Sometimes, an idea is almost there on the first try but needs a second attempt to really click. Space Invaders Extreme was a prime example of this, with excellent gameplay that was just a few tweaks short of perfection, taking a classic game and finding exactly the right way to twist it into something new and enjoyable. Space Invaders Extreme 2 simply takes this concept and runs further with it, with the end result essentially being an 8-bit version of Rez. This is as awesome as it sounds, and as a result, Space Invaders Extreme 2 is one of the strongest games on the DS system.
The basic gameplay of Space Invaders remains: fire a bullet, watch it hit one of the moving enemies, and repeat until all the enemies are down. Don't forget that we're talking about the very first shoot-'em-up. There aren't any handy-dandy shields to protect yourself with or, more importantly, to get in the way of your shots. You won't need or want them, though, amidst the evolved gameplay elements that take quite a bit of inspiration from more modern examples of the genre.
First of all, enemy waves are more complex. While you're battling the same types of aliens, they don't come in rectangular waves, and they vary in color and special effects. Some have glowing eyes and disappear into the background, others twist to be a single pixel thick, and others explode when hit to destroy surrounding units. Of these traits, color can be the most important; shooting four in a row of the same color gets you a power-up (white units don't count and can be shot without penalty), and getting two power-ups in a row sends a glowing UFO across the top of the screen. Shooting it reveals the game's biggest twist, as the top screen stops showing statistics and is replaced with a special formation. If you can destroy that formation within a given time limit, then the game goes into Fever Time, where all units become gold and drop point bonuses, which can be blasted through rapidly enough to often clear two or three waves of enemies in seconds.
These aspects all come from the first Space Invaders Extreme, but Extreme 2 twists things by having the bottom field remain in play while you're performing the top-field challenges, with gameplay never stopping. (Additionally, the wrong bottom formation can get in the way of shooting the top, thus injecting some more challenge.) Further, each Fever Time you manage to land will fill in a spot on a tic-tac-toe board, based on the colors you hit. Successfully getting a three in a row (much easier said than done) nets you the mighty Bingo Fever, where even more points are dropped and enemies combust even faster. A single Bingo Fever instance can easily get you straight to the boss battles that capstone each stage. Apparently, there's the even more intense Full House Fever, but I couldn't pull it off in time for the review to tell you how awesome it is.
The visuals and sounds keep the gameplay unique and mesh together better than before. Your bullets and the enemy explosions sync and vary to suit the music, which in turn meshes with the background. If you happen to have the DS Rumble Pack, it uses it as a kicker to add stronger bass, making gameplay even more intense. With strong, rave-like backgrounds and memorably awesome music, the game produces a feel that is essentially Rez stripped of its 3-D, right down to the surprisingly challenging boss battles at the end of each stage. Except for special effects and backgrounds, everything comes from the classic Space Invaders imagery, basically heightening the effect of a groovy nostalgia trip.
The Score Attack is actually the campaign mode, and Extreme 2 also offers Time Attack and multiplayer modes. Any mission completed in Score Attack is available for the high-speed Time Attack as well, challenging you to clear the waves as quickly as you can, with judicious use of Fever Time being key. Better yet, there are complete scoreboards via the Nintendo Wi-Fi service to see how you match up against other players and revealing the game's major competitive core. The multiplayer is one-on-one versus, via Wi-Fi or local, and keeps itself relatively simple as a basic endurance contest with a puzzle element. The results are nicely serviceable and fun for a party, though future entries should ideally have support for more players to make things as intense in multiplayer as they are in the other modes. The number of modes, overall, though, is just right, with two basic scoreboard variants and a fun multiplayer component.
Space Invaders Extreme 2 is among the most enjoyable games on the DS; while the multiplayer aspect could have been better, everything is excellent and simply amazing. Plus, the game is only $20 new, boosting it from a must-have for shooter fans to being something that no DS owner should be without. Here's to wondering how Taito will top this title when the time comes for another sequel.
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