Sometimes, you can imagine Earth Defense Force as an alternate universe sequel to Will Wright’s SimAnt. Unbeknownst to Will Wright, a rogue coder planted a nuclear radiation button into the virtual ant colony simulation, and bam: Instant giant-ant invasion.
Well, it’s better than the actual EDF story anyway.
EDF is a child of ’50s science fiction, kooky modern sci-fi, and homage to any and all b-movies that came before it. It’s unabashedly Japanese with a heart made of insect venom, extracted from thousands of dead-insect corpses scattered around what was once Tokyo.
Players take a third-person approach to the action, a low camera angle selling the mammoth size of insects, robots, motherships, totally-not-Godzilla-but-still-totally-Godzilla monsters, UFOs, and whatever else the hardware is capable of processing en masse. A port of the Xbox 360/PS3 edition that charmed its way into a cult following, almost none of the scale is lost to screen of the Vita. With sharpness generated from native resolution visuals and surprisingly few technical trims, EDF 2017 ports unscathed.
The kicker on the Vita is obvious: Online play absent from the home console. EDF is a mega-challenge on an infamous Inferno difficulty that is impassable without leveling. Enter online co-op and the game suddenly becomes feasible with the community in tow, four at a time. Maps lose none of their scale or weight. Levels are translated exactly from their Xbox 360 counterparts, meaning sprawling metropolis, landscapes, or more. With four people, the size of these stage designs make sense, different tactics approachable to conquer an almost invincible horde. With levels trim on length, the whole experience translates into a potable frame naturally.
A slapped together versus mode (with plentiful balancing options) is offered too, with barren lobbies likely because EDF isn’t conducive to anything other than bug melees. The game is cheap, sloppy, and often broken which adds to the inherent charm. Much like the followers of dud films with no technical merit, video games have been given their equivalent.
What’s the draw then? Grinding out a militaristic existence, wiping out more of the city than the invaders with errant rocket launcher shots, the hilarious dialogue, and Dynasty Warriors-esque devastation. Firing a missile into a nest of web-shooting spiders only to watch their limp bodies ascend into the skyline is pure bliss. Stupid, but bliss.
EDF does not have the finer things in life like physics, logic, or a brain. Publisher D3 tried some of those with a console sequel Insect Armageddon with a more American mindset, and the failure – despite some thrills – was immediate. EDF 2017 feels like an accident, a product of sheer programming will. Polish it and you’re missing the point. Most simply want to level their weapon locker (with weapon selections numbering in the 100s), beef up their armor, and blast aliens that happen to look a lot like Earth creatures.
Bear in mind that despite being a shockingly sharp port, there are handheld caveats. Analog sticks are far too loose, touch screen controls (which should be set to “off”) are needless, and the new additions do not make for an instant purchase amongst fans. A few new weapons and a female soldier are not quite up to a $40 purchase if you’ve already punched through another version. Note that D3 apparently did not have faith in the title, so a retail edition was canceled. This is a digital marketplace exclusive. Boo to you D3, but cheers toward expanding the fanbase of this gem.
Earth Defense Force 2017 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Animated Blood, Mild Language, Violence . This game can also be found on: Xbox 360, PS3.