Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Space Invaders (Taito)

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It is the world’s most popular arcade machine of all time, caused such a craze in Japan that there was a temporary shortage of 100-yen coins (equivalent to a quarter in US arcades) and grossed a whopping $2 billion worldwide in 1982.  Not only that it skyrocketed sales of the Atari VCS/2600, its “alien” creatures are now symbols representing video games as a whole and the Guinness Book of World Records labels it the top arcade game ever made.  I’m speaking of none other than Space Invaders(Supēsu Inbēdā in Japan), the very first shmup and the arcade game that ushered a new action focus in arcades instead of the previous sports focus.  Whether you played it, or a derivative game like Galaga, this game is so well-known that it still spells gold for developers even today.  It was probably one of the first games I ever played and anytime I see a cabinet I have to plunk down a quarter for a play.  Even Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto (responsible for Mario, Link and plenty of other Nintendo staple titles) admitted that Space Invaders was the game that got him interested in video games.  I know it sounds like I’m singing the praises long after they’re due, but this truly is the ideal example of a game that is both easy to play and addicting as hell.  This is a true video game.

Developed by Taito game designer Tomohiro Nishikado (Space Invaders was his first hit, although he would also work on titles in the Darius, Lufia and Ys series over the years).  His goal was to create a hit game and took obvious cues from Star Wars, Breakout (aka Alleyway or Arkanoid) and War of the Worlds.  Aliens (that look more like crustaceans) would slowly descend upon the space ship at the bottom of the screen while occasionally shooting down.  Your ship has protection with 3 barriers, which you can shoot away strategically (or often times accidentally) for assistance.  If an alien reaches the bottom you lose, although you can sacrifice your ship (one life) to take out a single alien if only one gets through.  As the levels increase, so does the speed of the descending aliens.

Even as Space Invaders has evolved – portably on Space Invaders Extreme and digitally on Space Invaders Infinity Gene – the formula remains mostly the same and the game is as addicting as ever.  There’s a reason Taito ruled the arcades in 1979 and Bally/Midway made tens of millions on the America license alone.  For the contemporary gamer, the best option is probably Space Invaders Extreme (I prefer the DS version slightly, but all are solid) but all gamers have to experience this title.  It’s a staple for a reason.

Speaking of staples, tomorrow’s shmup of the day is responsible as the catalyst for shmups like Fantasy Zone: it’s none other than the classic Defender.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

One Response

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  1. It’s a great game. I played it several times in a pub a few years ago and had a blast. 🙂


    March 21, 2012 at 4:55 am

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