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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Space Raiders (Gamecube)


By Michael Palisano

Taito and Mastiff have teamed up to bring Space Raiders, a quasi-sequel to the classic Space Invaders, to the Nintendo Gamecube. The gameplay consists of straightforward shooting action in the classic tradition, offering waves of mindless blasting fun. Excellent character design and graphics make for an eye pleasing experience with numerous power-ups and boss battles to break up the action. Space Raiders' also offers a cooperative Survival mode for multiplayer fun. Unfortunately, a limited field of movement and repetitive nature limits replay value. Despite these problems, the simple action packed gameplay of Space Raiders is a refreshing throwback to simpler times.

As the world faces an alien onslaught, it's up to you as one of three main characters to battle the demonic forces to avenge the deaths of millions at their hands. As the game begins, you see your quiet city ravaged by a relentless alien force who bombs the city into submission. Even though evacuation orders were issued to the cities, only a small band of humans survived to fight the aliens. Three of included Justin, a young gang leader who's seeking revenge against the forces after they killed his friends. Ashley is a young camerawoman looking to find her missing boyfriend and finally there's Naji, a police officer who lost his partner in the invasion. Each character has their own different style of attack with different strengths and weaknesses. The gameplay is simple and straightforward making Space Raiders easy to get into. Most players should be able to understand the goals and techniques without reading the manual. Space Raider's effective presentation is surprisingly simple and takes place on an angled, fixed camera perspective. This approach allows you to see all the enemies on screen easily without having to mess around with a camera button. Your character sits at the bottom of the screen throughout the game. You can only move left or right, and you shoot the waves of aliens who appear at the top of the screen. The aliens won't stay there for long, and will move towards your character and attack you, leaving you little room to escape. This is especially true when the invaders come at you in groups which can cause devastating damage.

Each wave of invaders attacks the player in small groups, as you kill them, more teleport in to replace their fallen brethren. While the attackers battle you, you should be on the lookout for small alien probes that release health a weapons power-ups to aid your character. This is a lot like Taito's classic Space Invaders. Further giving the game a neo-classic feel, you can use shields for protection, but here they take the form of oil tanks and cars. These shield objects tend to degrade quickly and can be damaged by either the aliens' fire or your own, so be careful. There are many types of enemies you'll encounter during the game, and they become progressively harder to kill. The first waves don't put up much resistance with easily avoided shots. These early aliens also move slowly, making them easy to target. During each wave, you can also collect a variety of power-ups such as bombs and grenades which you can use to clear out a level quickly. As you progress up through the later stages, you'll find harder enemies that require multiple hits to destroy and attack you much more aggressively. Space Raiders' normal stages unfold at a relatively fast pace, and players are rewarded with higher point bonuses for completing them in the fastest time possible. The normal missions are fairly easy to complete, but later on, you'll encounter large, intimidating boss enemies which can be incredibly difficult to beat. The bosses are relentless and make your mission harder by showering you with bullets mercilessly.

Space Raiders' single player game is quite intense and challenging, with the main challenge after you've completed the main game to go back with the other characters and see what's changed. You can also try and beat your high score by finishing the levels faster. This is somewhat fun, but the game's replay value is further extended by its multiplayer, cooperative survival mode. Here, two players control two characters who appear onscreen at the same time, battling the enemy alien forces together. This definitely makes for a more enjoyable game, but this extra mode is all that's offered, meaning the gameplay is definitely limited in its long-term appeal. Space Raiders offers a few exciting boss levels, and the later enemies and bosses definitely put up quite a challenge, but once you've completed the main levels, you've pretty much seen the entire game. It's fun while it lasts, but the lack of levels means most decent players should be able to blow right through it in a single session, or two at the very most. The lack of movement freedom is surprising by modern standards. Older gamers that grew up on classics like Space Invaders or Galaxian in the 70's and 80's probably won't mind this throwback approach, younger players are likely to feel extremely limited by the confined character movement.

This lack of depth is somewhat disappointing when you consider the production values that went into the game. The opening cinemas are quite dramatic, if slightly derivative, and make this seem like a science fiction film. A cinematic score and decent voice-overs further add to the polish. Space Raiders' in-game visuals are solid and technically solid, with a straightforward approach that makes it easy to see where your character is on screen in relation to enemies. Veteran players will also appreciate the classic laser sound effects and constant fire, which definitely gives the game a classic feel. The alien designs are surprisingly cool, with a nice variety of foes to blast ranging from small blobs of pulsating flesh, to swarming insect type creatures with massive and intimidating boss creatures that make excellent end-of-level opponents. The shooting action is non-stop, which makes for an enjoyably mindless experience requiring little thought. The downside is that the back to basics approach offers little depth or strategy. Unfortunately, the gameplay becomes repetitive and monotonous quickly, with little challenge to change the pace. Once the novelty of the gameplay wears off, there's not a lot left to do. It's easy to pick up and play, making it a perfect stress release when you don't want to get too involved in a more complex title. Your reaction to this game is probably going to hinge on when you grew up and when you expect from a video game. Contemporary gamers used to the depth of Tony Hawk and the freedom offered in GTA are likely to get bored of the title quickly. However, fans who remember the golden age of classic games will likely appreciate Space Raiders' streamlined approach the most. The lack of depth is obvious, but the game should still please gamers looking for something easy to play. Space Raiders' low $20 price tag makes this an irresistible purchase for fans of classic games, and it's a decent update to a classic series.

Grade: C+

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