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Infinite Space

Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2009). Nude Maker / Platinum Games. Designed by Hifumi Kono, Masafumi Nukita. Platforms: NDS.

Infinite Space is a Console Role Playing Game (see Computer Role Playing Games) which uses a combination of two-dimensional displays and pre-prepared three-dimensional sequences to present its intergalactic milieu. Players are able to explore space more or less at will, using both Faster Than Light drives and Stargates to travel within and between the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, though much time is also spent fighting (and occasionally boarding) hostile spacecraft or reconfiguring and improving the participant's own vessels. It is also possible to descend to planetary surfaces using Space Elevators, where players can talk to (and sometimes fight) computer-controlled characters in a strictly limited range of locations. The major focus of the game, however, is its generally linear (but occasionally multilinear) plot (see Interactive Narrative).

This story is cast in a classic Space Opera mode; it begins with a wish-fulfilment fantasy for heterosexual boys, and ends with the destruction of the universe. The game opens with the (young male) player character's escape from a backwater planet that bans space travel, with the help of a sexually alluring older female pilot. This pair can fight and win many battles, meeting a diverse cast of memorable (if somewhat stereotypical) characters, before a Galactic Empire invades their galaxy. This adversary cannot be defeated; the player's only option is to escape from the Small to the Large Magellanic Cloud, leaving the fairy tale space kingdoms and vicious pirates of their home to be conquered by the enemy. Tragedy, and several heroic deaths, ensue.

At this point the narrative skips ten years, and the boy protagonist becomes a man. The invaders have now begun to attack the Large Magellanic Cloud, and the player's character can be their greatest enemy. Soon, however, it emerges that the empire is conquering humanity in order to unify them against their own creators, a Forerunner species who made the universe and gave mankind the technology for starflight, but intend to unmake reality as soon as humans have explored the whole of space. The player character, it is revealed, is not human but an Android constructed by the Forerunners as an observer, as is the sister for whom he appears to feel a more than brotherly love. Ultimately, the protagonist can lead a fleet to the Small Magellanic Cloud, defeat the empire, and then join its forces in an attack on Earth. Here they will discover that the aliens have enclosed the sun in a Dyson Sphere, and are using its energy to power a Stargate through which they can summon living warships from a higher reality. While these entities have already destroyed most of the universe by this point in the game, shattering the Sphere prevents the creators from further affecting humanity's cosmos. The protagonist can then, perhaps, use his Forerunner-given power to manipulate reality in order to restore what has been lost.

Infinite Space is not a flawless game. The plot can be hard to follow, the frequent battles are not always interesting, and a great deal of time is spent micromanaging the disposition of the player's crew and equipment. The simulated universe is vast but – unsurprisingly, given the finite resources available to create and store it – somewhat repetitive (see Worlds in Balance). It succeeds, however, as an interactive Anime, a melodramatic soap opera in which the player can participate as one of many characters fighting in a seemingly endless series of galactic wars in an ocean of stars. There are frequent homages to Uchū Senkan Yamato (1974-1975), most notably in the presentation of the space combat system, which often evokes the naval battles of World War Two. There is also something of the quality of ever-inflating scale which gives E E Smith's Lensman novels much of their Sense of Wonder: a suggestion of unfolding revelation as the game's subject expands from escape from a single planet through the exploration of space and intergalactic war to the salvation of the universe. [NT]


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