What price nostalgia?

I’m old enough to have memories of playing Space Invaders at my smalltown movie theater in the early ’80s. It was one of two video games that sat in the lobby, and I can’t recall what the other one was. Missile Command? Asteroids? Maybe there were three games.

Space Invaders was never my cabinet of choice at full arcades, but I was happy to play it when there was nothing else (or at least nothing I was any good at). And this is why I appreciate Space Invaders Forever as much as I do. Not content to just update the graphics and throw in some goofy power-ups or something, this collection gives us three variations on the alien invasion theme, all of which are somewhat entertaining in their own unique way.

The first game we’ll look at is Space Invaders Extreme, which plays like a highly condensed, hyperactive version of the original. There are far fewer enemies on the screen, and they behave more erratically. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Galaga, but a more accurate comparison would be to a rave-inspired take on Imagic’s Demon Attack for Atari 2600 (or Intellivision, in my case).

Like that game, Space Invaders Extreme plays out in shifts. The first is close to the standard Space Invaders gameplay in which you slide back and forth to eliminate patterns of enemies. In the second, they descend upon you. In the third, you face a mother ship that you must destroy within a set period of time. Finish, and it’s back to the start.

Attack chains, weapon power-ups, and different objectives keep things fresh. Gameplay is quick and challenging, so you don’t have the time to get bored.

Space Invaders Gigamix 4 SE attempts to solve the problem of how to fill up your horizontal TV with a game that was originally played on a portrait mode arcade screen. Basically, it turns the action by 90 degrees and adds a lot more aliens. Thankfully, you also get the option to add a few friends. Up to four people can play in local co-op to take on the enemy fleet, and this works pretty well…provided you’re all cool with the standard Space Invaders back-and-forth gameplay.

If so, Gigamix could easily become a go-to party game for you. Because it looks and plays just like a bigger version of the original Space Invaders, pretty much everyone can be effective at it right away. You’ll still be barking orders at each other, as you’d expect in a co-op game, but there’s not a lot of room for complex strategies here.

Finally, there’s Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders, which is perhaps the most inspired game in the collection. Instead of shooting back at the aliens, this time you’re deflecting their attacks back at them in the classic brick-breaker format of Arkanoid. Obviously, then, this looks and feels more like Arkanoid than Space Invaders. In fact, you’re not even given the option of playing it docked; it’s only available in handheld mode with the Switch held vertically. You control your paddle on the touchscreen.

Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders even comes with a story of sorts, and you’ll purchase “paddles” (additional characters for Taito’s history) along the way that give you different skills. You can also start each level with a special skill if you’re willing to pay for it (all with in-game currency, thankfully). None of this is necessary with the first couple dozen of th game’s 150 levels, but there’ll come a point where each objective is hard to complete without the proper initial setup (especially those that are timed).

As mentioned above, these make for a somewhat eclectic collection that’s bound to entertain fans of early arcade games. The new bells and whistles are effective at bringing Space Invaders into the modern age without detracting from the classic gameplay.

I do, however, and two complaints. First, the restrictive setups make the experience somewhat disjointed. Space Invaders Gigamix 4 SE is best enjoyed with friends, so it’s not worth playing on the Switch Lite. Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders, on the other hand, has to be played in handheld mode, making it perfect for the Switch Lite.

Second, the package is overpriced for what you get. At $30, it should’ve included a couple other Space Invaders variations we’ve seen over the past few decades. At the very least, they could’ve given us the original. Nostalgia is a key selling point here, after all, especially since we can currently only visit movie theaters and arcades in our memories.