Fighting Godzilla while playing on the bus that gets crushed in the movies.
Some shooters want to tell a story, set up the fall of a prominent character and lead to a final showdown. For others, saving the world or the universe are the points, with alien weaponry and super-cool tech littered across the battlefield, waiting to be picked up and used to mow down the invading horde. And then there’s Earth Defense Force, which is the combination of giant monster movies and arcade craziness. The only thing it’s actually missing is the massive plastic controller in front of the 60” arcade screen.
For the uninitiated, Earth Defense Force is driven by the fact that a big mothership has been hovering over the planet, and it’s packed to the gills with spaceships, giant ants, murderous bees, creepy spiders, and other assorted Japanese “kaiju” (the Japanese word for “crazy-weird monster”) out to destroy the world. Previously this kind of game has been on the 360 in the US and first released on the 360 way back when, and now it’s getting its first test in the West on a portable, the Vita. And it works.
The controls are easy enough, which is fitting for the original “Simple” series of games it had been part of in Japan: Just point and shoot. After you’ve chosen one of the three classes—Ranger (the standard soldier), Pale Wing (a jetpack soldier with energy weaponry), or Air Raider (specialist in strategic combat, laying traps)—and any unlocked weaponry you find (and there’s plenty of it), you can take on 78 missions on any of the six difficulty settings and start blowing all kinds of shit up. And, you can do it with up to three other players in ad-hoc co-op.
From the few missions I played, it controls well. That run-and-gun mentality is right up my alley so there’s no need to worry about sneaking here or there, just let ‘er rip. Every weapon has unique features, like the shotguns with different reload and power stats and the rocket launchers with their ‘splody-bits that can cause massive explosions or have accuracy good enough to knock a bug out of the sky, plus all the unique weapons specific to each class. The frame-rate was surprisingly high for the amount of action crowding the small screen, and that being one of the noteworthy downsides. Like holdovers from the PS2 generation, too many things on screen leads to some collision errors and polygon tearing, which did happen in the mission. But even when the action got overwhelming, it never got to be too big an issue play-wise, so that’s a minor gripe.
With so many missions and so many kaiju to shoot at, this isn’t going to be the deep experience that proves games are art. This ain’t Oscar-material jack, this is an explosion-heavy Godzilla flick in the middle of Tokyo, and it’s gonna relieve whatever aggression the day heaps on you. Crank up some cheesy monster-movie-reminiscent punk rock, fire up your Vita, and save the world one bloodied bug at a time. It’s not a 100% new experience, it’s an extension of the second game in the series, but it’s a monster movie in your pocket. And damn can it be satisfying.
XSeed is hoping to have Earth Defense Force 2 out before the end of the year, with the goal being late November/early December, which sounds like just the way to pass “family” time in my house for the holidays.