There's nothing quite like an old video game series celebrating a landmark anniversary to make you feel old, especially when it's a 30th anniversary, as is the case for Space Invaders. The game that literally created a shortage of yen coins in Japan is celebrating three decades of blasting aliens with Space Invaders Extreme for the Nintendo DS. New graphics, revamped gameplay, fun multiplayer, and a low price make this new imagining of Space Invaders a surprisingly good time.
As in the 1978 original, you move a small cannon back and forth across the bottom of the screen and blast formations of invaders that slowly descend from above. Although the basic concept remains intact, almost everything else is different. You'll notice right away that there are no longer any destructible barriers to hide under. This isn't necessarily good or bad, but it was such a memorable feature of the first game that its omission is at least noteworthy. The attacking aliens have seen quite a bit of change. Your foes now come in different colors and sizes, sometimes have shields, can swarm down to attack, and group together in a variety of different formations. Every level ends with a boss encounter. The giant-sized bosses may look intimidating, but the fights are generally straightforward--avoid their halfhearted attacks and shoot their easy-to-see weak point(s).
The core Space Invaders experience is intact, but you'll need some new skills to get really high scores.
Your goal is to avoid being hit while racking up the highest score possible across the game's five levels, and at first you'll be happy to shoot indiscriminately and not die. But as you'll note by all of the different gauges that clutter up the top screen, there's more to Space Invaders Extreme than dodging lasers and mashing the fire button. The instruction manual mentions max chains, score rates, features, breaks, and a host of other gameplay terms, but it doesn't do a great job of clearly defining what all of those terms mean, so you'll have to experiment to find out. Shooting like-colored aliens in succession not only increases your score, but it also causes them to drop one of four power-ups: a spread gun, a laser that explodes on contact and takes out multiple targets, a laser that can destroy an entire column, and a shield for your cannon. You'll also earn a bonus for shooting a column of aliens in order or for clearing an entire formation without missing.
The UFOs that zoom across the screen every so often are back, but now there are a few different varieties. Depending on the color, they'll fly on by, shoot lasers, or add invaders to the formation. If you shoot a roulette UFO, you'll start a brief minigame in which you earn either a score bonus, extra cannon, or nothing at all. Blowing up a flashing UFO will start a timed bonus round. Goals of the bonus rounds vary, but you'll typically need to shoot down a set number of a certain invader or collect falling items. Should you achieve the round's goal, you'll activate fever time. This takes place on the regular playfield, and you get a time limit and a souped-up cannon that annihilates everything in sight, earning you crazy amounts of points in the process.