I had three passions growing up: games, movies, and really bad movies. I’d come home from school, spend a few hours exploring Final Fantasy VI or slicing through Knights of the Round, head out with some friends to see The Rock or Independence Day, and then come home and nod off to a Mystery Science Theater riffing of The Creeping Terror or The Beginning of the End (with a little homework squeezed in somewhere, sometimes, maybe).
Primitive and cheesy as they usually were, those old movies had a certain… gumption to them, a sort of earnest overconfidence you couldn’t help but smile at.
The 16-bit console wars were in full swing back then, and while I loved all the advances games had made since the old-old days, I imagined what games might look like ten or twenty years down the road. As fun as it could be to hurl buildings in King of the Monsters, I wanted a game that could show you how huge the monsters really were. As much as I loved blasting my way through Contra III, I imagined a game where that one soldier had a whole army backing him up, and where he had the freedom to explore the battlefield with whatever guns and vehicles he wanted.
And then along came Earth Defense Force.
Not to be confused with the old-school scrolling shooter of the same name, the Earth Defense Force series casts the player as a heroic soldier, part of the eponymous military outfit, out to stop a horde of alien invaders. Yeah, the story’s just about as old as gaming itself, but these games aren’t about story. They’re about joy.
If you’ve ever dreamed of flying up in a jetpack to land that perfect shot on the alien mothership right before it fires its main cannon, or calling down a full-scale airstrike to destroy an onrushing swarm of ten-foot bugs, or charging into single combat against a giant fire-breathing kaiju beast, this is the series for you.
Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space on PS Vita, an enhanced re-release of the original Earth Defense Force 2, plays out the whole scenario as a classic B-movie, with flying saucers, warbling synth sound effects, and just a hint of cheese. (Speaking as one of the guys who supervised the voiceover recordings, there’s nothing quite like seeing a respected, professional actor deliver the line, “My God, it’s the ultimate Buggernaut!”) If you happen to enjoy the sci-fi matinées of old, no other game out there captures their spirit more fondly.
Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair for PS4 is an expanded, polished remake of Earth Defense Force 2025. Taking several steps beyond its B-movie roots, 4.1 has more of a Pacific Rim/Starship Troopers vibe, with full platoons of human soldiers throwing everything they have (and then some) at all kinds of aliens, starships, and robots, all presented with top-notch production values and tons and tons and megatons of explosions.
You’ll fight alongside your fellow troops and tanks through collapsing cities and burning battlefields, pilot all kinds of vehicles, stop in the middle of combat to lead your men in an impromptu musical number (if you feel like it; your men follow your commands, and “dance” and “sing” are perfectly valid commands), and of course, buckle up inside a giant robot and punch out an alien dinosaur. 4.1 enhances the framerate of Earth Defense Force 2025, adds new features, missions and weapons, and remixes many of the old ones.
Both games offer more than 500 different weapons and vehicles, with almost 100 different battle scenarios each and five (Or more?) difficulties to tackle however you see fit. You can bolster your favorite soldier class by finding new weapons and armor, take that soldier online to level up with friends on tougher versions of your favorite missions, and then bring back the loot from those missions to level up some more back home.
4.1 also has a two-player split-screen mode (both versus and co-op) for offline multiplayer, while EDF 2 has an online “Rumble Mode” where up to four players can each bring their best soldier into a showdown.
These are games I wished for way back when, and not only do I get to play them now, but I’ve had the honor of helping to bring them to you guys!
What games do you wish for?