Sometimes, you just wanna blow stuff up. Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space knows that, providing action gameplay that pretty much consists of… well, blowing stuff up, of course. As a part of the budget-price Simple line in its native Japan, the Earth Defense Force series borrows its aesthetic from the old-school monster movies of yore, bringing a payload of cheesy dialogue and over-the-top kaiju action that’s helped the games achieve a cult following in the West. If you’re in the mood for some intentionally schlocky urban destruction, this ought to scratch that niche itch.
Earth Defense Force 2 may be all about blowing stuff up, but it’s not totally one-note; at the very least, it gives you some choices on how to blow stuff up and some variety in the things you’re blowing up… though not as much as you’d hope from a modern-day game. Your primary objective in each mission is to obliterate what hideous creature is currently ravaging the area, with the bestiary running the gamut from the series’ infamous giant insects (“I thought we destroyed them all!” moans the commander in the first mission, a sentiment he shares with his future counterpart in PS4’s Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair; I guess this poor guy never stops being surprised about it) to giant Toho-esque monsters and mechas the size of skyscrapers.
There are a couple of different classes to choose from, with Infantry being the basic damage-dealing class and the Pale Wings and Air Raiders being the trickier, more support-oriented roles that seem better suited for multiplayer. Among these classes, you’ve also got a bit of opportunity for customization in the form of weapons that are randomly dropped from fallen creatures and armor pick-ups that can increase your maximum health. But to be perfectly honest, none of this really matters. The weaponry you collect is often only incrementally better than your current loadout, and there’s no way to tell what exactly you’re picking up until the mission is over. The game really is just about blowing stuff up, and that’s about as complex as things get.
It’s interesting to compare this portable iteration with the simultaneous PS4 release of Earth Defense Force 4.1: Shadow of New Despair because, amazingly, there are actually a few things that seem a bit better in this one. For one thing, you’ve got no restrictions on the buildings you can destroy; while your rockets will explode harmlessly against some of 4.1’s skyscrapers, everything is fair game here. One of the most viscerally satisfying things you can do is fire your rocket launcher at a massive building from a great distance away, then watch as the windows blow out and the whole thing comes crumbling to the ground. Sure, it’s a little twisted to reduce the cities you’re supposed to be saving to rubble, but those citizens are pretty annoying anyway.
Which actually brings us to the second way Earth Defense Force’s Vita version outdoes its PS4 counterpart: with much better sound design. The high-def game suffers from some serious issues with its mixing, which makes the screaming citizens almost unbearable to listen to. That’s not present here, so you’re much more able to focus on the humorous dialogue of your commanding officer and others communicating via the radio.
But perhaps the most inexplicable way the Vita game seems to be a better experience is in its multiplayer selection. On PS4, your choices are online/local co-op or local-only 2-player versus mode. Here, you can play either mode online, and unlike the PS4’s incomprehensible restriction — which saves your progress separately for single-player and multiplayer campaigns — you can feel free to tackle some stages solo, then pop into multiplayer when you’re struggling or just want a friend to tag along.
The one thing Earth Defense Force 2 doesn’t have on the next-gen 4.1 is high-definition graphics, but that’s not saying much — this series is pretty damn hideous whether or not it’s in HD. This is a muddy, murky game that garnered some eyerolls in the PS2 era for its simple models and awkward animation, and not much has changed in the transition to a portable system. The music’s nothing to write home about either, sounding like a rather stock “military” soundtrack.
Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space already knows its audience, and it’s unlikely to bring on anyone that doesn’t enjoy the intentional idiocy of made-for-TV monster movies. If you’re all in on the idea of blowing giant insects to high heaven, you’ll probably enjoy this version about as much as any other that’s available — though this one has some odd advantages over the chronologically-later PS4 iteration that might help you have a better time.
This review is based on the PlayStation Vita version of the game, which we were provided with.
If you just want to blow stuff up, Earth Defense Force 2's mindless action can actually be kind of satisfying, and its hokey B-movie dialogue is consistently funny. Unfortunately, it doesn't have much depth. For a select audience, though, this will hit a sweet spot.