Monday, July 30, 2012

Third Rate Game Play: Earth Defense Force 2017

Game: Earth Defense Force 2017

System: Xbox 360

Developer: Sandlot (Robot Alchemic Drive)

Publisher: D3 Publisher

Player: Alex and Tony

Experience: 2nd Recording Attempt

Check after the jump for our article!

There are few franchises out there quite like Earth Defense Force.  Cities full of mechanic monsters destroying everything in their paths.  Dozens if not hundreds of insects and arachnids exploding under the fire of human fighter squads.  Huge explosions and spaceships covering the skies as missiles and rockets erupt from the ground toward their targets.  This spectacularly intense action series made its debut onto the Xbox 360 and in the US with this episode’s focus: Earth Defense Force 2017.
The series was created by Sandlot, a Japanese developer formed in 2001 mostly by ex-employees of Human Entertainment.  Originally called Sonata when it was formed in 1987, Human Entertainment was the result of a merger between developers TRY Co. and Communicate Inc. During its existence, Human was most remembered for its Fire Pro Wrestling series (or HAL Wrestling, stateside) and the Clock Tower franchise (Clock Tower and Clock Tower II: the Struggle Within).  Most of their projects never left Japan, but a number of their notable (if not infamous) titles emerged in the US including: The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island (published by Bandai America), Dance Aerobics (published by Nintendo), Kabuki: Quantum Fighter and Monster Party (both published by HAL America). 

In 1999, Human Entertainment declared bankruptcy, selling its assets to a number of developers in the process.  Before it closed, Human had started two joint developers which continued operations beyond its closing: BEC Co. with Bandai in 1990 (Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire) and HuneX Co. with NEC in 1992 (mostly focused on bishōjo games such as First Kiss Story).  Furthermore, since Human closed, a large assortment of smaller developers formed from the company’s employees.  Sound director Chiyomaru Shikura would form 5pb. Games in 2006 which has produced Japan-centric games such as Corpse Party with Team GrisGris.  Clock Tower director Hifumi Kouno founded Nude Maker in 2002, and while it focuses mainly on adult titles, it produced Steel Battalion and Steel Battalion: Line of Contact for Capcom and collaborated with Platinum Games on Infinite SpaceS-NEO Co. would work on a Double Dragon GameBoy Advance port as well as the Agetec-published Fire Pro Wrestling Returns.  In 2001, Producer Masahiro Yonezawa founded Suzak Inc, the developer behind F-Zero: GP Legend, Wario: Master of Disguise, and the entire G.G. Series on DSiWare.  Perhaps the most well-known company to emerge from Human Entertainment is Grasshopper Manufacture, the company founded by Fire Pro Wrestling’s Director, Suda51.  Its major releases in the US have included Killer7 with Capcom, No More Heroes with Marvelous and Ubisoft, Shadows of the Damned for EA Games, Diabolical Pitch with Microsoft, and most recently Lollipop Chainsaw for Warner Bros. Interactive.  However, we are not here to talk about these companies; we want to take a look at Sandlot.

Following Human Entertainment’s closure, Sandlot would be formed in March 2001.  Sandlot’s website emphasizes that the name refers to the fun and freedom children experience at a sandlot, which it hopes to replicate in its software.  For the most part, Sandlot’s games emphasize battles of the large-scale, whether that means large monsters battling each other or a small combatant fighting against massive hordes of enemies.  The company’s first major release would be Gigantic Drive, known as Robot Alchemic Drive (RAD) in the US, published by Enix.  In RAD, players assume the role of a young man or woman who has to control a gigantic robot in order to stop evil robotic beings from destroying the world; this theme would be shifted but similar in the Earth Defense Force series.  Outside of RAD and the EDF franchise, Sandlot made a couple of manga-based games, including Tetsujin 28-go, published by Bandai.  Near the release of EDF 2017, Sandlot had also begun work with Nintendo, developing the DS mech game Chōsōjū Mecha MG (or Marionation Gear as it is called in Super Smash Brothers Brawl) in 2006.

No doubt, the company’s most prominent output is the Earth Defense Force franchise, originally developed for the Simple 2000 series on PlayStation 2.  The Simple 2000 series, published by D3 Publisher, was a collection of budget titles explicitly marketed for its cheap price and usually simple game design.  Earth Defense Force and its sequel released in Japan as Simple 2000 series Vol. 31 The Chikyuu Boueigun and Simple 2000 series Vol. 81 The Chikyuu Boueigun 2, and while they failed to enter America, both games did release in Europe, albeit under different names.  Earth Defense Force would be published by Agetec under the name Monster Attack, and Earth Defense Force 2 was published by Essential Games as Global Defense Force.  Only when D3 Publisher began releasing games internationally would Earth Defense Force make its way worldwide under its rightful name.  Earth Defense Force 2017 would be the third game in the series, the first to release in America.

D3 Publisher was originally founded in the 1990s to be a publisher focused on three domains: books, music, and video games.  This focus would be shifted toward primarily video game electronics within the first few years, and the name has remained.  The company was mostly known for being the publisher of the Simple series for the vast majority of consoles including every PlayStation console and every Nintendo handheld since the GameBoy Advance.  The series varied from price values, from 104 games in the PlayStation Simple 1500 series to 122 games in the PlayStation 2’s Simple 2000 series.  In 2005, D3 set up two subsidiaries, one for Europe and one for America, and the two began releasing games for their relative territories.  D3 Publisher of America’s first release would be NOW Production’s PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient, a spiritual sequel to the PlayStation release IQ: Intelligent Qube.  Before releasing EDF 2017, D3 Publisher also released WTF: Work Time Fun, a PSP mini-game collection developed by Sony of Japan.

The Earth Defense Force needs you!! Planet Earth is under attack from alien invaders, and the EDF is our only chance for survival. Grab your gun, join your squad and repel the attacking forces in this action-packed, arcade-style shooter. Though the odds may seem impossible, you are not alone. Fighting by your side are your AI controlled Earth Defense Force teammates. This crew of soldiers will fearlessly charge into battle and assist you throughout the game. Join-up with a friend in co-op mode and work together to battle your way through the alien swarms. Take control of battle tanks, armored mechs, attack helicopters and hover bikes to help complete your mission across more than 50 missions.
-Official PR
The game is all about shooting A LOT of huge enemies. Basically we throw literally hundreds of giant ants, spiders, robots, and UFOs at you at once and we give you over 150 guns to choose from and 4 vehicles. To me, it is reminiscent of some of the old arcade shooters like Smash TV and Total Carnage, but in a 3D environment, which changes the gameplay dramatically. You can also approach other EDF squads out on the battlefield and get them to follow you, which means even more firepower.
-Brian Etheridge, Producer, D3 Publisher of America

Earth Defense Force 2017 is a third person shooter in which players are members of the elite Storm Team of EDF, the Earth Defense Force.  In 2013, the world receives signals from outer space and creates the EDF in order to protect themselves from the oncoming aliens, provided they are evil.  In 2017, the Ravagers make their appearance on Earth, with UFOs over every city and a mothership above Tokyo.  It quickly becomes apparent that the Ravagers are hellbent on destroying the world, and it is up to the Earth Defense Force (Scout, Ranger, and Storm Teams) to vanquish the evil and save the world.

Players equip two out of over a hundred weapons to use against the Ravager forces before battle, and choosing the right pair of weapons is crucial to survival.  There are a total of seven weapon types, from machine guns to rocket launchers.  At the game’s start, the selection is scarce at best, but as Ravagers are destroyed, loot is dropped which can either boost maximum health or provide new weapons for equipping in future missions.  In order to improve the loot’s quality, players can go to the higher of five difficulty levels, ranging from fairly easy to extraordinarily difficult, but the gains can be worth the grind.  Sometimes, weapons are not enough to take out the Ravagers, which range from giant insects to massive mechanical warriors, and in such cases, there will be a multitude of vehicles to use for immediate destruction of the aliens (and buildings, too, most of the time).

The game can be played alone or with the help of a second player.  This makes for an improved cooperative experience killing all aliens in a city.  Even without a human companion, players can enlist their Storm squadron to help assist in the most destructive battles, provided they do not end up as grub for the multitude of insects abound!  The game has a total of 50 missions spanning several locations, and with a multitude of difficulty levels, replayability is high in EDF 2017!

While the game was not as content-dense as its predecessor, Earth Defense Force 2017 received a positive reaction from critics, and its success in America was enough for D3 Publisher to continue releasing games for the franchise.  However, Sandlot would not be available for producing a sequel immediately.  At the time, Sandlot had begun work with Nintendo on a Wii title: Zangeki no Reginleiv (The Slashing of Reginleiv).  Originally called Dynamic Slash, the game pits the player as angelic siblings Frøy and Freia who use their magical weaponry to destroy massive armies of giants.  Imagine Earth Defense Force and add a lot of Norse mythology and fewer buildings to get the idea.  Despite its usage of Wii MotionPlus and emphasis on online cooperative gameplay, the game never left Japan.  According to some insider stories, the game’s international release relied on the performance of Treasure’s Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, and when the game failed to reach a certain sales point, the translation project for Reginleiv was cut.

Without Sandlot available for an Earth Defense Force sequel, D3 Publisher turned to recently-acquired Vicious Cycle Software to produce it.  The end result would become Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon; the game took place at the same time as EDF 2017 but instead took place in New Detroit and put emphasis on multiple classes of soldiers and online multiplayer modes. 

Sandlot would return to continue the Earth Defense Force series after working on Reginleiv.  Sandlot and D3 Publisher released Earth Defense Force 2 Portable for the PlayStation Portable in Japan only, and the two are currently working to release Earth Defense Force 3 Portable for the PlayStation Vita.  Not only would this be a port of EDF 2017 to the PSVita, but it would also add on extra content such as the Palewing/jet-based class and other elements into the game.  While nothing has been heard about it for some time, Earth Defense Force 4 is also in process of being worked on according to the companies, but no information has been released since its announcement in 2011.

D3 Publisher of America has continued to publish smaller games on multiple platforms.  Outside of the aforementioned Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, D3 Publisher’s notable releases since include Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (also developed by Vicious Cycle Software), Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad and Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers for Xbox 360 and Wii (developed by Tamsoft), Dream Trigger 3D (developed by ART Co.), and White Knight Chronicles II (developed by Level-5).  D3 Publisher of America is prepping to release Ben 10: Omniverse and a game for Rise of the Guardians later this year for most current platforms.

We heard many good things about it, so we decided to take a look at Earth Defense Force 2017.  We thought we could play the game alone, but it became apparent that a two-player cooperative experience was to be had this time around!  In this recording, we venture into the first 12 missions the game has to offer, and we certainly are interested in continuing it if there is enough demand.  We do not play the harder difficulties, though the thought has crossed my mind as of late.

Earth Defense Force 2017 was a very fun game, despite its obvious flaws.  There are a number of graphical glitches here and there, and framerate dies often in the heat of battle.  The English voices are cheap and at times cheesy, but who is to say whether that is bad or good for this game?  The destruction that can be felt in this game is extraordinary; blowing up a whole city to kill a monster ant is more humorous than it should be.  The vast multitude of missions and difficulty levels and weapon choices made me see a depth not entirely expected from its starting point.  By the end of our recording, I was more than willing to consider looking for this game to keep.

As for the recording, things could have gotten smoother.  Particularly, the episode you see is actually the second run through the game.  We got about an hour into the game to find that the camera had not been turned on, leaving us to rerecord the episode.  This is similar to what happened in our Freddi Fish: Kelp Seed Mysteries episode, but the quality ended up high regardless of the issue at hand.  Commentary was solid through most of the episode, and in the end, we were happy with the results.

3RM Says: Aaah, I really hope I'm hitting something!
Aaaah, ants! Everywhere, ants!

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