Its certainly no secret that the 16-bit era of gaming was a great time to be a shoot em' up fan. Not only were there a large number of titles released, there were also some of the best the genre ever had to offer on display. While the Sega Mega Drive and NEC PC Engine were the definitive hot spots to get your shooter fix, the Super Nintendo managed to produce at least a decent number of titles during its lifespan. Jaleco's Super E.D.F. Earth Defense Force represents one of those releases, and truth be told, the game did bring a fair number of very unique gameplay elements to the table. But are those twists enough to stand the test of time on a Wii U Virtual Console release three full decades after the game's initial release?
Super E.D.F. doesn't try to set the world on fire with any kind of page-turning storyline, instead choosing to stick with the cliche "Earth is about to be invaded by aliens and it's up to you and your cutting edge spaceship to stop them." You're given 8 different types of weapon fire at the opening selection screen, each graded based on shot power and shot speed. Once you're tossed into the level you'll have the basic fire button capabilities, along with the ability to change the formation of your two satellites that can hug and hover around your ship. These pods are especially useful as they not only spread our your firepower, but can also deflect enemy bullets. As per most shoot em' ups, you'll make your way through each level and square off with a boss at the end of each level.
One thing that makes Super E.D.F. so unique is the way the game allows you to level up your ship as you play through each level. As you take out enemy fighters and rack up points, you'll slowly fill your level gauge. Leveling up not only makes your shots more powerful, but will also earn you more shield points (your ship's lifeforce) and even two new formations for your satellite pods. These gained levels and new formations can also be carried over even after using your continues. This feature ultimately makes the repetition factor of playing the game at least feel worth it in order to make use the the RPG-like elements the game puts forth.
The play control itself is fairly smooth, especially given the ability to speed up and slow down the movement of your ship. The main problem with E.D.F. seems to be the more minor elements of the gameplay package. The hit detection can be streaky, many times leaving you thinking you came out of an enemy skirmish unscathed only to see shield points missing. Another annoyance is the boss encounters. While the levels themselves can become very intense at times, the boss battles come off very uninspired from not only a difficulty standpoint, but also the rather lackluster bullet attack patterns the game tosses your way. With so many innovative gameplay mechanics it would have been nice to see the developer spend a bit more time tightening up the core play control system itself.
There's certainly not much wow factor found in the visuals of each level. There are some nice moments strung randomly throughout each level, but for the most part expect a fairly bland set of backdrops along with a hefty dose of parallax scrolling tossed in for good measure. Even bosses tend to be almost static in their animations and certainly not any type of real payoff for blasting your way through some of the many challenging situations you'll endure during each level in order to reach them. Of course the same can be pretty much said of the audio production as it's all very standard soft tempo musical fare that seems to do very little, if nothing, to carry the intensity the game constantly attempts to exude.
Super E.D.F. is not a truly bad game, it just never seems to reach beyond its overly mediocre gameplay system and uninspiring presentation. Shoot em' up purists might get a kick out of the game's unique play control additions, but most shooter fans who are used to experiencing the more top shelf shoot em' ups of the era are likely to find Super E.D.F. far too flawed to ever get the level of enjoyment needed to warrant the purchase price. Unless your just one of those fans of the genre that has to own as title that sees a Virtual Console release, it might be a good idea to save your money on this one.