B-Grade Japanese Gaming At Its Best

B-Grade Japanese Gaming At Its Best
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The guns. The jumping. The giant bugs. I’ve always enjoyed the Earth Defence Force games. They’re goofy, silly, and glorious, like Roger Corman movies you can play. The latest one does not appear to disappoint.

D3 Publisher has never been a triple A game publisher. This is a company whose bread and butter were the Simple series games back on the PS2. They do have a certain sense of humour and a wonderful scrappiness, and Sandlot, the folks behind the EDF series, have always made these games bigger and more explosive than they have any right to be. And I think they’re all the more wonderful for that. Over the years, they have always seemed to know how to stretch a dollar, er, yen, while developing.

At the Tokyo Game Show, I played through the first Earth Defence Force 5 demo. There were several different stages you could play through (I ended up playing through three of them). What struck me about one in particular is how developers Sandlot are taking the EDF you know and love (the running around and shooting the crap out of giant insects) and adding new gameplay elements.

So much is familiar. The buildings still break into large pieces and then sink into the street after falling down, but, as with Earth Defence Force 4, the production quality is better than ever. This isn’t the best-looking PS4 game you’ll see, but it is the best-looking EDF game.

When you can see detailed reflections in a polished Wing Diver‘s helmet, you know that the folks making the game care, especially when older titles — with their sometimes dodgy frame rates — focused more on the larger experience than the tiny details.

Note: The cameraman does not appear in the game.

Note: The cameraman does not appear in the game.

What really makes EDF5 different are new jumbo-sized enemies in the shape of huge aliens wearing live support suits. They they will mess you up. I think you’re supposed to shoot off their masks, because they probably cannot breathe oxygen, but since dying ended the demo, I ended up running and hiding to extend my gameplay time.

Which was interesting. Typically, in EDF games, you just run and hop around and shoot stuff. If you use the Wing Diver class, you can, more recently, fly about, but much of the EDF series hasn’t been a thinking person’s game. That’s fine — I don’t mean to be insulting, because they’re arcady and fun as hell. That’s the point.

IPhone camera plus extra zoom equals blown out photos.

iPhone camera plus extra zoom equals blown out photos.

What EDF5 does differently with these alien is that they’re pretty smart, unlike the dumb giant insects of previous titles or the huge frogs, who aren’t too hard to take out.

To avoid being shot to bits during the demo, I ended up ducking behind buildings. Usually you just run through EDF games shooting the crap out of anything and everything in sight. EDF5 isn’t really a cover-shooter at all, but seeing that element, even in a rudimentary way, added to the game opened it up, making the experience feel familiar yet fresh.

But don’t worry, this is still good ol’ Earth Defence Force. It’s still silly and fun, and thank goodness for that.