Taito SPACE INVADERS (Game Review)

By Mark Nobes, chief editor

So what memories do you a have of the classic Space Invaders game? 

Well, I certainly remember playing this at the local Youth Club back in the early eighties, and it was a game that would quickly draw a crowd. However, although I thoroughly enjoyed playing it, I always struggled to get a decent enough score to feature on the high score table - maybe you did better than me!

One of the best memories many people have about the game are those futuristic sounds. That menacing sound loop that gradually increases in tempo, as the invaders advance towards you at increasing speed. It was like an electronic version of the Jaws theme music and helped to create a sense of danger and urgency, and it was highly influential. The game was simple to learn, but hard to master, and this concept helped many video games from the era to become massive hits.
Space Invaders promotional flyer (1978) by Taito
This promotional flyer by Taito Corporation was used to promote the Space Invaders arcade machines in 1978. The game was a phenomenal success, with 300,000 arcade cabinets sold in Japan alone within two years. Global profits amounted to around $500 million for Taito.
The original game helped boost the popularity of arcade cabinets, and helped video gaming move into the mainstream. However, I remember that after a couple of years of heavy usage, the cabinets (complete with cigarette burns) started looking shabby pretty quickly, and the game itself became dated, too, with new arrivals such as GalaxianAsteroids and Defender offering something slightly more advanced. 
The designer of Space Invaders, Tomorohiro Nishikado, gained his inspiration from the Atari game Breakout. The games has a similar layout but with very different mechanics. Inspiration also came from the 1972 electro-mechanical Taito game Space Monsters, 


The gameplay has a very simple concept. The player moves their laser cannon left and right, firing at the rows of enemy invaders above (which start as five rows of 11 invaders) and avoiding their missiles. The player has defence bunkers for protection, but these are gradually eroded by enemy fire. The invaders move left and right, and when they reach the edge of the screen they move downwards one position. Although the player has three lives, if the invaders reach the bottom of the screen the game ends immdediately.
Many people forget that Space Invaders was a game that was impossible to win. It was infinite, meaning that you were going to run out of lives at some point. It sounds pretty crazy now that a game that the player can't win was so incredibly popular! But back in the 80s, it was getting onto the high score table that became attractive. There was nothing more rewarding than seeing your initials displayed on the screen, and the addictiveness came from beating your rivals to the top spot.

Can You Play Space Invaders Online For Free?

Yes! You can play a high quality, colourful online version of the game at SpaceInvadersFlash.com. It is based on the Atari 2600 version, but with updated graphics and authentic sounds. It is one of the best versions to play online.

Atari 2600 Space Invaders

Space Invaders was an incredibly influential game, and the Atari 2600 (VCS) port (released in 1980) was so well-received that people actually bought the console just to play the game - around 2 million copies of the game were sold just in the first year! This was the very first game that actually fuelled sales of a console, and came many years before Super Mario Bros increased sales of the NES console.
The 2600 version also came with many extra options. Firstly, there was the addition of colour, and this was the first true coloured version of the game. There were 112 game variations that could be applied, such as changing the width of your cannon or the speed of the missiles which made the game more or less challenging.
Space Invaders Atari 2600 screenshot

Atari 2600 version

Space Invaders Atari 2600 Red Box, Cartridge and Manual