Revisiting – Space Invaders (1999)

Join ScreenCritics Madison as they check out a forgotten PlayStation 1 gem – the legendary re-birth of Space Invaders by Activision.

The early video game rush created huge iconic franchises within the industry that to this day stand tall. The likes of Mario, Pac-Man and Space Invaders established the bar for what video game franchises should aspire too. Yet as the industry pushed towards 3D gaming, these franchises had various degrees of success in remaining relevant. In some cases (Mario), this would be a seamless transition. In others (Space Invaders) it would take a lot longer to make that leap into the next-generation.

The original Space Invaders was an arcade style shooting game that was first released in 1978. It featured 8-bit alien characters progressively getting closer to the player’s spaceship at the bottom of the screen, who is fighting off these creatures while avoiding being shot by the aliens. Many variations of Space Invaders came about – but it would be the 1999 PlayStation version that we’re looking at today.

This version of Space Invaders was developed by Activision and released onto Sony’s popular PlayStation fairly late into its existence. packing features that brought it in line with the main bulk of video games at the time. The game was 3-dimensional in graphics but played across the traditional 2-dimensional plain. It means everything on-screen pops more than in the original, and stands out. This was a good thing, as there were now new aliens and new bosses for each planet. Each alien and boss had their own unique characteristic that separated them from the others, making their appearance a challenge for the gamer.

These bosses all had very different looks and characteristics, meaning you had to learn how to beat them through trial and error. The first boss that the player will encounter on Neptune is a gold and blue boss that attempts to crush the player. The final boss is on Earth, and this boss throws missiles, buildings, and shoots lasers at the player. For this final battle, there is only a small window of opportunity to shoot the boss. This variation in gameplay kept things interesting and, dare I say, made for an excellent little shooter.

The game also came packing extra levels if the player beat the game on the higher difficulty – a surprising novelty at the time. If you wanted to play these levels, you had to get good. Levels such as Mercury, an alien world level, and even a classic Space Invaders level, are thrown into the mix to help entice gamers into finding this new content. It was a clever way of extending the games relatively short amount of content while also nodding towards the games huge amount of nostalgia.

This is all helped by a thumping soundtrack that totally works on PlayStation 1. Most are remixes of arcade classics and keep the momentum flowing throughout. Catchy little tunes that make the experience feel all the more richer. I wouldn’t say it was hugely memorable in the grander scheme, but for the aesthetic that game was shooting for – it made perfect sense.

The biggest compliment I can pay this underrated PlayStation gem is that it just worked. Rather than reworking the wheel, the game plays to the franchises strengths. This game was thrilling and needed strategy in order to beat it. Seeing the oversized bosses and mobs of aliens fighting against you as you were just this lone, tiny spaceship was exhilarating. The strategy that came into play was where to use the power-ups that the player could receive either from a mothership or from shooting aliens and who to shoot at what time. The game required the player to be quick on their feet and on their toes.

Overall, the 1999 Space Invaders helped lead the advancements that the original PlayStation was trying to achieve. Due to its graphics and gameplay, it was a must-have in its time. The combination of the new features and the throwback to the previous games made it a hit. It will be a version of Space Invaders that will go down in history.

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