Space Invaders Extreme, or, Does iPod Need $20 Games? | iLounge Backstage

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Space Invaders Extreme, or, Does iPod Need $20 Games?

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Monday, March 3, 2008
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Once in a very, very long while, a company doesn’t just go through the motions in updating a classic video game—it actually re-defines it for a new generation. As game lovers know, this almost never happens, as game companies more frequently use re-releases as mere cash-in opportunities, trust the wrong teams to improve upon their past designs, or miss the mark for other reasons. Case in point: Namco’s series of Pac-Man and Pole Position games for the iPod, which despite our love for the company’s other titles (Pac-Man Championship Edition, anyone?) add little on the iPod to the early 1980s titles they were based upon, and in some cases even detracted from our memories of them.

Nothing about the name of Taito’s Space Invaders Extreme would lead people to think that it would be any different from the many other “remixes” of arcade games we’ve seen—say nothing of the many forgettable Space Invaders sequels and clones that have plopped onto game machines for the past 30, yes, 30 years since the original’s release in 1978. But this is mercifully, amazingly, not your dad’s Space Invaders. It’s inherently the same premise, having you control a left- and right-moving cannon at the bottom of the screen while waves of aliens try to avoid being shot above it. But it’s newly inspired by dance clubs and Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s amazing games Rez and Lumines, and made relevant with power-ups and amusing pokes at its own heritage. I strongly recommend watching the video here, though it doesn’t capture the impressiveness of the real-life detail in the game’s art.

Gyrations in the background art and music are accompanied by Rez-like notes when your screen-sweeping cannon fires off shots. The Invaders sometimes flip on their sides, becoming pixel-thin, as a joke about their pixel-heavy, two-dimensional art. And they drop block-like icons that give you block-like blasters to eliminate them in waves, rather than just one at a time.

Bonus stages interrupt each level if you can find ways to unlock them, leading to more frenzied alien destruction—a ton of fun, even though the core characters, almost laughable-looking creatures, are basically just like the ones in the original arcade game. Outlines, shadows, and colors make them more interesting visually, while little additions—aliens carrying shields, and much-changed movement patterns—start you off thinking that you already know who they are, only to change things up on you seconds later.

Then there are the boss and boss-like encounters, which either interrupt or end the stage with opportunities to take out much larger aliens or collections of aliens with precise shots. Again, like Peggle for the iPod, you have to ignore little goofy elements of the design—here, the “eXtreme” -ness of it all—and just enjoy the game for what it is. Frankly, like the gameplay, most of the art moves so quickly that you won’t even notice some of the visual oddities. Most of it is really cool.

So how do you get it? Space Invaders Extreme is a Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable title, and available as a free downloadable demo for PSP owners right now. Cool, right? Well, the full game was just released in Japan for a little under $40—full pricing by portable game standards—which is odd in the sense that classic games are often budget titles, but somewhat understandable given how radically improved Extreme happens to be. When it comes to the United States in June, however, Taito has apparently said that it’s going to sell for $20, which would make a lot more sense if the company actually wants people to buy it.

This leads me to a fairly obvious question: how much would Apple have to let a developer charge for a game like this before it would make an appearance on the iPod or iPhone? It’s obvious that no one is putting this sort of time or effort into the $5 iPod games we’ve seen for the past year or so, yet unlike the Nintendo DS or PSP, a company such as Taito has zero cost of manufacturing, zero cost of packaging, and only a specified cut to give to Apple for selling through the iTunes Store. What is the dollar amount at which the costs of coding and marketing for iPod, given its user base and projected sales, make as much or more sense than trying to make DS cartridges or PSP discs?

The number is probably lower than $20. If Taito can afford to make a cartridge, package it, ship it, and put it in a physical store for that price, it can afford to sell it through iTunes for less. How much less? Any thoughts, readers? And would you pay more to get games that are better than cell phone ports, or is the iTunes Store’s $5 price cap just right in your view?

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Comments

1

I could see spending $10 on a good game, but certainly not $20 for something as simple as Space Invaders.  Give me Peggle Deluxe and Bejeweled 2 Deluxe for the iPhone, and I might pay $15.

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on March 3, 2008 at 12:18 PM (PDT)

2

This game looks beautiful. I’d easily pay $20 for it…if they realize the gaming potential of the iPhone, that is.

Posted by Miranda Kali on March 3, 2008 at 1:35 PM (PDT)

3

Some of the recently released games, like Sonic the Hedgehog, already look as good or better than this game, so I think the price and quality bars have already been set. Until a decent control accessory is developed, I can’t see anything more complex in action (Sonic itself is awkward enough).

On a related note, I’ve been replaying the original Final Fantasy game on my handy GBA. This type of game would be perfect for adaptation on an iPod. All you need is directional, a single action button, and menu access. And anything that fits onto a GBA cart can’t take up too much drive space.

Posted by Tommy on March 3, 2008 at 2:06 PM (PDT)

4

I’m already totally mad at how Apple is treating us ipod touch users. What are we? Leftover scraps who Apple can guzzle money from? If I have to pay $20 for iPhone apps and the $20 upgrade to firmware 2.0 (trust me, this will happen), these games will certainly cost no less than $20 each. Right now Apple is trying to get back money from designing the iPhone. You can’t seriously tell me that over 6 billion dollars of sales doesn’t cover that! Come on Apple, lets get some customer satisfaction over here in the iPod touch aisle. No more money for things that should have been out when this was released!

Posted by Colin on March 6, 2008 at 7:30 PM (PDT)

5

At this point I’d settle for a really good game for $20.  I have been very disappointed with the games available.  Even the casual games suck.  Really, who wants a good round of scrabble on their small ipod!  What is up with this?  I am really a casual game player.  I thought Mahjong was okay but it won’t play on my new ipod classic!  Surely they can do better?  Can’t They?

Posted by iObsessed on March 11, 2008 at 2:59 PM (PDT)

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