Does a better game make for a better EDF? That was the question at hand with 2011’s Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, which took a more modern approach and serious tone courtesy Western developer Vicious Cycle. Many fans missed the distinct B-movie quality of the previous games, so with Earth Defense Force 2025, original team Sandlot returns to the helm. And while the game certainly makes some advancements over Sandlot’s last effort, EDF 2017, it is still — for better and worse — very much the 2007 budget game that preceded it.
If you’ve never played an EDF game before, don’t worry: they’re all very simple and straightforward, and 2025 is no exception. You run around a simply-crafted city area, taking down giant insects. Well, and alien robots too, but it’s hard to forget the giant insects, because the game keeps saying “GIANT INSECTS” over and over, loudly, usually in sentences telling you that they are there and that you need to shoot them.
That’s kind of the flavor of this game. The series has always leaned into its campy nature, but 2025 takes it to a different level in that regard. Basically all words in the game, written or recorded, are stilted and annoying. If there were just a bit more personality in these clips, it would be funny, but as it is, it’s just unfinished. There’s a lot that a greater focus on the localization could do to preserve what obviously is part of the charm in the original Japanese form.
There’s not a lot of games on the market that embrace the sort of arcade feel that dominated the scene about 15 years ago. EDF definitely feels that way, though. The closest thing still around today would be something like Warriors, but recent entries (like Warriors Orochi 3 and Dynasty Warriors 8) have done a good job fleshing out the moment-to-moment combat and adding in progression hooks. Insect Armageddon was an attempt to start EDF down the same path, but 2025 limits it to a non-stop shoot-hordes, collect-lots-of-boxes-for-minuscule-armor-boosts loop.
The variety in 2025 comes from collecting new weapons and using the four different classes. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot different about the weapon choices; once you figure out the loadout that’s right for you, it’s just a matter of waiting through missions until you get a more powerful version of that same weapon. There are some variations, though; homing and launched weapons don’t work well in tunnels and under bridges, and you may have to drop the explosives when fighting in close quarters for your own survival.
The four classes are designed to offer different play styles. Rangers are the default, straightforward soldier class. Wing Divers have limited flying ability, making it more about finding a tactical position, though your defenses are weaker. The Air Raider calls in special attacks from above, but it’s generally not very capable as a single unit. The Fencer is billed as an advanced class, with limited mobility and heavy weapons, but in a game that normally doesn’t use half the buttons on the controller, its “complicated” scheme is fairly manageable. In this respect, at least, 2025 feels on par with Insect Armageddon, as both added classes to the 2017 formula.
Using these classes through the game’s impressive amount of stages is going to be a lot more fun with a friend or three. In two-player split-screen or four-player online co-op, the extra roles make a lot more sense, and as has always been the case with the series, getting through the challenges makes for more sense and fun with a helping hand.
As much as I talk about Insect Armageddon‘s improvements, there’s one thing 2025 has over that release: its wholehearted embrace of the core, weird, low-budget concept. To some, it may be a more fun and enjoyable experience if the game is worse, if it doesn’t try to be impressive or polished. To others, maybe not. Earth Defense Force has the appeal of a cheap pizza, reliable and comforting. And as much as it’s great to have that flavor you’re used to, it’s not quite the same after trying a slice with some higher-quality ingredients.
Pros: B-movie appeal, fun collection and customization aspects
Cons: Repetitive gameplay, rough localization, technical issues