It’s not unusual for a console to receive ports of other games early in its life cycle. What makes Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable unique is which system it came from; what started off as 2007 Xbox 360 exclusive has migrated, in 2013, to Sony’s flagship handheld: the PlayStation Vita. Bringing with it a completely new character, new weapons, and ad-hoc multiplayer, EDF 2017 Portable is a mixed bag of content. This is by far one of the most unpolished, buggy, and poor looking games on the PlayStation Vita, yet at the same time, there’s no other experience like this on the market. Despite all of its bugs (pun most definitely intended), EDF 2017 Portable can be a fun, enjoyable experience. Sometimes.
As far as story goes, there’s a loose plot connected by intermittent cutscenes narrated by a cheesy and over-the-top narrator who details the impending outer space menace. Full of cheap lines, non-sensical plot twists, and abysmally annoying character voices, the narration makes you want to skip the cutscenes and get back to the gameplay as quickly as possible. Whether or not you find that gameplay enjoyable depends on how tolerant of the bugs you are. Both in story content and game design, bugs are a central part of EDF. Across its 60 levels, you’ll encounter numerous varieties of ants, spiders, mechs, spaceships, and giant dinosaur robots, and for the most part, it’ll feel like you’re shooting at paper maché models. Enemies crumple and die after only seconds, and their corpses litter the battlefield for far too long, preventing you from destroying the enemies behind them. At times like this, you’ll shake your head at what an unsatisfying mess the game is…and shake your head even harder when you realize you’re having fun, despite it.
This isn’t a great looking game. Environments feel barren and enemies look hobbled together and blocky. You’ll find yourself aimlessly running across each level for minutes at a time just to reach the next group of enemies, and it’s times like this where EDF becomes an exercise in monotony and tedium. Levels are unnecessarily large, and enemy spawns and groupings are ridiculously spread out. The pacing of the game fails in many places. Some missions will take as little as 1-2 minutes to complete, and others can take upwards of 20 as you spend 75% of your time running across the levels just to find an enemy.
Animations and character models continually break in ways that can only be described as unnatural and amateur. The game feels low-budget and cheaply thrown together. The menu system is convoluted and unnecessarily complicated. As far as Vita specific features, the game adds some extra content to make this the better of the two packages, but the most intriguing part of the content, the new character, isn’t unlocked until you complete the game. It’s an unnecessary restriction designed to keep players playing for longer. EDF does offer a wide amount of content to the player, and fans of this game will be sure to stick around and play this for a while. With both local and online co-op, teaming up with friends makes this game more enjoyable than the lonesome and solitary experience of shooting all of these enemies on your own.
The controls are functional, but they can feel clumsy during hectic firefights. The lack of rumble on the handheld version is compensated through a screen shake when your player is hit, but this quickly becomes annoying and frustrating. There were plenty of times where the screen shaking made it impossible to aim. Many of the in-game cutscenes put your character in extreme danger by allowing enemies to still attack you while you are unable to defend yourself.
Levels can become extremely frustrating if you choose to bring the wrong weapons. When you choose an assault rifle and a shotgun, it becomes almost impossible to hit the spaceships that fly overhead. You can waste dozens of minutes trying to complete a level with the wrong set of weapons. The way you acquire weapons implements a unique risk-reward system: you pick up new weapons from enemy drops, but in order to grab them, you’ll have to put yourself into danger. Weapon drops are randomized, making it hard to judge whether it’s worth risking your life in order to acquire whatever weapon might be waiting for you.
Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable is an interesting game. It’s one of the worst put-together games I have played in a long time, but there were plenty of times where I was genuinely enjoying the game despite all of its issues. It’s a bug-filled mess that often frustrates more than it pleases – but those moments of pleasure somehow make the game worth coming back to. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you’re looking for something unique, the game’s cheesy atmosphere and simple concept provide something that few other games do these days: mindless fun with little need for an explanation. Despite it’s frequently poor presentation, it still manages to deliver small bursts of enjoyment. For the right price, this might be something you want to check out – just be prepared to deal with bugs. Lots of bugs.