‘Space Invaders,’ ‘Arkanoid’ return from the 80s


In 2028, when 3D holodecks are in every strip mall and we’ll be able to have games downloaded directly into our brains, we’ll look back wistfully on the hits of 2008. Wasn’t “Grand Theft Auto IV” quaint, we’ll muse. Aren’t our alien overlords much nicer than that nasty Locust Horde in “Gears of War 2”?

That’s assuming that the games of today have the staying power of those we played 20 years ago. Every time someone cracks open a fresh new game like “Grid” or “Metal Gear Solid 4,” someone else is discovering or revisiting a classic like “Frogger” or “Donkey Kong.” Sometimes I’ll dip into “Ms. Pac-Man” or “Tetris,” only to realize a couple hours later how quickly the time has passed.

The legendary games of the 1970s and ’80s have been subjected to frequent updates, which usually dilute the charm of the originals. Taito, however, has refurbished two of its biggest hits with some clever innovations that should please newcomers and old fans alike.

_”Space Invaders Extreme” (Square Enix, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, $19.99): Five rows of aliens are slowly approaching, and you have to destroy them with your laser cannon before they land. That’s the essence of “Space Invaders,” which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with an electrifying revamp.

The first thing fans will notice is that the bunkers, which you could hide your ship behind, are gone. There are far fewer enemies onscreen at any time; during the occasional “boss” encounters, you may be facing just one big alien. The levels zip by really quickly, and most players will be content to simply rest a thumb on the fire button and blast away.

If you want to rack up high scores, though, you need to keep one simple strategy in mind: Try to hit aliens of the same color consecutively. If you succeed, you’re blessed with more powerful weapons or shields. That simple addition adds some real juice — and a lot of replay value — to a time-tested formula, making “SIE” a bargain at only $20. Three stars out of four.

_”Arkanoid DS” (Square Enix, Nintendo DS, $19.99): One of my favorite games of the ’80s was Taito’s “Arkanoid,” a variation on Atari’s “Breakout,” in which the object was to destroy a cluster of blocks by bouncing a ball into them. “Arkanoid” innovated by adding power-ups that, for example, made your paddle longer, slowed down the ball or gave you lasers that you could used to shoot the blocks directly.

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You can play the original games at The Great 80s Arcade.

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