Space Invaders Forever – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Taito and published by ININ Games, Space Invaders Forever is a compilation of three titles offering a mix of gameplay styles that offer something for everyone. The games in the collection are separated into two individual titles on the Nintendo Switch, with Space Invaders Extreme and Gigamax 4 SE included together and Arkanoid VS Space Invaders as a standalone title. There is also a PlayStation 4 release of the collection, containing all three games in a single pack collection. Links to both versions of the collection will be at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get before I get into the review, I want to thank PR Hound for providing the software used for this piece. The provision of software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, I will be moving onto discussing the titles featured in this collection. The gameplay for each title will be discussed individually, then the other aspects of the game will be covered as a whole.

  1. Space Invaders Extreme

Space Invaders Extreme is a fast and frantic arcade style shooter, mixing elements of wave defense shooters, rhythmic action and tradition stage based progression. Each stage is made up of waves of alien invaders, attacking the player as they try to shoot them down. Defeating four enemies of the same color will drop power-ups for the player to use, including a laser and bomb that will last until the bar on the side of the screen runs out.

At points during the waves of a stage, UFO Invaders will appear at the top of the screen with specific colors activating different bonus stages and features. The features include a bonus roulette that can give the player a temporary boost, increased power for a time or a score jackpot. Another feature is the bonus rounds, special timed challenges that will activate a special fever mode if successfully completed, giving increased power for a time and the chance to earn jackpot bonuses from special UFOs.

During the stages, defeating enemies in specific ways will give the player bonuses, increasing in points until all on screen markers are filled and giving a big bonus. At the end of each stage, a large scale boss will appear and battle the player, increasing in difficulty as the game progresses and providing a bonus for fast completion. In total, there are sixteen stages to play through, with a route system giving the player the option of different stage patterns to play, similar to Taito’s Darius franchise.

Every batch of stages is called a route, designated by a letter and number and as each stage is cleared, they are unlocked in the free mode, allowing players to practice each stage freely. When a route is cleared, or the player gets a game over then they can put their total score on the leaderboard if it is a new high score. However, if the player chooses to restart from a game over, the total score will be reset and the score that has been earned up to then will not be added to the rankings.

  • Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE

Gigamax 4 SE is a unique multiplayer focused title. A team of up to four players can work together in local co-op, battling invaders in a set of stages that offer traditional Space Invaders gameplay. Alongside new gimmicks, stages and timed boss battles where the player will fight a UFO ship that will attack the player in different ways. This is a relatively short game mode, with only a few stages to play before completion, but the multiplayer aspect and leaderboards make it worthwhile.

  • Arkanoid VS Space Invaders

This is the standalone title on the collection if played on Nintendo Switch. The reason for this is that Arkanoid VS Space Invaders is a touch screen port of the mobile game of the same name. To play this game, the Nintendo Switch must be held vertically, using either a finger or specialized stylus to control the action. This change to the gameplay system is because instead of shooting the aliens, the player uses a ship called the Arkanoid Vaus ship to rebound enemy attacks.

The objective for each level is to clear the enemies or blocks on screen under a strict time limit, with each stage having a different target set per challenge. The enemies will shoot at the player, using attacks that vary depending on their shape and color, colliding with the attacks will cause them to rebound defeating enemies and destroying blocks that they hit. At the end of a set of levels, a boss appears for the player to battle, clearing this will complete the area.

During the stages, enemies will drop items that can be collected by moving into them, the items include power-ups to activate the special arrow attack that functions like the classic Arkanoid ball. This ball will rebound until the timer runs out or the ball hits the bottom of the screen, the arrow attack also freezes the timer temporarily allowing a last chance to win if the timer is almost up. The player can also pick up time increases, coins and special skill drops to activate player skills.

There is a total of 150 stages to play through, separated into batches that will unlock new characters to use when cleared. The characters are from other Taito titles, including Bubble Bobble, Darius and The NewZealand Story. Each character has their own unique skills and can alter the challenge that the player encounters. Between stages, the player can use items that will give the player a boost for that stage, with the first use being free and every use after costing the player coins.

The last thing I want to talk about is the hard mode, achievements and ranking challenge. When a batch of stages is clear, the player can replay cleared stages to earn gold medals, earning enough of these can unlock new characters. If the player completes specific challenges, they can unlock new characters and rewards as achievements for each challenge cleared. The ranking challenge is a special worldwide game mode for the player to play a timed challenge with the best score being posted to the leaderboard.

Now with the gameplay covered I want to move onto the other aspects of the collection, starting with the controls.

Controls – the control methods for the two individual software packs are distinct from each other. The two game Space Invaders Forever pack is simple and intuitive, using the standard input method of moving left and right and pressing a button to shoot. The standalone Arkanoid VS Space Invaders uses touch screen controls exclusively, with no docked capabilities for gameplay only allowing the game to be played in handheld mode. This is the only major let down for this collection as it detracts from the overall gameplay quality.

Presentation – visually all three games are a hybrid mix of vibrant and sometimes pulsing backdrops (this can affect those who are photosensitive). The backgrounds contrast well with the pixel art designs of the invaders, creating a great juxtaposition of old and new that gives this collection its own personality. Unfortunately, there is a minor issue with the visuals, the size and scale of the Gigamax SE 4 game is so zoomed out that it can make it difficult to see well when the system isn’t docked.

The sound design for all three games is outstanding, with the Taito house band ZUNTATA creating an amazing soundtrack for all three titles. The mix of electro and arcade sound effects works well together, with the beeps matching the beat of each stage theme. There is an element of excitement and nostalgia that the soundtrack evokes, the use of classic sounds and synth/keyboard combine in a way that adds to the experience rather than detract from it.

Final Thoughts – overall I was pleasantly surprised with the content on offer with Space Invaders Forever as a collection. The single player experience of Extreme and Arkanoid VS have a lot of depth to them, featuring gimmicks that rejuvenate the age old formula of the original arcade title. The inclusion of multiplayer with Gigamax was an excellent choice, however the screen size was a point of frustration given the size and scale of the sprites on screen.

The biggest problem with this collection is the inability to play the Arkanoid VS title while the unit is docked. The game is fun but I feel that it can put off players who prefer to play the game docked, it can also be irritating using fingers to play as they can obscure the view so a stylus is preferred. However, I do recommend this collection as it contains enough content to keep players engaged for a substantial time, with leaderboards providing a competitive element that adds to the longevity of this release.

In the end, I give Space Invaders Forever a score of 4/5. This collection is a great celebration of the beloved arcade franchise. Space Invaders Forever offers a enough variety to the gameplay experience to keep players engaged, along with the competitive element that the online leaderboards provide to players who want to test their skills with others around the world. If you want to check this title out for yourself, links to both versions of the game will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)

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