Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable review for PS Vita

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Publisher: D3Publisher
Developer: Sandlot Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Taken objectively, Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable isn’t that good. The graphics are kind of lousy; when you fire a rocket at a building, it shatters and disappears rather than crumbles. Everything moves in a really weird way; giant spiders (not to mention your fellow Earth Defense Force squadmates) hop straight up and down, rather than jumping in any kind of normal spider/human way. The dialogue is atrocious; apart from brief intros for each mission explaining what the scenario is — all of which essentially boil down to “shoot all the giant bugs and/or robots” — you’ll hear the same five or six phrases over and over again (examples: “Ahhh!”; “I’m out of ammo, cover me!”; “They’re too big!”; and, most importantly, “EDF! EDF! EDF!). And, of course, the plot is ripped straight out of a B-movie from the ’50s; as part of the EDF, it’s your job to protect the earth from an invasion by giant bugs and robots (and, in a few cases, what appear to be dragons).

Of course, anyone expecting EDF 2017 Portable to be a GOTY candidate is missing the point entirely. Much like those movies from the ’50s — and much like previous EDF console games, for that matter — EDF 2017 Portable is kind of terrible, but also secretly pretty awesome. As was the case with, say, Them! (or any of its dozens of cheaply-made, quickly-produced imitators), it’s only possible to get into EDF if you let go of silly notions like “great graphics” or “coherent plot”, and immerse yourself in the craziness.

edf 2017

Or, to put it more succinctly: if you read that first paragraph and immediately thought “Shattering buildings, jumping giant spiders and fending off a robot/insect alliance from outer space?! Heck yes!” then you need to play this game immediately. Alternatively, if you played previous EDF games on consoles and couldn’t get enough of them, then all you need to know is that the Vita version of more of the same.

For those people who haven’t previously experienced EDF, you should know in advance that you’ll need to really love the idea of blasting giant bugs/robots/spaceships/dragons, because that’s literally all you do for the whole game. There’s a few variations thrown in here and there — some levels are underground, you get to pick and choose from over 400 weapons, you can occasionally hop in a vehicle, and if you want a little more randomness you can hop online for some multiplayer action — but the core gameplay never changes from mission to mission (and I say that as someone who loves the game).

edf 2017_2

Repetitiveness, though, isn’t the game’s problem. Nor are the iffy graphics (they’re a feature, not a bug, no pun intended) or occasional glitches, like the camera’s habit of randomly inverting itself every so often so that all you can see is a worm’s eye-view of your characters (probably less of a feature, but still play into the game’s charm). No, Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable’s biggest problem is its price. $40 for a digital release seems like a somewhat steep price for a game that launched at the same price on the Xbox 360 six years ago. Even taking into account the addition of online multiplayer (which, admittedly, works pretty well), it’s hard to understand how the series goes from being a budget-priced console release to a full-priced handheld game.

All that said, I got a lot of enjoyment out of the EDF 2017 Portable. What’s more, I expect to continue to get lots of enjoyment out of it into the future. From that point of view, it’s hard to argue that the game isn’t worthwhile. So if you don’t mind paying a slightly steep premium to get some building-destroying, bug-blasting fun on your handheld, then take the plunge and download this game immediately.

Grade: A-