Taito could muster), it is the audio that truly makes it stand out. Taking cues from games like Rez and Lumines, this game has a distinctly musical approach to its gameplay. Every action you perform creates a corresponding sound effect; breaking an enemy’s shield could sound like the crashing of cymbal or gong, a fired shot could sound like a guitar twang or a piano key. As the enemy ships get wiped out in a blaze of fiery, pixilated glory, the bloodshed seems more like a series of drum beats as opposed to rending shrapnel. The amazing part is how well these sound effects blend in with the background music. Since each level comes with its own track of pulse-pounding techno music, you’ll be wiping out your foes not for the sake of survival, but for hearing some awesome tunes as well. Its blends of old and new like this that makes the game so much more memorable.

Listen, folks. If you have a DS and want to play something awesome, get this game. It’s selling for bargain prices, and it’s much better than some of the fully-priced drivel you might have been tricked into buying. Retro fans have absolutely no reason not to give this a shot; it’s got all the old school goodness that made Space Invaders such a classic. Newer gamers will be drawn to the sheer amount of weapons, enemies, intense levels, and fast-paced gameplay. While the graphics are definitely dated, it’s the audio that makes the game stand out; crafting a classic game around music was definitely a gamble, and it really paid off this time. With a nice handful of stages, gameplay modes, and online connectivity, this game is perfect for those looking for something fun and easy to pick up. So do yourself a favor and give Space Invaders Extreme a shot. Get back in touch with your inner retro gamer.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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