Review by Matt S.
Space Invaders is my game. In fact, were it not for Space Invaders I may have never become so invested in video games as I am today (though the jury’s out on whether that’s a good thing or not). I had played other games before Space Invaders, but Space Invaders was the first time that I could play for hours and hours, and find myself continuing to come back to it. To this day, my ideal Saturday morning routine involves sitting at my arcade cabinet coffee table for an hour or so, with a coffee, and playing through a few rounds of Space Invaders.
With the above as context: Space Invaders Invincible Collection is a superb collection of my very favourite retro games. Though the overall franchise lost its way a little in the transition from the early arcade era through the 90’s, the series came roaring back in style in more recent times, and this collection captures that entire, long history. The original, black & white Space Invaders is, of course, in the collection, and kicks us off. Then it moves into the colour era before giving players Space Invaders ’91 and Majestic Twelve… which is where the series went a bit off the rails. I really don’t like those two. They lost the soul of Invaders entirely.
But then the collection moves to the modern masterpiece, Space Invaders Extreme, as well as a four-player neon-infused party game called Space Invaders Giga Max 4 SE, and the excellent mobile title Arkanoid vs. Invaders. Brought together as a package that’s a hell of a collection, fusing the old and new together in a way that provides both nostalgia and games that feel modern today. Many of the other retro collections are for those that grew up with the franchise, but come across as highly esoteric to those that didn’t. However, the modern titles in the Invincible Collection make this a good introduction to people who have never played a Space Invaders before, too; you can hook them in with the brilliance of Extreme, and then get them interested in seeing where it all started.
Best feeling in gamingis getting *that* score from the UFO #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/IHjeiBnv4G
— Danica (Dee) Guevara 🇯🇵 (@MattSainsb) March 26, 2020
In terms of features Invincible Collection is robust, too. Each game has both the original arcade mode and a “challenge mode” – giving players additional limitations like time limits, and each of those is tracked by separate leaderboards, immediately giving players incentive to play on, and play long. There’s also the ability to turn the Switch on its side to enjoy the full cabinet experience, and some background options if you’re playing in standard handheld mode. There’s even the ability to quick save and load, which will be particularly appealing to newer players that might fight the rate in which Space Invaders difficulty escalates to be a bit much at first.
With the exception of Majestic Twelve and Space Invaders ’91, Space Invaders has always been a visually attractive experience. The three different alien types from the original Invaders have become iconic for a reason – as simple as those designs are, they are adorable, and there’s something deeply rhythmic and hypnotic in the way that they inch across and down the screen in great big blocks. While later Space Invaders games have certainly modernised the basic shooting action, they’ve never messed with the principle that the monsters should be cute, and in formation (again with the exception of those “middle years”). It’s not a lack of effort that led the development team behind Space Invaders Extreme and Giga Max to revert right back to the pixel critters as the enemies, for example.
It should probably go without saying that the quality of the emulation in Space Invaders Invincible Collection is fine. It would have been a real issue if Taito couldn’t get those little monsters moving on the Switch at the right frame rate. A greater issue is the hardware itself – the Nintendo Switch’s buttons and joysticks don’t feel quite as comfortable in the hands has an arcade joystick and buttons… though unless you actually have an arcade cabinet you’re not likely to care about that either, and for anyone that is not that deeply into the home arcade experience the Switch controls do work with perfect precision.
While I am grumbling about minor issues, the list of games, while comprehensive in highlighting the evolution of Space Invaders, is missing a couple of nice-to-haves. Sticking Space Invaders DX in an incredibly expensive special edition is a bit on the mean side on Taito’s part, and it would have been nice to have a couple of the console efforts thrown into the package, just for reference. The SNES and Game Boy had particularly enjoyable takes on Space Invaders, for example. It’s also disappointing that the package doesn’t include a “museum” as some of the other retro compilations do. It would have been nice to have a digital art book highlighting sketches, art work, promotional material, and other elements from the long history that Space Invaders has had.
Indeed, there aren’t many properties that have a longer and deeper history than Space Invaders. Taito’s legend started before Mario Bros., before Pac-Man, before Asteroids, before Castlevania, and almost any other “retro” video game series that you can think of. Building a collection out of that much history is actually much more difficult than working with minimal material, and Taito has done a really good job of curating a package of games that show all the transitions that Space Invaders has made over the years. The game’s currently only available in Japan, but… well, it’s Space Invaders. It’s not like you need to understand Japanese to be able to play this one.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb
A copy of this game was purchased by the critic for the purpose of review.