Here’s a little known fact: Earth Defense Force 2017 was the first game to ever be reviewed on MTV Multiplayer back in 2007. Prior to that, the giant alien bug and robot hunting franchise was a delight that was reserved only for Japanese gamers. Since then, the EDF have only graced consoles one other time, for 2011’s Insect Armageddon, which brought some good (and bad) changes to the franchise along with a new developer, Vicious Cycle. Fortunately, fans that were won over by the original EDF 2017 release now have a chance to relive their original battle with the space invaders, and do it anywhere they want to. Sandlot and D3 Publisher have re-released their original Xbox 360 exclusive epic for the PlayStation Vita, making Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable one of the best ways to fight giant monsters on a tiny screen.
Since EDF 2017 Portable is a fairly faithful rerelease, not a lot has changed – the aliens are still invading, and the EDF is the human’s last line of defense against the giant creatures. The humans have a wide arsenal of weapons at their disposal (each of which are unlocked as they are collected in battle), from sniper riffles to personal missiles launchers, that they can use to lay waste to the giant insects, walking robots, and the ships that they all rode in on. In terms of gameplay, it’s as basic of a game as they come, shoot everything that moves, and stay alive as long as possible; and that’s always what has made the EDF games so enjoyable.
The 2017 Portable re-release isn’t a straight port, and it adds in some additional bits of content. First and foremost, completing the game on any difficulty level will net you the fan favorite, jet pack-powered, Pale Wing – one of the female EDF fighters from the early Japanese releases on the PlayStation 2. In additional to Pale Wing, there are a handful of new weapons, and a couple of new levels that should provide at least a little bit of incentive to anyone that already owns the game on the Xbox 360 to reinvest in another version of the game.
Earth Defense Force 2017 was an extremely enjoyable title, however, it was missing a few features, namely online multiplayer. Fortunately, this is one option that 2017 Portable is not lacking in – Sandlot included both local and online co-op and competitive multiplayer as part of this portable package. Connecting to matches over the PlayStation Network is a breeze, and while they include some wacky options (like limiting the weapon levels), it’s a lot of fun to take down wave after wave of invaders with other humans … kind of like your own IRL EDF.
While the Vita adds in some much-needed multiplayer, one thing that fans of the original might stumble on is the new controls. 2017 Portable includes a default setting that evokes the original control scheme, but makes the addition of touchscreen functionality. Both the front and rear screens are used on the Vita to account for some of the missing buttons, offering quick-turn options, should you need them. While some players may likely find that functionality wholly unnecessary, one unavoidable controller hurdle is the right analog stick, otherwise known as the stick that aims.
Given that the Vita has a smaller stature when compared to, say, the Xbox 360 controller, it becomes a lot more sensitive when used for a game like this. In other words, precision aiming takes some getting used to. While the EDF games don’t traditionally rely on hitting a specific target, with their general reliance on ridiculous firepower, it isn’t completely unheard of in certain missions. The stick’s sensitivity causes additional issues when trying to aim at enemies a great distance away. Not all of the weapons include a scope, and it may take multiple shots to take down that ant ten blocks away. Fortunately, this issue dissipates the more you play the game, and by the ninth or tenth mission players should be clearing levels with ease.
The original EDF 2017 is far from being classified as a “great” game – it’s a budget title, and it shows. However, while it may not be polished by AAA title standards, it sure is a lot of fun, and the same can be said about 2017 Portable. While there are a couple of small bumps in the road, this port retains the same mindless fun as its big screen brother, and comes with the important inclusion of online multiplayer. 2017 Portable is a solid addition to the Vita’s tiny library and a great way to fill up some space on your memory card. While the price might be a bit steep, if you think having countless hours upon hours of pick up and play alien hunting at your fingertips will pay off in the long run, it might be worth the investment to save the Earth again.