Hey guys and gals, welcome to day three of our eighth week of our 100 reviews in 100 days countdown. We’ve got a genuine classic on the list today.
Shooting for the 63rd spot on the list…
We’re not talking about the flies you heard were buzzing around inside that cheerleader’s head back in high school. Dropping in is 1978’s arcade game, Space Invaders. One of the earliest shooter games, Space Invaders has had influences across gaming history.
Most people are familiar with how this game is played, but in case you haven’t had the chance, here’s a quick rundown. Five lines of enemies slowly move left and right across the screen, descending slightly each time they reach one side. You are humanity’s only hope, a lone gunner that can shoot one bullet at a time against the alien aggressors. Four barricades can be used as cover for your vehicle against the enemy crafts onslaught of attacks from above, but they will eventually dissolve to nothing as their durability is limited. The waves of the enemies are endless: when one block of enemies are destroyed, another replaces it.
Okay, okay, those of you who HAVE played know I’ve embellished a bit. The graphics are simple and so is the gameplay. The music, sound effects and color tone match in simplicity, but it’s quite a fun game. Old arcade games are hard, and Space Invaders is CLASSIC arcade. I would use the phrase ‘in the tradition of arcade games’ but Space Invaders kind of is the tradition of arcade games.
Of History and Hardware
Space Invaders was developed in Japan by Tomohiro Nishikado and released in 78’. In this case though, some of the history about it is actually interesting. Back then, small computers were very simple, and couldn’t handle what Nishikado wanted them to do for his game. So he had to create his own. Using new microprocessors from the states, he was capable of developing the game he wanted, but was still quite limited. There wasn’t enough power to render in color, or move the enemy across the screen at the same time any faster than a crawl.
As he was programming his game, Nishikado found the less enemy units on screen, the faster the processor could render the remaining units into movement. Rather than reprogramming the system, he made a decision that would go down in history and left it that way. This mechanic meant the last units would be harder to hit after being used to the slower movements earlier in the level, something that made Space Invaders very unique.
It also may be the first and last time lag has ever made a game better.
Space Invaders can be found everywhere. Its graphics are still seen in pop culture today. You can find images of the invaders on clothing and wallets. TV still references its station in video game history, Futurama’s being my favorite. Space Invaders’ release on Atari was huge, making it into a huge console and arcade game. Although we’re not really rating its history, it does definitely help a player tolerate the Stone Age graphics and audio. So I’m give it a 3.5 out of 5, even in our day and age, because Space Invaders will keep getting quarters, no matter how dark of a corner of the arcade in which it resides.