Genre: Shmup Developer: Taito Publisher: Taito Players: 1 Released: 1991
I was a latecomer to video games, I started with an Atari 2600 in the late ’80s in second grade, and it was my only game system until I got a NES in 1992, so you can obviously figure out that Space Invaders was one of the main helpings of my video gaming diet as a kid. Though it was never my favorite game, it still got its fair share of gameplay and has stuck with me over my gaming years. Any time I got a chance to try it on another classic system or as a remake I took the chance. I’ve played a few great ports so far, notably the Texas Instruments computer port called TI Invaders) and I’ve played some pitiful ports… cough, cough… I’m talking about you Atari 5200 and Arcadia 2001! Then there are the versions that fall right in the middle, which is where this one lands itself.
Space Invaders ’91 is pretty hard to find these days, seemingly suffering from a pretty low print run. It became a wanted game for my collection, and thankfully I found it at a pawn shop for six dollars and picked it up. It’s an actual sequel to the 1978 original, story and all, explaining that Earth knew that the invaders would return, and that this time they would be ready for them.
The game sports some nifty power ups this time around which are collected by shooting the mother ship passing at the top of the screen. They range from shots to wipe out entire ranks and rows of invaders to invincibility and even power ups that restore your shield. There’s even a power up that gives you two invincible clones that mimic you for several seconds. The mother ships can also have negative effects in certain stages. A notable one falls to the ground once it reaches the side of the screen and then acts as a magnet that constantly drags your ship to that side.
The invaders have many different forms, and they have many different weapons, some fire homing missiles, others fire lasers and still others fire shots in diagonal or spread formations just to make life hard for you. The terrain also plays a role this time around. Some stages have craters with slopes on the sides, and when you move across them your ship fires at an angle since it is on a slope. It adds a nice touch to the game, and makes you devise some extra strategies to pass those stages.
Well, you’re probably thinking “nifty, I like Space Invaders, so this is pretty swell.” Well, it is to a certain extent. That is for the first fifteen to twenty minutes or so, or at least until you realize that you can only play the same bare bones port of Space Invaders for so long. Taito rushed this game, or maybe it’s that it thought that an overly simple port would sell millions. Unfortunately for us, there’s no two-player mode at all. Turn the game on, hit start, and go to the game. Taito failed to include a high score screen as well, and it only gave us a single high score at the top of the start screen. There’s not even an option menu. You start the game with five shields and three continues, and that’s it. The game doesn’t feel like a Genesis game overall, never pushing the console in anyway, though it probably doesn’t need to. It has the content size of an early NES port of a arcade game of the day.
Now all of this isn’t a bad thing per se, as the game is pretty addicting for fifteen to twenty minutes, like I said. It has fast, arcade-style gameplay, catchy music that changes for each stage, good sound effects and some cool power ups and enemies to mix things up. Sadly though, there’s nothing more. Taito could have easily added a second player option, along with an options menu and some game variations, and the game would’ve had a lot more longevity, but as is it’s as bare bones as it gets and easily not worth the $30-40 it went for at the time it was new. Space Invaders ’91 is a fun game for a few minutes and a few bucks, but that’s all, nothing more. This is one instance where despite not being the same game or an exact port, the SNES offering blows this release out of the water with its competitive two-player mode. You don’t have to agree with me there, but it’s spoken for truth!