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Space Invaders: IG review
by M.W. Moriearty

While studies have proven again and again that any association between violent content in video games and real world violent behavior is bunk (in opposition to a decades-long and just now declining moral panic rivaling that perpetrated by Fredric Wertham in regards to comic books in the fifties), one cannot ignore the close and frequent relationship between video games and violence. Why do these things go so hand in hand? One possible explanation is that two of the very earliest and most imitated mainstream video games, Pong and Space Invaders, have their roots in the simulation of other inherently violent recreational activities, respectively: sporting events and mechanical shooting galleries. Thus, one could extrapolate that the violence of video games is simply an offshoot of the natural violence of sport; it seems people have innately associated competition with aggression throughout history.

Speaking of Pong and Space Invaders, If the former is the game that started the arcade boom, then Taito's Space Invaders, created by Tomohiro Nishikado, is the game that defined it, also moving the center of video game innovation from the U.S. to Japan for decades to come. It is difficult to overstate how thoroughly Space Invaders changed the course of video games as a medium. Directly, it is the precursor to all later installments of the shoot-em-up genre that dominated arcades through much of the eighties: games involving the player piloting a ship or plane along a fixed vertical or horizontal path with the intent of shooting down approaching enemy fighters. It also pioneers such standbys as the high score table and the concept of multiple tries before a game-over, which gives the game the competitive and addictive edge needed to have such staying power. It is the first game to feature a proper, if primitive, musical soundtrack: one which alters dynamically as the game progresses, increasing in tempo as the titular aliens draw nearer to the player's defending ship. The game is the first graphical game to feature a fantastical setting, rather than merely simulating real-world events such as sports.

Space Invaders also, for better or worse, begins the medium's preoccupation with violence. While killing things has been a part of video games even as early as The Oregon Trail and Colossal Cave, in those games violence is always an optional side activity tied exclusively to survival. Space Invaders is the first video game where destroying one's enemy is the primary goal, even if the simplistic opponents of the game share more in common with targets at a shooting gallery than anything resembling a living being. To compensate, however, the game is also the first to feature legitimate enemies who actively attack the player and force one to defend oneself in turn.

However, all its historical significance aside, Space Invaders would not be what it is today if it was not also on a fundamental level fun to play, which of course it is. There is a reason versions of Space Invaders can still be found in video arcades to this day; the game remains as simply and elegantly addictive as it was in 1977. It is accessible enough for a child to pick it up and grasp immediately, but engaging enough to keep an adult hitting replay again and again to try for that high score.

Reisuke Ishida's Infinity Gene expands on the fundamental concepts introduced by Nishikado in Space Invaders to such a degree that it is in effect an entirely new game. If one has never played a shoot-em-up before, Infinity Gene is an ideal starting place, as it charts throughout its levels the gradual evolution of the genre over the course of decades, beginning in the vein of rudimentary vertical shooters like Galaga and climaxing in 3-D battles of epic proportions, all while still using graphics and characters inspired by the original, iconic Space Invaders sprites. The motif of evolution is woven into every facet of the game, from the Charles Darwin quote that kicks off the first stage to the way the player is able to upgrade their ship's weapons and their number of lives as they progress.

The game elaborates on the original Space Invaders' idea of the integration of music and visuals, featuring an ambient and at times pulse-pounding electronic score by Hirokazu Koshio and Soundwave to which the visuals of the game react and evolve. Infinity Gene even includes a Music Mode that allows the player to upload their own playlists into the game to create new levels that react to the beats of their music. The downloadable console releases of the game are fuller and more complete versions of the experience than the mobile ones, but are also less accessible to "casual" audiences, A.K.A. those who do the majority of their gaming in short bursts on their portable devices.

If one is searching for a more classic and unaltered Space Invaders experience, then the original game can easily be found emulated or recreated for free in-browser on any number of websites and included in virtually all of Taito's periodic compilation releases of their arcade backlog. Probably the best of these Taito releases is Taito Legends Power-Up for Playstation Portable, which includes roughly a half-dozen different iterations of Space Invaders and a number of other minor classics.
«Just one more turn»
«Can’t stop playing»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
«Beaten more than once»