Considering we have been shooting them out of our virtual skies for entertainment over the past forty-two years, any sentient extra-terrestrial life form might not be too keen to drop in to say “Hello!” these days, and with good reason – Tomohiro Nishikado's original 1978 Space Invaders didn't just kickstart a cultural phenomenon, it established one of the most prolific and enduring genres in gaming, and one that happens to be very well represented on Switch: the humble shoot 'em up.
While Taito ignored the Nintendo Switch for the franchise’s 40th anniversary back in 2018, it seems determined to redress the balance with Space Invaders: The Invincible Collection, a compilation of both old and new titles that, at the time of writing, remains a Japanese exclusive. This review is based on the contents of the Regular Edition, but we will also briefly touch upon on the extra contents of the highly-priced Special Edition.
Despite the lack of in-game English text support (an issue which fortunately presents no real impediment for the enjoyment of this package), you will find a choice of seven titles that will cater differently for each generation of gamers. The arcade games all include customisation options such as screen filters, screen orientation, DIP switch controls and even online leaderboards. Luckily, the in-game menu to access these options is in English, so you will have little trouble customising the experience to your liking.
The title at the top of the list is, unsurprisingly, the 1978 monochrome arcade game that started it all. Its template has been repeatedly cloned by rival companies and even built upon to create other classics, like Namco’s Galaga or Nintendo’s not-so-classic Radar Scope; the purity of gameplay remains undeniably alluring, even after 40 years. A gamer of any age can look at the screen and immediately discern what to do – pick up a controller and use Earth’s last line of defence against a descending swarm of alien invaders.
It will no more than a curio slice of video game history for younger generations that will understandably quickly tire of dodging enemy bullets while trying to bag a few kills of their own, but for more veteran players, those iconic polyphonic sounds will instantly teleport them to a youth spent at the arcades, dropping coins onto the machines, using skill and endurance in pursuit of the highest possible score.
Nostalgia is a powerful motivator, and Taito was not shy in dropping in the colour version of the original and the tiny incremental sequel, Space Invaders II (which is more like a revised edition than a true sequel). They may feel like filler, but if you’re going to put a compilation out, you might as well ensure that everyone gets to cherry-pick their favourite version of the series' humble but revolutionary origin points.
Jumping from the late ’70s to the ’90s, the fourth title available brings true 16-bit grit to the series. Majestic Twelve: Space Invaders Part IV not only gives the series a welcome graphic overhaul but all sorts of gameplay upgrades as well. Weapon power-ups, different invaders with distinct attack patterns, level-specific backgrounds, branching paths, scrolling stages and even boss fights make this the most compelling of the classic titles available in the collection. It is also the first title that allows for two-player co-op play, improving the odds of success for Earth’s side of the conflict. You may have stumbled upon this game during your youth since the Western version found itself onto several home formats under the name Super Space Invaders ‘91.
The sixth game on the list is none other than the incredible Space Invaders Extreme. If the original game was a masterpiece of minimal design imposed by the tyranny of available technology, this 30th-anniversary celebration is a no-holds-barred, relentless audio-visual assault on the senses. The original core gameplay is enhanced with an interactive electronic soundtrack that mimics on-screen proceedings, presenting the player with ample opportunities to get that vital “fever mode” bonus as well as battle tricky end-of-level bosses that will push your shooting skills to the absolute limit. Like the original outings on Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable (and eventual HD releases on Xbox Live and Steam), the continuous strobe light effects and screen flashes could prove uncomfortable for extended periods of play. If that is a non-issue for you, we consider this single addition more than enough validation to grab this whole compilation; it's that good.
Last but not least in the regular edition is the four-player extravaganza Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE. What better way to celebrate four decades of Space Invaders than making a game with four times the screen size (which makes up for quite an interesting screen aspect ratio), four times the number of invaders and four brave Earth tanks shooting at them all? It is not impossible to tackle this mission alone, but it often feels very overwhelming, even with your avatar levelling-up to better firepower every few thousand points. While the graphical stylings are not as aggressive as in Space Invaders Extreme, the soundtrack is simply otherworldly – a true aural treat for long-time Taito fans provided by none other than the company's legendary in-house band, Zuntata.
Surprisingly, we found a voucher inside our regular edition that seems to be a first print bonus for early adopters. Upon inputting the code on the Japanese eShop, we redeemed Arkanoid X Space Invaders, a mobile game from 2017 that mashes up both titles' gameplay to create something that is actually quite fun to play but also something of a wasted opportunity; you're restricted to the original mobile gameplay and it only supports TATE and touchscreen controls, making it unplayable in docked mode. Still, this was supposed to be a Special Edition exclusive, so despite its mobile roots, we were pleased to round-off the package with this stand-alone bonus download.
Taking a plunge into the rather expensive Special Edition will give you access to three extra games: Lunar Rescue, Space Cyclone and Space Invaders DX. While the first two titles are interesting yet non-essential spin-offs, it is the third game that becomes an itch we can’t scratch with our regular edition. Not only does it amusingly allow players to change up game graphics with other Taito franchises, but it also boasts a unique split-screen two-player versus mode. Note that the unusual price difference is not due to these exclusive titles, but the other collector items that are included within this version – the highlight being an exclusive Space Invaders board game. If you’re a huge fan or collector of Taito’s goodies, then the Special Edition might tempt you, but for most Switch owners the regular edition is far more sensibly-priced considering the content at hand, and thus the obvious choice.
Space Invaders: The Invincible Collection does a competent job in bringing in over four decades of alien shooting action to your Switch in a comfortable and accessible package. Solo players will relish the challenge of the online leaderboards, while fun multiplayer antics are provided by a couple of the available titles. The fact that there are no real emulation issues proves to be a relief, but there are also a few aspects that feel like missed opportunities: Space Invaders Extreme II is a no show and Arkanoid X Space Invaders is a straight-up mobile port with no Switch specific extras. While this is definitely an import to consider for genre fans, it slightly misses that essential purchase status thanks to the issues we mentioned. However, if you’re going for the complete Switch shmup library, you certainly won’t regret the investment.