There was a time when Square Soft was known only for their Role-Playing Games here in America. Its true, their name was generally synonymous with quality RPG. That is until the mid 90's on the PS1, when they decided to branch out to other genres.
There was nothing wrong at all with them attempting to go this route. In my opinion, there's nothing worse than a company that has pigeon-holed themselves into a specific genre or game. Thankfully not all of the games that Square branched out to create were bad (see Tobal No. 1, Bushido Blade, etc.
). That is where Einhander comes in to play.
The story of the game places you in the middle of a battle between the Earth and the Moon, you are a pilot from the moon who is sent on a suicide mission to infiltrate the Earth and collect intelligence and just generally fuck shit up.
The game itself is a shooter, no more, no less. The real innovation comes from the weapon system. Sure most ships come with fixed cannons, but its the weapons you pick up from the enemies that you'll want to use. You had a choice of picking up: Vulcan, Cannon, Spreader, Grenade, Wasp, Riot, Hedgehog, and Blade. Each has its merits and weaknesses and most of them have either alt-fire or a different firing position.
You could pick from one of three fighters at the start of the game:
The Astraea (can equip two gunpods) The Endymion MkII (can pickup 3 gunpods, and equip one at a time) The Endymion MkIII (can equip one gunpod, can only carry one at time, has 2 standard cannons)
Progression through the game (there are multiple paths) is fairly standard fare for a shooter with an increasing learning curve. Each stage has secrets that net you bonus points upon completion, whether it be shooting all of the signs in the first level, or defeating certain characters. When you get these secret bonuses, you might also be lucky enough to net yourself a secret (uberpowerful) gunpod. When you get enough of these special bonuses you'll unlock a 'special' fighter. The best fighter is solely obtained if you finish the game on hard mode using only 3 continues or less. You only get 3 fighters per continue. Its hard enough to beat the game on normal mode using 10 continues. I have yet to finish the game on hard under 5 continues.
Moving onto gameplay...the controls are tight, really tight. The collision detection is spot on. The story is great; I love this damn game. The game gets hard, and by hard I mean Contra hard, the good kind of hard. The bosses/minibosses, 13 total, are some of the most detaled characters i've seen in a 3D shooter. They are very reactive to your actions, and many of them require more strategy than just shooting at it. They constantly try and find ways of taking you out that you probably wouldn't expect.
I recall playing this for hours, attempting to reach the final boss, getting there and having my power die right as I defeat him...damn that pissed me off.
A quick note on the soundtrack before wrapping this up, it had a great sound effects for all of the weapons, ships, a-splosions and bosses that taunt you in German. The music was made by Kenichiro Fukui, who also worked on a few of the Final Fantasy games, and was an excellent mix of Trance, House, and normal Techno.
I wish that Square would have made a sequel for this one, but it seems like they're more interested in making rehashes of their cash cow Final Fantasy instead of taking a risk and investing in games like this anymore. I already had a taste for shooters before this game came out, but this one made me demand more from the shooters that came after it. Truly a hallmark of the Playstation generation, and one of my favorite games of all time. Thanks for reading!