This week, Wednesday’s night update is now Thursday’s morning update! Why?! 4th of July, that’s why! In honor of the holiday off, I thought I’d focus on a game near and dear to my heart that’s all about fighting for independence: Earth Defense Force 2017. What folks out there that like EDF, like it to a fairly extreme degree. There’s something just undeniably simple and fun about the game. Folks that can’t handle too much action might want to stay away, but generally most gamers are accustomed to some action. EDF feels like it throws you into the middle of some 80s action cartoon or old Godzilla style movie. There is so much campy humor and dumb fun moments that it is overwhelming. It is yet another game that gets the dubious honor of being a game I went for 100% completion on and so how I can’t I not recommend it?
At its core, EDF’s story is all about a fight for freedom and survival, one in and over the top and extravagant manner of course. Hey, I have to tie this to the 4th of July somehow. Basically in EDF, aliens invade earth and bring man to the cusp of defeat. It’s up to the rag tag remnants of the Earth Defense Force to push back the aliens and free Earth! See? I told you EDF makes you feel like you are in the middle of an old 80s action cartoon or Godzilla flick. Which, that remark about the Godzilla remark isn’t an exaggeration. The aliens pull out all the sci-fi stops with their weapons and you can expect to fight all manner of giant bugs, giant robots, flying saucers, star fighters, and, yes, even a Godzilla like monster or two.
All this old corny sci-fi movie stuff actually has its origins. A brief fun history lesson about EDF’s makers: Sandlot. Originally composed of members of the even older Japanese gaming company, Human Entertainment, Sandlot was approached early on about creating an early 3D engine for a Japanese action show akin to Ultraman, a very cheesy sci fi show about fighting giant space monsters. While Sandlot created the engine, the show actually never took off and thus left Sandlot with full rights to the engine. So, they decided to make some games with it and see how well it could run. Since the system was originally developed to support a show about destructible buildings and giant monsters, the genres of games to explore seemed a natural fit for them. So, moving forward, Sandlot developed various games that were quite unique such as the earliest PS1 Earth Defense Force games that were Japan specifics and a few titles that came stateside like R.A.D. Radical Alchemic Drive, all games about small people in a city or town with giant robots and monsters rampaging about.
I have to say, I give Sandlot a tremendous amount of credit for riding that early engine as long as they have. Almost all the games under the Sandlot brand have focused around the entire concept of felling gigantic enemies, up to even the most recent 4th sequel of Earth Defense Force that just came out in Japan this past week. To give you some perspective, the first game they developed with this engine was back in 1999. Suffice to say, despite the fact the engine has been constantly upgraded and updated for modern tech, Sandlot’s games due to tend to be very rough around the engines. Often enemies don’t animate that much when dying, giant buildings collapse onto players with little to no affect, and it is easy to knock around giant corpses of enemies that push the player every which way or block gunfire accidently. It really isn’t the most polished experience, far from it actually. But despite all of that, the game is still a huge amount of fun.
In EDF, you play as a marine with a behind the shoulder point of view. Before battle, you can choose 2 weapons to toggle back and forth between during battle. These weapons have a huge amount of variety to them. From sniper rifles to shotguns, automated turrets to flamethrowers, EDF has a crap ton of weapons. Once thrown into battle, it’s your job to destroy huge hordes of alien invaders while rolling and dodging their various attacks. It can be quite awe inspiring just holding down the trigger and blasting away a horizon encompassing wave of giant black ants descending on your position. Furthermore, enemies have a chance of dropping new weapons for you to claim after the battle is over and armor that will permanently increase your health by 1. So, from there, you go from stage to stage fighting new and more powerful enemies until you eventually face off in an epic fight against the alien mothership herself.
Gameplay is super simplistic, but the thematic visuals really help sell the whole experience. Explosions are satisfying to watch, both the giant cloud it creates and the dead enemy bodies it shoots into the heavens. Friendly NPCs cheer and holler when pushing back and advancing on the enemies while also screaming in over the top sci-fi horror when being killed by giant bugs. The entire experience is just something very childlike and pure dumb fun. It totally makes fun of itself, but brings you along for the ride while making battles feel epic. It’s the closest thing I can think of these days to watching an old movie where they obviously just took footage of an ant up close and then cut sharply to a man looking up at a camera and screaming in a manner that is just silly. Plus, it’s the only game experience to even ever do that at all. Sandlot has mastered that art and while EDF doesn’t get as creative as some of their other titles like R.A.D., the EDF series still stands as their masterpiece.
You have to go into this game expecting to have a fun time. I know it sounds silly to say that about a video game, but what I mean is that you aren’t going to get a deep moving story or AAA animations here. You’ll play EDF to be a kid again. To indulge in all the dumb fun there is to be had as kids pretending to be in an imaginary shootout. Which, man, how could I almost forget to mention this, but EDF is local multiplayer enabled to. Play this game with a friend. It’s still fun to play by itself, but it’s all the more fun to play with a friend and have their back while they run away from a giant angry red ant biting at their ass. The gameplay is very simple and straight on, so I don’t have any concerns about this being in a genre that most people “can’t get.” Plug in and play fun at some of its best. If you have a 360, do yourself and check out Earth Defense Force 2017. It’s awesome.