Space Invaders '91


Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 5

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 7

We all know the story: Space Invaders was the first bona fide mega-hit arcade game, once causing corner-markets to convert to SI-filled arcades literally overnight in Japan. How many versions of “Space Invaders” have come to home gaming consoles since its auspicious arcade debut over twenty years ago? Oddly enough, about enough different versions to fill an entire arcade in Japan! Some of the home translations include, not even counting all of the various knockoffs, Space Invaders for the 2600, 5200, Gameboy, Super Gameboy, Color Gameboy, Transvestite Gameboy, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, PC, and Playstation.

SI’91 is a loose interpretation of the arcade update Taito released about eight years ago, called either Super Space Invaders ‘91, or Majestic Twelve, depending on where you played it. In this version, invaders from space have again deemed it necessary to conquer the earth, and the valiant gamer must thwart their attack. The first few screens even contain the original cast of invaders!

You’ll never guess what’s new in the 1991 version of SI. Powerups. New enemies. Improved graphics, sound, and music. On the Genesis, some levels have divots in the surface of the earth, causing the player’s ship to shift to a 45 degree angle when traversing the interrupted portion of the terrain. The main differences between the Genesis and arcade versions of SI’91 are the screen aspect ratios of each game (the arcade version has a vertical monitor, like the original) and the varying types of levels. Whereas the arcade game takes the player through lots of different, (on land and in the air) and sometimes hysterical (the infamous “Cattle Mutilation” bonus rounds) levels, the cow-hugger Genesis version remains grounded. The arcade game is similar to Galaga ’88, while the Genesis version is more like, well, Space Invaders.

This game is a winner for plenty of reasons. It’s not so far removed from the original (see Frogger by Hasbro or Donkey Kong Country for SNES to name just a couple) that it’s SI in name only, but it also isn’t TOO similar to the original, a la Space Invaders Deluxe. It has the “looks very easy, but isn’t nearly as easy as it looks” hook that just captivates me for hours on end (Anteater is a perfect example of the looks-easy-but-isn’t type of game). You can sit down with SI’91 with the intention of playing it for fifteen minutes, but a quick glance at the clock after playing for a while reveals that over an hour has passed. It’s just a fun game.

There are lots of interesting new gameplay twists in SI’91 as well. Hitting the center invader FIRST will re-energize your ship’s shield. Invaders occasionally march in opposite directions on the same screen. Powerups appear that are extremely helpful, but that don’t disappear too quickly or stick around for too long. SI’91 is a game that the player has to play WELL to get through.

Some game cartridges of days past are tough to scrounge up because, generally speaking, they sold poorly. Poor sales, were often, but not always, indicative of truly bad games, f’rinstance, Fantastic Four for the Playstation. Space Invaders ‘91 for the Genesis is one of the exceptions to the generalization. If you manage to snag this cart, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you power it up. It may not have ever filled entire arcades, but as a good ol’ Space Invaders game, it delivers.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:32 PM