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Review By: Jesse Mason
Developer:   Square
Publisher:   Sony
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Shooter
ESRB:   Teen

A little history. Back in the late '80s and early '90s, shooters ruled supreme. You probably couldn't own an NES without at least one. But the shooters slowed as the new 16 bit systems came in. Thunder Force (and its sequels) was a solid Genesis shooter, and Gradius 3, Space MegaForce, and Axelay were the prime Super NES examples. However, by 1992, they were practically gone. In 1993, they went out with a bang with Star Fox (a different sort of shooter). The pickings were slim for the next few years. Among the casualties was the TurboGraphx. It had a plethora of great shooters (plus some good RPGs, sims, and other things), but it came out at a time of shooter decline.

The 32 bit systems rolled in before long, and so did nostalgia. People were becoming aware that gaming had been around for quite a while and yearned for the olden days. Retro discs with the golden oldies were selling big time, and genres long forgotten were getting support. The 2D platformer and the top down Zelda like adventure were among the genres that benefitted. But this year there aren't very many nostalgia soaked games. The few games that are aren't exactly first class. Alundra is probably the only real winner that brings back memories of playing Super NES games.

But now Square has taken a supposedly dead genre and made a superb game out of it. Einhander is your basic 2D shooter shoved through a meat grinder, cooked in a pizza oven, and showered with assorted spice goodies. Einhander is a polygonal shooter so there are 3D elements as well. You'll travel in all sorts of directions without leaving the 2D plane you're stuck on.

As you are traveling throughout the game, you are treated to a totally unnecessary element, a world that you are playing in. Too many shooters have taken place on boring open space backdrops, stupid caves, or repetitious alien worlds. Few attempt to make awe-inspiring worlds that you fly through. What you are treated to is a dark, Blade Runner-esque world beautifully done in all respects. Neon signs, big video screens, and spotlights all show light sourcing at its finest. Enemies move in and out of your plane to make things more interesting and show off their marvelous 3D bodies. The world suggests that fascists rule supreme; you even hear orders shouted in German. Speaking of speaking, sound is great. The sound effects of the weapons and explosions are nice. Music is sort of techno style, but you hear many different sorts wrapped in there. Of course, it's Square quality that we hear in every one of their games.

Surely if I had a graphics rating, Einhander would get a perfect or near perfect score, but even so the graphics are nothing if they have nothing to back them up. Well, they do. Gameplay moves at a brisk speed that will have your eyes boggling. Enemies fly at you constantly, giving your fingers blisters in no time. Gameplay is basic. One arm of your vehicle fires the standard gun; the other has a special weapon that can be changed in no time at all. You'll discover that a few areas can benefit from certain weapons largely. You're given a choice between three vehicles, the difference being in the amount of weapons you can carry (and a few other things). Eventually, you'll develop strategies that can help you in eye watering scenes. Those eye watering scenes come at you fast. In the second level, for example, you fight off a huge moving tank, taking out its guns. Shots are fired constantly, from you and especially from the enemies, all while simple air fighters are charging you.

When I reviewed Klonoa and 1080 Snowboarding, I stated that they both showed significant signs of innovation that will almost certainly be copied. While Einhander will probably be copied if it is successful, it is probably the antithesis. The two above mentioned games showed innovation without straying too far. Einhander shows us a formulic game that gives us everything bigger and better. The 3Dish different routes should be in every shooter. Very few times have I seen so much quenched nostalgia while at the same time being up to present standards.

Overall: 8.4
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