(Wii Virtual Console / Super Nintendo)

Super E.D.F. Earth Defense Force (Wii Virtual Console / Super Nintendo)

Game Review

Super E.D.F. Earth Defense Force Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

Emergency on planet earth

Back in the 16-bit wars, the SNES was unquestionably the comfortable winner when it came to RPGs. Sega’s Mega Drive (or Genesis, depending on where in the world you’re reading this) was completely and utterly outclassed in this area, despite the presence of brilliant titles such as Shining Force, LandStalker and Light Crusader. It’s one of those debates that really isn’t worth indulging in – the SNES was the champ, and that’s all there is to it.

However, when it came to arcade shooters, the opposite was true. The SNES may have contained advanced hardware and those famous Mode-7 sprite scaling and rotation capabilities, but it was also lumbered with a slower CPU than Sega’s machine. As a result, the Mega Drive was a hotbed of quality blast-processing action, with a seemingly endless production line of must-have shooter product – Hellfire, Zero Wing, Thunder Force IV, Gynoug, Steel Empire, Truxton, MUSHA Aleste…the list goes on. The SNES, by comparison, had very few notable shooter titles – Axelay, UN Squadron and Macross: Scambled Valkyrie are excellent, but they’re members of a very small club.

Despite the SNES’ lack of suitability for this kind of shrapnel-heavy caper, there were a few brave developers with enough gumption to at least attempt to give long-suffering Nintendo fans a bit of decent shooter entertainment. Super Earth Defence Force (sadly not part of the PS2/Xbox 360 3D bug-blasting series of the same name) was Jaleco’s effort, and despite being critically mauled at the time, it’s actually not that bad of a game.

Back in the day, reviewers were especially unkind about the rather generic nature of Super EDF’s gameplay, and unfavourable comparisons were made with Technosoft’s superlative Thunder Force titles for the Mega Drive. While it’s true that Super EDF does bear more than a passing resemblance to those famous blasters, it still has enough ideas of its own to stand out from the crowd.

In fact, in many respects Super EDF is something of a maverick. For starters, you’re not given lives. Instead, your craft has shields, which are knocked out whenever you sustain a direct hit. When your shield stock is entirely depleted, you have to use one of your limited stock of continues to keep the fight going. Skillful players can replenish their shields over time. This system removes the "stop-start" nature of many arcade blasters, where losing a life pushes you back to the last checkpoint and ultimately interrupts the flow of the game. Some purists prefer it that way, but personally we like titles that don’t force you to re-play entire sections just because of one momentary lapse of concentration.

The second interesting thing about Super EDF is the weapons system. Before you start a game you’re given the choice of a staggering eight different weapon load-ups. To be honest, the homing laser is the best of the bunch by a country mile, but the other choices do at least allow you to experiment and find one that suits your style of play.

In a move that foreshadows the likes of Treasure’s near-legendary Radiant Silvergun, you don’t collect power-ups to increase your weapon strength. Instead, successfully clearing waves of enemies boosts your power bar, and filling it entirely allows you to advance a level – just as you would in a standard RPG. The level is retained even when you’re forced to use a continue, and this lends the game a real sense of progression; you have more reason to keep on playing if you know that when you restart, your armament is going to remain at the same level of power. What’s more, leveling-up affects the behaviour of your two drone craft, which hover around your ship providing both firepower support and defence. The positioning of these external craft influences the direction and power of your shots, making them an incredibly potent tool – although possibly not quite as potent as R-Type’s famous "Force" orb.

These concepts are genuinely interesting, and help Super EDF to standout from the deluge of other shooters that were released during the early ‘90s. The action is also surprisingly busy, considering the SNES’ aforementioned sluggish CPU. The screen is often completely awash with enemies and their deadly projectiles, although it should be noted that the developers have decided not to include much in the way of on-screen environmental hazards – as a result, the screen feels a little empty at times, like a void filled entirely with ships and bullets.

Visually, Super EDF isn’t in the same league as the luminaries of the genre, but it’s not ugly either. Scaling effects are used well in certain levels, such as the space colony which starts off way in the distance and then glides elegantly up to the player as the level progresses. These graphical tricks do much to make up for the otherwise bland presentation; you’ll also find some pleasingly large end-of-level bosses, too.

For all of its positive points, Super EDF is afflicted with random bouts of terminally dull gameplay. The opening level in particular is painfully boring, and is probably the reason why so many people have such a negative impression of the game – it’s easy to see why gamers of the ‘90s, spoiled with the amazing shooter titles on the Mega Drive, would turn their noses up at this based purely on the first stage. Lamentably for Super EDF, it doesn’t really hit its stride until much later on. Although you could argue that its reputation is unwarranted, the almost pedestrian nature of the opening levels is unforgivable.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Super EDF isn’t a bad shooter. In fact, by SNES standards, it’s one of the better ones available. Granted, it pales in comparison to the best the Mega Drive has to offer, but that doesn’t make it a complete write-off; there are some really interesting ideas here – especially the RPG-style weapon level-up system – which have gone on to feature to more famous and critically-lauded titles. We certainly wouldn’t recommend that you pick Super EDF over more worthy examples of the genre, but by the same token it would be unfair to ignore it entirely.

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User Comments (38)

WanderFan91

#1

WanderFan91 said:

Nice review, Damo, a 6 seems about right (even though I still like it a lot). I do agree that it's not a bad game, and I do concur that the homing weapon is the best weapon out of the eight that you can choose from. I do like how you could level up after shooting a certain amount of enemies. Plus, the "wing men" were really useful, especially when you reach the level cap [5]. The thing that startles me about this review is that you neglected to talk about the game's music (this is one of the few video game reviews I've read from the site that did this), which I thought was the best aspect of the game.
This was one of the first games I played in the genre. :)

JamieOStaff

#2

JamieO said:

I'm still chucklin' at the intro about the SNES being king of 16-bit RPGs, ha ha, "It’s one of those debates that really isn’t worth indulging in." Fair play to the Mega Drive, its shmups properly rocked, I remember reading about the shortcomings of the SNES's CPU in the magazines back in the day.

Levelling up to be able to unleash more powerful drones around your ship, and being able to continue with your upgraded craft, sounds like a decent gameplay addition. I'm tempted to buy a cart of this one if I see it going cheap, @Starboy91 recommended it to me back in the UN Squadron review's comments, but I've not found a nice boxed/instructions Japanese version of it yet. It's good to know that it is innovative, but there are also some boring gameplay elements, before shedding out for it.

Isn't it marvellous that almost twenty years on I can afford both a Mega Drive and a SNES! It means that I no longer have to miss on the genres which played to each of the 16-bit system's strengths. Thanks for the extra heads-up on this one, Damo.

SwerdMurd

#3

SwerdMurd said:

Lol I own this game--got it for 99 cents. Not sure why the "worse than anything the Genesis has to offer" comment is there, as I felt between the two, SNES still had more to offer in the genre...granted, PC-Engine was the way to go for those needs (or straight to Arcade), but Thunder Force 4 and maybe MUSHA (depending on what day of the week it is) were the only two notable ones in that list imo...

Good review regardless--an average game I like simply cause it was so cheap!

Zero Wing and Truxton are both just terrible, though. Please remove them from print and hopefully from memory ;)

JamieOStaff

#4

JamieO said:

@Swerd_Murd Ha ha, it just shows how we all have our favourite, and not so favourite, retro games... I absolutely love Truxton! My nostalgia for that game is massive. I felt like I had a chunky sprite and laser spewing arcade machine in my Mega Drive when I first played it.

You are right about the PC Engine mate, it has a cracking reputation for shmups.

WanderFan91

#5

WanderFan91 said:

I do agree about the PC-Engine having great shmups (Gate of Thunder, Super Star Soldier); as well as great cute'em ups (Star Parodier, Detana!! TwinBee) [all them I played on VC].

WanderFan91

#7

WanderFan91 said:

@vonseux - y'know, I haven't played Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium in awhile (not that I got very far, because I wasn't used to equipping my characters back then). I should play it again sometime.
@Damo - as for Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole, eh, I think it's okay; but, to each his own.

MayhemStaff

#9

Mayhem said:

There is also Super Aleste (aka Space Megaforce) on the SNES too...

WanderFan91

#10

WanderFan91 said:

@Mayhem - oh, yeah, I've been interested in that game. Apparently, from what I've looked up, there is absolutely no slowdown in that game no matter how many enemies and/or objects appear onscreen (I'd say the same for Mr. Nutz on the SNES [which I've played], but it's a platformer, not a shmup).

CorbsAdmin

#13

Corbs said:

The PC Engine was the shmup king, but the Mega Drive and SNES had some nice stuff as well. Axelay along makes the SNES worth the nod and the Thunder Force series was really great on the Mega Drive as well. Great review Damo!

BulbasaurusRex

#14

BulbasaurusRex said:

@14 That's a good thing in my opinion. This genre is usually too hard for me. I may eventually make this my first VC shmup after it comes to North America.

CorbsAdmin

#16

Corbs said:

LOL, I was just playing Gaiares last night. Still a fun one.

kurtasbestos

#17

kurtasbestos said:

Wow, I guess I never really thought about it before... but I owned and/or played a LOT of shooters on my Genesis, and owned and/or played a lot of RPGs on my SNES. Then again, I also had a lot of RPGs on my Genesis, too. But I guess I did kind of think of my collection for both as focusing on different kinds of games.

outrun2sp

#19

outrun2sp said:

Pc Engine was undoubtably the shoot em up king

Best home conversion of Gradius 2 by the same team that did dracula x
Star Parodier
Star Soldier series
R type better then the arcade
Gate and Lord of thunder games by red
Near arcade perfect versions of the important Namco Shooters.

Landstalker on genesis to me is the zelda 3 killer.

BlueBandanaJake

#20

BlueBandanaJake said:

Im surprised no one's mentioned Gradius 3 and R-Type 3, those were some of the best of their series and they were on the SNES (were they on the Mega Drive too?).

Anyways, nice review, I'll have to give this one a go, the system intrigues me (and I love shmups).

Uncle_Rick

#21

Uncle_Rick said:

I rented this one. I still remember one of the later levels using Mode 7 to great effect. You were in orbit above a planet, and as you pregressed, the planet slowly grew and rotated, until you broke the atmosphere. It was breathtaking at that time---but I'm not sure it'd be impressive today. (I haven't played the game in over 15 years!)

DamoAdmin

#22

Damo said:

Starboy - thanks for the feedback. To be honest, the music didn't make much of an impression on me, and I certainly don't think it's as catchy as the tracks in say, Axelay.

Swerd - Zero Wing and Truxton are wonderful shooters. Not sure why anyone would think otherwise. Toaplan were masters of the genre.

GEOFF

#24

GEOFF said:

The Megadrive had better shooters than the SNES, yeah keep drinking the Bundaberg rum. Axelay, Super R-type, R-type III, UN Squadron, Super Aleste, Smash TV, Pop n' Twin Bee, Parodius and it's sequels.
The Megadrives best shooter is Hellfire.
The PC Engine including CD games tops the SNES for shooters.

GEOFF

#25

GEOFF said:

Special mention for Super Aleste given that Nintendo gave the SNES such a slow CPU. That game is the greatest programming feat on the SNES. I still can' t believe it and was sure they put a CPU chip on the catridge but they didn't.

CanisWolfred

#26

CanisWolfred said:

@GEOFF

Luckily the Genesis had better games than the Mega Drive. Loads of great Shooters by Taoplan, Compile, Technosoft, and more, all in 60 Hz.:D Definitely beats the majority of SNES shmups, though Axelay and UN Squadron are definitely up there.

PSICOffee

#27

PSICOffee said:

So many of these on the SNES. I'll stick with Star Fox, UN Squadron, and Aerofighters thanks.

WanderFan91

#28

WanderFan91 said:

@BlueBandanaJake - nope, neither Gradius III nor R-Type III: The Third Lightning were ever ported to the MegaDrive console. I have played them both, and I think they're quite fun, though I have yet to beat them. The latter is my favorite of the two (I could only get up to the third stage boss), and I think I got pretty far in the SNES version of Gradius III (the arcade original which I've played on Gradius Collection for the PSP, on the other hand, was very difficult in comparison).
@Damo - well, to each his own, though I do see where you're coming from. Axelay does have a rockin' soundtrack, and I do enjoy listening to its music; the main gripe I have in that aspect is that Konami didn't leave a sound test in the options menu. I do find it interesting how in Axelay you could decide how bright or dark you want the game to be in the options menu. I've more fondness for Super Earth Defense Force, though I think Axelay's fun (and, admittedly, better), too. It might just be me, but I think the latter is easier in comparison: in the former I could only beat the fourth stage boss halfway; while in Axelay I always manage to get to final stage, only to lose all my lives (up) to the final boss (I'm still on Easy mode). I'll beat it someday, for I will persevere.

DamoAdmin

#29

Damo said:

For those who seem to be labouring under the delusion that the SNES has better shooters than the Mega Drive/Genesis - show me a game on Nintendo's machine that is as challenging, hectic and downright fun as Thunder Force IV. Nuff said. ;)

I never said the SNES didn't have any decent shooters, I'm saying that in terms of volume (and quality), Sega's console was superior.

WanderFan91

#30

WanderFan91 said:

I do remember one of the last stages in Gunstar Heroes being a fun take on the shmup genre. :)

WanderFan91

#32

WanderFan91 said:

@Damo - see, now that is why I think the homing laser is the best combo in Gunstar Heroes! :D Just wish that game did not have an ending that felt so abrupt ["What happens next?"], 'cause it was so much fun. :(

CanisWolfred

#33

CanisWolfred said:

BTW, thank you starboy for recommending this game to me. I quite enjoyed it. I had it for a while, because I thought it was related to a series of PS2 and Xbox 360 games, but then figured it would be too "rough around the edges" so I never thought to bother playing it. Now I kinda wish I had started it up sooner.

Wolfenstein83

#38

Wolfenstein83 said:

I play alot of shooters, and this one was okay, but no great.
The graphics are decent enough, but the main thing about it is, it can be really difficult, especially if you have a hard time trying to master one of the many types of weapons to choose from.
The cool thing though is that you can at least level up your weapons.
There was some slow-down, but that was only when there were hordes of enemies on screen.
I dunno, I would say it's good enough to own, but there are plenty of better shooters out there.
Cool boss designs, plenty of challenge, I guess you better get your rear in gear and save the Earth!

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