Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable is amateurish, ugly, and painfully stupid. It’s the sort of minimally produced effort that a single programmer should be embarrassed to release as freeware, let alone as a fully-priced release for a console like the Playstation Vita or the television-connected consoles that it originally released on.
So why the hell can’t I stop playing it?
The story of Earth Defense Force is ripped straight from the b-movies of the 1950’s. Earth has been contacted by aliens with unknown intentions, which we Earthlings dub Ravagers. This naming becomes incredibly appropriate as they quickly ravage the planet (natch) with their armies of giant insects and city-dwarfing spacecraft. The Earth Defense Force is quickly scrambled to deal with this threat head-on and stop the Ravagers before they lay waste to the human race.
The presentation of this story quickly sets the tone of EDF, with scenery-chewing voiceovers and hilariously awful story beats. Early in the game, radio chatter establishes that swarms of extraterrestrial craft have laid waste to the entire Air Force, only to have those same swarms of craft reduced to smoldering metal wreckage after a few quick bursts of assault-rifle fire from my small battalion of ground troops. These moments of unbridled ridiculousness liberally pepper the game with b-grade chuckles as you listen to virtually every person that contacts you via radio die an off screen death punctuated by a bloodcurdling scream, only to have those same murderous forces felled by the hundreds at the hands of the EDF.
When I say hundreds, I say that without hyperbole. Your radar screen quickly becomes a cloud of malicious red dots representing the massive throngs of enemies that you have to cut down to save the world, and you cut them down with incredible ease. It’s both empowering and cathartic to wade into the swarms of giant bugs that make up the majority of the Ravagers’ ground forces and reduce them to bursts of green ichor with even the most basic of weapons, sending their lifeless corpses bouncing weightlessly around the environment with no regard for physics. These seemingly helium-filled bodies also drop scads of loot, including new weapons, armor packs that will permanently increase your maximum health, and health to keep you fighting through the massive mobs of monsters. It makes you throw yourself even further into the fray, collecting the gobs of goodies as you clear out the levels of their enemies.
The enemies grow to be more ridiculous and insane as the levels progress, ranging from THEM-sized ants to gargantuan spiders, all the way up to chromed robots and hulking kaiju that reduce the cities you roam to smoldering rubble. This is where the constant weapons upgrades come in handy, ranging from basic assault rifles to heat-seeking missile launchers, the latter coming in handy against those aforementioned kaiju beasts and the roving mother ships that spew forth the hundreds of giant insects that you’ll cut down level after level. The escalation continues throughout the game’s entire run, keeping the canned gameplay entertaining and fresh.
With b-movies receiving cult accolades, there’s an inexplicable lack of love for “b-games,” which potentially offer similar, equally trashy joys. Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable offers up these simple, low-budget thrills in a simple, Vita-based package that works, especially in the bite-sized levels that work well in a portable title.