The Game: Those pesky Space Invaders are back and this time they’ve got hostages. Your mothership hovers in orbit over the craggy, uninviting surface of the moon, waiting for you to hit the action button and signal the beginning of your mission. The docking back doors open underneath you and your lander begins dropping toward the surface. You can control where you land, and to some extent the speed, and you’ll have to weave through several rotating zones of meteoroids to reach the surface safely. Once landed, you can take on one passenger, and then you have to blast off again to ferry your man back to the mothership. Only this time, the meteors are replaced by several waves of flying saucers who will not only be happy to ram your lander, but shoot at you from above too. If you get your man home – or even if you don’t – the mission begins anew until you run out of ships. Higher difficulty levels add more enemies, such as fireballs streaking through the sky. (Taito, 1979)
Memories: This very obscure Space Invaders sequel takes some of the same basic ideas as Atari’s Lunar Lander (released the same year) and adds some lunar loonies and other more obviously fictional elements; Lunar Lander was good if you wanted a straight-ahead simulation of an Apollo landing, but you get to land your ship and then take off and shoot stuff in Lunar Rescue. It’s challenging and quite a bit of fun, too – I find myself playing this one for a pretty good stretch if I start.
Its status as an Invaders sequel also earns Lunar Lander an unusual, if minor, footnote in arcade game history – the first game to feature characters that originated in another game (even if it is just in the attract mode). Of course, at the time, Taito might’ve been worried about continuing to make a mark on the international video game market, so sticking what was, at that moment, the most recognizable (no, make that the only recognizable) video game icon into a new title may have more to do with the invaders’ presence than any actual attempt at an ongoing “story.”
In any case, Lunar Rescue didn’t do anything even remotely like the business that Space Invaders did, so one of Taito’s next titles was an even more blatant attempt at duplicating that game’s surefire success: a direct sequel with nearly identical game play. But don’t let that fool you – Lunar Rescue may have cratered as a coin-op, but it was still fun despite its obscurity.