It’s been a while since I sat in front of my TV trying to fight my way through a top down shoot em up game. My earliest memories would be trying to finish Thundercade on the NES getting a little farther with each playthrough, memorizing each level and where every enemy could come from, and then smashing my controller when I would die at the final boss when they only needed a few shots left to die. Yeah it’s been a while so when I started playing Under Defeat on the PS3 I was pretty excited. It was a fun, exciting, top down shoot everything in sight game but then the fun slowly turned to frustration…. and not the good kind.
Under Defeat was originally released in arcades back in 1995 and then released on the Sega Dreamcast in 2006. Yes you read that correctly the Sega Dreamcast still had games released on it as late as 2006 and Under Defeat seems to be the unofficial “final” game released on the system. The game has a huge following of fans and was often the most requested game for localization. Now those fans will get to play Under Defeat in all its HD glory on the PS3.
For those who have played any kind of vertical or top down aircraft type shooter, you know exactly what this is. Shoot everything that moves, collect power ups, do not die. Pretty straight forward but where Under Defeat excels is in its beautiful graphics, amazing soundtrack and intense gameplay. You have four different types of Aircrafts to choose from. They are pretty straight forward. Some are smaller, easier to maneuver and shoot fast to those that are larger, move slower and have more fire power. Personally I like to play with the smaller aircrafts as the larger ones make it almost impossible to move out of the way of enemy fire in time.
As for the story you won’t get much aside from the opening sequence. Under Defeat takes place during World War 2 and players are actually in control of the German forces that are dubbed “The Empire” and are fighting against the allied forces knows as “The Union”. Destroy the Union. Shoot and kill every single tank, jet, turret and ship that you see. Kill them all! Do not die!
The default control scheme is a bit confusing and was absolutely designed for arcade stick play seeing as this is a port of an arcade game. When you move left, your craft will move left but will also tilt left. When you hold down the fire button it will lock the craft in place meaning it will be facing to the left and shooting to the left until you let go of the fire button. It takes some used to if you are playing on a controller. I plugged in my Street Fighter 4 arcade stick and just like it thought, It works so much better. Luckily if you don’t have an arcade stick the game also lets you pick twin stick controls. Left thumbstick moves the plane and the right lets you tilt the plane left and right to shoot. Choose whichever works best for you. Since this was an original arcade game I would recommend playing with the default settings if you have an arcade stick. It’s small but playing with an arcade stick just makes the game feel more fun. I use my arcade stick any chance I get cause well… I miss arcades.
You also have what they call an “option” or a special attack that will activate for a short time anytime the bar is full. When you stop shooting the meter will fill and once its full, will activate automatically when you start shooting. You can only have one option at a time but of course you can change it by picking up power ups that are dropped by enemies you destroy. They range from turrets that will fly on their own shooting at planes to small turrets that hover near you give you extra fire power. You can also pick up mega bombs that will wipe out the entire enemy field doing a ridiculous amount of damage. When there is a lot going on at once these will come in handy. Sadly this is also where the problems begin. Games like this are all about fast, intense action but for whatever reason, whenever there is more than one explosion on screen at a time the games frame rate drops. Frame rate drops usually aren’t a big deal for me in games but when its constantly happening every few seconds it becomes extremely annoying. I actually found myself getting sick because of this. It makes the game difficult to play. When things are going fast you have to think constantly about where bullets are coming from to make your move. When the game is constantly slowing down it ruins my concentration. To make matters worse, setting off one of your bombs makes the framerate drop to slide show levels. While not a game breaker it is something that I feel should not be happening to a game like this especially in 2012. I know it’s a port but they couldn’t have at least tried to fix this when converting the game over?
Fortunately you won’t have to deal with these problems for very long as the game is extremely short. On the easiest difficulty you can finish the game in just under an hour. There are only 10 levels across two stages and they all pretty much play out the same way. Shoot through a bunch of bad guys and take out a boss at the end of each stage. On harder difficulties, well, good luck as this game is punishingly difficult. Even on the medium difficulty I could only make it to the third stage before losing all my lives. It is the kind of game though that demands perfection and you will probably find yourself playing it over and over again striving for that perfection making it a little farther each time. Sadly when you do perfect the game, it doesn’t change the fact that again it can be completed in about an hour. This brings me to another big problem with this game. This game costs $30. To me that is a ridiculous price. There are tons of other shooters out there like Sine Mora that are cheaper, longer and quite frankly, more fun.
In terms of other features well there aren’t much. Of course there are online leaderboards which are always fun to try to climb and beat your friends. There is also an "extra" game that can be unlocked but its the same a before but with harder difficulty. Good luck with that one. The “New Order” mode is the exact game as the arcade mode. The only difference is that the game will now be in full HD. Granted it does look beautiful but to me it also makes the game more difficult. On the small arcade screen its somewhat easy to see where enemies and bullets are coming from. In the HD mode there is so much going on screen at once that I found that I constantly would have to look all over the screen too see what was happening and would find myself dying constantly. Then again these complaints are just my opinions and preferences. Maybe the slowdown doesn’t bother you. Maybe the full HD presentation helps you. If it does, more power to you.
Under Defeat isn’t really a bad game but its hard to recommend this to anyone that wasn’t a huge fan of the game to begin with. Sure in the deluxe edition you get an artbook and soundtrack CD which would somewhat make the $30 price tag make sense but you get none of this in the digital download. When you have similar games like Sine Mora that cost around $15 im baffled that they didn’t follow suit with the digital version of Under Defeat.