Genre: Shooter
Year: 2008
Developed by: Taito
Published by: Taito
Platforms: Nintendo DS, Playstation Portable, Xbox Live Arcade
Feeling Like: An Extreme History Lesson

“Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.”

Churchill would be decades gone before video games ushered themselves to the front of pop culture, but the saying still applies. It’s easy to take one look at the latest Call of Duty game and declare that it doesn’t draw any inspiration from games 40 years ago. But that would be ignoring history.

Art is a tower, each new floor made by builders who grew up below. They idolized what they had, and dreamed about what they could turn the above into. Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima, (the Walt Disney and Stanley Kubrick of video games), claimed they weren’t even interested in them until they saw Space Invaders. Its popularity supposedly caused a 100 yen coin shortage in Japan. AND, dear readers, AND my Uncle Charles had a cabinet at his house in Peterborough, Ontario. Don’t underestimate how mind blowing this was to a nine year old. It was my first confirmation that adults not only played video games, but they displayed them proudly in their dusty basement for all to see.

Space Invaders Extreme on the Nintendo DS satisfied every urge I had to re-live the classic. But, you know, more eXtremely. It came to my rescue when I was unable to sleep on a family trip in England due to my ability to fall asleep on planes, yet not in comfy beds at bedtime. The satisfaction of repelling alien blobs who are confident in their slow approach was endearing. Bright colors and an encouraging soundtrack kept me company until the wee hours of the morning. My session was not so rudely interrupted when my father asked me if I’d like to sneak out and play golf before family duties began. Golf is more than 40 years old, hasn’t had an extreme re-make yet, but it was just as satisfying.

It’s still Space Invaders. If you’re over the age of 40 and reading this, you’ll find a smile on your face. I know that game! Indeed you do. This update is shiny bells and whistles, but doesn’t forget the roots. You move left and right and shoot aliens who have invaded your space.

Retro – now with colour!

In all honesty, that’s one of the few mainstays. No barriers to protect you, thus preventing the classic “shoot through your own base” tactic. Space Invaders Extreme makes up for it with a few clever additions. Getting rid of four specific colored enemies in a row will yield different power ups. Anytime a game is at all similar to Ikaruga, I’m all for it.

Multiplayer and worldwide uploading of scores enhances an already established product. You can’t put lipstick on a pig, but when you’re giving a classy makeover to a true industry gem, nobody will accuse you of wrongdoing. Quite the opposite.

A retread of this magnitude deserves greater reverence, but I just can’t do it. I derived more pleasure by learning about the fascinating history behind the Space Invaders game. The obsession of a community that the mainstream wasn’t prepared for. The single minded dedication to improving one’s score. Newspaper articles pondering if this new hobby would mean the end of a generation’s desire to do anything productive. The drive to impress strangers at an arcade. The urgency to belong and discuss strategy and bend your reflexes until they broke. Admirable traits – and hopefully history will repeat itself.

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