Hey there, welcome to 2600 Reasons to Play, and since we are at end of Japanuary I figured I would look at the 2600 port of one of the biggest games to come out of Japan ever. Way before Japan gave us blockbuster games like Biohazard (aka: Resident Evil) and Dragon Quest (aka: Final Fantasy )
Big D: “Asshole.”
Before any of the modern day blockbusters, there was a simple game about alien invaders from Taico released in 1978. A game so insanely popular that it caused a 100 Yen coin shortage in Japan due to so many of those coins being inside these machines. A game that was such a hit that by the height of the video game boom in 1982 it had grossed 2 billion dollars world wide! That game, of course, is Space Invaders, easily one of the most popular video games of all time.
You could find Space Invader machines all over the United States. It then stands to reason that the people over at the Atari wanted a home port of this huge hit. In 1980 Atari got just that and Space Invaders came bundled in with the Atari 2600 VCS. How big was this for Atari? The numbers suggest that this caused the Atari 2600 to QUADRUPLE in sales. The term “Killer App” gets thrown around alot these days, but Space Invaders was the original Killer App. This was a must have game back in the day, and if you wanted it, you need to buy yourself a 2600.
So, how was the home version of Space Invaders any good? Was it a faithful port? Well, here’s what the arcade version looked like:
And here’s the Atari’s version:
Not too bad actually. Considering the limited processing power of the 2600 the home port of Space Invaders was really good. Sure the sprites are a larger and there’s less of them. Also the alien spaceship looks like that crystal the girl from “Out of This World” would talk to her dad through, but this was a simpler time. Back in the day we thought this was about as perfect a port you could get at home of a popular arcade machine.
So you might be asking what is Space Invaders all about? You might ask this if you want me to look at you incrediously. Seriously, even if you’re young this is a game you should know about if your even remotely into video games. Not knowing about Space Invaders would be like saying how much you love football then asking, “Joe Namath? Who’s that?”
Alright, quick summery: You play as a turret at the bottom of the screen as an army of space aliens slowly march their way towards you. First they march to the right, then drop a row, and march to the left. This continues until they reach the bottom of the screen then its game over.
While they march tirelessly towards you its your job to fire upwards and pick them off one at a time. Careful though, you are only allowed one shot on the screen at a time so if you miss your target you have to wait for it to leave the screen before you can fire again. Also, the more you destroy the faster they march towards you. That’s pretty much the long and the short of Space Invaders. Simple? Yes. Fun. You bet. Hours of addictive fun and there wasn’t even online mutliplayer where you can threaten to molest your opponent’s crippled grandmother. Nope, you made those threats face to face back in the day. That, my friends, took guts.
Anyway, this was the Atari’s version of Space Invaders so you know what that means. Multiple variations of the same game. In fact if you look at the box this game boasts 112 variations! While you can play the standard version of Space Invaders you can also play with wacky rules such as invisible invaders. In this one you’d have to fight off the army of cute little aliens except they were all invisible, only appearing occasionally or when you landed a shot. This made picking off that last speedy little bugger quite a feat.
Then there were versions where your shot would fire off all skewed, rocking back and forth on the way up. Then there were versions where your 3 shields would move back and forth providing you with less stable cover. For even wackier gameplay there’s a version where the aliens are INVISIBLE. You can’t hit what you can’t see! How is THIS fair?
Then there were versions that combined different combinations of them so everything go bat-poop crazy! And hey, this was Atari, so they counted “2 player” as a different variation of every single one of those variation thus doubling the number of different “games” on the cartridge.
What else can one say about Space Invaders? It’s iconic. Heck, even the little alien has become synonymous with video games in general. I could probably go on for pages talking about how important this game was in the history of video games and also just how much I played this as a little kid. It’s really a game that every gamer should play because I think it’s important to know your roots. By seeing where we came from you can better appreciate the giant uber games we have today, and also appreciate the journey there. Fortunately if you haven’t ever played this game, or if you just want to go back and live the good old days, the good folks over at Atarmiania has a version that you can play by CLICKING RIGHT HERE
Well, I hope you enjoyed this look back at a really old school age of gaming, if so, please email me SuperfriendEd@Gmail.com. Feel free to suggest any other 2600 games you’d like to see reviewed. Until next time, this is Ed DiFolco asking, “Have you played your Atari today?” But before I go, one final note. Just to show you how crazy popular this simple game about blasting aliens was back in the day there was even a single released about it! And of course, I have it all queued up for your listening pleasure. Sure you could click off this article now without listening to this song, but just know this. If you do, I will show utter distain and contempt for you and mock you openly. DHLEE!
PS: It’s actually pretty catchy, isn’t it, Dhlee?
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