If I weren't such a completist I'd probably have a lot more money in the bank. Even though I had little interest in the WarioWare spin-off Paper Airplane Chase on DSi I thought I would check it out since it promised a new mode (unlike the DSiware spin-off Bird & Beans, which as I mentioned in my look back at the WarioWare series just changes the size of the board). Plus, the game's only $2 and was good for a quickie to help me catch up on my regular blog posting schedule.

I hadn't really played the original version (called the "endless" mode in this version), which was one of the unlockable minigames in the original GBA WarioWare game, and apparently the multiplayer version was also previously seen in the GameCube follow-up WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$!, but by all accounts those modes are pretty much identical to their previous release. I started off playing the new time trial mode, but since there are only 8 stages it didn't take long to get through them (although some trickier additions to the gameplay are introduced, namely in some stages parts of the stages move, you can only see the area around the plane, or the plane descends more quickly). I then went back to the endless mode. Usually I dislike auto-generated levels, but in this case the types of hazards are all uniform so the slight variation in their ordering didn't really make a significant difference other than ensuring you can't memorize their placement. I was skeptical at first, but this mode won me over with its quick high-score, arcade-style action. At regular intervals characters from the WarioWare series pop up to cheer you on (although in my case, they were invariably distractions that would cause me to immediately crash), which is a fun touch, and it's the only hint of character and that the game has anything to do with the WarioWare series at all. The DSi's dual screens make it easier to see ahead than the single screen of the GBA would, although the large gap between the screens of the DSi XL I was using was somewhat distracting.

Not much more to say. This was an entertaining enough little time-waster, about on par with the zillions of disposable mobile games readily available for free. It's nice to tick this box off in terms of Nintendo games I had yet to play, but otherwise I can't imagine anyone getting too excited about it.

Shred through these Paper Airplane Chase links:
- Info on the original with some of the music
- Video of a tool-assisted speedrun (TAS) of the original
- Review of the DSiware release at nintendolife.com
- Footage of the DSiware version
- Entry at mariowiki.com

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I've gotten behind on blog posts this new year, so to catch up I sat down with a game I've been putting off for ages, which was the original Space Invaders. I played the game via the collection Taito Legends for Xbox (yet another case where the first game I completed on a system was completely nonintuitive), and from what I've read about it the version is supposedly pretty accurate. The game is extremely well known, but I don't think I'd really appreciated how important to the history of video games Space Invaders really was. The "Impact and legacy" section of the Wikipedia article on the game is pretty essential reading. The game is credited for being "one of the forerunners of modern video gaming", and it "helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry". Basically in terms of the evolution of video games it stands up there with Super Mario Bros., Tetris, and Grand Theft Auto.

As for the game itself, I actually enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I'd had vague memories of playing it on an Atari system when I was a kid and quickly getting bored, but I found that the game actually holds up pretty well. IGN has a nice write-up, but what strikes me is that the game, although seemingly simple, has a very distinct pacing within each level: the starting formation, where the aliens are high above you; the middle period where they descend, with flying saucers whizzing by every once in a while; and the ending where the last alien zips around the screen, threatening you with an instant game over. By modern standards the progression isn't that smooth. Each subsequent level begins with the aliens' starting positions lower on the screen, and outside of memorizing a foolproof pattern it's somewhat difficult to imagine anyone making it past the third level (although I believe the fifth level or so loops back to the first one). But even though I didn't get through many levels, the game has a nice balance of making you choose to go offensive (shoot at the aliens) or defensive (dodge or hide behind one of the barriers) and forcing you to constantly be on the move or risk the aliens reaching the "Earth", i.e. the bottom of the screen.

Anyway, the Taito Legends collection also had Space Invaders Part II, released just a year after the first version. By today's standards the game does feel like a remake of the original rather than a true sequel. Part II adds color and two small additions to the gameplay (saucers can drop aliens onto the board and starting with level three or so some aliens will split into two when they're hit). The core gameplay is exactly the same, though, and equally enjoyable, so even though I played it some it definitely didn't feel worth writing a separate post about it.

All in all this was a nice start to a new year: I'm glad I finally made myself sit down and give this slice of video game history a spin. For me Galaga is still the classic arcade shoot 'em up, but I'm looking forward to revisiting the series when I check out its much-acclaimed follow-up Space Invaders Extreme, released on DS.

Attack these invading Space Invaders and Space Invaders Part II links:
Space Invaders:
- Guide to getting high scores (goes with the video I linked to above)
- Entry at strategywiki.org, which includes the always entertaining home version comparisons.
- If that's not enough, this video has more than 45 minutes of footage from the various home versions
- Details on the arcade cabinet specs, including manuals for the arcade operators at arcade-museum.com

Space Invaders Part II
- Entry at strategywiki.org
- Entry at arcade-museum.com

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Welcome to my new site, Intergalactic Video Game Academy. Although I'm still getting things up and running, I wanted to continue my long-running blog (previously at Video Games Rock) and post reviews of games I've played. Hopefully things will get sorted out before too long. I have a lot of ideas for new and hopefully unique features, so stay tuned, and in the meantime, check out my new blog. Thanks for visiting!

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