Under Defeat HD - review

You're probably familiar with Under Defeat. Back when it was released it was hauled as the last Dreamcast game (how silly does that sound nowadays) and it was a pretty good one at that. You may know of my passion for shoot-em-ups, or shmups for short, and Under Defeat is actually in my Top 3 of favourite shmups from all time, along with the classic DoDonPachi and the Shikigami no Shiro series (of which the 2nd game I played for the first time on the Dreamcast).

Now, back to 2012, the game saw an HD re-release not too long ago. At the time I thought of posting something about it, but then decided to wait until I actually have played it. Well, that time is now, so here are my thoughts on it. For the time being the game is only available in Japan, and the Xbox 360 version is region-locked, so I had to go with the PS3. The game also came in regular and limited editions, but I can't elaborate on that  since I just got the regular one.

There are two game modes. Arcade is basically the Dreamcast version (which in itself was actually a home port from the arcade original). You can adjust the difficulty settings and number of continues (of which you only have 2 at the beginning, but earn more as you spend time playing), but other than that it's pretty bare bones. The game runs at a higher resolution, which makes for a smoother picture, but is otherwise unchanged, to the point that it frequently slows down when the action becomes too hectic. Now, I understand that purists might like that, but for me it's just annoying, and there's really no excuse for having slowdown on a Dreamcast game running on a current gen console.

The other game mode is called New Order and is one of the main reasons for getting this version. Since shmups are usually made for vertical screens, and most people won't be willing to turn their TV's sideways (the option's still there for the hardcore among you), these games can look somewhat awkward, occupying less than half of the screen. New Order was made with that in mind, and is basically a 16:9 version of the main game, filling the whole screen. I'm not sure how they did that, don't know if they actually remade the stages to fit the new aspect ratio or just zoomed in a lot. I can say that this game felt more challenging, but other than that I'm no expert to point out all of the differences from the original game.

The other reason for getting this HD version is the option for playing with a new control method, using both analog sticks. In the original game you could turn your helicopter at an angle, shooting the enemies while avoiding their fire, and I don't need to explain that this maneuver was absolutely essential to master in order to make some progress. The way this was done was by moving the helicopter to the side and keeping the fire button pressed, which would then lock the helicopter in that position, allowing you to move freely. Although practical, at times it just wasn't good enough, and so they came up with a more intuitive control scheme.

You can now control the ship with the left analog stick and the fire direction with the right one. Basically think Geometry Wars or Smash TV, although you can only tilt the chopper so much, not in full 360º like in those games. Now, I have to say that this system isn't perfect either. Since we can't fire freely but only in a few pre-set angles, it takes some getting used to the the analog stick's equivalent of those angles (it's somewhat hard to explain, I hope you're getting it), and because we have to keep the stick pressed in a direction to actually fire, it can become tiresome after a while. Still, overall I think it makes the game more intuitive and easy, so it's still a good addition.

Other than that there's practice modes, both for arcade and new order, and a gallery where you can unlock artwork from the game. It isn't a lot for a game that retailed at around $70/€50+, and I think that we really could use some more extra material. So, is it worth? To put it simply, no. The new game mode is sort of fun, and the new control scheme does add something to the old gameplay, but for the price and the hassle of importing it, it's only for the true lovers of shmups. Fortunately Rising Star Games, a company known for publishing a lot of niche Japanese games, just announced that they're going to publish it in Europe, and I think the US too (not 100% sure on this one), so if they release it at a reduced price, maybe then it'll be worth considering. Until then, if you already have the Dreamcast version, you're not missing out on much.

1 comment:

Animated AF said...

Gonna be grabbing this when it arrives over here as I know I'll never be able to get the Dreamcast version cheap enough.