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Earth Defense Force (SNES) artwork

Earth Defense Force (SNES) review


"If you take a child to an expensive restaurant, he'll stare vacantly at the menu. He'll skip past the forty dollar steaks slathered in twenty dollar mushroom sauce. He wants nothing to do with anything called ''parmigiana'' or ''primavera.'' He'll search the menu with a look of desperation and defeat as he cannot find macaroni and cheese with cut-up hot dogs, a dollar-store bargain meal he loves for lack of exposure to better food. "



If you take a child to an expensive restaurant, he'll stare vacantly at the menu. He'll skip past the forty dollar steaks slathered in twenty dollar mushroom sauce. He wants nothing to do with anything called ''parmigiana'' or ''primavera.'' He'll search the menu with a look of desperation and defeat as he cannot find macaroni and cheese with cut-up hot dogs, a dollar-store bargain meal he loves for lack of exposure to better food.

And the Super Nintendo, a system stacked stratospherically with mac 'n cheese clunkers, seems to have weaned its following into such a mentality. How else would Dracula-X go shunned while Super Castlevania IV's spinning rooms dazzle the masses? Uniracers is obscure while the Final Fantasy games are deified? Super Mario Kart is abandoned the day the markedly inferior 64 version is released? And, perhaps the most befuddling casualty in this trend: the Axelays and Space Megaforces of the system are revered while Earth Defense Force sits rotting beneath copies of Home Alone 2.

In truth, though, EDF trounces not only the smelly turds on the SNES shooter roster, but also legitimately challenges Lightening For...

I'll take it one step further- Earth Defense Force is the most enjoyable horizontal shooter I've ever seen.

At the heart of this blacklisted classic is an amazing weapons system, one so very beyond its contemporaries. Rather than shackle you with the mundane, predictable weapons of its Gradius or R-Type colleagues, EDF gives you a selection of 8 different weapons, and four different ways to fire each. You choose one of the eight from the beginning of each level; you'll be firing it until you die or defeat the boss and move on. You can fire the weapon 2 different ways at first, and as you progress, you'll be able to upgrade your abilities. The weapons themselves also evolve as you progress.

This tandem of excellent weaponry and choices in firing them is unparalleled in any horizontal. The ''options'' concept here is simply flawless; you decide the best way to fire your weapon. You can place all the power to the front of the ship, or you can dictate that the options circle around, thus sending out more fire at a weaker rate. Soon the options will be able to trail you a' la R-Type, or home in on enemies and do your dirty work for you. The guns range from the common vulcan cannon to the more definitive exploding shot and seeking laser, both of which announce how they'll kick ass, then perform thusly.

It starts out easily enough. The first two levels pose little threat, as you blister and burn through the well-designed but weakly performing enemies. Things change in level three, a vine-drenched jungle sprawl, where the enemy begins to mount an offense with another new set of drones and ships, these models more resistant than those preceding them. Persevere and reach the fourth level, a ''zooming space station'' backdrop of sorts (no Megaforce shenanigans, promise), and your life count will reach game over until you can figure out a way through EDF's first challenge. As the game piles on new enemies with each level, it makes sense they'd actually be tougher; their trickier and heavier offensive tactics are perfectly timed and perfectly placed to give the game its balanced learning curve. Soon, the game will cost those three ''lives.''

You are given three ''lives'' for the game, and you can earn more, but if you must complete each level in one life. Each life has three ''hits,'' two you can take while the third sends you back to the beginning. Switch ''lives'' with ''continues'' and ''hits'' with ''lives,'' and the ducks start falling in line. This is your classic system nominally goofified, but structurally intact.

For as refined and remarkable as the weapons and enemies are, their presentation hasn't matured quite as well. Far from ugly, EDF simply comes across as an average 16-bit affair. It has parallax and a good color palette, but no memorable Gorgon swirls or Darius Gaiden submerging effects. Its closest shot is the scaling of the space construction in the fourth level, impressive once it finally dwarfs the screen. Slowdown strikes down the effort though, as the SNES struggles to contain the game.

With an offense so powerful, the sprite count soars and the homing shot can send the SNES into slowdown oblivion. Fire the screen-saturating weapon of yours at the boss attempting the same and the game becomes easier as the Super machine can't handle so much awesome gameplay. Couple this problem with the inherent quandary of not always knowing when slowdown will start or stop, and unfair deaths will be suffered. Curse the Super Nintendo, curse Jaleco for not porting this game to a more capable machine.

And curse the SNES again for being so full of ketchup sandwiches that the 20 oz. ribeyes are completely lost in the shuffle. Why haven't you heard of Earth Defense Force? Because this system's fans didn't know what to do with it. While looking for a wacky spinning room or Mode 7 falling fatass or fog at the top of the screen, EDF's impeccable weapon system and enemy designs and level layout and length totally escaped them. Its sometimes crippled state on the slowdown machine keeps it from reaching inarguable dominance of an entire genre, but Earth Defense Force is still a shining diamond in a disgusting, vomitous rough.

Rating: 9/10

sinner's avatar
Community review by sinner (March 14, 2004)

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