Space Invaders needs no introduction. But we’re going to give it one anyway, because journalism. Seminal shooter and brainchild of Tomohiro Nishikado, the game captivated audiences like no other upon its release in 1978. And while it looks basic today, Space Invaders introduced and popularised key elements of gaming we now take for granted, like multiple lives, enemies that shoot back, high score saves, and background music. And now this classic machine is being reimagined as a Quarter Arcade.
In fact, both it and sequel Space Invaders Part II will become part of the Quarter Arcades line. Having previously miniaturised Pac-Man, Galaga and Bubble Bobble, among others, Numskull Designs has turned its attention to Taito’s classics in time for the original game’s 45th anniversary. Both cabs will ship for delivery in July/August 2023, and are available for pre-order now.
That price is a mite more than the stack of coins you’d have pumped into a full-size machine back in the day, so what do you get for your outlay?
More than mere ornaments, Quarter Arcades are fully playable, highly detailed cabs. They aim to be as faithful as possible, with wooden shells and accurate art. These Space Invaders models even have the mirror screen and glowing moon effects from the 1970s machines.
Modern tech naturally results in some changes, however – the display is a 5in TFT, not a CRT, and although you can plug these cabs in, they’ll happily run on internal rechargeable lithium batteries. If you’re wondering if you’ve space for one, each cab stands 44cm tall, is 16.6cm wide and is 22.5cm deep.
The remaking of Space Invaders
So how do you – and why would you – squash a classic arcade game down into pint-sized form? Stuff spoke to Numskull Designs co-founder Matt Precious, to find out.
What was the origin of Quarter Arcades?
Matt: Growing up in the 1980s, I spent considerable time in arcades. It was about more than the games – it was the whole atmosphere those giant machines created. Their flashing lights, incredible bright artwork and symphonies of sounds all fought for my attention – and coins.
Today’s gaming feels sterile in comparison. So I wanted to capture that golden age for fans who were there – and anyone who sadly didn’t get to experience it.
But why Quarter Arcades? What was it about that scale that appealed?
Many people think we came up with the name and made machines to fit, but that’s not the case. Our goal was to make machines that played as well as full-size ones, but that were small enough to fit in your home and let you build a collection.
We tried several different sizes, and quarter scale met our goals. And as proof about how the machines play, we’ve even had someone finish all 256 levels of Pac-Man on his Quarter Arcade! That’s very impressive on a machine of any size!
How authentic to the original machines are Quarter Arcade cabinets?
Every Quarter Arcade is about capturing a piece of gaming history. We are as true to the original machines as possible.
We start with full-size cabinets and spend hours measuring them and capturing every detail. Because every piece needs to be exact quarter scale, they’re all made from scratch. And we include details most people would have never seen, like air vents and handle grips on the back of the machines.
Artwork is redrawn by hand, based on the original cab art, and the machines are then 3D modelled in-house by our incredible design team. It’s a long process, but worth it when we end up with the most accurate replica arcade machines you can buy.
Why did you decide to bring Space Invaders to the line?
I don’t think we could ever build an arcade without Space Invaders as part of the range. It was the machine that started the gaming revolution.
It’s unique in its shape and the artwork is iconic. And the deep bass noise it makes is so special. Back in the day, that sound meant you knew an arcade had the machine before you could even see it.
Were there any unique challenges to realising this cabinet?
We went into this project with our hearts, not our heads. After all, how hard could it be to recreate a 1978 arcade machine? In the event, it was the biggest challenge we’d faced in making any Quarter Arcade.
The main reason is the original cabinet uses the Pepper’s ghost effect technique. The game is reflected from a screen at the bottom on to a mirror, making the invaders look like they’re floating in front of a giant glowing moon.
It looks fantastic, but replicating the effect was complicated. Most modern-day versions of the game don’t bother and just use a standard screen. But we decided the pain was worth it. The Quarter Arcade looks as good as the original and I think is our best machine to date.