Review: Space Invaders Forever – For A Good Long Time At Least

Space Invaders was a 1978 arcade game in which you played as a space ship trying to eliminate waves of invading aliens as they approached you. It’s the first fixed shooter game, and it paved the way for a lot of common elements of video games today, from its simple four note melody being the first regular background music in an arcade game, to its accidental implementation of a natural but increasing difficulty curve. It is no exaggeration to say that Space Invaders is one of the most influential video games of all time.

All of that is to say that Taito’s Space Invaders Forever has some very big shoes to fill. So how does it stack up as a game against its forefather? Well, for starters, it’s not one game, but three, each of which takes the classic formula and tries to turn it on its head in some way or another.

Don't worry, it gets more impressive from here.
Don’t worry, it gets more impressive from here.

I’ll begin with the least impressive of the three, Space Invaders Gigamax 4SE.  This is essentially a version of Space Invaders that you have to play with four people because of the sheer size of the game board. Unless you have three friends to play with, you won’t be getting the fully experience out of it. It’s a dedicated co-op multiplayer Space Invaders, and that’s the long and the short of it, aside from the music provided by Taito’s in house band ZUNTATA.

There's a lot to take in, so just focus on staying alive
There’s a lot to take in, so just focus on staying alive

Space Invaders Extreme on the other hand is an improved version of the 40th anniversary Space Invaders released for Steam. Space Invaders Extreme takes the classic’s core mechanic and changes it up with an almost overwhelming set of possible levels, goals, weapons, and more. Each level in Space Invaders Extreme is a series of waves with a boss fight in the end. You start off with a single shot cannon and have to destroy all the invaders without getting it and losing your lives. But very quickly the changes become apparent. You have a chain bonus, you get bonuses for killing multiple aliens of the same color, same column, or same shape in a row, you can upgrade your weapon to be a multi-pellet broad shot, an explosive that hits every invader in a radius of where the pellet initially lands, and an armor piercing laser that cuts through the invaders in a straight line. At any point you might get thrust into a mini game by shooting down a rainbow UFO.

Boss attacks are more about exposing a weakness than a straight damage race
Boss attacks are more about exposing a weakness than a straight damage race

Eventually, each level ends with a boss attack, usually one or more large invaders you need to hit multiple times to unveil a new form with weak points you must hit before they revert back to their original forms. None of these elements save the minigames are on a specific time limit, but the faster you go, the higher your score. There are 16 levels in the game, each one harder than the last, and each one giving out a grade and a score. It certainly gives you a great incentive to keep playing and perfecting your game

Oh yes, this game has a plot and a continuing narrative, too.
Oh yes, this game has a plot and a continuing narrative, too.

The last game in the pack, and technically a different game as far as my Switch was concerned, was Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders. The reason for this is almost certainly because Arkanoid vs Space Invaders is a port of a mobile game and as such it plays in vertical mode and actually utilizes the Switch’s touch screen. But don’t let that put you off. There are no wait timers or microtransactions, just loads and loads of levels to keep you occupied for quick pick up and play action any time. It also has a story with a narrative to give you a reason to fight off the Space Invaders.

Since the Arkanoid doesn't have weapons, reflecting Invader attacks is the name of the game
Since the Arkanoid doesn’t have weapons, reflecting Invader attacks is the name of the game

Combining mechanics of Arkanoid and Space Invaders, you have to move the ship around the screen to intercept and reflect the space invaders shots back at them to clear levels within a set time limit. If you miss a shot, you take damage. If you reflect a shot, you gain attack energy for a super move, which so far seems to just be the ball from Arkanoid. You select an angle to fire it from and then you let it fly to take out loads of invaders, or blocks, with the ball remaining for a certain number of bounces off your paddle. Hitting invaders or Arkanoid blocks seem to have no effect on its duration, but it’s hard to say for sure.

Bubbles equal Missiles. Somehow that tracks.
Bubbles equal Missiles. Somehow that tracks.

Other elements of Arkanoid also made it into the game, like falling power ups increase your attack power, extend your time, and do things like extend your paddle or fire projectiles, though how that works is slightly different. One of the introduced elements in Arkanoid vs Space Invaders is helper characters. Starting with an original character from Arkanoid vs Spacer Invader‘s plot with no specific powers, you can complete stages to unlock other Taito characters with their own powers, such as Bob from Bubble Bobble, who unlocks the missile power up. Just find a skill drop from a defeated Space Invader or Block and the power up activates for a short time.

There are a lot of levels. A LOT of them
There are a lot of levels. A LOT of them

And don’t worry about running out of stuff to do. when I mentioned lots of levels, I meant it. There are twenty levels in the tutorial area alone, each with a normal and hard variant. There are also in game achievements, unlockables like the 30+ helper characters from all over Taito history (all of whom have their own skill to help you out), and just tons of things to keep you coming back to Space Invaders like the world has for the last 42 years.

Space Invaders is a very simple premise that offers a lot of room for exploration and experimentation with new ideas and mechanics, and Space Invaders Forever is a perfect showcase of that. It’s three games offer three very unique play experience, letting you switch from a more puzzle like experience to a more arcade like experience at any time. All three games were quite fun, but personally Arkanoid Vs Space Invaders really caught my eye, with its unique mix of formulas, loads of options, and quick pick up and play levels drawing me back in time and again for just one more level, and wanting to know what the game’s plot was headed towards kept me engaged as well.

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