When I say “Space Invaders,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Cutesy, anime inspired visuals? Whimsically weird worlds?
How about a half lobster hybrid girl flinging other smaller lobsters at you in a mad rage? If you’re confused, then you’ve never had the pleasure of playing one of Taito’s wackiest entries, Space Invaders 95.
Going in blind to this title you’d be forgiven for expecting a standard, mid 90s alien shoot-em-up. Space Invaders inaugural effort was truly the first of its kind, with its revolutionary, tension building soundscape and twisted insectile adversaries.
But by the time the series turned 12, it was unconstrained by the limitations of its original hardware, free to build upon the core pillars of its addictive gameplay and atmosphere. Subsequently, Space Invaders ‘91 saw a vibrant injection of colour, haunting backdrops, catchy soundtracks and even boss battles! It was, for the time, an atmospherically rich effort.
It seemed as though Taito had brought their prodigal son into a new era, with the vision to enhance and lead the series deeper down the path of cosmic terror. The world lay in wait for a newer, more disturbing sequel, but Taito had other ideas.
Space Invaders ‘95 arrived on the scene, driving a mischievous boot into the backsides of gamers holding their breath. Gone were the lovecraftian relics of the 70s, making way for a platter of cutesy foes in a wide range of colours and designs. Gone also were the vivid hand-drawn backdrops in favour of 5 charmingly themed worlds. Players were presented with an oddball assembly of heroes, ranging from dogs and cats to an actual piece of poo blasting enemies from a spacecraft toilet. What’s more, player two got a whole different catalogue of characters to player one.
The game handles stages similarly to its direct predecessor, moving your character from location to location (level to level) as you defeat enemies. Along the journey, you’ll fight bosses such as a giant robot cat, anthropomorphic melons posing as evil spirits and even a pirate ship that pays homage to Taito’s epic Darius series.
The presentation eventually endears itself after its left field antics, similarly to a dream where nothing quite makes sense, but nothing really needs to. It was upon reading level 3’s description, “a resort for the invaders” that I really started to gel with the offbeat humour, as a wave of portly enemies in rubber rings washed onto the shore to fight me. Between the power-ups, (such as a huge bowling ball that devastates enemies) spirited soundtrack and the creativity of its cast, there’s plenty to love here.
Whilst the game is as jarring a visual departure as you’ll ever get from the main series, (though not a negative one) it’s just as fun. Space Invaders ‘95 offers just enough length that you’ll be back for a replay, but even if you aren’t a fan of its presentation, the gameplay remains true to its roots. The added diversity of enemy gimmicks gives series veterans a chance to play a different way, with tricky bosses providing a fair challenge for a coin eating cabinet of its kind. Check it out once, if you’re anything like me it’ll occupy a place in your memory for years to come.
Article by Will Llywelyn