Old games are being remade more and more often nowadays. Under Defeat HD is the latest in this trend, being a remake and update of the original Under Defeat title that came out on Sega Dreamcast back in 2006. Nostalgia wraps around this title like a blanket. It has the authentic feel of an old-school arcade game, and many gamers will enjoy that aspect alone. However, it also has some pretty serious issues. Background and setting weren’t high on G. rev‘s list of priorities when they were designing this game, which begins with only a quick intro. The sparse story that’s included revolves around you, the player, being a German pilot fighting in a twisted version of WWII. Apparently a ceasefire between the two warring nations is approaching, but secret weaponry is being used to prolong the conflict.
Under Defeat HD is a vertical-scroller shoot-‘em-up—or shmup, for short. This means that the player is looking down on the action from an overhead view but must always stay within the limits of the screen, which constantly scrolls upwards. The basic premise is simple: shoot everything! Tanks, ships, planes, helicopters, and whatever else is dumb enough to get in your helicopter’s path should be destroyed. You have infinite ammo, with the possibility of switching between three different styles of weapons after collecting items. Each weapon style has its perks and problems; for example: a rocket is powerful, but the firing-rate is extremely slow. Collecting these weapons at key moments in the game is often all that keeps you from exploding into a million pieces. You can also pick up bombs to drop, which are basically for “things are getting crazy, so let’s blow everything up” situations. When you fire them, the entire screen is affected. All enemy projectiles disappear, and most enemies are automatically destroyed.
And that’s all there is to Under Defeat HD. The enemies stay at the same difficulty except for on the very last level, where they basically just take more hits to finish. The levels certainly get harder but not in any creative way. The game basically spawns more enemies that, in turn, shoot more bullets. The developer’s could’ve been more creative—maybe a helicopter could try to ram you, or a plane could drop a timed bomb that detonates after a couple seconds to mix things up. Even the bosses aren’t that creative or varied. Two of the bosses are planes, and the ones that aren’t feel very similar.
The gameplay is fun but isn’t enough to keep you playing for long. The ranking system is supposed to do that, with every kill, item collected, and other factor that adds to your score being displayed online for the world to see. Most games that keep score include this feature, but in Flying High HD, it’s an added extra—and for good reason. No game can rely on the gamer playing purely because they want to achieve a high score. The game needs to be fun first—then the gamer will enjoy coming back multiple times to beat previous runs again. Additionally, to change up the gameplay you can choose between single- or two-player mode, which at least adds another dimension to the experience.
The newly updated HD graphics are visually appealing, but since the backdrops look pretty similar, the update is somewhat wasted. There is also a horrendous frame rate drop whenever too much is happening on the screen at one time; when this happens, the game chugs to 1/4th of its usual speed. And this isn’t an infrequent occurrence—it happens any time you drop a bomb or whenever the screen is littered with enemies.
Truthfully, Under Defeat HD does not have many redeeming attributes. It isn’t for casual gamers, but more for die-hard fans of vertical-scrolling schmups. A casual gamer won’t last more than a couple minutes, so only true fans of this old-school arcade style game will enjoy playing. The main reason for this, other than the repetitive gameplay, is because of how utterly difficult this game can be. After playing for about an hour—with levels lasting only a couple minutes—I was only able to get to the start of level four. There are five lives per credit, and once your credits run out, it’s game over. At that point, you must start from the very beginning again. Frustration is inevitable and obviously understandable, making the challenge a bit of a double-edged sword.
After dying too many times playing by myself, I got a friend to play co-op with me. No exaggeration here: my friend hadn’t lasted ten minutes before putting the controller down and declaring that this was the worst game he had ever played. Now, while that certainly isn’t true, I bring this up so you know that if you are looking for a casual, fun, arcade type shooter, look elsewhere. Admittedly, once I learned the levels and my reaction time got better, the game became more bearable. I may not have been able to beat Under Defeat if extra credits weren’t granted after spending a certain amount of time playing it without winning, which was a smart move on the developer’s part. It is strange, though, that there was no option to choose how many credits are allocated at the very beginning.
A lot of the “challenge” of this game involves maneuvering the somewhat clunky player-controlled helicopter. The default control scheme that G.rev expects you to use is absurd. I cranked the sensitivity to 100%, and it still felt too slow. The game also expects you to use a button to shoot, and to move left or right to angle the helicopter to aim. It didn’t take long to realize this control setup was horrendous, but luckily, you can change it so that the right joystick will shoot in the direction you’re pointing. It’s highly suggested you do this to make the controls bearable, unless you want the extra challenge—and if you do, then more power to you.
The other problem with this game is the price. It currently costs $30 (USD), which is way too much for a retro game. Under Defeat HD has nowhere near enough replay value to warrant purchasing it at that price. There are only a total of five levels in all—and despite being challenging at first, they’re also extremely repetitive. The game does give you an extra mode where each of the five original levels are flipped, but nothing else changes, so they could hardly be described as “new”. This is quite similar to Mario Kart where you can unlock mirror races, but in this case, Nintendo didn’t list these as additional tracks, just a bonus option to enjoy. No, this game should have been a downloadable title for $10 (USD). When you get a little better at Under Defeat HD there are some enjoyable moments, and it does have a nice soundtrack, but it’s clearly made for diehard shmup fans—anyone else should stay clear.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Under Defeat HD developed by G.Rev and distributed by Sega and Rising Star Games.
- HD graphics are Visually Appealing
- Too Expensive for a Retro Game
- Little Replay Value
- Extremely Short