I love me some goddamn Space Invaders, there are no two ways about it. A timeless masterpiece that’s still fun to load up today. A primordial soup of STGs; the (get your groans ready, everyone) Wizardry of the Shooting game.
The thing about Space Invaders is that sequels and spin-offs and other games in the series have mostly been the same. Regardless of any additions, they’re all the same at a base level: you are at the bottom of the screen, you move left and right, shooting at lines of aliens that march towards you from the top. Sometimes you get an outlier, like Space Invaders Get Even or God Forbid, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, but Space Invaders tends to stick to what it knows. Extreme is no different.
Extreme adds some bright colors, dance music, and some new weapons. Nothing too out of the ordinary, and something that’s been done in other Space Invaders sequels. But what makes Extreme work in this instance is an even bigger emphasis on scoring. Points, I mean. It’s less about mindlessly shooting your targets, and more about carefully shooting them properly. Taking aliens out in in a vertical or horizontal line, shooting aliens of the same color or the same shape, shooting the UFO the moment it appears on screen, not taking too long to take out aliens, all net you bonuses. You need these bonuses, because you get rated at the end of every stage, and you want to get the highest rating possible, right? That’s how you unlock the extra stages! Going through life with a straight C grade is fine if you’re in school, but not for important shit like this.
Extreme is this addicting monster of a game that you hold in your hands. You are compelled to beat your high score. Grow and improve as a player. A run through every level is probably short enough to complete during a lunch break or a bus ride (depending on where you work or live, I guess). The kind of game to get in your head after you finish playing. It’s what Space Invaders does. The best kind of handheld game, really.
Yes, mechanics are solid and a great reason to pick this game up, but I’d be a fool to not talk about the aesthetic. Despite all the bright colors and droning EDM, everything is still so simple. The titular Invaders look the same in 2008 as they did in 1979. The backgrounds, while they are video files of things like cityscapes, are still dark and not so distracting that they couldn’t just be a flat black background. For me, that image of aliens moving from side to side while a single cannon fights them in a dark void is this eternally eye-pleasing one. Extreme is only a slightly flashier version of this, which I appreciate.
Due to its simplicity, I can really only say so much about it before I repeat myself too much. It is what it is: a fun, addicting game about getting as many points as possible that looks great and only adds a light flourish to an extremely retro look, as opposed to something completely out there like Infinity Gene. Maybe that’s the TV Game conservatism in me coming out; liking classic visuals and immediately selecting the wireframe dungeon, preferring things the way they were Back In My Day (or before, in this case). What can I say? I’m old.
While the PSP was home to a lot of fantastic RPGs and entertaining visual novels, it also did a great job of balancing things out with smaller, frenetic games like Extreme. The PSP did good by Space Invaders (to its credit, the DS did too, but this is not DS Month), for which I am glad.