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Review: Space Invaders Forever (Switch)

Forever is a mighty long time

You know, after my last venture into the world of overpriced Taito games, I wasn’t expecting to find Space Invaders Forever sitting on my doorstep. As previously mentioned in our Bubble Bobble 4 Friends review, the former arcade titan experienced a heavy fall from grace within the last 15 years.

Taito’s legacy was largely forgotten, simply an amalgamation of memories playing games like Bust-a-Move and RayForce. Now, in an effort to recapture the ground they lost nearly a decade ago, Taito has pushed a most precarious anniversary collection found in Space Invaders Forever.

The Good: Space Invaders Extreme

The first of the trio to be dissected is Space Invaders Extreme. Originally released on the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable in 2008, SI: Extreme breathes new life with support on the Switch and PlayStation 4. It is, in essence, the same old Space Invaders formula with extra bells and whistles to keep its’ attention-deficient audience entertained. Space Invaders Forever marks my first experience Extreme, and I was pleasantly surprised when booted it up and gave it a go.

For those like me who didn’t play it on its initial release, Space Invaders Extreme is essentially the “Tetris Effect” of the franchise. Backdrops are given a facelift, mixing the psychedelic graphic art seen in the ’90s with a futuristic flare. Enemies are now color coded and will occasionally drop power-ups like wide-shot rounds, bombs or lasers. Success is measured by how you strategize maximizing your score. You’ll earn bonus points by fulfilling certain requirements like blowing away Invaders either in a row, a column, by shape or color, etc.

Each round closes with a “Boss Attack,” where you’ll be paired against a larger Invader and victory requires some ingenuity. One of the more unique encounters involved the boss being equipped with a shield and was impossible to damage. There was this never-ending army of smaller blue enemies, equipped with curved shields, that would slowly creep down firing lasers at you. After five minutes of racking my brain in trying to solve this fight, I learned that killing the blue foot soldiers will give you the laser power-up, which is then used to ricochet off the curved shields and damage the Boss from the side.

I really appreciate the game forcing you to think outside of the box and eases you into harder challenges based on your skill level. The stages in Arcade mode are mapped out in this fan-shaped flow chart, similar to how Shadow the Hedgehog’s campaign was broken down. Dependent on your score and rank at the end of the stage, the game will place you in a new level that is suitable for your skill. Once you complete a full run, you’ll be given access more challenging “extra” stages that will really test your meddle. And if you ever feel like a stage is too hard to play through in an arcade run, you can always jump on Free Play and practice the stages that are giving you trouble.

All-in-all, Space Invaders Extreme was a lot of fun to play, even as a casual fan. I would say that my only complaint lies in the music and sound effects. The compositions are these really light and soft EDM tracks that are normally fine, but firing your weapons sound off this annoying “pinging” noise that can be relatively distracting. But besides that, its a solid playthrough.

The Bad: Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders

I honestly feel like this is the weird inclusion in the whole package. Arkanoids vs. Space Invaders (or AvSI, as I will now refer to it) was originally released on mobile in 2017 on iOS and Android. It’s a hybrid game crossed between the two classic Taito games where you control the Vaus, the paddlelike starcraft, with your finger while reflecting the bullets of enemy Space Invaders.

Rounds are fairly quick, where instead of surviving the onslaught of alien hoards, the goal is to clear the board before time runs out. Enemies are sprawled out in different patterns with various types of bricks defending them. While there isn’t any special power-ups like in Extreme, you do have character centric assist abilities that activate after collecting enough stat boosters. Taito veteran characters like Kage (The Legend of Kage) or Kunoichi (The Ninja Warriors) are unlocked by reaching certain levels or completing other challenges and can provide new interesting abilities like forcing all enemy fire towards the Vaus or slowing down the movement of enemies.

Progression is layered in the same way as other mobile games like Candy Crush (god, is that still relevant anymore?) with a trail of stages that reach higher and higher as you climb. I can’t help but think that AvSI’s inclusion was more or less shoved in to make the whole product feel like there’s more value here than there actually is. I mean, for five bucks, nearly anyone could run this game on their phone instead of lugging their Switch around.

The Ugly: Space Invaders Gigamax 4SE

In the military, we have this concept we like to call the “Good Idea Fairy.” The “Good Idea Fairy” is a chaotic beast that weaves destructive advice or ideas into the minds of those in supervisory or leadership positions. The effects can be felt over years, with thousands of hours of man-hours wasted, millions of dollars flushed down the drain, all undoubtedly leading to a soulless final product.

Space Invaders Gigamax 4SE was created by the Good Idea Fairy.

Imagine taking regular old Space Invaders and multiplying the number of enemies by three. Then give up to three of your friends a chance to jump into the fray and take on this massive hoard. As you and your buddies defend yourselves against this massive army, the mothership shows up and sucks all of the remaining enemies. When they return, they comeback beefier, taking more hits to neutralize, firing off modified weapons as you and the boys are left with your little “pew-pew” pellet blaster. Then, the mothership comes back – again, sucking up the remaining baddies and then forcing you and your allies into a quick 99 second showdown.

That’s it. That’s literally the whole game. There’s only three waves of enemies before clearing the game, and you honestly don’t even have to fire a single shot until the fight with the big bad. It doesn’t even make a difference. And being a game where the core focus is multiplayer, why wouldn’t they implement some sort of online match making capabilities? This game honestly feels like they were working on this in mid-development and some genius producer said “screw it, ship it as is.” And the only way for them to even think about passing this off to the public would be to include it to some anniversary collection…

Forever is a mighty long time

With a name like Space Invaders Forever, you would assume that the collection would bring its very best to the forefront. And there’s no denying it, Space Invaders Extreme is a good game, a real good game. But packing it in with games like AvSI and Gigamax feels like you’re trying to inflate your sales numbers for crap games by shoehorning it in with one really good one from 12 years ago.

Summary

To be honest, I’m not even too mad about the mobile game, especially on the Nintendo Switch. Having a mobile game run on the system’s tablet mode is OK, but between that and the ugly baby that is Gigamax, Taito could have done way better. Especially considering that Space Invaders Infinity Gene could definitely have served as a superior alternative to both AvSI and Gigamax. It’s always difficult when reviewing collections like this because more often than not, you’re left with a grab bag filled with varying degrees of quality – and at the end of the day, Space Invaders Forever must be scrutinized by the sum of its parts.

Christopher Wenzel

One half of The ScrubVerse Podcast. Lover of Shining Force and Guilty Gear. Owner of the most basic Sol Badguy. Will do morally ambiguous things for a remake of Phantasy Star IV. Send Jameson for morale.

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