Back in the 8-bit and 16-bit days, before there were terms like "shmup" and "bullet hell", there were games called Uridium, Life Force, Axelay, Gaiares, and Thunder Force II. They were simply called "shooters" back then, and I blew through them like nobody's business, as they were quite popular in those bygone eras.
As the years and gaming technology have progressed, the scrolling space shooter style of games have increased in difficulty and in visual pyrotechnics, while their overall popularity has waned a great deal… as have my skills at playing them.
But, for what it is worth, I still enjoy playing these kinds of games when I get the opportunity to do so. So, I was excited when the code for G. Rev & Rising Star Games' Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition hit my inbox early last week. I heard many good things about it when it was originally released in the dying days of the SEGA Dreamcast but, unfortunately, the game never made it to Western shores. This high-definition, PS3 remake is an excellent way to enjoy this experience while avoiding the highway robbery perpetrated by the owners of the scant copies that can be found on EBay and the like.
Under Defeat HD puts the player in the cockpit of a high-powered attack helicopter that's caught up in an ongoing conflict between Empire and Union forces. That's about all you get in terms of backstory here, and while this title has more of a modern warfare milieu (rather than some far-flung galactic setting), it is most certainly cast in the shmup / bullet hell mold.
That being said, the gameplay in Under Defeat HD is what you would expect: various tanks, warships, battleships and aircraft of varying sizes come at you, spewing their bullet hell madness in your general direction and it's your job to blow them to smithereens. The best way to accomplish this is the new, dual stick mode (i.e. the left stick navigates your copter, and the right stick fires your weapons). Don't even try the original, old-school "stick / pad moves and buttons fire" mode unless you are a glutton for punishment and like to watch your helicopter explode. A lot.
The controls in Under Defeat HD are smooth and everything works as it should. The one nice wrinkle employed here is the use of angles. You can angle / bank your helicopter to the left and to the right and use those angles to your advantage when dealing with the oncoming onslaught of trigger happy enemies. This seemingly simple mechanic will get you out of many tight spots. Trust me.
One thing I CANNOT abide by in this generation of games and hardware (and, truth be told, I hated it in the 8-bit and 16-bit games as well) is any kind of slowdown. There is a good amount of slowdown in Under Defeat HD…especially when things get crazy and there are enemies and bullets flying at you from every direction. Why the hell am I still seeing this in 2012 on the PlayStation 3? It was intolerable in 1986 on the NES! Make this go away. Right now.
In terms of graphics and sound, Under Defeat HD is certainly above average. Everything appears to be rendered quite well in HD, especially the large battleships and bosses, and the wailing, guitar-heavy soundtrack is entirely apropos. However, I must mention that since I typically play with headphones on, my ears were ringing after a few lengthy sessions with this title. Now, was that my failing or a failing of the game / soundtrack itself? Hard to say, really. All I can do here is borrow a line from a classic Rolling Stones song (which, in and of itself is highly ironic since Mick Jagger is pushing 70-goddamn-years-old): "What a drag it is getting old…"
All told, Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition is a solid entry into any shmup fan's library. Beyond the crippling slowdown at times, it is a blast to play and gives me that warm and fuzzy retro buzz which I enjoy a great deal. At $20 though, the digital download is a bit pricey; $10 seems like a more reasonable price point for a title like this, especially since it is essentially an update of a game from 2005 with some bells and whistles thrown in for good measure.
GameDynamo's Score for Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition (PS3)
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