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Space Invaders

Entry updated 12 August 2018. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1978). Taito. Designed by Toshihiro Nishikado. Platforms: Arcade, Others.

Space Invaders was by no means the first Videogame, but it was the first to achieve worldwide commercial success. The early versions only worked on expensive arcade machines, and its popularity helped foster the rapid growth of video arcades in the 1980s. The basic concept, in which wave after wave of hostile aliens move down the screen until the player inevitably runs out of lives and is destroyed, has achieved an iconic status in popular culture, as well as spawning its own Videogame form – that of the "shoot em up". Space Invaders introduced several innovations to the arcades other than those represented by its core design, including the use of animating characters (an element made possible by its employment of the then novel microprocessor technology rather than the wholly dedicated circuitry built into earlier arcade machines) and the inclusion of a "high score" display which would be preserved for other players to envy. In the end, the experience offered by the game was simply far more intense than that provided by such earlier works as Pong (1972) (see Videogames).

Toshihiro Nishikado wrote the game after seeing publicity material for Star Wars (1977), which suggested the idea of a game set in space. The enemy designs, however, were inspired by the Martians in the film of H G Wells' War of the Worlds (1953); the octopoid appearance of George Pal's invaders led Nishikado to create a variety of Aliens that resembled squid, crabs and other sea creatures. Gameplay was heavily influenced by the early US Videogame Breakout (1976 Atari, Arcade, Others), in which the player uses a paddle to deflect a ball into a series of blocks, all of which must be broken to proceed to the next level. In Space Invaders, however, the targets could shoot back.

There have been a number of sequels to and remakes of Space Invaders. Space Invaders Part II (1979 Taito, Arcade; vt Space Invaders Deluxe) is simply a full colour version of the original game, and Space Invaders DX (1994 Taito, Arcade) is a collection of old Invaders games with some comedy options, but Return of the Invaders (1985 Taito, Arcade), Majestic Twelve: The Space Invaders Part IV (1990 Taito, Arcade; 1991; vt Super Space Invaders '91, Arcade) and Space Invaders '95 (1995 Taito, Arcade) are all genuine sequels. Of these, Majestic Twelve, which changes the original gameplay by introducing a wide variety of "power-ups" (giving the player special weapons or other helpful gadgets), may be the most interesting. More recently, Space Invaders: Revolution (2005 Taito, NDS) is a remake including new levels and visual effects, Space Invaders: Evolution (2006 Marvelous Interactive, PSP) is a three-dimensional version and Space Invaders Extreme (2008 Taito, NDS, PSP; 2009 XB360) is an unusually fast paced variant which includes options for competitive online play. The true legacy of Space Invaders, however, is the enormous influence it had on the development of Videogame design, including the emphasis on sf and fantasy themes in early arcade games. [NT]

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