Einhander (Retro Review)

“One of the absolute best games to ever grace the original Playstation.”

If, in 1997, I was told by someone that the makers of the Final Fantasy series would soon be releasing what would undoubtedly the best space shooter on the Playstation, I would’ve called them crazy. Well, in 1998, Squaresoft had done just that. Einhander is the best space shooter on the Playstation and perhaps even one of the best ever.

Einhander is a fantastic game that, in 1998, had it all. It looked awesome, had a stunning soundtrack, and had amazing gameplay. Twelve years later, and Einhander still plays and sounds like a gift from the heavens despite looking dated, though not at all ugly.

In Einhander, the player takes control of a ship belonging to the Moon’s military forces and must blast through several unforgivingly tough levels. Despite being an amazing game to play even by today’s standards, Einhander is not for the weak of heart. Don’t let the fact that it was made by Squaresoft, creators of the easiest RPGs ever, fool you. Einhander is tough as nails and doesn’t hold your hand at all.

As a space shooter, Einhander plays like many classic favourites such as Gradius or R-Type, but shakes the formula up a bit. The player is able to mount weapons onto their ship that drop off of enemies, and the position of mounting can be changed by the player at will. By default, weapons normally attach to the bottom of the ship. However, with the press of a button, the mounted weapon will swap to the top of the ship. This changes the firing arc of the weapon entirely. If the player’s ship has two mountings, then they can hold two weapons at once, which can also be fired simultaneously. It’s worth noting that no weapons that are picked up replace the default rapid fire gun that the ship comes with, with pretty much means that if you have two weapons at any given time, you can obliterate anything in your path by using all three weapons. Now that’s pretty badass.

Most enemies are pretty easy to get past. Lowly enemy ships and turrets are destoyed with ease, but the difficulty spikes dramatically upon encountering a mid-boss or level end boss. All bosses, regardless of whether or not they’re at the end of the level, are remorseless and will do everything they can possibly think of to destroy you. Most bosses have clever attacks that will catch you off-guard, while other bosses just rely on the old “spray the entire screen with dozens of bullets” routine. It’s worth noting that bosses can change their attack patterns as well if you destroy certain parts of them. That is one of the joys of Einhander, being able to destroy bosses in whatever way you wish since they are mostly all fully destructable. Few games offered this in 1998, so it was welcomed by many.

The graphics in Einhander were absolutely stunning in 1998, but today they are understandably outdated. Visually the game has stood the test of time fairly well. While most aspects of the game really don’t look impressive at all anymore, nothing stands out as being unpleasant to look at. As one of the original Playstation’s better looking games, Einhander simply looks “passable” in this day and age.

The music and sound effects have managed better than the game’s graphics and are just as good now as they were twelve years ago. Einhander’s soundtrack is mostly made up of “moody techno” sort of music tracks, which is really cool. For the most part, music takes a backseat and stays fairly quiet and in the background until players encounter a boss. It is at this time that the boss theme, which sounds freaking awesome, kicks in.

Click here to listen to Einhander’s boss theme.

Sound effects fit the mood just as well. Explosions sound gritty but muffled, and sounds given off by the heavy bodies of the game’s bosses are heavy and metallic. Most of the weapons sound pretty generic, but are anything but disappointing.

Overall Einhander is a truly awesome game that, despite not being a smash hit when it was first released in North America, has become one of the original Playstation’s most popular games over the past decade. If you’re a fan of space shooters, you should definitely get your hands on a copy of this game to enjoy on your PS3 or emulator.

Final Score

9/10

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Venetica First Impressions

Venetica. It’s a bit of an unusual name, and before reading up on the game I didn’t expect that it would be a Fable-esque RPG starring a girl named Scarlett. I’ve spent a bit of time with this game, enough for me to decide to write up some initial impressions.

In Venetica, you play as a girl named Scarlett who is out to avenge the death of her beloved boyfriend Benedict while also getting wrapped up in a story containing some pretty supernatural elements that I’m still learning about. The story telling, so far, isn’t too bad. The dialogue sequences are pretty straight forward, but individual characters have enough personality to make most interactions fairly interesting.

The controls are pretty solid. Moving around, attacking, and interacting with your surroundings is all a breeze. However, I do find that making Scarlett roll is a little cumbersome. To roll, you have to hold down a key and press a directional key to make Scarlett roll. You literally have to stop what you are doing to make her roll, or at least it seems this way. I’ll need to experiment with rolling some more, but it does feel a little clunky. Aside from that issue, the controls are pretty good.

The graphics are a bag of mixed nuts. Characters look good and are portrayed in a cartoony fashion, sort of like the first Fable. Some people clearly have heads that are too large, or bodies that are too out of proportion, but it’s the artistic style of the game and I’m cool with it. Menus are all pretty slick once you get used to them, and environments don’t look too bad. There are some pretty bland textures at times, but the game has a lot of ambiance. A few European reviewers noted that the environments and landscapes are this game’s strong points and I agree. They don’t look up to par anymore, but they are very artistic and immersive.

The combat works pretty well, though it takes two or three fights until you start to get used to dodging and parrying. It’s mostly up to the player to invent ways to dodge and parry, which is cool. There is Scarlett’s roll and such that is designed to help you in combat, but I found just moving around a lot to be more effective. The combat itself plays out a lot like The Witcher. It seems that attacks combo into each other, and if your timing is off at all then you’ll botch your attack. If you’re fighting a humanoid when this happens, it gives them a great opportunity to block and then perform a counter attack, unless you can jump away fast enough.

So far, it’s a pretty decent game. It isn’t outstanding, but I’d definitely give it a higher score than the Metacritic score of 61, which I feel is far too low for this game. Somewhere between 70 and 85 would be better. Venetica is a fun game that is fairly well made, and more people would enjoy the game rather than dislike it.

Venetica is due out on January 11, 2011 in North America on the PC, Playstation 3, and XBox 360.

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