Publisher: Xseed Games
# of Players: 1 – 4
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Score: A- (90%)
As a longtime Earth Defense Force fan (since 2003’s Simple 2000 Series Vol. 31: The Chikyuu Boueigun, or Monster Attack in the UK), finally getting the chance to see the best game in the series finally arrive stateside and in its best incarnation to date is a great thing indeed. Granted, Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space may not convince some skeptics of how much of a must-buy title it is because at first glance it’s going to seem like less of a game than it actually turns out to be. But those of you who know the series who have yet to play this entry will be pleased to know that not only does it deliver the goods, it still holds up today as a stellar (and incredibly lengthy) game that packs in more action for $29.99 than bigger budgeted AAA titles that cost double the price.
Actually, the game is not only based on the original PS2 game, it’s actually a reworked version of the Japan-only Chikyuu Boueigun 2 Portable which featured more and harder enemies, additional levels and online play for the first time in the series. The Vita version benefits from much better visuals a far smoother frame rate and the addition of the Air Raider class introduced in EDF 4. Here, the useful support character made for intermediate to advanced players is a bit more user friendly from the start, but still takes some time to master. Meanwhile, the Ranger is made for anyone to pick up and play while the more mobile Pale Wing is for players who prefer flight and energy-based weapons. While Rangers are easier to play as, mastering Pale Wing early on and getting her some excellent weapons makes her the best all-round character in my opinion.
In terms of continuity, don’t get too caught up in exactly where this fits into the EDF chronology as all you really need to do is blow the crap out of a ton of mutated insects and many alien robots and spacecraft. Short cinematic sequences appear every before a few missions that spell out the basic story (aliens have returned to earth with intent on destroying the planet!) and it’s up to you either solo or online with like-minded EDF soldiers to deal with the threat. While Xseed wants you to chuckle along with the campy title and radio chatter that pops in during play, the game has a hardcore element to it as well as a serious side that creeps in as the missions get tougher and more desperate for what remains of the earth and its dwindling defenses. Not that you won’t get a grin going at the “retro” costumes and intentionally lower resolution than the super-shiny enhanced port of EDF 2017 that hit the Vita back in 2011. That and there’s one awesome, hilarious mission that introduces a MASSIVE kaiju monster who shows up after you’ve bumped off two of its trouble-making three story tall offspring.
The game has five difficulties (Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest, Inferno) and for new players going at it solo, it’s probably best to blow through Easy mode just to see the map layouts and get an idea of what’s to come on the harder difficulties. Replaying stages is crucial to success because of random weapon and armor drops that will increase your arsenal and health respectively. Most stages on Easy and Normal can be played in under five or ten minutes depending on what’s out to eat, stomp or blast your selected character. But expect longer and tougher battles as the enemy count and fierceness increase during the game. In multiplayer, the game is rewarding for all comers as newbies can hop into the game with fellow EDF fans and take on the campaign for a (mostly) easier time. The key things to never forget in MP are “friendly” fire is always on (don’t shoot your friends!), drops are doled out fairly to all players (you don’t need to bum rush someone else going for that potential new weapon) and you an revive any player at the cost of half your armor (unless you’re under 25% of your own armor).
For cranky antisocial EDF veterans (or those who just love to challenge themselves), solo play is where it’s at, as the sheer level of challenge the harder modes offer outstrips many PC and console games. The satisfaction of clearing your first Inferno stage plus the possibility of gaining some incredible new weapons is always a great feeling, particularly when you get a new toy to play with that makes earlier maps a breeze. Controls are easy to get into and somewhat adjustable. You can choose traditional left stick movement/right stick camera or use the touchscreen for aiming or camera movement and even zooming in with scoped weapons. While character movement isn’t as speedy as in current PC/console action games and Pale Wing in particular moves like a drunken sailor on foot, you get used to the game mechanics after a few missions. EDF games follow their own beat for the most part, so accepting a few quirks is par for the course. That said, expect to take some time out to practice using the vehicles with Ranger and Air Raider. The tank and helicopter add a bit of simulation aspects to the game and that speeder bike, while zippy and bouncy, is a LOT more resistant to bumps than it was in the PS2 and PSP versions of EDF 2. In those games, if it lasted an entire level of use it was a miracle. Here, it’s durable enough to hit stuff and not explode when it merely scrapes a lamppost.
As for the enemies, EDF 2 features the widest variety and most dangerous ones of the series. You get the usual black and red ants, spiders and some very retro robots and flying saucers. Toss in big metal pillbugs that an steamroll you and explode into poison gas when destroyed, a millipede the size and length of a freight train, long-legged erratic walking mechs that can spike-stomp you from about a half-mile away (when they’re not blasting you with a few lasers and energy bolts), a city-sized mothership and more all await your eager eyeballs and fingers. Two of the most annoying enemies in the game are of the alien spacecraft variety. There are mirrored weaponless saucers that reflect shots back your way and can only be destroyed by hitting them in the glowing red center spot and huge cigar-shaped saucers that aren’t hard to shoot down at all, but when they fall, stay on screen as solid objects for almost a minute. This makes levels with these craft in them even more of a hazard when combined with insects and other enemies headed your way. The game also adds in the super brutal gold ants, the slow but extremely deadly glowing red ants and those web-happy silver spiders that can make you run screaming for the door because they take an eternity to kill if you have an under-powered loadout.
As you an probably guess, there’s a great deal of game here. With 79 missions, over 400 weapons to acquire between all three classes, pretty smooth online play if you want it mean there’s a guaranteed 40+ hours of gameplay. Actually, that’s a massive understatement as I’ve put a few hundred hours into EDF 2 on the PS2, PSP and the Japanese Vita version before I pre-ordered my copy of EDF 2. Yeah, pre-ordered. I’m such a EDF nut that I didn’t bug Xseed for a review code or copy. I paid my money like the rest of you should, got my copy a day after the launch date an have been playing it ever since. Is there something I don’t like? Well… the aliens here aren’t called Ravagers like they are in the console games. “Buggernauts” is the comical term chosen and while it IS amusing, to me it sounds like a canceled Sid & Morty Krofft project or a Gerry Anderson TV show that never got off the ground. But that’s just me. Go get this game and show it off to a friend so he or she can get on board the EDF train. Hey, you never know when those bug-blasting skills will come in handy, right?