No one is going to argue that Taito's classic shooter, Space Invaders, wasn't a seminal release in its heyday. To this day, it still remains as one of the true classics of gaming's early era. As is often the case with a serious classic, the game spawned numerous sequels and reiterations over the years, though few were anywhere near as successful (or playable) as the original. Now, over a quarter century after Space Invaders first hit arcades, the original creator of Space Invaders, the Taito Corporation, has developed what is being referred to as the first true 3D sequel to Space Invaders, titled Space Raiders. While this is a grand idea in theory, the simplistic side-to-side shooting mechanics that were great so many years ago would need a serious upgrade to be interesting to a modern gaming audience. Space Raiders doesn't provide this upgrade and ultimately proves to be both a laughable attempt at re-creating Space Invaders and a terrible experience from beginning to end.
As the story of Space Raiders opens, we are treated to an exceptionally lengthy cutscene depicting the invasion of Earth by a less-than-friendly alien race, which upon attacking obliterates any human life in its path. During this scene, we are introduced to the game's three main characters: Justin, a tough kid seeking revenge for the death of his friends; Naji, a streetwise cop in a future suit looking to avenge his fallen partner; and Ashley, a woman on the search for her missing boyfriend (who looks just a bit too much like Tom Cruise for comfort). You can choose any of the three characters at the beginning of the game, but it really doesn't matter whom you choose. Though the characters have slightly different weapons and marginally different storylines, you pretty much end up playing the exact same game regardless of whom you choose.
So, remember how Space Invaders played: You'd have a little ship at the bottom of the screen, and alien invaders in several lines would progressively drop down on you, and you'd have to dodge their bullets while blasting them away. OK, replace your ship with a person holding a gun, replace the top-to-bottom view with a 3D environment (where you still can only run from side to side), and give the evil aliens a little more generic personality, and basically, you've got Space Raiders. Sure, there are a few little differences here and there--like the fact that you can occasionally chuck grenades at the hordes of approaching aliens, gain a few weird and generally unnecessary power-ups here and there, and do a nifty little dodge move to avoid bullets--but otherwise, this is basically just a rehashing of the same 1978 premise. Although it's that same premise, there isn't any of the challenge that made the original so addictive.
Essentially, the team behind Space Raiders apparently decided that challenge would be somehow detrimental to the game, and they removed everything that made the original Space Invaders enjoyable. Specifically, the whole point of Space Invaders was that you wanted to prevent the approaching aliens from getting to you, because if they did, you'd die. In Space Raiders, aliens can get to you, but when they do, they only do a little bit of damage. Once they do reach you, you can do your little dodge move in their direction, and that will actually damage them and drive them back. Because of this, if you're even marginally adept at the whole concept of dodging enemy fire, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to just mindlessly button-mash your way through all of the game's six levels in about an hour and a half, dying only a scant few times. Of course, you'd only have to worry about dying at all if you had limited continues, which, incidentally, you don't. Die all you want, because the only consequence of doing so is that your high score resets. When you're playing a game that's challenging and fun, like Ikaruga for example, your score might mean something. When you're playing a game as prosaic and lifeless as Space Raiders, it's hard to care about your score.
Even when simply looking at or listening to Space Raiders, you're going to have an unpleasant experience. Graphically, the game features absolutely nothing worthwhile. The in-game graphics are drab and muddy and generally look hastily thrown together, and the CG opening and few in-game cutscenes look just as pathetic. The character designs for the heroes are derivative of every dumb stereotype you can think of, and the creature designs for the aliens are even worse. Everything animates as stiff as a board too, and overall, the game just looks ugly.
For as ugly as Space Raiders looks, however, the sound is even worse. The few, repetitive in-game sound effects you'll encounter aren't exactly offensive, but they're pretty bad, and the soundtrack is barely noticeable. However, nothing can trump Space Raiders' inconceivably atrocious voice acting. Without any measure of exaggeration, Space Raiders is right up there in the running for the worst voice acting of all time. The dialogue itself is written horribly enough, but the "actors" who deliver these pathetic lines simply have to be heard to be believed. Bad voice acting may be a regular occurrence in gaming, but voice acting this bad is a once-in-a-lifetime atrocity.
If at this point you're still even entertaining the thought of picking up Space Raiders, stop, right now. To sum it all up quickly and concisely, its gameplay is a pathetic, 90-minute button-mashing marathon, and the two-player co-op mode is more of the same, just with another person to experience the pain along with you. Its graphics are an underwhelming experience to say the least, and the game's incomparably horrendous voice acting will drive you to the brink of madness. Fans of modern shooters will have absolutely no use for this trite, monotonous junk, and fans of the original Space Invaders will simply be appalled at how Taito has butchered its classic gameplay into this one-dimensional mess. Regardless of what category you fall into, you don't want to play Space Raiders.