Review: “Space Invaders Invincible Collection” (Nintendo Switch, 80s August Special)
Welcome back to 80s August, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of the greatest decade since martians built the pyramids!
Today, we’re going to take a look at Space Invaders Invincible Collection on Nintendo Switch.* I know what you’re thinking- that Taito first released Space Invaders in 1978, not the 1980s. True enough, but Space Invaders was absolutely still an arcade mainstay in the early 80s, and one of the games released as part of this collection, Space Cyclone, was originally released in 1980. Besides, you can start your own website with your own 80s theme month if you don’t like it, dink.
Space Invaders Invincible Collection comes with ten games that are either part of or kinda related to the classic Space Invaders series. It seems best to write this review by breaking apart each game, so that’s what we’re going to do.
The 1978 classic that started it all. Designed by Tomohiro Nishikado, Space Invaders became an intercontinental sensation upon release. In just a few years, Space Invaders had grossed more than $15 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation), making it not only the most successful video game product ever released, but also the highest-grossing entertainment product at the time.
This version of Space Invaders is presented with its original black and white graphics. Players control a space ship locked to the bottom of the screen and blast away at rows of encroaching alien adversaries. As you blast them into oblivion, the invaders start to speed up, sliding back and forth ever more quickly before they reach the bottom of the screen, and of course, killing you. It may seem simple at first, but naturally, the invaders shoot back, and hitting the very last enemy is pretty tough given how quickly he darts across the screen.
Fortunately, you have four barriers laid out near the bottom of the screen that you can hide behind if things get too frantic, but every hit – whether from you or the enemy – chips away at these barriers until they are rendered useless.
While there are stages, besting your high score is really the objective in Space Invaders. Each type of invader gives you different amounts of points, and shooting down the UFOs that occasionally fly by will net you some nice bonus points.
Even more than 40 years later, Space Invaders remains an enjoyable game, though perhaps less addictive than it once was. It still has that “one more play!” factor to it, but the cultural fervor around it has obviously dissipated since its heyday.
Space Invaders – Color Version
This is a colorized version of the 1978 original, with the rows of invaders presented in different colors. There isn’t much else to say about it, but it’s nice to have both versions included so that you can feed your nostalgia the proper visual flavor.
Space Invaders Part II
Released in 1979 (1980 in the United States!), Space Invaders Part II doesn’t do much to reinvent the game. The invaders assume new formations and will sometimes split in two when shot. There are a few visual flourishes added as well, including numbered barriers that indicate the stage you are playing, and cinematic interludes between stages. The scoring system is tweaked too, but that really sums up the differences in Part II. Still fun, worth checking out, but not remarkably different than the first game.
Also originally released in 1979, Lunar Rescue is an interesting combination of Lunar Lander, Choplifter, Frogger and Space Invaders (acknowledging that Lunar Rescue predates both Choplifter and Frogger).
You control a rescue pod that slowly descends to a planet’s surface, dodging asteroids and using your thrusters to land gently on various platforms below. Once you land, a space colonist (sure, why not?) boards your pod, and you must ferry them back to the mother ship. Unfortunately, the skies have filled with enemy UFOs for the trip back up, and you must avoid their fire and blast through them to dock safely.
Lunar Rescue is clearly a departure from the typical Space Invaders formula, but it is also my favorite of the variation of the old games. Not only is it different, but it combines several different mechanics making it the most interesting, too.
Originally released in 1980, this collection is the first time that Space Cyclone has been released on a home console. It may resemble Space Invaders when looking at screenshots, but Space Cyclone felt the least like a Space Invaders game to me.
Your ship is still locked at the bottom of the screen, but instead of slowly approaching in rows, enemies instead ride space clouds (?) and they leap down to the surface, quickly spinning all the way down. The action is far more frantic than the other games mentioned so far, and it’s really tough to hit the enemies when they are spinning down to the surface.
If enough of these enemies reach the bottom, they will slowly form a giant robot on the left side of the screen. Once it is fully assembled, the robot blasts off into the air and starts to fire devastating red lasers at you. It’s a pretty cool way to die, even though you’re trying your best to avoid it. If you manage to shoot these robots down before their lasers get you, you’ll earn a keen 300 point bonus. Radical.
One of the more unique features of Space Cyclone are the addition of digitized voices. The enemies will taunt you by saying, “We’re coming!”, “Watch out!”, or “Gotcha!” While not as ominous as the voices in other 80s arcade games (1982’s Sinistar comes to mind), the voices add a bit of charm to Space Cyclone, making it stand out – just a bit – as part of this collection.
Not to be confused with Majestic 12, Majestic Twelve: The Space Invaders Part IV was released in Japanese arcades in 1990. (The absent Return of the Invaders is technically Space Invaders 3?)
Why is it called Majestic Twelve? Because there are twelve stages in the game, each accessible via multiple pathways depending on which path you select (like StarFox). The core gameplay is very much back to the tried and true Space Invaders formula, with rows of aliens coming at you. However, the invaders stack and move differently this time around. They can stretch out, collapse down, shift from row to row, etc.
Instead of bonus points, UFOs drop power-ups this time around, including heat seeking shots, lasers, and a giant space butterfly that stops time for some reason. Trippy.
Majestic Twelve also features boss battles, none of which are remarkably interesting, neither are they all that difficult. They’re big, though, and fighting the bosses is a nice change of pace for the Space Invaders formula. There are also bonus stages between each level where you must defend a small herd of cows from being abducted by UFOs, and it’s quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun.
Graphically, Majestic Twelve is a fairly big jump over Space Cyclone and its predecessors. Some of the stages look rather pretty, featuring some nice parallax scrolling and more highly detailed sprites. The M.U.S.H.A.-esque lava canyon that was the standout for me. Unfortunately, the invaders themselves look a bit generic, and they don’t quite match the iconic look from the rest of the Space Invaders franchise. This is the first game to have background music, which was decent, but I found it mostly forgettable.
Majestic Twelve may be the most “chill” game in this collection, as you can continue ad nauseam due to free play nature of the game. There’s really no excuse for not beating it, again making maxing your score the most compelling part about replaying the game.
Super Space Invaders ‘91
Also released in 1990, Super Space Invaders ’91 is pretty much the same game as Majestic Twelve. Instead of choosing your path through the twelve stages, however, you will play every one of them in succession.
Do you want to play all of the stages, or just a handful of them? If the former, play Super ’91. If the latter, play Majestic Twelve.
Space Invaders DX
Space Invaders DX was released in arcades in 1994. You can choose to play in three different modes: Space Invaders mode, Versus mode, and Parody mode.
Space Invaders mode lets you select your own aesthetic preference: upright cabinet, black and white tabletop, color tabletop, or cellophane black and white mode. Other than this choice of graphics, Space Invaders mode plays out much the same as the 1978 original.
On the other hand, Versus mode pits two players against one another for a head to head survival challenge. This would have originally been done via a two-screen cocktail cabinet, but in the Space Invaders Invincible Collection, you have the benefit of a split-screen.
Parody mode changes the game’s background and characters to more colorful sprites, many from other Taito games such as Arkanoid and Bubble Bobble. Enemies include cats, knights, devils, etc., and even your player’s “ship” changes from stage to stage, where it takes the form of a baby chick, red mage, etc.
Overall, Space Invaders DX is not a particularly interesting version of the game other than Parody mode and the head-to-head Versus mode. If you want to play multiplayer, it’s (almost) your only option, and if you really don’t want to play with sci-fi alien aesthetic, then Parody mode may be your jam.
Space Invaders Extreme
The first Space Invaders in this collection to not be released in arcades, Space Invaders Extreme launched on home consoles and portables in 2008, just in time for the original’s 30th anniversary. Much like many other stylish remakes of classic arcade games (i.e. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX or Tempest 2000), Space Invaders Extreme features bright, flashy graphics and an energetic soundtrack. 100% not for the epileptically-afflicted.
This time around, the invaders’ attacks are color-coded, and chaining together kills of the same color will release weapon power-ups. There is a bonus round that unlocks a special “fever” mode when completed, where you can rack up tons of jackpot bonus points. There is also a brief roulette wheel mini-game that unlocks player power-ups.
If you want a modern, fast-paced, variation on Space Invaders that celebrates the soul of the series without the high level of challenge and the impending sense of dread, then Space Invaders Extreme is a great fit for you. Moreover, if you’re a fan of musically-driven design and rave-style visuals similar to the Bit.Trip series or again, Tempest 2000, then Space Invaders Extreme is also going to scratch that itch.
Space Invaders Gigamax
Space Invaders Gigamax originally appeared as a mode in 2020’s Space Invaders Forever collection. While it can be played with a single player, Gigamax is absolutely designed for the multiplayer experience. Up to four players each control their own ship, and the play field is extended the full width of your widescreen television.
Each stage has three sections. The first section is essentially a standard Space Invaders field, but giant-sized. Once you’ve blasted away enough of the invaders, you progress to the next section, which is a frenzied battle more akin to Space Invaders Extreme. The approaching enemies grow larger when they are shot, and explode when they reach critical mass. These explosions, naturally, kill you. Each stage is topped off with a boss fight. You can team up with other players for increased attack size and power, which will help you take them out. The boss battles are largely rather fun, except for the very last one which is protected by smaller invincible invaders & you have to find the vulnerable one to shoot through.
At just three full stages, Gigamax is rather short. There isn’t much of an ending, as the real objective is to compete with the other players for the top score. Gigamax makes for a good multiplayer Space Invaders experience, largely thanks to the widescreen format. It’s not a very satisfying game to play single-player though, as the the respawn time is annoyingly long and the infinite continues of “free play” make it easy to finish (other than that final boss, of course).
It’s important to note that the individual games have options for difficulty, shields, and ship stock, and you can always quick save your game if you’re in a pinch for time (or if you want to exploit the save states). As far as visual options go, you can turn on scan lines, select your screen size, or flip the screen longways to play in TATE mode, which works pretty well in the Switch’s handheld mode. There is also a “challenge mode” for each game, where you complete an objective with a specific set of rules rather than just play through the games.
As an overall package, Space Invaders Invincible Collection is solid, but it doesn’t have many frills. All of the games play flawlessly, and there is a little bit of background information presented for each one. A more robust gallery or museum would have been nice.
That this is meant to be a complete collection of Space Invaders games, so it’s odd that Return of the Invaders and the excellent Space Invaders Infinity Gene – arguably the best modern Space Invaders game – were not included. There may be music rights blocking Infinity Gene, but Return of the the Invaders should absolutely be here. As consolation, Taito included Arknoid vs. Space Invaders as a bonus downloadable game when you buy Space Invaders Invincible Collection. AvSI was not part of the review copy we received, so we were unable to critique it.
Given that many of the games included in Space Invaders Invincible Collection are fairly similar, chances are that you will land on two or three go-to games that fit your personal taste. For me, those are Space Invaders Extreme, Majestic Twelve, Lunar Rescue, and maybe the 1978 original when I’m feeling nostalgic.
While it’s not the definitive Space Invaders collection, retro gamers will absolutely get a kick out of Space Invaders Invincible Collection. Maybe an Omnipotent Collection with Return of the Invaders, Infinity Gene, and more fleshed out bonus features will arrive just in time for the game’s 50th anniversary (which is just seven years away. Yeesh…). The $59.99 price tag also seems a tad steep, but considering a 1978 quarter is now more than a dollar thanks to inflation, you’re really getting a lot of arcade gaming bang for your buck.
You can get Space Invaders Invincible Collection via the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Disclosure: A copy of Space Invaders Invincible Collection was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.
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