The Space Invaders arcade game was developed by Tomohiro Nishikado and released by Taito in 1978. It was a smash hit and Taito sold more than 300,000 Space Invaders arcade games in the first two years. It was so popular in Japan, that it actually created a shortage of 100 yen coins. By today’s standards, it is a pretty simple game; 55 aliens move back and forth and come ever closer to your laser cannon. The aliens also attack with laser bombs and move faster as you destroy them. The original games were a single white color and colored cellophane was used on the display to make it appear that the game was multicolored.
Back at Atari, Rick Maurer was developing a VCS (2600) version of Space Invaders. He got a prototype version of it working, but no one seemed interested. He, thus, moved on to the development of another game. In 1980, Atari was able to license Space Invaders and they had Rick complete his work on the 2600 version. It was a smash hit; the first Atari game to sell over a million copies and is credited with quadrupling sales of the 2600! The 2600 version of Space Invaders was pretty darn good; there were only 36 aliens, but it had variations that the arcade game did not. Rick added 112 variations such as 2 player modes, moving shields, zigzagging bombs, and invisible invaders. If you had a 2600, I am sure that you also had a copy of Space Invaders!
In 1982, Atari released the 5200 ‘SuperSystem’ and Space Invaders was one of the launch titles for this system. The 5200 version of Space Invaders has a total of 48 aliens that enter from the left and march across the screen, before starting their back and forth movement. The aliens are multi-colored and mutate their shapes in advanced rounds of the game. Atari included a total of 12 variations as well as 1 or 2 player options. The variations include 3 or 5 lives, slow or fast bombs, alternating slow and fast bombs, and bombs that home in on your laser cannon. The control in this game is pretty good with a standard 5200 joystick, but the 5200 track ball gives finer control of your movements. Atari included a nice touch by having the sound of the aliens increase as they get closer to the bottom of the screen. The 5200 version of Space Invaders is not really a port of the arcade version, but, rather, a new concept for the game. The concept isn’t bad, but it could have been better executed. The graphics are not really much better than on the 2600 version and this game does not really show what the 5200 is capable of. Space Invaders for the 5200 is still fun to play, but it could have been a whole lot better.
In 1984, Atari released the 7800 ‘ProSystem’ and officially cancelled the 5200. Atari developed 7800 specific ports of many arcade classics, but not Space Invaders. Fortunately, Bob DeCrescenzo has done an excellent port of Space Invaders for the 7800. Bob’s game is true to the arcade with all 55 aliens and adds similar options to Rick’s 2600 version such as such as 2 player modes, moving shields, zigzagging bombs, and invisible invaders. Bob also added color options to reflect the different cellophane overlays that were used on the arcade systems. Bob’s version is challenging, addictive, and a ‘must have’ for anyone who has a 7800! Space Invaders for the 7800 is available from AtariAge.
If you are lucky enough to have played Space Invaders on all three Atari systems, then I am sure that you will agree with me the Bob’s 7800 version is the clear winner. If you don’t have a copy Space Invaders for the 7800, rush over to AtariAge and order yourself a copy of this great game!