(Activision for the Nintendo 64)
by Eric Johnson
Space Invaders was the very first video game I ever played. At a bowling alley in Acton, Massachusetts in 1978 my dad put in a quarter and he, my brother, and I took one life a piece and died dramatically, xenophobic fallen heroes defending the precious Earth from outsiders. What I loved about the game at six years old was the thumping soundtrack, the shapes of the aliens and the ability to move around that little triangle at the bottom of the screen.
Twenty two years later it becomes apparent that my generation is precisely the target demographic Activision was aiming for when they took the basic Space Invaders concept and repackaged it with superior graphics and sound. Space Invaders is a very simple game that spawned a lot of imitators, a small tank at the bottom of the screen moves back and forth, firing at a slowly advancing brigade of alien invaders. If the aliens reach the ground, you die, if they shoot you, you die, in fact, living was rather difficult and as a child I never got very far at all. Today, very little has changed, except for the better graphics, better music, upgraded weapons, and the fact that there are actually levels and different alien formations. To be honest, I was expecting to trash this game, but found myself having quite a bit of fun with it at first. Unfortunately, nostalgia for video games does not hit the same emotional funnybone as primitive music videos, disco music, old cars, and huge afros, so after three hours of play, the cassette simply went back into its box, and has stayed there ever since.
Revamped Space Invaders fails for two reasons: First of all, it doesn’t actually look, feel, or sound like the original; everything is different like some late nineties emo band covering Modern English. How can you feel nostalgic when the name on the box is the only thing that has stayed the same? More significantly, Space Invaders was never a particularly ambitious game. Unlike the infinitely superior Pitfall 3-D, Space Invaders has nowhere to go, no storyline to expand on, and no concept to perfect. Pitfall was a concept game, and took well to an update because the original fired off the imagination, made you think you were in a jungle. Space Invaders can’t do that because the original had a certain Tao-like completeness to it; there was nowhere to go that copycats like Galaga and Phoenix didn’t already tread by 1983. I did enjoy myself for a short time, but a game should not be purchased for no other reason than to finish it and unlock the faithful original game available upon completion. Video games have evolved tremendously in the past twenty years, nostalgia for this generation of game is roughly equivilent to a mollusk looking at a barnicle and saying, “Whoa, remember that shit? Oh man, those were the days!” Updates and revamps should be reserved for games with potential, those which lacked the technology to become something great. Nostalgia should be felt when you find an intact Atari 2600 at a friends house, that’s the feeling the revamp people are aiming for and it’s precisely the vibe they miss out on.