"They’re back. They never really left, though. The Space Invaders still haven’t given up attempts to wipe out the human race. It’s been decades since the war started, and it was almost finished in Space Invaders Extreme. Not happy ending, but a bitter, brutal one. Those little bastards really upped the ante that time; they descended to Earth like a swarm of pixilated locusts, spewing laser death and bullet showers upon the helpless population. They were organized, efficient, and far deadli..."
They’re back. They never really left, though. The Space Invaders still haven’t given up attempts to wipe out the human race. It’s been decades since the war started, and it was almost finished in Space Invaders Extreme. Not happy ending, but a bitter, brutal one. Those little bastards really upped the ante that time; they descended to Earth like a swarm of pixilated locusts, spewing laser death and bullet showers upon the helpless population. They were organized, efficient, and far deadlier than anything their previous generations could have been. And yet they were driven back, narrowly defeated by only the most skilled and diehard gamers. But the victory was short-lived. The aftermath of that crusade revealed the most terrifying fact about our interstellar adversaries:
They were holding back.
Just a little over a year after original campaign, Space Invaders Extreme 2 has come with a vengeance. The aliens have learned a lot from their last invasion; they’ve incorporated several new tactics, formations, and maneuvers to outclass their human opponents. They’ve unleashed whole fleets of newer, faster, and stronger ships. Rather than filling a screen with a grid of weak scout, the invaders send out waves of ships that work around each others’ weaknesses. Imagine trying to blast through a row of heavily-shielded cruisers; even if it only takes a few more shots to blast through their hulls, you’ll be too busy worrying about the constant hail of bullets from the rotary turrets flanking them, or just barely dodging the bursts of laser fire from the cannons mounted at the top of the screen. That’s on top of shock troops that can use their shields as projectiles, the teleporting drones, the kamikazes, or the invisible assassin ships lurking within the background of the battlefield. With several upgrades to their arsenal, the Space Invaders are definitely packing some heat.
As for you? Well, you’ve got the peashooter, that tried and true single-shot laser gun that has saved the world so many times. It doesn’t matter how tough these guys have gotten; everything can be taken down with enough direct hits. But considering what you’re up against, you’d be insane (or just masochistic) to rely on that pathetic piece of outdated hardware. Instead, you’re going to fall back on the strategy developed in the first Space Invaders Extreme: the color-coded power-ups. If you wipe out enough foes with the same color in a row, you’ll be able to recover ship upgrades from the falling shrapnel. Depending on the color of your victims, you’ll be able to snag incendiary missiles, spread-shot bullets, powerful laser cannon, or an energy shield. Since these abilities can be used for only a few seconds, you’ll likely spend your time frantically trying to take as many victims as possible. While survivors of the previous installment might consider such tactics to be unoriginal, they will soon find that the aliens have created ships specifically designed to counter your weapons. With more durable shields and better moves, these guys will give even the weathered veterans a run for their money.
The same goes for the bonus missions. In the last game, you could trigger extra challenges by destroying specific ships drifting across the top of the screen. The current assault would pause, thus forcing you to focus on whatever extras you might have unleashed. Space Invaders Extreme 2 uses a similar method, but streamlines it into the stage itself. Rather than being flung into a mini-boss battle, you’ll have to take down the additional enemies on the top screen. These foes require more creativity to kill; you might have to blast smaller ships into a larger one, set off explosive chain reactions, or slowly chip away at a giant shield. Meanwhile, the stage doesn’t pause; not only will you have to wipe out some gargantuan fiend, but you’ll have to deal with all of the chaos on the touch screen at the same time. This not only makes the pacing of the battles much smoother, but makes the them more challenge as well. Perseverance is rewarded by Fever Time, which grants you access to super-powered weapons for a few precious seconds. The same goes for all-new Bingo Mode, which is displayed on the top screen during the regular fighting activated by destroying certain combinations of colored foes. Regardless of which mini-game you focus on, you’ll get to bask in all the extra carnage and bonus points you’ll net from your efforts.
That’s assuming that you actually live long enough to reap your rewards. This crusade is tough, even when compared with the first. While you might be able to get through the Beginner stages without much of a hassle, you’ll find that the branching level paths on the Normal setting offer plenty in terms of challenge. There’s a reason why this game is called Space Invaders Extreme, and you won’t truly understand why until you try getting a piece out of the appropriately named Extreme Mode. It takes the old difficulty standard of the previous game and tears it to shreds. It is brutal, but it’ll keep you coming back. If you think you’re good, the Versus and Time Attack challenges ought to give you some opportunities to show off. But if you’ve got Wifi handy, you can take the war online and challenge other gamers - either through random match-ups or friend code exchanges - to see who really knows how to play. It’s features like these that allow Space Invaders Extreme 2 to slightly outdo what its predecessor established.
The same can’t be said for the soundtrack, though. One of the biggest draws of the Extreme games is that they incorporate the gameplay into the music itself. A hit to a shield might sound like a drum beat, shattering a hull might sound like a cymbal, or even a lone bullet might give off a piano note. It’s a brilliant spin on a retro gameplay style, and Taito brought it back for this title. The problem is that the tracks and effects aren’t quite as varied or musical as before; the techno is louder and more fast-paced, and there are more buzzes or zapping sounds as opposed to instrumentals. Despite this, the combination is as catchy as ever. The game balances things out by focusing more on the visual aspects; the backgrounds are laden with 3D boxes, animals, posters, and other random images. While the Space Invaders’ are basically nothing but colored blobs, their intricate formations are impressive. No longer are they just marching into your guns; they’ll zoom around in circular patterns, zigzag to avoid your shots, and do whatever it takes to keep you constantly on your toes. The game isn’t just beautiful, but as intense as its name implies as well.
It’s a shame that you might miss out on it. As of now, Space Invaders Extreme 2 is only available in Japan. If you don’t import, you’ll never get to experience one of the best retro shooters on the DS. You’ll never get to experience the joy of taking down the ridiculously huge bosses. Or get lost in the chaos of the streamlined mini-games. Or get the rush from successfully pulling off a Bingo Combo and unleashing your mightiest weapons. All of those new, diehard enemies and cleverly crafted fleets will never feel the wrath of your trigger finger. The improved online multiplayer won’t get any love, either. The Extreme Mode will remain unplayed, never letting you experience the bitter, controller-breaking frustration you’ll feel get after getting fried for the umpteenth time. So if you ever get the chance, get this. It’s new retro gaming at its best.
Community review by disco (April 06, 2009)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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