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Earth Defense Force (SNES) artwork

Earth Defense Force (SNES) review


"The only thing that we likely have forever branded on our crumpled shmupper’s ego is the painful memory of that relentless, recalcitrant, snapping turtle head. Flashbacks of his refusal to let you win, to let the immemorially inevitable story of the hero beating back the wicked and saving earth take its course, will haunt you until the world ends. Did you used to cheer for Cobra during G.I. Joe reruns? Score one for the bad guys! "



The end of the world as we know it

Earth Defense Force is also called EDF for short, and it is at that. Jaleco (who published the brilliant R-Type III for the same system) grants the SNES another side-scrolling shooter, featuring charming, but mostly unchallenging action. Until the very end, when all of the missing difficulty makes an appearance in an amalgamated ball of hate and green fury.

But, first, the good news. EDF uses a fun, user friendly and capable weapon system. Now, the not-so-good news: the graphics and music are only par for the course for the SNES, and the gameplay is mostly extremely easy--I got to the end on the second play. But it's impossible to escape the bad news. All of your early progress with the cool weapons will be in vain. The end of the world is nigh, and when you face the green turtle head bastard of a final guardian, you'll wonder if you can do anything about it. Bait and switch? Go minutes without blinking? 50 inch television? All utterly useless facilities.

Even the instruction manual tells us that getting through this mission will take ''a little luck''. It seems that the AGYMA (the bad guys), want to annihilate the earth (it's raining where they are--what else is there to do?), and the Earth Defense Force exercise the usual impeccable shooter logic by sending you out in your XA-1 all by your lonesome. You'll be able to change speed on the fly, choose from eight different weapons and manipulate a pair of indestructible droid satellites (why not share that damn technology with us human pilots!). There are the typical weapons like the 'vulcan' and the 'homing shot', but there are also a few gems, like the relentless 's. laser' and all-consuming 'atomic gun'. You'll be able to choose what weapon you start each level with, presumably to add some semblance of strategy to the gameplay. This doesn't really work--you'll likely find a weapon you like and stick to it throughout. Where the multiple options become useful is in replaying the game; the choices add variety.

There are no power ups to procure on this flight. By killing enemies, much like a role-playing game, you are able to 'level up'. There are five levels, and the game does an admirable job of balancing things so that you are at the appropriate level of power for the stage you are at. The balance isn't flawless; as mentioned before, it leans toward the easy side. Leveling up in EDF doesn't increase your firepower, but rather, allows your twin satellites more effective formations to attack the enemy. The standard formation is 'union', where the satellites unite with your XA-1 and fire as you are firing. Also available from the onset, is the 'rolling' set up, where the satellites orbit your craft, providing decent protection. At 'level three', you are granted the 'shadow' technique, where, as the name suggests, your satellites follow your every move, and echo your every laser shot. When you reach 'level five', the 'homing' formation is made available, and you won't look back. Your satellites will target enemies and worry them to death with surprising and inspiring impudence.

EDF is comprised of a half dozen stages of typical shooter sights and sounds. You know the sights; you'll careen through the organic interior of a immense cavern with the wreckage of previous defense efforts scattered about. From the dark side of the moon, you'll take in a gigantic space station, as it scales ever closer from background to near foreground. The XA-1 will begin by buffeting through earth's lovely atmosphere, eventually delving into the depths of outer space. While 'Midnight Intercept', the second stage, is the most visually pleasing piece, combining the sparkling skyline of a massive metropolis with a pretty, painterly sky, most everything else is unexciting. You know the tunes, too; they area a dry fusion of elevator music and electronic, pulsing keyboards. The outdated, generic techno pop that is the end result is never entirely offensive, but it’s never something you’ll likely remember, should memories of the game come rushing to mind--which in itself is unlikely.

And that’s because, as endearing as the weapon system is in EDF, the game cannot escape its generic SNES shooter billing, and rarely travels outside of the confines of that comfy stretch of middle road. It barely even tries to make an imprint on our gaming soul.

The only thing that we likely have forever branded on our crumpled shmupper’s ego is the painful memory of that relentless, recalcitrant, snapping turtle head. Flashbacks of his refusal to let you win, to let the immemorially inevitable story of the hero beating back the wicked and saving earth take its course, will haunt you until the world ends. Did you used to cheer for Cobra during G.I. Joe reruns? Score one for the bad guys!

Besides the negligible matter of the world ending though, EDF is an enjoyable, though pedestrian experience, worth picking up for bargain basement prices if only to try your hand at doing the impossible.

Rating: 6/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 13, 2004)

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